9 PG rated movies that don’t suck

Let’s face it, most movies that are rated PG suck. They’re supposed to be fun for the whole family, but that only works if your whole family is lame. Now, I’m not saying that all movies need to be gore-streaked sex-fests featuring cursing at a level that would make Quentin Tarantino blush, but they don’t all have to be pandering, over-sanitized bores either. Thankfully, these nine PG rated movies avoid falling into the usual PG traps.

A quick note before we begin: due to hazy rating rules – especially the fact that the PG-13 rating wasn’t created until 1984 – I’m only including movies made from about 1985 on. Prior to then there are just too many movies rated PG that would never be rated PG today. Okay? Okay.

Photo credit: YouTube/Orion Pictures

9 ‘Contact’

This Jodie Foster sci-fi flick manages to be both mature and innocent, a tough act to pull off in Hollywood, but when a movie can manage it, it can be magic. Contact is graceful in a way that is all too rare. There aren’t any explosions, no violence or people doing the no-pants dance and Matthew McConaughey of all people even manages to keep it sweet as a priest. It’s hard to do all of that without the end result being terminally boring or sickeningly sweet, but Contact pulls it off. Of course, it helps when your source material is a Carl Sagan novel. Sure, perhaps the film could have used Jodie Foster machine-gunning a Predator or something but why mess with what already works?

Photo credit: YouTube/Warner Bros.

8 ‘Real Genius’

Real Genius is silly without being stupid and smart without being smarmy, which is a tough balancing act to pull off, but it helps when you have Val Kilmer playing a proto-Zack Morris, William Atherton (aka the Dick EPA dude from Ghostbusters) playing a dick professor and a script that revels in its own dorky weirdness. It all just works and even though it is so quintessentially ‘80s, it is also a lot of fun. It’s a total nerd movie that doesn’t apologize for its blatant nerdiness and isn’t afraid to take the bold position that hey, sometimes being a nerd is actually pretty cool.

Photo credit: YouTube/TriStar Pictures

7 ‘Hoosiers’

Hoosiers is one of those movies that transcend ratings. It’s pretty much the perfect sports movie, the ultimate tale of the underdog who somehow makes good. And naturally, thanks to both the subject matter and the film’s setting, it’s chock-full of all those wholesome family values that certain groups love so much. But really, none of that stuff matters. It’s all a byproduct of the story itself, of a damn good movie, rather than the point of it all. Hoosiers wasn’t made to rub everyone’s noses in those values. In fact, it points out throughout the film how ridiculous much of that small-town crap really is and in the end, it’s a movie about how a stubborn big city asshole refuses to let his team get broken down by the Hicksville dead-end nature of their lives. In a way, it’s both PG and anti-PG, astonishingly simple and somehow sneakily sophisticated, and that’s why it manages to transcend its rating and become simply a good movie.

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6 ‘Field of Dreams’

Is it overly sentimental? Sure. Are there moments that make me roll my eyes? Definitely. But I also have a dad, and really that’s all it takes for the common dude to appreciate this movie. At its core, Field of Dreams is a movie about fathers and sons, about the distance that grows between us and the little, almost stupid things, that tie us together even after all that time passes. There’s nothing in this movie that will make you hi-five your friends, but there is a son playing catch with his dad years after the old man died and sometimes, that’s all it takes.

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5 ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’

Honestly, I was kind of surprised that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure wasn’t rated PG-13, but when I thought about it, it made sense. Sure, the two are basically stoners but the movie never comes out and says it. Really, there’s nothing here that would be objectionable to even the churchiest of church ladies – unless, of course they consider time travel a sin or a liberal conspiracy or something and these days they just might – but even though there isn’t anything outrageous, there isn’t anything lame either. I’m not sure how they pulled that one off, but somehow they did it. As Keanu would say… whoa.

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4 ‘The Princess Bride’

This movie is perfect. It just is. The Dread Pirate Roberts, Inigo Montoya, Andre the Giant, Vizzini, the Six Fingered Man, “As you wish”… it’s all perfect. The fact that it’s all so innocent and PG is incidental. It’s cool in its own eccentric manner, both funny and irreverent in a way that doesn’t feel forced or pandering. It’s everything that the Shrek franchise wishes it could be. But in the end, The Princess Bride is just one of a kind.

Photo credit: YouTube/20th Century Fox

3 ‘The Goonies’

Come on, who doesn’t love The Goonies? There was no way I could compile a list like this without including The Goonies. Sure, it’s juvenile and kind of hokey but it perfectly nails that age, that time in your life where you just want to explore and believe in magic and wondrous things, that moment that exists just before you’re forced to grow up. It’s all very ‘80s and it’s even got Corey Feldman running around, but it’s also got Chunk and it’s got Sloth and it’s got Same Gamgee as a little kid and really, if you don’t love this movie at least a little bit, I don’t think we can be friends.

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2 ‘Groundhog Day’

In the wrong hands, Groundhog Day could have been incredibly cheesy. But thanks to writer/director Harold Ramis and some dude named Bill freakin’ Murray, Groundhog Day manages to feel both cool and subversive, totally transcending its rom-com heart and its PG sensibilities. It’s about as dark as a PG movie can get, laced with absurd black humor and Murray’s typically vicious wit. If you don’t love this movie, it’s possible that you are not human.

Photo credit: YouTube/Columbia Pictures

1 ‘Back to the Future’

Magic. Just magic. Sometimes, it all just comes together, everything goes absurdly right and when it’s all over, you just look back and nod your head in appreciation with a goofy smile on your face. That’s what it must have been like to make Back to the Future because even though there is something almost absurdly wholesome about it, there is a magic to it that is irresistible, no matter who you are or where you come from. Everyone likes Back to the Future. The most uptight conservative can love Back to the Future the same as your greenest hippie. In many ways, it is the perfect movie and it doesn’t matter whether it’s rated PG or G or J or LMNOP. And that’s why it’s the perfect choice to be number one on this list.

Photo credit: YouTube/Universal Pictures