Top 10 Kids In Peril Movies!

Ah yeah friends, the time is finally nigh. IT is officially open for business. So, how many of you already have your tickets in tow? Never mind, if the box-office prognostication is at all accurate, everyone and their mother is all set to join the Losers Club and peep the 21st century iteration of Pennywise the killer clown this weekend. IT's poised to be a massive hit!

Of course, with the Losers Club on the brain, we began thinking of similar minded movie groups of kids who find themselves in peril, a subgenre of horror/adventure that proliferated widely in the 80s. Some have been forgotten, others have ascended to absolute classics. All, however, are worthy of checking out in some form or fashion. Start now, before you trek to the cinema this weekend, and see what films made the cut in our Top 10 Kids in Peril Movies!

#1. STAND BY ME (1986)

Two for flinchin'! I have to tell you, STAND BY ME is my favorite movie. Ever. It's a perfect film, and the one that means more to me than any other. Stephen King's tender and touching coming of age tale is not only a wistfully nostalgic rumination on childhood, but childhood friendship. My closest friends and I used to dress up and play the story beats out in real life. I was always Teddy Duchamp. Half of those friends have passed on, way too soon, and so the film couldn't be more profoundly meaningful. The final line typed by Dreyfuss is too damn moving to bear. As for the peril, the journey of seeing a dead body is grave enough, but damn if Ace and Eyeball weren't scary sumbitches!

#2. THE GOONIES (1985)

Hey You Guysssss! Almost certainly a childhood favorite for damn near 100% of us 80s babies, Dick Donner's THE GOONIES is that sublimely rarified blend of action, adventure, humor, horror and coming of age nostalgia that never gets old. So many cool and colorful characters, so many quotable lines, so many near brushes with death (slick shoes, yo!) and of course, at its core, a true and touching tale of close-knit friendship. From the dim dungeon of Sloth, to the frightening harridan in Anne Ramsey, to those hilarious Fratelli knuckleheads, to putrefied Chester Copperpot...there's no shortage of perilous adversaries for THE GOONIES.


Wolfman's got nards!! Good god I can't tell you for how long my buddies and I spouted that quote after initially hearing it in what is still a fantastic mix of classic Universal movie monsters and a coming of age, kids in peril tableau. THE MONSTER SQUAD in all time favorite, and for damn good reason. Fred Dekker does a wonderful job of recapturing what it means to be a kid, a castoff, a loner, a loser...and how all those things can be undone by sticking together in bonded friendship. It's also just a killer-cool horror movie in how it calls back, updates and anachronizes the likes of Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and the Fish-Head from the Black Lagoon as seen in the 1980s.

#4. E.T. (1982)

The tried and true Amblin template for putting adorable kiddies in danger all began with Spielberg's E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL in 1982, and still holds as one of the all time paragons of the subgenre. At once a slick family entertainment, a scintillating sci-fi adventure and an ode to the wide-eyed wonderment of childhood - E.T. hit all the right notes to become an all time undisputed classic. You know what though? In recent years I've read about, and admittedly even bought into, the reading that E.T. is actually one giant allegory for the alienation of Elliot himself. That's right y'all, Elliot = E.T. Don't buy it, I urge y'all to go down the internet rabbit hole for further persuasion!

#5. THE GATE (1987)

While Joe Dante's EXPLORERS probably had better child performances from River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, the horrific tenor of THE GATE simply pushes the kids in peril motif even further. Besides, look at little Stevie Dorff there with dense fog wafting in his eyes! Really though, this film has such a knack for mining the depth of childhood imagination toward broad family entertainment. THE GATE is a movie I'll always fondly recall for being a truly terrifying horror tale with what felt like childhood peers at the center.

#6. STEPHEN KING'S IT (1990)

IT's why we're here yo! The lovable Losers Club - the ragtag misfit collective that becomes the primary target for the sewer-dwelling killer-clown named Pennywise in the small town of Derry, Maine. What coolly distinguishes this group of kids in peril though is that we get to see how their lives shape up 29 years later, as scarified adults, when Pennywise picks up his cyclical reign of terror. The great Stephen King knows better than most how to credibly conjure the feeling of being an outcast kid and forging an unbreakable bond with like-minded friends. (RIP John Brandis, by the way.) Now let's see if all the hype is warranted for Andy Muschietti's updated version, in theaters today!

#7. EXPLORERS (1985)

Hot off the commercial smash of GREMLINS the year prior, Joe Dante followed up with an equally exciting, if less profitable, tale of childhood endangerment with EXPLORERS, starring a young River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke. Honestly, this is a movie I came to a bit later in life, which I actually think lessened its staying power. Had I seen the film at the age of the kids in the movie, I think it would have resonated even more. That said, I still like EXPLORERS a great deal, namely for the precocious performances and Dante's deft direction. Headed to outerspace on their homemade spacecraft ThunderRoad to encounter aliens is about as perilously adventurous as it gets!

#8. SUPER 8 (2011)

Just like STRANGER THINGS, J.J. Abrams' SUPER 8 is a heartfelt love-letter to the Amblin-esque kids in peril subgenre of exploratory sci-fi and action/adventure. Literally set in 1979, this almost feels like a time-capsule of a mega-budget home-movie spectacle, as it clearly features personal touches from Abrams' own childhood. Yet, as captivating as the group of kids are in the film, also like STRANGER THINGS, in the end, the movie never really adds more to the subgenre its obviously sending up. Marketing wise, sure, the mystery of what SUPER 8 was all about was quite the even on its own. It's a good movie, no doubt, but not as great as the ones you'll see up the ladder (down the ladder since you have to scroll?). Oh, and Elle Fanning rocks!


Alright, so here's a refreshing change of pace to the rest of the list, mainly because most of the action takes place inside the inescapable walls of a decrepit abode rather than abiding to a sprawling outdoors adventure of some kind. Still, Wes Craven's overlooked PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS does not pull its punches when putting kids in the path of horrifying peril. Seriously, there's some deeply disturbing shite going down in PUTS, namely the thought of stolen children being held captive inside a dingy crawlspace, as well as the quasi-incestuous brother-sister team rearing said children under the stairs. Props also go out to the dope Bay Area rap crew of the same name!


As an appropriated compendium of all that will follow, it only seems fitting we start with the Netflix smash hit STRANGER THINGS. Now, I've been on record as saying this show is good, yet grossly overrated, but one thing we cannot front on is how much those Duffer bros. love them some 80s Amblin-style kids-in-peril movies. The influences are far and wide, and while I'd argue the show never pushes the boundaries of the genre beyond mere adoring pastiche, it's damn hard not to love this group of little kids. Let's see if the complaints levied are rectified, or flipped Upside Down if you will, when Season 2 drops later this year!
Tags: Hollywood

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