These Are the 15 Movies From the '90s That You Need to Watch With Your Kids
Growing up in the ’90s was the best of both worlds: I had epic ’80s movies to play over and over again, and I got to live through 10 years of amazing film releases, many of which have stuck with me my whole life (and are still on constant rotation).
I spent half of 1997 begging my mom to buy me the Heart of the Ocean necklace, the better part of the late ’90s trying to re-create “The Blob” with my camp friends (to no avail and with only minor injuries), and most of the decade singing “My Girl” and “We Are the Champions” at the top of my lungs. It was an exciting time to be alive, and though your children may never know what it was like to wait for a VHS tape to rewind (torture), these films need to be on a must-watch list so they can get a proper education of ’90s culture.
Read through for the 15 movies from the ’90s that you need to watch with your kids.
Tagline: “How far would you go for a friend?”
Reasons they need to see it: This emotional film touches upon themes like wildlife conservation, finding your path after making mistakes, learning to love and accept love, and true friendship between both humans and animals.
What to look out for: Some of the scenes with the fishermen – who are loud and violent – could be scary for younger children. Also, the owner of the aquarium is the person you should teach your kids to strive not to be – he’s the worst.
Tagline: “The adventure of a lifetime, the Summer of their dreams . . . the dog of their nightmares.”
Reasons they need to see it: Scotty Smalls faces the struggle of moving away from his friends and having to make new ones, something that young children going through the same thing could have anxiety about. The movie proves that you can make friends even with the most unlikely people, and that though something may seem scary, you can face it with people who support you (and if it ends up not being scary, you might meet a cute dog or a retired baseball player).
What to look out for: The scenes showing the boys’ perception of The Beast are a tiny bit scary.
Tagline: “Jack Powell is about to tackle his biggest adventure ever . . . the fifth grade!”
Reasons they need to see it: This was one of my favorite movies as a kid – I loved Diane Lane‘s quirky maternal instincts, Brian Kerwin’s funny dad antics, and most of all, Robin Williams‘s ability to convey the beautifully innocent heart of a child. Your kids are going to love spending time with Jack, a boy who may look a bit different, but is really just a normal 10-year-old boy who wants to have friends and be loved like everyone else.
What to look out for: It gets a bit upsetting when Jack gets sick in the middle of the movie, and that nightclub scene between Jack and a young Fran Drescher gets a little risqué and could raise some interesting questions.
Tagline: “Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.” (Though it should be “You can do it, Brucey!”)
Reasons they need to see it: Even though Matilda possesses actual magic, her adventures prove that with a little bit of courage, you can help to change something unjust even without magic. Matilda’s character will show your children how to be a fierce friend who always stands up for what is right and what she believes in.
What to look out for: The Trunchbull still haunts the dreams of ’90s kids everywhere – help your child to understand that The Chokey isn’t real, you can’t send someone flying by their pigtails (too far), and that’s not how the school they go to will ever be.
The Little Rascals
Tagline: “Mischief loves company!”
Reasons they need to see it: First love, keeping up appearances in front of your friends, go-karts, talent shows, and more make up this iconic film that covers literally every aspect of childhood in one mischievous little package. Also, mini Bug Hall and an adorable Travis Tedford will show your kids that even the best of friends have fights sometimes; but if it’s worth the friendship, working at the relationship and toward forgiveness is possible.
What to look out for: The “He-Man Woman Haters Club” is a great way to start a conversation about toxic masculinity!
Tagline: “She makes dinner. She does windows. She reads bedtime stories. She’s a blessing . . . in disguise.”
Reasons they need to see it: This movie creates a real picture about life with divorced parents in a digestible way. The film’s aim to convey a parent’s unconditional love for their children despite falling out of love with each other is so important for all young kids to see and understand.
What to look out for: When Robin Williams gives the ole finger to Pierce Brosnan you’ll likely get a few giggles and possibly a question or two about his finger choice. Also, it’s worth noting that the level of deceit in this film is for sure not OK at all – and honestly, a lot of the things that happen are probably illegal in some way, shape, or form? (I’m not a lawyer, don’t quote me.)
The Mighty Ducks
Tagline: “He’s never coached. They’ve never won. Together they’ll learn everything about winning!”
Reasons they need to see it: Besides a dreamy Emilio Estevez and mini Joshua Jackson? The Ducks have to learn how to be a team and that winning isn’t everything; meanwhile, Coach Bombay struggles with his own life, showing kids that adults aren’t perfect, and we all make mistakes.
What to look out for: There’s a bit of language in this one, but nothing wild!
Tagline: “Life is like a box of chocolates . . . you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Reasons they need to see it: In what is arguably Tom Hanks‘s best role (IMHO), the concepts of being different, finding your place in life, following your heart, and learning to play ping-pong are present throughout this film. Exploring everything from getting bullied for being different as a kid to growing up and dealing with love, loss, and parenthood, Forrest finds a way to overcome all of his struggles. And baby Haley Joel Osment’s five minutes of fame as Forrest Junior are worth every second.
What to look out for: Forrest’s mom and the doctor’s little rendezvous in the beginning is a bit risqué, and the Vietnam scenes are pretty graphic and should probably either be skipped and briefly explained or kept to 13-and-up eyes only.
Tagline: “Nothing on Earth could come between them.”
Reasons they need to see it: This is the ultimate love story and proves that you can’t help who you fall for and that love conquers all. Though it’s a fictional story, there are a lot of historical references that will teach your children about the early 1900s and what life looked like before you could hop on a plane with WiFi and be anywhere in the world before dinner time.
What to look out for: Some of the scenes in this movie are terrifying (think giant sinking ship), Rose tries to commit suicide (though that may not be clear to younger children), and there is a fair amount of violence in the end of the film (oh, and dead bodies frozen in the water). Not to mention the (literally) steamy sex-scene in the car, which comes off the tails of the whole “Draw me like one of your French girls” bit. This might be one to save for your teenager (*calls mom to ask what she was thinking when she took me to the theater at 7*) . . .
Also, your child might hold an actual grudge against Rose for the rest of her life – there was room on that door.
Tagline: “A family comedy without the family.”
Reasons they need to see it: Though this film’s plot could never occur in this day and age (it barely passed for the ’90s, and it was a free-for-all back then), it’s a fun and original movie that – if for no other reason than the fact that it’s iconic – needs to be seen by every kid. It’s kind of a good movie to teach kids what not to do if they ever feel like they’re in any type of danger, but hey, it’s a classic.
What to look out for: The wet bandits are super creepy and talk briefly about biting off each one of Kevin’s fingers one by one, among other threats. Also Kevin is basically a murderer without the actual murder (you know it’s true).
Tagline: “When your Dad’s an undertaker, your Mom’s in heaven, and your Grandma’s got a screw loose . . . it’s good to have a friend who understands you. Even if he is a boy.”
Reasons they need to see it: This movie should be every child’s first love film, as Vada and Thomas J. are just children themselves. The film covers the topics of death (of a parent and of a friend), lasting friendships, single parenthood, and family quirkiness (and accepting that for what it is). It’s a powerful movie that will stick with your kids forever.
What to look out for: There are fewer movie scenes more tragic than Thomas J.’s sudden death and funeral (BRB, crying). Death is the main theme of this movie, so some kids might need some hard cuddling through the difficult scenes.
Tagline: “They don’t run the fastest. They don’t jump the highest. But they sure are getting the last laugh.”
Reasons they need to see it: While the premise of this movie is totally outdated, its humor is everlasting. A crazed Ben Stiller will throw your kids into fits of giggles, they’ll want to befriend every single boy at Camp Hope, and they’ll be begging you for a chance to jump on “The Blob.”
What to look out for: There is a minor bit of profanity. And a bunch of fart scenes that may cause uncontrollable laughter. And most importantly, the whole basis of this movie puts emphasis on weight and what a person should look like – it’s a good one to help facilitate conversations about body image, healthy habits, and other related themes.
Life Is Beautiful
Tagline: “An unforgettable fable that proves love, family, and imagination conquer all.”
Reasons they need to see it: I saw this movie in middle school Italian class, and it has stuck with me for my entire life. The poignant moments between Guido and his son are impossible to interpret as anything other than unconditional love, and the way humor is injected into such a difficult time period is truly inspiring. Your kids will laugh at Guido’s carefree spirit and well-timed jokes, but will also learn a fair amount about the seriousness of World War II and concentration camps, a huge part of history that textbooks can’t put into perspective the way this film does.
What to look out for: It deals with difficult concepts, and does take place during World War II, which means guns, Nazis, and some potentially frightening situations that younger tweens might not be able to handle – save this one to watch with your teenager. (To note: the original movie is in Italian and can be viewed with subtitles, or you can watch with it dubbed in English!)
Dennis the Menace
Tagline: “He’s armed . . . He’s adorable . . . And he’s out of school for the entire summer.”
Reasons they need to see it: There is a little bit of Dennis in every young child, and it was fun as a kid to watch what he got up to – it will make your child seem like an angel, until they decide to start imitating some of his antics. Most of all, this one will make your kiddo crack up.
What to look out for: The scenes with Christopher Lloyd as Switchblade Sam can be a little scary for young eyes, but Dennis drives him crazy fast enough that the comedy comes back into play fairly quickly.
10 Things I Hate About You
Tagline: “How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.”
Reasons they need to see it: The movie deals with a lot of sibling rivalry between Kat and Bianca and addresses topics such as applying for college, dating, and dealing with overprotective parents (Larry Miller’s performance is too good). It’s a peek into what high school looked like before social media, what dating looked like before Tinder, and what teens’ clothes looked like before Forever 21.
What to look out for: It’s rated PG-13 for a reason: there are a lot of references to sex and a bit of drinking and smoking at parties.