The 50 best kids movies to watch as a family
Dive into our list of the best kids movies around—you’ll find family favorites like Mary Poppins, The Goonies and Finding Nemo
Thu Apr 30 2015
Got a ‘lil film buff on your hands? We thought so. Thankfully, there are plenty of classics and new family favorites to make each popcorn and New York pizza–packed movie night better than the next. To help you make your selections, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids' movies to please all generations squeezed on the couch (plus the babysitter, if she’s left in charge).
As you can probably guess, the competition was pretty fierce—you’ll see a number of blockbusters that are in your regular rotation alongside some newer kid-pleasing picks, and we have no doubt we may have missed some of your favorite flicks. Weigh in below and let us know what titles you think deserve recognition (or to give us two thumbs up on our selections), and while you’re at it, check out our ideas for other free things to do with kids in New York.
Best kids' movies
Ever since she was a girl, Elsa (Idina Menzel), princess of Arendelle, has had literally chilling powers. With a wave of her hand she can cover everything around her in ice and snow. However, when her frosty abilities nearly kill her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa is confined to a room in her castle, not to emerge until she comes of age for her queenly coronation. On that day, unsurprisingly, things go very awry, and the two sisters—with help from a friendly snowman who dreams of spring—must work together to save the kingdom from eternal winter. Plasticine CG animation brings the icy world to life in this Walt Disney musical production, which sparked a nationwide frenzy to scoop up any and all themed merchandise. The almost instantaneous popularity speaks to the film’s success with the peanut gallery—not to mention countless parents who admittedly sang along to Menzel’s showstopping, self-actualizing ballad “Let It Go” more than a few times. Rated PG.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Thank goodness Bob Clark's goof on Christmases past keeps delighting generations of starry-eyed youngsters and their parents: How else would children learn not to lick icy poles in the winter or know of the perils of Red Ryder BB guns? "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" Rated PG.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
E.D. Baker's children's book—a sly riff on the Grimm brothers' tale about smooched amphibians turning into royalty—is relocated to the Bayou and rendered in bold, beautiful colors by Disney's animation team. More important, the studio that made Song of the South finally gives us an African-American princess, a lovely (and long overdue) addition to the canon. Rated G.
Why are there so many odd holes in the desert, and how does the juvenile detention camp—and one of its residents, Shia LaBeouf's framed teenager—tie in? The answer is slowly revealed in this surprisingly smart adaptation of Louis Sachar's popular YA novel, one that refuses to condescend to the material while keeping the story's fantastic elements intact.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Helicopter parents undoubtedly watch this Pixar entry through their fingers, but the adventures of a neurotic clownfish searching for his lost son halfway across the ocean not only contain a valuable lesson about letting children make their own mistakes; it also brings the family-friendly funny, thanks to Albert Brooks's nebbish hero and Ellen DeGeneres's forgetful-to-a-fault regal tang. Rated PG.
Bright Eyes (1934)
The original child superstar, Shirley Temple was never better than in this prototypical Temple-esque tale of a curly-haired orphan trying to live with her kindly pilot godfather. To watch the moppet perform "On the Good Ship Lollipop" is to witness onscreen precociousness at its finest. Rated PG.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Father and failure-plagued scientist Wayne Szalinkski works tirelessly on a shrink-ray invention in his attic laboratory to no avail—until one day the contraption finally works. His kids and the neighbors unknowingly wander into the lab and are hit by the laser beam, shrinking to 1/4 of an inch. As the concerned parents search for their youngsters, the kids must make their way through the now larger-than-life world around them, tackling perilous obstacles like mud puddles, an ant and a bowl of Cheerios. Rated PG.
Home Alone (1990)
Kids will love mischief-maker Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy whose family accidentally leaves him behind when rushing out of the house for a vacation in France. Alone in their Chicago home, Kevin learns to fend for himself. Eventually, Kevin must protect his home against burglars Harry and Marv, who plan to burglarize the entire neighborhood. Kevin’s mother Kate tries to rush home as soon as she realizes his absence, but while she’s gone, plenty of chaos ensues. Rated PG.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Troubled that he has little access to his children, divorced Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) hatches an elaborate plan. With help from his creative brother Frank (Harvey Fierstein), he dresses as an older British woman and convinces his ex-wife, Miranda (Sally Field), to hire him as a nanny. "Mrs. Iphegenia Doubtfire" wins over the children and helps Daniel become a better parent—but when both Daniel and his nanny persona must meet different parties at the same restaurant, his secrets may be exposed. Following the recent news of Williams’ untimely death, we can only imagine that this hilarious flick will once again be on replay everywhere, garnering belly laughs from audiences young and old over a decade after he first took on his role as the sassy Scottish nanny. Rated PG-13.
While kids' movies were making pop-cultural references before this DreamWorks toon came out, none of them were quite as savvy as this ogre's tale in dismantling legendary bedtime stories—and in a way that kids would find both clever and funny. It's like a collegiate Postmodernism 101 course, only aimed at elementary-school students and with better fart jokes. Rated PG.