The 50 Films you should see by the age of 14 was a list collated by the BFI in 2005 to inspire young people to watch as wide a variety of great films as great books and art. More than 70 international film educators, producers, teachers, authors and critics contributed films that included family classics and Hollywood hits and beyond.
Now BFI Education has collaborated with Into Film to update the 2005 list, adding 15 streamable films. We’ve broadened it with some wonderful new ideas, speaking to timeless and universal issues around growing up but also reflecting contemporary themes that have become increasingly relevant to young audiences. All but a few films come with age recommendations, streaming links and Learning Resources, and below are some further groupings to help get you started:
Perfect for Primary!
My Life as a Courgette, The Song of the Sea, The Cave of the Yellow Dog, The Iron Giant, Spirited Away, The Red Balloon, Short Films by Lotte Reiniger, Kirikou and the Sorceress, The Kid, A Trip to the Moon.
Super for Secondary!
Wallay, Your Name, He Named Me Malala, Persepolis, Bend It Like Beckham, Romeo + Juliet, The Outsiders, Kes, The Night of the Hunter, La Belle et la Bête.
Wonders from Around the World!
Wallay (Burkina Faso), My Life as a Courgette (France), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (New Zealand), The Song of the Sea (Ireland), Wadjda (Saudi Arabia), My Neighbour Totoro (Japan), The White Balloon (Iran), My Life as a Dog (Sweden), Pather Panchali (India), The Cave of the Yellow Dog (Mongolia).
‘Growing Up’ Greats!
Wadjda, Tomboy, Persepolis, Bend It Like Beckham, Show Me Love, The 400 Blows, Oliver Twist, Whistle Down the Wind, Wallay, Your Name.
Wallay (2017) – New addition
Director Berni Goldblat (France-Burkina Faso, Cert 12)
Thirteen-year-old city kid Ady no longer listens to his dad who is bringing him up alone. Running out of patience, his dad sends him to his uncle Amadou for the summer. But Amadou and his family live on the other side of the Mediterranean, in Burkina Faso, and have their own ideas about how best to manage him.
My Life as a Courgette / Ma vie de Courgette (2016) – New addition
Director Claude Barras (France, Cert PG)
Funny and touching, the tale of nine-year-old Icare, nickname ‘Courgette’, who is sent to live in a children’s home where he meets other children all going through their own troubles. Together they help and support one another in ways that feel remarkably sensitive and achingly real.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – New addition
Director Taiki Waititi (New Zealand, Cert 12A)
Foster child Ricky is sent to live in the remote countryside home of Bella and her gruff husband Hec. The change of pace and Bella’s warmth is good for Ricky’s confidence, especially when she gives him his own pet dog. However, events suddenly force Ricky to flee into the bush, with Hec hot on his heels.
Your Name / Kimi no na wa (2016) – New addition
Director Makoto Shinkai (Japan, Cert 12)
One of the most successful films of all time in its native Japan, a beautifully animated tale of two teenagers, city boy Taki and country girl Matsui, who magically swap bodies and, in their shared experience, explore history, environmental issues, smart-phone culture, identity and more!
He Named Me Malala (2015) – New addition
Director Davis Guggenheim (UK, Cert PG)
Documentary tracing the extraordinary story of Malala Yousefzai, following her around the globe, from meetings with world leaders at the UN to rowing with her younger brothers at home in Birmingham.
The Song of the Sea (2014) – New addition
Director Tomm Moore (Ireland, Cert PG)
Four-year-old Saoirse lives on an island with her father and brother Ben. One night she discovers a magical coat that turns her into a seal-like creature called a ‘selkie’, but although their gran takes them to live with her in the city and their dad throws the coat away, the magic is still there…
Wadjda (2012) – New addition
Director Haifaa Al-Mansour (Saudi Arabia/Netherlands, Cert PG)
Independent-minded 10-year-old Wadjda won’t be pushed around by adults and their ridiculous rules, such as that girls should not ride bicycles. Instead, she sells mixtapes, enters competitions with prize money, anything she can to earn enough to buy her dream bike and set off around the Riyadh streets.
I Wish / Kiseki (2011) – New addition
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Japan, Cert PG)
After their parents’ divorce, brothers Koichi and Ryu each go to live with one parent. Koichi’s only wish is for the family to be reunited, and when he hears of a magical place where wishes come true he sets out to make it happen.
Tomboy (2011) – New addition
Director Celine Sciamma (France, Cert U)
When 10-year-old Laure moves to a new neighbourhood, with her short-hair and tomboy ways the local kids mistake her for a boy. Instead of correcting them, she introduces herself as ‘Michael’ and starts living a double-life, with only her six-year-old sister in on the secret.
Persepolis (2007) – New addition
Director Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi (France/US, Cert 12)
Using strikingly bold black and white animation based on the original graphic novel, this is the story of Marjane, a smart and strong-willed Iranian girl finding it impossible to adapt to Iran’s strict new rulers, and rebelling – although rebellion increasingly has no place, especially for girls.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005) – New addition
Director Byambasuren Davaa (Germany/Mongolia, Cert U)
A wonderful way to open eyes to parts of the world never usually seen, in the story of a Mongolian nomad family, whose determined daughter Nansal is not allowed to keep a little dog she finds so hides it away.
Shaun the Sheep the Movie (2005) – New addition
Director Richard Starzak, Mark Burton (UK, Cert U)
An Aardman classic, with minimal dialogue and maximum ‘claymation’ animated fun! Bored of the daily farm routine, Shaun and the rest of the flock muck about until forced to head into the big city to rescue their hapless farmer who has lost his memory.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Director Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (US, Cert U)
When Nemo, a little clown fish, goes missing on his very first day of school, his distraught father sets off to track him down. But his son has been caught…
Bend It Like Beckham (2002) – New addition
Director Gurinder Chadha (UK, Cert 12)
None of teenage Jess nor Jules’s parents would want their daughters to play football, but the girls are obsessed with it and also really good! Jess’s strict Sikh parents forbid her from playing, but life has other plans in this classic British comedy celebrating the value of teamwork, on and off the field.
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
Director Phillip Noyce (Australia, Cert PG)
In 1930s Australia, half-Aboriginal Molly, Daisy and Gracie are taken from their parents and sent to a Settlement camp. Based on a true story, the film follows their daring escape along a 1500-mile rabbit-proof fence that will lead them home.
To Be and To Have / Être et avoir (2002)
Director Nicolas Philibert (France, Cert U)
Heartwarming documentary following a small rural school of 4-11-year-olds and their inspiring teacher over a year.
Whale Rider (2002)
Director Niki Caro (New Zealand, Cert PG)
An inspiring story in a beautiful coastal setting of a traditional Maori family and the trouble caused when Pai wants to take up what she believes is her rightful place at the head of her tribe, even though she is a girl. Standing in her way is her own grandfather, and his love for her is not enough to change his mind.
Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)
Director Hayao Miyazaki (Japan, Cert PG)
One day Chihiro and her family stop at a deserted cafe with delicious food laid out. Suddenly they enter an extraordinary world of spirits, her parents are transformed, and it seems only a boy, Haku, can help.
Billy Elliot (2000)
Director Stephen Daldry (UK, Cert 15)
Eleven-year-old Billy is torn between his family’s troubles and his new unexpected love and talent for dance.
The Iron Giant (1999) – New addition
Director Brad Bird (US, Cert U)
Classic animated adaptation of Ted Hughes’ story of a young boy, Hogarth, who follows a trail of huge footprints into the woods and finds an iron giant. The two form a firm friendship and, when the army try and destroy this enormous visitor, Hogarth does everything he can to protect him.
Show Me Love (1998)
Director Lukas Moodysson (Sweden, Cert 15)
In small-town Sweden, teenager Elin is beautiful, popular and bored, and Agnes is sad, friendless and dreams of Elin. A moment of risk opens a door, and the girls find their own ways to love and trust.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Director Baz Luhrmann (Australia, Cert 12A)
The sassiest, most energetic adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play, where swords are swapped for guns and the tale of the star-crossed lovers is set among the feuding mafia families of ‘Verona Beach’.
The White Balloon / Badkonake sefid (1995)
Director Jafar Panahi (Iran, Cert U)
Five-year-old Razieh is determined to have a fat goldfish for the Iranian New Year celebration instead of the skinny ones in her family’s pond. It’s a busy time and no-one is listening, but she won’t stop until she gets what she wants, whatever it takes.
Toy Story (1995)
Director John Lasseter (US, Cert U)
The first entirely computer animated film! Old-fashioned cowboy toy Woody is threatened by a new arrival in owner Andy’s bedroom: flashy, hi-tech Buzz Lightyear, who doesn’t realise that he is not actually a space-travelling hero.
The Secret Garden (1993)
Director Agnieszka Holland (UK/US, Cert U)
Beautiful adaptation of the classic children’s novel in which lonely orphan Mary Lennox explores her uncle’s gloomy house and grounds, only to discover hidden people and places, and a chance to grow.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Director Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise (US, Cert U)
A witch puts a curse on mean Prince Adam and changes the thing he loves the most: his looks. The classic tale brought to life with groundbreaking animation, plus songs, a talking clock, candelabra, teapot and cup!
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Director Tim Burton (US, Cert 12)
Gothic fantasy tale of a lonely young monster whose inventor has left him unfinished, with scissors instead of hands, as he tries to survive in suburban America.
My Neighbour Totoro / Tonari no Totoro (1988)
Director Hayao Miyazaki (Japan, Cert U)
The classic and beloved tale of Mei and her big sister Satsuki, who move to the countryside with their dad to be near their mum in hospital and discover that their new home is full of friendly spirits.
Kirikou and the Sorceress / Kirikou et la sorcière (1988)
Director Michel Ocelot, Raymond Burlet (France, Cert U)
Beautiful animation based on West African folk tales in which tiny and mighty boy Kirikou saves his village from evil sorceress Karaba who has made all the men disappear.
Au Revoir les Enfants / Goodbye, Children (1987)
Director Louis Malle (France, Cert 12A)
A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from the Second World War until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of the top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Director Rob Reiner (US, Cert PG)
Laughs aplenty as traditional fairy tale stories are upended with a friendly giant, a dreaded pirate captain, a quest for revenge, a cowardly prince and, if all goes well, a brave hero and a damsel no longer in distress.
Where is the Friend’s House? / Khane-ye doust kodjast? (1987)
Director Abbas Kiarostami (Iran, Cert U)
Eight-year-old Ahmed takes his friend’s Mohammed’s notebook home from school by mistake and knows that if his friend doesn’t finish his homework he’ll be expelled. Against his mother’s orders, Ahmed sets out for Mohammed’s house, helped and hindered by adults and distractions along the way.
Back to the Future (1985)
Director Robert Zemeckis (US, Cert PG)
Teenager Marty McFly is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean car invented by his friend, the eccentric scientist Doc Brown.
My Life as a Dog / Mitt liv som hund (1985)
Director Lasse Hallström (Sweden, Cert PG)
Twelve-year-old Ingemar has trouble at home, and he’s worried about Laika, the dog that’s just gone into space with a Russian crew. Luckily, everything starts to change when he goes to stay with relatives in the countryside.
The Outsiders (1983)
Director Francis Ford Coppola (US, Cert 12)
Two rival gangs of teenagers, the Socials and the Greasers, start a feud when two boys from one side get friendly with girls from the other. As the battle escalates, no-one is going to come out unscathed.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Director Steven Spielberg (US, Cert U)
A little boy’s life changes forever when he discovers an alien stranded on earth and secretly helps him get home.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Director Steven Spielberg (US, Cert PG)
Adventurer, archaeologist and teacher Indiana Jones and his pals meet sword-waving Egyptians, evil Nazis, mystical spirits and a pit of poisonous snakes on their quest to find the Ark of the Covenant.
Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
Director George Lucas (US, Cert U)
Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee warrior and two droids to save the galaxy and to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.
The Spirit of the Beehive / El espíritu de la colmena (1973)
Director Víctor Erice (Spain, Cert PG)
In 1940s Spain, sisters Isabel and Ana see the film Frankenstein in their village hall. Frightened little Ana believes her sister’s scary story that a monster lives nearby and goes to find it, but instead she discovers a fugitive soldier and decides that he, like Frankenstein’s monster, needs help.
Director Nicolas Roeg (UK, Cert 12A)
The strange and haunting story of a sister and her brother who, lost and alone in the Australian outback, meet an Aboriginal boy who teaches them how to survive.
The Railway Children (1970)
Director Lionel Jeffries (UK, Cert U)
In 1904, three London children are forced to move to the Yorkshire countryside after their father is falsely imprisoned. But they’re not going to wait for an adult to save the day: as soon as they have the chance, they set out to free their father themselves.
Director Ken Loach (UK, Cert PG)
Lonely young Billy escapes the miseries of school and home when he finds a wild kestrel hawk and manages to befriend and tame it.
Director Jacques Tati (France, Cert PG)
Bumbling, good-natured, old fashioned and accident-prone Hulot takes a trip to Paris, a city full of modern inventions and technology, giving him lots of opportunity for brilliant visual jokes and creating havoc.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Director Don Chaffey (US, Cert U)
The mythical quest for the Golden Fleece, which brings luck to the land that holds it, with hydra, harpies and skeleton army brought to life with Ray Harryhausen’s amazing animation.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Director Robert Mulligan (US, Cert PG)
In 1930s Alabama, Scout and her big brother live with their dad, a lawyer who often helps their town’s poor citizens. When he takes the case of a black man falsely accused of a crime against a white woman, Scout grows up quickly as she sees the effects of racism, ignorance and injustice.
Whistle Down the Wind (1961)
Director Bryan Forbes (UK, Cert PG)
Kathy and her friends find a bearded fugitive hiding in a barn and, inspired by their Sunday School stories, think that he is Jesus Christ. When he asks them not to tell anyone they agree, but secrets aren’t always easy to keep.
The 400 Blows / Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)
Director François Truffaut (France, Cert PG)
Antoine, a cheeky and vulnerable young teenager who has problems at home and is a bit of a troublemaker at school, forgets his daily problems by escaping into the world of cinema.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Director Billy Wilder (US, Cert 12)
Classic comedy as two musicians go on the run after witnessing a mob hit, joining the only band leaving town which is… all-female. In disguise as ‘Josephine and Daphne’, they set off not knowing the crazy adventures they and their new pal – the band’s singer, Sugar – have to come!
The Red Balloon (1956)
Director Albert Lamorisse (France, Cert U)
A magical tale starting one morning in Paris, when a little boy discovers a red balloon. He sets off with it through the streets finding fun, and trouble, along the way as he soon finds that it has a will of its own!
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Director Charles Laughton (US, Cert 12)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
John and Pearl are the only ones who know where their dad stashed some stolen money before he died. When a mysterious stranger arrives in their little town wanting to marry their mum, they have a feeling he’s got an ulterior motive.
Pather Panchali / Song of the Little Road (1955)
Director Satyajit Ray (India, Cert U)
An unforgettable view of the world through the eyes of Apu, who lives a hard life with his family in a poor Bengali village, but the film also has a spirit that can find moments of magic and joy in small things.
Mr Hulot’s Holiday / Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)
Director Jacques Tati (France, Cert U)
Bumbling, good-natured, pipe-smoking and extremely accident-prone Hulot takes a trip to the seaside. Full of visual jokes and with minimal dialogue, every scene offers fresh delight, and havoc.
Short films: Hansel and Gretel, Show White and Rose Red, The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Thumbelina (1953-55) – New additions
Director Lotte Reiniger (Germany, Cert PG)
Five enchanting animated short films with wonderful music tracks and narrations by famous animator Lotte Reiniger, who brings her unique and distinctive style of black and white silhouettes to these interpretations of classic fairy tales.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Director Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly (US, Cert U)
The early days of the Hollywood film industry leap on to the screen in this classic, hilarious, toe-tapping comedy musical! While some film stars are ready for ‘the talkies’, others aren’t, and it’s a bumpy ride to find out who’s who.
Oliver Twist (1948)
Director David Lean (UK, Cert U)
Charles Dickens’ tale of the poor boy who grows up in a workhouse, works with a gang of pickpockets and is finally saved has been filmed many times, but this classic is the most captivating of them all!
Bicycle Thieves / Ladri di biciclette (1948)
Director Vittorio De Sica (Italy, Cert U)
In Rome after the war, Bruno and his dad search the city for the stolen bicycle which their poor family depends on for him to earn a living.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director Frank Capra (US, Cert U)
It’s Christmas, but kind, generous George is overwhelmed by life’s difficulties until a very unlikely angel arrives to help.
Beauty and the Beast / La Belle et la Bête (1946)
Director Jean Cocteau, René Clément (France, Cert PG)
The classic fairytale transformed for the screen! Magic, passion and danger for Belle and the Beast in an enchanted world in which statues live, mirrors talk and love overcomes prejudice.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Director Victor Fleming (US, Cert U)
The most wonderful of musicals begins as Dorothy wishes she lived somewhere else and is suddenly swept up by a tornado into the sky! To get back home to Kansas, can she avoid the Wicked Witch, and reach the Emerald City with new friends Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion to ask the Wizard of Oz for help?
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Director Michael Curtiz, William Keighley (US, Cert U)
The story of the justice-seeking Nottinghamshire outlaw has been told many times, but never with the energy, lightness of touch and sheer sense of fun of this terrific 1930s version starring the great Errol Flynn.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Director David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen, William Cottrell, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce (US, Cert U)
The first feature-length animation, Walt Disney’s version of the fairytale is beautifully drawn, funny and packed with great songs including ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come’ and ‘Heigh Ho’!
A Day at the Races (1937)
Director Sam Wood (US, Cert U)
A veterinarian posing as a doctor and a race-horse owner and his friends struggle to help keep a sanitarium open with the help of a misfit race-horse. The plot summary doesn’t do this classic comic caper justice!
King Kong (1933)
Director Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack (US, Cert PG)
A jungle expedition, a gigantic ape, a beautiful young woman and a rooftop chase across New York! The original version, with pioneering SFX blending stop-motion model animation with live action actors.
The Kid (1921)
Director Charles Chaplin (US, Cert U)
A baby is accidentally stolen along with a car, then abandoned by the thieves. He’s taken in by the kindly Tramp (silent film star Charlie Chaplin) who brings him up and teaches him some of the cheeky tricks required to survive on the streets!
A Trip to the Moon / Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902)
Director Georges Méliès (France, Cert U)
A classic of early sci-fi from the master of fantasy cinema, Georges Méliès, this fusion of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne provides an awe-inspiring depiction of man’s first mission to the moon.