I Forgot How Lenient The Ratings For ’80s Movies Were -- Until I Watched Them With My Kids

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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As a child of the ’80s, I love everything and anything related to the greatest decade ever. Back in the day, my hair was jacked to Jesus with more Aqua Net than allowed by law, and I wore seven pairs of socks with my white Keds. I still can’t part with my jean jacket, and I give zero fucks when I break it down to “Hangin’ Tough” by New Kids on the Block in the grocery aisle.

And there’s nothing I love more than curling up and watching the ’80s flicks that became part of the fabric of my generation’s childhood vocabulary and way of life. To this day, I hear the opening beats of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds, and I’m instantly swooning over Judd Nelson’s badass performance in The Breakfast Club.

Since my children arrived, I have impatiently been waiting to introduce them to all of the ’80s classics that shaped my life. Frankly, I wanted them to feel the raw emotion I felt when John Cusack held that boombox over his head and the elation when Jake Ryan mouthed, “Yeah, you!” to Samantha in Sixteen Candles. I couldn’t wait to share my memories and feelings about my childhood years with my kids. Mostly, I prayed they would love Steel Magnolias as much as I do.

When they were finally old enough, my husband and I excitedly chose Spaceballs as our first foray into Project: Show the Kids All the ’80s Movies. At the time, our son was obsessed with Star Wars, and we thought Rick Moranis’s corny humor as Dark Helmet would be the perfect way to introduce them to our glory days. We settled into the couch, covered in blankets and bowls of popcorn and immediately realized that we had made a huge mistake.

OMG, I didn’t remember all the swearing in Spaceballs and inappropriate sexual innuendos. There was so much swearing, and by the middle of the movie, my husband and I were sharing nervous glances and fielding questions about chastity belts. We couldn’t believe that one of our favorite movies had just become our biggest parenting failure to date: My kids really loved the use of the word “asshole.” Thanks for that, Moranis.

We soon realized that ’80s movies should come with an additional warning label than that of the Major Motion Picture Association. They should have a parent-to-parent warning label, one that clearly states just how much of a sex education your kid will receive while watching. Parents need to know just how many times their kid is going to hear the F-bomb when weighing what ’80s flick to stream on family movie night. Luckily for you, I have a few warnings:

Doc Hollywood

What’s not to love about a rom-com starring Michael J. Fox as a plastic surgeon who accidentally takes a wrong turn to the Deep South on his way to a fancy job in Los Angeles? Nothing. Unless you want your kid to see full-on nudity as the female lead slowly gets out of a lake and takes 900 years to cover up. Seriously, I love you MJF, but having my kid ask why my boobs didn’t look like the actress’s put me over the edge.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

Admit it: We’ve all had a Walley World road trip from hell since we’ve become parents. But unless you want your kids to see Chevy Chase get stripteased by his wife or watch Christie Brinkley go skinny-dipping, it’s best to wait on this one — no matter how funny John Candy was as the security guard.

Stand By Me

This is a classic, coming of age flick, and I heart Wil Wheaton hard. However, be warned: The entire movie is about four boys who go off in search of a dead kid’s body. Seriously, what were our parents thinking when they let us watch this one?

Edward Scissorhands

If you enjoy your kids waking up screaming from nightmares in which they freak the hell out because a goth-looking man with scissors for hands is haunting their tiny little minds, then Edward Scissorhands is for you.


Why didn’t I remember that Dan Aykroyd got a lap dance from a ghost? And if you think watching Ghostbusters with your teen son snickering as he watches a Ghostbuster get a boner with help from an other-worldly being is awkward, you would be correct.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

I’d love to make a “phony phone call to Ed Rooney” just as much as the next guy, but realizing this movie is all about skipping school, lying to parents, and pulling off the best day of hookie ever is devastating. Also? Again with the swearing. I don’t remember Ferris having such a potty mouth, people.

The Breakfast Club

Hey, Claire, Allison, Andrew, John and Brian? Yeah, I’m going to need you to serve five Saturdays of detention for your horrible potty mouths and sexually explicit conversations in front of my tweens. And, also? Love you guys, never change.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

You would think that a movie about an adorable extraterrestrial alien living in a 6-year-old’s closet would be pretty innocuous, but not so much. When Elliott screams the insult “penis breath” at his family while at the dinner table, it’ll make you clutch your pearls. #truth

Our generation produced quite possibly the best (and worst) movies of our time, and it’s hard not to want to share our excitement with our kids. When I watch my kids draw the same conclusions I did at their age or light up at a scene I loved, it takes me right back to the days I was wearing my Esprit jeans and carrying my Liz Claiborne purse. But, seriously? It’s not Some Kind of Wonderful when you are a Die Hard ’80s fan and you have to wait until your kids have Sixteen Candles on their cakes before they are Big enough to sit with you on the couch. See what I did there?

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