Movies are a memorable part of growing up. The beautiful stories, catchy songs, and perfectly executed punch lines of childhood classics stay with us as we mature, providing nostalgia far into adulthood. Ball gowns, talking animals, and strong female leads are essential to every girl’s movie collection.
Here is a list of wholesome, timeless films your girl should see before the age of fifteen:
Disney’s 1950 animated version of this classic fairytale is an absolute must see. Critics may complain that the “someday my prince will come” plot is not empowering to women, but every little girl wants to feel like a princess worth rescuing and this timeless tale touches on just that. With enchanting characters, unforgettable tunes, and beautiful imagery, Cinderella will capture the heart of budding princesses for generations to come.
This 1960 Disney classic starring Hayley Mills tells the story of a girl who chooses to have a positive outlook, no matter what hardships befall her. Anyone who can convert a fire and brimstone preacher to gladness and a crotchety old woman to kindness is ok in my book, and Pollyanna succeeds at both. Her cheerful spirit and naïve honesty make this film wholesome and fun.
The 1937 Fox Studios film starring Shirley Temple is one of the most charming adaptations of this beloved tale. The cute, curly-haired Heidi is sure to evoke giggles as she wins the heart of both the characters on film and your young viewer. This heart-warming story speaks of hope, redemption, and love, with all the clean, corny humor an old movie can boast.
4. The Secret Garden
Secrets abound in this 1993 Warner Brother’s film where the neglected and bitter Mary is sent to live with her cold uncle after the death of her parents. A locked up garden, a boy with mysterious ailments, and an unspoken death in the family intertwine as the characters learn to grow, forgive, and hope. Every girl loves a little mystery, and this movie brings it with a message of friendship and love.
5. National Velvet
MGM’s 1944 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney involves horses and proving a girl can have passion, wit, and willpower equal to that of a man – a perfect combo for girls of all ages. Velvet, the movie’s spunky heroine, works with Mi, a young wanderer troubled by his past, to train Velvet’s horse for England’s greatest racing event, the Grand National. Not only is this film fun, but it will leave your girl believing she can achieve her dreams through bravery and dedication.
6. Beauty and the Beast
The 1991 Walt Disney classic tells a tale of selfless acts and unconditional love. Breaking away from the “handsome prince saves helpless girl” plotlines of the past, the brainy bookworm heroine of this story looks beyond external appearance and saves the Beast by helping him find the goodness in his own heart. Every girl should see this film if for no other reason than to envy the library Belle is gifted by the Beast in this music filled masterpiece.
7. The Little Princess
The 1937 Fox Film adaptation starring Shirley Temple tells the story of a wealthy little girl turned servant when her father is believed to be killed at war. The movie is darling, and the dramatic side of your little princess will feel she can relate when you send her off to clean her room.
8. Anne of Green Gables
Any movie that includes the lead character reciting Tennyson’s "The Lady of Shalott" while floating by canoe down a river in a fake funeral is sure to be promising. The 1985 Sullivan Entertainment film starring Megan Follows lives up to that promise. Anne is a dramatic, outspoken orphan accidentally sent to live with two elderly siblings (who had requested a boy for farm help). The story follows Anne through hardships, hysterical predicaments, and coming of age as she finds the love of a family and the friendship of kindred spirits. This movie speaks to a girl’s poetic heart, and relates to the awkward insecurities that accompany adolescence.
9. The Princess Diaries
A modern classic, the 2001 Disney film starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews will undoubtedly be appreciated for generations to come. Every girl loves a good makeover story and this one takes everyday awkward teenager to confident heir of Genovia. This flick portrays that brains, quirks, and uniqueness are traits to be adored, not something to be ashamed of, and Mia’s clumsy attempts at princess lessons will have both you and your girl laughing.
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Disney again claims the best adaptation in the 1937 animated version of this tale. While she-woman man-haters may disapprove of the Prince’s rescuer role in the film, keep in mind this story also teaches about the destruction of jealousy, kindness toward outcasts, appreciation for wildlife, and wariness of strangers who offer sweet treats.
The original 1982 film based on the Broadway Musical is yet another orphan tale that every girl must see. Love them or hate them, everyone knows the classic tunes “Tomorrow (The Sun Will Come Out)” and “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” and the movie is just as memorable. Annie and her canine sidekick Sandy teach viewers that, while our happy endings may not look exactly as we’ve imagined, there is indeed hope for tomorrow and love will win in the end.
12. Mary Poppins
This 1964 classic stars the lovely Julie Andrews who teaches a banker’s unhappy children that life is more fun with a bit of imagination, a giving heart, and a spoonful of sugar (Who can fight that?). Dick Van Dyke adds a heaping dose of laughter to the mix for an all-around charming, music filled tale that no child should miss out on.
13. The Parent Trap
Before your daughter watches the Lindsay Lohan remake (which is also endearing), introduce her to the original 1961 Disney version starring the delightful Hayley Mills. The decade appropriate costumes and hair are lovely to see, and the gorgeous Maureen O’Hara is both funny and classy. Girls admire the audacity of the sneaky twins and enjoy their hilarious, yet heart-warming antics.
14. Charlotte’s Web
The 1973 film from Paramount Pictures is a story of an unlikely friendship based on the book by E.B. White. A pig and a spider take on the lead roles in a story that gently explores the birth of new life, the sadness of death, and the faithfulness of a good friend.
15. The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews is at her best in this 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein film. Maria, who is failing as a nun, is given a second chance at life when she is made governess to the seven mischievous children of a naval captain. The music alone makes this movie worth watching, but the costumes, scenery, and plotline are epic as well, making it an absolute must for girls of all ages.
Susan Gallen on January 12, 2018:
Saw a movie about a young teen who babysits a little girl. On the way home they witness a hit and run by her high school teacher who she later finds out is her father. Does anyone know the name of the movie?
Ashley on October 23, 2015:
Ah Anne of Green Gables was included, thank you so much! I have always adored her and thought she was such an inspiring and feminine influence. I also really enjoyed Madeline :)
OtakuGal on August 24, 2015:
Anne of Green Gables!!I read the book! Mary Poppins!! Actors with animated dancing penguins! Yessssss
Faith A Mullen (author) on March 02, 2013:
Hi DIYmommy! Anne of Green Gables was one of my childhood favorites too. I watched the whole series countless times with my best friend :)
Julie on March 02, 2013:
I was a big fan of Anne of Green Gables while I was growing up. Growing up with 2 other sisters, there was a certain fascination we had with the storyline. Thanks for another great hub here!