Growing up, I was obsessed with movies. I especially loved movies where the protagonist had to leap out of their comfort zone and grow in that outside world. I think we all have times like that. This world is all about learning and growing with each new piece of knowledge. Seeing characters go through these same adventures teaches us how to navigate the changes in our own lives. These characters were heroes, kids, animals, and sometimes just grumpy old men. Watching these fictional characters take wild adventures taught me to dream and, more importantly, to follow those dreams. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite kids’ adventure movies that I think will inspire you to take your next adventure!
Up was a game-changer movie for me growing up. The film centers on a grumpy old man, Carl Frederickson, headed for Paradise Falls to fulfill a wish he and his late wife had planned. This marked the end of his long adventure with his wife and the beginning of this new chapter by himself. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Disney film without a few unlikely companions. Boy scout, Russell, and talking dog, Doug, join the adventure and create comedic relief during this touching film.
More than anything, the movie represents adventure. Carl sets out on this adventure by himself but finds himself surrounded by new characters that wind up giving him the real adventure he needs. Like the Grinch, Carl’s heart grows three sizes when he comes to realize the preciousness of the life he once had and the one he now has. Even after a hard loss, we can learn to find new meaning in our lives. We can learn from Carl and his adventures. Be open to adventures of all sorts. And remember, “Adventure is out there!”
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
This movie is about as much adventure as you can get packed into an hour and 48 minutes. As a kid, I was terrified of this movie and its smoking caterpillars and confusing cats. But Alice traveled through weird lands and met the most interesting (and confounding) people. She is faced with a confusing world where everything seems out of whack. And while Alice starts the movie wanting to escape her world (especially her lessons), she finds herself in a world without any structure and realizes the difficulty of both worlds.
So what to take from it? Balance of work and play is vital! If you’re overwhelmed and feel like your life is all work, try to fall into your own rabbit hole and learn from it! Follow the rabbit and see where you end up. And when you’re surrounded by all play, remember the importance of that structure. More than anything though, the lesson I took from Alice in Wonderland is that when everything seems like it's from a different world, learn to see it with fresh eyes.
Having been raised on a television set, Bolt truly believes he is a super-dog. His adventure to find Penny, his young owner, is really a coming-of-age story of a dog and his owner as he struggles to find her again after he, too, fell into a “rabbit hole” of mystery. In this case, his rabbit hole was entering the real world.
Bolt, accompanied by a cat and a hamster, sets off on a journey to find Penny. This cat tries to pull Bolt into the real world. And just as he is beginning to realize he isn’t a super dog, he is pushed back to heroism when he finally finds Penny trapped in a dangerous situation. While Bolt doesn’t technically have any powers, he is a super dog. His adventure through reality reminds me that even though the world may not always be as it seems, we are what we choose to be. You might fear adventure because of what you might find out and discover, but these adventures do not have to define you any more than you choose for them to. Believe in yourself as a hero, and you can be one.
Okay, Zathura is, as my best friend calls it, a “space Jumanji”. We start in a family home with two young boys and an older sister. The boys find a mysterious board game that once started, needs to be finished. Each card they pull adds a twist to their adventure: sending them to space, giving them wishes, and sending a robot after them!
The two brothers learn to navigate the game and their relationship with each other. I could watch this movie on repeat when I was a pre-teen. The movie taught me to appreciate my siblings and, more importantly, to use adventures as a method of growing with others. We learn much better from/with other people. And while a solo adventure is always great for deep exploration of our own minds, growing with your family or friends can teach you so much that you never even thought to explore. While I don’t expect to take a space trip with my brother anytime soon, I do intend to take little adventures with those around me: going to a new coffee shop, learning a new hobby, etc., because doing it with my loved ones not only motivates me and teaches me so much more, but helps me recognize other perspectives. Take the chance to go on an adventure with your loved ones and see how much more you learn with them than you would’ve by yourself.
Finding Nemo (2003)
This movie is, in reality, a sad story about a father searching for his son in a vast area with only the help of a disabled stranger. But what we, with optimistic hearts, see are Nemo and Marlin’s adventures away from their home. Nemo meets strange fish at a dentist's office and Marlin and Dory jump on jellyfish. Marlin learns to be nice and patient with strangers. He learns to be more relaxed and enjoy himself. Nemo learns how to conquer his fears. The two grow as characters even through the misfortune of being spun into a new world.
Both father and son have taught me to take a step out of my comfort zone and to be open to new experiences. While obviously, you wouldn’t want an adventure while losing your son, take a step away from the things you know and venture out into the rest of the world and see what you can discover about yourself. Of course, I’ve also learned from this movie the iconic phrase to “just keep swimming.” Even when you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t know what to do, take the next step forward.
Like many of us, Luca is an anxious-ridden kid who is afraid to leave his safety net of home. Alberto is his outgoing, fearless counterpart. Once Luca takes that step from his home, the two have the most wonderful adventure while discovering an Italian town. I don’t want to spoil too much because this one isn’t as old as the others on the list. However, this story is all about friendship and taking a step outside of your comfort zone to grow as an individual.
Now, if you’re like me and Luca and terrified of taking that step from your comfort zone, it’s not always as easy as finding yourself an Alberto. But one thing you can take away from this movie is having your own “Silenzio Bruno!” In the movie, this is a way for the boys to dissolve their fears. It’s a bit silly, sure, but just try it next time you need to take that step out. Remind yourself to silence those worries and just take that step forward!
These are really only a few in a plethora of kids' movies that taught me what it means to take an adventure. And while they market these movies to children, they can still teach us new lessons as adults! Adventures vary in shape and size. This post in itself was an adventure to explore my childhood love for movies! Each of these movies had its own adventures and reasons for said adventures. I hope this post can open you up to the variety of adventures out there for you! What movies have helped you define adventure or inspire you to adventure? Did I leave a movie out that you think should have been on this list? Comment below!
About The Author
Sierra is a senior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) where she studies English. She enjoys writing and reading with a passion. She is especially passionate about sustainability and human rights and she hopes to use her writing to inspire others in these movements. As the Editor-in-Chief at LYF, Sierra is happy for the opportunity to contribute to these topics. When not reading or writing, she can be found playing video games or binge-watching TV. The things she loves most include strawberries, new stationery, and her bed.