8 Classic Kids Movies to Delight the Whole Family

Classic Kids Movies That Won't Bore the Adults

Every season brings a shiny new batch of on-trend children's movies, but if you're looking for classic family films that will entertain both kids and adults, go to the classics. Here are eight terrific movies you may remember from your own childhood.

of 08

'The Wizard of Oz'

wizard of oz movie cover


We used to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV every Thanksgiving, and I remember being scared right down to the toes of my footie pajamas by those flying monkeys. Face it, all the greatest classics for children have orphans in peril, from Dorothy to Harry Potter. Poor Dorothy. A witch is on her trail, talking trees pitch apples at her and her shoes are stuck to her feet. Yikes. This is just an amazing film - the cast, the costumes, the characters, the sets, the music and the story. Kids ought to see it at least once a year.

of 08

'Doctor Dolittle'

Doctor dolittle movie cover

Fox Home Entertainment

All props to Eddie Murphy, but nothing tops the original Dr. Dolittle - as Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar and Anthony Newley sing and dance their way through an adventurous movie that's quite faithful to the fanciful books, and full of live animal action from Polynesia the parrot to Sophie the seal. I love the civilized tribe of islanders who regularly perform Shakespeare on their floating home, and the scene where the magistrate's dog barks out the family secrets in court. (If you really want to get your kids interested, you can tell them that during the opening "If I Could Talk to the Animals" sequence, the sheep crowding around Harrison were, um, tinkling vigorously on him. They'll love it.)

of 08


Arguably Disney's animation masterpiece, Pinocchio is fine art done cel by cel. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Pixar fan and I love Shrek. I also know how poorly human animators were treated in the bad old days. But there simply has never been anything to match the exquisite artwork of this film. That's for you adults. For the kids, there's the enchanting story of the little wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy, and whose nose grows when he tells a lie. And they'll love sassy, spunky Jiminy Cricket. Tell them they got the idea for the whale in Finding Nemo from the magnificent Monstro the Whale in this classic animated movie.

of 08

'Mary Poppins'

Mary Poppins movie cover


The music alone should keep you happy in this one, but Mary Poppins is pretty entertaining at any age. Plus, it's just chockful of excellent family values that go down pretty easily - with a spoonful of sugar, I suppose. The kids will be delighted by the giggly tea party on the ceiling and the special Mary Poppins method of straightening up the nursery. The unforgettable leap through the chalk drawing to reach the animated horse race and the eye-popping dance of the chimney sweeps on the rooftops of London are spectacular, while Julie Andrews' rendition of "Feed the Birds" remains hauntingly lovely. Plus. It's a sneaky chance to teach the girls what a "suffragette" was.

of 08

'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'

I love Johnny Depp, but his version just can't compare to Gene Wilder's original, mildly menacing candy impresario. Also, I love subversive kid lit, and this movie is a great way to introduce kids to author Roald Dahl - always inventive, if not always nice. In a contest to choose Wonka's successor as head of the world's greatest candy factory, a number of unpleasant children with very bad habits meet with nasty and very funny mishaps. Each is accompanied by a cautionary tale sung by the factory workers — the pumpkin-faced oompa-loompas (who all look as though they used bad self-tanning lotion). Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is nicely off-kilter, and has grown to be both a cult hit and a children's classic.

of 08

'The Thief of Bagdad'

In this 1940 version of the most famous tale of the Arabian Nights, the special effects are dated yet still magical. This fantasy has all the requisite elements: a beautiful princess, a wronged ruler, the plucky young thief and, of course, a gigantic genie who arises from his tiny lamp. The color cinematography is gorgeous, and while it feels a bit campy today, the magic carpets, flying horses, exotic costumes and sumptuous sets should still engage the kids. The animated Jaffar of Disney's later Aladdin is fine, but he's not a patch on Conrad Veidt's wicked-to-the-core vizier. Although I came to this one late in life, many movie fans recall this as the film that hooked them on cinema as children.

of 08

'The Swiss Family Robinson'

In Disney's 1960 version, this happily shipwrecked family leads a life of which every child dreams. The Family Robinson live in a fantastic treehouse that they build themselves and stage races riding their ostrich, zebra and two massive Great Danes. They use rescued scraps from their ship and the bounty of the island to make ingenious, Rube Goldberg-type machines. (With the water slide and the swinging vines, the whole island looks suspiciously like a Disney theme park.) As if all that weren't enough, there's a tremendous pirate gun battle and sword fight, complete with elaborate booby traps. The acting is sub-par and the pirates, inexplicably, are all Asian, but with everything else going on the flaws are easy to forgive.

of 08

'Journey to the Center of the Earth'

James Mason and Arlene Dahl make excellent sparring partners as a scientist and the widow of his rival, plopping through a volcano in Iceland to make the title journey. They're accompanied, rather improbably, by Pat Boone as one of Mason's students and by a handsome, stoic Icelander with a pet duck. They're also tracked by a stealthy foe. Taken from the Jules Verne book, it's full of adventure, but has no relation to actual science. My guess is there probably are no rolling oceans or giant gila monsters at the center of the earth, but it still makes for a smashing film. Excellent choice if you want to inspire the children to go spelunking.