Forget Frozen. Try something from our list instead
When it comes to picking an all-around crowd-pleaser for family movie night, the struggle is real. After all, finding a foolproof family friendly flick that’ll entertain kids and parents alike is often like a Goldilocks dilemma: Choosing the perfect film that’s not too infantile, not too mature, but just right for all audiences. From animated gems to reimagined classics, check out our picks of 16 movies for kids and parents.
For a younger generation that has grown up watching Descendants, it’s not difficult for them to reimagine classic Disney villains with streaks of humanity that are deeper and more colorful than their backstories. For grownups accustomed to seeing the world in black and white, it can be harder for us to root for the bad guys. That said, as villain origin stories go, Emma Stone’s portrayal of Cruella de Vil is a masterclass in flamboyance, pathos, and originality, and this daring and complex live-action retelling of the Disney animated classic will leave the entire family wanting more Cruella.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
For many parents and grandparents, watching the 1971 movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder and retitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, will elicit pangs of nostalgia. However, movie auteur Tim Burton’s polarizing 2005 remake is less sentimental, truer to the source material’s surrealistic conceit, and arguably better than its predecessor. Johnny Depp’s loopy performance as Willy Wonka is, in equal measures, sinister and sincere, and the candy-coated set and yummy costume designs are a visual feast to behold.
When it comes to various tropes about princesses and damsels in distress, the original Walt Disney Studios undoubtedly can be credited with (or blamed for) creating virtually all of them. But that doesn’t mean modern-day Disney also can’t subvert the unrealistic, happily-ever-after vibes that they established back in the day, either. Enchanted’s smart and self-referential take on fairy tales will delight wide-eyed kids as well as the most-jaded parent who might doubt that true happy endings are still possible.
While there have been plenty of cinematic and television retellings of the “Little Orphan Annie” story, the 2014 remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role breathes new life into this oldie but goodie by bringing the American musical classic into the social media age. The star-studded cast features Jamie Foxx as tech entrepreneur Will Stacks (a modern-day interpretation of Daddy Warbucks), Cameron Diaz as a cranky-but-lovable Miss Hannigan, and celebrity cameos from Sia, Rihanna, and Ashton Kutcher, among many others. Mixing songs from the original Annie songbook with contemporary tunes will have kids and parents singing and bopping along.
Harry Potter Movie Series (2001–2011)
Few movie franchises have created a world of such adventure, depth, and complexity as the Harry Potter movie series. JK Rowling’s fantastical literary vision of a wizarding world has captured the attention and hearts of millions of children and adults worldwide, and every one of the movie adaptations of the beloved books is as engaging and intriguing as the next.
Freaky Friday (2003)
There’s nothing freaky about this most recent remake of the 1976 Disney classic movie. Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis rock as daughter and mother who switch bodies and come to realize that their respective lives aren’t always as easy as they might seem to the other. Kids will sympathize with Curtis as Lohan’s knock-out performance as a petulant-yet-precocious child trapped in an adult body, while adults will resent (but understand) having our aged looks compared to the crypt keeper.
SNL-alum Will Ferrell has seemingly cornered the market on joyously hilarious giant man-child roles, and his turn as Buddy the Elf is no exception. At turns charming and ridiculous, Elf is a new holiday classic that’s fun to watch year-round for anyone who still believes in the magic of Christmas—no matter how old (or tall) they are.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Years before Shrek came along, The Princess Bride was the original family friendly movie about a beautiful maiden kidnapped by an evil king who desires to marry her. Set as a story within a story, Gen X and elder Millennial parents have long swooned over this enduring fairy tale classic, which hits all of the right notes of comedy, romance, adventure, and satire. Featuring a pitch-perfect cast of good guys and bad guys as well as a luminous Robin Wright as the titular princess, The Princess Bride offers fun entertainment for little ones and plenty of quotable lines for adults. Inconceivable!
School of Rock (2003)
Actor-musician Jack Black was no slacker when it came to nailing his tailor-made performance as a down-on-his-luck musician who picks up a side gig as a substitute teacher at an uptight elementary school to help pay off personal debt. School of Rock’s mix of precocious kids and social satire makes this a fun movie for kids and parents.
Animated Movies for Kids and Parents
Aside from Frozen, which every parent has probably watched at least a bajillion times with their little ones, Moana is quite possibly the most sing-along-able Disney movie of all time. Thanks in large part to music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and transcendent performances by Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson as Maui, Moana pulls at heartstrings while also tickling funny bones.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Director Hayao Miyazaki’s anime masterpiece is both magical and melancholy, and for many viewers, serves as the gateway to other terrific Studio Ghibli animated films like Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. The subtleties and details of My Neighbor Totoro are acquired only through multiple viewings, preferably without the kids.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Best-known for helming quirky and beautifully composed cult films like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, writer-director Wes Anderson’s first foray into animation resulted in the quirky and beautifully composed stop-motion animated movie Fantastic Mr. Fox. Based on the beloved and similarly titled Roald Dahl book, and featuring an all-star cast led by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, this visually stunning, whimsical, and heartfelt film will elicit smiles from viewers of all ages.
Inside Out (2015)
With so many modern classics in its stellar film catalog, it’s nearly impossible to pick just one Pixar movie for kids and parents to include on this list. Inside Out makes the cut because while it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie about a young girl’s journey to getting in touch with her feelings, the sincerity and emotional depth of the movie will resonate with adults even more.
Set in a world of singing anthropomorphic animals, one of the great joys of watching Sing is hearing your favorite pop songs as performed by some of your favorite movie stars, including Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taren Egerton, and Jennifer Hudson. And, if you haven’t seen Sing 2 yet, it’s a must-watch movie for kids and parents too!
Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017)
Everyone loves bears, and Paddington is arguably the most beloved of them all. The two contemporary film adaptations of the 1958 children’s book, A Bear Called Paddington, combine computer-generated graphics and live action to great effect. Charming and entertaining, children will marvel at all of the adventures that a little bear can get himself into, while parents will want to take care of the little bear themselves.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
The Spider-Man character is a lot like the Energizer Bunny: Sequels, prequels, and reboots just keep going and going and going. While Spider-Man fatigue could have easily set in with so many Spidey options, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse surprised audiences by being an animated movie that kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed. With its clever storyline, plenty of inside jokes and references, and eye-popping comic-book animation design, this Spider-Man lived up to its well-deserved hype.