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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What is the greatest children’s film of all time?

The U.K.’s Radio Times — the British equivalent of the U.S.’s TV Guide — polled its readers to determine the best movies for kids ever made. The top 10:

1. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
3. Mary Poppins (1964)
4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
5. Toy Story (1995)
6. Shrek (2001)
7. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
8. Back to the Future (1985)
9. The Jungle Book (1967)
10. The Sound of Music (1965)

(Links go to my reviews.)

Do you agree? What is the greatest children’s film of all time?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • RyanT

    It’s interesting to see Toy Story being the only Pixar film as well as the list not containing ANY Disney “princess movies.” I mean surely Finding Nemo, Beauty & The Beast, and Aladdin belong up there. At least more than nearly 3-hour Sound of Music. What child has that kind of attention span?

    Though I clicked on the link and you misrepresented their list a bit. They didn’t ask their readers to determine the “best movies for kids” but in fact asked them to pick out “the greatest family film of all time.” To some they’re exactly the same, but not necessarily. Something like Sound of Music is more “family” than “children” to me. Maybe it’s because of the Nazi-filled second half…

  • Funny that UK filmgoers would so highly praise not one, but two films that feature Dick Van Dyke butchering English accents. :-) But Mary Poppins at least is great in spite of that.

    Can’t argue much with most in this list, but one sticks out like a sore thumb. I do not think the Shrek franchise will age well, and I wouldn’t say it deserves a Top 10 place over any one of dozens of other films — like, say, Sleeping Beauty, Star Wars, Shane, Heidi, The Black Stallion, or The Adventures of Robin Hood . . . to name a few.

  • Back to the Future? Really? I mean it’s not the deepest exploration of time travel out there, but I wouldn’t call it a kids movie. Also, I would put Finding Nemo ahead of Toy Story as far as this list is concerned. Maybe it’s my own experience but my daughter loved Finding Nemo far more than she did Toy Story. Otherwise I would drop E.T., the movie freaked me out as a kid. Seriously. The rest is more a quibble about ranking (Willy Wonka should be top 3).

  • I feel like I was the only child of the ’80s who actually liked E.T.. “It freaked me out as a kid” (as posted above) seems to be the only opinion anyone my age has of it and it kind of kills me. I love that movie.

  • Drop E.T.? With all due respect, I think it’s the most essential movie on the list. It freaked me out, too, when I saw it in the theatre at the age of four — to the point that I still can’t watch it without crying. But I think that it helps for kids to be confronted with that kind of trauma in a fictional setting, where they get to see how everything comes around to a happy ending. It sets up all kinds of conversations about death, friendship, love, and prejudice (not to mention divorce)that are very productive to have with young kids.

  • markyd

    I’d like to see some Miyazaki on the list. Most of his movies are better than almost everything on that list.
    E.T. is a great movie and totally deserves it’s place at #1. It WAS a bit scary for a little kid, but that’s a good thing!
    Back to the Future? What the heck is that doing on there? Just seems out of place. If that makes it, then where the heck is Ghostbusters?
    I’ve never seen SoM, so I can’t comment there.
    The Lion King should be up there, too.
    Shrek? It’s fun, but a top 10 greatest? Odd.

  • Nate

    The list fails without WALL-E

  • elucidarian

    Only one Pixar film? While these are all fine titles, I think some of the best family films ever made have come out in the past 20 years.

    This is just a web poll, from the looks of it, not any formal analysis, so not worth much debate.

    An impromptu Top Ten family films from our house might look like this:

    1. The Princess Bride
    2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    3. Spirited Away
    4. My Neighbor Totoro
    5. Wall-E
    6. Finding Nemo
    7. The Rocketeer
    8. How to Train Your Dragon
    9. Harry and the Hendersons
    10.A Christmas Story

    Incidentally, our weekly family movie nights sometimes deviate from films to include a series of Doctor Who or The Sarah Jane Adventures.

  • Only four of the movies you listed came out in the last 20 years. I think you mean “the last 30 years”.

  • Chloe

    I’d like to see some Miyazaki on the list. Most of his movies are better than almost everything on that list.

    Yes. Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro are two of my favorite childhood films. Along with The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Toy Story, and Willy Wonka.

  • elucidarian

    Tyler, only five, to be exact. However, I neglected to mention I would differentiate between lists of best broadly acceptable family films and my own family’s personal favorites. I would make a different list of top ten family films that would entertain the widest scope of audiences, most of which would come from the past 20 years.

  • It’s interesting reading this living in the UK as looking at the list it pretty much relates to who I imagine the average reader of the “Radio Times” is, someone over the age of 40 who grew up on those classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Sound of Music” and probably hasn’t watched the likes of say “Spirited Away”. As for my own choices well many of those would have been on my list but like others would have more Miyazaki in there.

  • History of Bubbles

    @Tyler: With you all the way! I think “E.T.” is one of the most perfect and affecting films ever made (it not only makes me bawl my eyes out at the end, but leaves me in a meditative fugue for about a week afterward), but all I can get from anyone else of my age is “It freaked me out as a kid.” Sigh.

  • I’d vote for the inclusion of Time Bandits (hell of an ending, though) and The Dark Crystal (which was overshadowed by E.T., released the same year).

    And I guess I’ll be the lone voice in the wilderness for The Flight of Dragons (technically a TV movie, but still).

  • @Tyler: With you all the way! I think “E.T.” is one of the most perfect and affecting films ever made (it not only makes me bawl my eyes out at the end, but leaves me in a meditative fugue for about a week afterward), but all I can get from anyone else of my age is “It freaked me out as a kid.” Sigh.

    @History of Bubbles, the worst part is that it apparently scarred them so deeply none of them have any desire to revisit it. If anyone would at least give it a chance, they might discover that it’s great, but I guess not.

  • judy

    I agree that Lion King should be on the list. Not crazy about Toy Story. I wonder if this is one of those movies that parents like more than kids? One of my personal favorites is not on the list but I did love Pollyana with Hayley Mills. Named one of my daughters after her.

  • char

    Best children’s movie ever: My Neighbor Totoro

  • CoriAnn

    @ Bluejay: I am totally with you on The Flight of Dragons! I absolutely love that film–and it was one of my favorite as a child.

    Right along side it is The Last Unicorn. Those were staples in our house. While I am surprised to see Back to the Future on the list, I have to admit it made me smile. I was about five when it came out and it was another one of my favorites. I can see where anyone who was a kid when it came out would put it on a list of the top family or kids’ movies.

    When I saw this post in my reader, the first movie that popped into my mind was Wall-E. It’s just such a good movie overall, no matter what age you see it at, I think.

  • I’m with CoriAnn, The Last Unicorn was a movie that we watched over and over again when I was little. My parents taped it off HBO, and we wore that videocassette out. It looks great on DVD, too.

  • amanohyo

    My Neighbor Totoro
    The Wizard of Oz
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    The Neverending Story
    Monsters Inc.
    Spirited Away
    The Dark Crystal
    Mary Poppins
    The Iron Giant

    What really cheeses my oyster is that if you take away Studio Ghibli, the number of children’s movies with female main characters drops off sharply in the early 70’s and has never really recovered. How sad is it that little girls are being socialized to believe that little boys have more interesting and important stories to tell even as toddlers? (unless you’re a pretty pretty princess of course, then your story is important too… as long as it’s about nabbing Prince Charming and/or being super famous and popular) And this has been going on for decades! And even intelligent people act like it’s no big deal when it’s pointed out to them!? Arrrgh! Urge to write…rising… At least some progress has been made in the realm of television shows for children.

  • Bill

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    The Neverending Story

    and Goonies. Wizard of Oz. Pinocchio. and i’m spent.

  • mickche

    I would have thought that The Secret Garden and Babe would have been contenders

  • Gina

    Yes Bill: GOONIES! For sure, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder), and the Neverending Story. I can’t change the channel if any of those come on.

    I’m with some of the others, I saw ET in the theater and it freaked me out so bad I had recurring nightmares that my family turned into ETs and were chasing me. And Toy Story… meh.

  • I am totally with you on The Flight of Dragons!

    Excellent! That makes two voices in the wilderness! ;-)

    Thinking back on the film: Despite the fact that it’s full of magic and dragons (which is wonderful), it seems to be one of the few kids’ fantasy flicks that actually has a pro-science, anti-superstition message at its heart. It’s the first movie I remember seeing that suggested that magical things — even dragons — might have a logical explanation.

    And for those who don’t mind spoilers, look up “Flight of Dragons – Science vs Magic” on YouTube: it’s the final confrontation between the scientist and the wizard (voiced by John Ritter and James Earl Jones, no less).

    Great film to watch with your kids to kick-start conversations about skepticism and logic, when you think they’re ready to move beyond “clap if you believe in fairies.” :-)

  • mel

    The Rocketeer!

    That was one of my family’s favourites when we were growing up too! I’m glad someone mentioned it!

    I’m a bit surprised that people are bagging out Back to the Future. Growing up, we’d regularly rotate through the two trilogies of Back to the Future and the Star Wars trilogies.

    I’d also happily replace Toy Story with Up, but thats the adult in me talking

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