by Jennifer L. Jacobson

There’s no better way for any self-respecting nerd to spend the winter than hunkered down in the glow of some of the best nerd-approved movies of all time. Except you’ve watched your favorite films a billion times. They include Back to the Future, Avatar, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and many more. Need some new suggestions? For your Netflix queue, or from another source, here are 20 kid- and family-friendly movies that make us all better nerds for watching them. They’re listed in no particular order.


Willow (1988)
I need to watch this movie again. It’s a great story and an example of ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) in its early days.

The Iron Giant (1999)
Before Brad Bird brought us films such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille, The Iron Giant revealed the story of an unusual relationship between a little boy and a giant robot from space.

The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
A film by Dr. Seuss, but it’s not a cartoon. I still can’t believe this film came out in 1953, it’s so ahead of its time, and yes, the man who plays the part of Dr. T is also the voice of Captain Hook in the film Peter Pan.

The Secret of NIMH (1982)
This beautifully animated film is a Don Bluth classic that will change the way you look at mice, scientific testing on animals and cinderblocks.

Flight of the Navigator (1986)
If you were lucky enough to be a kid when this movie came out, this is probably one of the bright spots in your past.

Steamboy (2004)
This is a beautiful story that can only be told in animation. If you like steampunk and anime, you have to see this film.

*batteries not included (1987)
Some tiny spaceships arrive on Earth and help a group of tenants about to be evicted from their homes.

Mac and Me (1988)
This film is my alternative for ET (which everyone has seen). It’s a cute story and one I watched over and over when it came out.

The Witches (1990)
I’ll admit, I didn’t see this film until recently, but it’s adorable and surprisingly scary for a kid’s movie.

The Labyrinth (1986)
If you’re raising a young nerd-in-training, you’ll want to have them watch this film, with puppets courtesy of Jim Henson.

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
Since I saw this film as a kid, I’ve never looked at an old-fashioned toaster as a mere appliance. If you’ve ever wondered what your gadgets do in their spare time, you should see this film.

Legend (1985)
Tim Curry is stunning in this film that was, in my opinion, ahead of its time.

Star Dust (2007)
Seriously, even if you’re tired of the whole fantasy genre, I’m still betting you’ll be taken with how fun and well done this film is. I was pleasantly surprised and enchanted by it.

The Goonies (1985)
While I think everyone from my generation has seen this film a zillion times, I need to include this, just in case someone hasn’t yet shown it to their children. Another Steven Spielberg gem.

The Princess Bride (1987)
Every nerd I’ve ever met can quote this movie backwards and forwards, but as with The Goonies, I include this film here because there may be younglings who haven’t seen it.

Dark Crystal (1987)
Really, is there anything Jim Henson can’t do? Here’s one of his best works ever. It’s gorgeous, and the characters feel so alive, you’ll wish their world were real.

Hook (1991)
Yet another amazing Steven Spielberg film. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, just watch it now.

The Golden Compass (2007)
While this film was supposed to be part of a larger series, I have a feeling they won’t make a sequel, but they should. I love this film. It’s a lot more terrifying and interesting than I would have thought.

MirrorMask (2005)
This film didn’t get nearly enough credit when it came out, but it’s wonderful, surreal and quite a ride.

Titan A.E. (2000)
If you’ve actually heard of this movie, I’ll be surprised. It’s one of the few Don Bluth films that didn’t get a ton of attention when it came out (remember An American Tail?). This is a great star-studded sci-fi cartoon (with music from The Black Eyed Peas) that kids and adults will like.

So, go forth and get your geek on!

Source:, where more movie recommendations (for adults, too), are available.