30 of the Best Family Films Parents and Kids Will Both Enjoy

One of the best things to come out of the pandemic quarantine has been more family togetherness. More family games, more family dinners, and more family movie nights! While other industries have taken a huge hit in recent months, movie rentals and streaming services have seen unprecedented earnings. In fact, the success of direct-to-home releases has prompted some companies like Universal to continue this new method of home access even after the world stops spending so much time at home. While we definitely have plenty of home-rental options, what are the best movies for families to choose?

If you’re anything like my family, you know it’s not always easy to find the perfect movie that appeals to everyone in the household. After all, there’s got to be a compromise somewhere between buildings being blown up and the Teletubbies. There’s plenty of appropriate “grown up” movies that bore kids to sleep (think: rom-coms) and many, many animated flicks that are a chore for us adults to sit through. But what about the films that we all can genuinely enjoy?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of great movies out there that satisfy every member of the family. I’ve put together this helpful list of 30 of the best family films that aren’t too outdated or corny for the kids, while still being relatable and entertaining for us old folks. There’s nothing better than watching a movie with your kids that makes everyone smile or laugh together, and these fabulous flicks are genuinely enjoyable for grownups and kids alike.

The movies I’ve selected all have good lessons to make screentime worthwhile, and none show any risque content, violence, gore, or serious profanity, so they’re appropriate for anyone. I’ve made it a bit easier by listing mild parental warnings for each movie and specifying their best audience appeal. I’ve also categorized them into three sections: one best for toddlers and new movie viewers, one for young kids, and one for older kids (those PG-13 movies that may contain a little heavier subject matter.)

So get ready to pop some popcorn and take a family vote on your first feature from this list. I’m sure these films will become fast favorites in your family too. Happy watching!

Good for Younger Kids

Toy Story (1995) G, Toy Story 2 (1999) G, Toy Story 3 (2010) G, and Toy Story 4 (2019) G

  • Overview: Hands down the best Pixar productions, all the Toy Story movies about personified toys are favorites of adults and kids alike. Although, much debate continues on thee very best one (I’m a 2 and 1 fan myself, and hesitated to even include Toy Story 4 on this list, but that’s another “story.”)
  • Valuable Lessons: Friendship, loyalty, and the importance of preserving childhood in our hearts regardless of our age.
  • Why Adults Like It: The toys evoke such nostalgia that brings us back to our own childhood. (Show me a grownup who doesn’t get misty when Andy drives off to college in 3!) The films are also hilarious and full of incredible music.
  • Why Kids Like It: These classic toys are so funny and comforting to the kids who are growing up with them.
  • Warnings: Beware of those weird ventriloquist dolls in the antique store in 4.

Paddington (2014) PG and Paddington 2 (2018) PG

  • Overview: The classic bear from the popular British storybooks is brought to life in these modern films about Paddington’s new home with the Brown family.
  • Valuable Lessons: Kindness and manners are important, and family is not defined by blood or similar personalities.
  • Why Adults Like It: Great characters and scenery and Hugh Grant makes a funny villain in 2.
  • Why Kids Like It: Paddington is like a friend kids root for, and his silly antics keep them laughing.

Tangled (2010) PG

  • Overview: This version of the Rapunzel fairytale is perhaps the best Disney Princess movie. Plus the soundtrack is amazing.
  • Valuable Lessons: This Rapunzel is a great role model: she’s smart, strong, independent, but able to feel and love at the same time. Also, Flynn learns to give up naughty for nice and the importance of family is explored.
  • Why Adults Like It: Characters and humor adults find funny too, beautiful animation, and great music.
  • Why Kids Like It: That same glorious music and funny one-liners appeal to both parents and kids.
  • Warnings: A few scenes with the witch are a bit scary.

The Grinch (2018) PG
  • Overview: An updated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas with beautiful animation and a less frightening Grinch.
  • Valuable Lessons: Generosity over greed, honesty, friendship, including others, and kindness. Understanding that unkind people are often lonely.
  • Why Adults Like It: It’s a fast-moving and enjoyable modern version of a classic Christmas tale with familiar voices and beautiful animation.
  • Why Kids Like It: Great animation, funny characters, and a gentler, not frightening version of the Grinch from a storybook kids know.

The Star (2017) G
  • Overview: A sweet story about the animals who helped protect Mary on her journey to give birth to the baby Jesus.
  • Valuable Lessons: Being there for those you care about regardless of your differences.
  • Why Adults Like It: An all-star cast presents a funny version of the nativity story to teach kids about the true meaning of Christmas.
  • Why Kids Like It: Funny animal characters.

The Peanuts Movie (2015) G
  • Overview: Charlie Brown tries to befriend the little redhaired girl and prove he’s not a blockhead once and for all.
  • Valuable Lessons: Believing in oneself, kindness, and liking people for who they are inside.
  • Why Adults Like It: The calming nostalgia of the Peanuts gang in a modernized, beautifully animated form.
  • Why Kids Like It: In a sea of frenetic cartoons, this film is a gentle but entertaining escape. And Snoopy always gets laughs.

Good for the Whole Family

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011) PG

  • Overview: Mr. Popper is successful in business but not in his relationships, and tries to rebuild his marriage and family after inheriting penguins from his father.
  • Valuable Lessons: The importance of family and learning to forgive, be vulnerable, and repair relationships.
  • Why Adults Like It: Great premise and Jim Carrey is crazy but touching.
  • Why Kids Like It: Funny, family-centered storyline with hilarious antics from loveable, live penguins.

Coco (2017) PG

  • Overview: A music-loving boy goes on a journey to meet his ancestors and learns the meaning of family and Dias de los muertos.
  • Valuable Lessons: The importance of forgiveness and family, people are not always what they seem (good or bad), and the beautiful meaning of this Mexican holiday.
  • Why Adults Like It: The music, animation, and strong cultural representation.
  • Why Kids Like It: Funny characters and colorful animation.
  • Warnings: The themes of loss and the afterlife are handled delicately but are present, and characters are in skeleton form which may be scary to some very small children.

Moana (2016) PG

  • Overview: A young girl with an adventurous heart and a love for the sea longs to journey beyond her small island to help her people but her father forbids it.
  • Valuable Lessons: A strong female leader (without a love interest), the importance of togetherness, kids learning to trusting their abilities, and parents learning when to trust their children.
  • Why Adults Like It: Incredible music and relatable themes of wanderlust. Oh yeah, and the Rock. You’re Welcome.
  • Why Kids Like It: That famous soundtrack again and funny characters.
  • Warnings: Moana’s encounter with the lava monster Te Ka is scary for young kids.

Mary Poppins Returns (2018) PG
  • Overview: This updated classic is practically perfect in every way. Mary Poppins returns to help Michael Banks who has grown to be a serious, financially-strapped widower with children of his own. 
  • Valuable Lessons: Nothing is impossible, families should work together, and growing older doesn’t have to mean losing your belief in magic. 
  • Why Adults Like It: Lin Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt lead an all-star cast with great music and references to the original film.
  • Why Kids Like It: Incredible music and choreography and funny characters.
  • Warnings: One scary scene following the music hall number involves the children being chased by an animated wolf that turns out to be a bad dream. 

Aladdin (2019) PG
  • Overview: This live action version of the beloved Disney animated classic is an even better telling of the tale of the street rat who falls in love with a Princess.
  • Valuable Lessons: The importance of friendship and promises, and not judging others based on appearance or social status.
  • Why Adults Like It: Great music, choreography, cast, and epic scenery.
  • Why Kids Like It: Great music and Will Smith makes one hilarious genie.
  • Warnings: The roaring voice of the cave of wonders is deep and potentially frightening for young kids, as is the scene at the end of the movie when  Jafar turns into an evil genie.

Spies in Disguise (2019) PG
  • Overview: Agent Lance Armstrong teams up with his nerdy, genius inventor sidekick Walter who turns him into a pigeon.
  • Valuable Lessons: Differences should be accepted, being “weird” is a gift, and problems can be solved peacefully with smarts instead of violence.
  • Why Adults Like It: Will Smith and Tom Holland lead an all-star cast in this funny and heartwarming story that’s like James Bond for kids (and birds.)
  • Why Kids Like It: The humor. Agent Sterling as a bird is plain funny.

Onward (2020) PG
  • Overview: Two brothers go on a quest to find a magical gem that will allow them to spend a day with their late father.
  • Valuable Lessons: Bravery, believing in oneself, opposite personalities getting along, and appreciating the people we have.
  • Why Adults Like It: An all-star cast and the tear-jerking reminder to give our family a phone call after the movie ends.
  • Why Kids Like It: Funny characters and an epic, action-packed, animated quest.
  • Warnings: The loss of a parent is a theme, though not discussed in detail. There is also a scene at the end when a dragon attacks the town, which may frighten small kids.  

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) PG
  • Overview: Lonely Sega favorite Sonic escapes to Earth only to be hunted by the government and seeks refuge with a local cop and his veterinarian wife.
  • Valuable Lessons: Friendship and loyalty.
  • Why Adults Like It: File this under “great films you didn’t expect to like.” It’s really  enjoyable and James Marsden’s dry humor with Jim Carrey’s crazy make the perfect marriage.
  • Why Kids Like It: Sonic is super cute and funny, and most kids will probably ask Santa for a hedgehog after seeing this movie.

Playing With Fire (2019) PG

  • Overview: A team of smokejumpers take in orphan siblings. Think a modern Three Men and a Baby, but in a firehouse.
  • Valuable Lessons: The characters learn to let down their guard to love, and that families aren’t always made by blood.
  • Why Adults Like It: Keegan Michael Key and G-rated humor that’s actually laugh out loud enjoyable for adults. Also, watch the bloopers at the end. You won’t regret it.
  • Why Kids Like It: It’s genuinely funny for the whole family. 
  • Warnings: The children have dealt with the loss of both their parents, but it is not discussed in detail. For extra sensitive kids, be aware of a fire scene at the beginning of the movie and a literal vehicle cliffhanger towards the end of the movie. Everyone is safe though.

The Muppets (2011) PG
  • Overview: Two very different but very close brothers head to California to meet and reunite the Muppets to save the legendary Muppet Theater.
  • Valuable Lessons: Being different is okay and believe in the power of perseverance and teamwork.
  • Why Adults Like It: Two classic traits of Muppets movies – humor and great cameos.
  • Why Kids Like It: Those zany and loveable Muppets and a few catchy musical numbers.
  • Warnings: Received its PG rating for some mild “rude humor” and a couple of fake punches thrown.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) PG

  • A clumsy inventor’s shrink ray machine accidentally shrinks his two kids and the two kids from next door.
  • Valuable Lessons: The importance of family and accepting others’ differences.  
  • Why Adults Like It: It’s a classic with old-school, pre-CGI special effects.
  • Why Kids Like It: Imagine cruising through the backyard as small as a blade of grass!
  • Warnings: Tobacco theme, a mild swear word or two, and a rather heavy kiss between two teens.

Akeelah and the Bee (2006) PG 
  • A young girl from the inner city with a gift for spelling works hard to compete in a spelling bee. 
  • Valuable Lessons: No matter where you’re from, what you look like, or how much you think you don’t “fit in,” if you believe in yourself and embrace your gifts you can do anything.
  • Why Adults Like It: Two main reasons: Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.
  • Why Kids Like It: They find themselves rooting for the young peer protagonist.

Because of Winn Dixie (2005) PG

  • Overview: a lonely 10 year old girl moves to a small town in Florida so her father can become the new preacher. She is missing her mother and searching for meaningful relationships but finds the people in her new town unfriendly and disconnected. She finds a dog who changes her outlook and creates positive change for most of the townspeople.
  • Valuable Lesson(s): Avoiding judgment and loving and accepting one another. Accepting challenging relationships that are out of one’s control.
  • Why Adults Like It: The stories of the relationships. And Dave Matthews in his first acting role, opposite a goat.
  • Why Kids Like It: The dog’s antics are funny and the girl’s bond with her pet is relatable.
  • Warnings: Although they’re discussed gently, some heavy themes like alcoholism and a parent leaving a child are in the storyline.

Best for Slightly Older Kids
Saving Mister Banks (2013) PG-13
  • Overview: The incredible true story of Walt Disney’s 20-year-long quest to convince author P.L. Travers to sell him the rights to Mary Poppins. The film alternates back and forth between the present time (set in the 1960’s) and flashbacks to Travers’ tumultuous childhood to explore the roots of her icy and eccentric personality.
  • Valuable Lessons: The ability to love our family members despite their flaws, and move past hard memories to let in childlike happiness.
  • Why Adults Like It: The artistry and beautifully portrayed emotions of this film make it so moving. And the cast is extraordinary. (Emma Thompson’s friendship with Paul Giamatti is just beautiful.)
  • Why Kids Like It: Some humorous parts, especially with Tom Hanks’ portrayal of whimsical Walt. The history may be interesting to kids who know and love Mary Poppins and all things Disney…they even film a scene at the real Disneyland.
  • Warnings: While the present day scenes are lively and funny, the flashbacks are dark, and address heavy themes including alcoholism, depression, and the loss of a parent.

A Dog’s Purpose (2017) PG / A Dog’s Journey (2019) PG
  • Overview: Two movies about the role dogs play in their humans’ relationships, both narrated by the dog. A Dog’s Journey is the continued story of A Dog’s Purpose.
  • Valuable Lessons: The importance of self-improvement, working through relationships, and forgiveness.
  • Why Adults Like It: Relatable themes of forgiveness and the value of dogs in families.
  • Why Kids Like It: The dogs have plenty of appeal.
  • Warnings: Brief fighting and themes of alcoholism and loss in both movies.

The Miracle Season (2018) PG

  • Overview: Based on a true story about a high school girls’ volleyball team that bands together to win a championship after their star player is killed on a moped.
  • Valuable Lessons: Perseverance, teamwork, community, relationships.
  • Why Adults Like It: The emotionality of a true story and impressive dramatic performances by the lead actors.
  • Why Kids Like It: The appeal of sports and teamwork has the audience rooting for the girls’ team victory.
  • Warnings: Heavy themes of two losses, including a parent with a terminal illness.

Hairspray (2007) PG
  • Overview: A talented teen in 1960’s segregated Baltimore dreams of appearing on a popular dance show despite the fact that she doesn’t fit in to the typical TV performer mold.
  • Valuable Lessons: Acceptance of all people regardless of weight, appearance, or skin color. A good introduction to lessons about the civil rights movement.
  • Why Adults Like It: All-star cast and incredible soundtrack.
  • Why Kids Like It: The great music and choreography will have them dancing along.
  • Warnings: A few suggestive dance moves and mild language. 

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) PG-13
  • Overview: A divorced, unemployed dad longs to spend time with his kids after his ex-wife forbids him, so he poses as an elderly female to work as his children’s nanny.
  • Valuable Lessons: Divorce happens, but kids love and need their parents. The couple in the film do not get back together in the end, but show that forgiveness and civility are possible.
  • Why Adults Like It: The dramatic and comedic genius of Robin Williams.
  • Why Kids Like It: The humor of Dad dressed up like a nanny and the kids’ relatable performances.
  • Warnings: Some bad words.

School of Rock (2003) PG-13
  • Overview: A ne’er do well with dreams of being a rock star needs to get a job quickly and poses as his roommate to accept a substitute teaching position at an elite private elementary school.
  • Valuable Lessons: Perseverance, don’t judge people based on appearances, and take time to get to know people’s hidden gifts.
  • Why Adults Like It: Jack Black is crazy and entertaining.
  • Why Kids Love It: See above.
  • Warnings: A few bad words including a$$ and sh!t.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) PG

  • Based on the true story of a jaded journalist’s friendship with Fred Rogers. Read more about this movie in my full review.
  • Valuable Lessons: Everything Mister Rogers taught us, including the power of love, the healing of forgiveness, and the importance of taking care of our inner child.
  • Why Adults Like It: From the actual set where they filmed the show to the soothing piano music, this entire film is like a comforting visit from your childhood, and the artistic way the emotionality of the film is portrayed is incredible.
  • Why Kids Like It: Young people are familiar with Mister Rogers or at least his spinoffs, and may appreciate the backstory this film shows.
  • Warnings: This film is rated PG and could probably be in the previous category, but there are heavier themes like a tumultuous father-son relationship and loss, as well as a brief fight brought on by a drunk wedding guest.

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