Classic Movies and TV Shows Families Can Watch Together
We may all be trying to cut back on screen time, but there is one screen-based activity that bears protecting: family TV night. The proven formula of a great movie or TV show combined with snacks can bring together family members of all ages for a few hours of fun. The tricky part? Finding the perfect family-friendly entertainment.
To make it easier, we've talked to experts and rounded up classic movies and TV shows that families will love watching together.
Toy Story (1995)
Our judges loved Pixar's first feature length film to infinity and beyond! "It magically combines three factors that are key in a movie to entertain the whole family—action, humor, and a theme of friendship," says Dan Lin, producer of the Lego movies. The story line is timeless, and the computer animation—a breakthrough when it was released—still holds up for today's digital-savvy kids. Toy Story. Rated G, ages 5+, 81 minutes.
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E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Kids are as wowed as you were by Elliott's discovery of an alien world in the backyard. "My 8-year-old adores E.T. as much as I do, and it's great watching it through her eyes," says Kenny Curtis, senior director of Kids & Family Programming at SiriusXM Radio. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. Rated PG, ages 7+, 115 minutes.
The Lion King (1994)
"It's my favorite Disney film," says actor Sean Astin, of Stranger Things. "I love the music and how the film shows different cultures." Plus, your kid is bound to see the blockbuster at a friend's house, and he'll be less likely to be upset by the scarier moments if he's watched it with you first. The Lion King. Rated G, ages 6+, 89 minutes.
The funny and touching dialogue is endearing across generations. "I bought a copy of the movie before my son was born, and we enjoyed watching together," says Barbara Brandon-Croft, research director at Parents. "I mean, who can resist laughing at the mouse chorus?" Babe. Rated G, ages 6+, 91 minutes.
The Princess Bride (1987)
This live-action, irreverent fairy tale is a princess movie that kids and parents can get behind because it's full of adventure. "I had to make my kids watch this, but once they did, they fell in love with it," says Curtis. "They didn't get all the humor, but they recognized the storybook tone." The Princess Bride. Rated PG, ages 8+, 98 minutes.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
It's the ultimate multigenerational movie! Grandparents will love seeing your little one's precious reactions to the ruby slippers and Glinda's magical appearance. While some preschoolers can handle the scarier moments, wait longer to show it to a sensitive kid. The Wizard of Oz. Rated PG, ages 6+, 101 minutes.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Popular in Japan, this animated fantasy "has strong female characters without pandering to the clichés of girl power," says Catherine Liu, Ph.D., professor of film and media studies at University of California, Irvine. My Neighbor Totoro. Rated G, ages 5+, 86 minutes.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Kids' comedies aren't usually all that funny for adults, but this is a rare exception: "It's perfect for introducing kids to different kinds of humor, like puns, slapstick, and running gags," says film critic Jesse Hassenger. The Muppet Movie. Rated G, ages 6+, 94 minutes.
Full House (1987-1995)
Younger audiences may have heard of the reboot Fuller House, but everyone deserves a proper introduction to the OG Tanner family. From cheeky Michelle (tag-teamed by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) to swoonworthy rocker Uncle Jesse (John Stamos), the lovable characters on this wholesome sitcom have helped it hold up over the decades. Ages 7+
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
For kids, the premise of exploring a candy factory is as dreamy as ever. Watching as an adult, "you realize it's a strange movie but full of imagination," says Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. "The songs will stay in your kids' heads for a long time." Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Rated G, ages 8+, 98 minutes.
Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope (1977)
Epic storytelling makes watching this film practically a rite of passage. "It was my favorite childhood movie, and my sons, ages 9 and 13, also love that a farm boy is picked to go on an incredible adventure and save his world," says Lin. Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope. Rated PG, ages 7+, 120 minutes.
"Of all the classic Disney princess movies, Mulan is the most empowering," says Betsy Bozdech, executive editor of Common Sense Media. "Mulan is a diverse heroine who fights for what she believes in and isn't consumed with fancy dresses and romances." Mulan. Rated G, ages 5+, 90 minutes.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-2000)
Older kids will thrill at being inducted into the Midnight Society, a group of kids who meet to share ghost stories in this Nickelodeon classic. Although there are some unsettling moments and themes, the series was created for children and is generally appropriate for kids who don't mind being a bit spooked. Ages 11+
A League of Their Own (1992)
This movie based on a real-life 1940s girls' professional baseball team was ahead of its time in dispelling gender stereotypes. "The female characters are valued for their strength and physical abilities," says Marisa LaScala, news editor at Parents. A League of Their Own. Rated PG, ages 10+, 124 minutes.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Follow up The Wizard of Oz (number 6) with this delightful musical, which has a less straightforward story line and more complex songs and dance numbers. "The songs are classic," says Jenna Helwig, senior food editor at Parents. Mary Poppins. Rated G, ages 6+, 140 minutes.
The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
Here's the story... of a widow and a widower who get married and suddenly find themselves with six kids and a saucy housekeeper named Alice. A 1970s pop culture phenomenon that's withstood the test of time, the series explores the ordeals of growing up in a fun, light-hearted way that still resonates today. Ages 7+
While a lot of parents shy away from this slower-paced animal tale because they think it'll be too sad for their children, watching together can provide an opening for important conversations. "We have a friend who lost a puppy, and I thought it would be a good idea to show Bambi to my son as a less scary way to bring up the topic of death," says actor Malin Akerman, who stars in Showtime's Billions. Bambi. Rated G, ages 5+, 70 minutes.
Anne of Green Gables (1986)
This version of L. M. Montgomery's classic book is still the best adaptation of the ultimate orphan tale. "It's a faithful, sensitive take on the novel," says Bozdech. But you might want to break it up into two nights, because it's long. Anne of Green Gables. Not rated, ages 7+, 199 minutes.
This far-out fantasy tale stands the test of time. "I was captivated by any element of magic in books or movies as a kid," says Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson. "The music made me love it more. This movie introduced me to David Bowie, so I will always be grateful for that!" Labyrinth. Rated PG, ages 8+, 101 minutes.
The Aristocats (1970)
Little kids will love the silly chase scenes in this animated Disney flick. "It was the first movie I showed to my son, and we have a blast watching the antics of these cute little kittens," says Akerman. The Aristocats. Rated G, ages 4+, 79 minutes.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
The inner-beauty theme inspires. Beauty and the Beast. Rated G, ages 6+, 90 minutes.
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Jurassic Park (1993)
"For older kids, the T-Rex scene is a classic," says Kinney. Jurassic Park. Rated PG-13*, ages 12+, 127 minutes.
*Parents are strongly advised to review the movie prior to showing children under 13, as it contains some mild gore and swearing, and a near-constant state of suspense.
The Sound of Music (1965)
Its rule-breaking nanny and familiar songs introduce kids to a grown-up world, says Helwig. The Sound of Music. Rated G, ages 6+, 174 minutes.