50 films every child should watch before they turn 16

There’s nothing quite like sitting down with the family at the weekend, favourite snacks at hand, and watching a good film.

But more than just being a great entertainment source, films can also teach kids important life lessons, no matter how old they are. Learning how important friendship is from Woody and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story or the importance of discipline from Mary Poppins are just a couple of examples of how films can really change kids’ perpectives of the world, especially when they’re still growing up.

So to avoid having your kids grow up without knowing who Marty McFly is or why they should never wish they’re older (as proven by Tom Hanks and Jennifer Garner), here’s our compilation of the 50 films every child should watch before they turn sixteen. How many have you watched?

1. Lion King

No one should get through childhood without watching this massive Disney classic.

2. Breakfast Club

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Five high school students from very different backgrounds learn not to trust stereotypes when they’re forced to spend a Saturday together in detention. That’s a great lesson in itself but everyone should really be familiar with the iconic ‘Don’t you forget about me’ finale.

3. Adventures in Babysitting

Especially advisable for any teen babysitters out there.

4. Toy Story

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All of them but especially the first one.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Give them a taste of true adventure with the one and only Indiana Jones.

6. Elf

One for the Christmas holidays – and we could all do with a bit of Buddy’s enthusiasm for life.

7. Happy Feet

Nothing like seeing what happens to cute little penguins to alert kids to the serious issues that are pollution and overfishing, making them aware of what we need to do to protect the planet.

8. Hook

The classic of the boy who wouldn’t grown up is revisited by Steven Spielberg, with a terrific cast that includes Robin Williams, Julia Roberts and Dustin Hoffman.

9. Home Alone

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Perfect example of what NOT to do when they’re home alone.

10. Back to the Future

Compulsory sci-fi classic, with lots of fun time-travelling.

11. Beauty and the Beast

It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

12. 10 Things I Hate About You

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Perfect for a girly night in if you have daughters.

13. The Incredibles

We’re stronger when we work together. Sure, they’re superheroes and all, but the lesson still applies.

14. Edward Scissorhands

If your kids only know Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, it’s time to make them watch this 90s heart-melting Tim Burton classic.

15. The Goonies

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Watching two brothers and their friends’ work together in a treasure hunt is a great lesson in the importance of team work.

16. Matilda

Inspired by Roald Dahl’s book with the same name, this film shows a gifted girl using her special powers for good. As Dahl once wrote, ‘Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.’

17. Wizard of Oz There’s no place like home!

18. Jurrasic Park

One of the biggest blockbusters of the 90s, this is another film your kids can’t miss.

19. Finding Nemo

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Dory’s advice will never get old – just keep swimming.

20. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

How else will they understand the ‘golden ticket’ references?

21. Labyrinth

Unlike most action films, the hero here is a girl. Sarah is a strong role model for everyone but especially for young girls, as she faces her fears in a journey to save her baby brother.

22. The Princess Bride

An oldie but a goodie.

23. The Muppet Movie

Go for the original version.

24. Wall-E

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Probably the most romantic Disney love story.

25. Kung Fu Panda

If a panda can learn kung-fu, then anyone can really achieve anything as long as they set their minds to it.

26. Honey, I shrunk the kids

Join tiny humans in their adventure to return home… from their back garden.

27. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Great coming of age film, reminding everyone that they’re never alone.

28. My Girl

Here’s an eleven-year-old with a lot of problems.

29. Ghostbusters

Three scientists decide to start their own business battling with the supernatural for money, after losing their jobs at New York University – showing kids how there are literally no boundaries for entrepreneurship.

30. All of the Harry Potter films

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How could they miss out on the magical world of Hogwarts?

31. Romeo + Juliet

An update of the classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy, it’s one of the 50 films recommended by the British Film Institute for children under the age of 14.

32. Big

A young Tom Hanks will make sure no one wants to grow up too fast.

33. Annie


34. Stardust

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We didn’t know fallen stars look as good as Claire Danes.

35. E.T.

They’ll love Elliott’s courage to help E.T. find home.

36. The Neverending story

A book transports a boy into a spectacular adventure with luckdragons and giant turtles in a fantasy world. The lesson? You can go anywhere with a good book.

37. Up

Proof you can live your dreams no matter how old you are.

38. 13 Going on 30

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Another cautionary tale about wanting to grow up too fast. Extra brownie points if you learn Jennifer Garner’s amazing choreography.

39. Big Fish

Real life with a coat of fantasy dust, in a son’s attempt to truly get to know his father before it’s too late.

40. Billy Eliot

We all have a special talent, even if it’s not what’s expected of us.

41. Karate Kid

No one better than Mr Miyagi to show kids they can do anything they set their mind in to, kind of like the human version of Kung Fu Panda.

42. Star Wars

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Some people like it, some don’t, but you still have to watch it to find out.

43. The Outsiders

No sugar coating here. A row between two violent gangs ends badly and they must live with the consequences.

44. The Secret Garden

A true lesson in growing up, inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic fairy tale.

45. The Sound of Music

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Because they need to know that Julie Andrews is much more than just a royal grandmother.

46. The Chronicles of Narnia

Fantasy doesn’t get better than walking through a wardrobe and finding a new world.

47. Mulan

Another great heroine who does everything to fight for her family.

48. Jumanji

Playing boardgames will never be the same after your kids watch this action packed film.

49. Little Miss Sunshine

‘A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.’ We rest our case.

50. Good Will Hunting 

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Robin Williams gives one of the best performances of his lifetime.