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
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. —Eddie Strait
Coco is easily a top tier Pixar film. The studio broadens its horizons a bit with this story set in the culture of Día de Muertos. Miguel is a 12 year old with an affinity for music, but his family wants him to go into their shoe making business, on account of his family’s history with music and musicians. Miguel travels to the land of the dead to learn about his heritage and finds out more than he was ready for. Coco is a touching film about family and the importance of remembrance and, as with most Pixar movies, learning to accept yourself and others for who they are. It goes without saying that Coco is visually stunning and emotionally involving. Good luck getting “Remember Me” out of your head. —E.S.
3) Coin Heist
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.
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.
5) 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.
6) 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.
The 2016 remake proved that some people love Ghostbusters a little too much. But seriously, who doesn’t love Ghostbusters?! That cast, that theme song, that Stay Puft Marshmallow Man! If it’s not the funniest comedy of the 1980s, but it might be the most iconic. —Chris Osterndorf
An adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, Stardust is a jewel in director Matthew Vaughn’s deep catalog. It’s about a man who promises to retrieve a star from a magical land as a show of commitment to his lady love. The film is as whimsical and fantastical as that description implies without being saccharine, and it’s a blast. Better still, you can enjoy it with your family, although it skews to slightly order kids. The good feeling you get from watching it will linger for a while. —E.S.
9) Chicken Run
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.
10) Monsters vs Aliens
In the DreamWorks hierarchy, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda are at the top and then there’s everything else. Monsters vs Aliens is comfortably in the second tier. In true DreamWorks fashion, the movie delivers exactly what the title promises. You’ll laugh more than you expect to, and the movie offers some solid visuals to keep younger viewers engaged. It won’t become a staple for your family, but you won’t regret watching it. —E.S.
11) 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. —E.S.
12) Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Scooby-Doo 2 is easily the best live-action Scooby-Doo movie. Monsters Unleashed is much more fun than the first movie. The script (courtesy of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s James Gunn) is much more clever than the first film’s. All of the key players are back as the gang saves Coolsville from monsters that have previously been unmasked. It’s a shame the series stopped here because it felt like Scooby was just hitting its stride. —E.S.
13) Boss Baby
It finally happened. Jack Donaghy’s infant form has toplined a movie and Boss Baby is the living document. Now it will live on Netflix forever (or until the streaming rights revert elsewhere) and if your kids are anything like mine they’ve already devoured it. If you get a kick out of Alec Baldwin then you’ll probably be amused by Boss Baby. It’s a movie about a suited up baby with a briefcase. You know what you’re getting into and if it’s something you’ll like. —E.S.
14) Lilo & Stitch
It’s safe to say Stitch is the second most beloved alien in family films, after E.T. Movies about kids and their pets are as timeless as a concept can get, and Lilo & Stitch delivers the goods. Lilo, a young Hawaiian girl, and Stitch, an alien whose core directive is to wreak havoc and destruction, are a lovely pair. As the two unlikely friends grow closer and question what really constitutes family, Lilo & Stitch cements its place as a modern Disney classic. Given that Disney’s hand-drawn output is nearly nonexistent these days, Lilo & Stitch is worth revisiting for its aesthetic pleasures, on top of the charming story and adorable lead duo. —E.S.
15) 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.
16) The Emperor’s New Groove
I’m not being facetious when I say this is my favorite David Spade performance. His brand of bone-dry sarcasm normally grates (for me at least), but this time he makes Emperor Kuzco believably entitled but doesn’t take it so far that you just hate the character. Spade is a worthy yin to John Goodman’s yang as a gentle giant Pacha. The story follows a familiar arc: Kuzco has to learn to be kind and let go of his selfishness, and Pacha is the poor man who has to teach Kuzco how to deal with people. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s hilarious. —E.S.
17) Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Dav Pilkey’s book series makes a successful leap from the page to the big screen with this animated film. George and Harold make the most of their opportunity, pulling the pranks and having the all the fun that made them such a hit in book form. Younger kids will certainly be taken with Captain Underpants whether they’ve read the books or not, or at least my kids were. —E.S.
18) Smurfs: The Lost Village
The third Smurfs outing may be the best one. Do what you will with that information. The main difference here is that they finally settled on an approach. The Lost Village ditches the animation/live action mix of its predecessors in favor of full animation. It also gives up the pretense of entertaining adults. With Smurfette and her best friends on a mission to find the titular location, the movie is bright, fun, and full of everything fans want in a Smurf’s movie. —E.S.
19) 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.
21) The Princess Diaries
The movie that put Anne Hathaway on the map is still one of her most endearing performances. For someone whose resume includes an Oscar and countless other acclaimed roles, it speaks to the quality of the movie that The Princess Diaries is synonymous with Hathaway and her performance as teenager-turned-princess Mia. Mia’s transformation makes for the kind of light, fish-out-of-water story that will enchant viewers for a long time. And many of the people who enjoyed The Princess Diaries as a kid now have kids of their own and can start passing the movie down to the next generation. —E.S.
22) Cars 3
Cars 3 is almost certainly better than you think it is. It rebounds from Cars 2 and packs a surprisingly emotional punch. This time out, the series trades the globe-trotting action for a story that finds Lightning McQueen passing the torch to the next generation. Given Cars’ status as Pixar boss John Lasseter’s passion project and ludicrous merch sales, we’ll be seeing more of Lightning and Mater soon enough. It’s not top-shelf Pixar, but there’s enough there to make you look forward to Cars 4. —E.S.
23) Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda set a new standard for Dreamworks’ animated film. The story of the lovable panda Po’s rise to Dragon Warrior is full of laughs and heart. Its message of inclusivity is one of the most reliable themes in kids’ movies. And the movie is just flat out fun. Jack Black’s vocal work elevates Po, and the star-studded cast (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu) is similarly good. Kung Fu Panda is the kind of movie, once added to the rotation, that will captivate your kids every time it’s on. —E.S.
24) Despicable Me 3
The Despicable Me movies have become Minion delivery systems at this point, and to that end, Despicable Me 3 delivers the goods. But really, the heart of the series is the relationship between Gru and his adopted daughters Margo, Edith, and Agnes. This time out, Gru is ready to put his troublemaking past behind him, after he does one last job. Despicable Me 3 is a step up from the second film, though not quite on par with the first one. But it should still satisfy younger fans. —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.
26) The Little Rascals
The Little Rascals comes from that early to mid 90s run of family movies that everyone of a certain age has an affinity for. The Sandlot, The Santa Clause, Homeward Bound, etc., you know the movies. The Little Rascals is still a cheesy, goofy, and good hearted time. Spank, Darla, Buckwheat, Alfalfa, Uh-Huh, and everyone else’s antics still charm, and who doesn’t root for The Blur 2 every time? —E.S.
27) Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
The gang is back together for more animal adventures in this Madagascar sequel. It’s always amused me how much these animals travel intercontinentally, but I digress. Little kids probably aren’t interested in the travel patterns of animals. They’re here for the animal shenanigans, and those silly spin-off bound penguins. For as long as your kids are into talking animals they’ll be amused by Madagascar films. —E.S.
It should be stated for the record that Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed is the preferred live-action Scooby-Doo movie, but Scooby-Doo gets the job done. The Mystery Inc. gang takes their collective talents to Spooky Island where they have to dig into the strange happenings at the local amusement park. The charms of Scooby-Doo are all still here (Matthew Lillard, in particular, does spirited work as Shaggy). The movie doesn’t hit the highs of the cartoon, but it’s still a fun time, especially for the younger set. —E.S.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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