Adolescence is a time of change, and I am not a fan of all the changes. These changes include my daughter’s entertainment choices. They break down into two categories: stuff I’m tired of watching and stuff she shouldn’t watch.
The answer is to send her back through time and give her reasons to return. This tactic provides me a break from Harry Potter, and it intrigues little girl away from the cringe-worthy debauchery of shows like “Euphoria” and “Outer Banks.”
It is no secret that Millennials and Gen Z have an affinity for 1980’s culture. Nowhere is that more evident than in the success of the four-season Netflix hit “Stranger Things,” set in the mid-80s.
Remember that the most popular movie of 2022 was the sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun.” Metallica’s song “Master of Puppets” debuted in 1986 and saw a 400 percent increase in streams in 2022 when it appeared on “Stranger Things.” And because of “Stranger Things,” Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running up that Hill” was the 18th most popular song of 2022. That’s higher than it charted initially in the United States.
And now my daughter is looking online for Metallica tickets as she listens to White Lion’s “Wait” on her new Walkman. I’m not making this up. I had to explain that Eddie Munson is not in Metallica. But then she saw a YouTube video with the actor who plays Eddie performing “Master of Puppets” with Metallica, and I relented.
My strategy acknowledges and contends with a generation of binge-watchers who devour media. There must be some thread and other media to which she can jump. I could start in the ’80s, but I could not limit her to the ’80s.
It is the definitive film version of how Little Orphan Annie and Oliver Warbucks made themselves into a family. It inspired my girl to try out for and land roles in a stage production of “Annie.” There is no way for this movie to suck when it features stage-actor-turned-movie star Albert Finney, a Broadway legend like Ann Reinking (“Chicago”), and screen staples/pop-culture icons like Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry. And, of course, there is the woman who almost steals the movie: Carol Burnette, the gold standard for the role of Ms. Hannigan. The choreography is stunning, the songs are catchy, and the story is timeless. It was only a short time before my daughter traveled to the 1970s and found “Grease.” I hope she finds “The Carol Burnette Show.” There are nine seasons, and each season is about 20 episodes.
My daughter loves Arnold Schwarzenegger — his accent, speech pattern, and how he delivers a line. It’s a large part of why two of his comedies are among his most significant successes. Juxtaposed both physically and ethically to Danny DeVito’s con artist character, it is hilarious to watch the Terminator play a sheltered, good-natured twin brother who thinks he can love his “twin” into being a better person. Equally hilarious is watching DeVito teach Schwarzenegger to dance while preparing him for his first encounter with the opposite sex: a young Kelly Preston.
The violence and adult situations are few and mild and easily skipped if necessary. The one-liners abound, and my girl repeats them in an admirable Arnold impression: “Daddy, you forgot the first rule of the crisis situation!” Speaking of one-liners, she Googled and found 1990’s “Kindergarten Cop.” That was her first visit to picturesque Astoria, Oregon.
Here is a clear case of a reboot spawning interest in the original. “Ghostbuster’s Afterlife” (2021) left my daughter wanting to know more about Egon Spengler and the three old fellas who showed up to save the day. It helps too that the main characters in “Stranger Things” dressed as Ghostbusters for Halloween.
As with all the films on this list, the original “Ghostbusters” ages well, including the non-CGI effects. The witty barbs of “Saturday Night Live” legend Bill Murray (Peter) and the manic nerdiness of fellow legend Dan Ackroyd (Ray) are balanced by the eternally scientific and unamused Harold Ramis (Egon) and the practical Ernie Hudson (Winston). My daughter was astounded to learn that Mr. Stay Puft’s rampage through Manhattan was shot with model miniatures. When I told her one of the roles was originally for John Belushi, she researched him and went down a Belushi rabbit hole, pulling up his SNL sketches.
This film has so many threads to run down, and the most obvious is an actress who rose to prominence in the ’80s and is in a hit show set in the ’80s, Winona Ryder. You either appreciate the quirky comedic gloom of Tim Burton, or you don’t. My daughter adores it.
A teenage Ryder befriends the deceased former owners of her new home, who are having trouble adjusting to spirit life. Michael Keaton’s witty, self-indulgent demon is unleashed to assist the couple but is instead a highly entertaining liability. Add in the fact that a sequel to “Beetlejuice” is imminent and will include Winona’s former real-life boyfriend, Johnny Depp; my daughter lost her mind.
“Beetlejuice II” will be Depp’s ninth collaboration with Burton, and it will mark only the second time Depp and Ryder appear on film together, the first being Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands.” Depp is noticeably absent on this list for two reasons: his best films are not in the 1980s, and he’s already on the Mount Rushmore of actors for three generations. There aren’t many folks who don’t know the morally questionable pirate who flees his ethical nature only to heroically do the right thing. Say his name wrong, and fans will promptly correct you, “It’s Captain Jack Sparrow.”
‘The Karate Kid’ (1984)
Adolescence is when bullies shine, and watching a bully get spectacularly face-kicked in the climax of a movie is infinitely satisfying for both young and old alike. This film was already part of our household pantheon before the Netflix series, and my daughter and I both devoured “Cobra Kai,” and then the sequel films the series nicely incorporates.
We both uttered a satisfying “Yes!” when LaRusso squares off with the villain of the third film in season 5 of the TV series. And there is one final season to come.
But the rapport and chemistry between Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso and Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is the legacy of “The Karate Kid.” My daughter learned that finding the right path requires conscientiously looking for it and being honest with yourself — that and stumbling upon an ass-kicking mentor with the patience of Job is very helpful.
‘Back to the Future’ (1985)
I can’t tell my kid to travel back to the ’80s and not expect her to fall for a time-travel movie with two sequels. Like “Ghostbusters,” the miniature-model-era special effects age well. Like “The Karate Kid,” the familial relationship between Doc and Marty McFly is what holds all three movies together. It was not lost on my daughter that Marty does everything for family — first, to save Doc, then for Marty’s future children, and then to save Doc again. Along the way, Marty’s future mom, a teenager in 1955, takes a liking to him rather than Marty’s Dad, so he is tasked with ensuring they get together so Marty can even exist, and he does so with the help of a younger Doc in 1955. Of course, all this happens via a nuclear DeLorean.
I’m waiting for my daughter to discover a southern charmer of a film starring Michael J. Fox, “Doc Hollywood.” That movie launched Woody Harrelson’s film career. Today’s kids recognize him from another adolescent staple, “The Hunger Games.”
“Beetlejuice is Batman?” Burton strikes again. As soon as my daughter saw the look of the film, she knew it was directed by Tim Burton and was hooked. Then I dropped this nugget: “Honey, she’s not in Batman, but you should know Helen Bonham Carter was the director’s longtime significant other. She is Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films, and she’s made eight films with Burton and seven with your pal Jonny Depp.”
That statement literally launched a Depp-Carter rabbit hole — Depp and Carter made a version of “Alice in Wonderland.”
The movie has a gothic look but is neither dark nor campy — a detective comic book has come to life. Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is thoughtful and socially awkward, indicative of a recluse. His Batman is all business; you can tell the character deals with life much better when he is behind the mask. In the suit, his voice is deeper and quieter, as if he is indeed a different person. Later film versions of Batman adopted the voice thing and, at some point, made it silly.
Jack Nicholson took home an Oscar for playing the Joker. The man is insane. He’s comical in a sense but not cartoonish. He’s harsh. It’s perfect.
Keaton will return as Batman in the 2023 film “The Flash,” and my daughter and I will see it in the theater.
‘The Goonies’ (1985)
A Steven Spielberg penned, and Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon”) directed adolescent adventure that launched the careers of Sean Astin (“Stranger Things” Season 3), Josh Brolin, and Key Hu Quan, who just won an Oscar. Corey Feldman was already launched, thanks to “Gremlins.” Astin’s folks are in foreclosure, and most of the neighborhood in Astoria will be demolished to make room for a golf course. Jeff Cohen joins Astin, Feldman and Quan as “Chunk,” who seems like a harried, high-strung adult in a plump adolescent body.
The boys stumble upon Dad’s pet project of collecting pirate lore and figure there’s nothing to lose in attempting to track down the cave-entombed ship and treasure of One-eyed Willy, completing the quest of local adventurer Chester Copperpot. Brolin plays the older brother, who unwittingly chaperones the adventure with his girlfriend and her best friend. Coincidentally, adults, Brolin plays a one-eyed, time-traveling soldier in “Deadpool II,” and Ryan Reynolds does not let that tidbit go unaddressed.
There is a litany of quintessential adolescent moments in “The Goonies”: tough brotherly love, comedic bickering, and first kisses. The best moment of all is when the asthmatic Astin comes eyes to eye with the pirate himself. Along the way, the boys manage to anger a dysfunctional mob family and adopt a disfigured, special-needs adult.
My daughter did not follow Quan to his other famous role in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” She thought Han Solo in a hat was still Han Solo, but with a whip and a less-effective blaster. There’s a reason “Star Wars” isn’t on the list: It’s everywhere now.
She did track Sean Astin’s filmography and found “Rudy.” Regarding Corey Feldman, little girl found “The Lost Boys,” but I vetoed that.
Adults should check out a lesser-known Richard Donner film starring Val Kilmer and Robert Downy Jr., “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”
Sean Patrick Smith is a freelance writer and the author of “Three Miles of Eden,” a mystery set in Seven Lakes (seanpatricksmith.com).