Classic comedies to share with a 5th grader
January 3, 2019 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions of classic comedies to share with my 5th grade son.

I love watching movies with my kids, a 5th grade boy and kindergarten girl. I want to start sharing some of my favorite comedies with my son (and daughter if we're not staying up too late). So far we've watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Princess Bride, Monty Python's Holy Grail and a few others.

I'm pretty (some would say very) liberal about content and language with my kids, so mildly suggesting material is okay but not sexually explicit (the convent scene in Holy Grail probably went too far, but I let it ride). Likewise, moderate language is okay, but not a successive string of F-bombs. I'm more interested in grown-up goofy slapstick movies as long as they're not too full of guns and boobs; but not so much Disney and Pixar (we seen all of those already).

There are a few others I'm considering (but don't remember if there are scenes that are too far over the edge): Blues Brothers, Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Trading Places, Naked Gun, any of the National Lampoon vacation movies, and Slap Shot. Are any of these too raunchy and I'm not remembering? What other movies in this category would you recommend?
posted by slogger to Media & Arts (56 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
This may not be one you'd consider a "classic comedy", but I've always thought that Time Bandits was, like, ideal for that age group. I think I was in fifth grade when I saw it, and appreciated how it wasn't "babyish". It's got enough weird quirks to entertain adults as well (many of the Python alums were involved in its creation, and it has a very Princess-Bride feel to the comedy).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

You should turn your kids on to the Marx Brothers.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:37 AM on January 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

Raising Arizona
Galaxy Quest (hey, 90s is plenty vintage to a kid born this decade)
Home Alone
Mrs Doubtfire
Kindergarten Cop
Honey I Shrunk the Kids

I grew up on Blues Brothers and Animal House, my dad's 2nd and 3rd favorite movies (1st is Terminator 2). Blues Brothers is ok and has great music. Animal House is an example of a movie that would not be ok.
posted by phunniemee at 11:38 AM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dumb & Dumber would definitely appeal to kids, though I really don't remember whether there's sexual content. Most stuff that they don't get would go over their heads though?
posted by hydra77 at 11:39 AM on January 3, 2019

Just remember that Airplane! has the topless woman randomly showing up on screen and the blow job joke with the inflatable autopilot, and Blazing Saddles has "It's twue! It's twue!" and all the other jokes about Bart's dick.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a great candidate, with potential for entertaining riffs on the Oompa Loompa songs and how Grandpa Joe is such a lazy jerk.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 11:41 AM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

UHF was my favorite movie in fifth grade. Watched it again last night. I know every line by heart, and I still laugh.
posted by asperity at 11:42 AM on January 3, 2019 [15 favorites]

This may not be your idea of classic comedy but I watched Strange Brew with my 9 year old to great acclaim recently.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:46 AM on January 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Nthing Time Bandits. What a great film.

You might want to consider Cocoon and Splash as well.

I really love the film Used Cars, starring Kurt Russell and featuring the two guys who played Lenny and Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley. It's one of those stories about rascally-but-good-at-heart guys versus the bad guy, who happens to own the used car lot across the street from the one the good guys work at. There is an f-bomb dropped at the film's climactic comedy moment, but truly, it is a core part of the scene and very, very funny.

And hey, no comedy list is complete without Smokey and the Bandit and Young Frankenstein.

This is going to date me even more, but The Trouble With Angels is another good kid comedy. Its followup (Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows) isn't quite as good, but still enjoyable.
posted by Lunaloon at 11:48 AM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Some Like it Hot.
posted by Melismata at 11:48 AM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
The Reluctant Astronaut
What About Bob?
Bringing Up Baby

The first two are Disney, but really old Disney, so I’m thinking you maybe haven’t seen them.
posted by FencingGal at 11:51 AM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

What about classic classic comedies? Marx Brothers is a great suggestion, and then try Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and Harold Lloyd.
posted by EmilyFlew at 11:55 AM on January 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. There's some very outdated homophobia (casual f-slur use from the Evil Clones Bill & Ted) in the second one.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

How about going a bit further back?

Mondern Times, Bringing Up Baby, and The Thin Man are all mature enough and relatable enough to be intriguing to the 5th grader and unlikely to shock to the younger one. (My wife was a huge Marx Brothers fan as a child - Duck Soup was her stay-home-sick film throughout elementary school - though it never worked for me at any age.)

(On preview, what FencingGal and EmilyFlew said.)
posted by eotvos at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bill Murray made a fantastic comedy called The Man Who Knew Too Little that has been a favorite of mine for 20 years. It has Alfred Molina in it!
posted by noloveforned at 12:00 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Be careful if you're remembering the TV edited versions, vs the actual film: One or more of the National Lampoon Vacation films has Beverly D'Angelo's naked boobs, which was once a surprise for our family movie night for those of us who only remembered the edited-for-TV version. Blazing Saddles has a lot of inappropriate language, probably best to avoid. I'm pretty sure there's boobs in Trading Places too.

The Naked Gun films have a lot of sexual content (I believe there's a significant scene about fondling a statue's penis for one), but finding the Police Squad! TV episodes will scratch that same itch but with more prime-time TV sensibilities.

I'd recommend Buster Keaton -- it's still slapstick, but not 3 Stooges slapstick, there's a wit to it all.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:01 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really love the film Used Cars

Used Cars is wonderful. There is one scene with topless dancers advertising those cars, and a couple of other scenes that might be a stretch for fifth grade, FYI.
posted by asperity at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2019

If The Trouble With Angels dates Lunaloon, then I am going way out on a limb here, but I recommend:
  • Harold Lloyd, particularly The Freshman and Safety Last! (this is the film with the classic scene of Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock). Lloyd made some talkies too, but they're not as much fun.
  • Buster Keaton, particularly The General and The Navigator.
  • Charlie Chaplin, particularly The Gold Rush.
  • Laurel and Hardy, particularly The Music Box (not a silent, but it could have easily been one).

posted by ubiquity at 12:04 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Any of the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:04 PM on January 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

Cool Runnings - based on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsled team's debut during the 1988 Winter Olympics
posted by belladonna at 12:05 PM on January 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you're interested in Westerns, They Call Me Trinity and Trinity Is Still My Name are a couple of funny spaghetti westerns. When I was a kid, any time the drive-in played these as a double feature, my brother and I just had to go.
posted by Lunaloon at 12:18 PM on January 3, 2019

Please note that with almost all of the older comedies, even the ones that are "clean," you're likely to have to navigate some bigotry of some kind (IIRC there's some anti-Semitism in Safety Last, for example). Not to say that you should rule them out, but you might want to be prepared to deal with it.

Modern Times is great, though there's a mild-ish breast-groping joke (I wouldn't call it sexual assault, because the character who does it is dazed from working on a machine and isn't, ah, twiddling knobs with intent...but it's there).

I just saw a Preston Sturges piece called Easy Living which is sort of halfway between a screwball comedy and slapstick...enough physical humor to entertain the kindergartener, and the fifth-grader could follow the rest, if you're okay with the premise (respectable working girl is mistaken for mistress of Wall Street tycoon, hilarity follows).

The uncut Blues Brothers was rated R!
posted by praemunire at 12:23 PM on January 3, 2019

To the fantastic suggestions above I'll add What's Up, Doc. Ryan O'Neal is the hapless protagonist, Madeline Kahn is his off-kilter fiancee, Kenneth Mars is...I'm not sure what but he's hilarious, and Barbra Streisand is a creditable Bugs Bunny-like agent of chaos. Includes hijinks, capers, a destroyed hotel room, the aforementioned Madeline Kahn doing her inimitable shtick, and a marvelous chase scene.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:26 PM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's been a while since I've seen it, so I may be mis-remembering, but doesn't Slap Shot have one f-bomb after another?
posted by plastic_animals at 12:26 PM on January 3, 2019

Hey, nobody's mentioned Clue yet. Clue! Definitely watch Clue.
posted by asperity at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

Groundhog Day
Men In Black
posted by BoscosMom at 12:39 PM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Blazing Saddles" has a lot of inappropriate language (or at least innuendo) and the way it deals with racist stereotypes is more than I'd want to explain to my nieces. But on the other hand you need to have a bit of background to get the fart joke in the name of Governor William J. Le Petomane, or know what "Shtupp" is Yiddish for, so maybe some of the content would just fly over your son's head. I remember seeing "High Anxiety" in the theater with my family when I was young. Most of it indeed flew right over my head because I didn't have the background of all the Hitchcock films it's riffing on. Maybe that would happen with "Blazing Saddles" too, but personally I'd be wary.

Fifth grade is how old I was when I got into the Marx Brothers, so here's yet another vote for those movies. How classic do you want to go? "Bringing Up Baby" is indeed another great choice. "His Girl Friday" should also be a good one. If musicals aren't anathema, "Top Hat" and "Singin' in the Rain" are great. And if action comedy fits the bill, try "Silver Streak" or "Foul Play" (although before sharing it with kids now there's a whole lost-in-translation bit with some Japanese taxi passengers I might want to prescreen first just to figure out how bad the stereotypes are. It might have aged too badly to share).
posted by fedward at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I may be veering too modern, but Mr. Bean, The Gods Must Be Crazy, and Clue were favorites of mine. Additionally, watching Abbot and Costello with a kid for the first time is always special.

On preview: Damn, Asperity just beat me to Clue!
posted by matrixclown at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I grew up watching Airplane! and I think it's what has molded me into the brilliant adult I am today.

Did you guys check out Pee Wee's Big Adventure yet? You can't go wrong with that one.
posted by cakelite at 12:42 PM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by emd3737 at 12:43 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Uncle Buck
Little Shop of Horrors
posted by BoscosMom at 12:53 PM on January 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Wayne's World

Spinal Tap
posted by kapers at 12:55 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nothing to add to the movies themselves, but if there's a convenient way to do so, start yer viewings with a couple of Looney Tuneses. Like, do a couple of the opera ones, or do the hunting trilogy, etc.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:04 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not a movie, but this is the age when I introduced the class "Who's on First" by Abbot and Costello to my boys. They thought it was excellent! (available on YouTube)
posted by alathia at 1:07 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I babysat for kids that age and they got a kick out of Spaceballs and Addams Family. Spaceballs I think had a few swear words.

I loved Wayne's World at that age.

Definitely Home Alone if they haven't seen it!
posted by radioamy at 1:09 PM on January 3, 2019

One thing to keep in 11yo was totally put off Airplane because the whole thing was so foreign to him. The first 5 minutes: White courtesy phone, red courtesy phone, Hari Krishnas, walking to the gate without a boarding pass...we didn’t even really get to anything really funny before he was tired of everything being so weird. (Your kid may vary!)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:46 PM on January 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's definitely in the danger zone of "might contain racism that I don't remember" but maybe It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?
posted by Sokka shot first at 2:01 PM on January 3, 2019

Then there's Rat Race, which is basically a riff on It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World.

I hadn't high expectations for that film, and didn't care for the bathroom humor in a few scenes, but there were other scenes that were fall-on-floor funny.
posted by Lunaloon at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Small Soldiers
Mystery Men
Galaxy Quest
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oooh, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is brilliant!

Note on Airplane!: I was a massive fan around that age and re-watched it recently. It was filled with pretty awful sexism, racism, and other -isms that I totally didn’t get back then but were pretty painful to watch now. There are some classic gags but not sure, on balance, it’s worth it. You might want to watch it yourself and see if it’s suitable for your family.
posted by stillmoving at 3:00 PM on January 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

My boys LOVED the 3 Stooges. Also loved the Honeymooners TV show.

There is also Abbott and Costello especially Who's on 1st.
posted by AugustWest at 3:10 PM on January 3, 2019

Wallace and Grommit. It’s very beautiful and hilarious stop motion animation and it’s full of fart, poo and (occasional) wiener jokes for your fifth grader.
posted by Mistress at 3:46 PM on January 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Beetlejuice is one of my favorite movies and has been since that age, but there is mild sexual assault for laughs and homophobic joking in it, so YMMV as to what you want your kid to see.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:15 PM on January 3, 2019

Hocus Pocus
Addams Family Values
Young Frankenstein
A League Of Their Own?
9 to 5?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:24 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I definitely watched Time Bandits for the first time when I was more your daughter's age than your son's and I loved that weird ass movie. I also watched Bringing Up Baby and What's Up Doc at the same time (What's Up Doc is actually a tribute to 30s screwball) and loved them.

How do you and the younglings feel about the classic "forward through this scene" ploy? Young Frankenstein has a lot of sex talk, but if you forward through the Madeline Kahn scene with the Monster (as my parents did) or find a tv cut, nothing overt and it is literally the funniest. Top Secret! is actually pretty darn hilarious, but you probably want to forward through the guy in the cow suit...Common Sense Media reviews are really helpful with this kind of movie. Also, every man, woman and child should watch the final underwater bar fight, to remind them that at one point Val Kilmer had talent.

Other movies that might fall in this category: Big (mostly fine except the accidental statutory rape); 9 to 5 (sexual innuendo and pot smoking); Hot Shots Part Deux (ok, children probably shouldn't watch this, but I LOVED it at that age); Zoolander (the whole orgy situation).

For other classic Mel Brooks, may I suggest Silent Movie? Children do not need to get all the references to 70s hollywood to know that it's hilarious that there's a wheelchair chase scene with Paul Newman. Steve Martin: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Jerk. The Muppet Movie?
posted by theweasel at 5:34 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

(What's Up Doc is actually a tribute to 30s screwball)

Screwball was the word I was trying to think of! Thanks, theweasel.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:47 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Big Trouble In Little China? Also Jackie Chan's stuff is usually pretty kid-safe and it's great slapstick action.
posted by The otter lady at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I Love Lucy episodes?

The Gods Must Be Crazy, already mentioned, is a must.

Did I miss anyone mentioning any of the Monty Python TV episodes?
posted by lhauser at 8:13 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe A New Leaf?
posted by paduasoy at 12:30 AM on January 4, 2019

our gang/little rascals

who's on first appears in the full length the naughty nineties and one night in the tropics

rosalind Russell's Auntie Mame, the musical adaptation with Lucille Ball isn't nearly as good.
posted by brujita at 2:03 AM on January 4, 2019

We tried Airplane! recently with our 9 year old. Aside from the sexual stuff, so many of the really funny jokes are entirely based off of a working understanding of late 70s/early 80s culture. We were interpreting almost every single thing to him and it totally killed the humor ("Well, see son, you used to be able to pull right up at the terminal and wait there and you could just walk up to the gate to see people off." "Hare Krishna are a Hindu group that used to hang out at airports and....." "So that's a pay phone. Before cell phones....").
posted by goggie at 10:29 AM on January 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

I presume you’ve seen School of Rock?
posted by ms_rasclark at 9:14 PM on January 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

At that age my boys loved The Court Jester with Danny Kaye, all of the Ernest movies, Three Stooges, Jackie Chan, Hot Shots Part Deux (my mother-in-law was appalled), The Marx Brothers, and Wallace and Grommit. Also, my father-in-law had all the Pink Panther movies, and they couldn't get enough. There was also a series called Three Ninjas about 3 boys who defeated criminals. They liked Police Story, too with all the really stupid jokes.
posted by Enid Lareg at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

This was a tv series, not a movie, but the Andy Griffith Show is beloved by many for its warmth, humor, fun, and gentle observation of small town life. You can find it on Netflix where it is a perennial favorite.
posted by ragtimepiano at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2019

Oops, I meant Police Squad with Leslie Nielson.
posted by Enid Lareg at 1:52 PM on January 6, 2019

We are SO happy we get to introduce Betsy (our 8 year old) to movies we loved as kids!

On frequent repeat: Beetlejuice!, Goonies, Spaceballs, PeeWee's Big Adventure, Popeye with Robin Williams (so good!), Hook, Home Alone (the first one, the second one is terrible!). Oh, and Nacho Libre. Huge hit!

I also watched Parent Trap and Princess Diaries with Bets--maybe for your daughter when she gets a little older. We tried to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation--I couldn't get over the treatment of the women as sex objects. Also tried Uncle Buck--stopped once the drunk clown showed up--and then there's a party date rape scene. So, sadly, don't recommend yet. We also adore Fantastic Mr. Fox, though not from our childhood.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:47 PM on January 30, 2019

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