Like many people, I was completely obsessed with movies growing up. And, for whatever reason, I kept a specific set of some of the greatest family movies ever made on a constant rotation. These movies didn't just provide me with imaginative escapism, but they also provided me with interesting viewpoints with which to peek at, and make sense of, the world. These films were groundbreaking, you guys, and we all had our favorites. They were the movies from your childhood that shaped your life, in minor and major ways.
Though we all have different overall life experiences, as children and the overgrown children that we've ultimately become as adults, there are some life lessons that are universal. When it comes to matters of love, compassion, and identity, we may experience similar hardships of discovery — of broken hearts, confusion, or disgruntled mirror gazing. And for that reason, I believe that the lessons from many of these movies apply pretty much across the board.
So, grab yourself a juice box and a bowl of freshly microwaved popcorn, and come shuffle down next to me. We're going to go through all of those important life lessons from the movies of our childhood that shaped who we are today.
1. Hocus Pocus
I mean, these witches were meant to be villains and all, but who didn't secretly want to be part of their coven? I definitely did, and I still do. Just without the whole eating of children thing.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Hocus Pocus was like an introductory course on serving up pure sass. If you don't believe me, then just you rewatch Bette Middler's impromptu singing scene. Pure sass.
2. My Girl
You watched it, you loved it, you bawled your eyes out for weeks afterward because of it. My Girl was beautiful but rough, you guys.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Heartbreak is tough, but true love is always worth it.
I mean, I was definitely terrified of this movie as a child. But it also managed to instill me with a sense of adventure and the idea that I was capable of achieving big things.
Life-Shaping Lesson(s): 1. Love and protect your siblings.
2. Women can be heroes, too.
3. David Bowie was kind of wonderfully, weirdly hot in this film and I'll never get over that fact.
4. The Princess Bride
Look, I'm still completely in love with Cary Elwes in this movie and nothing will change that. But ultimately, this was one of the first movies I ever saw where a princess fought back and took control of her life. Which, like, yes, honey. I'm here for it.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Women deserve to have agency over their lives.
Many of us were definitely too young to be watching this movie when we were children. But regardless, the whimsical nihilism (if that's even possible) of Lydia Deetz gave the gloomy and morbid kids among us someone to look up to.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Even strange and unusual individuals can have some awesome friends (recently deceased or otherwise).
6. Harriet The Spy
I'm not even going to lie, I love everything about this movie and have continued to rewatch it endlessly for years.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Don't be afraid to indulge your curiosities, speak the truth, and be unapologetically fierce.
7. Sleeping Beauty
It still one of my favorite Disney movies of all time, but not for the romance or happy ending. Like many other fans of this film, I'm all about Maleficent.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Villains aren't one-dimensional and can actually be full of depth and intrigue (even if you revile them).
8. Bugsy Malone
An entire movie solely starring a cast of cool, kick-ass kids. It basically made you — as a child yourself — feel important, powerful, and utterly inspired.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Food fights are a messy business, but ultimately, you can be anything that you want to be. That decision is ours — we could be the best at being good guys (etc.).
9. The Addams Family
Celebrating the weird and the wonderful, the spooky and the kooky, with total finesse, The Addams Family introduced many of us to the notion that "normal" can mean different things to different people.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Even if all-black clothes and a morbid sense of humor are two of the few things that make you happy, just be yourself.
10. Little Women
Devastating, empowering, and just a total delight, Little Women provided a poignant portrayal of (literal) sisterhood.
Life-Shaping Lesson: As Jo proved in the movie, whatever your own personal definition of being female involves is completely valid. Femininity encompasses a range of expressions and lifestyles.
11. The Mighty Ducks
It's still one of the greatest underdog movies ever made. Simple as that.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Winning is worth much less than love, friendship, and having fun.
It's basically the movie that taught most of us how to sing into a hairbrush in the sassiest manner possible. And for that, I'm eternally grateful.
Life-Shaping Lesson: No, it's not change yourself completely to please a man (dammit, Sandy). The main takeaway most of us got from Grease was of the importance of a female friend group. The Pink Ladies were badass and powerful, yo.
13. A Little Princess
If you spent much of your early childhood thinking, "I could definitely be a princess right now and not even know it. What aren't you telling me, Mom and Dad?" then it was likely because of this movie.
Life-Shaping Lesson: No matter what our social status is, we're all beautiful, powerful women, worthy of greatness.
Adorable, quirky, and a little heartbreaking, this story of the pig who defies the norms of his animal type to become a winning sheep-pig (instead of a pork chop) is powerful on so many levels.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Aside from the obvious, "don't be held back by whoever society defines you as," message, Babe also educated a whole generation of kids on animal rights and welfare. Babe is totally a friend, not food, right? I personally haven't been able to stomach pork ever since this movie.
A movie about a child so intelligent and powerful that she can help her friends and fight her neglectful parents with the power of her mind? Powerful stuff, my friends.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Villains can often be defeated by smarts, so read as much as you can, invest in your intelligence, and be an absolute boss.
I'm a full grown woman and I still bawl my eyes out at the end of this movie.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Make some attempt to get to know and fully understand someone's culture and identity before you start unfairly judging, or attacking, it.
17. Home Alone 2
Although there were a lot of lessons that could be learnt from the first movie, it's the sequel which continues to tug on the heart strings all this time later.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Remember Pigeon Lady? Well, be still my beating heart, guys. Because really terrific friendships can sometimes form with the most unlikely of people.
18. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
Pee-Wee Herman is an absolute champion for those of us who perhaps don't necessarily fit in to society's regimented set of norms and expectations.
Life-Shaping Lesson: Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone and still proudly and loudly be you.
Here's hoping that kids today continue to be shaped in positive ways by all of these wonderful movies. Because, honestly? I think we all generally turned out pretty well.