The Great Kid-Flicks Contest

Imagine the folks at The Criterion Collection called you up and pose you this question:

“We’re starting a special series on the world’s greatest films for young people (12 or younger). We want to see your top five recommendations.”

Which titles would you recommend?

Here we go… Looking Closer’s Great Kid-Flicks Contest!

Send me your top five, in no particular order, or go all the way to ten if you like. Post them here as a comment (no anonymous lists accepted), or email them to

Include a brief description of why you picked each one — just a sentence or two will do.

I’ll show the lists to a small group of judges from the Arts and Faith board.

The lists that are voted as the best collection will be posted here…

… and the winners will all get DVDs of Nanny McPhee.

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  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Your day will come, Mike Harris-Stone. Your day will come.

  • Mike Harris-Stone

    I’m not a teenage girl either, but I’m looking forward to this so much too. And Chris is right, there really is something neat about buying a friend’s book in a store. I’ve been able to do that four or five times now, and each time it feels good! This is going to be an awesome year! We’ve got About a Girl and Through a Glass Darkly coming. I can feel the glow already! And Aurelia is out there somewhere too.

  • Chris (now in Denver)

    As fans of Sara and her PG-13 personality, my wife and I are looking forward to walking into a bookstore in January, heading to the Young Adult “Z” section, and purchasing the book in person. There’s something very fulfilling about buying a friends work this way…

  • Sara Z.

    Thank you – you are too kind!

    The book is kinda PG-13, but then so am I…

    Doesn’t hit the shelves until January, but it can be pre-ordered now – yay!

  • BethR

    1. The Secret of Roan Inish

    2. The Princess Bride

    3. The Wizard of Oz–the first movie I recall seeing, on B&W tv. When Dorothy opened the door on Oz, my mother would tell us, “Now everything is in color.” It has everything, and stands up to repeated viewings for all ages.

    4. Millions

    5. The Secret Garden (1993)

    No animated films in my top 5, but if I had to include some, I’d add:
    The Incredibles
    Finding Nemo
    Spirited Away
    Kiki’s Delivery Service

  • David Smedberg

    in no particular order

    The Wizard of Oz – absolutely timeless, great performances, spectacular cinematography and special effects.

    Shrek – probably the only movie for which I would set aside concerns about toilet humor to universally recommend, Shrek has a wonderful story and message and is also just laugh-out-loud funny.

    The Iron Giant – a cinematic revalation. I lack words.

    My Neighbor Totoro – see above.

    The Emperor’s New Groove – Not choosing one of the classic Disneys just kills me, but Groove is just a pure piece of aniamted joy.

  • Scooterchicken

    Iron Giant – Where to begin? Friendship. Sacrifice. Love.

    The Incredibles – Another Brad Bird film. A real family. A “Disney” film with an intact, functioning family.

    Sinbad (Animated) – Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

    Holes – Forgiveness

    Spiderman 1&2 – okay this is stretching the “kids” movie a bit…but these movies address themes of love, responsibility, selflessness, sacrifice

  • RC

    1. Beauty and the Beast – By far the greatest disney movie ever made, the story is enchanting and interesting. The characters are fun. The musical pieces are diverse and memorable. It has excellent lessons about how beauty is only skin deep and that inner beauty is worth fighting for.

    2. Hook – Never has the Peter Pan story been more fun or more original. Remember the imaginary food fight? Or the fun music that went with Snee. Robin Williams character offers important lessons about family and quality time over material gain.

    3. Mary Poppins – A surprisingly longer movie that still captures the imagination, has an interesting plot the combines real life issues with pure imagination. Tons of fun, and scenes you can’t help but act out.

    4. October Sky – Few family friendly movies would deal with labor issues and physics all in the same movie. This movie about hope and childhood offers something about hope, tolerance and following your dreams.

    5. Mrs. Doubtfire – There’s just not enough movies that show Father’s going to extra effort to spend time with their children. This movie is hillarious and deals with children and families dealing with divorce in a serious but comedic way.

    Runners Up:
    6. The Jungle Book
    7. Babe
    8. The Karate Kid
    9. The Never Ending Story
    10. Pete’s Dragon

    –RC of

  • Tyler


    No film I know of shows the excitement and joy of childhood imagination while at the same time telling a convincing and completely relatable story. It’s full of things that I would want my children (should I ever have any) to think about, and Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon give two of the better performances by child actors in recent memory.

    Spirited Away

    My favorite animated movie, full of wonder and amazement, but at its heart displaying the values of friendship, family, and forgiveness. It encourages you to see beyond masks and appearances and into the deeper desires and needs of people.

    The Story of the Weeping Camel

    A simple story, at times playing like National Geographic in the Mongonlian Desert, but one that unfolds into one of the most beautiful and mysterious resolutions I have ever seen, anywhere. Must be seen to be appreciated (though not necessarily understood).

    The Return (Russian)

    Not a traditional children’s movie, but one that explores the need for and power of fathers in shaping the lives of their children in a way that becomes, at the very least, transcendent.

    The Incredibles

    One of the few animated movies to depict a functional family, it also encourages self-expression, commitment, bravery, and tolerating differences. And it’s just a lot of fun.

  • Cpt Casual-T

    Hey Nate, I was thinking of The Railway Children too.

  • Nate

    Watership Down

    Martin Rosen’s sobering adaptation of Richard Adams’s novel is like a dream you never want to end. Mature children will appreciate its unsentimental view of animals, which puts the rabbits in direct relation to their Creator. Certainly one of the most metaphysically challenging and emotionally satisfying of all animated films.

    The Yearling

    A great animal movie from the underrated Clarence Brown, shot in velvety Technicolor. The audience’s sympathy doesn’t lie with the title creature (an orphaned fawn) so much as its master, an eleven-year-old boy for whom the animal represents the freedom of childhood.

    The Boy with Green Hair

    The anti-war message is a tad facile by today’s standards, but this early Joseph Losey films still has a lot to teach us about tolerance, and Dean Stockwell’s performance ranks among the finest work ever done by a kid-actor.

    On Borrowed Time

    In this underrated fantasy from Hollywood’s golden age, an old grandfather traps the Angel of Death in an apple tree, thereby prolonging all life on earth. It’s probably a good idea to keep a box of Kleenex handy when two of the main characters are taken to “where the woodbine twineth.”

    The Railway Children

    This sentimental English film exists in a world where one good act deserves another, and while that kind of optimism is difficult to swallow in today’s jaded climate, it comes closer to describing the idea of Christian charity than just about any family film around (not counting Dickens adaptations). I can hardly think of another movie in which kindness and decency have been made to seem so attractive.

    Honorable Mention: Gulliver’s Travels, The Red Balloon, The March of the Wooden Soldiers, The Secret Garden, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules.

  • Nick

    Here’s my five:

    1) Babe – my favorite of this bunch; an adorable fable that employs the rivalry between talking sheepdogs and sheep and establishes a metaphor about communication, fulfilling your destiny, and acceptance. Nominated for Best Picture.

    2) The Wizard of Oz – Because nobody has mentioned it yet.

    3) The Red Balloon – I haven’t seen this since I was a kid, and yet I still remember this film as vividly as if I saw it yesterday.

    4) Dumbo – if I had to limit myself to a single Disney feature, it is this, probably the best that displayed the unconditional mother’s love for her child, along with some fantastic, ahead-of-its-time animation sequences.

    5) Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau) – years ago I caught “the White Balloon”, an Iranian children’s film at arthouse cinemas–and was nearly distracted due to a parent reading the subtitles for her too-young-to-be-literate son. While I disliked the experience, I do not doubt that DVDs and aloud reading can strengthen the bond between people, turning a passive action into an active one. Of the foreign films (not including the dialogue-free Red Balloon), Cocteau’s vision has so much mastery and artistry that it is simultaneously fantastical and grounded. I know of no other treat for the senses like this.