When the kids are home
1 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, MCA/Universal, PG)
Uplifting without being sappy, Steven Spielberg’s fairy tale about the unbreakable bond between a 10-year-old boy (Henry Thomas) and his alien friend never fails to bring comfort and joy to kids of all ages.
2 101 Dalmatians (1961, Disney, G)
It’s easy to explain this classic’s attraction for kids (hint: think spots), but the big surprise is its adult appeal. You’ll laughingly relate to canine parents Pongo and Perdita and their brood of TV-loving pups, and hiss at fur-loving Cruella De Vil, the original politically incorrect villainess.
3 National Geographic’s Really Wild Animals/Geokids (1994, Columbia TriStar, unrated)
These series are proof that learning can be a blast, as the tapes take your family on such exotic adventures as a ”Swingin’ Safari” or a ”Deep Sea Dive.” Filled with catchy songs, exquisite photography, and lots of information disguised as entertainment, these tapes will delight your kids and bring you back to nature.
4 Raffi In Concert with the Rise and Shine Band (1988, A & M, unrated)
Although little ones will happily sit through this 50-minute show featuring the toddlers’ troubadour, you’ll never be tempted to use the tape as a babysitter — because you won’t want to miss Raffi’s warm, charismatic performance.
5 The Bear (1989, Columbia TriStar, PG)
Director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s gorgeously shot adventure follows a cub as he survives his mother’s death, befriends a giant grizzly, and flees human hunters. For kids raised on talking-animal ‘toons, this movie is a revelation: The bears are majestic, and despite a dearth of dialogue, there’s plenty of action for those past the teddy stage.
6 The Gods Must Be Crazy (1984, FoxVideo, PG-13)
Kids will crack up at the slapstick antics of a gentle group of Bushmen whose existence is disrupted when a Coke bottle appears in their village, and they’ll love Xi, the peaceful hero with the smiling eyes and clicking speech. This thoughtful comedy is bound to inspire discussions about who’s really civilized.
7 Singin’ In the Rain (1952, MGM/UA, G)
There are no high-tech special effects, no guns, and no comic-book tie-ins — but kids’ll love it nevertheless. With its lavish production numbers and dazzling dance routines by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and Gene Kelly, who exudes style with each tap of his shoe, the 43-year-old Singin’ still reigns.
8 Bringing Up Baby (1938, Turner, unrated)
Not a child-rearing instructional tape, of course. Kids will be charmed by this fast-paced, mishap-filled story of a couple brought together by a leopard named Baby, and adults will swoon at the screwball chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
9 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, Paramount, PG-13)
Call in sick, write a note to the kids’ teachers, and treat the family to John Hughes’ ode to breaking out of a rut. Kids will be impressed when they realize you relate more to school skipper Ferris (Matthew Broderick) than to the repressive grown-ups.
10 The Trouble With Harry (1955, MCA/Universal, PG)
Your teenagers probably saw the gross Weekend at Bernie’s; now let them see how a master envisioned the same concept. Alfred Hitchcock’s smart and suspenseful black comedy, about a corpse that keeps popping up in the darnedest of places, will keep all of you guessing who killed the troublesome Harry.
By Jason Cochran, Steve Daly, Glenn Kenny, Lois Alter Mark, Chris Nashawaty, Tim Purtell, Michael Sauter, and J.R. Taylor