Nostalgia Doesn’t Suck: Five Movies You Loved As A Kid (That Are Actually Pretty Good)

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Let’s face it, before our cinematic tastes were fully developed, we had some rather questionable movie choices as children. Go ahead, look back at your movie collection. Aside from the staple Disney classics that every child should grow up knowing, you’ve probably got a stack of cartoons and live-action ridiculousness that your parents dreaded popping into your VCR. Wait, sorry, I forgot some of you reading this won’t know such an archaic method of playing movies, being born directly into the DVD generation of now. Don’t worry, VHS tapes were just another way of playing movies at home, except they required actual rewinding, were big and clunky, and ruined your night if the film went off its track. A DVD scratch is nothing compared to a twisted VHS tape.

But have no fear, because the child in all of us wasn’t only drawn to terrible cinema. Even though we couldn’t tell a good movie from a pile of dirt, we got lucky every so often and became mesmerized by a treasured classic. I’m not talking only Disney movies either – there were phenomenal children’s movies if you actually looked for them. Trust me, Mom and Dad loved when you picked these movies over Beetleborgs or whatever crappy Power Rangers rip-off you were favoring that year.

So without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at five movies from your childhood worth watching again with your own kids – just so you can enjoy them one more time. Or a billion more depending on if you’re grooming your child to be a cinefile like you!

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The Jungle Book

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Alright, let’s get an animated Disney pick out of the way early just because it’s one of the more obvious choices, but out of their whole collection, I always turned to The Jungle Book as a child. There’s something about a boy being raised in the wild by talking animals that had me addicted, not to mention it sports one of the best Disney soundtracks ever. Like, in the history of time.

Mowgli’s (Bruce Reitherman) journey is one full of adventure, laughter, lessons, and love, as our “man-cub” encounters many animal friends on his journey to joining human civilization. Befriending a bear named Baloo (Phil Harris) and a panther named Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), they must keep the boy safe from a man-eating tiger named Shere Kahn (George Harris), as well as traverse numerous other obstacles that lay in their path.

My favorite part as a child of course is when the zany orangutan King Louie (voiced by musician Louis Prima) meets Mowgli, doing his cooky song and dance, making me bust out laughing every single time. But the danger was also exciting, as Mowgli had to avoid the hypnotizing stare of Kaa the Snake (Sterling Holloway) and Shere Kahn’s stealthy advances, putting Mowgli against the odds.

The thing is, with such colorful animation and iconic voice acting, it’s hard for anyone to deny Disney’s adaptation of the fabled story, as the film delivers one of the greatest animated family movies of all time. Go ahead, just try not to sing along as King Louie croons “I Wanna Be Like You” – I dare you.

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The Muppets Take Manhattan

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Alright, I know The Muppet Movie is more critically acclaimed, but I’m going with nostalgia on this one, and for some reason I watched The Muppets Take Manhattan way more. For my money it’s just a stone’s throw away from the Henson inspired original, features musical numbers that are just as memorable, and the New York City setting gives it a slick vibe that puts our puppets in one of America’s most popular areas. Plus, the cast of New York natives they bring together is really one of those fun notions you don’t catch until your older, because at the time I probably still believed all the characters in movies were real.

What’s there not to love about The Muppets though? I’ve watched every one of their films, and Henson’s work struck a charming chord every time. While their New York story may have been nothing special, Kermit and company still delight in every scene, work well with the New York City atmosphere, and still make you do nothing but smile. As an added bonus, we even get a marriage between Kermit and Ms. Piggy, offering the happiest of endings for our lovestruck puppets.

With the laundry list of cameos found yet again, it’s nice being able to re-watch the film as I’m older and pick out talents like Elliott Gould, John Landis, Brooke Shields, and Joan Rivers, making the viewing experience just as rewarding today. That, and The Muppets never go out of style.

It’s funny how I turned out to be the New York City dweller I am today – maybe The Muppets had something to do with that?

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

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Hey – remember when Tim Burton wasn’t all predictably psychotic and didn’t remake movies with lackluster results? Yes, I realize I’m showing my age here, but Jack Skellington was essentially my first foray into horror. The Nightmare Before Christmas might be a kid’s movie and might not be scary at all, but still, there’s so much classic horror inspiration found in Burton’s story. We almost had an animated sequel in 2001 as well, but thankfully Tim was able to convince Disney to leave his story (which was directed by Henry Selick) as one, pure experience. Can’t say I’ve been agreeing with any of Burton’s choices lately, but he definitely deserves a thumbs up for preserving Skellington.

Mixing the holidays of Christmas and Halloween in a stop-motion children’s tale, we had an absolute blast watching excited boys and girls opening evil presents Christmas morning, and were scared to death by Santa Skellington being shot down by the military. There’s no way this can get better, right? Wrong – Danny Elfman’s original score. It’s impossible to hear the beginning of “This Is Halloween” and not get goosebumps, as it’s since become an unofficial anthem for the actual holiday.

There’s a reason The Nightmare Before Christmas is respected and worshiped in a cult-like fashion by people of all ages. Seriously, there are some ridiculous Skelington tattoos and whatnot out there, and while I’m not one of those die-hard fans (saving my tattoo for when I get ballsy enough to imitate Bill Paxton’s character in Aliens), I completely understand the absolute love for this twisted Christmas tale.

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James And The Giant Peach

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Roald Dahl’s novel James And The Giant Peach may have been one of the only school issued books I enjoyed as a child, but Henry Selick’s film brought the book to life in a way not even I could have imagined. Mixing stop motion with live action, the film has a distinctly pleasing look and admirably perfect craftsmanship, one that only becomes more marvelous as you’re able to understand just what this “animation” achieved.

The story is one of absurdity and wonderment, as a child befriends some oversized bugs and lives in a giant peach, but it’s also a strangely touching story. From the mechanical shark, to the ghostly white Rhino, to James’ horrid Aunts, there’s a brilliant mix of both adventure and discovery that makes this story special for children.

Not to mention this also asserts Dahl’s crazy sense of creative brilliance, as each detail is so vibrantly insane. Adapting such things as the ones listed above shouldn’t have been an easy task, but Selick’s stop-motion mastery and equally beautiful imagination brought to life our robot shark and Rhino in a uniquely aesthetic way, one that kids never had to be afraid of. We knew they were bad characters, but the delivery presented even more sinister topics in a friendly manner children could still find mesmerizing. The technical merits of this movie are enough to make mature heads spin, and the joyously fun atmosphere is just icing on the cake.

I can’t tell you how many times I fantasized about traveling the world in a giant peach because of this movie.

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Aladdin

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If we’re talking about my favorite childhood movies, Aladdin is easily a Top 3 contender. Sword fighting, a hilarious genie, Princess Jasmine, a talking parrot, flying on a magic carpet, an evil sorcerer named Jafar – every part of me wanted to be Aladdin. Aladdin was one of the Disney cartoons that young boys could get into, mixing in action elements and fantastic comedy (Robin Williams and Gilbert Gottfried), choosing a male protagonist instead of the typical princess type.

We’ve seen the story of a poor boy dreaming of bigger things, but Aladdin mixes in the magic of Disney and the wonder of song, as you can’t hear the beginning of “Arabian Nights” without belting the song out yourself. Not only that, but Genie (Robin Williams) is easily one of my favorite Disney characters to this date, being both magical and hilarious, so it’s hard not to look at Aladdin and flash back to times when my best friend and I would run around the house like we were poor peasant boys fighting royal soldiers. Yeah, I was a pretty badass little dude, and Aladdin only made me even more adventurous.

I mean, how else was I going to win over the affections of Princess Jasmine?

Alright, maybe my childhood movie taste wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. What about you though? Which movies did you love as a kid that still hold their relevance today as critically pleasing films?

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  • vanbachbn

    i like harry potter. i usually look at http://goodkidsmovies.com to buy DVD for my children :)

  • Namey Nameson

    This list includes neither The Road to El Dorado nor Space Jam.

    I am disappoint.

  • John Taylor

    Well, obviously targeted for the more recent generation of kids which I am not. As an adult, I have not found any of these movies very interesting. Probably would list Jungle Book at #1 and Aladdin at #2, but only if forced to. Would not list any of the other three at all. If restricted to animation, I would select Dinosaur and Pagemaster for my list.

  • Tm Madison

    Toy story, the lion king, and the prince of Egypt

  • PhattElvis

    God I must be ancient:
    Fantasia
    Yellow Submarine
    The Sound of Music
    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
    Pinocchio