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What EW got wrong: 10 movies kids must see before becoming a teen

Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 4:40 PM Central
Last updated Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 4:59 PM Central

by John Couture

As an ardent fan of film and a newish parent, the thought has crossed my mind that I need to be a responsible parent and make sure that my children are prepared for her and his release into the world. I want to make sure that they are the ones spouting, "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass" while their peers laugh along with envy of their strong finger of pop culture pulse.

Of course, Ghostbusters might be a bit inappropriate for their current ages of 2 years and 9 months, but you have to start somewhere, right? Thankfully, Entertainment Weekly has composed a list of "55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13)" and we are saved, or are we?

I have to say that while there are surefire no-brainers on their list (Star Wars, Toy Story, Back to the Future, The Goonies, etc.), I was left scratching my head more often than not. There were painfully obvious omissions and bizarre choices to show a child under 13 such as The Red Balloon, The Kid, Singin' in the Rain, Some Like It Hot and so on. Not to mention I don't remember the last time I made a Some Like It Hot or The Kid pop culture reference.

And that's another thing that the writers of this piece got wrong. The claim that the list isn't a "best of" list, but rather, well, it's best to quote them precisely.

This isn’t a list of the 55 “best” kids movies, nor a compendium of hidden gems. Rather, it’s a survival-guide syllabus of films that we all need to know to be able to speak the same pop-cultural language, listed in order by when they might be best introduced.

No, this isn't the list of films that my kids will need to see in order to be able to keep up in their pop culture, heck it's not even for my pop culture. With some of the selections on this list, it's more the baby-boomers' pop culture language. That's all well and good, but I just don't see the use in sitting down and watching Duck Soup with my kids. They will look at me and wonder if aliens kidnapped me in my sleep.

That's not to disparage Duck Soup or any of the films on the list. They are all, reasonably, important films that perhaps some day if either or both of my children show an immense appreciation of film, we will then sit down and watch them together. Until then, I doubt they will ever come up in any sort of reasonable conversation that they would have with their peers, or anyone born after 1970 for that matter.

So given the various obvious omissions and the lack of proper focus on the appropriate peer group, we came up with ten additional films that should be on their list. Again, their list is a good start, but if you take off about 10-15 of their choices and add these, then it would be perfect.

Of course, these lists are subjective by their very nature, so we would love to hear which films should be on the list, especially those that both we and Entertainment Weekly have overlooked.

  • The Neverending Story - We purposely didn't rank our list because we didn't think it was important enough to matter, but if we had, this film would have been #1. There's no way that a list of films for children to see before 13 would not have this one on it. It many ways, it's the film that most children use to springboard their way into Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's a timeless tale that still holds up despite some questionable effects that might, at times, make the film seem dated.
  • Labyrinth - You don't need a cross-dressing Tony Curtis or Jack Lemmon to broaden your child's horizon when you have David Bowie in heavy makeup and a bunch of Muppets. It doesn't hurt that the film is pretty entertaining and will capture the imagination of children of all ages.
  • The Empire Strikes Back - Maybe they simply used Star Wars as a placeholder for all of the films in the original trilogy, but when you have 55 films in a list, there is plenty of room for specificity. While the inclusion of Return of the Jedi is debatable (although with the ewoks, it is more age appropriate), there's no question that The Empire Strikes Back deserves to be on the list. In fact, given their peer group, the prequel trilogy might also warrant a place on the list as well.
  • Superman: The Motion Picture - While it's hard to argue against The Avengers' inclusion (especially amongst their peer group), it should probably be countered with a DC film or two. While Christopher Nolan's films are probably too dark for any pre-teen to fully appreciate, this one is definitely family friendly.
  • Batman - See above for many of the same reasons. Also, this is really the film that I like to think of as the father of today's spate of comic book films. And really, does it get any better (at least from an over the top perspective) than Jack Nicholson as the Joker?
  • Ghostbusters - It's never too early to get your children familiar with the comic stylings of Bill Murray. I was recently watching this film on TV and my two-year-old daughter came into the room and she was mesmerized by it. So, I'm either up for Father of the Year or I'm about to get a call from Child Protective Services.
  • Groundhog Day - Since Caddyshack is too mature for most preteens (at least that was the reaction I got from the few people that asked), I went with this film for the further education in the school of Bill Murray. Heck, the whole list could simply be nothing but Bill Murray films and I'd be OK with that. With this film, not only do they get comic genius, but also some background on a major national holiday that is quickly falling by the wayside as, ironically, time passes it by.
  • Midnight Madness - OK, I'l admit it. This is the one self-serving inclusion on the list, but I don't care. I think everyone should see this movie and if you grew up in the 1980s and had HBO, then you've seen this movie a million times. It also allows you to talk about Michael J. Fox and is a great bridge to Back to the Future.
  • Weird Science - If you're looking for a simple way to create a list like this, all you have to do is copy all of John Hughes' movies and you're halfway there. So, The Breakfast Club is Rated R (who knew?) which means that Weird Science will be my PG-13 selection. Obviously, this is one for when they are on the cusp of becoming a teenager, but hopefully it can also be a cautionary tale.
  • The Sandlot - I really don't know how they left this one off of the list. It is truly THE coming of age story that teaches kids so much about life, teamwork and camaraderie. Perhaps, it was the male dominated cast and the worry that it wouldn't resonate with young girls, but I think that type of thinking only perpetuates the myth that The Sandlot is a "boy movie." Besides, after watching Star Wars, you can have all sorts of discussions about James Earl Jones and why they only used his voice in the film. Of course, that discussion might be a bit young for a 12 year old.

Naturally the the original EW list and our additions are highly subjective, but we're confident that we've uncovered some serious omissions. So, how did we do? Of course, the best way to make the list perfect is to get input from a bunch of people, so please give us your suggestions too.