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Photograph: TriStar Pictures"Jumanji"

36 great tween-friendly movies to add to your watch list

These are the tween-targeted movies adults will fall in love with too

Written by
Andy Kryza
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
Danielle Valente

It’s not easy being a tween. It’s also difficult being a parent of one. Your sweet little angel is stuck in a kind of purgatory, no longer a kid but not yet a hormone-addled teenager. It’s an awkward time that affects just about everything, including movie nights. In the recent past, all they required out of cinematic entertainment was something bright, fast and loud. Now, they need something with a bit more substance. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready for, say, a Victorian comedy of manners or a John Grisham adaptation. How do you make the right choice to satisfy the whole brood when you’ve got this suddenly picky pre-teen sitting on the couch?

Just breathe. We’re offering you some help. These 36 movies almost seem designed in a lab specifically to appeal to the demographic that sits between the ages of ten and 12. What’s great is that a lot of it is the same stuff you loved at the age, from ’80s blockbusters to silly comedies to adventure flicks to movies about young love. No matter the generation, growing up is hard – but family movie night doesn’t have to be.


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Best movies for teens to add to your watch list

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Kickstart an evening of witchcraft and wizardry with the inaugural story of the beloved Harry Potter series. When a young boy learns about his true identity and magicial powers, he soon finds himself on Platform 9 3/4 en route to Hogwarts, a boarding school unlike any other. Adventure awaits for our budding new wizard. Rated PG. 

The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)
Image: Netflix

2. The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

An instant animated classic, the team behind Into the Spider-Verse’s Netflix hit is part road-trip comedy, part apocalyptic sci-fi actioner and all incredibly funny. It’s also a visually stunning, endlessly quotable family film that truly gets the generational divide between the front and back seats of the Mitchell’s station wagon, finding sympathy both for the online generation and the adults struggling to make more analog connections with their kids. Throw in a pair of cute robots, a slobbery dog and a sentient smartphone voiced by Olivia Colman and you’ve truly got something for everyone. Rated PG.

The Baby-Sitters Club (1995)
Photograph: Courtesy Sam Emerson/Columbia/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

3. The Baby-Sitters Club (1995)

The '90s classic follows a group of young girls who want to turn their baby-sitting jobs into a legit summer camp, but there's a grumpy old neighbor who's determined not to let that happen. Along the way there are family issues, health scares and of course, crushes. Rated PG. 

Queen of Katwe (2016)
  • Film
  • Drama

Like the mostly lovely Akeelah and the Bee (minus the troubling racial stereotypes), Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe takes one of the least-exciting competitions out there – chess – and transforms it into the linchpin of a triumphant underdog story. Centering on a true story of a Ugandan teen ascending from the slums to the World Chess Olympiads and featuring solid turns from David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, it’s essentially a sports movie that ditches footballs for bishops. Rated PG.

The Goonies (1985)
Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros.

5. The Goonies (1985)

When Mikey’s family home faces foreclosure, he and his misfit friends know it’s up to them to save it… but how? That’s when they discover a treasure map and set off into an underground cave system to find it, putting them at odds with a fearsome criminal family. They really don’t make kids adventures like this anymore – certainly not with a character like Sloth, anyway. Rated PG. 

  • Film

We’ve all been babysat; some of us have done some babysitting. Thankfully (or sadly) it never went anything like as kerblooey as in Chris Columbus’s cult ’80s comedy that has Elizabeth ShueŸ’s child-oversight specialist exposing her young charges to a range of Chicago-based perils. Instead of dinner, a bit of TV and bed, it’s gangsters, blues clubs and an encounter with Thor (played by an all-in Vincent D’Onofrio). Technically, that may make this scrappy but loveable caper part of the MCU.

The Princess Diaries (2001)
Photograph: Courtesy Disney

7. The Princess Diaries (2001)

High school is never without its challenges—mean girls, unrequited crushes, to name a painstaking few. But what happens when a teen's normal turns royal? In Meg Cabot's famed YA tale, Anne Hathaway stars as Mia Thermopolis, who discovers she's the princess of Genovia...and she has a pesky granny who has a few tricks up her sleeve. How will the teen cope with a new title, learning about her late father's past and, you know, getting that Mustang up a hill in the pouring rain (another one of those high school horror stories). Rated PG. 

Freaky Friday (2003)
Courtesy Disney

8. Freaky Friday (2003)

In this Disney retelling of the 1976 classic, a punk-rock teen (Lindsay Lohan) and her uptight mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) can't seem to get on the same page... until a freaky scenario forces them switch bodies. Will they be able to see the good in one another and, most importantly, switch back? Obviously. But both stars are having a blast playing two separate branches of the same family tree. Rated PG. 

To All The Boys I've Loved Before (2018)
Photograph: Masha_Weisberg

9. To All The Boys I've Loved Before (2018)

Netflix dropped this high-school romantic comedy for the ages in 2018. It’s about Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor), a 16-year-old who writes – but doesn’t post – letters to her five crushes that they’ll never know about… until one day they do. THE HORROR. And yet from the ashes of this social catastrophe something sweet and funny and profound comes about. Watch it, then watch the sequels To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and To All the Boys: Always and Forever. 

Back to the Future (1985)
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Studios

10. Back to the Future (1985)

About the only thing that’s aged in Robert Zemeckis’s timeless time-traveling adventure is Huey Lewis. Everything else still feels as fresh as the day it was released, owing to Michael J Fox’s relatable cool and Christopher Lloyd’s ability to do ‘harebrained’ better than any cartoon character. Just be prepared to answer some potentially difficult questions about Marty’s mom having a crush on her own son. Rated PG.

13 Going on 30 (2004)
Photograph: Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting

11. 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jenna longs for adulthood, but when she's magically finds herself out of junior high and in her 30s, she discovers that navigating the murky waters of the grown-up world isn't as easy as it looks. Essentially a gender-swapped version of Big, Garner is an absolute blast in the Tom Hanks role, while Mark Ruffalo matches her beat for goofy beat as her now-adult childhood bestie. Rated PG-13. 

Holes (2003)
Photograph: Courtesy Disney

12. Holes (2003)

Louis Sacher's bestseller-turned movie follows a young boy who is wrongfully convicted of a crime and must either do jail time or work in a camp. He chooses the latter and is forced to dig holes in a desert under the guidance of a warden who's got his mind on one thing: buried treasure. Rated PG. 

Jumanji (1995)
Photograph: Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting

13. Jumanji (1995)

The best entry-level introduction to the manic live-action wonders of Robin Williams (sorry… Hook isn’t as good as you remember), Jumanji doubles as a raucous special-effects bonanza with light scares and a whole lot of kid-friendly adventure. Sure, it’s become a bit dated, but it still stands up as a perfect Saturday matinee yarn… or a double feature with the Dwayne Johnson-starring reboot. Rated PG.

The Princess Bride (1987)
Photograph: Courtesy 20th Century Fox/The Princess Bride

14. The Princess Bride (1987)

Ridiculously charming, endlessly quotable (“My name is Íñigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”) and totally timeless, it’s impossible to resist this swashbuckling romance about a princess, a farmhand and a quest for revenge. In the spirit of all good fairy tales, it’s about love at its dreamiest and most escapist. An eternal mood-enhancer – just like the William Goldman book that it’s adapted from. Rated PG. 

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Photograph: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

15. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Growing up means acknowledging that Ferris Bueller is kind of a jerk, but for those stuck in their adolescent between-years, there ain’t no one cooler than this snarky, well-coiffed Chicagoan.  Most teens who ditch class end up eating lunch at Dairy Queen then sneaking home to play video games, but Ferris dreams a bit bigger. He takes his girlfriend and best bud to a Cubs game, performing in a downtown parade and fully outwitting his overzealous principal. You’ll love it no matter if you’re a dweeby, sporto, motorhead or wastoid. Rated PG-13. 

The Parent Trap (1998)
Photograph: Courtesy Disney

16. The Parent Trap (1998)

Nick and Liz decide to go their separate ways, but they have two twin girls (both played by Lindsay Lohan in her breakout role) caught in the middle of a nasty split. As a result, each parent claims a child and disappears into the void. But, nearly 12 years later, the girls are unknowingly sent to the same sleepaway camp, where they discover their other half and devise a plan for their parents to reunite “face to face.” Their “brilliant beyond brilliant idea”? To swtich places. Can Annie and Hallie pull off this switcheroo seamlessly, or will the stylish and conniving Meredith Blake cause a few roadblocks? If you've seen the 1961 Hayley Mills original, you already know... but that doesn't make it any less fun. Rated PG. 

A Cinderella Story (2004)
Photograph: Courtesy Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc.

17. A Cinderella Story (2004)

Sam's anonymous correspondence with a guy makes her evil step-mother's antics more tolerable. When she agrees to meet her unknown fellow at a school dance, she freaks out upon her discovery, in typical teenage fashion. You know this story. But it's all in the details, and here they're fantastic. Rated PG. 

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Photograph: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

18. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Equally lovable and heartbreaking, The Fault in Our Stars is a YA sensation that had us tearing up during book club meetings and movie outings. Hazel and Gus—two teens stricken with cancer—are the cause. They meet at a support group and romance ensues, but their relationship is threatened by a relapse. Even adults will appreciate this emotional John Green story. Rated PG-13. 

The Karate Kid (1984)
Photograph: Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting/The Karate Kid

19. The Karate Kid (1984)

If you’ve been watching Cobra Kai on Netflix and haven’t yet seen the movie behind it, you’re in for a treat. Daniel is a high-school who gets picked on by a group of bullies. He's certainly not a match for the students at the Cobra Kai dojo...until he teams up with Mr Miyagi and shows these tough guys what he's made of. Rated PG

E.T. (1982)
Photograph: Courtesy E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

20. E.T. (1982)

Would you trust your baby brother and sister to keep a secret? Elliott does. When he discovers an alien, he lets his siblings in on the news. But it's not going to be easy keeping an extra terrestrial under wraps from everyone else—especially when E.T. is sick. Rated PG. 

The Hunger Games (2012)
Photograph: Courtesy Lions Gate Films Inc./Murray Close

21. The Hunger Games (2012)

When it comes to fearless teenage heroes tackling terrifying odds, Katniss Everdeen is right up there with Harry Potter. As the Hunger Games books’ army of fans will know, her courage comes with a side order of nobility—she volunteers as tribute for the Hunger Games to save her sister—and a whole lot of skill with a bow and arrow. Rated PG-13.

Drumline (2002)
Photograph: 20th Century Studios

22. Drumline (2002)

Set amid the extremely competitive world of southern pep bands, Drumline reimagines the traditional sports drama as a battle between percussion groups, and it’s absolutely infectious. Like a more musical (and believable) cousin to Bring It On with a dash of Step Up, it’s a thunderous underdog story graturing breakout performances by Nick Cannon and Zoe Saldana and some truly thunderous musical performances. Rated PG-13. 

  • Film

Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union bring the charm in this explosively entertaining and endlessly funny film about rival cheerleading squads squaring off during the state championships. Don’t let the niche subject fool you: this one is a riot that has more than earned its enduring cult appeal thanks to its endearing performances and genuinely thrilling acrobatics. Rated PG-13.

High School Musical (2006)
Photograph: Courtesy Disney/Fred Hayes

24. High School Musical (2006)

We're all in this Disney fan-favorite together. Troy doesn't want to disappoint his father, but he'd rather swap his basketball for a mic and try out for the school musical, especially after Gabriella gives him a little push. Will the two be able to audition for the show in peace, or will a jealous peer make the process all the more grueling? Ratings not available. 

Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
Photograph: Courtesy Fox/Sam Urdank

25. Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)

The Bakers' motto is clearly “The more the merrier.” But the family of 14 finds that things aren't so easy when they uproot their kids to a new town, school and home. Will parents Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate (Bonnie Hunt) be able to fulfill their career goals and keep their 12 youngsters happy? Not without some chaos along the way! Rated PG.

Enchanted (2007)
Photograph: Courtesy Barry Wetcher/SMPSP

26. Enchanted (2007)

Giselle (Amy Adams) is a fairy tale princess who can't wait to join forces with the love of her life, but when his evil mother sends her to NYC, this leading lady who likes to belt her heart out will have a whole new problem on her hands in this riotously funny storybook sendup. Rated PG. 

Spy Kids (2001)
Photograph: Courtesy Buena Vista

27. Spy Kids (2001)

It's a case of role reversal in this action-packed flick where two spy kids attempt to save their mom and dad from evil. The film comes from the mind of Robert Rodriguez, who proves that his unique action vision applies as well to family fare as it does to films like Sin CityRated PG. 

Pitch Perfect
  • Film
  • Comedy

Set in a strange alternate universe where college a cappella groups are basically Ivy League jocks, Pitch Perfect dances a fine line between camp and genuinely rousing, with Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and a stage’s worth of golden-voiced singers coming together for a surprisingly effective jukebox musical comedy. The film is loaded with innuendos, but most of them should fly right over younger kids’ heads amid the musical mayhem. Just don't tell them they made two sequelsRated PG-13.

Ella Enchanted (2004)
Photograph: Courtesy Miramax Films/David Appleby

29. Ella Enchanted (2004)

If you haven't seen Anne Hathaway's early 2000's princess flicks, you haven't lived. In this retelling of the children's book, Ella must attempt to break the spell where she's forced to obey all orders bestowed onto her...fortunately the handsome Prince Charmont is by her side to lend a hand. Rated PG. 

School of Rock (2004)
Photograph: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

30. School of Rock (2004)

Jack Black is at his Jack Black-est portraying a struggling yet hyper-enthusiastic musician who weasels his way into a substitute teaching gig and helps a group of band nerds – and the school’s buttoned-down principal – unleash their inner rock stars. Your little zoomer may have no idea what a guitar looks like, but no generation can resist Black cranking the ham levels to 11. Rated PG-13.

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