10 of the best ‘back to school’ films of the 90’s*

Shirts have been pressed, shoes have been polished and millions of parents breathe a huge sigh of relief as children across the UK finally head back to school.


With the summer holidays coming to a close and lessons starting back up again, it got me thinking just how much I missed the glory days of my childhood. The lazy mornings and adventure-fueled weekends where I would squeeze out the last bit of freedom before reluctantly heading back to the classroom. School wasn’t even that bad to be honest, but there’s still that part of you that craves that freedom.

As a 90’s kid I could argue with you all day about how it was the best decade on record. The 90’s was the golden age of cartoons, music and kids movies. I’m thankful for having had the best childhood films growing up, so as a reminder here are just a few that will shake those back to school blues…

*not animated

The best 90’s ‘back to school’ films

Kindergarten Cop (1990)

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays John Kimble, a detective who has gone undercover as a kindergarten teacher in order to infiltrate a witness (Penelope Ann Miller), who has incriminating evidence against the man he has been hunting down for four years (Richard Tyson). The film is packed with laughs and lasting images, including Arnie screaming at the children before they all break down in tears.

Schwarzenegger is the king of one-liners and he doesn’t hold back in Kindergarten Cop, my own personal favourites being “There is no bathroom!” and “Who’s your daddy and what does he do?” Brilliant.

Most memorable scene: Mr Kimble’s first meeting with the kids leaves him on the brink of meltdown, as he struggles to cope with the noise and clutter they make. The next scene shows him running outside and screaming to the heavens.

Home Alone (1990)

If you’re a 90’s kid, then Home Alone HAS to be on your list of childhood films. In fact, it should be on most lists that have anything to do with film, because it’s probably one of the definitive movies of that era. Since it was released in 1990, thousands of children each year have been wishing their parents would leave them behind accidentally, just so they can have a free house and stay up all night eating junk food.

When Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left behind on a family holiday, everything is great. But when criminals Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern) embark on a scheme to loot neighborhood houses, things become all too real for him, as he has to fend off the would-be burglars using his ingenuity and imagination.

Most memorable scene: Watching Kevin transform his parents’ house into an assault course of doom only for the would-be criminals to face the full brunt of it head on (paint-can in the face, anyone?)


The Mighty Ducks (1992)

“Quack… quack… quack.” The Mighty Ducks is the all-American film about a group of down-on-your-luck kids who are shunned by society, so decide to set aside their differences and play ice-hockey; winning the state championship along the way (you can feel the patriotism running through you – yeah!). The film stars Emilio Estevez (Gordon Bombay), as an ex-ice-hockey star turned coach put in charge of coaching the team of misfits.

Most memorable scene: The Flying V. The team of ducks emulate their avian namesakes and produce a tournament winning tactic that leaves the opposition stunned, as they pass the puck between themselves in a ‘V’ formation.


Addams Family Values (1993)

When I was younger, my favourite time of year was Halloween. I loved the imagination that people had, so when I first watched Addams Family Values I couldn’t believe my eyes, because for them at least, Halloween was a daily occurence.

I loved this film and all the characters, especially the father, Gomez (Raul Julia), who’s eccentric ways of promoting bad behavior and cheekiness (like one child trying to kill a sibling) had me in stitches. When Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are sent to camp it doesn’t take them long before they are wreaking havoc among their fellow campers – something which they don’t take too kindly.

Most memorable scene: The Thanksgiving parade. Wednesday and Pugsley turn the festival on its head, as the Native Americans turn on their hosts and cause destruction throughout the camp. The festival is seen as peaceful, but that isn’t in the Addams’ vocabulary.


Cool Runnings (1993)

“Feel the rhythm, feel the ride, come on now, it’s bobsleigh time!” The film is about a group of Jamaican sprinters trialing for the Olympics, who then turn to bobsledding after failing to make the cut. In their panic of not qualifying, they turn to former champion Irv (John Candy) – now overweight and retired on the tropical island – to help them achieve the success they so crave.

And so he does, as they make it all the way to the Winter Olympics and become the first Jamaican team to do so. Despite not winning outright, they still show enough courage and fight to win the adulation of the crowd, with some funny antics along the way (the bar fight and square dancing being the highlight).

Most memorable scene: Tough one. There are so many scenes that last in the memory, but I have gone for a soppy one. After the team crash on their final run, their dream of Olympic success is well and truly over, but that doesn’t stop them from finishing. The four men get back up and carry the bobsleigh over the line, to the adulation of the crowd and rivals.


Richie Rich (1994)

Every kid’s dream is to live in the biggest house with an unlimited fortune to fuel their desire for having the best toys and gadgets in the world. So Hollywood made a film about it. Richie Rich (Macaulay Culkin) is the richest kid in the world, he has everything he could ever want and more (he has a McDonald’s in his house!), but the one thing he wants most of all are friends to play with.

It isn’t easy at first, but eventually he finds some as they team up to stop Lawrence Van Dough (John Larroquette) from stealing his father’s empire after he goes missing. The moral of the story however is that money doesn’t buy you happiness. (It really, really does though…)

Most memorable scene: It has to be the revelation of ‘Mount Richmore’, purely because it summarises how rich they really are. They have their faces carved into a mountain for god’s sake!


Jumanji (1995)

The film that made you wish Monopoly was real, just so you could be a millionaire. When Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) discover an old board game in their new attic, they’re in for more than they bargained for, as the game comes to life and releases its contents in their neighbourhood. When Alan (Robin Williams) is spewed from the game, they discover he has been trapped in it since he was a little boy and must help him finish the game until the chaos returns and all is well in the world. Amazing.

Most memorable scene: When Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) rolls for the final time to win the game, the camera pans to Alan who whispers ‘Jumanji’. They have defeated the game and so everything must return, including the stampede of animals, as they are sucked into a vortex in the middle of the living room.


Jingle All the Way (1996)

For me, this is one of the best Christmas films ever (after Nightmare Before Christmas). It has it all: Schwarzenegger; action; a reindeer; a midget Santa AND a superhero fight-off, as rivaling parents (Arnie and Sinbad) scrap for the last Turboman action-figure for their children. The film highlights the extremes that parents will go for their kids on Christmas, as present buying goes turbo.

Most memorable scene: The most lasting scene has to be the Santa pile-up in a shady warehouse. Howard’s attempts at finding a Turboman doll have brought him to a group of con-men dressed as Santa. The jig is up however when the toy falls to pieces in his hands, to which he calls them out and sets up one of the funniest scenes throughout the whole film (and my childhood).


Matilda (1996)

Matilda is class. It’s the story of a young genius (Mara Wilson) who has a hard time both at school and at home, as she is forced to live with a family who have nothing in common with her (she loves books and knowledge; they love TV), while at a school she has to contend with a head teacher who is worse than the bullies. The feared Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), who once grabbed a girl by the pig-tails and launched her over the fence, is one of the most fearsome characters I’ve ever seen on screen.

Now, if only there was a way Matilda could make things better… Oh, did I mention she was magic? Yeah, that should do the trick. She uses her powers to help make her life and school a better place, helping out people who need it most (unlike her family), before living happily ever-after with the pleasant Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz). Awww.

Most memorable scene: The whole chase scene in the house, as Matilda and Miss Honey try desperately to escape from Trunchbull and her armoury of shot-puts and javelins.


Space Jam (1996)

Yes, yes I know, Space Jam is animated, but the majority of the film isn’t and it’s my list, so I say it stays. What do you get when you cross one of the greatest sportsmen ever with one of the greatest cartoons ever? Space Jam – A cartoon-crossover à la Who Framed Rodger Rabbit?. The film sees Michael Jordan as himself, recently retired from basketball and now playing baseball in the minor leagues.

Meanwhile in the cartoon world, evil Swackhammer (Voiced by Danny DeVito) plans to kidnap the Looney Tunes with his mutant henchmen, in order to become his main attraction at his intergalactic amusement park (true story). However, Bugs and Co. use their cunning and set up a basketball match for their freedom, inviting Michael Jordan along to save the day. A funny film with excellent cameos from both the acting and basketball worlds.

Most memorable scene: Michael Jordan at full-stretch (literally), as the entire team of mutant aliens claw themselves around him to stop him from winning the game. He sinks it.


All of these films left an imprint on my childhood; a lasting impression that helped shape my love of all things film. However, some of the choices may not be to your liking, so feel free to share some of your best childhood films or any that I might have missed out!


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