12 1/2 Must-See KIDS' Summer Movies (that I won't hate)

Summer movies for kids have never been my priority because I'm more obsessed with avoiding "the summer slide". I'm the ogre dad who stomps on fun. However, the older (and more lackadaisical) I get in my parenting, I realize we all need screen time. It's 2019. Plus, my kids will read every single day. We have a chart. So. 

And so that I can avoid re-watching the same six movies my kids adore (before school's out), I'm drawing up a list.

Yeah - can you believe it? Summer has yet to come to NYC schools. Yep, we are STILL in school. And though I often speak of loving what almostfeels like to be on a year-round schedule, by this point, I just need this to be OVER. We are limping to the academic finish line.

And I can't wait to torture my kids by re-watching my own summer movies for kids.

I cannot abide any more of the shitty movies my kids ask to watch ad nauseum. I don’t need all the animation to be CGI and I don’t need the live action to be in HD, but I can't suffer through a 37th viewing of “The Cat in the Hat” (from 2003 – Alec Baldwin in his pre-30 Rockdays must've really needed the cash) or Home Alone(which is great, but I can’t watch it a 77thtime when it’s not Christmas).

And in doing some basic research for this posting, I found my taste are pretty in line with...well...some boring people who make lists for "common sense media". (J/k. I love the folks at common sense media. I bet none of them smoke.)

Nope, I’m gonna be THAT dad and we are gonna have an old-fashioned Saturday night movie night and watch some old-school movies from my childhood


So I’m trying to pull together an age-appropriate list of must-see-TV for my little kids. Lots of these are from the 80’s, but this is meant to be “movies that made impressions in my childhood.” 

When I think back to my early movie attendance, there are flicks that particularly stick out and all have their own trauma with which I will inflict my kids, this summer. For example -

The Secret of Nimh

I remember Mrs. Frisby using the force to raise that big ass brick. But I also recall the huge owl stepping on a ginormous spider and eating a moth. The Red Balloon – even as a first grader when I saw this, I knew it was transcendent art. We’ve watched it many times as a family. Will do so, again.

The Dark Crystal

The entire thing was terrifyingly creepy. But I can’t wait to re-visit it. Also - Netflix has a sequel series whose trailer is equally terrifying. 

The Never Ending Story

I remember very little of this movie. I mean - I saw it in the movie theatre, so this wasn't the era of binging on repeat viewings. But wasn’t there some big flying dog? I remember the theme song and feeling invigorated by the entire movie. Somehow, this one left a huge impression on me. And if kids' summer movies that make an impression are my goal, I'll torture my own with this one.

Return of the Jedi

Seeing the Star Wars movies in the movie theatre can never be replicated. But that time has passed. So this might be the summer we do the Star Wars trilogy. Yes – I said trilogy. I’m not ready to inflict Jar Jar Binks on my kids; terrifying puppetry from the 80’s is fine, but embarrassing 90’s CGI is not ok.


I remember the title and that – who was it – David Bowie? – is in it. I think the gender-bendyness of his character was confusing and intriguing. Do I remember ANYTHING else about the movie? No. HOWEVER - in doing my quick research for old trailers for YOU, dear reader, I found out that Labyrinth was ALSO a Jim Henson production, like The Dark Crystal, except in musical form.


Never Cry Wolf

I know. My kids will hate me for this one. It's probably never been listed on any summer movies for kids site ever. However, they both love nature documentaries. Plus, I remember the dude running naked out of his tent after some animal stole his food, or something like that. Nudity is funny and shouldn’t be embarrassing. The endless trailer (below) ends with the words, "in the end, there were no clear answers, no heroes or villains. Only silence." My kids could stand to experience some silence.

Mary Poppins and The Fox and the Hound

A must-watch for summer movies for kids. Because duh.

An American Tail

I find this movie utterly unsophisticated, so I'll be on my phone while the kids watch. But why not? The idea of immigration and struggling as a refugee is timely, so I may use this as a tool. We could get a lot of use out of this one. 

Old Yeller

I remember this being a tremendous movie, except (spoiler alert) the dog gets it in the end. But it's Disney and G-rated. Hell, in this age, kids need to know everything's not a storybook Disney (circa 1990) ending. At least it’s not as quite as depressing as Where the Red Fern Grows, is it? I'll report back on this one... (Also - Disney won't allow me to embed the trailer (see below). Oh, Disney. Love your control issues. But here’s the link: https://video.disney.com/watch/old-yeller-trailer-4be103511887749519ec4e85


My instincts say this is too "much" for my kids, so I hesitate. There's a lot of - who knows? - potty humor, sexual innuendo, danger. And Sloth is terrifying, isn’t he? But wait – there’s the element of love and acceptance, right? But in the meantime, please waste time watching this Cyndi Lauper video "The Goonies 'r' Good Enough". How very far we've come in video production...and acting...

The Land Before Time

I have a feeling this one (like all of these movies I haven’t seen in a long time) is probably best left to my nostalgia. But I’m sure my kids will love it. So I’ll just scroll Instagram as they sit, mouths agape, watching the cartoonish dinos.

The Princess Bride

Again: duh. But too old for a 5yo? Now, I'm one of those jerks who insists on reading certain books before seeing the movies, therefore I would normally avoid this one. Like with Harry Potter, for example - my older kid read the book and thenwe watched the movie (ignoring the fact that I'm utterly hypocritical by letting my younger kid watch the movie. But he wasn't interested. So.) This might be a good summertime bedtime read and then watch the movie toward the end. It's a fab book, btw. You need to read it. (Even if you've seen the movie. It's that good.)

What about you?

Any vital summer movies for kids I left out as I let their minds rot while staring vacantly at screens all day long?