Films That Shaped our Childhoods


Cinema goes out of its way to entertain, influence and connect with people, especially during their childhoods. Films that shape childhoods can strike a balance between impressing young audiences and delivering elements that both children and adults can relate to. It can also inspire them to make their own art.

I spoke to 14Y’s staff including the educators in 14Y’s Early Childhood Program who work to broaden children’s minds, many times through art and other media. Below is a list of the films that left a huge impact on them and myself during our childhoods.

Jacob Waltuck’s Recommendations:

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Disney’s ‘90s Renaissance was a time where the studio made its comeback with magical tales like this charming romantic fantasy about a spirited bookworm and a cursed prince. Belle was the first feminist heroine I was introduced to, and I could relate to the Beast learning to control his temper.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Monsters, Inc., one of Pixar’s most memorable films, delivers a compelling story about looking past stereotypes. Like Pixar’s other classics, this one impressed me with its sharp writing, relatable characters, and witty voice acting.

The Animated Underdogs of Warner Bros.

These three ‘90s animated films didn’t get much credit when they were first released, but it’s easy to see why more people have been admiring them over time. Cats Don’t Dance (1997) presented a hilarious fable about dealing with prejudice in Hollywood. Quest for Camelot (1998) featured a heroine who was no damsel in distress and a hero with a disability who was not to be pitied. The Iron Giant (1999) contained a powerful story about a friendship between a misunderstood boy and an extraterrestrial robot, placing emphasis on themes of love and overcoming fear of the unknown.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

This quirky modern fairy tale about discovering the courage within is one of Studio Ghibli’s most charming films. Just as a monster in the closet can be an empathetic father figure, and a weapon from outer space can have a conscience, Kiki’s Delivery Service proves that a witch can be a lovable heroine, making Kiki one of my favorite animated leading ladies of all time.

The Secret Garden (1993)

There are plenty of wonderful live action films that shaped my childhood, too. One of them was The Secret Garden. Not only could I relate to Mary Lennox’s outbursts and struggles to cope with an unfamiliar environment, but it also delivered a strong message about dealing with trauma.


Recommendations from 14Y Staff:

Maria Lemire, Preschool Teacher (House 305)

“Fantasia. It is such a great film to encourage families to watch with their children.”

Jordan Brackett, Executive Director

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 version). It can be a little dark at parts, but it is a wonderful film. Kids love it and so do adults; and as an adult, one realizes how brilliant Gene Wilder was.”

Julia Massey, Operations Manager for Early Childhood Programs

“The Wizard of Oz. The first time I saw it was on a black and white TV; the second was in color. I was amazed by the color surprise. It was the start of my appreciation for musical theater.”

Cat Kenny, Associate Director of Operations for Youth Programs

“Meet the Robinsons. It’s hilarious, and I like the message, ‘keep moving forward.'”

Meshi Zilberstein, Associate Director of Youth Programs

“The Lion King. It taught me a lot of meaningful themes through a lens I was able to understand.”

Yenni Eng, Membership Assistant

“The Superman films. Superman is strong, humble, and doesn’t take credit.”

Price Stone, Program Operations & Administration Coordinator

“Lady and the Tramp. I love dogs and was geared towards them and dog films; I wanted a dog as a kid.”

Jacob Ross, Marketing Intern

“Lilo and Stitch. I’ve always loved going to islands, and this film is set on one.”

Kevin Crooks, Program Manager, Transition Services at Job Path

“The 1995 iconic cultural touchstone, Clueless, shaped my childhood enormously. My sisters and I would regularly pop it in the VCR to have it on in the background. The witty dialogue and lovingly-satirical tone made a substantial impact on my sense of humor.”

Nancy, Early Childhood Program

The Wizard of Oz, because of the fantasy, power and magic that the film conveyed.”


Which films shaped your childhoods the most?

Jacob Waltuck has enjoyed working in the Arts + Culture and Marketing Departments at the 14th Street Y. He also enjoys acting, visual art, and theater, and is involved in employment support programs through JobPath.