The Neverending Story (1984)
Based on a German fantasy novel, this German-Australian co-production was directed by Wolfgang Peterson. The bookish Bastian discovers an enchanted book which takes him on adventures into fantastical worlds, where he encounters gnomes, rock creatures and saves a fantasy world from a force called “The Nothing”. Of course, it’s more remembered here for the dopey synthpop song by Limahl.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
It’s hard to choose any one film from Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio that has produced an extraordinary number of hits, but this film is epic in ambition and tackled environmental issues way before anybody was ever concerned about them. The story involves the Princess Nausicaa, who has to prevent two warring kingdoms from destroying each other and the planet they’re on.
The Princess Bride (1987)
You’ll undoubtedly come across folks who can quote every line from this classic movie. Directed by Rob Reiner, this story within a story is told by Grandfather (Peter Falk) to his son (Fred Savage) who twists fairy tale tropes. Lowly stable boy, Westley (Cary Elwes), pledges his love to the gorgeous Buttercup (Robin Wright), only to be abducted and supposedly killed by pirates. Meanwhile, Buttercup is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdinck. And it just gets more complicated from there, with Billy Crystal and wrestler Andre the Giant popping in.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
Directed by Muppet makers Jim Henson and Frank Oz, this classic follows the quest of a Gelfling, who seeks to find a magical crystal to destroy the grotesque bird-lizards called the Skeksis, and thus restore order into his world. Overshadowed by E.T The Extra-Terrestrial during its release, it went on to become a cult classic, and a sequel is currently being developed. Take that ET!
The take-home message of this Joe Dante classic was a lesson in proper pet care. When Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) is given a small creature called a Mogwai by his father and told to stick to three important rules, he learns that a single lapse can lead to really bad things as he, and the town he resides in, discovers the dark side of his cuddly pet.
The Goonies (1985)
The predecessor of Super 8, a group of misfit kids discover a pirate’s treasure map and set out to find the lost gold, so as to prevent that modern horror – a golf course – from being constructed in their town. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Richard Donner, it was like an Indiana Jones film set right in the neighbourhood.
Undaunted by his experience with The Dark Crystal, Jim Henson took on the directing chores for this live-action film, featuring a young Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie while George Lucas produced. Connelly plays Sarah, who has to rescue her baby brother Toby from the Goblin King before midnight, else Toby gets turned into a goblin. Bowie was unforgettable as Jareth the Goblin King, and the climax in Jareth’s Escher-inspired castle was unforgettable.
Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Wererabbit (2005)
British claymation heroes Wallace and the eternally suffering but loyal dog Gromit didn’t quite the same amount of popularity when they hit the big screen. But there’s no doubt that their adventures together have always been hugely inventive fun. Beside Wererabbit, check out their series of short films, where they chase down bank-robbing penguins, take a trip to the moon and in a homage to Terminator, battle a robotic dog.
Kids from Shaolin aka Shaolin Temple 2 (1988)
One of Jet Li’s earliest films, tells the story of rivalry between two families on either side of a river. On one side, the family is comprised of girls and practices Wu Tang kungfu. On the other, it’s all boys, they’re dirt-poor and they practise Shaolin (you didn’t see that coming, did you?) The families are constantly at each other throats, but after some comedic twists and lots of kungfu moves, it all concludes happily. Shot amidst some beautiful Chinese scenery, it’s worth checking out to see Li showing his skills.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
There were many movies that tried to follow the success of the Harry Potter series by adapting other YA fantasy books, but few found much success. This is one of the more interesting films that tried, featuring Jim Carrey as the sinister Count Olaf in a gothic, dark movie that ventured where few other children’s films dared to thread, and also featured the then-teenage Emily Browning, recently seen cavorting in the horrid Sucker Punch.