Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall
Toot sweet! A truly scrumptious confection of a movie: Single dad invents a car that can fly and float. When the family test drives the new wheels, they take a detour into a tyrannical kingdom, where all the children are locked up.
What Parents Like: It's easy for parents to imagine a land without tykes, but hard to imagine living without the kids for long.
What Kids Like: In this fable, it's not hard to tell who are the villains (the monarchy, the child-catcher), and who are the heroes (parents, children). Kids will be satisfied by the sight of the village children overrunning the castle.
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes
This charming fairytale tells the story of Ella of Frell, a young maiden who suffers from the curse of obedience. Ella struggles to free herself from her predicament by searching for her thoughtless godmother until she finds the courage to rescue herself. Yes, some gifts can be returned!
What Parents Like: Ella is a sensible and spirited heroine, who wins the prince's attention by fighting for the rights of elves, ogres, and giants. Check out the dance sequences, which are set to vintage hits like "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" and "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing."
What Kids Like: There's a swoony subplot with a fetching prince and cool special effects show. Ella swooshes through the air with every command -- look, she can sing, dance, and battle perfectly!
Cast: Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore
An extraterrestrial lands on Earth and wanders into a 10-year-old's backyard. There, wide-eyed and childlike, he surveys the surreal landscape of forests, suburban sprawl, Halloween parades, television, and scientific labs.
What Parents Like: Few movies capture the innocence of childhood so well. A sense of wonder permeates E.T.'s point of view.
What Kids Like: Elliott and the neighborhood kids band together to save their otherworldly visitor and help him get home. Barrymore is adorable as Gertie, Elliot's spunky kid sister.
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan
Smells Like Teen Spirit: Therapist mom and rocker teen daughter are locked in a battle of wills, when they sit down to eat in a Chinese restaurant. There, they open fortune cookies that transform them both -- into each other.
What Parents Like: Curtis is both tender and petulant in this mother-and-child reunion. Playing both roles perfectly, she puts the fun back in regression.
What Kids Like: The role-reversal allows grown-ups to act silly, and kids to grow up, with hilarious results.
Years: 2001, 2003, 2004
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
J.K. Rowling's beloved tomes are splendidly brought to life on film, whether you fancy the enchanting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the serpentine twists of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or the darkly dramatic Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Her tales of an orphan coming into his own powers is a magical respite in an ordinary, drab, Muggle-filled world.
What Parents Like: Thanks to the most powerful magic there is -- a mother's love -- Harry is the boy who lived.
What Kids Like: The technical wizardry and special effects are spectacular, but the films never lose sight of true magic: friendship.
Cast: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
This film is one of our favorite things. Cheeky children, glorious scenery, and a rousing Rodgers and Hammerstein score make this an idyllic romp through the Austrian countryside. Andrews is the aspiring nun-turned-nanny who finds herself on the doorstep of an intimidating widower and his seven children.
What Parents Like: Miracle detergent: How do seven children manage to run and play outside for days, and still remain so clean and freshly pressed?
What Kids Like: This movie should have the kids clamoring to climb every mountain, and stop and smell the edelweiss. Children will appreciate the directness and simplicity of Maria, especially when she declares, "I can't seem to stop singing wherever I am. And what's worse, I can't seem to stop saying things -- anything and everything I think and feel."
Cast: Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino
Inventive, colorful, and original, Spy Kids manages to spoof spy films and move the genre forward by placing kids in the heart of the action. When Carmen and Juni Cortez discover their parents are spies, they take up the family business with a vengeance. Their latest mission: to rescue their parents from Floop, the power-hungry host of a kids' show, and his horde of little people, the Thumb-Thumbs.
What Parents Like: The family that spies together, oh, never mind.
What Kids Like: Cool gadgets and pint-sized heroes. As Carmen says, "Never send an adult to do a kid's job."
Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole
"Invention, my dear friends," says Wonka, "is 93 percent perspiration, 6 percent electricity, 4 percent evaporation, and 2 percent butterscotch ripple." Whatever the secret ingredients, the results are anything but formulaic, thanks to a fantastical plot and the whimsical, occasionally edible, set design. Wilder, as the wacky proprietor of a candy factory, raises the business of manufacturing candy and nonsense to a high art form.
What Parents Like: The Oompa Loompas are the Greek chorus of the movie. These orange-faced oracles spout wisdom on everything from bratty children to overindulgent parents.
What Kids Like: From the time Charlie wins a golden ticket to Wonka's factory, it's a wild and visionary ride. Who could forget Veruca Salt stomping her feet for a goose that lays golden eggs, or Violet Beauregarde turning into a blueberry?
Cast: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton
Tribal leader Koro needs a male heir to be the next patriarch. The only problem? His feisty and stubborn granddaughter, Pai, is the only one spunky enough to fill his shoes, and lead their people into the next wave of the future.
What Parents Like: The New Zealand countryside is breathtaking, and Pai delivers a school speech that will leave everyone blubbering.
What Kids Like: There are beautiful and mystical scenes of whales and humans, saving each other with grace and humility.
Cast: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley
Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my! Our intrepid Dorothy flies into town on a tornado, and meets up with a trio of unlikely travel companions (a Scarecrow, a Cowardly Lion, and a Tin Man) for an unusual pilgrimage. Their quests to find a way home, intelligence, courage, and heart are rendered in glorious Technicolor jewel tones. Following the Yellow Brick Road, they encounter indifferent natives, a Wicked Witch, flying monkeys, and forbidding locales.
What Parents Like: No need to pack: Everything you need is right here, in your heart.
What Kids Like: Even in an exotic new land, what child hasn't harbored a sudden and powerful wish to go home?