The best action adventure flicks for kiddos aged 9 or above!
We return with another list for the best kids action movies. Our last article featured the most exciting films for the youngest action fans 6-8 years old. This time we’re looking at the masterpieces aimed at a slightly slightly older audience with ages 9-11.
For this age group there are plenty of PG-13 movies that could be recommended for children when watching them together with their parents, but we still make the cut at the PG-rating, as this leaves no ambiguity whether the movies on our list can be unconditionally approved for everyone.
Action-packed movies like Star Wars and Ghostbusters are not included, as we’re only looking for films that convey the vibe of to the pure and relentless action classics. The films we’re discussing in this article crank up the intensity of the action to the absolute maximum, while remaining harmless fun. So let’s start our countdown!
10) Masters of the Universe (1987)
Masters of the Universe has become a classic of the legendary Cannon studios, but is more considered a trashy cult flick these days rather than an accomplished action movie. In any case, it is a truly innocent and goofy production, and thus perfect entertainment for kids! While fighting the evil sorcerer Skeletor and his minions on their home planet Eternia, He-Man and his companions accidentally teleport to present-day Earth. They try to find a way back home, but also need to keep battling Skeletor who found a way to come after them. Masters of the Universe has a fluffy look, colorful costumes, and cheesy humor, so spiritually it’s very much in line with the TV cartoon series it’s based on.
Lets skip talking about the quality of the plot and acting for the sake of staying polite, where the movie delivers instead is on the action front. But while we get many shootouts, brawls, and explosions, there’s rarely anything worth remembering, and this lack of originality is what prevents Masters of the Universe from becoming a truly great film. It’s all entertaining enough to warrant inclusion in our list, and a great example if you want to let your kids experience the vibe of an old-school action movie.
9) Suburban Commando (1991)
Hulk Hogan, like other wrestlers before and after him, used his popularity to embark on a film career after leaving the wrestling arena. His success as a movie actor was limited, though, and he ended up doing mostly C-grade action movies and some terrible comedies. A positive exception is his second movie Suburban Commando. Space hero Shep Ramsay takes a vacation on earth after his last stressful mission, and moves in as a subtenant with the neurotic architect Charlie and his family. While navigating through the daily madness of Suburbia, he also needs to deal with two cosmic bounty hunters coming after him.
Suburban Commando takes a standard comedy template and adds plenty of slapstick action to the mix. Sheps well-meaning attitude combined with his ignorance of the local customs usually are the frequent cause of (harmless) violence and/or destruction. Corny jokes are abundant, such as Shep drinking anti-freeze to counter the effects of a high-tech freeze gun, or “helping” a pantomime who seems to be trapped inside a force field. The film is a quite mellow affair, and Hogan radiates a relaxed vibe in his role. All in all we get a nice package of cheesy action-comedy with the Hulkster in one of his best movies.
8) Sky High (2005)
Surviving high school can be hard, and who wouldn’t wish to have superpowers to ease their way through this minefield for adolescents. If everyone at your school has superpowers, the playing field is leveled again, though, and things can get even more troublesome. Will’s parents are both superheros, and have high expectations for him as their successor. He joins Sky High, a high school for superheroes, but his superpowers are nowhere to be seen. To make things worse, an unknown menace is plotting the demise of all superheroes, old and young alike.
The first X-Men movie trilogy included superhero education and training in its story, but that school was not really a fun place, if you ask me. Sky High is a very different beast, a light-hearted comedy that pokes a lot of fun at the uncountable number of superheroes existing in popular culture these days. Sky High even has “loser” class for kids with useless superpowers such as being able to turn into a puddle of slime, or glowing faintly in the dark. And kids running high on hormones, who also need to learn how to control their powers, is the cause of plenty explosive fights and demolitions. As with almost all Disney live-action movies, there are no rough edges, we’ve seen it all before, but Sky High is still a fun watch for the whole family with plenty of hilarious action sequences.
7) Sidekicks (1992)
if you think The Karate Kid needed to have more action and more Chuck Norris, Sidekicks comes to the rescue! Directed by Chuck’s brother Aaron, the movie is a real family affair. Barry has a somewhat troubled life, and regularly drifts off into day dreams, where he finds himself as the sidekick to Chuck Norris in various action movie settings. He gets trained in Karate by Chinese restaurant owner Mr. Lee, and prepares for an upcoming karate tournament. Even more than the original Karate Kid, the plot of Sidekicks is like a fantasy movie, with Barry undergoing an almost magical transformation from frail asthmatic to unstoppable martial arts master.
The film oscillates between goofy comedy and kitschy drama, but the action scenes are all fun to watch with their parodies of classic action tropes, among them an appearance of Lone Wolf McQuade himself! The Norris brothers also show that they know their movies, and manage to put in a terrific homage to the classic Spaghetti Western My Name is Nobody. From the rest of the cast, Joe Piscopo sticks out as bullying and testosterone-inebriated martial arts teacher who has a proper beating by Chuck coming at him big time. Sidekicks is a slightly weird and uneven action comedy, but in any case one of the better Karate Kid ripoffs, and shows us that Chuck Norris is absolutely able to poke fun at himself.
6) Eliminators (1986)
The cyborg Mandroid escapes from his evil creator Reeves who wants to dispose of him. Reeves is up to more sinister stuff, so the Mandroid goes after him and assembles an unlikely team that includes a scientist, a ninja and a mercenary. Eliminators seems to be like every kid’s and B-movie fan’s dream with a cyborg, a ninja, cannibals, and a whole bunch of Sci-Fi nonsense all in the same movie! While this almost sounds like the ingredients for a contemporary parody on the genre, Eliminators can actually claim to be one of the first movies to plunder the repository of modern B-movies and throw them all together into a fairly chaotic mix.
The script has a logic that really only a child would find satisfactory, and the overarching plot is fairly bonkers, too. There’s rarely a dull moment, though, either we’re treated with cheesy dialogues or cheesy action. Eliminators never descends into trash territory, however, the special effects and action sequences are not embarrassing, and the overall production quality is quite okay. And the Mandroid himself is certainly the most gentle and polite cyborg in all of movie history. Eliminators is upbeat and silly, and is a nostalgic throwback into kid-friendly 1980s action movie madness.
5) Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)
A long time before Firefly and The Mandalorian came along, a great Space Action Western was made in 1983. Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone can be considered a spiritual predecessor to other goofy Sci-Fi comedy classics such as The Ice Pirates and Buckaroo Banzai that came out shortly after. Unlike its peers, Spacehunter puts all its focus on the action, but features just as much campy humor. Three women are the only survivors of a spaceship explosion, and their escape pod crashes on a desolate planet. The women are abducted by the minions of the evil cyborg Overdog, and it is up to Mercenary Wolff to rescue them.
The film really is just a sequence of action-packed sets, as Wolff and his companions traverse a contaminated wasteland inhabited by violent mutants and other dangers. Spacehunter has a serious Mad Max feel to it with its desolate setting and multitude of eccentric giant vehicles. There’s dirt and filth everywhere, and monsters lurking around every corner. It’s all harmless fun, though, with plenty of comic relief and silly jokes. An almost unrecognizable Michael Ironside leads the bad guy team in one of his early villain roles as ugly cyborg tyrant with two enormous creepy claws. Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is tons of fun, and one of the few movies with a post-apocalyptic vibe that can be recommended for kids.
4) The Rocketeer (1991)
In 1990, Disney’s Dick Tracy started a short-lived streak of colorful movies inspired by pulp and superhero comics from the 1930s and 1940s. Films like The Phantom and The Shadow were pretty awesome, but another Disney production, The Rocketeer stands out as far as easygoing action-packed entertainment for kids is concerned. A secret prototype for a jetpack falls into the hands of stunt pilot Cliff. He becomes The Rocketeer, a show attraction, but soon needs to put his new gadget to use to fend off a conspiracy involving mafia mobsters and Nazi spies. The whole setup is pretty awesome, and there’s enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.
The movie is a big spectacle with a cheerful vibe, and we get a load of awesome action sequences. There’s oldtimer car chases, propeller plane stunts and crashes, and a showdown on, in and around a Nazi Zeppelin. The cast includes Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin and ex-James Bond Timothy Dalton, and they all contribute a lot to the fun with a perfect balance of portraying believable characters and just the right amount of campiness. The Rocketeer is an action-adventure with a lot of heart, and makes for perfect family entertainment.
3) Tron (1982)
Welcome to the world of Tron, the mystical realm of a computer circuit board inhabited by good and evil programs. Ex-Encom programmer Kevin breaks into the building of his former employer to collect evidence that some code of his was stolen by a former colleague. He gets caught by the Master Control Program, an artificial intelligence, and is digitized into a computer program. Trapped inside the Encom network, he needs to fight for his survival in a deadly tournament. Tron cleverly picked up on the arcade hype and advent of home computers that for many people still were an new and exciting world at the time.
The film is not a sophisticated Sci-Fi thriller, but a pure popcorn action movie, a spectacle from the first minute in a unique and captivating setting. The digital world is just a playground for Flynn to race, shoot and punch his way towards an escape from the evil AI. The visual effects were revolutionary at the time, and even today are still strangely captivating. Jeff Bridges in one of his many great roles plays Flynn, a charming smart-ass who is constantly on the brink of getting “derezzed”, but always finds the time to crack a joke. Tron is an absolute 1980s classic, and should be a great time for really everyone who loves action movies.
2) Speed Racer (2008)
Speed Racer. The name of the movie. The name of the main character. The name of a comic book. Made by the Wachowskis. Better than The Matrix. Better cars. Better jokes. Better colors. Color explosions. Car explosions. Car stunts. Car weapons. Cars bouncing around like ping-pong balls. Car insanity. Insane special effects. Insane costumes. Insane race tracks. Insanity and genius. Ingenious cinematography and editing. Speed Racer, the best race driver who ever lived. Speed Racer competing against psychopathic opponents. Speed Racer fighting against evil corporations. So many awesome villains. So many terrible suits and ties. So many German accents. John Goodman wrestling ninjas. John Goodman wrestling mafia mobsters. John Goodman, the head of the Racer family. A family with a monkey. A great family. A great family movie. A perfect movie. Speed Racer.
1) The Karate Kid (1984)
Maybe the most famous action movie for young audiences ever, The Karate Kid is as great as it can get. It tells the story of uprooted teenager Daniel who tries to find his way in a new city. He falls in love with a girl, gets bullied by the members of the nasty Cobra Kai Karate school, and befriends the old Mr. Miyagi, who trains him to become a martial arts master. A perfect balance of action, comedy and drama, The Karate Kid tells a simple tale with an incredible amount of positive energy.
Daniel and Miyagi make a perfect team, a wise-ass teenager and an odd-ball caretaker. Both are struggling with their life, and learn to help and care for each other. Featuring one of the greatest finishes you’ll ever see, the big karate tournament even relegates the showdown of Rocky IV to second place. The Karate Kid is a movie every action movie fan young or old will be able to appreciate, I believe, and if you’re in the mood for a full load of 1980s action cinema to watch with your kids, The Karate Kid is the go-to movie No. 1.