50 Great (Non-Animated!) Movies to Watch with Your Tween

S Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

Top 50 movies for kids

It’s getting to be that time of the year. The days are shorter. The nights are longer. Soon it will be too cold to go outside and play. Too cold to leave the house. Then the whining will begin.

“I’m bored.”

“I have nothing to do.”

“This place is soooooo bo-ring.”

Then the bickering will begin.

“She touched me.”

“Make him stop looking at me!”

“Get out of my room!”

What is a poor parent to do all winter? Yes, reading is great. Arts and crafts are a wonderful creative outlet. Board games are moderately tolerable (depending on the game). Imaginative play is certainly preferable to staring at a screen. But let’s be honest. There are days during the long, dark Minnesotan winter when I simply have nothing left to give my children. I have been totally tapped out. There are days when I want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with an blanket and a bowl of popcorn.

As my children are getting older, I have struggled with deciding which films to allow them to watch. Their tastes are becoming more mature. More sophisticated. The Little Mermaid no longer holds the appeal it once held. 101 Dalmations is cute, but trite. My children want to laugh. They want to cry. They want to be entertained at their level. Below are my suggestions for movies to watch with your tween this winter. Something on this list may just save your sanity.

1. The Karate Kid (1984) Rated PG

Karate kidA wonderful underdog movie your kids will love. Don’t be surprised, however, if they feel the need to kick things after watching this movie. You’ve been forewarned.

2. The Princess Bride (1987) Rated PG

The Princess BrideArguably the greatest movie ever made. At minimum, the most quotable movie ever made. It’s inconceivable that your children will not fall in love with this film!

3. Back to the Future (1985) Rated PG

Back to the FutureA fun ride and a great introduction to the concepts of science fiction for your younger tween. My son actually asked if I thought we could find a flux capacitor on eBay after watching this one!

4. The Sound of Music (1965) Rated G

The Sound of MusicThe ultimate classic! With unforgettable songs and creative use of curtains, this movie will grab your heart and will not let go. And Julie Andrews, folks! Julie Andrews!

5. Star Wars (1977) Rated PG

Star WarsIt’s unlikely, particularly if any of your children have a Y chromosome, that you have not watched this movie yet. Boys seem to be born with an inbred fascination with all things Darth Vader. This, however, is one of the few movies that deserve that sort of unbridled worship.

6. Annie (1982) Rated G

AnnieThere have been many movie versions of this Broadway classic, but none of the others have Carol Burnett’s delightful turn as the boozy, lonely, rattled Miss Hannigan. Watch it for Burnett’s comic genius if nothing else! (But the songs are pretty catchy, too.)

7. Edward Scissorhands (1990) Rated PG-13

Edward ScissorhandsTim Burton. Enough said.

8. Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) Unrated

Escape to Witch MountainThis was my absolute favorite movie as a kid. Imagine my surprise when my own kids were easily won over by the story of two mysterious orphan kids in all its low-budget, less-than-stellar-special-effects glory! Sometimes simpler is better, after all.

9. The Goonies (1985) Rated PG

The GooniesAn endlessly enjoyable story of a group of rag-tag kids overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Goonies never say die!

10. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Rated PG

E.T.A simple and universal story of friendship. A modern classic that your child will adore.

11. Home Alone (1990) Rated PG

Home AloneJust a fun romp that will have your kids laughing out loud.

12. The NeverEnding Story (1984) Rated PG

the NeverEnding StoryAn otherwordly story in which a tormented boy becomes a hero via an ancient story book. What’s not to love?

13. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Rated PG

The Wizard of OzYes, the flying monkeys are a wee bit creepy, but who can resist the equally creepy Lollipop Guild? This is the quintessential American fairy tale and a must see for all children!

14. Stand By Me (1986) Rated R

Stand By meThis is the only rated R movie on my list (obviously for older tweens), but…come on. There is nothing in this movie that your older tween hasn’t heard or talked about with their pals on the playground at school. The language is worth it when you consider that you are exposing your tween to a nostalgic soundtrack overflowing with great music and…Stephen King! Maybe it will encourage your child to pick up one of King’s more masterful literary works.

15. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Rated PG-13

Pirates of the CaribbeanJohnny Depp at his high camp, over-the-top, wack job best!

16. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) Rated PG-13

Mrs. DoubtfireThe hilarious Robin Williams doing what he did best. You will love it. Your kids will love it.

17. The Avengers (2012) Rated PG-13

The AvengersHow do you introduce your kiddo to the world of superheroes when the choices seem so limitless? How about a fun, rollicking, ensemble packed to the brim with the coolest of Marvel superheroes?

18. Titanic (1997) Rated PG-13

TitanicA grand Hollywood epic that features Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet at their most captivating. (Maybe grab a snack during the “draw me like one of your French girls” scene…just a suggestion.)

19. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Rated PG-13

Courching Tiger, Hidden DragonSo you want to introduce your tween to the joys of foreign cinema without the whine that often accompanies subtitles (adults and kids alike)? What better way to do that than a movie with amazing kick-ass martial arts and not one, but two strong heroines??

20. Lord of the Rings: The Fellow ship of the Ring (2001) PG-13

Lord of the RingsThough it may be a bit too scary for your younger tween, LOTR is one of the most important films in the fantasy canon and simply cannot be ignored. Your older tweens will eat it up!

21. West Side Story (1961) Unrated

West Side StoryA modernized Romeo and Juliet, your kids will love the dance moves! And just try to keep them from humming the music!

22. March of the Penguins (2005) Rated G

March of the PenguinsA beautiful film about the frailty of life. It’s pretty to look at and your kids will fall in love with the adorable penguins. It is worth watching for Morgan Freeman’s voice alone.

23. Newsies (1992) Rated PG

NewsiesA flop at the box office, but a charming movie that chronicles the great newspaper boy strike of 1899. So what if the movie is better when the characters sing and dance than when they talk? It is a musical, after all.

24. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) Rated PG

Diary of a Wimpy KidThere is not a middle schooler alive who will not find this movie absolutely hilarious. And I guarantee you will find yourself chuckling as you recall your own angst-filled middle school days.

25. Flight of the Navigator (1986) Rated PG

Flight of the navigatorThis is a weird, wonderful little gem of a movie your children have likely never heard of. If you need convincing, Paul Reubens (of PeeWee fame) voices the robot, Max, with gleeful abandon.

26. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) Rated PG

Harry PotterA must see. A must read. M.U.S.T.

27. Hook (1991) Rated PG

HookBecause every list needs more Robin Williams.

28. Night at the Museum (2006) Rated PG

Night at the MuseumJam packed full of fun and special effects, this movie is a rollicking good time you will enjoy almost as much as your children.

29. Stuart Little (1999) Rated PG

Stuart LittleOkay, so part of this movie is somewhat animated. But it is a charmer your kids will love and you will not hate. And it was nominated for an Oscar for the visual effects, so give me a little slack here and trust me on this one.

30. The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) Rated PG

The Chronicles of NarniaC.S. Lewis’ classic that all children must see (and read). No exceptions!

31. The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) Rated PG

the Indian in the CupboardAn underrated and charmingly magical movie for kids, it teaches them about responsibility, but in a way that does not patronize. Highly recommended.

32. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Rated PG

Raiders of the lost arkHarrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. Need I say more?

33. Jurassic Park (1993) Rated PG-13

Jurassic ParkDeliciously scary without being gory! Your kids will love it!

34. Cool Runnings (1993) Rated PG

Cool RunningsOne of the late John Candy’s best movies. A feel-good movie that will have you cheering and speaking with a Jamaican accent by the end. I guarantee it, mon!

35. Ghostbusters (1984) Rated PG

GhostbustersA comic dream team! It would be a tantamount to child abuse not to expose your children to this film.

36. Popeye (1980) Rated PG

PopeyeWow, I didn’t realize I had so much Robin Williams on this list. Popeye made the list for sentimental reasons—it was the first movie I remember my dad taking me to see in the theater when I was 7 years old. It has been a favorite ever since. I yam what I yam!

37. Men in Black (1997) Rated PG-13

Men in BlackProtecting the Earth from the scum of the universe. What tween wouldn’t be into that?

38. The Muppet Movie (1979) Rated G

The Muppet MovieFrom the moment your children hear Kermit singing “The Rainbow Connection” from his log in the swamp, they will be hooked. They will love it when they are 4 years old. They will love it when they are 8 years old. And they will love it even more when they are 12 years old. Trust me on this one.

39. The Addams Family (1991) Rated PG-13

The Addams FamilyYour budding little “Goth” will love the myriad ways in which Wednesday Addams plots to kill her brother, and you will smile at the warped familiarity of the show we all watched as kids.

40. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Rated PG-13

Ferris BuellerThis movie defined a generation—my generation! Of course I want to share it with my children.

41. Big (1988) Rated PG

BigDon’t be in such a rush to grow up. Enjoy being a kid while you can. Great lessons from the masterful Penny Marshall.

42. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) Rated PG-13

Bend It Like BeckhamA teenage coming-of-age comedy that is just pure, bubbly enjoyment! And, as the mother of a little girl who is a budding athlete, I am always excited to find athletic movies with female leads. You go, girls!

43. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) Rated G

Willy WonkaIt’s Roald Dahl, people! Plus, it’s pleasingly psychedelic in a very trippy 1970s sort of way.

44. My Girl (1991) Rated PG-13

My GirlHer name is Vada Sultenfuss. That alone makes the movie worth watching. This is a charming movie, but be prepared for the possibility of some tears. And you may have to answer one or two uncomfortable questions about death. Hmmm….sounded much more fun before I started describing it.

45. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Unrated

To Kill a MockingbirdThere are ugly things in this world. Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel explores this ugliness through the eyes of a child. Teachable moments galore!

46. October Sky (1999) Rated PG

October skyThe true story of a boy destined for the coal mines who finds his future in the stars. Your kids will love the hilarious scheming of the boys determined to pursue their passion, and you will swoon over the beautifully painful disconnect between a loving father and the son he can’t seem to understand.

47. Nim’s Island (2008) Rated PG

Nim's IslandThe main character is a girl! Who loves books and science! And there’s Jodie Foster!

48. The Sandlot (1993) Rated PG

The SandlotRemember when playing outside was a huge adventure? This movie celebrates the simple joys of childhood like no other movie I have ever seen. Two thumbs up!

49. School of Rock (2003) Rated PG-13

School of RockJack Black being Jack Black. Kids will love it.

50.  Grease (1978) Rated PG-13

GreaseA good girl falls in love with a greaser and fabulous singing and dancing ensues! What’s not to love about Rydell High?

The post 50 Great (Non-Animated!) Movies to Watch with Your Tween appeared first on The Next Family.

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