Top Children's Movies
Of All Time

by the British Film Institute (BFI)
and Others

The Top Children's Movies: The BFI (British Film Institute) in mid-2005 released its Top 10 Children's Films of All-Time, a survey of the top 10 "films that all children should see by the age of 14." (They also released a Top Fifty List of "Must-See" Children's Films - see further below). See also this site's informational section on Children's/Kids/Family-Oriented Films and the New York Times Essential Library's choices of the 100 Recommended Children's Movies.

Facts and Commentary on the List:

  • It was a peculiar list for true children's films, since some of the subject matter in some of the recommended films was a little too complex and adult-audience oriented (i.e. The Bicycle Thief (1948, It.), The 400 Blows (1959, Fr.), and the unrated Show Me Love (1998, Swe.), aka F--king Amal). It seemed like they confused "children's films" with "films about children."
  • The list could have included more silent films, such as Modern Times (1936) and The General (1927), or classics, such as Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Miracle Worker (1962), Charlotte's Web (1973), The Muppet Movie (1979), The Never Ending Story (1984), Babe (1995), further classic Disney animations, such as Beauty and the Beast (1991) or Finding Nemo (2003), or delightful family musicals such as The Music Man (1962), My Fair Lady (1964), Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), and Oliver! (1968).
  • Only one film in the top 10 was from Britain, Ken Loach's Kes (1969). Four were from the US, and one each from Italy, France, Sweden, Japan and Iran.
  • The films in the top 10 ranged in dates from 1939 (The Wizard of Oz (1939)) to 2001 (Spirited Away). The films ranged also from blockbusters (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)) to subtitled art-house films.

The New York Daily News film critics, Jami Bernard, Jack Mathews and Elizabeth Weitzman, responded with their own lists of Top 10 Children's Films in the September 4, 2005 Sunday Edition newspaper, found in the chart below.

Top 10 Children's Movies Of All Time

by the British Film Institute and Others

British Film Institute (BFI)
(alphabetical, unranked)
The New York Daily News
Film Critics
Top 10
by Jack Mathews
Top 10
by Jami Bernard
Top 10
by Elizabeth Weitzman
The Bicycle Thief (1948, It.) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

A 14-year-old who hasn't seen it may legitimately sue his parents for neglect.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Gregory Peck plays the best dad in movie history - wise, patient, fearless and furiously protective of his children - as a small-town Southern lawyer on the right side of racial tolerance.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Fencing, fighting, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles ... all in one of the smartest, funniest fairy tales of all time.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The best boy-and-his-dog movie ever made, even if the dog is really an alien (or a stuffed toy).

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

The best-ever coming-of-age movie, about a sensitive, creative girl on the teeming streets of tenement Brooklyn.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Robert Zemeckis' glorious culture clash - between people and Toons - pays dazzling homage to movies past while hurtling filmmaking well into the future.

Kes (1969, UK) Fantasia (1940)

As long as they're enjoying animation, you might as well introduce kids to great music.

The Red Balloon (1956, Fr.)

It's French, sure, but there are no subtitles to come between a lonely 6-year-old and his best friend - a balloon that bops along with him to school and protects him from bullies.

Little Fugitive (1953)

All New Yorkers - big and small - should experience Morris Engel's beautiful tale of a little boy's adventures in Coney Island.

The Night of the Hunter (1955) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

The lessons of tolerance, parental love and personal ethics can't be more succinctly taught.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Hiding a wrinkly visitor from outer space in your closet has its perks, like getting to ride your bike across a brilliantly moonlit sky.

Paper Moon (1973)

Ten-year-old Tatum O'Neal earned an Oscar for her profoundly intelligent portrayal of a pint-size, Depression-era grifter.

Les Quatre cents coups, aka The 400 Blows (1959, Fr.) The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

Its special effects may be dated, but this "Arabian Nights" tale is one of the most awe-inspiring fantasies of all time.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Over the rainbow is a place every child should visit, if only to see that you don't need the latest technology to create magic. Of course, having the young Judy Garland helps.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

An unbeatably delirious fantasia. Talk about childhood wishes....

Show Me Love (1998, Swe.) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The very definition of "moving" pictures.

The Harry Potter films (2001, 2002, 2004...)

We love the boy magician because he loves going to school - even though it takes blood, sweat and tears to learn the simplest magic potion in Hogwarts' homework.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)

Nobody understood the surreality of childhood better than Dr. Seuss, who wrote this mind-bending musical about a diabolical piano teacher.

Spirited Away (2001, Jap.) Babe (1995)

The smartest barnyard fable this side of Orwell's "Animal Farm."

Superman (1978)

Still the best comic-book adaptation, with a perfect blend of silliness and danger, romance and adventure - plus the late Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, disguised as geeky Clark Kent.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Every kid needs a reminder to stop and look around once in a while.

Toy Story (1995) Beauty and the Beast (1991)

All the messages about beauty being only fur deep trump the nagging hint of bestiality.

Modern Times (1936)

Charlie Chaplin's silent comedies are timeless, and the classic sequence in which his Little Tramp gets stuck in the machinery of industrial progress introduces new generations to the idea of comedy as social commentary.

A Little Romance (1979)

The strikingly assured 14-year-old Diane Lane made her debut in this enchanting love story, about two precocious kids who run away to Italy.

Where is the Friend's House (1987, Iran) The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Kids need to see this Errol Flynn classic so they'll know what a movie star is (and in case they ever see Kevin Costner's Robin).

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Before vid clips rot their brains, children should get a taste of classic movie musicals. This one offers rousing singing, dancing, athletics, Old West adventure and romance.

Bugsy Malone (1976)

Against all odds, Alan Parker's mini-mobster musical - in which kids like Scott Baio and Jodie Foster fight cream-pie wars - is a one-of-a-kind delight.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) King Solomon's Mines (1950)

I include this part-melodrama, part-African wildlife adventure because it's what hooked me on movies in my own childhood.

The Iron Giant (1999)

If your children must have one Vin Diesel movie in their repertoire, let it be this wonderful animated movie in which Diesel supplies the voice of a big hunka metal that drops from the sky and learns valuable lessons from a friendly boy.

Meatballs (1979)

Wouldn't it be great if Bill Murray - beginning his big-screen streak in Ivan Reitman's surprisingly poignant comedy - could be everybody's camp counselor?

The Top Fifty "Must See" Children's Films

by the British Film Institute (BFI)

(alphabetical order)

  1. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz/William Keighley, 1938, USA)
  2. Au Revoir les Enfants (Louis Malle, 1987, France/W.Germany)
  3. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985, USA)
  4. Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise, 1991, USA)
  5. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948, Italy)
  6. Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry, 2000, UK/France)
  7. A Day at the Races (Sam Wood, 1937, USA)
  8. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982, USA)
  9. Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990, USA)
  10. Etre et Avoir (Nicolas Philibert, 2002, France)
  11. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton/Lee Unkrich, 2003, USA)
  12. It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946, USA)
  13. Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963, UK/USA)
  14. Kes (Ken Loach, 1969, UK)
  15. The Kid (Charles Chaplin, 1921, USA)
  16. King Kong (Merian C.Cooper/Ernest B.Schoedsack, 1933, USA)
  17. Kirikou et la sorcière (Michel Ocelot, 1998, France/Belgium/Luxembourg)
  18. La Belle et la B ête (Jean Cocteau, 1946, France / Luxembourg)
  19. Le Voyage Dans la Lune (Georges Melies, 1902, France)
  20. Les Quatre Cents Coups (Francois Truffaut, 1959, France)
  21. Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953, France)
  22. My Life as a Dog (Lasse Halstrom, 1985, Sweden)
  23. My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988, Japan/USA)
  24. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955, USA)
  25. Oliver Twist (David Lean, 1948, UK)
  26. The Outsiders (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983, USA)
  27. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955, India)
  28. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967, France/Italy)
  29. The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987, USA)
  30. Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002, Australia)
  31. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981, USA)
  32. The Railway Children (Lionel Jeffries, 1970, UK)
  33. The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 1956, France)
  34. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrman, 1996, USA)
  35. The Secret Garden (Agnieszka Holland, 1993, UK/USA)
  36. Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998, Sweden/Denmark)
  37. Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly, 1952, USA)
  38. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney, 1937, USA)
  39. Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959, USA)
  40. The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973, Spain)
  41. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001, Japan)
  42. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977, USA)
  43. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962, USA)
  44. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995, USA)
  45. Walkabout (Nicholas Roeg, 1971, UK)
  46. Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002, New Zealand)
  47. Where is the Friend's House? (Abbas Kiarostami, 1987, Iran)
  48. Whistle Down the Wind (Bryan Forbes, 1961, UK)
  49. The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi, 1995, Iran)
  50. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939, USA)

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