Spring Break Under Quarantine: Family-Friendly Movies from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s

I don’t know about you, but we’re heading into spring break. We’re not a huge movie or TV family – but with the lockdown here in Italy (where we are currently living) heading into its 5th week and virtual classes taking a 10 day hiatus, we figured it’s a good time to take up the habit. 

So what do you do when your family consists of an 8 year old, 12 year old and two adults and you feel like you haven’t watched family movies in a couple of decades? Ask your friends, of course! And man, did mine answer like the burning hot mamas and aunties that they are. My phone dinged with recommendation after recommendation after recommendation. I figured it would only be fair to share some of their brilliance with you. For your convenience each movie title links to a trailer. Here are a bunch of great family movies you (if you’re anything like me) may have forgotten to remember:

Annie (1982, PG) It’s a good time to let this spirited little orphaned redhead remind you that the sun will come out tomorrow even if right now it feels like a hard-knock life.

Ghostbusters (1984, PG) It might come off as a little corny now, but we all remember loving Ghostbusters! Your kids will probably love it too! I also remember, though, having the bejeebers scared out of me. So either make sure your kids are ready for it, or be ready to slide over and let them sleep in your bed tonight.

Karate Kid (1984, PG) This is one of the first movies I remember watching and spurred my first, and perhaps only, celebrity crush. Once I went to school, and started meeting boys in real life, I left screen daydreams behind! Still this is a classic underdog movie with all the feels. If you enjoy it, there are two sequels.

Never-ending Story (1984, PG) So I guess the age of 4 is when I started remembering movies, because this is also one of the first movies I ever remember watching. Talking boulder men, quicksand, The Childlike Empress begging Sebastian to call out her name. It’s a fun-for-the-whole family fantasy film.

Goonies (1985, PG) Heeeey yoooou guuuys!! Who doesn’t love this adventurous classic, complete with buried treasure and a pirate ship?

The Explorers (1985, PG) This one came as a recommendation from a friend’s husband. Somehow I missed this gem as a kid, but it seems like a wholesome classic boy adventure story. Three young’ins build a spaceship in their friend’s attic and then are off exploring the universe! The linked trailer is the only fan-made trailer I’ve included because it was better than the classic trailer.

Flight of the Navigator (1986, PG) This one I did watch as a child, with my two brothers and sister, over and over and over again! In my humble opinion, this talking UFO puts Knight Rider to shame (and I loved Knight Rider). If you’re into the young kid space travel adventures, check it out!

Labyrinth (1986, PG) This movie is the result of the combined talents of Jim Henson and George Lucus starring David Bowie as the Goblin King, how could you go wrong? A teenage girl goes on a magical and mystical adventure to save her little brother.

Adventures in Babysitting (1987, PG-13) I never caught this one as a kid, but I’ve been told it as a staple in many 80’s households. If if you’re looking for something more contemporary, Disney did a remake in 2016.

Harry and the Hendersons (1987, PG) The wild animal trapped by humans and freed by the few that love him is an archetype that makes my stomach ache and brings tears to my eyes every time. Fortunately, this one, starring John Lithgow offers ample comic relief.

Princess Bride (1987, PG) This is one of the only movies that 3 generations of us have snuggled in front of the TV to watch together. Romance, adventure and humor. The thought of anyone ever creating a better family movie is simply inconceivable.

Willow (1988, PG) My eight year old is generally afraid of anything scary, but she’s up for this medieval mystical adventure. She says the special effects are aged, so it’s not as scary as a more recently produced movie would be.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989, PG) A couple of siblings and two other neighborhood kids are accidentally shrunk by their scientist Dad. When swept up by a giant dust pan and and then discarded in the trash, they battle giant ants and traverse through forests of grass to make their way back home.

Troop Beverly Hills (1989, PG) An upper class Beverly Hills socialite takes on leading a Girl Scout Troop, trading her heels for hiking boots – but keeping the fur coat.

The Wizard (1989, PG) A trio of kids, including Fred Savage, travels cross-country for a Super Mario 3 championship, of course running into lots of trouble along the way!

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991, PG-13) My 12 year old decided she wanted to watch this one based solely on the title. (Should I be worried?) She still wanted to see it even after watching the trailer. (Need we say more?)

Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1992, G) Many compare this animated classic story of fairies and threatened, other-worldly rainforests to Avatar.

Ladybugs (1992, PG-13) Rodney Dangerfield coaches a losing girls’ soccer team and eventually becomes desperate enough to recruit a boy to crossdress and play on the team.

Mighty Ducks (1992, PG) Another classic underdog story, this time about a boys ice hockey team. It’s a feel-good comedy drama. If you like it, there are two more sequels!

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, PG-13) A recently divorced father heartbroken at the prospect of only seeing his children every other weekend poses as a nanny so that he can watch them after school. One of our favorite Robin William’s movies!

The Sandlot (1993, PG) If you’re looking for a good ol’ wholesome American baseball, young boy coming of age story, this one is for you. Set in 1962, even the nastiest flung insults make you feel young and innocent all over.

The Secret Garden (1993, G) My daughter and I read this book together, but have yet to see the movie. Maybe your kids will be excited to see Ms. McGonagall before she was Ms. McGonagall – and maybe, just maybe, this movie will inspire them to head outside and create their own secret garden rather than hiding inside while we all #juststayhome.

Pagemaster (1994, G) Macauley Culkin transforms into an animated young boy and traverses classic stories from Moby Dick to Jekyll and Hide, ultimately on a quest to find his own courage and strength.

Casper the Friendly Ghost (1995, PG)  A little paranormal middle-school romance laced with playful humor is bound to brighten your mood.

The Goofy Movie (1995, G) Goofy leaves us all laughing as he tries to bond with his teenage son in this animated musical comedy. Even the older kids will enjoy this one.

Jumangi (1995, PG) My younger daughter first watched this when she was about 4, and has refused to watch it ever since. Despite Robin William’s penchant for comedy, it terrified her. With that said, she simply doesn’t enjoy the thrill of a scary-ish movie. If your littles aren’t as easily intimidated, check it out. If they are, you might want to consider the much more lighted-hearted sequel.

Matilda (1996, PG ) First introduced to my 8 year old while visiting a family friend, she’s watched it twice more since then. Book-smart Matilda feels out of place with her family and finds a little magic as well as kindred spirit in one of her teachers.

Flubber (1997, PG) A Disney remake of the classic 1961 comedy The Absent Minded Professor which we watched as kids for at least 3 New Year’s Eves in a row. How can super-bouncy gooey slime not lead to a night of laughter?

Mighty Joe Young (1998, PG) Ahhh! The wild animal trapped by humans and freed by the few that love him archetype again. This time, a young girl befriends a giant gorilla. She needs to save him once he is taken to the city by scientists.

The Parent Trap (1998, PG) Okay, so when I was a kid, I watched the 1961 version starring Hayley Mills, but this post isn’t, generally speaking, including movies from the ’60’s. This one is Disney’s 1998 remake story of two twins, completely unaware of each other, raised separately by their separated parents, meeting unexpectedly at summer camp and then trying to rekindle the romance between their mother and father.

Remember the Titans (2000, PG) ”I don’t care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other”. Pertinent life lessons delivered through an inspiring coach and struggling football team. Based on a true story, starring Denzel Washington.

Shrek (2001, PG) “That movie is waaaay underrated!” is the official review of my 12 year old. She loves it. Join an ogre and talking donkey on their quest to save the Princess. 

Spy Kids (2001, PG) “My parents can’t be spies, they’re not cool enough!!” What kid doesn’t daydream about their parents being spies and then getting in on the adventure?

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003, PG) Steve Martin and his 12 kids. Twelve. Kids.

Camp Rock (2008, TV-G) My girls have watched this movie at least 3 times and love it every time. It takes place at a summer camp for musicians and dancers. All are struggling through the peer and relationship pressures of their teenage years.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011, PG) Because movies with penguins always make our list. Starring Jim Carey as an uptight business man turned softy by a surprise delivery of half a dozen penguins.

Surf’s Up (2011, PG)  Did we mention we love penguins? This story takes the form of an animated documentary of a legendary surfing penguin.

Tomorrowland (2015, PG) George Clooney and Britt Robertson time travel in a bathtub to save the future.

Middle School the Worst Years of my Life (2016, PG) – My 12 year old tells me she’s watched this movie four times. “It’s sooo good.” A middle school boy with a penchant for art but also behavioral problems, transfers to a new school where his unique sense of humor isn’t widely accepted. Throughout the year, he learns the importance of friendship and how to overcome hardship.

Zootopia (2016, PG) Animated animals face the societal challenges of fear spiraling out of control, ultimately pitching animal against animal.

Coco (2017, PG) A young musician travels to the land of the dead to meet his hero where he uncovers secrets of the past.

Christopher Robin (2018, PG) This one was recommended by a friend. Thinking of my 12 year old, I wrote it off – until we watched the trailer together. The fact that Christopher Robin is an adult in this version and Pooh is still an adorable, fuzzy, little bear makes it appeal to audiences of all ages. It is now #1 on our list of movies to watch during our quarantined spring break!



  1. Like the blog, keep it going. Three quick comments;
    – Ghostbusters was the first movie I remember my dad taking me to see. I too was scared of those big dog demons.
    – Always loved The Neverending Story, personal top 5 favorite kids movie for me.
    – Never knew you liked Knight Rider so much. Growing up it was my second favorite TV show (first was Danger Mouse).

    Keep up the good work. I humbly suggest The Muppet Movie be added to the list. Still one of the best family movies ever made.


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