In a wave of ’90s nostalgia last week, the topic for my this Tuesday Top Ten came to me: childhood movies. I don’t know about you, but the movies I loved as a child will always be near and dear to my heart, despite the fact that as I’ve grown up, I’ve begun to realize how objectively terrible some of them are. Yet, that doesn’t seem to matter – I will always love these movies anyway; just thinking about them brings back so many specific memories, people, and places. For me, these are the ten movies that defined my childhood:
(1) Hocus Pocus
I’ll be honest with you: Hocus Pocus has got to rank up there with the stupidest movies ever made, yet I love it for its kitschiness (apparently, I’m not the only one). It’s silly, but I love it because Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and a pre-SATC Sarah Jessica Parker (if you can fathom that) are clearly having a ball acting campy and ridiculous. I suppose there’s a plot here (involving a 300-year old boy trapped in a cat’s body and something tricky with Daylight Savings Time that always confused me as a child), but pay no attention to that. Better just to laugh at the ridicularity of the spectacle and remember your childhood Halloweens of yore.
(2) Corina, Corina
I was reminded of this movie recently because the little girl who played the main character is apparently all grown up and starring on Grey’s Anatomy, where she will likely become one in a long line of interns who hook up with Alex Karev. Still, seeing her reminded my how much I loved this movie. Looking back at it now, I think it was trying to say profound things about race in the early 1960s (whether it succeeded is unclear), but as a child, none of that occurred to me. I always just thought it was fun to see how the relationship between Corrina (Whoopi Goldberg) and the family she cared for developed. As a side note, I also always think of this movie whenever I drive through a car wash; Corrina had a way of making mundane things seem more magical than they actually were, and that was one of them. Isn’t it funny how a tiny little detail like that sticks with you forever?
(3) Homeward Bound
When I think about this movie now, it still makes me feel sad; the whole “animals in peril” thing is super tough to handle, and I’m not sure how I managed to watch this movie repeatedly as a child. Seeing Shadow stuck in that pit with an injured leg is heartbreaking, but when he (and Chance and Sassy and yes, I still remember all their names) makes it home safely…oh man. Crying ensues.
(4) The Sandlot
This was quite possibly my favorite movie as a child and, even now, it would still rank near the top of any list. What I love about the movie is the way it captures that perfect 1960s-era, idealized, innocent childhood everyone kind of wishes they had. Plus, there are so many classic lines/moments: “S’more what?,” “You play ball like a girl!,” Wendy Peffercorn, “You’re killing me, Smalls!,” the roller coaster ride from hell, the Pickle, “For-ev-ver,” “The Great Bambino!,” and “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Man, just typing that list made me want to watch the movie.
(5) Now and Then
Now and Then was the sleepover movie of choice during my elementary school days. Much like The Sandlot, it too portrays the perfect, 1960s-era, “simpler time” vibe to a tee. And, also like The Sandlot, it offers an array of classic-to-me moments: The Red Rover game, the seance for “Dear Johnny,” stealing the Wormers’ clothes, Teeny stuffing her bra with pudding (it has a “more realistic texture”), the girls being served milkshakes by Janeane Garafalo, and the girls riding their bikes to classic ’60s-era tunes.
(6) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
My grandma had a handful of movies for when we came to visit, and so my sister and I ended up watching these movies – including Willy Wonka – repeatedly. I loved this movie but, when you think about it, this film was really kind of creepy and disturbing. I mean, Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka is kind of twisted, right? Still, this movie was trippy in the very best way: Gum that tastes like an entire meal? Fruit-flavored wallpaper? A geese that lays golden eggs? Did anyone else wish for these things after watching this? Just me? Though the downfall of each of the kids was funny, my favorite will always be Veruca Salt, who fell down an egg chute after singing “Give It To Me Now” (which I still remember the words to, obviously).
(7) It Takes Two, To Grandmother’s House We Go, Double Double Toil and Trouble
Yes, we were big fans of the Olsen twins in our household. And, since I’m the exact same age as them, I almost felt like I grew up alongside them (although this analogy breaks down because I didn’t ultimately become a chain smoking, baggy boho chic clothes-wearing multimillionaire). Anyway. Their movies were insanely, unbelievably, terribly cheesy, and yet, they were on near-constant rotation in our household. I especially loved their holiday-themed movies: Double Double Toil and Trouble is a Halloween classic, and To Grandmother’s House We Go was essential Christmas viewing.
What I remember most about this movie is the opening sequence, wherein a naked man climbs on a rope swing and you can see his bare behind – my cousin and I, clearly quite mature, used to laugh hysterically every time we saw this. The rest of the movie is pretty standard and cheesy, but dammit if I don’t get a little teary eyed when everyone in town comes to tell a paralyzed Pollyanna that they love her.
This movie is defined by one key feature: hot Devon Sawa. Also, is it just me, or was Bill Pullman on kind of a hot streak in the 1990s? I mean, Independence Day, While You Were Sleeping, and Casper – he was in a lot of the movies I loved. Whatever happened to him? Anyway…I don’t remember a ton about this movie, but I do remember that I thought the dance between Christina Ricci and hot Devon Sawa was the most brilliant thing ever. Video evidence here.
(10) Little Women
If I had to pick the defining movie of my childhood, it’s probably this one. I also think that Little Women isn’t just a good childhood movie – it’s a flat-out great movie (and terminally underrated, in my opinion). My family adopted a ton of the Little Women lingo into our regular vocabulary, and we routinely quote such lines as, “You have no corset!” (every time my mom used to help me get dressed as a kid), “I’m so degraditated” (every time we’re upset), “It’s your one beauty!” (every time we want to be snarky), and “Marmee’s home!” (every time my mom comes home, of course). Classic.
What were your favorite childhood movies?