When we think of movies from the 1980s through the early 2000s, only the heavy hitters are named–anything Disney, Dreamworks, and TV-Movies from significant channels like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Tucked away in the recesses of the millennial minds are a plethora of animated and live-action stories that were clear as day during childhood but have faded into the void with the now endless options for movie-watching.
If millennials love anything, it's a good bout of nostalgia. This generation remembers rushing to Blockbuster, Family Video, or whatever hometown favorite and renting VHS or DVDs for a family movie night, weekend sleepover, or sick school day at home. Today, almost all of these titles are still sitting in a basement or attic collection of millennial relics.
1. The Last Unicorn (1982)
An enchanting tale from the 1980s, The Last Unicorn isn't the first animated movie millennials think of, but it's one to remember. Believed to be the last of her kind, a unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) journeys to find others like her. This fantasy movie features additional voices from Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, and Alan Arkin.
2. An American Tail (1986)
Entering VCR players for over a decade back then, this is the first of a four-movie series about an immigrant mouse and his family. Fievel Mousekewitz, a young Russian mouse, becomes separated from his family while emigrating to the United States and sets out to reunite with them. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, An American Tail and its following features are truly lost relics in the animated genre.
3. The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986)
A complete deep-dive and throwback, Milo and Otis was that movie that someone existed in a grandparent's home or was always playing at the local library. Initially titled in Japanese, this tale of friendship features a young tabby cat named Milo and a pug named Otis who stumble across each other and into sticky adventures. It's no Homeward Bound, but it certainly set the stage.
4. Harry and the Hendersons (1987)
Equal parts obscure and zany, adding a friendly Sasquatch to the extended family seemed like a good idea at the time. John Lithgow stars as the Henderson family patriarch who adopts Bigfoot into their home, naming him Henry. However, keeping the legendary creature a secret proves more difficult than he imagined. Scoring the Oscar for Best Makeup, this movie was a hit for the whole family.
5. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
While watching this movie as a child, it didn't seem that dark, but millennial audiences remembering it today are traumatized by the depressing title. Charlie (voiced by Burt Reynolds) is a German Shepard angel who snuck back to earth but ultimately finds his purpose to protect and save an orphan girl who can speak to animals. Making light of a sad topic, young viewers found entertainment in this animated feature; however, revisiting adult audiences shed large amounts of tears.
6. The Jungle Book (1994)
Even with a star-studded cast, the memory of this adaptation was never too far away. This version, still based on the classic Rudyard Kipling tale, tells Mowgli's story mainly through his adult life and his introduction to society. Jason Scott Lee stars as Mowgli with Cary Elwes, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, and John Cleese co-starring. Even with Disney linked to the movie, it remains an underappreciated version now hidden by Disney's 2016 CGI remake.
7. The Swan Princess (1994)
The first in a trio of movies, the tales of Princess Odette made her the ultimate non-Disney princess. When Odette is kidnapped and cursed by an evil sorcerer, he transforms her into a swan, the spell only to be broken if her love, Prince Derek, can recognize her. The Swan Princess features all the trappings of a musical fairytale but gets lost in the shuffle of a Disney-saturated princess market.
8. Little Giants (1994)
This childhood favorite is a tale of peewee football and sibling rivalry that stirs millennial memories. Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill star as two brothers, one with an elite peewee football team and the other with a squad of misfit players challenging for the right to play the sport.
Little Giants is an underdog story and an underdog itself when it comes to remembering sports movies of the 1990s. The family-friendly comedy even features cameos from famous football icons.
9. Balto (1995)
Not only did you forget about this movie, but you probably forgot about its excellent voice casting. This animated classic takes place in Nome, Alaska, during the deadly 1920s diphtheria epidemic. Balto is an outcast husky that risks it all alongside a team of sled dogs to deliver medicine before it's too late. The movie features the voice of Kevin Bacon as Balto alongside stars like Jim Cummings, Bob Hoskins, Phil Collins, and Bridget Fonda.
10. Babe (1995)
That's right; Babe was the moment when the director of Mad Max co-wrote the tale of a little pig who wanted to be a sheepdog. On a rural English farm, a farmer teaches Babe to herd sheep. Earning seven Oscar nominations, Babe ultimately took home the golden statue for Best Visual Effects in 1996. This anthropomorphic tale was a much-needed break from the Disney animation boom.
11. Flipper (1996)
Forget Free Willy; who remembers this one? Flipper happens when Crocodile Dundee and Frodo befriend a dolphin off the Florida coast. In this summer vacation classic, Sandy (Elijah Wood) spends his break with his eccentric Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan), the pair teaming up to stop a group of locals polluting the water. The 1996 movie is a feature adaptation of a 1964 TV series about Sandy and Rick as they care for marine life in Florida.
12. Our Lips Are Sealed (2000)
From the second millennials rewatch the trailer for this one, it all comes rushing back. Generation icons Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen take their hijinx to Australia after being placed in the Witness Protection Program after stopping a mobster's diamond heist. However, the pair consistently struggle to keep their predicament a secret. Our Lips are Sealed was the ultimate Friday night sleepover movie.
13. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (2000)
Not just a song for holiday lovers, this straight-to-video special was a staple in VHS trailers in 2000. About exactly what the title says, a young boy sets out to find his grandmother and prove the existence of Santa Claus. A millennial holiday favorite, remembering the trailer and its presence on several popular VHS movies is enough to unlock core memories this season.
14. Little Secrets (2001)
Here is one of the most underrated and forgotten movies of the 2000s childhood. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Emily, a young violinist who makes an allowance living on keeping secrets for the kids in her neighborhood. Her skill and desire to remain unbias get much more complicated when she befriends the new boy next door and starts falling for his brother. Little Secrets holds a little space in millennial minds, but there's no secret to how wholesome this movie is.
15. Cats & Dogs (2001)
This movie came out of left field. It was entertaining chaos in the early 2000s, but it fit the bill for entertaining kids and parents. With their human owners unaware, a group of secret agent neighborhood dogs bands together to defeat the cats and their leader, who seeks to make humans allergic to dogs. Once again, a millennial childhood movie features an excellent voice cast that viewers are now recognizing upon rewatching. Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Sean Hayes, and Susan Sarandon round out the principal cast.
16. Winning London (2001)
It's cheesy, but Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen had millennial girls packing their bags and ready to join Model UN. The iconic sister duo finds themselves off to London to participate in an Internation Model UN competition, sharing their sense of fashion, adventure, and romance. One of the many straight-to-video films Mary Kate and Ashley would star in, Winning London allowed viewers to feel like they were growing up with them, ready to travel the world.
17. Big Fat Liar (2002)
Somehow, somebody needed to remember this movie's hold on millennials. After being forced into summer school for dramatizing the truth, Jason's (Frankie Muniz) class paper is stolen by Hollywood executive Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti). Jason and his best friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) must pull out all the stops to prove the blockbuster movie was his idea. So many memorable moments unlock a massive amount of nostalgia for millennials with this movie. It was the one to own in the 2000s and deserves a revival watch today.
18. Agent Cody Banks (2003)
Featuring two of the major draws for tweens in the 2000s with Frankie Muniz and Hilary Duff, Agent Cody Banks is worth pulling from the millennial memory vault. Muniz is Cody Banks, a teen selected and trained in government covert ops assigned to befriend the daughter of a scientist on the CIA's radar. Looking back, it's cheesy and screams the standard boy-meets-girl tropes of the decade, but it was the action romance movie millennials loved.
19. Robots (2005)
A forgotten favorite, Robots is one of the few animated films where Robin Williams provided his incredible talent. With an excellent cast of voices including Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes, and Jennifer Coolidge (to name a few), this robotic tale features a young inventor as he travels to the big city to chase his dreams only to come face-to-face with a sinister corporate scheme. It's equal parts wacky and creative chaos, allowing iconic talents to voice off-the-wall animated characters, and remains lost amongst the Dreamworks and Ice Age boom.
20. Surf's Up (2007)
This is the penguin movie that's not Happy Feet from the 2000s. Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) is an up-and-coming surfer testing his resolve at the annual Penguin World Surfing Championship. Alongside LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, Jeff Bridges, and Jon Heder round out the main voice cast with a solid set of supporting voices. The mockumentary-style animated tale remains a clever installment in the millennial animation canon.
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