Every time we hear about a new remake, reboot, or re-imagining, we have to then listen to people wailing about how their childhoods have been ruined by an update of a movie they saw 20 years ago. Sorry, good parents. All the care and energy you put into raising kids will turn to fire and rubble if there’s ever another version of Ghostbusters. Oh wait—there was another Ghostbusters, and we all survived. We’ll all survive the next batch of remade kids and family movies that come along. Or at the very least, if we don’t survive, it’ll be from unrelated causes. There are some movies whose remakes and reboots we are actively hoping for, however– ones that never got the attention they deserved way back when or ones that could just use an update. All the movies on this list are at least 20 years old—so apologies if that makes you feel even older.
Here are our picks for 15 Kids’ Movie Reboots We Want To See.
15. The Outsiders
For many kids, fifth grade was the magical year that they were introduced to S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. In fact, it was a class of roughly that age who wrote to Francis Ford Coppola (via their school librarian) to ask him if he would make the book into a movie. He did, casting boys who would become some of the biggest actors in Hollywood. Could a reimagining of The Outsiders introduce yet another bevy of stars? Probably.
More importantly though, The Outsiders tackles tough issues like dysfunctional families, bullying and violence among teens, drug and alcohol use, guns, and a lot of other things kids are dealing with in greater numbers than did previous generations. One could argue that a movie like The Outsiders is even more relevant now than it was when the movie was released in 1983. Hinton’s novel has often been challenged or banned because of strong content. But are there really kids who have never seen a cig being smoked, or heard a swear? We doubt it.
14. Rikki Tikki Tavi
There are myriad reasons that we could all use a new, feature-length version of Rikki Tikki Tavi. For starters, Chuck Jones’s animated version of the Kipling story isn’t very well-known. Jones’s style of animation (including the hokey ‘70s music) is great when we’re talking about Daffy Duck or The Grinch. But Rikki Tikki Tavi is a story of death-defying bravery and deserves more serious treatment. The best way to adapt this story might be live action, or failing that, doing it Pixar-style.
Mongooses (mongeese?) are pretty fricking amazing, especially the one in this story—who risks his life to save his humans from evil cobras. Rikki Tikki Tavi deserves an updating because it’s a fantastic story, and because the existing animated version doesn’t really do it justice. Honestly though, the best reason to reboot this story may be so people will stop confusing the mongoose with the meerkat. Stupid Animal Planet…
13. The Secret of NIMH
Fans who watched or read this story as kids may have missed the powerful anti-animal-testing message. But if you see it now, it kinda slaps you in the face. NIMH stands for National Institute of Mental Health. In real life, NIMH is prone to experimentation and guesswork, even on their human patients. The Secret of NIMH is based on the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and was released in 1982. It’s got a bit of an A Christmas Carol vibe, since it’s about a poor family trying to survive and save their youngest sibling—a sickly tiny kid named Tim. Really.
The movie has some genuine terror, and a great community pulling together to help its weakest members. This movie is well worth remaking, if only to preserve its central message. The message that being poor sucks—but it sucks less when we all do what we can to help each other.
12. The Big Green
One could probably make the case that there are a lot of sports movies aimed at kids and that we don’t need any more. That’s dumb. Everyone likes movies, and lots of people like sports. The Big Green combines the loveable losers of Bad News Bears, the can-do spirit of The Mighty Ducks, and the family issues of Hoosiers. Throw in an opposing coach who is a conniving jerk, and a smidge of pro-immigrant rhetoric, and that’s the movie. Oh, and they play some kind of sports or something. The sports are probably the least important aspect of this film, but that’s okay. The actual gameplay is a backdrop for some real moral and emotional struggles felt by the team, their families, the coaches, and everyone who cheers them on. A modern remake of this 1995 film means kids today could see and experience all these things without ever having to set eyes on Steve Gutenberg. That alone would probably make a remake of The Big Green worth the investment.
11. The Secret Garden
In British fairy tales, children with abysmal home lives are common. Charlie Bucket endured miserable poverty, James Trotter had horrible aunts who worked him like a slave. Harry Potter was forced to live in a closet until he was nearly eleven. Even Jane Eyre was locked in a haunted room until she was sent to a horrible school where she was starved and beaten. Yet, in all these tales, the long-term impact of this treatment is pretty much ignored. Once the kids are in better circumstances, they’re totally fine. Not so in The Secret Garden. That alone is a fantastic lesson for kids—when terrible things happen, they don’t just go away, nor does your memory of them. The 1993 movie isn’t very old, but we daresay it could already use an update. Every kid in the world should hear this story, as it’s a primer on how to free yourself from past trauma and (slowly, through hard work and time) make yourself a new and better life.
10. The Cat from Outer Space
If you think about it, it’s a little surprising that the internet hasn’t already made another version of The Cat from Outer Space. After all, the internet loves cats. Thanks mainly to Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, the internet also love outer space. A movie about a space cat who comes to Earth and then needs to fix its spaceship? Kind of a no-brainer, wouldn’t you say?
The cat arrives in a “flying saucer” and needs a special element to repair his ship and return to the cat planet—an elements that turns out to be (spoiler alert) gold. Will the cat have to rob a jeweler? Or Fort Knox? Or will he decide he enjoys being a god on Earth, and doesn’t want to leave after all? Given that the original film is from 1978 and features ‘70s names like Sandy Duncan, Hans Conried, the great Roddy McDowall, and Harry Morgan, no contemporary kid is going to be dying to check it out. But a new version with say, Emma Stone, Chris Pine, Kevin Spacey, or that Grumpy Cat everyone loves so much? The Kickstarter alone would bring in a fortune!
9. Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings
Most people know this Canadian story as a TV show, rather than a film. But it’s been both. Mike Myers also did a swell job spoofing it on Saturday Night Live, but even that was a few decades ago. Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings is way more awesome than say, Harold and the Purple Crayon, though either of these could make a delightful movie for kids and families. People talk a lot about how technology is ruining kids (they told ‘80s kids that the Sony Walkman would pretty much end conversation as we know it), so who wouldn’t love for their child to be entertained by monochromatic adventures drawn with a single crayon—or failing that, a $2 box of colored chalk? Simon had cool adventures, as did Harold with his crayon. As to which would make a better reboot? We see no reason why we can’t have both.
8. Flight of the Navigator
This 1986 movie has some rabid fans. It also has some serious detractors, and for valid reasons. A time vortex can be a tricky thing in a movie, but most parents don’t go from normal looking to practically elderly inside of eight years. Flight of the Navigator is also clearly one of the films that the Netflix show Stranger Things took inspiration from. Over-competent children, clueless adults, aliens with experimentation on their minds, and a guy named Faraday punctuate this flawed story.
Still, Flight of the Navigator has some intriguing elements that could easily be transferred to a newer and better film. Given his recent role on FOX’s Gotham, one might think that Paul Reubens might even return in a reboot of Flight of the Navigator, reprising his role as the voice of Max—the artificial intelligence in the alien drone. Veronica Cartwright might return for a reboot as well. There’s probably a law that says she must appear in a quarter of all sci-fi movies.
The 1985 film Explorers got a raw deal the first time around. They didn’t get the director they wanted, nor did the director they got get to film where he wanted to. Paramount couldn’t decide what to do with the script, and ended up rushing it through production. Shame, since it was the first starring vehicle for two young nobodies named River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke.
In Explorers, three sci-fi fans build a cool “spaceship” and are so geeky they actually know what circuit boards and microchips are for (remember, it’s 1985). This is a cool little film that grossed less than half of what it cost to make. Bummer. This is the type of movie one could remake using a deliberately small budget. With a solid script and passionate cast, this is the sort of story that could turn a quarter million dollar budget into a box office hit. Here’s hoping somebody figures that out.
6. Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang
Long before there were books and movies where teens had to fight for their lives, there was Jacob Two-Two, the kid who said everything two times. Why did he do that? Because his voice was tiny. No one listened to Jacob, because his older siblings were bigger and louder. One day, someone was listening to Jacob, and became incensed by him repeating words and phrases. That’s when Jacob gets sent to kid-jail (no, not the real kind, the fantasy kind). They tell you scary stories before bed, and then don’t leave a night light on so it’s extra terrfying.
Jacob has many adventures in the book series by Mordecai Richler, but Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang is by far the most harrowing. It could easily become a full length feature, animated or live action, rather than the series of shorts it was in Canada. Contrary to the persistent internet rumor, Jacob did not grow up to be the gangster from Goodfellas who says everything twice.
5. The Sandlot
All animal rights arguments aside, a big mastiff is a very scary dog. Nobody can blame a bunch of kids for calling him “The Beast” and being utterly terrified to be near it. The Beast is one of the, if not the main villain of 1993’s The Sandlot, (AKA The Sandlot Kids). It’s a plucky little film laced with optimism and some truly likeable kids doing regular kid stuff. You know, like losing a baseball over the fence. Then another, and then maybe one more. We all know that secretly borrowing (stealing) from a step-parent is probably not the safest way to spend the summer—but you can’t exactly play baseball without a ball (or bases, but anything can be a base).
While it takes place in reality, The Sandlot has the sort of happy ending that’s usually reserved for a fantasy tale. Not only do things work out between the kids and The Beast, but the stepfather turns out to be less of a jerk than we thought, and all the kids grow up to be reasonably happy and successful. A reboot of this one would be awesome, as long as we still get to hear the classic line, “You’re killing me, Smalls.”
A space movie starring Tom Skerritt, Kate Capshaw, and Joaquin Phoenix should have done well in 1986. So how did this movie become a box office disaster? SpaceCamp was shot in 1985 for release the following year. Does anyone else remember what happened in 1986? America decided to put its first civilian into space—a teacher. They interviewed and tested hundreds of teachers, eventually choosing a nice lady named Christa McAuliffe. She was chosen to go up in the Space Shuttle Challenger along with six astronauts. That means literally millions of school children were watching when the Challenger exploded just after takeoff, killing all seven people on board. It was a national tragedy. So what did 20th Century FOX do about it? They released SpaceCamp less than six months later, then scratched their heads in amazement that parents didn’t merrily take their kids to the theatre to see it. What is it about exploding shuttles that make parents not want their kids to become astronauts? Hmm… Still, we’d love to see a modern movie about what NASA training is like these days. How ‘bout it, Hollywood?
3. Legend of Boggy Creek
The year 1972 was a time before Photoshop. It was a time when fuzzy pictures purported to be yeti or sasquatch or flying saucers were widely believed in. This was also a time when patently ridiculous premises could be touted as a “true story.” As if anyone would really believe that a Bigfoot or a Blair Witch or a Texas Chainsaw Massa—you know what? Even with Photoshop lurking in the back of our minds, we still love stories about undiscovered creatures, local legends, and monsters hiding just outside our field of vision. The Legend of Boggy Creek tells of “The Fouke Monster” from a town called Fouke, which is in Arkansas. A small film that made a massive amount of money by pretending bog monsters are real? There’s no reason on Earth not to make a similar, kid-appropriate film today. It’s not as if we’ve run out of bog monsters to document.
2. The Last Starfighter
Okay, put on your blasphemy hats, because yes—we’re suggesting that it might be okay to remake The Last Starfighter. We can hear the final gasps of childhoods being ruined even as we type. But c’mon. Video games have changed a lot since this film was released in 1984. Honestly, when was the last time you had to dig a quarter out of your pocket, or even have leave your house to play a video game,? Surely it wouldn’t be difficult to find someone who can match, even surpass the magnificent star power of… Lance Guest. Sure, his roles in Halloween II and Jaws 4: The Revenge were probably challenging and all. Seriously, if we saw The Last Starfighter when we were thirty instead of some time during elementary school, we’d have known that it was a pretty cool movie loaded with bad costumes, effects that made Tron look like Interstellar, and one of the most annoying girlfriends in movie history. Just imagine what a contemporary movie with that basic story would be like. Awesome, that’s what.
Honorable Mention: ABC’s After School Specials
If you remember racing home from school to watch an ABC’s After School Special, you’re probably pretty old. You probably also got to see huge stars before they were famous, and a few more when they were just a little famous. ABC’s After School Special featured ‘70s staples like Kristy MacNichol, Lance Kerwin, and Jodie Foster, then ‘80s kids like Cynthia Nixon, or The Cosby Show’s Tempest Bledsoe and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, or people like Helen Hunt and Tracey Gold. We wouldn’t want to forget noted Drumpf-supporter Scott Baio demonstrating why smoking marijuana will make you giggle at inappropriate times—and what teenager could possibly want to be involved in that?
ABC’s After School Special’s ended in 1997, so it’s been a while. Who wouldn’t love for today’s kids to learn why pot is bad, that LSD will make you think you can fly, or why methamphetamines will get you thrown off the basketball team? Who wouldn’t appreciate the sobering lesson that drinking alcohol is not the best way to get the cool kids to like you?
1. The Phantom Tollbooth
We mentioned earlier that a lot of Chuck Jones productions have that same hokey ‘70s music. Think Bugs Bunny at a construction site, or maybe the music you hear during a classic Dr. Suess cartoon. That’s the flavor of 1970’s The Phantom Tollbooth, based on the novel of the same name by Norton Juster. The film was actually finished in 1968, then held up for reasons Chuck Jones was never told. The story asks big questions about life and how we might go about becoming the sort of people we want to be. There’s also a big scuffle going on between letters and numbers, who are personified in delightful ways. In fact, everything in The Phantom Tollbooth is delightfully personified, except for the watchdog—which is literally a dog with a watch inside. Fans might find the story somewhat on the preachy-overtly moral side. But we maintain that if you take away the terrible music and use better-looking animation, The Phantom Tollbooth could reach a new generation of kids.
What kids or family movie would you like to see rebooted? We want to hear all about it in the comments!