Readers' Picks: 12 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience Before Turning 13

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Last week, EW published The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before Turning 13). Predictably, given that we published a post on the Internet whose headline contained a concrete number and the word “essential,” we got some impassioned feedback from readers—many of whom were eager to suggest additional great movies kids should see that we’d left out.

As we noted last week, “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.” Below are 12 reader suggestions worth considering, culled from our comments section, that weren’t on the original list.


Rocky (1976)
PG, 119 min, directed by John G. Avildsen
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young

“Here’s one that should be considered for kids on the older end of this scale: Rocky. The first Rocky is a great story of an individual meeting challenges head on, and rising up to face them. It’s portrait of a man winning his own self-respect, and realizing his potential as both a man and an athlete is forever inspirational. The magnificent way the movie’s conclusion barely registers the fact that Rocky loses the climactic bout, but then focuses it’s final freeze-frame on his embrace with Adrian can teach volumes about life.” ABC

The NeverEnding Story (1984)
PG, 102 min, directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach

“The omission of The Neverending Story is unforgivable.” –OnAir77

Spider-Man (2002)

PG-13, 121 min, directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco

“He makes some solid points as to why [he chose The Avengers], but I’ve always considered Spider-Man to be the best introduction of kids to superheroes. The idea of an average person becoming someone extraordinary is easy for them to latch onto and it’s basic mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility” is a strong life lesson.” —Matt

Spirited Away (2002)
PG, 125 min, directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Miyu Irino

“I have to say Spirited Away is one of the best children’s movies of all time. It might be a little bit intense for younger kids, but it has a great story line and strong main characters (a wonderful heroine at the center), and in my opinion blows Finding Nemo out of the water as one the most beautifully animated films of all time.” —Allie

Newsies (1992)
PG, 121 min, directed by Kenny Ortega
Starring Christian Bale, Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall

“What about Newsies? It’s a great underdog story that teaches kids to stand up for what is right. Plus, it’s directed by Kenny Ortega, the man behind High School Musical, and Newsies is enjoyable for adults.” —Becky Ann

Small Change (1976)
PG, directed by François Truffaut
Starring Geory Desmouceaux, Phillippe Goldman, Christine Pelle, Jean-Francois Stevenin

“From personal experience (a middle school trip in the ’70s), I’d add Truffaut’s Small Change to your list. It focused on the fun and games of some small-town French kids, but also touched on some serious subjects (child abuse). Apart from some very brief nudity, it was an exemplary film to watch with your children.” —ModSquad

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
PG, directed Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm,
Starring the voices of Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Mark Hamill

“While more of an extended episode of Batman: The Animated Series, I would add Mask of the Phantasm to the list. Perfect introduction to Batman, and in a way the origin of the Joker.” —Steve F.

Superman (1978)
PG, 143 min, directed by Richard Donner
Starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman

“And I would rather introduce Christopher Reeves’s Superman to a child than the manic (although great) Avengers first. There is a purity and innocence and justice in Reeves that no one to this day can match.” —SlyMac 

The Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Not Rated, directed by Vittorio De Sica
Starring Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

“Overall, I think this is a really fantastic list with some surprising—and surprisingly good—choices. The only truly glaring omission, as many have already pointed out, is the absence of any Miyazaki films. That’s actually shocking.
Personally, I would get rid of a couple of movies like Crouching Tiger and Pirates of the Caribbean, and replace them with Time Bandits (as someone else mentioned) and Bicycle Thieves, which is a wonderful father-son relationship story. While Bicycle Thieves is an Italian movie, there really isn’t a lot of dialogue in it. Kids will have no trouble following what is going on, and it won’t kill them to read the few subtitles that there are.” —Chappy Quiddick

The Sandlot (1993)
PG, 101 min, directed David M. Evans
Starring Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna

“Of course, The Sandlot! It’s kids at their age with a classic adventure of a lifetime. My kids and I watch it every baseball season. Too few sports movies in here. I think they teach kids about winning, losing and fighting back.” —Husker Ron

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
PG, 102 min, directed by Michael Cutiz, William Keighley
Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone

“It’s a timeless story filmed in glorious technicolor, filled to the brim with incredible swordplay and stunts, and features Hollywood’s greatest action star, Errol Flynn at his absolute peak.” —Alan

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
G, 192, directed by Stanley Kramer
Starring Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar

“I have to add It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The only comedy by one of the best directors of all time, with a cast of Hollywood A list actors too long to list, including a brilliant cameo by the Three Stooges as airport firefighters.” —rkdowner


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