Top 10 Films You Loved As A Kid Growing Up In The 1990s

Were you a kid who enjoyed their formative years during the 1990s? If you were, you’ll probably remember Andi Peters and the Broom Cupboard, Denise Van Outen and Johnny Vaughan and their Big Breakfast, and TV shows like Blue Peter, Byker Grove & Round The Twist. But what movies stick in the mind?

Back To The Future (Zemeckis, 1985)

Back To The Future, Film, Robert Zemeckis, Michael J Fox,In terms of stories that children and teenagers could really immerse themselves in, Back To The Future beats the likes of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, The Goonies and Home Alone by virtue of having a time-travelling DeLorean. Oh, and that scene when Marty McFly “invents” rock n roll. And that scene when Marty’s Dad knocks out bully Biff Tannen for hurting Lorraine. And that bit when Marty escapes Biff and leaves him and his gang caked in manure (“I hate manure!”).
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Star Wars (Lucas, 1977)

C-3PO, robots that think they are human, Star Wars, R2-D2, George Lucas,The brilliance of Star Wars is most striking when you consider how good it looks despite being a 1970s film. Kids in the 1990s – seeing the film for the first time on TV (or maybe VHS) – didn’t bemoan the dated clothing or old school special effects because they weren’t criticisms you could level at it. Even today, George Lucas’s film looks fantastic. For kids and teenagers it gave us an immersive, authentic adventure story set in space with ships like the Millennium Falcon that felt as real (and temperamental) as Dad’s Ford Escort.
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Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)

Ghostbusters, Ivan Reitman, Top 10 Films, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis,The sort of supernatural scares that didn’t lead to sleepless nights, Ghostbusters remains a favourite thanks to its wonderful wit and the sparkling chemistry between the ghost-fighting team.
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Home Alone (Columbus, 1990)

Home Alone, John Hughes, Chris Columbus,Every Christmas throughout the 1990s Home Alone was on TV. You couldn’t miss it, and why wouldn’t you want to. This small-scale domestic war between a cocky pre-teen and the two bumbling villains trying to rob his house provides endless fun thanks to the sparkling performances and the film’s wonderful imagination which, importantly, takes its cues from the everyday items found around the house. The fact that few of us lived in anything approximating Kevin’s mansion-like abode on that affluent Illinois street is quickly brushed aside when there’s this amount of fun to be had.
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Tremors (Underwood, 1990)

Top 10 Films You Loved As A Kid Growing Up In The 1990sA horror film that “naughty” kids stayed up late to watch on TV as midnight drew near. Tremors was actually a great film for older kids to see with parents open to the idea of letting their children watch some over-the-top carnage with a PG-13 monster who lived beneath the ground. Actually funnier than it is scary, Ron Underwood’s film is memorable for the buddy-buddy relationship between Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, a brilliant concept (you move you die) and that scene when the Gummer’s (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire) use an entire arsenal to put down an attacking Graboid when it threatens their reinforced homestead.
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Mac and Me (Raffill, 1988)

Top 10 Films You Loved As A Kid Growing Up In The 1990sA regular on TV, this E.T. cash-in might actually be a horrid piece of commercial tat with not a unique idea in sight. Indeed, it could even be considered a blatant rip-off. But did a ten-year-old watching it on TV in 1992 care? Nope!
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Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (Johnson, 1989)

Where Are They Now: The Cast Of “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” - Top 10 FilmsAnother film kids growing up in the 1990s might have seen in cinemas, Joe Johnson’s special effects extravaganza was released in UK theatres in 1989. This adventure story about miniaturised kids trying to plot their way back home from the bottom of the garden could be seen as an early blueprint to Pixar’s favourite narrative structure (the physical and metaphorical journey as seen in the likes of A Bug’s Life, Inside Out and Finding Nemo).
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Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)

Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford,Kids need heroes. Harrison Ford has proven a skill for portraying some of cinema’s greatest good guys. Indiana Jones mighty just be the best of them all. Another classic adventure story from “big kid” director Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark, like its first two sequels, was regularly played on television and became a firm favourite of 1990s children.
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The Goonies (Donner, 1985)

The Goonies, Film, Richard Donner, Hey You GuysA TV favourite for certain, The Goonies was a staple of 1990s TV schedules, especially during Christmas. A thrilling adventure featuring teenagers in the main roles, Richard Donner’s brilliant contemporary treasure hunt is still a joy to watch whether you’re six or sixty.
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Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)

jurassic-park_innovation-in-top10filmsFor young kids and teenagers in the 1990s this was probably the first “favourite” to be seen in the cinema. This Steven Spielberg treat remains a marvel of immersive special effects and adventurous spectacle; an adventure story that befits a director who is a child at heart.
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Over to you: there are loads of faves for kids growing up in the 1990s – what have I missed? What were your faves? Do you have a top 10 of your own?

Written and Compiled by Dan Stephens

Dan Stephens
About the Author
Dan Stephens is the founder and editor of Top 10 Films. He's usually pondering his next list, often inspired by his adoration for 1980s Hollywood, a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Callum Reply

    This brings back such wonderful memories.

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      Dan Reply

      Good to hear Callum. What were your favourites?

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        Callum Reply

        Have to say, if I was to add anything it might be The Monster Squad. But all these were huge favourites. I didn’t see any in cinemas but came to love them all on TV.

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          Dan Reply

          Monster Squad is a big favourite of so many. For some reason I never saw it during my childhood and therefore it never became a favourite. Another popular one that seemed a fave in the States rather than the UK was A Christmas Story. Don’t think it got as much TV time in Britain.

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            Love Christmas Story!

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    amy Reply

    I’ll add Enter the Dragon, Edward Scissorhands, Terminator 1+2, but yeah~ this list is pretty much it too. 😛

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      Dan Reply

      Ah… So many personal favourites on your collection of “films I grew up watching”, Amy. Nice one.

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    ArchE Reply

    Okay, I was “grown up” already in the 1990s. But my kids were learning to talk back to their father during the decade so their movie-watching experience was very much informed by the nineties. Jurassic Park was a seminal moment, a film that thrilled me as much as the kids. I definitely made sure they watched the likes of The Goonies and Indiana Jones. Others I remember them enjoying: The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, Space Camp, Real Genius, Weird Science, Hook, Terminator 2 and Independence Day.

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      Dan Reply

      A lot of great fantasy there ArchE. The 80s produced so much great family fantasy – I love Weird Science, Space Camp and of course Hook, T2 and Independence day.

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    dee Reply

    Back to the Future was the BIG favourite of mine in the 1990s. Still love it now. great list.

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      Dan Reply

      It still looks great too. It should feel dated (the car, the 80s fashion, the Libyan terrorists) but for the most part it still feels contemporary. That has a lot to do with its heart and the wonderful story that runs underneath the sci-fi.

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    Mark Fraser Reply

    Having spent my pre-teen years in a mining town during the 1970s where there was a drive in, my list is kinda different. I saw a cut of The Wild Bunch when I was nine and absolutely loved it. Problem was when it came back a few years later the rating had been increased due to the fact it was the “uncut” version (the violence was the same – Warner Bros had just added the few extra scenes which were removed after its initial screenings in the US during 1969), so I didn’t see a full version of it again (the TV prints were cut to shreds) until 1983, and that was on Beta (where there was no respect for aspect ratio). Since then I’ve seen it lots and lotsa times (for instance, I went to the cinema six times to watch it when its re-release hit town in 1995 … that was because I had a gold pass to the theatre in which it was showing).

    As a kiddie, I really, really liked White Lighting (starring Burt Reynolds) when I saw it – strange thing is I only ever watched it once and have never bothered revisiting it, even as a “relaxed” adult with some spare time (and recreational inputs) on his hands.

    The same can be said about The Trial of Billy Jack – thought it was powerful stuff as an 11 year old; now I recall it as being embarrassingly bad.

    Catch 22 had a profound impact on me when I saw it as a 10-year old. And while I had seen it about three or four times over the years since then, earlier this year I tracked down a second hand $2 DVD of it and looked at it again after almost two decades. I then reread parts of the Joseph Heller book (which I studied at high school) and it dawned on me – it’s not just about the horror and illogical nature of war; it’s about how America is a nation that thrives off war profiteering. Happy to say it’s still got it.

    Anyone seen Paper Tiger starring David Niven? Loved that when I was a kiddie too, but I doubt I could sit through it now.

    Another movie I liked when younger was Michael Winner’s The Mechanic starring Charles Bronson. In fact I don’t mind it too much now, although I don’t go out of my way to watch it when it pops up.

    Thought The Great Escape was fantastic when I was in primary school; watching it now I can’t believe that a director got away with having Steve McQueen in a single, static, extended long shot riding his motorbike across a clearing against a Swiss Alps backdrop. It has dated terribly.

    And speaking of war movies, what about Mosquito Squadron? Saw it twice before I was 10 and loved it. In hindsight it’s pretty crappy. Nevertheless, I bought a DVD of it last year at a fire sale and forced my self through it again. Being slapped in the face by kiddie nostalgia is an interesting exercise.

    Two Robert Aldrich movies also fall into this category – Too Late the Hero (which I first saw when I was about eight) and The Dirty Dozen (11). I now own the former, although I only watch the big run at the end after a few drinks. The latter is a movie I still sit through in spite of itself – it remains an interesting work on so many levels.

    In terms of gangster movies, there is a thing called Killers Three that I saw twice before I was 11. Loved it, but haven’t seen it since (and that was over 40 years ago). I note with interest that Leonard Maltin gives it a BOMB.

    Saw The Posideon Adventure (forgive spelling) during its first theatrical run (circa early 1974) and thought it was great. Now it’s kind of a curio.

    Still like the original version of The Taking of Pelham 123 (with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw), which I watched twice just before hitting high school.

    The only two standouts I remember as an almost-teenager/teenager were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which I sat through during it’s first re-run around May 1977) and Close Encounters of The Third Kind. The latter came out in 1978 – the year Star Wars was released in Australia – so in my mind one was either a Star Wars fan or a Close Encounters one (which I guess was kind of like being a teenager back in the 1960s and having to choose between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones).

    Of course applying this kind of logic now seems quite ridiculous. Nevertheless, I’d still choose CEOTTK over SW.

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      Dan Reply

      I remember watching The Poseidon Adventure as a young kid. A lot of the non-children’s films I watched were the result of what my Mum liked. She loved a bit of disaster from time to time – the Airport movies, Towering Inferno and of course The Poseidon Adventure and I believe its sequel too.

      She was the one who introduced me to Aliens which became a firm favourite. I often recall the story that I saw it for the first time as a seven-year-old in 1990 when it was screened on TV in its original theatrical release cut. Of course, it had been panned and scanned to 4:3. But I still loved it. I remember sitting on temporary couch covers while the sofa was being re-covered (which allowed me to work out almost the exact date I watched the film for the first time). That and Jaws probably had the biggest impact on me as a young kid growing up and beginning to love cinema.

      Historical war movies – since you highlight them above – never really factored into my film watching. But having said that, there were of course Star Wars, the aforementioned Aliens and things like Predator that had the military aesthetic without depicting real life battles. It wasn’t until Saving Private Ryan came out that the war film became part of my cinematic diet.

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    Courtney Reply

    If you’ve seen “Swiss Army Man” …one of my favorite quotes from that movie is, “If you haven’t seen Jurassic Park, you don’t know anything!!!” SO TRUE! Great post!

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      Dan Reply

      Haha. Lovely quote.

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    Emma Ellis Reply

    Hook, Never ending story and The Rocketeer 🙂

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      Dan Reply

      Hook was one I thought about for this list. Neverending Story has a lot of fans (never been a big fan of it myself though).

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    CineGirl Reply

    Great top 10. I remember watching Wizard of Oz, Grease and Sound of Music a lot as a kid. We had them on VHS tape. Jaws was another I liked. Jurassic Park was the first film I remember seeing in the cinema. Another childhood favourite was Dark Crystal.

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    Finn Reply

    Tron was another I remember loving as a kid in the 1990s.

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    ben Reply

    Another fan of Dark Crystal here. I also watched Transformers, the old cartoon a lot, and think Return to Oz had a lot of play-time on my VHS player.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Terrific top ten Dan. In 1990 I was 18 so I definitely spent a good part of my 20’s watching films from the 70’s and 80’s. You touched on a lot of the films that hit the zeitgeist of film so I’ll touch on some of the iconic ones in different genres.

    Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween all were mandatory viewings for my horror self. Not all of the entries were good of course but there were some excellent entries.

    Scream in 1996 brought horror back from the dead. Near Dark and
    The Lost Boys were two very different horror films from 1987 but both were and are iconic films. One was even directed by a future best director winner.

    I also grew up loving a slew of John Hughes films from the 80’s and then other American teen/high school films like, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Secret Admirer, Better off Dead, The Wild Life and the Last American Virgin.

    Lethal Weapon and Predator and Die Hard, the Joel Silver trifecta was also really popular with me and my friends.

    I know Stand By Me is one of your favourites, and it is for me as well.

    And if you want to get into some of the very best from the early 90’s, I’d say Tombstone, JFK and Basic Instinct made a mark on many.

    Thanks for the awesome top ten.

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    Khalid Rafi Reply

    Can definitely relate to Jurassic Park, although not many others.
    But I definitely understand why they make the list since most people growing up in the 80’s regard them highly.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Great list Dan

    I’d have to add License To Drive on the list. Have to have a two Corey’s film here. They epitomized the growing up films. License To Drive is such a feel good relatable film for a teenager, who’s main concern was getting their license.

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