18 Kids Movies From The '80s That Are Definitely The Best

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Willow holds baby Elora Danan

Directed by Ron Howard from a story by George Lucas, Willow is a fantasy about a Nelwyn man, Willow (Warwick Davis), who discovers a Daikini baby and must protect her from an evil queen intent on her destruction thanks to a foreboding prophecy. It's full of adventure and fun and an incredible enemies-to-lovers romance in the characters of Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and Sorsha (Joanne Whalley).


2.E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

Elliot's eyes widen as ET's glowing finger moves towards his own outstretched finger

If you can think about E.T. or hear its soundtrack without tearing up, you're a stronger person than I. The sci-fi adventure about a boy named Elliot who discovers an alien in his backyard and tries to protect him from evil scientists while also helping him get home is both funny and absolutely heart-wrenching.

Universal Pictures

3.The Land Before Time

Littlefoot sits on his mother's head

Directed by Don Bluth, The Land Before Time is about a group of young dinosaurs who, separated from their herds, have to find their own way to an oasis called the Great Valley. Full of cute characters and lots of fun moments, the most impactful scene is nevertheless when Littlefoot's mother dies. It was scarring children long before The Lion King.

Universal Pictures

4.The Goonies

Chunk stands behind a fence wearing a Hawaiin shirt

Goonies never say die! A classic adventure movie about a group of kids who discover a treasure map and go on the hunt for a fortune that could save their homes — while also trying to escape the clutches of a crime family. It's an exhilarating story with a strong, funny, and relatable cast of characters, starring '80s icons like Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin and Martha Plimpton.

Warner Bros

5.The Secret of NIMH

Brisby the mouse looks frightened

Don Bluth's directorial debut is a dark, expansive and incredible animation about a single mother mouse, her quest to save her sick son, and the hyper-intelligent rats she meets that are a result of human experimentation. Just your usual children's fare, you know.


6.All Dogs Go to Heaven

Anne-Marie kisses Charlie

What's that? Another traumatising movie? Thanks, Don Bluth. This one opens with the murder of a dog (!!), who leaves heaven to seek revenge on his ex-friend who killed him but winds up befriending an orphan girl and learning about the meaning of life and love in the process. The ending is a tear-jerker.


7.The Dark Crystal

Jen the Gelfling looks shocked

Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, The Dark Crystal is the tale of a gelfling named Jen and his companion Kyra who set out on a quest to restore the Dark Crystal and rid the land of the evil ruling Skeksis for good. With incredible puppetry and animatronics, The Dark Crystal is both magical and slightly eery. It had a TV revival on Netflix in 2019, which sadly only lasted one season but is well worth the watch.



david bowie as the goblin king

Also directed by Jim Henson, and produced by George Lucas, Labyrinth stars David Bowie as the Goblin King, a magical leader who steals the baby brother of teen Sarah, played by Jennifer Connelly. Watching Sarah's journey through the titular labyrinth as she attempts to get her brother back is quite a ride — full of whimsy and more than one trippy moment.


9.The Little Mermaid

Eric graps Ariel's hands as they look at  each other smiling

The movie that ushered in the renaissance era of Disney; their first fairy-tale inspired movie in decades led them to great success. Disney took Hans Christian Andersen's rather bleak story and gave it the happy ending treatment, with the little mermaid in question married to her handsome prince and living on land as opposed to...being dead because her prince is useless and not in love with her. See, not every '80s movie was traumatising!


10.Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Wayne narrows his eyes

Rick Moranis was the star of so many '80s and '90s childhoods, thanks in no small part to this movie series. In this first instalment, he plays an inventor who accidentally shrinks his and his neighbors' kids and unknowingly throws them in the trash. The kids then have to travel the epic, long journey through their own backyard. Considering how, ahem, huge this movie was when it was released, we really don't talk about it enough anymore.


11.Harry and the Hendersons

The Henderson family sit in their car with something strapped under a blue tarp to the roof of the car

Remember when everyone was super obsessed with Bigfoot? This movie explored what would happen if Bigfoot were real and accidentally run over and taken home by a middle class family. Both funny and surprisingly heartfelt, John Lithgow's performance is a highlight of the movie.


12.The Never-Ending Story

Atreyu looks upset standing in a swamp

Based on the book of the same name by Michael Ende, The Never-Ending Story tells two narratives: that of Bastian, a shy, bullied boy who discovers a magical book and gets literally lost in the story; and the story-within-the-story of the land of Fantasia and the young warrior Atreyu who is on a quest to save it. The movie is full of memorable creatures, at least one devastating moment, and one of the most iconic theme songs of the '80s.

Warner Bros

13.The Last Unicorn

The unicorn looks sad in front of a cloudy sky

Based on the book by Peter S Beagle, who also wrote the screenplay, and featuring the voices of Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee, The Last Unicorn is a somewhat dark, deeply weird, but absolutely beautiful animated movie about a unicorn who discovers she is the last of her kind and sets off to find others like her.

ITC Films

14.Oliver & Company

Oliver looks happily at Dodger

Who knew a novel by Charles Dickens about an orphan who is exploited for child labor, taken in by thieves, and protected by a sex worker who is subsequently murdered would make such a delightful animated kids movie? Oliver & Company removes a lot of the darker elements of the plot and turns Oliver into a kitten who is taken in by street dogs. It features iconic musical numbers and the voice talents of Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, and Bette Midler.


15.An American Tail

Fievel smiles while looking up

This Don Bluth movie features Fievel, a Russian-Jewish mouse who emigrates to America with his family but gets separated from them and must find his way back to them and start his new life with the help of new American friends. Like much of Bluth's work, it doesn't shy away from dark and depressing elements.


16.The Princess Bride

Wesley stands in front of Buttercup with his arm in front of her protectively; his other hand holds a sword; they stand in a forest

Not strictly a kids movie, but not NOT a kids movie, The Princess Bride is without doubt one of the best films of all time. Directed by Rob Reiner from a screenplay by William Goldman, who also wrote the book it was based on, the satirical fairy tale is hilarious and so much fun. The framing device of a grandfather reading the story to his sick grandson adds a touch of heart and sentiment that grounds it.

20th Century Fox

17.Short Circuit

a woman and a robot

Starring Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg, Short Circuit is about a military robot that is struck by lightning and gains human-like intelligence. Sounds like the premise for a horrific dystopia, but this comedy takes a much more wholesome and light turn with it, as the robot in question, Number 5, learns what it is to be human.

TriStar Pictures

18.Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Roger and Eddie look at each other while sitting in an otherwise empty movie theatre

With a delightful mix of animation and live action, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is a funny send-up of classic noir, with Bob Hoskins nailing it as grizzled detective Eddie Valiant, the perfect foil for the zany Roger. Christopher Lloyd is also memorable — and terrifying — as bad guy Judge Doom, who is intent on ridding the world of toons despite secretly being one himself.

Buena Vista

What is your fave '80s kids movie?