10 Movies I Forced My Kids To Watch Steven Folkins

My mother, stepfather and I walked into the crowded movie theatre to see Raiders of the Lost Ark on what I assume was its release weekend. The show must have been sold out, because we ended up sitting in the first row – something I know they would never do. I think fondly of this image of me sitting in the front row looking straight up at a pit of snakes – an experience that would become a lifelong love of the movies.

When my two boys were old enough that I thought they could sit through a movie, I started bringing them as often as a good and age appropriate movie came out. I would sometimes have to sell a movie that I thought they would like if it seemed a little different than Spongebob. You don’t even know how much I had to force them to see Brave and, of course, after they watched it, they loved it. I know as a parent there are many things and experiences that I have forced my kids to do (and will continue to force them) so they have this wide range of experiences; it’s what makes them well-rounded people.

Let’s not get all crazy and say I force them to do everything –  I don’t. Like right now, as I type this, the second day of third and second grade is over and they are in their bedroom building with LEGOs, something they decided to do on their own, which I love. But the other day? The day before school started when it was pouring outside and all they wanted to do was marathon Spongebob like I marathon House Hunters, I forced them to watch E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. This wasn’t the first time I forced them to watch a movie and I know it won’t be the last. I sometimes force (is ‘strongly encourage’ a better phrase?) them to watch movies, classics really, because I know it will make them better people. Here’s ten movies that I forced my children to watch that I watched growing up. I am pretty sure these movies will make them better people.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I have to admit that his was a tough one for my boys to get through, mostly due to the length. They loved the beginning with the giant rolling boulder, but all the Nazi and occult stuff bored them. It wasn’t until closer to the end when Indiana Jones and Marion are in the Well of Souls with all the snakes that it regained their interest. It’s the sense of humor of Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford’s delivery that make me love this movie and wanted to share it with my boys.  It is also the sense of adventure that I want them to take away from this film. They have seen The Temple of Doom and both eagerly reply to me when asked what they like about it, “The mine carts!” They haven’t seen The Last Crusade yet (I stress YET) and I hope they never see The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The Goonies

One of my all time favorite movies is this 1985 comedy by Richard Donner. I wore out my VHS copy multiple times and still have a copy of it even though I don’t own a VCR – I have a hard time getting rid of this one. My boys have seen this movie a couple times because it’s on TV often enough and when I asked them what their favorite part is Jasper (8) immediately said, “When they go down the waterslide.” That was my favorite part when I was younger and every summer when I went to water parks, I would pretend to be one of the Goonies. When I asked Kai (7), he said, “When they find the treasure…No! The waterslides.” My favorite part changed as I got older. For the longest time it was when Andy had to play the skull and bones piano to open the door. I would play my own keyboard and be Andy trying to get away from the Fratellis (the family, not the band, but both apply). But now it is the monologue from Chunk when the Fratellis are interrogating him:

“Everything. Okay! I’ll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max’s toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog… When my mom sent me to the summer camp for fat kids and then they served lunch I got nuts and I pigged out and they kicked me out… But the worst thing I ever done – I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa – and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. I never felt so bad in my entire life.”

Star Wars

Watching Star Wars was not a tough sell and honestly I never thought it would be. What I didn’t anticipate was the depth of their investment into Star Wars. They, and in turn I, have probably seen the entire series (yes, even the three newer bad ones) upward of 50 times. I am happy to say though that A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are their favorites. Both of my boys like Return of the Jedi the best because of the final fight between Luke and Darth Vader.


I would for years hide in my pile of stuffed animals with just my head peaking out like E.T. did – I had that many stuffed animals. When watching this movie for the first time the other day, my boys took a little bit to get into it. Why are those people chasing E.T.? Who is that guy with the keys? What is E.T. doing in that shed? After all those questions (there were more, but I edited them out), E.T. and Elliot finally meet and then they were fully engrossed in the film until the end. I did have to reassure them when E.T. “died” that they need to wait and see what happens, but I knew Jasper was a little nervous that E.T. was actually dead. The scenes that follow E.T.’s “death” are their favorite, especially the bike riding scene. I still cried when E.T. asks Elliot to come with him and Elliot says he has to stay.


If someone tells you they have never seen Ghostbusters, you need to sit them down and watch it; if they say no you need to remove their number from your phone and never contact them again. This is simply one of the best, most quotable movies ever made. My boys watched this for the first time with me and their grandfather, my stepfather. I think maybe they might have been a little young for this one when they watched it that time, but they have seen it again since then and love it. I mean, how couldn’t they not love Ghostbusters? When I asked them what their favorite scene was they both said, “When they are chasing the ghost (Slimer) in the hotel.”


Another classic film from 1984, Gremlins was one that I was a little apprehensive choosing for my kids to watch, but it mattered so much to me to include it. The balance between horror and comedy is what has always appealed to me – even as a child – and I wondered and hoped it would appeal to them too. Of course, it appealed to them, especially the part where Gizmo is driving around in the Barbie car. I taught myself how to do the Gizmo voice as well as the Spike voice and after my boys saw this we have been practicing doing voices as well.

Home Alone

There had to be a Christmas classic on my list and it was always Home Alone. I never wanted to be left home alone while my family went away and have two burglars try to break into my home as much as I did after seeing this film. I wonder if my boys thought the same thing. The climax of the film when Kevin’s traps are set in motion and Harry and Marv are caught by eight year old Kevin was empowering. Kevin and my older son are the same age, so there was some real identifying between them. And seriously, is there a better line than “Buzz, your girlfriend, Woof!”?


When I showed my boys the DVD case for Labyrinth, Jasper said, “That old guy looks funny.” Sorry, David Bowie. As fans of building pillow mazes, my boys liked Labyrinth for the adventure. I was obsessed with this movie when I was younger and wanted to be Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) so bad. Looking back, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to be Sarah (I think), but I wanted to find my way through a Labyrinth. There was an uptick in pillow fort mazes in my home after this movie for sure.

The Wizard of Oz

I may not have forced them to watch this one, but I strongly encourage them to get through the first few minutes because it gets really good. Their favorite part is when the tornado comes and everything is passing by Dorothy’s window. I can’t imagine a world without this movie, nor can I imagine that people haven’t seen it at least one time. I am really looking forward to when my boys are in high school and I can show them The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon synched up, because it totally changed how I saw this movie.

The Secret of NIMH

There are so many great cartoons that could have and maybe should have made this list, but I never had to recommend a film more than this one to my boys. This is one of those films that I watched for years without actually knowing what it was really about. I was so obsessed with this film that I named my one and only dog Nimh. Thank goodness she never knew what her name really meant. My boys loved the crow, Jeremy, and his red string. I love the story and the persistence of the Mrs. Brisby and everything she did for her family.

This is not a be-all end-all list, but it’s the best list I wrote today. Believe.

This was previously published at Modern Primate.


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  1. The Wizard of Oz and Labyrinth are two of my all-time favorite movies and will be required viewing for my kids!!!

  2. I think what’s great about many of these movies is that they encourage fantasy and imagination… especially Labyrinth. I think the Goblin King’s example of nonadherence to society’s prescribed gender roles is a very important and lasting impression that kids can still benefit from. He wears makeup and has Tina Turner hair, yet he’s still quite male… And no one should even bat an eyelash at that. Boys can wear pink and girls can swing swords, and I am bent on not allowing society to imprint bullshit antiquated gender identities on my kids…

  3. Phenomenal list…

  4. I have a massively compiled, highly detailed mental list like these titled “100 movies (or more) movies I will force my kids to watch”. Maybe it’s the Asian mum-to-be in me, but I think anyone who appreciates films will appreciate life a whole lot finer :)

  5. LION KING?????????? WHERE IS IT.

  6. labyrinth is my favorite!

  7. This is a wonderful. wonderful list of great movies that I’m absolutely sure would help shape a child into a better person. I don’t have children, but when I do, I’m looking forward to doing the same and exposing them to these classics. I just hope they ‘get’ ‘em…but, how could they not? Right?

  8. My son is about to turn 3, the first DVD we ever bought specifically for his collection was The Princess Bride around the time he turned 1. We can do without many of the Disney classics, as many are more propaganda than anything. We couldn’t go without School House Rock, The Iron Giant, The Tangerine Bear, and Scooby-Doo. I allow him to ONLY watch PBS on television to avoid the junk stuffed down kids throats by other “children’s channels.” There are an innumerable amount of classic films and television shows that I will get him to watch; however, nothing can replace a never-ending love and appreciation for literature, which is why we both have 10 times (and more) the amount of books as we do movies.
    As a child, the Gremlins gave me the creeps so bad that I never watched it again until 2 years ago, and I could never get over the creepiness of David Bowie in Labyrinth.

  9. These are all some of my favorites. I remember my mother and aunt taking me to see Labyrinth in the theaters when I was 3 years old. It has been my favorite move ever since. It always disappoints me when I try to talk about one of these films and someone hasn’t heard of it, or they have heard of it but haven’t seen it because it is “old”.

    I am also totally not trying to start anything, but why would your children have to be girls in order to enjoy John Hughes films or Say Anything? They are filled with universal themes than anyone can relate to. Most, if not all, of my previous manfriends have enjoyed Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles… and Weird Science (if that doesn’t scream “boy movie” I don’t know what does). In fact it was a boy who got me to watch Say Anything.

    • The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Heathers, Mean Girls are all on my list of movies to force my boys to watch when they are teenagers. Hopefully I won’t actually have to force them at that point.

      Steven Folkins | 9/23/2012 09:09 pm
  10. My kids are older (actually grown men now) and instead of encouraging them to see the favorite movies of my childhood, I took them to movies they would never have watched otherwise, like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Amelie, Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. I like to think this is why my middle son became a film major. If I’d had girl they definitely would have seen all the John Hughes movies along with Say Anything. They have seen every movie on your excellent list as well.

  11. I gotta add Princess Bride to the list. “Is this a kissing book?”

  12. I will absolutely be showing Labyrinth to my children when the times comes. Best movie ever. Obsessed doesn’t cover it! z

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  15. Back to the future was one I “strongly encouraged” my son to watch!I have a 5 year old girl and can’t wait till she is old enough to watch 16 candles,Breakfast club,etc.!I will be heartbroken if she doesn’t appreciate them like I did and do!

  16. Those are safe movies when they are younger. Mine are a little older and after seeing all of those, we have moved on to One Crazy Summer, Better off Dead, anything early Cusack. Also they have been experienced to Pretty in Pink and 16 candles. I think the oldest might be ready for the Blues Brothers, he was named Jake for a reason after all.

  17. These are definitely some movies I will force my future children to watch.