What Our Favorite Childhood Movies Can Teach Students Today

Oldies but goodies that still have relevant messages.

What Our Favorite Childhood Movies Can Teach Students Today

We all have our favorite childhood movies. The one that made us believe in magic. The one that gave us comfort on a bad day. Especially on the bad days. The one that inspired us to go after our dreams, even when our parents told us to be more realistic. As adults, we watch it just to feel like anything is possible again.

But can they do the same for our 2017 students? Can these “ancient” movies teach them something modern day movies can’t? Most definitely!

Here are a few oldies but goodies to talk about with your students:

Home Alone (1990)

Who doesn’t remember Kevin McCallister’s scream? Home Alone can teach our 2017 students the importance of self-reliance, even at a young age. Kevin has to figure out rather quickly how to feed himself, keep burglars out of the house, and—most importantly—how to own up to and learn from his mistakes, all without a handy cell phone at his side.

Class Discussion Ideas:

  • If you were Kevin, what would you have done differently?
  • Kevin lived in a different time period. Do you think it’s better or worse?


The Goonies (1985)

Before video games were a thing, kids went outside and found their own adventure. The Goonies may have dated slang and music (although, 80s music is totally back, in case you haven’t heard), but it lets students ask the question, what if? What if I was thrown right into my video game world, with no gold coins or superpowers to help me out? How would I get to the end without Google?

In The Goonies, a group of unlikely heroes (who’d never hang out together otherwise) have to save their neighborhood and dodge the bad guys chasing them underground. An important part of teamwork is figuring out the strength of each individual and learning how to combine those strengths to accomplish a task.

Activity Idea:

  • Put students in groups and ask them to find a hidden treasure, using only clues you give them. No cell phones or Internet allowed. After the exercise, ask them what strengths they saw in each other.


Anne of Green Gables (1985)

It’s hard not to fall in love with Anne Shirley, a girl whose vivid imagination can’t be tamed. Anne was my first introduction to girl power. She inspired me to stand up for myself and not apologize for my talent and ambition. Despite being set in the late 1800s, Anne’s story remains universal even today. We can all see a little of ourselves in Anne, a fierce girl who bucks the system, despite struggling with her own self-worth.

Class Discussion Ideas:

  • Compare the world Anne lived in with what the world is like for girls today. How have things changed? Has anything remained the same?
  • What do you admire about Anne and what do you feel she could have done differently?
  • Who do you want to be when you grow up? How do you think you can get there?


Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991)

Speaking of girl power, this is another story about an orphan girl who unapologetically goes after her dreams—but she has to overcome blindness first. Set during the Great Depression, this movie can give students insight into what the more recent Great Recession could have become, in addition to showing how Senora, the main character, doesn’t let the obstacles in her life hold her back.

Activity Idea:

  • Ask students to put on a blindfold and draw a picture of themselves. Then have them share their portraits with the class and ask what challenges they faced and how they pushed through them to complete the project.


Big (1988)

Here’s something most kids have probably thought at least once. I’m sick of being a kid and going to school. Adults have it so much better! Big shows students what being an adult actually looks like, including all of the responsibilities and choices that come with being able to do “whatever you want”. Sure, there are a couple more recent movies that tackle this topic, but I think Big does it best. The idea is presented in a fun and humorous way, making it easily relatable to students. Consider the 80s fashion part of the fun. Note: May be best for ages 12 +, due to some adult themes.

Classroom Discussion Ideas:

  • Would you rather be an adult or a kid right now? Why?
  • Would you have made different choices than Josh? If so, what choices would you have made?

What were your favorite childhood movies? Which ones would you share with your students? Add them to the comment section below.