We live in an age where many of our favorite childhood movies are being remade or rebooted. Do you remember at the beginning of last year when the internet became furious when it was misreported that there would be a remake of The Princess Bride? Here is a list of five movies from the 80s that you must watch with your tweens. All of these movies have been, and continue to be, repeatedly watched with my children — now 14 and 18 — and have been proven to stand the test of time. Let’s hope they never get a modern Hollywood treatment.
1. The Monster Squad
Sean: Kick him in the nards! Kick him in the nards!
Horace: He doesn’t have nards!
Sean: Do it, do it!
Horace: (after kicking) Wolfman’s got nards!
The Monster Squad has so many things going for it. It has Dracula, a werewolf, Frankenstein’s monster, swamp thing, and a mummy. It has a little girl who saves the day. It has a group of outcast and teased kids who are coming of age. Yeah, there may be some language and a tiny bit of sexual aspect in The Monster Squad, but we watched this movie without being harmed. Your tweens will also survive it. Plus, this movie contains some pretty good messages about camaraderie and geeks kicking butt.
Blix: May be innocent, may be sweet… ain’t half as nice as rotting meat.
Legend is one of my top favorite movies of all time. Sure, it is about the archetypal struggle between light and dark/ good and evil, but it has so much more going for it. Yes, we have goblins, unicorns, forest sprites and fairies, a love story, the Lord of Darkness, but we have equally stunning cinematography depicting everything beautiful about life and the darkness hidden beneath. The dialogue is both poetic and grim. Everything about this movie sweeps you away. But, something else it has that was very much lacking in the 80s: the main female character saves the day. Just don’t ever expose your tweens to the Director’s Cut. That cut is one of the few examples where it’s worse than the theatrical release, and is pretty much an entirely different movie. Let them do that on their own when they are adults.
Jareth: You remind me of the babe.
Goblin: What babe?
Jareth: The babe with the power.
Goblin: What power?
Jareth: The power of voodoo.
Goblin: Who do?
Jareth: You do.
Goblin: Do what?
Jareth: Remind me of the babe…
For me, Labyrinth was Jim Hensen’s best. Your children may never fully appreciate the awesome that is David Bowie or a young Jennifer Connelly, but they will appreciate all the magic found within this movie. From a bog that makes farting noises to having to use your brain to overcome obstacles, from creepy Fiery creatures that play with heads to lessons about friendship and being careful what you wish for, this movie is also great for any child who has ever wished they can find that secret passage, or magic words, to escape into other realities. Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all. Labyrinth allows you to do just that.
Fun fact: Gates McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher) choreographed this movie.
4. The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Of course, this list would not be complete without The Princess Bride. I know of very few geeks who cannot quote, or who have never watched this movie. Sword fights. Giants. Twu wuv. Rodents of unusual size. A battle of the wits. Torture. And even some kissing that your tween will forgive by the end of this movie. Do I need to say more?
5. Stand By Me
The Writer: [typing on computer] I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?
Hands down, Stand By Me is my absolute favorite movie of all time. It is simply perfect. It is a great coming-of-age story. It is an amazing story about friendships. It has an adventure. It is a great story for all of us who have ever lost our sense of self-worth. It contains a multi-layered story about discovery. It is about overcoming adversity and standing up for yourself. It causes you to laugh and to cry. It has real dialogue between tween peers, not this bizarre type of speech Hollywood writers place in children’s mouths.
When introducing this movie to your tween, make sure you don’t watch it on the television, with the heavily-edited version.
I watch this movie at least once a year with my kids. Every time we watch it as a family, they take something new away from it.
Depending on the age of your children, and how many years separate the siblings in your house, you may get some excellent conversations like the following. These conversations happened when my children were 10 and 14:
The adult Gordie says something along the lines of, “We’d only been gone two days, but somehow the town seemed smaller. Different.” To which my oldest said, “That is because you can do a lot of growing up in just two days.” My youngest replied, “Really?” And my oldest answered, “Yes. When you get older you will realize just how much life can change forever in just two days.”
Then, at the end of the movie the adult Gordie narrates, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” To which my oldest said, “Even so I am just starting my teen years, I know that the friends I have now will be the most important friends that I will ever have.”
There is something quite magical about witnessing the older sibling sharing their wisdom and experience with the younger sibling, no matter the context and developmental stage.
Watching these five movies with your tweens will not only entertain them, but they will create moments to remember.