Our list includes classics and some you might not have seen

Summer is just around the corner, and while you’ll have plenty of ways to enjoy the sunny days, watching a movie is a great way to spend those hot and balmy nights. Whether you curl up with your kids on the couch, hit up a movie night in the park, or plan your own outdoor movie night right at home, watching a summer family movie promises a night of action, adventure, or romance. So whether a Disney film or a classic coming-of-age film, we’ve got you covered. Prep your movie snacks and bring your sense of adventure and wonder for a night of fantasy.

Best Summer Family Movies for Young Kids

Finding Nemo

Young clownfish Nemo gets caught by humans in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and finds himself trapped in a fish tank at a dentist’s office. While he plots his escape with some newfound friends, Nemo’s father, Marlin, goes on an undersea journey accompanied by forgetful fish Dory to find Nemo.

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While kids will enjoy the undersea world’s bright colors and the journey’s excitement, very young viewers may find the predator fish frightening. The film also features some important lessons about friendship and family and is a true classic.

A Bug’s Life

Circus performer bugs are the only help Flik can find to help when grasshoppers take charge of his ant colony. Flik must prove that he is more than just the colony screw-up and save the day.

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Kids will enjoy the antics of the adorable insects, while parents will appreciate positive messages surrounding nature, teamwork, and forging ahead, despite hardship. Some of the bugs are a bit scary and there is some mild language. This may also provide kids with a more positive outlook on bugs, which may prove helpful to parents during the summer months.

Little Mermaid

This classic animated Disney film, based on the fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, focuses on the young mermaid princess, Ariel. When she journeys to the sea’s surface, she falls in love with the very handsome (and very human) Prince Eric. To be with him, Ariel strikes a deal with the horrid sea witch, Ursula, but she finds it may cost her more than she imagined.

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Young viewers will fall in love with the funny and loyal crab, Sebastian, and the anxious and adorable fish, Flounder. Some dark moments may scare sensitive viewers. The themes of love and friendship will hit a universal cord with viewers young and old.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Hotel Transylvania 3 is a great summer family movie
Sony Pictures


This funny animated film features Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Selena Gomez. In the third installment in the series, Count Dracula and his peeps go on a cruise, unaware that the Van Helsings, who hate monsters, have taken control of the ship.

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Nothing says summer more than a monster cruise, and the comedically talented cast is top-notch. This fun threequel is worth the watch. There are a few scary scenes, but kids ages 5 and up should appreciate the humor more than fear the scares.

Surf’s Up

An annual surf contest featuring a group of penguins seems like the perfect summer flick. Newcomer Cody Maverick sets out to prove he can hang ten with the best of them in this 2007 Oscar-nominated film.

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With an outstanding A-list cast including Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Shia LaBeouf, and surf star Kelly Slater, Surf’s Up promises laughs and adventure for even the more discerning viewer. A few images may be disturbing for very young viewers, so this film is best for kids 5 and up.

Toy Story 4

Believed to be the final installment in the Pixar franchise, this summer family movie finds Buzz, Woody, and the gang going on a road trip with Bonnie and her parents. They reunite with old friends and have fantastic summertime adventures as they learn more about themselves and each other.

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Antique doll Gabby Gabby and the ventriloquist dummies may be scary for very young viewers. This touching film reunites all our favorite Toy Story characters, and for that alone, it should be added to your family’s summer watch list.


Based on Polynesian myths, Moana, a young girl goes on a journey to convince the demigod Maui to return the heart of a goddess. She believes this will help the people on her island to return to a time of prosperity.

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This beautifully animated film was nominated for two Oscars. One for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year and the other for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (The original song How Far I’ll Go was written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda). The film received a PG rating for some scary situations and peril but is appropriate for kids 5+.

Related: New, Original Family Movies You’ll Only Find on Netflix, Disney+ & Apple TV in 2023

Best Sumer Family Movies for Grade-School Kids

E.T.the Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. is a great summer family movie
Universal Pictures


During a tumultuous time, Elliott must deal with his parent’s divorce and a visit from an out-of-this-world friend he names E.T. When their bond becomes so strong it creates a connection that allows them to feel what the other is feeling, Elliott realizes just how special his new friend is and will stop at nothing to help him find his way home.

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This ’80s classic coming-of-age film from director Steven Spielberg explores friendship and loyalty and is a summer list must. The friendship between E.T. and Elliott strengthens Elliott’s bond with his mother and siblings. Due to some language and thematic elements like drinking and divorce, this movie is best for kids 7 and up.

The Goonies

This beloved 1985 coming-of-age film features a group of friends who get caught up in an adventure after discovering a long-lost treasure map. They must face off against a family of criminals, booby traps, and a long-dead pirate to find the fortune to save one of their homes.

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Directed by Richard Donner and written by Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg, the film promises a nostalgic journey for GenX parents who can share a return to their adolescents with their kids. With some perilous situations and crude humor and language, this classic is best viewed with kids 10+.

The Sandlot

Another classic coming-of-age movie that’s perfect for summer family movie night, The Sandlot is the tale of a new boy who finds his place with a group of kids playing baseball on an old lot. They spend one adventurous and unforgettable summer battling a little league team and a dog named Beast.

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This film is a summer must-see, with a treehouse, sleepovers, and a gang of kids. It will remind parents and kids what summer is meant for, fun and friendship. Though the film is light-hearted and features themes of teamwork and friendship, some adult language makes this one best for kids 9 and over.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a great summer family movie

Based on the Nickelodeon television series, the film focuses on a teenage Dora. Dora and her gang of friends, including her cousin Diego and best friend, the monkey Boots, go on a journey to solve a mystery about a lost civilization and help Dora’s parents.

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This live-action film is filled with adventure and a positive, diverse female character. Parents should know that the film also features some moments of peril, including a kidnapping. However, the message surrounding perseverance and teamwork makes it a great summer family movie for kids 8+.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

Based on the Judy Moody book series by author Megan McDonald, the film focuses on one summer in the life of a spirited third grader, Judy Moody. While her parents are away, Judy and her brother, Stink, stay home with their fun and adventurous aunt Opal. Judy uses the summer to earn the most thrill points in a “best summer” contest with her friends.

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The film has some potty humor, but it is mild, so kids 6 and over are an appropriate audience. There are some valuable lessons to be learned about home and family. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer promotes the joy of a good old-fashioned summer at home.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

The film, based on the fourth book in the best-selling children’s book series by author Jeff Kinney, follows the title character Greg Heffley and his best friend, Rowley Jefferson, who do their best to make it through the summer. Greg’s dad dislikes him playing video games, and his mother wants him to get involved in some activities, including a boring book club. Will he survive the dog days of summer?

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With important summer-themed positive messages about the importance of getting outside and family bonding, this fun film will appeal to parents and kids alike. Parents should be aware that there is some potty humor, so the film is best suited for kids over the age of 9.

Related: 15 Movies That Show What Real Friendship Looks Like

Best Summer Family Movies for Older Kids

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is a good summer family movie
Focus Features


This Oscar-nominated Wes Anderson film is a quirky romantic comedy. When two kids run away together, the town where they live gets involved in the effort to find them. Set in 1960s New England, the film explores young love.

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This unconventional love story is a heartfelt look at first love. With Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Frances McDormand all lending their talent, there is no lack of star power. With some adult content, and smoking and drinking, this film is best for teens 14 and older.

Dirty Dancing

Travel back to 1963 with teenager Baby Houseman and her family as they head off on vacation at an upscale summer resort in the Catskills. Dance instructor Johnny Castle teaches Baby about bias, love, and class in this 1980s gem.

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Parents will love seeing 1980s stars Jennifer Grey and the late great Patrick Swayze in their star-making roles. Teens will love the timeless romance between Baby and Johnny and the fun summer vibe. With some mature themes like abortion and sex, this film is best for kids 13 and over.

The Last Song

Based on the 2009 Nicholas Sparks novel, this romantic film stars former flames Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth. When a young woman is sent to live with her father for the summer, she finds they share a love for music. She also strikes up a relationship with a handsome local.

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The Last Song is more than a simple love story; it is the story of a father and daughter finding their way back to each other. Romance novelist Nicholas Sparks writes the perfect summer romance, which translates to the perfect summer film. With adult themes, including death and divorce, this film is best for older tweens and teens.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a great summer family movie
Warner Bros.


When four best friends go separate ways for summer, a pair of jeans that magically conforms to their differing body sizes and shapes keep them connected. The film is based on the Anne Brashares novel of the same name and stars Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively, America Ferrera, and Amber Tamblyn.

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An adventure set in summer with four besties is perfect for a warm summer night of sitting on the couch with the windows open with your favorite tween. With language and some mature themes like suicide and sex, this is best for kids 12+.

Soul Surfer

This biographical film was released in 2011 and is based on surfer Bethany Hamilton’s autobiography. Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack and the film focuses on her recovery and return to surfing.

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With an all-star cast including Dennis Quaid, Craig T. Nelson, and Helen Hunt and beautiful locations including Hawaii and Tahiti, this film may become a family favorite. One note to parents, Soul Surfer has a positive female role model who overcomes a horrible tragedy to do what she loves, but the shark attack, while quick, is gory.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

With a theatrical release date of May 5, we’re betting this will be available for creating the perfect summer family movie night. The latest film in the franchise focuses on the Guardians moving on after losing Gamora. Peter Quill and the rest of the guardian gang must do their best to (once again) save the universe.

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An action-adventure film is perfect for summer. Nothing offers more action or out-of-this-world adventure than the Guardians of the Galaxy. By far the darkest in the series, the film features animal torture and content surrounding trauma. With adult language and a large body count, this film is best for teens 13+.

The Way, Way Back

For shy teenager Duncan, a summer vacation with his mother, her boyfriend, and his daughter is less than ideal. It’s awkward and anything but fun until he befriends the manager of a water park.

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Starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, and Sam Rockwell, this coming-of-age is a sweet reminder of the awkwardness of family vacations. The film received a PG-13 rating for language, sexual content, and thematic elements.


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