Popeye (1980): Children are a common subject for serious filmmakers, but they usually yield the likes of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows or Abbas Kiarostami’s Where is My Friend’s House?—films about children, not specifically intended for children. It’s rare that someone like, let’s say, Robert Altman, makes a film aimed at the young and impressionable. But when that happens, as it inexplicably did with Altman’s Robert Evans-produced monstrosity of E.C. Segar’s beloved comics and cartoons, you can guarantee that the results will be pretty weird.
Return to Oz (1985): Walter Murch may have only directed one film, but his pioneering, exacting sound design and film editing are why films like THX-1138, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now are so overwhelming. He’s fiercely intelligent, which is why his lone film, rather than try to mimic the joys of the original Wizard of Oz, turned to L. Frank Baum’s books. Which is also why—with its head-shifting queens, people turned to desert sand and freaky “Wheelers”—it’s still, for kids and kid-like adults, frequently terrifying.
A Little Princess (1995): Who is Alfonso Cuarón? Is he the maker of lush and wonderful children’s films, like this take on the Frances Hodgson Burnett and the third Harry Potter? Or an adult filmmaker, alternately horny (Y Tu Mamá También) and bleak (Children of Men)?
Babe: Pig in the City (1998): Perhaps it was odd when George Miller, the dynamic mind behind the Mad Max franchise, upchucked the disease drama Lorenzo’s Oil. But that’s nothing when he wrote and produced a talking pig movie, and directed its unfairly maligned sequel. Two Happy Feets followed, though let’s hope he’s merely saving his energy for the perhaps-finally-happening Mad Max: Fury Road.
The Great Yokai War (2005): A Time Bandits-y caper for the tots, from the guy who brought you scenes where a guy’s foot is sawed off with piano wire ( Audition ), a dad has sex with his daughter (Visitor Q), and a man getting strung up in the air with meat hooks in his back and scalded with boiling water (Ichi the Killer).
Hugo (2011): How many kiddie films feature filmmaking pioneer Georges Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley) as a major character? You rock, Martin Scorsese.