Not to pat myself on the back but after 30 hours of watching trailers and Googling, I think this is the most comprehensive list on the internet. Ahem. While living our current “Groundhog Day” reality you want/need something to look forward to make the weekends, hell, every night feel different. Special, even. It’s Friday night and sadly we aren’t in the ’90s, so there’s no TGIF lineup to give us the milestone that says “we made it, now watch garbage together with the background of canned laughter.” What we all want are movies or shows that parents and our KIDS WANT to watch, together. The categories “family-friendly” and “kid-friendly” just aren’t accurate, they are too old or too young, respectively. I know because I’ve researched. So today I’ve reviewed and asked all my friends what are the movies that us parents AND our young kids actually love watching TOGETHER (once they are tweens it’s easier, so that’s why I’m focusing on young kids).
It’s important to note that my 4 and 6-year-old really sacrificed their days and nights to “work” with me and watch and “review” as many of these possible together (at least the trailers). They now really, really LOVE “mama’s job”. Also disclaimer – a lot of these on the list our kids aren’t quite ready for yet OR we haven’t seen them, but I wanted a really comprehensive list for ME to reference for the next year of nightly family movie nights – and yes, we are ok with that if they are good films that makes the whole family feel good, thus the impetus for this research and post. If nothing else our kids are going to come out of this as family-friendly film critics. Here you go:
These are our favorite cartoons, mostly with good messaging and funny enough for grownups. I’m going to quickly list the obvious only so they are included (for my own reference when I’m stumped) but I’m not going to “review”, say, Frozen, for obvious reasons. Here goes:
My all-time favorite animated movie that I’ve seen probably 25 times and still don’t mind when it’s the chosen flick (and we often force it). The music (Lin Manuel, come on – modern-day Shakespeare), the empowering female message, the environmental message, the feminine/masculine message, the lack of an exaggerated female figure (finally), combined with my love of The Rock. It’s just SO GOOD. I think what kept it from winning the Oscars was its font and logo. I’ve cried almost every time. I know you’ve seen it but if you haven’t please know it’s one of mine and Brian’s favorite movies of all time – kid or not.
YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE. It just came out and we’ve watched it twice already and loved it. It has great messaging of empowerment, brotherhood, fatherhood, an awesome single mom, it addresses death, grief, and self-esteem with LOADS and loads of entertaining adventure. Moana level good messaging and totally entertaining. If you have two boys be prepared to WEEP.
Frozen 1 + 2
Not sure if you’ve heard of it – it’s about two sisters and one is kinda a B to the other, but since they end up being the love story and we aren’t used to strong female leads it’s heralded as some sort of anti-fairy tale modern film. I get how it’s also about female love and friendship, but more importantly … there is a talking snowman that basically steals the movie, along with Kristen Bell. I have seen both 10 – 30 times and I still sing along. They are GREAT not that you needed a Frozen review from me.
Finding Nemo + Finding Dory
Haven’t seen either in years and so excited. We are so excited to watch Finding Dory this weekend – the kids have never seen it and I’m hoping it’s as good as the first. Ellen is a national treasure.
How to Train Your Dragon
We loved the first one – so sweet and playful, exciting world of adventure, etc. The second was way less good – even the kids thought it was pointless.
WONDERFUL. Poppy music, hilarious characters, incredibly drawn – I’ve seen this 10 + times and could watch again. Reese, we love you.
A meta cartoon about childhood told through emotions. Be prepared to cry, but our kids don’t love this YET so they might not go for it. It’s obviously a bit high concept for them and there are some scenes that are scary but we are going to try this one again because it’s so good.
Starts with love and then death and so Charlie always made us turn it off. Yes, it’s sad and there are some scary dogs (so maybe 4+) that our kids were afraid of for years, but now they love it.
Nothing like a dystopian animated film to really lift your spirits these days, but it does have hope. We tried this a couple of years ago and no-go. But then we watched this last week and they both LOVED it and they kinda even got it, too.
Now that I cook soup after soup after soup I really relate to this plight of this rodent. It’s just so good – I’ve seen it probably 6-7 times and still don’t mind sitting through it. WHY HAVE I NOT COOKED RATATOUILLE YET????
Secret Life of Pets
This is a good “love the first time, but can’t watch 10 times” for me, but again it was still cute/fun/good mostly because of the concept. The psychotic bunny at the end usually scares our kids – because it’s TERRIFYING, but our kids are also really sensitive.
I think I’ll always resent the fact that this movie beat out Moana for best animated picture that year, but admittedly it is good and has a good message (but not as good as Moana).
It took them a while to get past the first scene which is super scary for kids, but then finally we did and they love it. John Goodman and Billy Crystal just make it entertaining enough for grownups (and it’s a very sweet story).
Incredibles 1 + 2
We haven’t seen this in years, since before we had kids so I’m excited to watch it. Charlie got scared when he was 2 and made us turn it off, but he’s willing to give another go at 6.
Toy Story 1 – 4
You want to marathon something? We just watched a few of these, and #4 is worth the wait. I haven’t seen #1 in years so we’ll be watching this soon.
I haven’t seen this but Brian took the kids to the theater and they love it. It’s on the shortlist for a desperate night.
Spiderman into the Spider-verse
We haven’t seen this yet, but plan on soon (if 4 and 6 are old enough) but I wanted to keep it on the list because it’s happening soon.
So critically acclaimed that I can’t wait to watch it. Brian and the kids had to leave the theater because they were scared (not Brian, ha) but again we have very sensitive kids and I’m still excited to give it another go.
Current or Recent Live-Action
The list below are the ones that I’m extra excited about because these are with real people, NOT cartoons and Brian and I feel like real human beings, not babysitters, when watching them.
The Biggest Little Farm
Yes, it’s a documentary about a farm with so many vegetables and yet our kids LOVED it. I will say this is hands down the most uplifting movie I’ve seen in so long. I cry EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. with happy tears knowing that there are people on this planet who are farming the way they are, caring for the planet the way they are, giving hope to us that if we shift how we grow food and raise livestock, we can all benefit so much (nutritionally and spiritually). And YES, it’s super entertaining, too – again, my 4 and 6-year-olds loved it). I’ve seen it 4 times, and it brings me so much joy each time.
Excellent in every way. We’ve only watched once and I’m excited to watch again – the kids can’t wait to watch it again, plus Brian has a huge crush on Emily Blunt. Also Lin Manuel. Mostly I just love Lin Manuel.
A HUGE hit with both kids and Brian and I LOL’d many many times (James Marsden and Amy Adams are legitimately hilarious). A whole family pleaser that we watched this week while doing “research” and made us think a lot of New York
We Bought a Zoo
This is the fictional version of The Biggest Little Farm – family leaves city to start over, buys a janky zoo and everyone’s lives are changed for the better. My kids loved it. It deals with the death of the mom which they were, you know, bummed out a bit by, and there is a rather mature argument about 3/4 in between the father and son (nothing too bad, some curse words but mostly just kinda being ugly to each other). But overall a really entertaining movie that our entire family loved, with a great uplifting message. Also, I’m a MASSIVE Matt Damon fan so there’s that.
Well, we are on our 3rd time this week. I LOVE this, except for Cameron Diaz’s performance which I think was almost unwatchable (the rest of the film is modernized, but she is playing this mean witch of a character “alcoholic” that you hate instead of empathize with – missed opportunity). But otherwise, it’s AWESOME and our kids listen to the soundtrack on repeat all day every day. No seriously. ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.
Lion King (Live-Action)
So many movies about parents dying – maybe that’s why our kids have been so well behaved lately (that and they are getting movies every night, dessert after lunch and living their best lives). It’s shockingly well done and you just can’t believe that cartoons and CGI have come this far.
Our kids are obsessed, and we like it, too (although it’s controversial in the office – Mallory said they butchered the original). I think it’s better for kids – has more modern views than the original which we appreciate.
We watched this two nights ago for “research” and its pretty darn cute. Michael J. Fox is a mouse adopted into a human family with Gina Davis and Hugh Lorie. It wasn’t Moana or Enchanted, but we enjoyed it and so did the kids. Just having human beings in it helps break up the monotony of animation.
Beauty and the Beast (Live-Action)
I forgot about this until this list and we are going to try again. We tried a couple of years ago and the beast was scary to them, but they are older and I think would like it now.
I’m just waiting for the day when Brian says they are old enough to watch the first one. Apparently they are old enough for the Star Wars trilogy but not Harry Potter. IS HE WRONG???? I haven’t seen this myself since it came out so I’d LOVE to watch it again and planning a full marathon day in my future.
Classic and Nostalgic Movies Animated and Live-Action
What better time to relive your childhood and rewatch movies that make you feel all nostalgic? Just remember times have changed and I’m constantly like, “WOW THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN NOW,” with some movies requiring some explanation to your kids. Lots of questionable racial and misogynist messages, but that doesn’t mean we should cancel them, it’s just well, not Moana or Onward. But here you go:
Besides Tinker Bell checking her butt out in the mirror for like 5 minutes, and a questionably racist song it’s such an enjoyable movie if you can even say that. Sure it’s a classic, but thank goodness times have changed. (Our kids LOVE this movie and we enjoyed the first time we rewatched it a lot but cringed through some of it).
I’d say twice a month as a family for this one. Brian and I both grew up on it and love it still.
An American Tale
Curious if this holds up – but an orphan immigrant in the city certainly has some timely themes. I remember being highly affected by it as a kid.
I LOVE watching this with the kids (way more than Milo and Otis, but I love Milo and Otis, too). I cry almost every time. The second one isn’t NEARLY as good, by the way.
Milo and Otis
Admittedly I love Homeward Bound more, but this is also a great one that I enjoyed the first three times I rewatched it with the kids (but don’t need to watch again)
Robin Williams and Julia Roberts, and a way better message than the original. Sadly it was too scary for our kids (we tried last week) so possibly for 7 + years old. (Keeping it on the list because it’s so good).
We fast-forwarded it through the terrifying part of him dying, so not sure how 4 and 6-year-old friendly it is, but technically our kids loved it.
The Wizard of Oz
Charlie has a thing against witches, like he’s TERRIFIED of them, and admittedly this is a creepy movie so we might hold off for a couple of years, but I can’t wait to rewatch it.
We watched the classic trilogy over Christmas and had to fast forward the Darth Vader sword fights for Elliot and anything with the emperor for both of them – Elliot (4) was not as into it as Brian was hoping, but Charlie was super into it.
Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
Guys. Did you know it takes 40 minutes before you even get into the factory???? Sure, I loved rewatching it but the beginning is so depressing (but timely) and that creepy boat ride will always make me wonder if they were really making this for kids.
Never Ending Story
We are going to rewatch this before we let the kids because there is a creepy factor to it that could scare them, but this movie is such a great nostalgic classic that I will force on my kids at some point.
I’ve never seen this but as I was “researching” and watching the trailer with the kids I realized it could be a family crowd-pleaser – John Goodman riding a dinosaur sounds like the right combo for us.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
We tried this 2 years ago and they were too scared (I think of the bugs) but I’m going for it again soon (followed by Honey I Blew Up The Kids).
Flight of the Navigator + Cloak and Dagger
Not yet, I know, not yet but soon my kids will get transported via these movies like we did when we were kids. Cloak and Dagger uses guns and people die, but man I can’t wait to rewatch with Brian after kids go down and see if it’s really inappropriate or just us being paranoid.
Some might say they are ready for the world’s best coming of age/adventure movie of all time (filmed in my native Oregon) but we are waiting for a while.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
I never really liked this movie as a kid, it was too wacky and I didn’t get it but Brian loved it and is excited to introduce it to the kids.
Harry And The Hendersons
None of us has seen it but as I was researching and watching trailers the kids freaked out that A. It’s called Henderson’s and B. There was a friendly bigfoot in their family. If anyone has seen it and can tell us if it’s worth the watch please comment or email.
I’m not ready to risk my night’s sleep yet because just the concept that monsters come out when you are asleep is terrifying, but remember how great this movie was? I suppose Monsters Inc. is the modern version of it.
Movies We Haven’t Watched Yet (But Want To)
Dumbo (live-action), Cinderella (live-action – Birdie is so excited), Christopher Robin, Wallace and Gromit – Case of Were-Rabbit, Dreamer (we love any horse movie), A Dog’s Purpose, Chicken Run, March of the Penguins, Bears, Wonder, Babe, Casper, Indian In the Cupboard, Matilda, Hugo, 101 Dalmations, Bedtime Stories (so excited about this one), Peter Rabbit (watching on Sunday), Benji (the Netflix version), Garfield, Dr. Doolittle 1 + 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Racing Stripes (cute Zebra/horse story), Space Jam (I’ll skip this but Brian’s excited), Muppets, Zathura (has anybody seen this?), Spy Kids, Fairy Tale, Eight Below, Jungle Book (live-action, but kids say they are scared of the trailer).
Ok, Brian is so glad that I’m finally publishing this after 30 hours of research by mostly Googling everything from “best family movie animals” to “best movies talking animals” “kid movies with magic,” etc. and watching every trailer. I tried to eliminate all the ones that look dumb and include some totally forgotten ones that deserve the rewatch.
Please let me know what I’m missing (I’ll be super impressed and surprised if any) and know that I’m working hard on the following:
“Our Favorite Current TV Shows the Whole Family Wants to Watch” “The EHD Guide to Best Romantic Dramas of All Time” “Best Coming of Age Films That You Probably Missed” and “Best Forgotten Movies About Friendship” (because I miss my friends:))
Well, that is the current Friday afternoon post plan unless this first post totally tanks and gets no traffic, then I’ll be forced to scrap the rest of those ideas, leave this blog to start a new site focused on my true passion called “Almost Kissing: A Guide to Teen Romance and/or Coming of Age Films, TV Shows and Books.” So PLEASE, save this blog, save my career by sharing with your friends, commenting with your suggestions and coming back to reference all. the. time.
The post 53 Movies That Parents AND Young Kids Both WANT to Watch. AKA What to Watch When It’s “Family Movie Night” Every. Single. Night. appeared first on Emily Henderson.
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