The 50 Best Movies for Kids

Courtesy of Universal
Check out some of the best kid-friendly films of all time.
David Tsay
David Tsay

Whether you're planning a family movie night or looking for some kid-friendly entertainment options while you and your partner have a date night (or, let's be honest, catch an extra hour of sleep on the weekend!), nothing spoils the fun like arguing over what's appropriate to watch. We've taken the guess-work out of the equation for you with this comprehensive list of 50 of the best movies for kids of all time. Pick one, press play, and enjoy!

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Time-Tested Classics

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (ages 4 and up) What kid doesn't want a magic chariot, an inventor dad, and a "Truly Scrumptious" stepmom? This high-flying feature film makes wishes come true -- and delivers some of the best music in children's movies.

Dumbo (ages 4 and up) Great music, charm, and a trainload of animals make this feature a timeless classic. The 1941 tale of a baby elephant ostracized because of his unwieldy ears teaches tots about the upside to uniqueness.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (ages 5 and up) Steven Spielberg's masterpiece gets new life in the digitally altered update (police guns are replaced with less-frightening walkie-talkies). Big and little viewers will be moved by Elliott's friendship with the homesick alien.

My Neighbor Totoro (ages 5 and up) This 1988 Hayao Miyazaki film is just as beautifully animated as the more popular Spirited Away, but not as scary. It focuses on the friendship of two girls, ages 4 and 10, as they move into a new home in the countryside.

More Time-Tested Classics

The Looney Tunes Golden Collection (ages 4 and up) With this four-disc set, Bugs Bunny fans will take delight in a simpler time when duck-on-pig violence was all in good fun and falling off cliffs never truly spoiled your day.

The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh (ages 2 and up) Introduce your kids to author A. A. Milne's original Pooh stories. Whether he's in pursuit of honey or braving the blustery elements, this 1977 collection captures the big heart of the "willy-nilly, silly old bear."

The Red Balloon (ages 4 and up) In this beautiful, wordless 1956 tale of friendship and loss, a helium-filled balloon magically follows a lonely boy through the streets of Paris.

Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Movies Based on Books

The Black Stallion (ages 7 and up) Movie critic Pauline Kael called this possibly "the greatest children's movie ever made." Kids will envy the unbreakable bond that forms between a young castaway and a wild horse.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (ages 3 to 5) Based on the classic books, this collection of cartoon shorts brings the ABCs to life. Kids will learn and laugh as 26 childlike letters scamper up a coconut tree to a funky beat.

Chrysanthemum . . . and More Kevin Henkes Stories (ages 5 to 8) In this collection of animated shorts, Meryl Streep narrates the title tale of a tenderhearted mouse teased because of her unusual name. Sarah Jessica Parker and Mary Beth Hurt narrate Henkes' other tales of mice scampering toward self-acceptance.

Courtesy of Lions Gate
Courtesy of Lions Gate

Movies Based on Books

Clifford Tries His Best (ages 2 to 7) Enjoy 90 minutes of canine fun with this larger-than-life dog, voiced by the late John Ritter. Little kids will be tickled by the notion that Clifford is the master of the house.

Goodnight Moon and Other Sleepytime Tales (ages 1 to 5) Vocal talent rules in these animated shorts, as Susan Sarandon warmly narrates Margaret Wise Brown's bedtime classic, Natalie Cole shares Tar Beach, and Billy Crystal livens up There's a Nightmare in My Closet.

Harry the Dirty Dog . . . and More Terrific Tales (ages 2 to 8) Like all Weston Woods titles, these beautifully done shorts are a welcome change from many of today's fast and loud media that leaves little to the imagination. This series has four funny stories about dogs and a darling one about rats.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (ages 7 and up) Pop in the 2001 film—starring a young Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson—after your wizards-in-training have finished the first book in J.K. Rowling’s much-beloved series. 

Paddington Live Action (ages 6 and up) In this movie featuring celebs like Nicole Kidman and High Bonneville, Paddington, a beloved bear from picture books, travels to London in search of a home. 

The William Steig Video Library (ages 3 to 5) The work of beloved picture-book author William Steig is brought to dazzling life in this collection that includes enchanting masterpieces such as The Amazing Bone and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Kid Favorites

Brave (ages 8 and up) There’s no tiara for the princess in this Pixar film. Bow-and-arrow-wielding Merida will inspire your mighty girl.

Finding Nemo (ages 6 and up) A boatload of critters inhabits a breathtaking seascape in this Oscar-winning film. Your whole family will root for a clown fish who goes on a daring mission to find his lost spawn. The best part: Ellen DeGeneres is a hoot as a forgetful fish.

Frozen (ages 5 and up) You may have grown tired of this 2014 mega-hit, but the kids haven’t: And who could blame them given the fantastic music (shout-out to Idina Menzel), super-cute snowman, sisterly drama, and refreshing message, “You can’t marry a man you just met.”   

The Incredibles (ages 7 and up) It’s actually pretty incredible that with all of today’s comic book-inspired movies, this decade-old Pixar flick about a family of superheroes is still a hit with kids. A sequel is in the works!

Inside Out (ages 6 and up) This Pixar gem—which focuses on the feelings living inside a hockey-playing 11-year-old—is both hysterical and heart-wrenching. With voice actors like Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith, you won’t mind watching with the kids. 

The Land Before Time Anniversary Edition (ages 5 to 12) The first and best of the popular 10-title series follows the exciting adventures of Littlefoot, an orphaned brontosaurus. Teaching cooperation and tolerance, Littlefoot joins forces with other baby dinosaurs.

The Lego Movie (ages 6 and up) Everything is awesome in this film that brings some of kids’ favorite Lego minifigures to life thanks to voice cast consisting of Will Ferrell, Chris Prat, and other A-listers.

Monsters, Inc. (ages 5 and up) Kids everywhere will love the film's notion that "big, scary" monsters are actually afraid of them. Funny and reassuring, the cartoon is also a satire on corporate greed.

Shrek (ages 6 and up) Forget Prince Charming! In this hip, kooky take on fairy tales, an ogre and his donkey sidekick save the princess. Kids won't get all the pop-culture jokes, but they just might learn that good looks are only skin-deep.

Toy Story 2 (ages 5 and up) Favorite toy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) discovers he's a celebrity: a collector's item from a classic TV show. This sequel surpasses the original by combining fantasy and action with a soul-searching theme as Woody must choose love or fame.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Double the Fun: Then-and-Now Hits

101 Dalmatians (ages 6 and up) Small children love puppies, and classic film delivers in spotted spades. While Cruella De Vil's lust for a dog-skin coat may scare little ones, older kids will love her outrageous antics. Check out the 1961 Disney animated flick and the 1996 live-action version starring Glenn Close.

Charlotte's Web (ages 4 and up) Take a peek at the poignant 1973 cartoon that stays faithful to E. B. White's lovely and touching book. With the help of a motherly spider, Wilbur the pig puts on a show to avoid becoming bacon. Then, rent the 2006 live-action version starring Julia Roberts and Dakota Fanning.

Doctor Dolittle (ages 4 and up) Being able to talk to animals would be a dream come true for most kids. But the vintage 1967 movie shows that things can get out of control when a horse wears glasses, a chimp tries to be a chef, and the bizarre Pushmi-Pullyu on the loose. Catch the Eddie Murphy version released in 1998 for even more laughs.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Courtesy of Warner Brothers

More Double the Fun: Then-and-Now Hits

Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (ages 3 and up) You simply can't miss the 1966 animated television special-turned movie! Old-time horror star Boris Karloff stars as the holiday grouch. But don't forget to rent Jim Carrey's 2000 live-action version either. It's over-the-top fun!

Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat (ages 3 and up) Based on the 1957 book by Dr. Seuss, both the 1971 tongue-tangling original film and the 2003 Mike Myers remake will be true kid classics for generations to come.

Where the Wild Things Are (ages 5 and up) This book-turned-animated classic made new waves in 2009 when the film was remade into a live-action blockbuster. Though the book was first published in 1963 and the animated cartoon was released in 1973, the charming story about little monsters will continue to stand the test of time.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (ages 6 and up) Charlie's awe of the chocolate factory becomes our own in this wonderfully original classic based on Roald Dahl's novel in the 1971 hit starring Gene Wilder. See the story with a modern twist in the 2005 version, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Johnny Depp.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Disney Classics

Beauty and the Beast (ages 6 and up) Cracking the mold of Disney princesses, Belle rolls her eyes at "Prince Charming" in favor of inner beauty. Add singing tableware, and you have one unique musical.

The Jungle Book (ages 4 and up) Set in a jungle full of dangerous animals, the film is cushioned by the lighthearted humor and friendship of an orphaned boy and a bear. The madcap monkey business is set to jazz, swing, and groovy vocals from bandleaders Louis Prima and Phil Harris.

The Lion King (ages 6 and up) The laws of the jungle meet Shakespeare's Hamlet as a lion cub realizes he must avenge his father's death, claim the throne, and complete the circle of life. It can be heavy stuff at times. But Elton John's music and the vivid animation pack a powerful emotional punch worth experiencing.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

More Disney Classics

The Little Mermaid (ages 6 and up) When Sebastian sings the sea's praises in a showstopping calypso number, it's easy to see why this 1989 film is credited with reviving Disney. While Ariel is Disney's first modern leading lady, her dad and Prince Eric still have to rescue her.

Mary Poppins (ages 4 and up) The sheer joy and wonder of Mary Poppins give the musical its timeless appeal. Julie Andrews is magical as the flying nanny whose adventures fuse live action with animation. With genius songs like "A Spoonful of Sugar," it's a movie kids will watch again and again.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (ages 4 and up) This Grimm's fairy tale became the 1937 hit that made Disney synonymous with childhood wonder. The wicked witch will likely scare tykes, but there are seven jolly reasons and loads of catchy songs to end all worries.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movies with Great Music

Blue's Big Musical Movie (ages 2 to 6) Parents and preschoolers will bop along with Blue while a Ray Charles-voiced character teaches kids about musical notes, tempo, and soul in the TV show's first feature film.

The Fantasia Anthology (all ages) Long before Baby Mozart married classical music and whimsical motion, Disney imagined that folks would enjoy watching stunning visuals set to songs. With works from Beethoven and Bach, Fantasia takes kids on a magical journey where they can hear the pictures and see the music.

Schoolhouse Rock! Special 30th Anniversary Edition (ages 4 and up) This two-disc DVD set is a must-have for '70s-reared parents eager to prove that learning is fun-damental. The three R's meet rock and roll with retro-groovy hits like "I'm Just a Bill."

The Sound of Music (ages 6 and up) Youngsters won't comprehend the scary events that cause the Von Trapps to flee Austria. But they'll love seeing Julie Andrews' infectious spirit turn a sad house into a singing house.

The Wiggles: Wiggly Safari (ages 2 to 6) Crocodile hunter Steve Irwin introduces the Aussie preschool-pop singers to kangaroos, kookaburras, and other kid-pleasing critters. With backgrounds in early-childhood education, the group creates a combo of giggly songs and dances that teaches tykes about the Outback.

Courtesy of Universal
Courtesy of Universal

Movies for Animal-Lovers

The Aristocats (ages 4 and up) Thanks to its jazzy flair, this feline version of Disney's Lady and the Tramp is a real winner. Upper-class kittens and bumbling catnappers enhance a romantic rich-cat, poor-cat tale.

Babar: King of the Elephants (ages 4 and up) Skillfully adapted from Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff's endearing stories, this European animated feature maintains the sweetness and warmth of the book's humanlike elephants.

Babe (ages 5 and up) Not since Charlotte's Web has a pig been so lovable as Babe in this surprise Australian hit. Kids will grow attached to Babe, the swine who beats the odds to work as a sheepdog.

Born Free (ages 5 and up) This 1966 real-life story follows a British couple who take in and later set free an orphaned lioness. The film's moving message of respect for animals and their habitats is especially effective.

The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit (ages 6 and up) A must-have for parents determined to steer their kids off the beaten path, Nick Park's clever, quirky clay animation features the off-kilter escapades of cheese-loving Wallace and his faithful hound, Gromit.

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