As we inch closer to Thanksgiving, we realize it’s time to partake in a dreaded holiday tradition—spending time with our relatives. Part of that grave duty means (in addition to drunk uncles, mumbling grandparents, and annoying aunts) spending time with whatever small children populate your extended family. And everyone knows, it’s the children who typically control the TV at holiday parties and get-togethers. With that in mind, we’ve cobbled together a list of the top five children’s films that adults love. So, the next time you’re forced to share the boob tube with a mewling group of kids over a long weekend, you can have a few options beyond those crappy Transformers.
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
This is the first, of a handful of films on this list, that are totally insane! The Nightmare Before Christmas is a postmodern holiday classic for both kids and adults. It’s an outlandish stop-motion fantasy in which the Pumpkin King of Halloween, Jack Skellington, grows bored of the holiday and decides to take over Christmas. Nightmare finds Skellington kidnapping Santa Clause and taking his place with a coffin-sleigh led by reindeer skeletons. He leaves shrunken heads and snakes under Christmas trees, and does battle with the U.S. Army, all before—of course—learning the true meaning of Christmas. For a child, The Nightmare Before Christmas is mind-blowing but for adults, it’s a subversive little holiday classic.
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Does this even need a description? Standing alongside Jaws as Steven Spielberg’s most perfect film, E.T. will capture a child’s heart and never let it go. That means that when you watch it, you’ll be insisting to all the kids in the room that you’re not an emotional wreck. You’re fine. There’s just something in your eye. You’d never cry at a movie about a boy and his alien best friend, you swear.
3. Pretty Much Every Pixar Film Ever
A bit of a cheat, sure but honestly, when in doubt and stuck with a living room full of children, pull out a Pixar film. From the childhood nostalgia of the Toy Story series, to the clever superhero in-jokes of The Incredibles, to the autumnal melancholy of Wall-E, Pixar’s gorgeous animated films may be marketed towards children, but they’re designed to be treasured by adults.
2. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is completely, well, insane. With Gene Wilder indelibly portraying the oddball chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka, the film is a psychedelic, mind-twisting blast for kids. It features a contest that allows five lucky children to tour the fabled factory, which is less an industrial candy production house and more a LSD-fueled Disneyland. It houses an army of orange-skinned, green-haired dwarfs, a chocolate river, and soda that makes a drinker fly. As for adults, you’ll be just as mind-blown as the kids by the 100 minutes of candy-colored madness. Wonka is an ageless classic.
1. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
To put it simply: No child or adult can resist the goofy, witty charm of Paul Reubens‘ character Pee Wee. He’s a bizarre man-child who lives in a house (and a life) that both children and adults think is awesome. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is the story of a man in search of his missing bike, but it’s really just a live action cartoon. It’s full of eye-popping visuals that will keep kids busy while adults marvel at the wacky screenwriting and risqué in-jokes buried beneath the surface. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is your best bet to quite down a room full of kids and keep yourself entertained over the holiday weekend.
What films would you add to this list?