My Top 10 most influental kids movie moments from the 80s and slightly before

Everyone has moments they remember and treasure from their favorite movies they saw as a kid, and there’s no question in my mind that these things can have an impact on a young mind. I’m talking about the kind of impact that transforms a potentially productive member of society into a lame, lazy “Generation X-er” who has nothing better to do than blog about cereal commercials and collect G.I. Joe toys and comic books. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite 80s(ish) kid’s film moments: some inspiring, some terrifying. These may not be the most famous or commonly quoted movie scenes out there, but they caused inspiration, terror, and a dangerous obsession with cool special effects in a generation of kids. Or at least me.

Bear with us for our inaugural “real article” that isn’t just some crap I found on YouTube. Hopefully, I will be just barely lazy enough that I can keep a few of these coming, without being so lazy I actually decide to go and do something productive. Enjoy.

1) Intro to G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

I will admit to coming to this late. For some reason or another, I never saw this one when it first came out (probably I was grounded for insolence). But I heard about this scene, oh boy did I hear about it. Endlessly. For weeks.

Look at it. They managed to totally toss out the original theme song and make a better one, and packed more action into that one intro song than nearly a whole season of G.I. Joe. There’s no way a movie that starts like this couldn’t be glorious.

So, how come I never heard much about the rest of the movie? What gives? I mean there are these cool weird alien-like action figures from it at Toys R’ Us? Oh, I found out later. The rest of this movie SUCKS! You want to know when this movie gets bad? See the length of the YouTube clip? Three minutes, seven seconds. Yeah, that’s when the movie takes a nosedive and never quite recovers.

Yeah, Cobra Commander is some kind of weird alien. And then he gets turned into a snake. And the new badguys are gross bio-alien things and… Ok. Turn it off, now. You managed to successfully ruin my passion for G.I. Joe, you monsters! If only I had been one of those guys who read the comics instead of watching the show, then I could pretend this never happened!

Maybe we should have seen it the way they introduced Sgt. Slaughter in the whole “Arise Serpentor, Arise” storyline, but man, nobody could have known.

2) Flynn gets digitized in TRON (1982)

What? Where’s all that cool computery stuff I saw in the trailer? There hasn’t been like 5 minutes of that so far! I can’t believe my parents paid five bucks for…hey what just happened?

The movie just gets awesome is what. And now it will stay awesome pretty much until it ends. They can’t just start you off on the good stuff, they have to build to that!

Yeah. I can’t say enough about how awesome this movie is. But even if it lacks the awesome visual pizazz of the rest of the film, this scene was pretty much how everyone thought computers worked for most of the 1980s. The actual concept of little electronic and magnetic signals wasn’t really something that was comprehensible in any sort of tangible way, much less how many of them would be needed to store the entire molecular makeup of one human body. But we didn’t know. Back then, computers could do anything Hollywood said they could do. It wasn’t until the 1990s when everyone and their brother knew that “JOB@INTERNET” wasn’t even vaguely a valid e-mail address, and that your PC sure as hell didn’t show a cool 3D animation every time you sent stuff out.

As a side note, the arcade games associated with this movie were totally great. Of course, it would be kind of embarrassing if your movie that revolved around a videogame didn’t even have said game on release (PDF).

3) Roto-rooter robot death in Disney’s Black Hole (1979)

I can’t put this one inline, but I can link it.

It’s probably for the best. What you will see is something no small child should ever be subjected to in a movie. Yeah, that’s a guy being shredded by the horrible metal blades of Maximillian, the most terrifying robot ever. That’s also the main antagonist of the series calling his robot out for being too horrible. The same guy who will later admit to being afraid of the scary robot, despite being played by Maximilian Schell, who is one of the most terrifying old men in film. I don’t know whose idea it was to put a giant faceless red robot with spinning blades in a kids’ movie, but kudos to you.

The worst part is that joking aside, this scene was clearly bad enough that I have some repressed memories of it. See, I always remembered the part where the guy actually gets cut up as happening completely off screen, and even then the implication (book being shredded, tumbling body) would have been bad enough, but NO, we get to see him jerk and spasm as he’s cut up! Somehow the lack of blood doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

Look, this movie sucked pretty bad. It didn’t even pass the nostalgia test a few years ago like TRON did when I found a DVD of it. All it had going for it were awesome robot designs and years upon years of potential therapy. You see, the creepy robot stuff doesn’t end there. That’s right. Later in the movie, all the children who have not left the theater crying are treated to a vision of Hell itself, and guess what’s in there? The villain, Reinhardt. His horrified eyes staring out from Maximillian’s cold metal shell. Trapped for an eternity of torment. Good night kids. Movie’s over. Time to go home and have sweet dreams.

4) Herbie Goes Bananas and gets dumped into the ocean (1980)

As if I hadn’t been traumatized enough by disney the previous year, they followed up with this depressing scene a year later. Sure, it lacks the graphical oomph of a guy doing the dead man’s jiggle as a spinning claw is driven through his ribcage, but this is Herbie! Any young kind knows to love and adore this wonderful Beetle, and that Herbie always wins!

Well he doesn’t win here! No. They threw Herbie off a boat into the sea! Herbie’s DEAD, kids!

Sure, we all know now that he gets out of this OK later, but that doesn’t take away the sick feeling I got when I saw this scene. First time I cried during a movie? First time I cried during a movie. And last for all you know. OK. La Bamba. That movie got me, man!

5) Raiders of the Lost Ark opens with a bang! (1981)

Starting a trend that will do the series much good, the first Indiana Jones movie opens with ACTION, ACTION, ACTION! It’s got it all: betrayal, adventure, traps, narrow escapes, and sheer coolness of location. Not only is Harrison Ford the guy every kid wants to be, but we get a great sleazy early appearance of none other than the future Doc Oc himself, Alfred Molina, and also a rotten pretentious Frenchman whom can all easily hate for the rest of the movie now. What a cheat that guy is!

Thankfully, the sequels don’t let up on this trend, having both an awesome negotiation bit in a Chinese bar (complete with awesome rendition of “Anything Goes” in Cantonese) and the adventures of a rad Kid Indy (God rest River Phoenix’s young soul). Even the latest offering was good enough to pass muster by me.

6) Raiders of the OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS FACE! (1981)

Indiana Jones makes the list a second time with our third dose of childhood trauma. I mean, we all wanted those guys to get it but OH MY GOD I’M FIVE AND WHY IS THAT GUY’S FACE MELTING OH MAN WHAT THE CRAP!

7) Luke learns about his father, and the Star Wars in which he was involved (1977)

Oh you knew this was on the list. You’re probably bitching about it not being higher. You’re probably bitching I picked this scene. I don’t care. When you are a kid, there’s one thing you want more than almost anything in the world: You want to know that your parents aren’t boring accountants or lawyers or government contractors or school janitors. You want to find out that they are kickass secret agents, superheroes, or perhaps members of an ancient and extinct mystical order with magic powers and laser swords!

What? My dad wasn’t a pilot on a spice freighter? He was a super knight with magic powers? He fought in only the hugest and most awesome war in living memory? He was the best star pilot in the galaxy? Wow! That makes up for my uncle making me do 12 hours of chores a day, keeping me home from school and gainful employment, and blowing my trust fund on blue milk, space booze, and cocaine!

Tell me you didn’t want to find out you came from a log line of magic kickass superheroes with weapons that made laser guns look lame in comparison. Look me in the eye and tell me that. I dare you.

8) Luke uses the Force to blow up the hugest thing ever seen in any recorded Star Wars (1977)

Did you see that? He just turned off his targeting computer! MADNESS! Oh yeah, and this scene comes after the previous epic space battle. I have said all I need to say on this subject. You knew this would be on this list. You’re just probably surprised it ended up down here. Maybe I am, too.

What? I can do this in the arcade? OK!

If anyone needs me later, I’ll be at Chuck E. Cheese.

9) Flight of the Navigator introduces a young man to the magic of nurses (1986)

(excuse the AOL video)

Hey look, it’s Sarah Jessica Parker! For those guys wondering where the horse-faced, materialistic, shoe-obsessed brat is, she doesn’t exist yet. This is adorable 20something SJP. For those women wondering where their sassy, cute, independent heroine is, she doesn’t exist. You seem to have mixed her up with my first example. (I kid, I kid! Please God, don’t hurt me!)

By the time this movie hit, I was finally starting to generate enough hormones that universal things like sexy nurses would actually have an impact. And cause a fixation.

The rest of this movie is pretty boring. I didn’t even realize that Pee Wee Hermann was the Navigator! So let’s just focus on what’s important here. Nurses.

10) Hot Rod’s got the touch (I couldn’t find a clever way to work “Transformers” into this) (1986)

Yeah, this movie was 100x better than the G.I. Joe one, maybe to make up for having a slightly less cool TV series. Unfortunately, the opening battle isn’t half as cool. Even Optimus Prime and Megatron manage to mortally would each other in a fairly boring manner. But now we get to witness the awesome power of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, the most important and powerful artifact of the Autobot organization. The most important and powerful artifact of the Autobot organization that we’ve somehow never heard of before in 65 episodes of this crap.

Oh well, Optimus Prime said it was important. And it made Hot Rod into an awesome new truck to be king of the Autobots. And it killed that big guy who was eating Cybertron! HOORAY!

This has to be in here for one reason. THAT SONG! Yeah, you love it. No better way to go out on the greatest 80s cartoon power ballad of all time.

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4 Responses to “My Top 10 most influental kids movie moments from the 80s and slightly before”

  1. HOLT says:


    Look at you, updating your blog!

  2. shadowane says:

    Holt, all stalking Joe.

  3. Michael says:

    I remember the 80’s.

  4. Loren says:

    Magnificent post.

    Flight of the Navigator: I watched it recently – ordinarily I’d be up for some PeeWee nostalgia (you forgot his Big Adventure, btw), but he’s by far the worst part of the movie. He keeps shouting out dated catchphrases in a really horrible voice. Meanwhile the time travel thing is very cool. Overall, I like the movie.

    Indiana Jones: Crystal Skull is decent. Maybe it highlights how incredible the early ones were, that this one is easily the worst (yes, even worse than Temple of Doom) and yet it’s still watchable. More commies in Indy 5, please.

    GI Joe: I really need to rewatch the series, especially some of the classic episodes, like the 2-parter where they travel to the alternate Earth ruled by Cobra. Very moving struggle for liberty in that one.

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