For a year or two, I’ve been on a kick of re-watching all of the movies I enjoyed as a kid. As you can tell from a statement like that one, I hate my life now and wish I was a ten-year-old drinking Capri Sun and getting the television remote sticky again. Anyway, as part of my cinematic education, I’ve come to the conclusion that 1990’s children’s movies signal the golden age of the form. One part feminism, one part magic and one part heart, these movies more than stand the test of time, they make us wonder why studios in Hollywood and outside of it aren’t making films like this anymore. (Save this year’s Hugo, which certainly falls into this kind of wonderment only achievable in movies for kids). Here are a few of my favorite magical movies for kids from the ‘90s:
The Secret of Roan Inish. This movie tells the story of a ten-year-old Irish girl and she moves away from the city and in with her grandparents on the coast following her mother’s death. Immediately following her arrival, Fiona starts hearing stories about the mysterious Roan Inish—the island her family inhabited until they decided they could make more money on the mainland. The movie hooked me again with its mysticism, careful use of Irish folkloric elements, message about remembering the importance of tradition, and, of course, the beautiful scenery of Ireland.
The Little Princess. Another girl-oriented story, this one adapts the Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story of the same name, but moves the little girl from England to New York City and makes the story more positive, as well. Sara Crewe is a privileged, military man’s daughter living in India. Her father sends her to school in New York City when he has to enter World War I. There, Sara opens these girls’ eyes to her wonderful stories, but soon finds out that her father has died in the war, and is forced to be servant to the girls who were once her peers. In some hands, the movie’s message could be a little heavy-handed, but this film is sensitive and quite beautiful shot so it doesn’t come unwieldy or preachy.
The Secret Garden. Another Burnett tale, this one opens up the world of surly Mary Lennox to the sights and sounds of an otherworldly castle and garden. This book and movie gave generations of readers and watchers hope for constant rebirth.
What are some of your favorite magical childhood movies?