Me + cheeks on our very first movie outing, 2013. It went great.
We watch a lot of movies as a family, both in the theater and at home. It’s kind of our thing – not to mention a really lovely way for us to get in all-four-of-us time, since a new animated release that will make neither parent fall asleep is one activity we’re all virtually guaranteed to be on board with.
What this means, however, is that I’m constantly searching for suggestions for amazing movies that I haven’t thought of yet. So I thought I’d put together a list of my all-time favorite family-friendly movies*, and see if you guys would do me the solid of adding your suggestions below.
Also, click here for my very scientific breakdown detailing exactly how to take a toddler to the movies. (Choice tip: You know what previews are? Fifteen fewer minutes that your child will be able to watch the actual movie.)
*Note: These obviously vary dramatically in terms of their appropriateness for very young kids, so if you’re wondering whether a movie is right for your own, Common Sense Media is a great resource that breaks down exactly what you can expect in terms of violence, sex, consumerism, language, educational value, etc – and includes age-specific reviews from both parents and kids.
My All-Time Favorite Family Movie Night Picks
In no particular order.
- The Lion King: Very simply the best family movie of all time. (I stand by that assessment.)
- Labyrinth: Your child’s education is priceless. Educate your child about David Bowie.
- The Neverending Story: Except for the Artax scene, which should honestly just be illegal.
- Beauty and the Beast: Worth a post-watch chat about Stockholm Syndrome, but still.
- Aladdin: The OG, not the live-action version (which was teeeerrible).
- Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone: The word on the street is to let your child progress through the movies at the same speed with which s/he reaches Harry’s (cinematic) age.
- The Goonies: Alright, never mind, this is the best movie ever.
- Home Alone: Torturing grownups = always funny.
- Frozen: I don’t know how I’m not sick of this movie. But there you go.
- Finding Nemo: Lovely lesson on just how far we’ll go for our kids (plus how our differences make us special).
- Despicable Me (all of them): One of those rare-and-wonderful franchises that never fails to include jokes that grown-ups will love, too.
- The Little Mermaid: Problematic? Sure. But THE SONGS. Maybe talk through some of the decidedly anti-feminist elements after the movie.
- The Princess Bride: Absolutely essential viewing. And a tiny Fred Savage!
- Toy Story: All of them, but oh god, number 3.
- Mrs. Doubtfire: Re-watching this as an adult, I am continually struck by a) how Robin Williams literally never stops being funny, no matter no many times you watch him do the same schtick, and b) how veery seriously justified Sally Field was when she freaked out at him in the beginning. He brought a PONY. INTO. THE HOUSE.
- Coco: This definitely introduced a lot of conversation about death, but gave it a framework that I found helpful, and even positive.
- Tangled: Super underrated, IMO. The horse!
- Jumanji: Unpopular opinion: I think Jumanji 2 is vastly superior. Yes, it includes questionable language, but The Rock is perfection.
- How To Train Your Dragon: Adventure! Drama! FEELINGS.
- Moana: My choice for Top Female Role Model In An Animated Film. And I love how there’s zero suggestion of a love interest in this movie – it’s all about family and friendship and female connection.
- The Parent Trap: Double the Lindsey = double the joy.
- Elf: Every. Single. Year.
- The Princess and the Frog: A pretty-close-to-perfect, mystical trip through the bayou with awesome music and tons of laugh-out-loud moments.
- The Lego Movie: Everything [in this movie] is awesome. (Sorry.)
- E.T.: The ultimate kid fantasy, and the cutest Drew Barrymore.
- Zootopia: Bunnies! With big dreams!
- Inside Out: This unpacking of the internal emotional state is helpful – and entertaining – for adults, too. (And Amy Poehler is great.)
- The Incredibles: A super-fun franchise that sparks great conversations about family togetherness and what makes us each unique.
- Big: Tom Hanks at his absolute best (and that’s saying a lot).
- The Lego Batman Movie: Who knew it was possible for a movie to be both a snarky send-up and sweetly sentimental? So fun for adults.
- Monsters, Inc: A totally non-spooky “monster” movie.
- Fantasia: Not all kids – mine included – can sit through the slower parts, but they’re guaranteed to be enraptured by at least some of the vignettes. My son still hums Hall of the Mountain King on the daily.
- Coraline: Creepy, but my kids can’t get enough of it.
- Big Hero 6: One of my all-time favorites, this movie is funny, fast-paced, and full of beautiful (and ok, occasionally devastating) moments.
- Teen Titans Go! To the Movies: Completely ridiculous, but in the best of ways – plus a funny send-up of Hollywood.
- Shrek: Obvi.
- Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Wrecks the Internet: The original film still holds up, but I adore the adult-friendly web jokes in the sequel.
- Kubo and the Two Strings: A spectacular, stunning story about a boy in search of a magical suit of armor that he must use to defeat an ancient spirit.
- Back to the Future: The second installment in this series gets wayyyy too complicated (seriously, try explaining level upon level of time travel to kids), but the first in the series is way more accessible.
- Ghostbusters: I personally prefer the first in the series, but the second shows New York City being overrun by pink slime that makes people mad. Kid heaven.
- Indiana Jones: My number one favorite franchise of all time – and yes, I even like the fourth one (albeit less). The third film in the series is the most family-friendly.
- School of Rock: Virtually guaranteed to inspire them to finally, finally let you sign them up for music lessons.
- Beetlejuice: Dark, yes, but also hilarious.
- The Land Before Time: Such a sweet, retro movie.
- The Secret Life of Pets: Not my personal favorite franchise, but everybody else seems to love these movies, so.
- Jurassic Park: Scary, sure, but more surprising than bloody – and a really cool lesson on genetics.
- Sister Act: Parts will go over the heads of younger kids, but the songs are everything.
- Turner & Hooch: Regardless of whether kids “get” the crime caper at hand, they will love all the drooling.
- A League Of Their Own: Madonna, just being perfect. That is all.
- Edward Scissorhands: The creepiness is offset by the camp, and the magical visuals are unmissable.
- Freaky Friday: More Lindsay! Give me all the vintage Lindsay!
- My Girl: Confronts heavy issues, but is also a sweet exploration of everything from the post-divorce landscape to the beauty of young friendship.
- Robin Hood (1973): Anyone else watch this movie, and rapidly develop a crush on an animated fox? …Just me?
- Wall-E: Adorable, funny – and topical, with warnings about everything from overconsumption to excess screen time.
- An American Tail: “Somewheeeeeere ouuuuut theeeeere…” SOB.