They have to learn things like tying their shoes, crossing the street and quashing the urge to pick their nose and eat it (actually harder to teach than it should be). Once that’s done, the really important obligation begins: cultivating the appropriate appreciation for classic cult movies. This is essential to the process of raising a well-informed geek. Trust me when I say that it will prove far more beneficial to their future social engagements than reading them The Cat in the Hat.
Here’s my list of must-share movies:
It’s absolutely essential to learn songs like “Grease Lightning,” “Beauty School Drop Out” and “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” I have yet to go out for a night of karaoke without hearing someone sing at least one of these. If karaoke is not your thing, not to worry: These songs are also good for weddings. I don’t know about you, but I’d take any song from the Grease soundtrack over that awful “Polka Chicken Dance,” which no one looks good dancing to.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Because of its adult themes, this one might have to wait until the teen years. Yes, I know it’ll be hard for you to hold back, but the benefit of waiting is that just about the time your child is too old to trick-or-treat, Rocky Horror will give them a reason to get excited about Halloween.
If you haven’t already introduced your teenage child to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you’d better make it a priority before Fox commits blasphemy with its upcoming two-hour special this fall. Considering that Fox is also responsible for the monstrous Rocky Horror Glee episode—an episode even producers probably wish had never happened—this is urgent. The only way to avoid your children associating Rocky Horror with absolute disaster is to be preemptive and show them the original. There is only one Sweet Transvestite from transsexual Transylvania—and that’s Tim Curry.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show should be an easy sell, given its interactive nature. At what other screening can you throw popcorn and hotdogs AND do the Time Warp, which has been known to drive people insane? It’s a win no matter how you look at it.
Little Shop of Horrors
Was Rick Moranis ever cuter than when he played Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors? You might have to fast forward through the dentist scene to avoid negative associations with teeth cleaning; however, Little Shop of Horrors will teach your children an invaluable lesson: Never trust a bloodthirsty plant.
The NeverEnding Story
Do you want to raise a reader? Well, show them The NeverEnding Story. What better way is there to transmit the idea of getting lost in a book and caught up in an adventure? For a movie released in 1984, it holds up surprisingly well. You know you still dream of going for a ride on Falkor.
The Lost Boys
A vampire movie in which the undead don’t sparkle or claim to be vegetarians. Sure, you have to survive the bad ’80s fashion and big teased hair shellacked into submission by ozone-killing aerosol hairspray, but hey, The Lost Boys is probably the best movie the Two Coreys ever made together. (We can keep it a secret that their image once lined the inside of your high school locker.) What’s the benefit of introducing your child to this movie? That’s obvious: cheese. The Lost Boys is nothing if not glorious cheese, and in order to have good geek credentials, one must learn to glory in cheese.
Kids often fixate on all the things they aren’t able to do and continually push boundaries. It’s their job, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t irritating to a parent. To children, it’s cool to be able to eat what they want, stay up as late as they want and set their own rules. What kids don’t understand is that freedom comes with responsibility and a real job. Watching Tom Hanks learn that when adults play, it’s not always a lot of fun, just might encourage them to slow things down and enjoy the dog days of summer while they can.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Is there a kid cooler than Ferris Bueller? As a parent, you might be wary because he gives tips like, “The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh … you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp—and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms.” Since you’ve seen the movie, when your kids try this move, you’ll be ready to catch their sneaky behinds. When Ferris Bueller talks about carpe diem, it’s not the boring Dead Poets Society’s “Oh captain, my captain”—it’s “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And everyone needs to learn that lesson.
The Karate Kid
Wax on. Wax off. The immediate benefit of The Karate Kid is potentially convincing your children that waxing your car will turn them into karate masters. Think of the joy of relaxing with an ice cold beer while your child buffs and shines the Honda. If that doesn’t work out, watching the story of an underdog who defeats the odds and becomes a champion will encourage your kiddos to believe in themselves. I know, it’s not as cool as a freely given and enthusiastic car wash, but it’s still advantageous.
Are you the parent to an entertainer? Ren, the young rebel who argues, “Ecclesiastes assures us … that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh … and a time to weep. A time to mourn … and there is a time to dance,” will teach them that there is room to celebrate joy in life. If that sounds just a little too philosophical, think of Footloose as a chance to introduce your child to the six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Did you have a Gremlin toy as a child? Who was your favorite, Stripe or Gizmo? Beyond the nostalgia, which might leave you wanting to give your little one their very own Mogwai, Gremlins has very tangible benefits. Have your kids been asking about adopting a pet? Sure, it sounds like a great idea—until you think about the likelihood that you’d end up doing all of the work. Show them this movie as a cautionary tale about what happens when you adopt a pet and don’t follow the rules.
Star Wars—A New Hope
Embracing Star Wars is the absolute gold standard of true geekdom. For the purpose of continuity, you might be tempted to start with The Phantom Menace, but squash that urge because Jar Jar Binks will kill any possibility of your children embracing the Force. Imagine handing them a toy light saber as you channel Obi-Wan Kenobi. “This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight,” you will say. “Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times … before the Empire.”
Epic training sessions will happen in your backyard as your children prepare for battle. When you pronounce, “The Force is strong with this one,” you will know without a doubt that you have set your children up for a journey not just to a galaxy far far away, but to a lifetime of embracing geek culture.