The best films for children: Observer readers have their say

Observer critic Mark Kermode picked 25 child-friendly films, sparking a lively debate. We look at some of your best counter-suggestions

Read the original piece:

25 of the best films for children

There’s a special emotional bond with the films we discover as children that is somehow purer, more cherishable than anything we forge later in life. For me, a bedrock moment in my love of cinema was working my way through a box of VHS copies of 1930s musicals, mesmerised by the glittering repartee and the effortless elegance of old Hollywood. Even now, watching clips of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell tap routines is a shortcut to a happy place. But, as shown by the response to Mark Kermode’s excellent and very personal list of 25 of the best films for children published here two weeks ago, everyone has their own treasured childhood movie touchstone.

The replies to the list include passionately argued cases for everything from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (which would definitely make my own roll call of best children’s films) and The Princess Bride (likewise) to the Roberto Benigni-starring holocaust drama Life Is Beautiful (not so much). But the point of Mark’s list, and the aspect that makes it such a rewarding read, was the decision to embrace the scope of family cinema at its broadest possible interpretation. As anyone with children under 10 will no doubt concur, much of the more recent content targeted at younger audiences represents a world of pain for older ones – just gaze into the hollow, haunted eyes of any adult who has had to endure The Emoji Movie.

Rather than churned out bargain-basement kids’ movies, the audience is far better served by films that emphasise the “family” in family entertainment – a collective, unifying experience to be shared and enjoyed by all ages. This might entail taking children out of their comfort zone a little, with subtitles or silent films; with the wrenchingly sad ending of Kes, for example or, to give a more recent example, the genuinely scary peril in Paddington, another film that was a popular choice with readers. Nicole Kidman as a renegade taxidermist lovingly stroking her glinting arsenal of scalpels while Paddington lies unconscious provides a shiveringly terrifying moment.

But as someone whose formative childhood movie experiences included a possibly unhealthy degree of tap-dancing, I was particularly delighted to see the support for Singin’ in the Rain in the readers’ responses. It’s a terrific suggestion, and one that goes to the top of my movie-night viewing list of film treasures to share with my eight-year-old. Wendy Ide

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

David Tomlinson and Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
David Tomlinson and Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Disney

Blitz-era musical fantasy starring Angela Lansbury as a witchcraft-practising governess
“That football scene will always be a delight. As well as the comedy, Bedknobs may have been the first time many children were introduced to war coming to our doorsteps and the real impact of the war on children not many generations before them.”

The Princess Bride (1987)

Robin Wright and Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride.
Robin Wright and Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

William Goldman’s wry fairytale adventure, in which a farmhand must rescue a princess
“The film that has everything: Fred Savage, Columbo, a giant, Billy Crystal, Robin Wright (grrrr), magic, sword fights. Has to be more engaging for kids than Kes, surely.”
June Junes

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in Singing’ in the Rain.
Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in Singing’ in the Rain. Photograph: Allstar/MGM/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

Effervescent classic musical with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds as silent film stars struggling to make a talkie
“I saw Singin’ in the Rain as a child in a cinema (in the early 70s, a rerelease), walked into the theatre as a six or seven year old, not having a clue of what I was about to see (other than it looked like a happy movie), and by the end credits I was in heaven. It is the one film that changed my life for the better and it has not a single sad moment in it. The film I treasure the most.”

Watership Down (1978)

General Woundwort in Watership Down.
General Woundwort in Watership Down. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

An animated tale of rabbits in peril, based on the unsettling 1972 novel by Richard Adams
“[My] first cinema experience [which] possibly traumatised mum more than me. It’s an animation classic, a creation myth for rabbits, and, like the most popular fairy tales, kids can actually cope with the horror and being a bit scared.”

Annabel Houghton, south-west London

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Todd Armstrong in Jason and the Argonauts.
Todd Armstrong in Jason and the Argonauts. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

The legendary quest for the golden fleece, with pioneering stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen
“I remember my grandparents showing me it in the early 90s, about 30 years after it had been released, and thinking it was the best thing ever. The special effects seemed like the most modern and advanced stuff possible, even though it was made in 1963.”

The Iron Giant (1999)

Hogarth and friend in The Iron Giant.
Hogarth and friend in The Iron Giant. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

A giant robot falls from outer space and befriends a young boy in this adaptation of a Ted Hughes story
“I agree strongly [with the many other commenters who recommended it]. Fantastic film.”

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Miss Piggy, Rizzo, Kermit the Frog, Michael Caine, Fozzy Bear and Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Miss Piggy, Rizzo, Kermit the Frog, Michael Caine, Fozzy Bear and Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Photograph: Allstar/Disney

Uproarious take on the Yuletide classic, with Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Michael Caine as Scrooge
“The finest adaptation of Mr Dickens’s tale in existence.”
Gordon, Manchester

Spirited Away (2001)

No Face, Chihiro and Zeniba in Spirited Away.
No Face, Chihiro and Zeniba in Spirited Away. Photograph: Disney/Everett/Rex

Highly imaginative Studio Ghibli animation featuring a lost girl, pigs, witches and a vomiting spirit
“However old you are I urge you to watch this film and I guarantee you will take something from it.”
Harry Dibbs

Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Nicoletta Braschi and Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful.
Nicoletta Braschi and Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful. Photograph: Everett/Rex

Roberto Benigni shields his son from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp in this Oscar-winning comedy‑drama
“Would Life Is Beautiful be suitable for older kids? If so, it should definitely be on this list. An absolute masterpiece.”
Matthew James, Barcelona

Fantastic Planet (1973)

A scene from Fantastic Planet.
A scene from Fantastic Planet. Photograph: Les Armorial/Kratky Film/Kobal/Shutterstock

French-Czech animation about a human uprising against alien overlords on a faraway planet
“I saw it in the cinema when it first came out. It blew my young mind and still resonates after all of these years.”
JSpicoli, North Wales

The Black Stallion (1979)

Kelly Reno and his equine companion in The Black Stallion.
Kelly Reno and his equine companion in The Black Stallion. Photograph: AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

A boy is shipwrecked with an Arabian horse in an American adaptation of the 1941 Walter Farley children’s classic
“It’s a superb mysterious story, almost wordless for much of its time. It’s one of these rare films that doesn’t talk down to children but invites you into its mysterious and complete world. I think it works equally well for adults too.”
Ewan Small, Giffnock, Glasgow

Mouse Hunt (1997)

Nathan Lane and Lee Evans in Mouse Hunt.
Nathan Lane and Lee Evans in Mouse Hunt. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Alamy

Two brothers inheriting a dilapidated mansion are foiled by a diminutive foe in this fast-paced slapstick comedy
“One film for the whole family, even the much older kids among you, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It features quite possibly the single most charismatic titular lead of any film.”

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

Cartoon characters and live-action humans coexist unharmoniously in Robert Zemeckis’s comedy starring Bob Hoskins as a toon-hating detective
“My favourite film as a kid (I still remember all of the words). Along with The Lion King, I’d say that it reinvigorated the animation field. It helped revive the idea that (part) animated films can be interesting for kids and adults, and weren’t just something to stick the kids in front of for 90 minutes while parents got on with something else.”

David Wall, Northampton

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Mary Badham and Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Mary Badham and Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird. Photograph: Universal/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Much-loved adaptation of the Harper Lee novel, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Robert Duvall as Boo Radley
“I remember watching it with my family and being enthralled. In spite of the subject matter there is something life-affirming about the film (and the book) that left a lasting impression on me.”

Nigel Jones, Ealing, London

Melody (1971)

Jack Wild in Melody.
Jack Wild in Melody. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy

Teen romance (originally marketed as SWALK in the UK) with a screenplay by Alan Parker
“A beautiful, sweet and poignant film from the early 70s about two kids who fall in love and want to get married. The film is perfectly accompanied by a cracking, pre-disco Bee Gees soundtrack.”
Michael Payne, Berlin

Hue and Cry (1947)

Harry Fowler, centre, in Hue and Cry.
Harry Fowler, centre, in Hue and Cry. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

A gang of street kids uncover a shady criminal enterprise that uses a comic strip to communicate its plans
“The children’s film that blew my mind, set on the bomb sites of postwar London. Beautiful cinematography and a first outing for many actors who went on to make the Ealing comedies.”

Sue Cox, SE London

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

The first Studio Ghibli film, about a boy and girl searching for a legendary floating castle
“I’m enamoured with most if not all of [Hayao Miyazaki’s] work. Laputa: Castle in the Sky has been a particular favourite for me with regards to the direction and purpose of tech. Specifically with regards to the sky robots that are gentle, empathetic and eco-conscious, but also awesome, powerful and destructive in their capabilities when human life was at threat.”

Bugsy Malone (1976)

John Cassisi, Jodie Foster and Scott Baio.
John Cassisi, Jodie Foster and Scott Baio. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar/Tristar

A gangster-movie spoof from Alan Parker, featuring child actors (including Jodie Foster) in the key roles
“It’s sappy, sweet and silly but to this day if it comes on TV I’ll sit and watch it. I was entranced by it when I saw it as a child, and I still get the same feeling now. Plus, the soundtrack is still brilliant.”

Something of Value (1957)

Sidney Poitier and Rock Hudson in Something of Value.
Sidney Poitier and Rock Hudson in Something of Value. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Two childhood friends across the colonial divide are forced apart by conflict. Also known as Africa Ablaze
“At 11 I saw Something of Value, about the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, starring Sidney Poitier and Rock Hudson. This movie helped shape my attitude towards the lethal enormity of racial prejudice.”

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)

Jeni Courtney in The Secret of Roan Inish.
Jeni Courtney in The Secret of Roan Inish. Photograph: AF archive/Alamy

Fantasy drama set on the west coast of Ireland, drawing on the legend of selkies, or seal-folk
“Absolutely magical and I’ve seen it captivate rather rambunctious boys in a way that few other films have.”
Jo Harris

The GuardianTramp

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