The nines and above are probably ready to embrace a little darkness. We’re not talking ‘Hostel’, but definitely the kind of ooky-spooky creepiness that all the best campfire tales are made of. In other words, it’s time for ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘The Goonies’, a potentially perfect lazy afternoon double-bill filled with Goblin Kings, truffle shuffles, Sloth and co. One’s a quirky fairytale; the other, a giddy boy’s-own adventure. Or you could combine the two things into one glorious movie by watching swashbuckling, meta, magical ‘The Princess Bride’ (pictured below), a movie that never, ever gets old.
There’s something equally timeless about the old-fashioned art of stop-motion animation, especially in the shape of ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (pictured below). There is no child in the world who won’t get a thrill from Ray Harryhausen’s skeleton battle, in which Jason and Argonaut pals engage in some Arg-y-bargy with a bony brigade of the undead.
There’s loads of classics that hit the spot across all generations. Try ‘The Railway Children’ (1970), ‘The Black Stallion’ (1979), ‘The Witches’ (1990), ‘The Secret Garden’ (1993), and, of course, ‘The Wizard of Oz’. If you can handle Munchkins and Oompa-Loompas in these psychologically fraught times, throw ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ into the mix. Fair warning: the tunnel sequence is TERRIFYING.
Also scary, though much less so, is stop-motion classic ‘Coraline’. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book by Laika, the studio who made the also ace ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’, it’s a dark delight about the parallel worlds children create when their parents are mentally elsewhere. Try not to check your phone during this one.
If you can forgive Steve Spielberg for the walkie-talkie bit, ‘ET The Extra-Terrestrial’ is the perfect entré to the ’Berg’s incredible filmography. ‘The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn’ may not be in quite the same league as the Reece’s Pieces-scoffing space refugee but it’s still a blast. Another lovable fish-out-water caper comes in the duffel-coated form of ‘Paddington’. Thanks mainly to Hugh Grant’s evil thesp Phoenix Buchanan, ‘Paddington 2’ (pictured below) is even better. Frankly, we’re still outraged that it didn’t win Grant an Oscar.
Now might be the moment to introduce the kids to the Harry Potter movies – after all, Harry is 11 when he heads off to Hogwarts for the first time. The early ones are a little cheesy for adult tastes but the kids will expect to watch them before you move on to the later, more satisfying stuff. Be warned: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ is a long two and a half hours, even in quarantine.
There are three none-but-British comedies to look out for, too. Shakespeare comedy ‘Bill’ comes from the Horrible Histories gang and while short on pinpoint historical accuracy (this Bard once played lead lute in a Stratford combo called Mortal Coil), it is full of big laughs and silliness. It’s also got Simon Farnaby in it, which always a guarantee of hearty lols. Oh, and the other two? The slightly underrrated ‘The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!’ and ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. Both are gold-standard family entertainment.