Family movie nights are a fun tradition, but they can get old pretty quickly if you’re stuck rewatching Frozen. All. Only. The week. The good news is that we have more access than ever to the wide variety of kid-friendly movies that have been released over the decades, thanks to streaming services and good old fashioned cable TV and DVDs. The best family movies cover a variety of different stories and cultures from North America and around the world and will keep kids and parents entertained. (If you’re not sure if a movie is right for all the kids on your team, check out the ratings and descriptions at common sense mediawhich also includes helpful phrasebooks for some movies.)
1. My Neighbor Totoro
Hayao Miyazaki’s anime films are classics in Japan and around the world. My Neighbor Totoro is perhaps the best known of them, perhaps because of its sweet magic, charming young protagonists and, of course, the cuddly and adorable Totoro, who is a cross between a raccoon, a cat and a Japanese owl in this fantastic film. Children adjusting to a new home, in particular, will find comfort in how Totoro and his forest friends help two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, adjust to their new lives.
Besides being beautiful to watch, Coco is a funny and touching film about loss, family and culture. The story deals with death via the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), but it does so in a way that celebrates the lives of those we love who have passed away. Bonus: the music is really great.
3. Mary Poppins
Same young children You can enjoy this classic film, which is devoid of any creepy elements and remains charming more than half a century after its release. The beat is catchy, which will keep kids used to today’s movies captivated, and the songs are as catchy as they’ve always been. If this one is a hit with your children, give the recent version Mary Poppins Returns A try.
4. toy story
All of the movies in this now-classic franchise are good choices, but the original is a good place to start, especially if your kids haven’t seen it before. toy story’The themes of friendship, teamwork and giving new friends a chance never get old.
Animals are great vehicles for telling stories to children, and baby is no exception. This live-action movie deals with the fact that humans eat animals (fair warning, vegetarians!), but the movie’s message to persevere against the odds is valuable, and the animals are funny and cute.
One of many recent children’s films with powerful female leads, Moana blends a classic coming-of-age story with fascinating cultural and historical elements, including Polynesian mythology and maritime history. Between the comic relief of Rock and the catchy songs of Lin-Manuel Miranda, parents will appreciate as much as their children.
seven. Akeelah and the bee
A few sweet curse words make this a movie for older kids (or younger ones who are trusted not to repeat them!), but the value of the story remains. Like so many children, Akeelah struggles to fit in and cope with loss. But she finds confidence through spelling, and her story shows that we all have unexpected gifts. It’s a great movie for tweens, who will relate to Akeelah’s struggles growing up.
8. The Lion King
If your kids were thrilled with the remake released this summer familiarize them with the original film. Timon and Pumbaa were also funny then, and the classic Disney animation retains its charm. As with the original, there’s darkness (the death of Simba’s father, in particular), but if your kid was okay with the remake, they should be okay with this one, too.
9. The princess to be married
Show your child who loves fairy tales something a little different with The princess to be married and indulge your own nostalgia. There are a few elements that may scare some kids off, but the fun and quirkiness of this now-classic film alleviates some of the intermittent darkness.
Almost 40 years after its release, this story of an alien far from home still appeals to children. Most children can relate to the fear of being lost, even if it’s just a split second in a store. There are tense scenes in the race to reunite the adorable alien with his family, but everything eventually works out. And even without using CGI, HEY is just as adorable today as it was in the 80s.
11. song of the sea
This Irish animated film isn’t as well-known as some of the others on this list, but it deserves to be. Saoirse is the last selkie (seal child) and her brother, Ben, helps the couple find their way home. The hand-drawn animation is beautiful, as is the story of a loving sibling relationship.
12. Big Hero 6
This movie is appealing for a number of reasons, but one of the most notable is its character diversity, which isn’t as common in kids’ movies as it should be. There’s plenty of action, which will make it appealing to fans of superhero movies, but also valuable messages about doing the right thing and standing with your friends.
The story of this charming British bear has been around for some time, but the two Paddington the movies have become modern classics, and for good reason. Start with the original, which tells the story of an orphaned bear who gets into mischief (which in some cases can be alarming for young children) but also finds a loving family. The following, Paddington 2, is equally attractive.
14. The sound of music
Not just for Christmas, this timeless classic is an entertaining watch all year round. The story of the von Trapp family introduces children to the pleasure of music. And for older (or curious younger) kids, the film’s historical context is a good starting point for a discussion of WWII.
This kid-friendly buddy comedy has some tense moments, and young children may find it a bit too much. But animated film is also a surprisingly good way to teach children about tolerance, including discussions about stereotypes, racism and discrimination. Adults will appreciate jokes that are strictly aimed at them (don’t worry, they’ll go over kids’ heads). And if you hate musicals, good news: zootopia is mostly free of musical numbers.
16. Kiki’s Delivery Service
Like many other films by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, Kiki’s Delivery Service has a female lead character who is kind and independent, solves problems herself, and finds her place in the world. Kiki Is A Witch, which will appeal to kids who love supernatural stories and fairy tales, but there’s nothing scary here, which makes it a great movie for young kids as well.
A live-action version of this animated film will be released in a few months, making it the perfect time to introduce kids to the original. Mulan is a young Chinese woman who goes to war to protect her sick father and shows courage in the process. There are battle scenes and the expected Disney villain, which might make it scary for some kids. But, in the end, Mulan’s bravery and love for her family is inspiring.
18. Harry Potter at the Sorcerer’s Stone
Some of the more recent Harry Potter movies are pretty dark, which makes sense because Harry and his friends have aged along with the books. But this first movie, while still intense in parts, will be fine for most book-reading kids. It’s a great way to bring children’s novels to life for the fans.
19. The genius
This story of The Wizard of Oz features several musical numbers and an all-black cast. Some of the villains may be too intense for young children, but overall this movie keeps the fun of the original story while adding a twist that will appeal to kids who enjoy upbeat musical numbers.
20. Christopher Robin
Surely your child knows Winnie-the-Pooh, but this live-action story (with, of course, computerized help for Pooh and his friends) is slower but charming. A grown-up Christopher Robin has almost forgotten the value of play, but his beloved childhood friends help him remember the importance of family, gratitude and fun. Try not to let your children see when you cry a little bit over the bittersweet nature of growing up.