It’s back-to-school time, and no one could be less excited than my kids. I can’t say I really blame them; lazy days, warm summer nights, and swimming in their grandparents’ pool has made for one memorable summer.
But like all good things, summer fun must come to an end. As my kids look forward to going back to school with about as much enthusiasm as an upcoming flu shot, it’s up to me to remind them they actually like school! And since new backpacks and fresh glue sticks aren’t nearly as effective in boosting their back-to-school mood as I had hoped, I’m relying on the magic of movies to help jumpstart their school spirit.
So sit back, grab some popcorn, and take a break from the summer heat. We’ve rounded up the top 18 back-to-school movies guaranteed to rally school spirit for younger kids and older kids alike.
FOR YOUNGER KIDS (AGES 3-6)
SESAME STREET – READY FOR SCHOOL!
What it’s about: Elmo expresses anxiety about starting school, which prompts his friends (and our beloved Sesame Street characters) to reminisce about their favorite school memories. Soon enough, Elmo can’t wait for school to start!
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: When your children see Elmo — the beloved monster they’ve come to know and trust — get excited about school, they will too!
ARTHUR’S BEST SCHOOL DAYS
What it’s about: Follow PBS’ gentle aardvark Arthur as his best school days are highlighted in this three-episode DVD.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Arthur’s love of books is simply contagious!
FRANKLIN GOES TO SCHOOL
What it’s about: Everybody’s favorite turtle, Franklin, is both excited and nervous on his first day of school. With the help of his teacher, Mr. Owl, Franklin soon discovers school is a wonderful place to be.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Franklin’s nervous excitement likely mirrors your child’s mixed feelings about starting school. The gentle reminder that teachers are there to help can go a long way in easing kindergarten anxiety.
CURIOUS GEORGE: BACK TO SCHOOL
What it’s about: Everyone’s favorite curious monkey is back for more mischievous fun and adventure when he’s invited to be a guest in kindergarten. George quickly learns how much fun making new friends can be.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Filled with innocent fun and adventurous spirit, George reminds us that school is a place for imagination, problem solving, and, best of all, friendship!
BACK TO SCHOOL WITH FRANKLIN
What it’s about: Join Franklin and his friends as they return to school and meet their new teacher, Miss Koala, who has an unconventional approach to teaching. Franklin and his pals soon learn the value of Miss Koala’s lessons both in and out of the classroom.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Each new school year brings an opportunity for your young students to get to know and love a new teacher — while learning new things about themselves!
FOR OLDER KIDS (AGES 7+)
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID
What it’s about: Nobody said middle school was easy. New middle school student Greg Heffley is about to learn that becoming popular isn’t as easy as it looks. When Greg attempts to distance himself from his longtime nerdy friend only to become the odd man out, he learns valuable lessons about friendship and middle school survival.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Your kids will love watching Greg muddle through situations so unbearably awkward, they can’t help but feel better about their own insecurities.
What it’s about: All Spot ever wanted to do was go to school. When the pup masquerades as a human boy named Scott and becomes a star student, he quickly discovers how much he enjoys being teacher’s pet. Things go from fun to funny when Spot enlists the help of a mad scientist to make him a human boy for good.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: This musical misadventure is filled with so much humor and mayhem, your kids can’t help but feel like school is cool!
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
What it’s about: In this first installment of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series, we meet Harry for the first time as he embarks on his magical journey at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: School has never been so fun — or dangerous — as Harry’s amazing journey to self-discovery reminds us that we all possess personal greatness.
HARRIET THE SPY
What it’s about: Meet Harriet, an 11-year-old amateur spy who attempts to uncover all her classmates’ secrets. But when her top secret data falls into the wrong hands, Harriet learns hard lessons about friendship and the importance of privacy.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Your kids will be rooting for Harriet as she attempts to right her wrongs. After all, everyone deserves a second chance.
What it’s about: When Will Stronghold is thrust into a high school for kids of superhero parents, he learns many of the students have super powers of their own. Soon Will discovers his own special gift and attempts to find balance between hero status and life as a regular teenager.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: This adventure will take your kids to great heights as they cheer for young Will to embrace the hero inside.
What it’s about: Matilda is a bright and kind young girl who is horribly mistreated by her parents. When she’s shipped off to a school headed by an evil principal, Matilda discovers she has telekinetic powers. With the help of a loving teacher and best friend, Matilda teaches those who’ve mistreated her lessons in love.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: In this underdog tale, Matilda reminds us that good can prevail, even in the darkest of times.
AKEELAH AND THE BEE
What it’s about: Akeelah, an inner-city girl with big dreams, defies the odds to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Inspiration runs high in this heartfelt tale of perseverance and triumph that dares our kids to dream big.
What it’s about: Loveable loser Napoleon walks to the beat of his own quirky drum. With friends as offbeat as he is, Napoleon proves standing out from the crowd makes him a winner.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Napoleon dishes up enough notable one-liners to keep the whole family entertained.
What it’s about: When mother and daughter switch bodies, mom is forced to go back to high school in a generation much more complicated than the one she remembers!
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Growing up is hard to do, and while parents and kids might not agree on much, they’ll both find this trading-places scenario laugh-out-loud funny.
What it’s about: Learning has never been so much fun with this 30th-anniversary collection of all our favorite educational tunes. “Three Is a Magic Number,” “Interjections,” and “I’m Just a Bill” are just a few of songs included in this cultural educational phenomenon.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Your kids will get a kick out of their parents’ nostalgic rendition of “Conjunction Junction,” among other classics.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
What it’s about: Disney’s High School Musical franchise follows six teenagers as they come of age through impressive song and dance numbers that will leave you dancing in your seat! Lessons involving young love, friendship, and the importance of following your dreams.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Great music, show-stopping dance numbers and a dreamy cast of characters make these wholesome movies instant kid favorites.
What it’s about: When girl detective Nancy Drew moves with her family to Los Angeles, she discovers how hard it is to be the new kid at school. Nancy encounters a mystery and makes friends along the way.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Girl power is in full force as Nancy Drew proves she’s one smart cookie. You go, girl!
BACK TO THE FUTURE
What it’s about: In this classic time-travel movie, Marty McFly is tossed back into high school in the 1950s, where his very presence threatens to disrupt his future destiny — unless he can find a way to make his parents meet and fall in love.
Why it’s a back-to-school favorite: Your kids will love the ordinary kid out to salvage his own destiny in a still-cool-to-this-day DeLorean.