12 Classic Shirley Temple Films That Will Make You Smile

Shirley Temple was the biggest child star of her generation, with her adorable cheeks and lovely curly hair making her stand out from the crowd. On top of her irresistibly cute look, she also had the acting and dancing chops to make her a big name in Hollywood from when she was five years old.
Even though Temple's films often featured dark themes like orphaned children and poverty, Shirley Temple always managed to put a smile on her fan's faces.

1. Heidi (1937)

Heidi Shirley Temple, Marcia Mae Jones, Mary Nash
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation.

When a young orphan (Shirley Temple) cared for by her stoic grandfather is abducted by her aunt and sold to a wealthy man to become his servant, she must keep her spirits high as her grandfather searches to bring Heidi home. While working as a child servant, Heidi becomes friends with the wealthy man's daughter as she painstakingly waits for her grandfather to save her.

2. Wee Willie Winkie (1937)

Wee Willie Winkie Shirley Temple, June Lang
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Wee Willie Winkie is about a young girl (Temple) and her single mother who travel to India to live with her stern grandfather on an army base. While her grandfather believes the base is no place for a child, the girl uses her effortless charm to befriend everyone she meets.

3. Stowaway (1936)

Stowaway Shirley Temple
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.
In Stowaway, Shirley Temple plays an orphan in China who encounters a wealthy American man and accidentally ends up as a stowaway on the man's ship. Once the adults discover the orphan is on board, she uses her charm to whittle her way into every passenger's heart.

4. The Littlest Rebel (1935)

The Littlest Rebel Shirley Temple, Jack Holt, Bill Robinson
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.
During the Civil War, the Union army seizes a Confederate officer's home with his family still inside. Unbeknownst to the Union guards, his young daughter (Temple) gets to see her father occasionally when he sneaks into the home. But when the Union discovers their secret, the daughter must do whatever she can to charm the soldiers to free her father.

5. Baby Take a Bow (1934)

Baby Take a Bow Shirley Temple
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.
When a criminal couple decides to step away from their life of crime, their former connections trick them into taking a stolen necklace by gifting it to their young daughter (Temple) for her birthday. But when her parents find out, they must conceal the necklace from the police only to find it's disappeared from its hiding spot.

6. Bright Eyes (1934)

Bright Eyes Shirley Temple and James Dunn
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

After her father dies in a tragic plane crash, Shirley (Temple) and her mother move into a wealthy family's home where the mother works as a maid. Yet soon after they arrive, Shirley's mother dies, and she becomes an orphan. As two men battle for custody of the young girl, she must find a way to end up adopted by the right man.

7. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938)

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Randolph Scott, Phyllis Brooks, Jack Haley
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm follows a young girl named Rebecca who auditions for a radio ad campaign. Her family takes her on a trip to Sunnybrook Farm, where her traditional aunt bans her from performing ever again. At the same time, the advertisement company is in pursuit of the mysterious talent that left the audition with only the sound of her voice to guide their search.

8. The Little Colonel (1935)

The Little Colonel Shirley Temple Bill Robinson
Image Credit: Fox Film.

When the estranged daughter of an old Colonel from the Civil War returns to her family daughter years later with her daughter Lloyd (Temple) in tow, Lloyd slowly becomes the bridge between her mother and grandfather. But when the source of the estrangement comes back into their lives, can the family stick together rather than fall apart again?

9. The Little Princess (1939)

The Little Princess Shirley Temple
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

In The Little Princess, a wealthy military man sends his daughter Sara (Temple) to an elite boarding school before he goes to war. She's set up with the nicest private room and celebrated with a lavish birthday party. But when the school's headmistress learns that Sara's father died in the war, she stops receiving paychecks and forces Sara into servitude. Sara goes on a secret mission to uncover the truth behind her father's death, hoping to see him again.

10. Captain January (1936)

Captain January Shirley Temple
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

When a young girl named Star (Temple) loses her parents in a shipwreck, she miraculously survives. A friendly lighthouse keeper takes Star under his wing and raises her amongst the sailors in a life full of amusing adventures and non-stop dancing. But when a grumpy police officer discovers a little girl living with the lighthouse keeper, he forces her to move away to a boarding school.

11. Curly Top (1935)

Curly Top Shirley Temple, John Boles
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

In the film that shot Shirley Temple up to star status, Temple plays an outspoken young orphan who performs songs written by her older sister. When a talent scout notices the bright young star and plans to adopt her, the girl makes sure both she and her sister go home with the scout.

12. Stand Up and Cheer! (1934)

Stand Up and Cheer! Shirley Temple
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Stand Up and Cheer! takes place in the Depression era, when the government opened a Department of Amusement to lift America's spirits. Their main act is a charming young girl singing and dancing for astounded crowds. But some government members don't believe leisure and fun are appropriate during such a trying time and do all they can to stop the performances in their tracks.

What other classic Shirley Temple films bring a smile to your face?
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more. She loves horror, history, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically. Her favorite pastimes include needle felting, gaming, and drawing.