There are people out there who have never seen The Princess Bride. They walk among us, holding down jobs, contributing to society, and generally living happy, semi-fulfilled lives. But whisper a perfectly-timed “mawage” in their direction during a wedding, and the resulting blank stare or awkward chuckle will expose an inconceivable pop-cultural blind spot. Someone failed them when they were growing up.
In many ways it’s too late for them, but we can still save the next generation. The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13) is a starting point. This isn’t a list of the 55 “best” kids movies, nor a compendium of hidden gems. Rather, it’s a survival-guide syllabus of films that we all need to know to be able to speak the same pop-cultural language, listed in order by when they might be best introduced. It starts with a film that is a perfect introduction to the cinematic universe and ends with one that is an ideal capper before graduating into the world of PG-13 and R movies—and the age when kids begin to make their own theater decisions.
These are the cinematic building blocks for future film connoisseurs, movie-literate enthusiasts who can gracefully segue from a George Bailey impression into a spirited debate over whether Han Solo shot first. The important stuff.