Where Have All the Children Gone?

A Tribute to 90s Kids Movies

As I sat down to do my nails on this lovely Saturday afternoon, I flipped on the tube for some background noise. To my shock and delight, I discovered that 3 Ninjas was starting on Encore right at that moment. Oh sweet serendipity.

The story of three very white young brothers who, by some unknown miracle, manage to have a Chinese grandfather — who also happens to be a martial arts expert — inarguably goes in my Box of Guilty Pleasures. It was, and still is, a C movie with mostly no-name actors (for good reason), and a script that’s What Would Happen if The Karate Kid and Under Siege Had a Baby (and the Baby Threw Up)? Nonetheless, I have to watch it every time it’s on.

At the end of the day, almost any kid-centric movie of the 90s can steal my attention and my heart. It’s mostly nostalgia. But it’s also the caliber of kid actors of that period.

Children of baby boomers were truly fortunate in that we grew up with extremely well-fed egos. Coming of age in the late 80s and early 90s, representations of ourselves ran rampant, from films to TV to books. We enjoyed a childhood of unprecedented self-reflection and self-indulgence.

Shawna Waldron in Little Giants

But kids movies in the 90s didn’t just feature kids — they made us interesting. Adolescent characters had real fears, quirks, and humor, and the young actors who played them had the ability to captivate all viewers, kids and adults alike. We had really never seen an era quite like it in film, and we probably won’t see one like it for a while.

I think it’s only fair that I take this time to remember my five favorite kids movies of the 90s.

The Sandlot

Why? It’s not just one of the best kids movies of the 90s — it’s one of the best movies of all time. I never wanted to be a 12 year-old boy in early 60s smalltown America so much in my life.
Best part: Too many, but I’ll only mention two. One, the great big insult-hurtling fight on the diamond between Ham and the douche bag leader of the town’s “legit” baseball team. Two, the entire sequence at the pool.

My Girl

Why? It still leaves me bawling like a baby, after all these years. And I’m sorry, but we’ll never see a young female character like Vada Sultenfuss ever again.
Best part: Vada’s big funeral breakdown. “Wanna go tree-climbing, Thomas J?” I’m tearing up just typing it.

Little Giants

Why? Two words: Junior Floyd. He was my everything.
Best part: I’ve got two for this one too. One, when The Icebox first sees Junior in the supermarket, tossing rolls of toilet paper like footballs. Two, after the running drill at Cowboys tryouts — Zolteck says, “How’d I do, Coach?” and Kevin (the genius Ed O’Neill) replies, “I don’t know, son, I don’t have a sundial.”  Never gets old.

Home Alone

Why? Are you kidding? It’s Home Alone.
Best part: Kevin using the 30s gangster film to scare off the burglars. It’s even better in the sequel. “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal. (bang) …And a happy new year.”

Now & Then

Why? It really encapsulates, better than any film, the complex dynamic amongst a group of young female friends. Aaaand Devon Sawa’s in this one too.
Best part: Crazy Pete saving Samantha’s life. Again, I’m tearing up.

Some honorable mentions that didn’t really fit the “mood” of this list:
Stephen King’s It and The Good Son. Pretty much anything with a young Elijah Wood, really.

According to the Bible (IMDB), Max Elliott Slade (“Colt” of 3 Ninjas) will be making a comeback in Ron Howard’s upcoming Frost/Nixon. Let’s see if he throws in a little roundhouse kick at some point.

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