As parents, we know it’s not right to plop our kids in front of the TV. But in the midst of a cold snap—or worse, a snowstorm—sometimes the old boob tube is the only thing that can preserve our sanity amid the endless whining, fighting and complaining that they’re bored.

Still, it’s possible to transform a little television viewing into a family affair—especially if you’re re-watching a childhood classic that sparks in you a bit of nostalgia and gives your children a glimpse of what the world was like when you were a kid. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like the ’80s and ’90s were a golden age for family movies.


Early School: E.T.

I dare you not to cry at Steven Spielberg’s feel-good alien flick, with the adorable pre-rehab Drew Barrymore and lines like “E.T. phone home” worthy of the pop-culture hall of fame. Of course, your kids may wonder why E.T. didn’t FaceTime his alien buddies back home.

Other contenders: Home Alone, The Sandlot, A Little Princess


Tweens: The Princess Bride

The great thing about this fantasy pic is that a young Fred Savage, the kid to whom narrator Peter Falk is telling the story, is griping about having to listen to it—much like what your kids when you suggest watching it. The other? Your kids will finally understand why you randomly say, “My name is Inigo Montoya, prepared to die!” and “Have fun storming the castle!”

Other contenders: Parent Trap, Willow, Beetle Juice


Teens: The Breakfast Club

Let’s face it: You’re lucky if your teen will actually sit down with you, let alone hang out with you long enough to watch a movie, so you better make it a good one. And what better than an angst-filled, teen archetype dramedy from John Hughes. It just might make them realize you were young once too—before they bury their head in their iPhone again.

Other contenders: Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink


Mixed Group: War Games

This cinematic trip down the Cold War memory lane will show kids just how freaked we all were in the ’80s that the USSR was going to nuke us at any second. They will also be amazed at how crappy our computers and video games were. Of course, seeing a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy may make you feel really old.

Other contenders: Big, Goonies, Gremlins


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