In Mark Cousin’s characteristically idiosyncratic documentary about children in cinema, he says that the best films with children are ‘not when the children on screen are spellbound by the film but when the film is spellbound by them’. It’s a fantastic documentary, culled from rare and popular children’s films that all share a unique ability to capture childhood emotion, honesty and innocence. And loneliness.
Here is a list of 10 movies about children that leave me spellbound.
1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
I was taken to see this for my 7th birthday. I was mesmerised by the vision of American life: massive fridges, huge walk in toy cupboards and gigantic take-away pizza. It is a world seen entirely through the eyes of Elliot and the strange, kind hearted and gentle E.T. I cried buckets at the end. I still do.
2. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
An unapologetically nostalgic film about the magic of cinema and the power of dreams. I worked as a cinema projectionist for 4 years and Cinema Paradiso gets deep inside my head and heart when reflecting about childhood and a job where I lost myself in movies and watched a thousand beginnings and endings of other people’s stories.
3. Kes (1969)
Ken Loach’s film is raw and unforgiving. I have taught children not dissimilar to Billy Casper, although thankfully my memory of school P.E. was nothing like the despotic Man United obsessed Brian Glover. www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3cayR…
4. Shadow On The Earth (1988)
A BBC TV film set in a 1961 mining community. www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8Abbt… The central character Billy is obsessed with space and Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space. Violence preys on the fringes of Billy’s world with the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cold War politics and sectarianism present at every turn. And when his innocence is shattered his peaceful heart still beats strong.
5. Gregory’s Girl (1981)
Never grow tired off it. Brilliant cast including the class Scottish comedian, Chick Murray, as the HT. www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8Abbt… My teenage self is visible in just about every scene of this superb film.
6. Empire Of The Sun (1987)
Christian Bale is astonishing in this harrowing tale of WW2, taken from the semi-autobiographical book by J.G. Ballard.
7. The Goonies (1985)
As a child of the 80s this was a film I rented endlessly from our local video rental shop (which was inside the local plumber’s). Everyone wanted to be in a gang like the Goonies and everyone practised the Truffle Shuffle at school! www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr_z37…
8. The Breakfast Club (1985)
The princess, the criminal, the athlete, the brain and the basket case. Which one were you at school? I was probably somewhere between the brain and the basket case… ‘Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?’ youtu.be/zY3U9thXFlA
9. Back To The Future (1985)
1985 was a good year. This film is sheer adventure and escapism. And it looked nothing like the fairly dull town I grew up in. It is probably perfect.
10. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Gregory Peck plays the best dad in movie history. End of.