When you were a kid, you probably watched a ton of movies featuring talking animals, kids who went days without checking in with their parents, and other equally ridiculous scenarios. While the majority of these flicks have probably long since been relinquished to the doldrums of the dust bin, a handful have no doubt morphed into an entirely different category: classic kids films.
These are the truly long-term sleeper-hits, those that hold deeper dimensions inexplicable to the logical mind, but that call us back continually over the course of our lives simply because there was a feeling there that we wanted to experience again — a hidden wisdom that could only be best recalled by watching the movie again.
Often (but not always), classic kids films are those that hold particular gems and boring sentimental moments that you most likely used to go to the bathroom or refill your bowl of popcorn.
And it’s a good thing you did, because it gave your parents a chance to bawl their eyes out and clean themselves up before you could get back.
Seriously: watch any of these movies as an adult, and I’ll put my personal “Sentimental Mush of a Human Being” stamp of guarantee down that you’ll end up holding back tears at one point or another.
10 Classic Kids Films That Hold Hidden Wisdom For Adults
Editors note: at the time of the last update for this article (Jan 2020), a couple of these films have since been re-made. Those referenced here are the originals.
1) The Lion King
The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it. ~ Rafiki Click To Tweet
Is there anything Rafiki doesn’t know?
Everyone’s history is full of good and bad memories, and events and decisions they would do anything to go back and change, or at least pretend never occurred in the first place.
But if they ignore the mistakes they’ve made, they’re doomed to keep making them over and over for the rest of their lives.
The true measure of a human being is not in being flawless, but in admitting and acknowledging his flaws in order to become a better person in the future.
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. ~ Mulan Click To Tweet
Picture a field of roses in the countryside. Beautiful, right? Now, picture a single rose peeking through the cracks of a sidewalk in a busy city. Which is going to better catch your eye?
Although there is no doubt that a field of flowers is certainly a sight to see, a single rose thriving among a jungle of concrete and pollution is simply awe-inspiring. How did it get there? How did it grow, survive, and thrive, despite every effort by its surroundings to destroy it?
You could ask the same question about many of the people you see walking through the world on a daily basis.
The water’s always changing, always flowing. But people, I guess, can’t live like that. ~ Pocahontas Click To Tweet
Okay, so this quote is a little less inspiring than the last one. But it does speak volumes about human nature. People are stubborn, and efforts to change them often end up being all for naught.
Unfortunately, many people live under the guise that they are flexible and that they ‘go with the flow‘, when the reality is they’re so stuck in their ways that they don’t even realize it.
Think of the ridiculous debates you see raging on your Facebook feed at any given time during the day. People post pictures, quotes, and statements supporting one perspective, but pay no mind to anyone with an opposing viewpoint.
Maybe if we acted more like a river, and allowed our mindsets to flow to other areas, we’d all understand each other a little more.
4) Finding Nemo
Just keep swimming. ~ Dory, Finding Nemo Click To Tweet
Easily one of the top classic kids films of all time. And, using water as a different metaphor for life, there will be times when you’re able to let yourself flow with the current, and other times when you have to swim against the tide that’s trying to pull you away. But your only true option is to just keep swimming.
Even when things are going your way, you still have to steer yourself in the right direction. If you let up, you might realize life has taken you somewhere you don’t want to be, and you didn’t even realize it until it was too late.
When facing rough waters, keep in mind that you’ll never get back to where you want to be unless you put your all into getting there. Stay actively involved in your own life, and take yourself where you want to be.
5) Mary Poppins
Open different doors. You may find a ‘you’ there that you never knew was yours. ~ Mary Poppins Click To Tweet
This one definitely speaks volumes to me. Less than a year ago, I started taking my writing a bit more seriously. I’d always been pretty good at it, but never harnessed my abilities in a way that actually mattered.
Now, I don’t go a single day without writing at least 2,000 words, regardless of the topic.
In doing so, I’ve reclaimed my love of reading as well. I had been so wrapped up in my previous occupation that I barely even realized I wasn’t enjoying myself.
Keep your options open; you never know when you’ll try something new that ends up being one of your true passions.
6) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest of men. ~ Willy Wonka Click To Tweet
Simply stated: You’re never too old to act silly. As adults, we sometimes get so caught up in the daily grind that we start taking everything too seriously, and never stop to have any fun.
If you’re one of the unfortunate souls who thinks ice cream, cartoons, and jumping in mud is for little kids, I feel sorry for you.
I’m not saying you should binge-eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s (although that does sound like a good idea, even at ten o’clock in the morning), or ruin your new three-piece suit dancing in the rain, but don’t let yourself get so hard that you completely deprive yourself any of the pleasures life has to offer.
What’s the point of living if you’re not enjoying yourself?
7) Lilo and Stitch
Ohana’ means ‘family,’. ‘Family’ means ‘no one gets left behind.’ ~ Stitch, Lilo & Stich Click To Tweet
When you’re part of a family, you experience unconditional love (hopefully, anyway). And this is undoubtedly one of the main themes to be found in most classic kids films. No matter what hardships the group is facing, individually or as a whole, each of them always looks out for one another. Members of a family put the other members first, and worry about themselves after they can be sure everyone else is safe.
In this sense of the word, the people closest to you can absolutely be considered family. You create your family based on how you treat the people around you, whether they’re your friends, colleagues, or significant others. And the bond you create with these people becomes strong enough to last a lifetime.
8) The Wizard of Oz
Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they? ~ Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz Click To Tweet
I figured I’d lighten up a bit and give you a good laugh. We’ve been way too sentimental for way too long, anyway. Unfortunately, this quote brings way too many people to mind. Turn on any news channel and you’re bound to find one.
But I don’t mean to be insulting. The reality is, humans are incredibly intelligent beings—or at least they have the potential to be. The problem comes when people speak before thinking.
Like I mentioned before — about people being too stubborn when it comes to some political stance — we often ignore the logic presented to us, deciding rather to focus on the prejudices we’ve always held to be ‘fact’.
Rather than taking the time to understand all angles of a given situation, too often we let our tongue do all the thinking for us. Considering we have the capacity to learn as much as humanly possible (get it?), we certainly don’t use this ability to our advantage.
9) Harriet the Spy
There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people in this world, and each one deserves a closer look. ~ Ole, Harriet The Spy Click To Tweet
First of all, full disclosure: This was my favorite movie as a kid. Of all the classic kids films on this list, this remains my number one. Laugh if you want, but I could’ve made this entire list out of quotes from this movie.
Anyway, this line hit me really hard when I was ten, and it still rings true more than 20 years later. Simply put, you should never judge anyone for the way they choose to live. You might think they’re strange, weird, or living on the fringe of society, but what does that matter to you? And who are you to judge what’s “normal”?
Like I’ve said many times throughout this list, we as humans should be open to all perspectives, and all walks of life. You never know what you might be missing.
10) The Sandlot
Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong. ~ The Babe, The Sandlot Click To Tweet
What else is there to say? If you’re not doing what you know in your heart is right, or what you know you were destined to be doing, why are you doing it?
This isn’t to say you should just act on emotion and let your brain take a backseat (we’ve covered this ad naseum, I believe), but if you end up following a path that your heart isn’t in, it’ll only end in disaster. Your true calling will always be pretty obvious to you; don’t let anyone but yourself decide if it’s the right way to go.