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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

12 Movies from Your Childhood That Your Kids Will Love

One of the best parts of parenthood is getting to share the things you loved in your childhood with your kids. The movies you watch in your adolescence have the power to stay with you long into your adulthood. Connect with your child AND your inner child with these family classics.

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There are a few versions of this movie, but the 1982 original is the best. Filled with spirit, constant movement, and music, Annie makes you feel light. You can’t help but cheer on poor Little Orphan Annie as she escapes the evil clutches of Miss Hannigan in her dreary orphanage and finds an unlikely father in billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. If the young’ns start singing along, then it’s time to introduce them to the 10 best-ever movie musicals.

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Cats Don’t Dance

Cats can dream too! An overly energetic cat named Danny dreams of seeing his names in lights and moves to Hollywood in the 1930s to break out onto the scene. The only problem is, in Tinseltown, animals don’t get starring roles. As he tries to push him and his new friends into the spotlight, he becomes the target of child starlet Darla Dimple who makes it her job to undermine their careers. But with a little faith and just the right amount of luck, they’re able to have their day in the sun. This movie is saturated with fantastic musical numbers and will have you singing long after the movie is over, thanks to musical talent of Randy Newman, Natalie Cole, and Scott Bakula. These 12 movies are known for having the best soundtracks. 

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The King and I

The most iconic movies about friendship aren’t necessarily kid-friendly, but this film carries the same meaningful themes with a G rating. Travel to the mysterious Kingdom of Siam with English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens and her young son, as she butts heads with the stubborn king while trying to teach his children. Over time a beautiful bond blossoms between the pair, and they’re able to use their combined forces to defeat an evil sorcerer plotting to steal the throne. The importance of friendship and the sacrifices of love shine in this animated take on one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most celebrated musicals.

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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Can you go wrong when you combine the stunning voices of Whitney Houston and Brandy for a modern twist on Roger and Hammerstein’s classic Cinderella? Impossible! (After all, the duo did write some of the most influential Broadway musicals ever.) The 1997 made-for-television musical tells the story of how a prince and a pauper find their way to each other and fight for their love, despite their familial circumstances. Everything in this movie is vibrant, from the costumes to the musical numbers to the cast. What makes it so visually stunning is how people of all races and ethnicities are represented. Turns out, anyone can be a prince or princess. Your kids will enjoy some of the 12 best beach movies of all time too.

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A Goofy Movie

When your kids start to find you embarrassing, pop this movie into the DVD player and remind them that parents have their cool moments too. Dragged on a family road trip with his embarrassing goof of a father, Goofy, Max is forced to spend quality time with his dad when all he wants to do is go on a date with his crush Roxanne. Together they travel down the open road, escape singing possums, survive rapid waters, and find themselves performing on stage with megawatt popstar Powerline.

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Pippi Longstocking

Based on Astrid Lingred’s children’s books, this 1997 animated incarnation of the mischievous Pippi Longstocking shows that you can be an independent force at any age—even at nine-years-old. Not only can Pippi sail the mighty seas and outsmart some pretty dumb thieves, she can do it all while balancing a stack of books or pancakes on her head. It also helps that she has the constant encouragement of her two neighbor friends. Here are 16 fun movies that the whole family will enjoy. 

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After your kids watch this animated film, they will probably spend the rest of their adolescence believing this tale is fully historical. That’s okay though; they’ll learn the truth eventually. Until then, they can go on thinking that Anastasia of the royal Romanovs is in fact alive and enlists the help of two Russian con artists to find her surviving family in Paris, while occasionally breaking out into song.

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It Takes Two

Add this flick to your list of funny films for the whole family. This is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of Mary Kate and Ashley movies, hands down. Alyssa is a rich girl who loves being the apple of her father’s eye and Amanda is an orphan who just wants to get adopted by her social worker; they’re just two girls from completely different worlds who happen to look exactly alike. In a strange twist of events, they meet and come up with the perfect plan to get rid of Alyssa’s stepmother-to-be and replace her with Amanda’s social worker. All they need to do is switch places. If your kids love The Parent Trap, they’ll love this.

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

This movie should be every child’s introduction to sci-fi, especially before they watch any mind-bending time travel movies. It tells the tale of a lonely suburban boy named Elliot who befriends an alien after he’s stranded on earth. He takes E.T. into his home and introduces him to his siblings, who then decide to keep him their secret. But then the gentle alien falls ill and it’s up to Elliot to help him get home before the government takes control. Here are the 12 time travel movies that will make you question everything. 

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Little Rascals

Mischievous youngsters Spanky and Alfalfa head an anti-girl organization called the He-Man-Woman-Hating Club. But when Spanky and the rest of the gang find out Alfalfa has been wooing their schoolmate Darla, they make it their mission to destroy their relationship. In the process, their clubhouse is burned down and the only way to earn enough money to rebuild it is to win the local soap box derby—and possibly Darla’s heart.

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The Sound of Music

The hills are alive with the sound of music, and after watching this heartwarming musical, your kids will be too. Based on the story of Von Trapp Family Singers, the movie follows a postulant nun named Maria as she leaves her abbey to be a governess to the seven children of the widowed Captain Von Trapp. After getting off on the wrong foot, Maria grows to deeply care for the children and their father, eventually becoming his wife. All is great until the Nazis gain control and they’re forced to leave their home of Austria. Here are 11 Oscar-Winning films that you forgot about.

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A Little Princess

A free-spirited young girl is forced to adjust to the strict rules of her boarding school while her father heads off to war. With tales of wild adventures, Sara quickly becomes the “It Girl” among her classmates, but is shoved into a life of servitude after her father is pronounced dead. She befriends a fellow servant named Becky, and together they rely on the power of imagination to get them through their situations and maintain hope for the future. This captivating and cinematically striking tale is sure to charm its way into your children’s hearts. Want more movie picks for family night? Next, check out these 11 movies with the best happy endings.

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Amari D. Pollard
Amari D. Pollard is a writer and audience development strategist. She is currently a Roy H. Park Fellow at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and previously worked as the Head of Audience Development at The Week. Her writing focuses on politics, culture, relationships, and health. In addition to Reader’s Digest she has been published at The Week, Bustle, PopSugar, Inside Lacrosse, and more. She has a B.A. in Communications from Le Moyne College.