Films age quickly, losing their luster after a few weeks at the theater. Movies released thirty years ago are practically vintage. But today’s kids will get a kick out of the syrupy charm and gee-whiz technology of movies made in a time that doesn’t seem quite so distant to us.
Carve out a weekend for an 80’s film fest with your family. You might want to snack on foods that taste like that decade too. How about the appetizer of the 80’s, potato skins? And popcorn that seemed newfangled back then because it was popped right in its own microwaveable bag. Plus Capri Sun, pudding pops, and Whatchamacallit bars. Actually, maybe just stick with the movies. Food from the 80’s doesn’t have the same lasting appeal.
Here are 12 classic geeky family films from that long-ago era.
1982 E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial An alien crew is forced to take off suddenly, leaving a small extra terrestrial creature behind. He’s discovered by a quiet little boy, Elliot, who names him ET. The two develop a bond closer than anyone suspects. Elliot races against time and the intervention of authorities to help ET return to his home planet. This was the highest-grossing films of the decade.
1982 The Dark Crystal When the Dark Crystal was damaged this world creatures were separated into two, one cruel and the other gentle, ushering in a thousand years of chaos. An orphan named Jen sets off on a quest to find the missing shard and bring peace back. This mystical film by Jim Henson set a new standard for animatronics.
1984 The Neverending Story A young boy runs into a book shop to escape from school bullies. There he hears of an ancient book and hides to read it. He’s magically drawn into the story of a mythical land which is made from the dreams of the real world. It is desperate for a hero to save it from destruction.
1985 Back to the Future Teenager Marty accidentally travels back to 1955 in Doc Brown’s plutonium-powered DeLorean time machine. There he accidentally interferes with the lives of his teen-aged parents and must seek Doc Brown’s help to insure that they end up falling in love, otherwise he won’t have a future himself.
1986 Flight of the Navigator Davey, a 12-year-old, heads off into the woods one evening in 1978, stepping back out in unchanged in 1986. The first part of the film is emotional as the family overcomes their confusion and reunites. The scientific world finds this fascinating and runs all kinds of tests. Davey escapes from their lab only to jump on the spaceship that had transported him through time. The craft’s pilot, an artificial intelligence, unwittingly absorbs some human traits like humor and stubbornness. Davey finds the answers he’s seeking and a way to return to his family on his terms.
1986 Short Circuit Number 5, an experimental military robot, develops self-awareness when struck by lightening. Unwilling to face reprogramming back at the factory,Number 5 is aided by a young woman who helps him convince others that he is now a conscious being.
1987 The Princess Bride A story is read to a sick boy by his grandfather. As he reads, the story comes to life. When Princess Buttercup is kidnapped an unlikely trio seek to liberate her. Every fairy tale standard, including sword fights, masked men, giants, vows of vengeance, and miracles is given wry treatment in this film.
1987 *Batteries Not Included Tenants in an urban apartment must move so the building can be demolished. When they are reluctant, developers have the building trashed. A group of tiny flying machine-bots, dubbed The Fix-Its, befriend the tenants. The Fix-Its miraculously repair the damage, eventually working with residents to save their hope and the building.
1987 Harry and the Hendersons The Henderson family accidentally rund over some kind of creature. Thinking it is proof of the legendary Bigfoot, they bring it home only to discover it isn’t dead at all. They must hide the animal they call Harry from those who seek to imprison him, and with the help of a scientist work to return Harry to his wilderness home.
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Household appliances speak and move, only pretending to be lifeless around people. When a toaster, desk lamp, electric blanket, vacuum cleaner, and radio are left behind by their owner they set off to find him.
1988 Mac and Me A “Mysterious Alien Creature” (MAC) escapes from government agents and is taken in by a young wheelchair-using boy. Together they work to reunite him with his family.
1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids An inventor working to perfect his electromagnetic shrink ray accidentally miniaturizes four kids. Without realizing it, he tosses them out with the trash. While he searches for them the kids fight huge backyard dangers in their quest to get back in the house.
Your family will get a laugh out of the special effects and may enjoy comparing them to their current favorites. There are great conversational topics to be found here too, like the overtly sexist roles for female characters (who don’t lead interesting lives in today’s films either.)
How many of these films have your kids missed? No, don’t say it. You were deprived of some of these during your tender geekling years?