These are movies the whole family will enjoy.
For parents looking for kid-friendly entertainment that won’t make them pull out their hair, Netflix supplies a wealth of new kids movies and quality family selections. From animated classics to live-action laugh fests, there’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy.
The best kids movies on Netflix
1) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic endures because of its quality and its uniqueness among the typical kid’s fare. Coming from the minds of Tim Burton and Selick, oddness is Nightmare’s strength. The story of Jack Skellington bringing some Christmas Town joy to the residents of Halloween Town is full of whimsy and macabre way that only Selick and Burton can conjure. Between the wonderful animation, classic Danny Elfman music, and boundless creativity, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween and Christmas classic that plays well any time of the year.
2) Moana (2016)
If you have a kid and have somehow haven’t had to buy Moana yet, I’m amazed and deeply envious. Now that Disney’s latest hit has made it to streaming, families everywhere can gather to commiserate/celebrate being able to play the movie relentlessly. But you could do much worse than Moana. Moana herself is a strong and endearing protagonist, The Rock is as charming as ever as the Demigod Maui, and the Lin-Manuel Miranda songs are on point. The story’s themes about finding your place, acceptance, and friendship aren’t exactly new, but the movie delivers its points without becoming preachy or heavy-handed. Speaking from experience, Moana holds up well to repeat viewings. And it’s better than Frozen. —Eddit Strait
3) High School Musical (2006)
See Zac Efron when he was cute, not a hunk, in this Disney original movie that will ring nostalgic for a whole generation of theater kids. Before Glee brought singing and dancing mainstream, the kids of East High School were solving their problems one note at a time. It features classics like “We’re All in This Together” and launched the careers of Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and Corbin Bleu. This modern Romeo & Juliet adaptation is an ideal stream for family movie night. —R.V.
4) Jungle Book (2016)
As a director, Jon Favreau specializes in making broadly appealing movies. Ever since Elf he’s primarily made blockbusters, both original (Cowboys & Aliens) and based on someone else’s IP (Iron Man). Working in the later category, his live-action retelling proved to be much more than a cash grab. The visual effects are incredible, and it’s worth seeing the movie just to soak in the stunning imagery. Add in some noteworthy voice work (Idris Elba stands out in a sea of great vocal performances) and a strong debut for child actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli, and the result is one of 2016 most successful crowd-pleasers. —E.S.
5) Fantasia (1940)
The Disney classic endures as something you can feel good about putting your kids in front of for a long stretch. Fantasia also contributes to one of the most iconic images of Mickey Mouse, in his blue sorcerer’s hat during the Sorcerer’s Apprentice homage. The art is beautiful, the music is a must-listen, and who cares if it was a commercial flop? —R.V.
- The 101 best movies on Netflix
- The 30 best standup specials on Netflix when you really need a laugh
- What’s new on Netflix
6) Coin Heist (2017)
Writer/director Emily Hagins first drew attention for her zombie film, Pathogen, which she directed and released by the time she was 14. In the decade since her debut, Hagins has grown as a filmmaker, with each film (My Sucky Teen Romance and Grow Up, Tony Phillips) showcasing her ability to create authentic teen characters and tell stories that don’t pander to anyone. Her latest film, Coin Heist, continues her upward trajectory. This Netflix original film is about a group of teens who take it upon themselves to save their high school by, you guessed it, breaking into the U.S. Mint. The movie debuted on Netflix on Jan. 6, so this is a hot-off-the-presses recommendation. This one skews toward a slightly older crowd, so save it for the pre-teens. —E.S.
7) Trolls (2016)
Trolls falls into the “surprisingly OK” category. It’s not as bad as you thought it would be when you first saw the trailer, but it certainly plays better with kids than adults. It’s about two trolls, Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake), who are on a mission to rescue Poppy’s friends. It’s bright, goofy, and the JT song (“Can’t Stop the Feeling”) is ridiculously catchy. On a scale of Emoji Movie to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Trolls rates as The Peanuts Movie. The movie probably didn’t need to exist, but now that it’s here, it’s alright. —E.S.
8) Paddington (2016)
Last year a lot of people (myself included) wrote off Paddington on sight. A lot of people (myself included) were wrong. This movie comes to us from producer David Heyman, who worked on the Harry Potter films. We should’ve had more trust in his ability to deliver quality family entertainment. All of the doubters can now discover the charming, funny story of the Peruvian Paddington Bear and his European adventure. Having recently showed this to my kids, I can attest that Paddington is great for adults and children and has the goods to hold up through inevitable rewatches. —E.S.
9) Growing Up Wild
Disney has a slew of nature documentaries that are perfect for kids. They’re filled with plenty of adorable animals, with just a touch of some of less adorable animal business. Growing Up Wild is no different, but in a way that parents will find comforting. It tracks five different young animals as they find their way in the world. While the parallels between the young animals and the young viewers are hard to miss, it makes for a mutually engaging watch for parents and kids. —E.S.
10) Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
The Panda series has proven to be consistently good and among the top-tier films on the Dreamworks’ roster. KFP3 arrived with less attention than the earlier installments, but Po (Jack Black) and his story are just as potent as ever. While the series’ behind-the-scenes action has its rough moments, its onscreen action continues to evolve under the direction of Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni. Another thing that makes these movies endearing and sets them apart from peers is the diversity of its characters and the actors providing their voices. Not to get too political, but it’s nice to have stories out there that showcase the value of teamwork and coming together in contentious times. —E.S.
- The best free movies on YouTube
- The best anime on Netflix
- 84 interesting facts about Pixar you probably don’t know
- The best board games for families
11) Zootopia (2016)
Movies that are equally entertaining for kids and adults are an increasingly rare breed, so when one does come along it looks like a mirage in the Netflix listings. Fear not, Zootopia is the real deal. It’s the story of a bright-eyed rabbit (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) who fights off Disney-levels of discrimination to achieve her dream of being a cop. She forms an unlikely alliance with a con man fox (the almost too perfectly cast Jason Bateman) to expose a massive conspiracy. Zootopia is a rock-solid buddy cop comedy, but what really separates it is the social commentary running through the narrative. Sometimes the film bites off a little more than it can chew, but that occasionally happens with ambitious movies and should be embraced here. —E.S.
12) Chicken Run (2000)
Nick Park, the man behind the beloved Wallace & Gromit, makes consistently great films. His work is funny, clever, and full of heart. As with most stop-motion animation, the love that goes into the craft is evident and, in Park’s case, infectious. Chicken Run is about a cockerel (voiced by pre-meltdown Mel Gibson) who ends up on a chicken farm and leads the resident chickens on their escape. The humor mixes silliness with just the right amount of intelligence to keep everyone entertained. This side of Pixar, what more can you ask for in a family movie? —E.S.
13) E.T. (1982)
Deciding whether to watch E.T. or not is one of the easier Netflix choices you can make. You see it and you click play, right? For most adults that reaction is automatic, and now is as good a time as any to bring the next generation into the fold. Steven Spielberg’s classic holds up astonishingly well, and the idea of bonding with a stranger and helping others is always timely. E.T. is the kind of movie that will endure for as long as watching movies is a thing, and almost 40 years after its release, the joy you get in sharing the movie with the next generation nearly exceeds the pleasure you get from watching it. Almost. —E.S.
14) Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s run of successful live-action adaptations continues with its update of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. Emma Watson dons the yellow dress as Belle, and Dan Stevens works the CGI suit as Beast. The live-action version ports over everything you know and love about the original and also features 30 minutes of new material. The new approach to the classic material is the perfect way to introduce the new generation to a movie you loved as a kid. It’s the new circle of life for these films.
15) Good Burger (1997)
This is one that parents will remember from the halcyon ‘90s Nickelodeon era, but silliness is not bound to the constraints of time. Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell star as Dexter and Ed, two bumbling best buds who work at the titular fast-food joint. With their quaint restaurant facing stiff corporate competition, it’s up to the least qualified but most good-hearted guys to save the day. The movie gets along just fine on the chemistry between Kenan and Kel and good-time vibes. If your kids are fans of iCarly, Sam & Cat, Victorious, or Drake & Josh, they’ll like Good Burger, which is from the same mastermind (Dan Schneider). —E.S.
16) High School Musical 2
If you already followed the recommendation for the first one, your kids have probably begged you for the sequel. HSM2 is there for another dose of Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, and the rest of the East High Wildcats. The kids are appreciably better dancers and singers at this point, so the musical numbers are better. With most of the characters working summer jobs at a swanky country club, viewers get all the fun and family values of the first movie in a sunnier location and with none of the separation anxiety. The third high school-set musical isn’t currently on Netflix, so when this one is over you’ll have to settle for rewatching Zac Efron perform “Bet On It.” —E.S.
- What the heck is a plumbus?
- The 10 most expensive Lego sets
- 10 fascinating facts about the Easy-Bake Oven
- How to make slime: Inside Instagram’s world of teen ‘slimers’
Holes, the novel by Louis Sachar, is one of the great youth novels of the last 20 years, and Holes, the movie, is one of the best family friendly films of the 2000s. Stanley Yelnats IV ends up at a juvenile camp where he’s forced to dig holes as part of a court ordered rehabilitation. There he meets Zero, Armpit, Zig Zag, X-Ray and the rest of the Camp Green Lake crew: a lovable, eclectic bunch. The camaraderie between the boys is infectious. The adult villains (played by Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, and Tim Blake Nelson) are threatening without being scary. Holes is funny and adventurous. It aims for the 8-12 crowd, and it has just about everything you could want in a family movie.
18) Hotel Transylvania 2
Aside from being a silly hit for the whole family, the Hotel Transylvania series is easily the least offensive thing Adam Sandler has put out going back a long time. These movies are colorful and stuffed with goofy jokes that hit often enough. They’ll certainly keep your children entertained and you may just catch yourself laughing more often than you’d think. The sequel has Dracula (Sandler) and company trying their best to keep Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) at the titular hotel. It’s fun, it’s light, and it’s an easy watch.
19) Finding Dory
If Pixar has lost a little bit of speed on its fastball post-Toy Story 3, Finding Dory is a wily veteran learning how to get by with the offspeed stuff. Dory (voiced by an ever-enthusiastic Ellen Degeneres) goes on her own adventure after getting lost. Dory leans on humor more than its predecessor, aided by great vocal performances from Ed O’Neill, Idris Elba, Kaitlin Olson, and a slew of stars that would make Dreamworks envious. But it doesn’t lack for emotion either, as we expect from the best of Pixar. At its heart, Dory is a story about coping mental illness, and it does right by the material. —E.S.
20) Bee Movie
The people who remember this curiosity from Jerry Seinfeld first call to mind one of the film’s bizarre first trailers, wherein Seinfeld and cast mates like Chris Rock appeared in insect costumes. Bee Movie doesn’t quite live up to the absurdity hinted at in the trailer, but it does offer a fun story and a good time nonetheless. This is one that is graded more on the kid-movie scale than the good movie scale. By that metric it passes, or at least it did with my kids. And I laughed too and, if you watch it with your kids, you’re guaranteed to get some great reactions out of them. As a parent that can be just as rewarding. —E.S.
21) Pete’s Dragon
File this one under the exceedingly small list of “remakes nobody asked for but are much better than anyone thought.” Writer and director David Lowery made a deeply heartfelt movie that surprised audiences and critics alike. It’s about a boy and his dragon best friend and that’s all you really need to know going in. If you or your kids enjoyed the broadly similar How to Train Your Dragon, give Pete’s Dragon a shot and you won’t be disappointed. While it didn’t get the attention it deserved at the box office, now it has the chance to find the audience it deserves at home. —E.S.
22) The Iron Giant
If you haven’t seen The Iron Giant stop whatever you’re doing and watch it now. If you’ve already seen it, stop whatever you’re doing as well because you’re surely overdue for a revisit. The story is similar to E.T., with a young boy befriending an extraterrestrial robot, then having to protect the Iron Giant from the government officials out to get him. It’s as good as anything Disney has released in the last 20 years and is destined to play well for generations to come. —E.S.
R.L. Stine’s juggernaut book series from the ‘90s finally made it to the big screen in 2015, and the result was about what you’d expect for a kid-friendly spooky movie. It captures the tone of the series well and is a fun time, maybe more so for the 9-13 preteen set than anyone else. Instead of adapting one or two original Goosebumps, the movie goes the meta route, with Stine’s (Jack Black) made-up characters escaping the imaginary world and wreaking havoc in our own. —E.S.
24) The Little Prince
The Little Prince flew under the radar of most casual audiences in the summer of 2016, when it debuted on Netflix and received a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it run in theaters. It’s an adaptation of the beloved 1943 novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and mixes stop-motion and computer animation. With an A-list cast lending their voices, The Little Prince has the pedigree onscreen and off-, and successfully offers a new spin on a classic story. With its unheralded release, there’s a good chance your child hasn’t noticed this movie yet and an even better chance that they’ll love it once they see it. —E.S.
The debut feature from Laika established a new and exciting voice in animation, one that could rival Pixar creatively, if not commercially. Coraline is based on a Neil Gaiman story and is directed by Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas). It’s about a girl who goes to a secret world, a bizarro version of her real world. It’s a movie filled with imagination and heart, with and enough oddity to make it a memorable experience. The movie doesn’t shy away from darker elements, but it has enough sweetness to take some of the edge off. —E.S.
26) Anastasia (1997)
This is the best way for young viewers to learn about the Russian revolution, and something kids will likely come back to in a future Wikipedia hunt for the truth about the actual fate of the Romanov family. (Spoiler: It’s much more depressing than the animated version will have you believe.) It’s a rare non-Disney movie during a major Disney classic era that had a vocal fanbase. It follows Anya, the supposed only living survivor of the Romanov family who doesn’t remember who she is, led on a quest to reunite with her grandmother. It’s a musical history lesson, and while there’s no prince, there’s a hot Russian servant Dimitri to ignite pre-pubescent love. —R.V.
- The top 20 female superheroes of all time
- 10 fascinating facts about the Easy-Bake Oven
- 10 dark facts about Draco Malfoy
- Here’s how fast the Flash really is
27) The BFG
The pairing of Steven Spielberg and Roald Dahl isn’t the instant classic it appeared to be on paper. But it’s also better than the mixed reviews the film received last summer. I speak from experience. I skipped the film’s theatrical run without a second thought. The second thought happened once The BFG hit Netflix and I gave it a chance. This story about a giant and the orphaned girl who befriends him has its moments of charm and warmth. It won’t become your kids latest obsession (more power to them if it does), but it will serve as a nice change of pace. —E.S.
28) Grease (1978)
One of the most beloved musicals of all time, Grease stands the rest of time. Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko (Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, as if you don’t know) sing and dance their way through high school and love. It’s a cliche to say they don’t make’em like this anymore, but Grease is proof that they don’t. It’s a fun film for most audiences, but this one skews a little older thanks to MPAA logic. Still, younger viewers will be too caught up in the songs and dances to notice some of the more risqué bits. Whether you’re hand-jiving solo or with a group, I defy anyone to have a bad time watching Grease. —E.S.
29) Queen of Katwe
Queen of Katwe fell into a tough spot for audiences. The story of a chess prodigy isn’t super exciting, so it may be a tough sell for attention-strapped kids. But the story is told so well and is so uplifting that it’s the exact kind of thing kids should see. In this instance, you should pull rank and make your kids watch Queen of Katwe. The story is well told by director Mira Nair and writer William Wheeler and wonderfully acted by a cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. This movie is the answer to the question: “Why aren’t there any good kids movies out there?” —E.S.
30) Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings is Laika Animation’s best film to date. The story is set in a fantastical world where young Kubo must take on his evil aunts and grandfather. There’s much more to the story than that, but this is a case where it’s better to go in with minimal information. Featuring Laika’s trademark mix of heavier themes in otherwise family-friendly fare, Kubo is a great option for the whole family. It’s the kind of movie that can spark a conversation between parents and kids, which is something to savor. —E.S.
16 years before Moana, Disney laid the groundwork for a culturally conscious “princess” (air quotes because neither character is technically a princess) movie with Mulan. And sure, some elements of the movie look dated today, and if it came out in 2017, it would surely be roasted for not being progressive enough. But that doesn’t change the fact that Mulan is one of Disney’s best movies, featuring a thrilling story, great characters, gorgeous animation, and one of its most complex heroines ever. It’s also worth watching for the showstopping classic “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You” alone. Oh, and Mulan has a mom, who’s actually alive—a totally revolutionary concept for Disney at the time! —C.O.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Pure, uncut internet. Straight to your inbox.