Best Films for Family Movie Night
Family movie night is a great way to gather around and wind down after a frenzied week. Curling up on the couch together to watch a family comedy is an easy way to relax and stay connected.
But it's not always easy to find movie night ideas that appeal to every member of the family, especially if you have kids who are different ages with dissimilar interests. A kid's movie that has your 7-year-old son erupting in giggles might make your 12-year-old daughter’s eyes roll.
The good news is there are plenty of heartwarming, entertaining or funny family movies that are right for all ages. Some are classics, while others are newer films that are chock-full of wit or live-action. We’ve come up with a list of our top picks that are sure to win over every member of your family. So, grab a bowl of popcorn and settle in for some family togetherness.
Raya and the Last Dragon
The "it" movie of 2021, "Raya and the Last Dragon" was a Disney movie for the books. Based on traditional Southeast Asian cultures, the film follows a warrior princess seeking a fabled last dragon, who's hilariously played by Awkwafina.
Released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+, this movie was basically an instant success, with both critics and audiences alike raving about the film.
The Princess Bride
This adaption of William Goldman’s novel of the same name was released in 1987, but it’s timeless and has become a cult favorite as one of the best movies of all time. While some people might think it’s a kid's movie, parents will undoubtedly enjoy it just as much as their kids — if not more so.
The film follows the story of farmboy-hero Westley, who secretly becomes the Dread Pirate Roberts and fights to save his true love, Buttercup, who is engaged to the malevolent Prince Humperdinck. It’s a romantic adventure with witty humor through and through. Packed with sword fights, torture, monsters (rodents of unusual size), giants, miracles and true love, there’s something to entertain everyone in your family.
And who could ever tire of quotable lines like, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Or, “As you wish?” It’s inconceivable.
If you’re looking for a touching, feel-good family movie with positive messages throughout, this is the one. It’s about acceptance, kindness, empathy, overcoming obstacles and appreciating people for who they are.
Auggie, a 10-year-old boy born with a severe facial difference, has been homeschooled his entire life, but finally decides to enter a mainstream school. Once there, he’s faced with bullying, loneliness and being ostracized — but also kindness and friendship.
While some of the plot is a bit predictable, the complexity of the characters makes it enjoyable to watch throughout. Auggie has to navigate a lot of emotions, and his sister Via is grappling with her own struggles, including feeling like her parents focus all of their attention on her brother’s needs. This movie will be sure to tug at your heartstrings, so if you're an emotional person, keep a box of tissues handy.
The entire “Toy Story” franchise is excellent, but we prefer the first movie. It seems other fans love it, too, earning a near-perfect score of 100 percent on Rotten Tomato’s Tomatometer and a 92 percent Audience Score. That’s especially amazing considering it was Pixar’s very first movie.
We first meet Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toy gang when Woody’s owner, Andy, gets a new astronaut toy for his birthday. Woody becomes worried about being replaced — and why wouldn’t he? But the movie does an excellent job teaching how to make space for everyone, which can be an especially important lesson for children annoyed with younger siblings.
The Lego Movie
This film is as much fun as playing with a new set of Legos. Chris Pratt is the voice of Emmet, a lonely, boring construction worker who lives life by the instruction book and who is mistaken for the hero who can save the Lego world. He and his friends must band together to defeat the evil tyrant Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell).
The story is fast-paced, and the visual detail of the animation is impressive. Plus, it teaches the value of working together as a team but also gives parents a stark reminder about why they shouldn’t stifle their kids’ creativity.
If you’re a fan of “Arrested Development,” you’ll get a kick out of hearing Will Arnett (who plays “Gob” Bluth on the quirky TV series) as the surly, low voice of Batman. Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson also lend their voices to this epic adventure. By the end, you won’t be able to stop yourself from singing, “Everything Is Awesome!”
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Don’t make the mistake of watching Tim Burton’s newer version of this film first. While Johnny Depp does a decent job of playing the eccentric, childlike Wonka in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” it doesn’t quite stack up to the manic energy of Gene Wilder, who is the perfect pick for the chocolate maker through and through.
His performance flawlessly portrays a character who is both debonaire and oddly threatening, a brilliant madman who understands that children are both wonderfully imaginative and bratty. Indeed, Wilder is the heart and soul of this movie. While the movie was released in 1971, it’s still spellbinding throughout, and it captures the spirit of Roald Dahl’s quirky book much better than the newer film.
Fun fact: Paris Themmen, who played the original Mike Teavee, recently made a surprise appearance on the TV show “Jeopardy.” He made no mention about his Hollywood past to host Alex Trebec, and it only came to light when viewers posted the revelation on Twitter.
This Disney animated adventure tells the story of a somewhat utopian animal world where the predators and prey all live harmoniously together. But beyond that, it opens up some very serious topics of discussion, such as stereotypes and discrimination.
Judy Hopps, a small rabbit who lives on a carrot farm (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), wants nothing more than to be a police officer, but she’s met with skepticism from those around her. To her dismay, she’s assigned to parking duty, where she meets hustler and fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) and discovers that she needs to confront her innate mistrust of foxes.
The scene where Judy and Nick have to talk to a sloth at the DMV will have you laughing out loud, and the lessons on acceptance and tolerance make the entire film moving and memorable.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Another one of the more recent films on this list, "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" was released on Netflix and was the feel-good family film that everyone needed during the pandemic.
The film follows Katie Mitchell, played by "Broad City's" Abby Jacobson, on a road trip to California when the world's technological devices come to life and stage an uprising. Can the family come together to save the planet? Just watch it. You won't regret it.
Though it’s often overlooked, this early '90s baseball comedy is destined to live forever. It’s become a cult classic, with even the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers re-enacting scenes during spring training.
Set in the San Fernando Valley during the '60s, the story follows a new kid nicknamed Smalls who joins a local baseball team in a desperate effort to make friends. When he hits a baseball signed by Babe Ruth over a fence into a backyard, the boys must band together to figure out how to retrieve it from a nefarious attack dog known as "The Beast."
Adults will feel a certain sense of nostalgia for a time when kids could ride their bikes recklessly around the neighborhood — and when young boys’ minds were occupied by nothing other than pop flies, drinking lemonade and occasionally girls. If you have any tweens in your household, it will be sure to delight them.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Director Wes Anderson never fails to please with his quirky characters and eclectic soundtracks. This film, which is based on the witty and offbeat book by Roald Dahl, is Anderson’s first foray into stop-motion animation and children’s stories.
George Clooney is the voice of the main character, Mr. Fox, who tries to outwit three cruel farmers in order to feed his family — of course, by returning to a life of crime. Meryl Streep lends her voice to Mrs. Fox, who is happy enough with her family’s hole in the ground; Jason Scharwtzman is their adolescent, disaffected son; and Bill Murray is the voice of Mr. Fox’s best friend Badger, who works at the law firm of Badger, Beaver and Beaver.
While the movie has gained a bit of cult following, especially among hipster cinephiles and some of the humor may go over young kids’ heads, it’s still a visual delight for everyone. If you enjoy it, be sure to also check out Anderson’s latest stop-motion adventure, “Isle of Dogs.”
School of Rock
Who can resist Jack Black and a bunch of fourth graders playing “Highway to Hell?” When dead-end rock guitarist Dewey Finn (Black) fakes his way into a job as a substitute teacher to make ends meet, he ends up teaching a group of uptight private school kids not only about rocking out, but also some life lessons.
The plot may sound like cookie-cutter Hollywood, but the movie does a good job of avoiding cliches. It’s both corny and clever, and Dewey, while pathetic and immature, is also endearing and noble.
You don’t have to be a diehard rocker to love this film. Everyone in your family will get a kick out of a wannabe guitar god trying to teach kids about Led Zeppelin. Be aware that there is a touch of profanity — hence the PG-13 rating.
Beauty and the Beast
Released: 2017 / 1991
“Beauty and the Beast” kicked off the live-action remakes of the early ’90s classics. Belle, played by Emma Watson in the recent version, gets trapped in a castle and falls in love with a beast. Yes, the story’s a little farfetched but the lesson that true beauty comes from within is an important one for everyone.
Plus, the music is unforgettable, even earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Shaun the Sheep Movie
This film is definitely above average humor that adults can watch without cringing while the kids stay enthralled (think homages to “Breaking Bad” and “Silence of the Lambs”). It’s a longer spin-off of the TV series with the same name created by Aardman Animations’ Nick Park, the brains behind British clay animation comedy “Wallace and Gromit.”
The story takes place in the typical Shaun setting, Mossy Bottom Farm in northern England. Shaun and the other sheep have become bored with the drudgery of their comfortable farm life and want nothing more than a day off from their routine. Little do they realize that they’ll need to rescue the farmer — who ends up in the big city with amnesia — all while avoiding the dreaded animal-control officer.
The sheep are delightfully expressive and comical, particularly when they don all sorts of disguises. Like “Wallace and Gromit,” there’s no actual dialogue in “Shaun the Sheep.” Viewers get an inkling of the plot through exaggerated gestures and animal sounds such as grunts, mumbling and the occasional “baa.”
Pirates, treasure, thieves and kids who are dreaming of adventure — does it get any better than that?
A lot of adults saw this movie when it was first released in 1985 and will never forget One-Eyed Willy, Chunk and, of course, really bad Cyndi Lauper music.
Now you can relive the experience with your kids, and hopefully, they’ll find it equally humorous and enthralling.
“Aladdin” was a huge Disney hit as an animated film and then again as a live-action film. Everyone loved the “street rat” trying to win over Jasmine.
Then, of course, there’s the comic relief from the Genie, played by the late Robin Williams in the animated version and by Will Smith in the live-action one. It’s really Disney at it’s best.
A Cat in Paris
It’s obvious why this animated film by French studio Folimage was nominated for an Academy Award in 2012. It’s a gripping story chock-full of detectives, art heists and racing across Parisian roofs.
But it’s also full of emotional nuances, like the sadness of the main character, Zoe, who hasn’t spoken since her father’s death. Adults will appreciate the angular, fluid style of the drawings, which is a refreshing deviation from conventional animations, and the movie has a marvelous, jazzy score.
Just a heads up that some parts might be a little scary for preschool-aged children and younger — for instance, scenes involving gunfire and Dino the cat killing innocent lizards.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
When you were a kid, it probably seemed like the stretch of time between Halloween and Christmas lasted forever. But in this eerie and delightful stop-motion animated film, director Tim Burton manages to slap the two holidays together in a bizarre collision.
Jack Skellington, the ruler of Halloween Town, stumbles upon the neighboring Christmas Town and becomes enraptured by it. He decides he wants to share the joy of Christmas with his own citizens in Halloween Town — even if it means going so far as to kidnap Santa Claus.
But thanks to his trio of nasty hobgobblins, Jack’s plans go horribly awry. Adults will appreciate Burton’s typically twisted and gloomy imagination with visuals that are both peculiar and captivating; kids will enjoy the silly and unique twists on their favorite holidays. Plus, the film features an alluring musical score by composer and singer Danny Elfman (formerly of Oingo Boingo), who provides the singing voice for Jack Skellington.
Pixar’s storytellers are masters at moving people to tears, and this film is no different in that regard.
This story follows 12-year-old Miguel who wants nothing more than to be a musician. He ends up in the Land of the Dead, where he discovers the secrets behind his family’s history.
It’s a visceral journey into the afterlife and a gorgeous tribute to Dia de Los Muertos. It’s little surprise that it won the best-animated feature at the 2018 Oscars.
This animated film is a perfect introduction to Studio Ghibli and renowned director Hayao Miyazaki, whose other well-known works include “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Princess Mononoke.”
It’s a coming-of-age story about a spoiled, impetuous young girl, Chihiro, who becomes trapped in the land of spirits and is on a quest to rescue her parents. While she works to free herself and her parents from the land of spirits and return to the outside world, she discovers friendship, magic, strength and more.
The characters are hallucinatory, spellbinding and sometimes grotesque, and will bring you quite a bit of insight into Japanese mythology. Be aware that because the dreamlike imagery borders on nightmarish, some scenes can be a bit creepy for younger movie watchers, such as one character being swallowed whole, Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs and an injured dragon who is her friend nearly bleeding to death.
“Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Chamber of Secrets,” “Prisoner of Azkaban” and so on … which do you choose? Actually, when it comes down to it, we recommend watching ALL of the films in the series. They’re that good.
Most films utterly fail to meet your expectations if you’ve already read the book. The “Harry Potter” film series, on the other hand, is a rare exception to that rule. Be sure to watch them in chronological order (with the 2001 "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" first) so that you don’t miss the development of the plot and the growth of the characters.
Also be aware that, just as in the books, the films get darker and darker as you progress in the series, so make sure younger views are ready before proceeding to the next one.
If you haven’t seen “Frozen” yet, we’re not completely sure where you’ve been the past decade. It quickly became the highest-grossing film in Walt Disney Animation Studios studios because it returned to the successful formula of Disney classics: a great story and music.
But this time it was about two sisters, Elsa and Anna, instead of a princess looking for her prince. Of course, there’s also “Frozen 2,” which was released in 2019.
A League of Their Own
“Batter up… Hear that call… the time has come for one and all… to plaaaaay ball.”
Yes, that’s the official song of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as sung in “A League of Their Own.” Directed by Penny Marshall and starring an all-star cast of Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna, this movie is an all-American classic.
Set in 1943, the movie tells a fictionalized account of the real-life women’s baseball league that kept Major League Baseball alive during World War II. It’s a historical sports comedy-drama that will make you laugh, cry and appreciate the spirit of the game.
If you liked how "Coco" celebrated Hispanic culture, then check out "Encanto." This animated film from Disney takes us to Colombia where a family, the Madrigals, possess super strength and the power to heal — except for one child, Mirabel.
She happens to be the only one able to help save the family's magic from danger, proving that every family member has their strengths.
Now and Then
Perhaps the female answer to “The Sandlot,” this film was also released in the 1990s about a group of girls looking back on a summer they spent in 1970.
Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch and Ashleigh Aston Moore make this a coming-of-age movie you’ll never forget. The main plot follows the four girls as they try to earn enough money to buy a treehouse to build in one of the girl’s backyards. But they face several struggles — a parents’ divorce, mother’s death and a seance that leads to more questions — that come up in the process.
Cameos from Devon Sawa and Brendan Fraser add to the story that also grapples with teenage love during the height of the Vietnam War. Preteens will love it, just like their parents did in the mid-90s.
Arguably one of Pixar’s best movies, “WALL-E” poses some very interesting questions about human impact on the environment through the eyes of the last robot on Earth: WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class).
He meets Eve who’s been sent from outer space to see the state of Earth after 700 years of tidying up the planet. A story of love and hope sends WALL-E on an adventure through the galaxy that will inspire everyone to be more mindful of their resources.
Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) is working at an Antarctica research base for the National Science Foundation. In comes a UCLA professor asking to be taken to Mount Melbourne to find a rare meteorite from Mercury. The only way they can get there is by dog sled. With a heavy storm approaching, they are advised to get back to base, and the dogs lead them there despite many challenges.
This Disney movie is surprisingly amazing, loosely telling the real Japanese story of the Second Cross-Winter Expedition for the Japanese Antarctic Surveying Team. If you’re a dog lover, this movie definitely pulls at all the heartstrings.
Another animated film released by Disney in 2021 (yes, they were busy!), Luca is set in a picturesque fishing village on the Italian Riviera. The young boy spends his summer here eating, gelato, pasta and biking along the coast. There's just one catch — he and his friend, Alberto, are secretly sea monsters.
You see, the second they step out of the water, they take human form, which is convenient when galavanting through a town where the locals' primary source of income is fishing. Will their new friends still love them if their secret is revealed? Just see for yourself in this heartwarming tale about friendship.
This biographical drama film has so many positive messages for children. Set in 1961 during the Space Race, the movie tells the true story of three African-American women who worked at NASA and helped calculate the flight trajectories for Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program of the U.S.
Issues of race and sexism come up repeatedly throughout the movie teaching viewers lessons in acceptance and reminding them, especially young girls, that you can achieve your goals in the face of adversity.
Pixar brings us the story of two married superheroes Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) who have been forced to stop their work as superheroes because they’ve been banned by the government — that is until a supervillain and his killer robot get their attention.
This movie received widespread praise, but it wasn’t until 2018 that Pixar released the sequel, which was equally action-packed and hilarious, as the entire Parrs family shows off their superpowers. Even the baby has audiences in stitches as he shows early signs of fire-breathing and invisibility acts. We recommend watching both back-to-back.
“Pan, Pan, Pan, Pan!” The whole family will be rooting for Robin Williams in this family-friendly version of the classic tale of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. A scene that involves the boys imagining an entire feast and bringing it to life is worth watching it alone.
But it was also directed by Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman plays a rather amusing take on Captain Hook, and Julia Roberts stars as Tinker Bell. What more could you ask for?
We recommend the entire Despicable Me series, which starts with the film of the same name, followed by “Despicable Me 2” and “Despicable Me 3.” Of course, true fans will also want to check out the “Minions” prequel.
The original animated film follows the lovable, grumpy Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a supervillain who becomes a father. His growing love for his three adopted daughters makes him a bit of a softy that every parent can relate to. Its quirky, funny and something the entire family can enjoy.
Considered one of the greatest films of all time, Steven Spielberg tells the heartwarming story of a boy befriending an alien, dubbed E.T. What’s even more interesting is the story was inspired by Speilberg’s own relationship as a kid with an imaginary alien that he made up to get through his parents’ divorce.
If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a must-watch for every family, teaching kids the timeless lesson of the importance of friendship. Better yet, its young cast provides a stellar performance that’s relatable for the kid in all of us.
Everyone loves a villain, especially one that's as misunderstood as Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone plays the titular character perfectly, with Emma Stone playing an even more menacing villain within a villain story.
Yes, she's out for revenge, which explains the PG-13 rating, but this new take on the original "101 Dalmations" story is refreshing and daring, with a killer soundtrack to boot.
Two kids find and play a magical board game that releases a man who’s been trapped inside for years. But that’s, of course, not all. Several jungle-themed dangers — a lion, swarm of monkeys, you get it — are released that can only be stopped by finishing the game.
We recommend the original starring Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst, but the more recent “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Jumanji: The Next Level,” starring The Rock and Jack Black, bring back the dangerous game for more adventure and comedy.
The Secret Life of Pets
Have you ever wondered what your pets are doing while you’re away from home? This heartwarming animated film answers that very question.
Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) hangs out with other pets in his apartment building, while his owner Katie is off at work. On an adventure away from home, he runs into Animal Control and a cult of sewer-dwelling animals — both of which get Max and the gang into trouble. A killer soundtrack plays in the background of this funny flick from the same creators of the "Despicable Me" franchise.
Remember the Titans
This biographical sports drama tells the true story of African-American coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) as he works to integrate the T.C. Williams High School football team in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971.
Dealing with obvious racial tensions, the movie reminds us the importance of being a team player and learning to work with others who might be different than you.
Pixar quickly followed “WALL-E” with another heart-wrencher. “Up” follows 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen, who’s just lost his wife and decides to fly off to South America aboard his balloon-powered house.
To his surprise (and, at first, disappointment), he finds that a young boy named Russell also happened to be on board for the ride. An unexpected friendship ensues.
Big Hero 6
This animated Disney movie shows just how smart today’s kids can really be. Following Hiro, a 14-year-old robotics genius, the movie explores how powerful technology can be used for both good and bad.
The film is quite imaginative, with innovative robotics and hilarious one-liners, while also covering more grown-up issues of loss. It’s one that everyone in the family will truly enjoy from start to finish.
Marley & Me
The labrador that plays Marley was an instant star among dog lovers, completely taking the spotlight from co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson.
We have to warn you: This movie’s definitely a tear-jerker, but it reminds you just how big of a role dogs can play in the family.
The Good Dinosaur
What would happen if dinosaurs never became extinct and instead lived with the human species? This movie tries to answer that very question by following Arlo, the Apatosaurus, on his journey to find family.
The story covers themes like friendship and courage because he finds his inner strength and makes unlikely friends along the way.
“Little Women” has entertained families for generations with its story that follows the Marsh sisters in 19th-century New England. Based on the novel of the same name, it covers a variety of important themes: love, death, war and, of course, family conflict.
We counted five film adaptations, but the 1994 and 2019 versions are our favorites. Fun fact: Both films were directed by women.
Disney shifted its focus from stories about princesses when making “Moana.” After all, Moana is a strong female protagonist from the Pacific Islands, and she surrounds herself with quite a diverse group of people.
Oh, and she’s not looking for a man to rescue her. She’s looking for herself — a perfect lesson for kids (and adults).
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
A remake of the 1963 Disney film “The Incredible Journey,” this version features an American bulldog, golden retriever and Himalayan cat that go on a journey to find their owners.
Little do they know that the Seaver family has only gone away on vacation to San Francisco. Don’t worry, though, lots of fun and laughter ensues, and these pets learn to be friends along the way.
Sully and his assistant, Mike Wazowski, have always thought human children were toxic because they’ve been trained to be Monsters Incorporated’s scariest monsters.
But they soon have to overcome their fears when Boo, a little girl, becomes lost in their world and needs help finding her way home. The lesson: Don’t judge or fear those we don’t know because they’re rarely as intimidating as we think.
Akeelah and the Bee
Keke Palmer plays Akeelah Anderson, a Black girl from Los Angeles who’s earned a spot to compete in the National Spelling Bee.
All-star actors Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne join in on the fun, providing an important message to all viewers: Never be afraid of your own ability.
Did you know “Bolt” was nominated for an Oscar? While it, unfortunately, lost to Pixar’s “WALL-E,” this Disney film is award-worthy in its own right.
Bolt, a canine superstar, thinks his on-screen superpowers are real, but when he goes to rescue his friend, he realizes that’s not true. Poor Bolt!
Nemo is a clownfish who gets captured and taken away from his family, and viewers can’t help but root for him. Finding Nemo is not easy, but it’s up to his father, Marlin, and his friends to do it.
“Just keep swimming” is probably the most quotable line in the movie and is a powerful lesson about never giving up that every family member can relate to.
To Kill a Mockingbird
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is considered one of the greatest movies all time, so all the more reason to add it to your family watch list. Gregory Peck plays the ever-popular lawyer Atticus Finch, earning him his only Oscar for Best Actor. While the movie has very grown-up themes — Finch defends a Black man accused of rape — the story is told through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch, adding a sense of innocence to the story.
Of course, this movie was based on the Harper Lee novel, which is taught in most schools nationwide, making it perfect to watch soon after your child finishes reading it.
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Based on a novel of the same name, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is narrated by a golden retriever pup named Enzo, voiced by Kevin Costner.
He tells the story of his owners, aspiring racecar driver Denny (Milo Ventimiglia) and his wife Eve (Amanda Seyfried), and their honest approach to some of life’s most difficult obstacles.
The Lion King
The computer-animated remake of “The Lion King” that came out in 2019 was pretty darn similar to the 1994 original — and we’re grateful for that.
The Elton John music and coming-of-age story of Simba is a timeless tale that works for every generation.
Who doesn’t know Lassie as a heroic Collie? The character has inspired several TV shows and films, but we like the 1994 one best, starring Michelle Williams and Thomas Guiry as young actors.
Lassie is, of course, solving problems again, helping city boy Matt (Guiry) learn about country life after his family relocates to rural Virginia.
The hilarious characters and creative plot make this a film the entire family can get behind. After all, don’t we all need to talk about our feelings more?
By making feelings into actual characters, the movie helps kids understand unpleasant emotions like Joy, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. In the end, we learn that feeling all emotions are necessary, even the bad ones.
All Dogs Go to Heaven
This blast from the past never gets old, and you better be prepared for a good cry.
Set in 1930s New Orleans, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” tells the tale of German Shepherd Charlie (played by Burt Reynolds), who dies and is sent back to Earth to do one final good deed before he can go to heaven. Stop it!
The Imitation Game
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, this historical drama film is another amazing tale of math and history. It’s 1939 England, and Cambridge mathematics alumnus Alan Turning (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) along with several other mathematicians are hired to crack Nazi codes.
The more mature side of the story is set in 1952 as Turing looks back on his success after being arrested for being gay. Another tale of adversity, this one received eight nominations at the 87th Academy Awards.
This Greek mythology adaptation is quite a different musical take than Disney’s other animated features, but its soulful tunes won over fans rooting for Hercules to win the heart of Megara.
Its popular hit, "I Won't Say I'm in Love,” and the sharp production design adds to the family fun.
The Wizard of Oz
"The Wizard of Oz" is a timeless classic that everyone needs to watch at least once.
Starring a young Judy Garland, the film takes her character, Dorothy Gale, on a journey to the Land of Oz, where she meets a number of whimsical characters as she struggles to find her way back home.
There are a number of tense scenes and an impressively ominous wicked witch, but it's tame enough for all but the littlest of viewers.
What does it feel like to be a lost soul? One of Pixar's latest explores the concept of discovering, and rediscovering, one's purpose. A man with a passion for music nearly gives up on his dreams when he has a near-death experience.
For the majority of the movie, he's nothing but a soul caught in limbo, trying to figure out how to get back to Earth alongside all of the other souls searching for meaning. The topic is deep, but Pixar illustrates it so well that even grade-schoolers will get it.
Meanwhile, parents will pick up on the more meaningful nuances.
Film adaptations of books can be tricky, but Danny DeVito nails this one and turns Roald Dahl's classic story into a fantastic movie.
"Matilda" is a special young girl with a keen intellect and magical powers. You won't be able to stop rooting for her.
Nor will anyone in your family.
My Neighbor Totoro
"My Neighbor Totoro" is entrancing in every way. Studio Ghibli has a way of making movies that explore the inner workings of a child's imagination, creating worlds in which ordinary life is just a little bit more magical than grownups think it is.
In "My Neighbor Totoro," two young girls meet a benevolent forest spirit who looks after them when they need it the most. Despite some mildly scary moments, it's appropriate for the whole family.
How to Train Your Dragon
"How to Train Your Dragon," like many of the best kids movies, is based on a book series. It's one of just a handful of movie adaptations that actually do the books justice. Hiccup, the son of a Viking chief, is less than Viking-like. He's small and much better at reading than plundering.
When he finally takes down his first dragon, a rare night fury, he realizes that everything his people know about dragons is wrong. Toothless, the "ferocious" night fury, is the pet we all secretly wanted, and your kids will adore him just as much.
As a bonus, there are two more movies to watch if you like the first one.
What does a world-class chef look like? Anything, as long as he loves to cook.
Remy, a rat living on the streets of Paris, teams up with a clumsy busboy to put one of the city's finest restaurants back on the map.
What will happen when their secret is blown? We're not sure, but we might have to call them up to whip up appetizers for our next movie night.
Song of the Sea
The Celtic-themed "Song of the Sea" has some creepy and tense elements, but with a strong undercurrent of magic and legend.
A young girl is inexplicably drawn to the sea, and her family comes to realize that she, like her mother, is a selkie — a creature who's half-human, half-seal. She has never spoken a word until it's up to her to sing her family to safety.
Why have just a spoonful of sugar when you could have a movie as sweet as a whole pie? "Mary Poppins" was one of Julie Andrews's best performances.
The original is infinitely better than the remake. Mary Poppins works her magic looking after two children. Instead of restoring order to the house, she restores happiness and imagination, even to their curmudgeon of a father.
Note: Only watch it if you don't mind your kids singing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" on repeat. Still better than "Baby Shark."
Kiki's Delivery Service
All Studio Ghibli fans need to see "Kiki's Delivery Service." The animation is gorgeous. Every scene looks like something out of a picture book.
Kiki, a young witch, travels on her broom to a new town to help the locals with her powers. She struggles to find her place at first, but eventually, she finds a way to help that's all her own.
The sweet neighbor boy and her sarcastic pet cat complete the picture.
The Sound of Music
"The Sound of Music" is a must-watch family film for so many reasons. It has depth, historical relevance, an amazing cast, an amazing story and some of the best original songs in the history of film.
Julie Andrews's ringing soprano brings the light back into the lives of seven children and their widowed father, even in the darkest of time periods.
The movie tackles some serious topics that will likely go over the heads of younger viewers, but does it matter?
"Tangled" ushered in a new era of Disney princess movies in which the princesses are considerably more empowered than they used to be.
Sure, Rapunzel relies on Eugene to guide her to the palace, but it's not her fault she was raised in a tower. Plus, she defends herself using everything she's got — a frying pan, a chameleon and epic hair.
"Tangled" is one of the funnier Disney princess films, and one of the only Disney movies in which a character (finally) questions why on Earth everyone is singing.
There is more than one adaptation of the story of "Paddington," an adorable bear with a penchant for getting into trouble.
The latest version is light and comical, following Paddington on his journey to London in search of a forever family.
Most movies portray magical creatures as ethereal and full of grace. "Onward" depicts them as average, rebellious teenagers. Two elf brothers attempt to use forbidden magic to resurrect their deceased father to spend one last day with him.
It doesn't exactly go according to plan, but in the end, it's a story about family and the power of love. The peril elements might be too much for kids under 7, but you can always skip the scary parts.
Remember "Babe"? It was a staple of every '90s baby's childhood, and for good reason. It follows an adorable piglet who just barely escapes becoming Christmas dinner.
Instead, a border collie takes him under her wing and teaches him how to herd sheep, much to the dismay of the farmer and the other farm animals.
Nothing but good, clean, seriously nostalgic family-movie fun.
"Mrs. Doubtfire" is one of Robin Williams's best works. It's equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, following a recently divorced father trying desperately to stay connected with his kids through any means possible.
He stops at nothing to see them, even when it means masquerading as an elderly nanny for months. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll cry laughing.
This one has some more adult themes, however, so we recommend it for tweens and up.
The Greatest Showman
"The Greatest Showman" is one of those movies that's just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. It's all about the birth of show business, following the chaotic, wildly creative mind of Phineas Taylor Barnum.
The natural-born entertainer creates a fantastical, yet controversial, world on the circus stage, taking big risks to do so. Was it the right call?
It's hard to say, but his Barnum passion changed the face of showbiz for good.
As sad as it is for a child to grow up without a parent in real life, in the world of fantasy, it tends to guarantee them a life of mad adventures. That's certainly true in the case of young Hugo, an orphan growing up in a Paris train station in the 1930s.
With the help of a newfound friend, he begins picking apart a mystery that helps him reconnect with his late father and build an eccentric new village in one go. It's a magical watch, albeit on the eccentric side.
Daddy Day Care
What's a dad to do when he gets laid off and can't find a new job? Become a stay-at-home parent and start his own daycare, of course.
This goofy Eddie Murphy flick is heartwarming and hilarious, complete with a rivalry with another local daycare center and a long list of less-than-conventional childcare methods.
It was marketed as a kids' movie, but it's a fun watch for everyone.
The Karate Kid
The storyline of "The Karate Kid" is basically the dream of every kid who's ever been bullied: to learn karate from a secret martial arts master, defeat the bullies, and become an all-around bad*ss.
Young Daniel moves to California and immediately falls prey to an aggressive crowd of local teenage bros. His neighbor, Mr. Miyagi, saves him from a fight, then proceeds to teach him the art of karate.
Wax on, wax off. Who can forget?
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" is a wild comedy adventure.
Rick Moranis plays a scientist father who accidentally shrinks his two teenage kids and two other neighborhood teens down to a minuscule size. Then, the teens have to fight for their lives while battling giant insects and other crazy creatures (and things) we take for granted as "big" humans.
Buckle up. It's funny, fun and filled with some unexpected twists and turns.
"Willow" is an eccentric watch for older kids, particularly those who are already fans of Harry Potter and other fantasy films. Willow tells the tale of two forest fairies, but their magical adventures aren't just quaint and elegant.
"Willow" has plenty of witty one-liners and slapstick comedy that kids adore, with an undercurrent of magic and whimsy. It's easy to follow, too, so parents don't have to pause the movie every five minutes to explain what's happening.
Admittedly, this one is best saved for the holidays. A Christmas classic pins a sassy, smart-mouthed 8-year-old who's left home alone to deal with a pair of idiotic burglars all on his own.
Needless to say, he gives them a run for their money, with nonstop slips, spills and pranks.
Everyone needs to break into the superhero genre somehow, and the Toby Maguire Spider-Man movie from 2002 is a good place to start. True to the original, Peter Parker is bit by a radioactive spider and transforms into a web-shooting, skyscraper-scaling hero.
The movie is rated PG-13, but most 11- and 12-year-olds won't have a problem watching it.
Twelve-year-old Pai is like the live-action predecessor to Disney's Moana. Set in the Maori community of New Zealand, Pai is tasked with continuing her family's legacy and cultural traditions. All the while, she's battling a stereotype: Only sons are expected to become leaders, but Pai is deadset on proving herself to her father and her people.
The film addresses some tough themes, but the message is uplifting and encouraging. All in all, it's a great watch for teens and tweens.
Don't watch this movie unless you're cool with your kids spelling everything they see for a solid week. It's a light-hearted documentary about the Scripps National Spelling Bee that shows all the hard work required to win it big.
The 2003 version of "Freaky Friday" is dated, but it's so much better than the latest remake. The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan, with Lindsey playing a rebellious 15-year-old who's convinced her psychologist mom doesn't understand her at all.
When the pair accidentally switches bodies, they learn to walk a mile in each other's shoes to an extreme. Imagine having to sit through high school history class when you're actually pushing 50. Funny, right?
Animal movies can be hit or miss, but "Free Willy" is a solid hit. The 1990s film is about a young boy befriending an orca whale and doing everything in his power to set his aquatic bestie free.
There are definitely some tense scenes, but the movie ultimately has a happy end.
Kids born in the '90s will love revisiting this adventure-filled action movie. "Spy Kids" feels like it was directed by kids, too, because the kids call the shots in this one.
It's like something out of a child's imagination, complete with spy costumes, an evil teacher and heroic tweens who battle evil to rescue their kidnapped parents — who are also spies, by the way. It's extremely silly, but it's a fun watch.
E.B. White's most famous book comes to life in this live-action version of "Charlotte's Web." Young Fern, played by Dakota Fanning, falls in love with the runt of the litter at her uncle's farm.
She names the small pig Wilbur, but she'll need help from an unexpected friend to keep Wilbur from being turned into bacon.
Why does no one remember "Enchanted?" This forgotten live-action movie is one of Disney's most original fairytale movies. Characters from the mystical land of Andalasia wind up in the ordinary world. Obviously, one of them has to fall in love.
Parents can appreciate the performance of Amy Adams as Giselle and Patrick Dempsey as the irritable, accidental love interest. There is a fire-breathing dragon toward the end, so consider skipping that part if your kids are under 7 years old.
The Red Balloon
Rated: Not rated
Foreign films aren't usually a hit with small children, but "The Red Balloon" is worth a watch. It's in French, but one could easily watch the entire film on mute and still enjoy it.
The story is simple: A little boy becomes best friends with a bright red balloon and follows it around the city.
The Princess and the Frog
"The Princess and the Frog" is one of Disney's more modern princess stories. Tiana is hardworking, independent and determined, and not even remotely boy-crazy.
Her focus isn't on the prince, but on saving up enough money to make her dream of owning a restaurant come true. Turning into a frog is just a minor setback. Plus, the soundtrack is fabulous.
The Chronicles of Narnia
"The Chronicles of Narnia" is definitely a movie series for tweens and up, but the director did an excellent job of staying true to the books. Four siblings discover the magical world of Narnia in the back of a wardrobe, and their adventures are nothing short of magical.
Even the special effects, including a CGI lion that almost looks real, are mesmerizing.
Who hasn't seen "Pete's Dragon?" The sweet story combines animation with live action just like how "Mary Poppins" featured a few animated scenes.
There's also an amazing remake from 2016 that's appropriate for older kids or the whole family if you skip the initial car accident tragedy.
Grade-schoolers are drawn to neon colors like moths to a flame. Color scheme aside, "Trolls" is light-hearted fun. Featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake playing a pair of good trolls, the movie follows them on a quest to save their friends.
Their multitude of mishaps is plenty entertaining enough for a family movie night. Don't forget the popcorn!