30 Timeless Films from the 80s and 90s to Watch with Your Kids (Part 3)

30 Timeless Films from the 80s and 90s to Watch with Your Kids (Part 3)
Best Family Movies Part 3

Welcome back, Rewind Zone readers! In the previous posts (Part 1, Part 2) of this series, we took a nostalgic tour through some of the best family films of the 1980s and 1990s. Now it's time to look back at the third installment—the cream of the crop when it comes to wholesome, funny, and heartwarming cinematic gems perfect to watch with kids of all ages.

Quick DISCLAIMER: I have found that films from this period are often not aligned with today's ratings. Be aware that some PG films may contain scenes that may be more mature in nature. As always use your own discretion.
Age Rating Appropriate Audience
PG Parental Guidance suggested
PG-13 Ages 13 and above
G General Audience

Revisiting the Classics

The 80s and 90s blessed us with some absolute classic family films loaded with adventure, laughs, life lessons, and special effects that ignited imaginations around the globe. While there are far too many to name them all, this last segment will highlight a few more beloved titles and hidden gems.

Matilda (1996)

  • Director: Danny DeVito
  • Main Cast: Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Pam Ferris
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 38m

We can't omit Danny DeVito’s 1996 Roald Dahl adaptation Matilda, centering around a gifted young girl (Mara Wilson) who develops telekinetic powers which she uses to deal with her cruel parents and tyrannical school principal Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris). Packed with humor and heart, Matilda serves as an empowering underdog story for kids of all ages. With a colorful visual style, a pitch-perfect cast, and an infectiously upbeat attitude at its core, this charming fantasy comedy reminds us about overcoming adversity with intelligence, courage, and a little magic.

Back to the Future (1985)

  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Main Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 56m
Back to the Future

No list of iconic films is complete without 1985's time-travelling Back to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox. This exciting sci-fi comedy from director Robert Zemeckis sparked a franchise filled with adventure across space and time. With eccentric inventor Doc Brown's (Christopher Lloyd) souped-up DeLorean, teen Marty McFly is accidentally transported 30 years into the past, where he comes face-to-face with his uncool parents as teenagers. To get back to the future, Marty must ingeniously orchestrate his parents falling in love at the "Enchantment Under the Sea Dance" while avoiding the wrath of bully Biff Tannen. Witty, clever, and filled with classic tunes like "Johnny B. Goode," this paradigm-shifting blockbuster still dazzles nearly 40 years later!

Groundhog Day (1993)

  • Director: Harold Ramis
  • Main Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Stephen Tobolowski
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 41m
Groundhog Day

We can't leave out Harold Ramis' 1993 comedy Groundhog Day,Pennsylvania, starring Bill Murray which has become synonymous with the concept of living the same day over and over. Murray plays sarcastic weatherman Phil Connors, who finds himself inexplicably stuck reliving February 2nd—Groundhog Day—in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania over and over again. At first, Phil lives it up, but his hedonism soon gives way to existential crisis mode. Only through self-improvement and acts of compassion can the time loop be broken. Murray is at his deadpan comedic best, trying to woo his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and bonding with townsfolk while on his repetitive journey of self-discovery. Groundhog Day serves up profound lessons on bettering oneself, all wrapped in hilarious hijinks.

30 Movies from the 80’s and 90’s to Watch with your Kids
Discover timeless films from the 80s and 90s to watch with your kids. Unleash nostalgia and create lasting memories with these family classics

Twins (1988)

  • Director: Ivan Reitman
  • Main Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 41m

This zany 1988 comedy pairs mismatched brothers—an intellectually advanced super soldier experiment and his gangly, petty criminal twin brother—for double the laughs. When Julius (Arnold Schwarzenegger) discovers he has a twin brother named Vincent (Danny DeVito), he ventures from an isolated island laboratory to the bright lights of 1980s Los Angeles to meet him for the first time. The two wildly contrasting siblings form a heartfelt bond as they embark on a quest to find their mother with plenty of hijinks, cultural clashes, and bumbling baddies in their way. Director Ivan Reitman keeps the laughs coming in this endearing fish-out-of-water tale.

All Films mentioned in this series can be found in our Trakt List

Free Willy (1993)

  • Director: Richard King
  • Main Cast: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen
  • Age Restriction: PG-13
  • Runtime: 1h 44m
Free Willy

Critics and audiences couldn't get enough of this inspiring 1993 family drama that spawned two sequel films and an animated TV series. Still a powerful viewing experience today, Free Willy tells the uplifting bond between troubled foster boy Jesse (Jason James Richter), who discovers his true purpose after befriending a captive orca named Willy at a local aquatic park. Through perseverance and courage, Jesse risks everything to give Willy his freedom and, in turn, finds his own. Directed by Simon Wincer, Free Willy's iconic splash at the climax still brings us to tears and cheers.

Hidden Gems

Beyond just the well-known classics, there is a treasure trove of underrated and often forgotten family-friendly films from the era waiting to be unearthed. Let's highlight a few gems you may have missed the first time around.

My Girl (1991)

  • Director: Howard Zieff
  • Main Cast: Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 40m
My Girl

Before My Girl's release in 1991, Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) remarked, "You don't see too many movies about little girls." Chlumsky does a marvellous job portraying the socially awkward, hypochondriac Vada, who is coming of age in 1970s Pennsylvania. She comes out of her shell after befriending a homeschooled boy named Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin) while also coping with family issues surrounding her widowed mortician father (Dan Aykroyd). Director Howard Zieff beautifully captures those confusing adolescent years in this poignant dramedy filled with smiles and tears. (Have some tissues at the ready!)

Antz (1998)

  • Directors: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson
  • Main Cast: Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Kevin Bacon
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 28m

Before the age of Pixar domination, DreamWorks kicked off the first-ever CGI animation rivalry with this 1998 Bug's Life adventure comedy. Antz may have gotten overshadowed by A Bug's Life,son, released by Disney/Pixar later that year, but this inventive computer-animated film centred around neurotic worker ant 'Z' (Woody Allen) is still a fantastically fun viewing full of thrills. With an all-star cast including Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Gene Hackman, and Sharon Stone, Antz set the bar for the CGI film era moving forward.

Best 80s and 90s Family Movies (Part 2)
Discover timeless films from the 80s and 90s to watch with your kids. Unleash nostalgia and create lasting memories with these family classics

October Sky (1999)

  • Director: Joe Johnston
  • Main Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chad McQueen
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 45m
October Sky

This underrated 1999 gem marked one of Jake Gyllenhaal's first prominent film roles portraying a rural coal miner's son, Homer Hickam, Jr. Set in 1950s West Virginia, Homer becomes inspired after witnessing the Soviet satellite Sputnik fly overhead and secretly begins building rockets with his high school friends. Much to his father John Hickam's (Chris Cooper) disdain, Homer continues dreaming big and gaining confidence from the support of those around him like his teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern). Director Joe Johnston took inspiration from Hickam's 1998 memoir Rocket Boys for this incredibly inspiring true story that took critics and audiences by storm. October Sky reminds us the sky is not even the limit when chasing your ambitions.

Reader Poll Favorites

I asked Rewind Zone readers to vote for their favourite 80s/90s family films to include. The votes are in, so let's welcome three more reader-approved favourites to add to the series.

The Parent Trap (1998)

  • Director: Nancy Meyers
  • Main Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 55m
The Parent Trap (1998)

A remake of the 1961 original, this 1998 crowd-pleaser from director Nancy Meyers scored big with moviegoers young and old. A young Lindsay Lohan shines in her dual roles as separated twin sisters Hallie Parker and Annie James. The mischievous girls meet at summer camp for the first time and soon hatch a genius plan to reunite their parents by swapping places. What follows is a heaping of heart, sisterhood, laughs, life lessons, and '90s nostalgia anchored by Lohan's star-making performance alongside veterans Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid, and Elaine Hendrix. The Parent Trap spawned straight-to-video sequels in 2010 but neither recaptures that magic.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

  • Director: Kenny Ortega
  • Main Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
  • Age Restriction: PG
  • Runtime: 1h 25m
Hocus Pocus (1993)

With the spooky season in full swing this time of year, many consider this supernaturally good comedy the quintessential Halloween family film. When teenager Max (Omri Katz) lights the Black Flame candle on Halloween night, it mysteriously resurrects three witches - Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) - executed 300 years earlier in Salem, Massachusetts. To remain among the living, the delightfully wicked Sanderson sisters must suck out the souls of young children before sunrise. Set in 1993, Max and his friends Allison (Vinessa Shaw) and Binx the immortal talking cat must outrun and outsmart the child-hungry witches on All Hallows Eve. Under Kenny Ortega's direction, Hocus Pocus never fails to entertain with its campy comedic charm, not-so-scary thrills, Halloween vibes, and epic "I Put a Spell on You" showstopper finale.

Cool Runnings (1993)

  • Director: Jon Turteltaub
  • Main Cast: John Candy, Doug E. Doug, Leon Robinson, Malik Sano
  • Age Restriction: PG-13
  • Runtime: 1h 45m
Cool Runnings (1993)

No listing of beloved family sports comedies is complete without Cool Runnings - the incredible underdog story inspired by the first-ever Jamaican Olympic bobsled team's debut at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta. When a top Jamaican sprinters' (Leon) Olympic dreams get dashed, he recruits a disgraced former Olympic bobsled champion (John Candy) to coach him, an enthusiastic friend (Doug E. Doug), and a star pushcart racer (Rawle D. Lewis) to become an unlikely foursome Olympic bobsled team. What follows is a fish-out-of-water comedy filled with culture clashes, training mishaps, setbacks, triumphs, and an abundance of heart perfect for a family movie night. As the team's coach proclaims: "A gold medal is a wonderful thing... If you've got the guts, you've got the glory!"

That wraps up our stroll down memory lane revisiting some of the best family-friendly films to emerge from the 80s and 90s. From rip-roaring adventures to bittersweet coming-of-age stories filled with wisdom beyond years, these classics both big and small have delighted multiple generations.

Throughout this three-part movie blog series, we reminisced about 40 beloved family movies spanning the 1980s-1990s. My comprehensive 80s 90s Movies to Watch with Kids Trakt list which catalogues all the iconic films featured in this series. Whenever you need a wholesome flick the entire family can enjoy, this curated collection has you covered!

As we grow the awesomeness on this nostalgic film series, I’d love to hear from Rewind Zone readers: What is your all-time favourite family movie from the 80s or 90s? Did I leave any beloved classics out? Let me know in the comments section below! Stay tuned for my next cinematic blog series journeying back through iconic holiday films across the decades. Happy viewing!