The best family movies: 37 classic films that’ll appeal to kids and adults alike

Ballister Blackheart and Nimona chat on a sunny day in the latter's self-titled film
Nimona, a new entry on our list of the best family movies. (Image credit: Netflix)

The best family movies have to rank among the most versatile entertainment you can put on your TV. The first requirement is that they grab the attention of the kids, so they don't spend the entire film asking mom and dad if they can do something else. But if they lack the humor and sophistication required to appeal to grown-ups, chances are that older members of the household will spend two hours staring at their smartphones. It's a tricky balance that few films manage to strike.

In the list below we've picked out 37 of the best family movies ever made. It's an eclectic selection that takes in everything from vintage live-action classics like The Wizard of Oz to groundbreaking modern animations such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Nimona. We've included the eight Harry Potter movies as one entry because they effectively exist as one entity, and limited ourselves to a pair of Pixar franchises – otherwise, other studios might struggle to get a look in. We've also tried to stick to films that are rated PG or lower.

So next time you're planning to grab the popcorn and sit everyone in front of the TV for movie night, scroll through our guide to the best family movies of all time. And when you've watched everything here, why not turn your attentions to the best Max family movies or the best Disney Plus movies?

The Addams Family/Addams Family Values (1991/1993)

A promo shot for the movie Addams Family Values

Before Wednesday there was The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. (Image credit: Amazon)

Where to watch: Paramount Plus (US); Paramount Plus (UK)

Creepy, kooky, mysterious and altogether ooky, the stars of the hit 1960s US sitcom (itself based on Charles Addams’ long-running New Yorker comic strip) make a successful transition to the big screen in two slight-but-fun trips into the macabre. 

Across two movies, future Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld perfectly captures the essence of a family who revel in the darker side of life, teasing horror and subversiveness in a PG-friendly way. Meanwhile, the cast (led by Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, and Christopher Lloyd) have a blast as Morticia, Gomez, Fester and company.

The sequel, Addams Family Values, is arguably superior to its predecessor. That's mainly down to Christina Ricci’s wonderfully sarcastic turn as Wednesday, who leads a rebellion against the leaders of a sinisterly wholesome summer camp. Ricci has since returned to the Addams' neighborhood in hit Netflix show Wednesday, where the brilliant Jenna Ortega tapped into similar levels of kooky snark as the titular heroine. 

Big Hero 6 (2014)

A promo shot of Baymax in Big Hero 6.

Big Hero 6’s breakout star, Baymax – the cuddliest robot on the planet. (Image credit: Disney)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

When lists of the best Marvel movies are assembled, this charming Disney Animation Studios release is often overlooked. But make no mistake, the comic-book credentials of this kid-friendly superteam are just as strong as the Avengers’ – the film even features a cameo (of sorts) from the late Stan Lee.

Set in the futuristic, East-meet-West world of San Fransokyo, it sees an orphaned teen teaming up with a bunch of friends – including adorable medical robot Baymax – to fight off the threat of a local supervillain. It’s smart, funny and doesn’t pull its punches in its more tragic moments.

Big Hero 6’s adventures have since continued in a Disney Channel series, while a Baymax! spin-off landed on Disney Plus in 2022.

Bugsy Malone (1976)

Dandy Dan (Martin Lev) in front of some flans in Bugsy Malone.

Bugsy Malone proves that every gangster movie needs a bun fight. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Where to watch: ITVX, BritBox (UK)

How do you make a gangster movie for children? Alan Parker – who’d go on to direct Fame and The Commitments – answered the question in ingenious style by populating Bugsy Malone with a cast of kids (the standout performance coming from a 14-year-old Jodie Foster) and arming them with whipped cream-firing splurge guns. 

Beyond the unconventional casting and weaponry, however, it’s got all the hallmarks of a 1930s crime caper, from speakeasies and mob bosses, to washed-up heroes and femmes fatales. It also has songs – though, bizarrely, Parker opted to use adult singing voices instead of giving his stars a crack at the tunes.

Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell's Buddy with adoptive elf dad (played by Bob Newhart) in Christmas classic Elf.

You don't need to wait for Christmas to give Elf a rewatch. (Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Where to watch: Available to rent and/or buy on select platforms, including Apple TV Plus, Amazon and YouTube (US); Sky Go, Now (UK)

Before he launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man and traveled to a galaxy far, far away with The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau (then arguably best known as Monica's millionaire boyfriend in Friends) made his directorial debut with this festive classic. 

A pre-Anchorman Will Ferrell delivers his most endearing performance as a human who was raised as one of Santa’s elves, and then travels to New York to meet his biological father (a gruff James Caan). 

It’s a winningly offbeat fish-out-of-water tale that combines comedy, romance and plenty of Christmas spirit to create an immensely uplifting festive concoction. There’s a reason Elf instantly found itself on the list of the best Christmas movies alongside the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Enchanted (2007)

Giselle gets a proposition from Prince Edward in Enchanted.

Life really is a fairytale in Enchanted. (Image credit: Walt Disney Studios)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

Alongside its extremely lucrative Star Wars and Marvel franchises, the Disney of the 21st century also has a profitable sideline revisiting its cartoon classics (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Pinocchio etc) in live-action. The post-modern Enchanted, however, takes a more direct route by bringing together hand-drawn animation and human actors in one movie.

The story sees a traditional Disney princess transported into our world, where she learns that modern-day New York is every bit as scary (and wondrous) as her magical kingdom. The ever-brilliant Amy Adams is, well, enchanting as the three-dimensional version of the naively optimistic Giselle, while the self-aware script has fun poking fun at the clichés of the Disney brand.

Disney Plus magicked up a sequel, Disenchanted, in 2022.

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Elliott and ET phone home in ET.

ET and Elliott "phone home" in Steven Spielberg's classic. (Image credit: Universal)

Where to watch: Peacock Premium (US); Sky Cinema, Now (UK)

The latter half of Steven Spielberg’s career has been dominated by serious dramas and more grown-up fare but in his earlier days he was the best family movie director out there. 

Never has that been more evident than in ET, his modern-day fairytale about a kid who meets an alien accidentally left behind on the outskirts of a small American town. Spielberg’s genius shines through in the way he keeps you completely invested in the friendship between a 10-year-old boy and an extra-terrestrial with a flashlight for a finger. Cynics may claim that the director overplays the schmaltz in an emotional final act, but whether you’re eight, 18 or 80, it’s easy to see why ET was the most lucrative film of all-time until Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park roared into theaters a decade later.

Find out how ET compares to the rest of the director's filmography in Steven Spielberg movies ranked.

Freaky Friday (2003)

A screenshot of Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday

Freaky Friday: it's like looking in a mirror, only not. (Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

Just before taking the lead in Mean Girls – one of the all-time great high-school movies – Lindsay Lohan starred in this superior remake of a 1976 Jodie Foster movie. 

In the classic body swap tradition (see also Big, Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son), Freaky Friday sees a mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Lohan) swapping places in mysterious circumstances – in this case, thanks to a magical fortune cookie. 

Though it’s best not to get bogged down in the implausibility of the premise, both stars make the most of the rare opportunity to play someone of a different generation – Curtis lets her hair down as a rebellious teen, while Lohan gets (comedy) serious as the therapist mom.

Frozen/Frozen 2 (2013/2019)

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Sven in Frozen 2.

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Sven in Frozen 2. (Image credit: Walt Disney Studios)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

Yes, the original Frozen and its associated merchandise and songs became so ubiquitous in the homes of kids of a certain generation that millions of parents wished it would simply vanish. But, now that the dust (or should that be snow?) has settled, this clever update of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen can be appreciated for what it is – one of Disney’s best family movies of the 21st century. 

Sisters Elsa and Anna make engaging heroes, their motivations boiling down to their love for each other rather than romancing some bland prince. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is up there with Disney’s very best, particularly the now-iconic ‘Let It Go’. The songs might not be quite so memorable in the 2019 sequel, but it’s a worthy companion piece that manages to enhance the mythology of the original.

The Goonies (1985)

Chunk, Mikey, Mouth and Data read a treasure map in The Goonies.

Goonies never say die – and one of them has just won an Oscar! (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Where to watch: Prime Video (UK)

Steven Spielberg didn’t call the shots on The Goonies – that honor fell to the late Richard Donner, director of The Omen, Superman: The Movie and Lethal Weapon – but his fingerprints are all over this iconic adventure movie from his Amblin production outfit. 

Effectively Indiana Jones for kids, it sends an unlikely assortment of adolescents on a quest to find the pirate treasure they think will save their homes from developers. While it’s probably too scary and suggestive for younger viewers, older kids will love its action set-pieces, the still-quotable dialogue (hey you guys!), and the memorable characters – whether it’s the child stars (Ke Huy Quan just won an Oscar for Everything Everywhere All At Once), or the villainous Fratellis trying to beat them to the prize. 

Holes (2003)

Stanley Yelnats with a group of fellow inmates in Holes.

Before hanging out with Optimus Prime, Shia LaBeouf got busy digging some Holes. (Image credit: Summit Entertainment)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

There’s a big clue in the title: this 2003 Disney family movie really is all about people digging holes. Luckily, there’s also a lot more to this adaptation of Louis Sachar’s YA novel, as perennially unlucky teen Stanley Yelnats IV (a pre-Transformers Shia LaBeouf) is sentenced to 18 months in a detention camp for a crime he did not commit. 

Once there, he and the other inmates are forced to dig those eponymous holes by a dodgy camp warden (a deliciously evil Sigourney Weaver) who probably isn’t motivated by rehabilitation…

While largely forgotten by many, Holes is quirky, surprisingly smart, and considerably darker than you’d expect, making it a hidden treasure you should dig up on Disney Plus.

The Harry Potter saga (2001-2011)

Ron, Harry and Hermione in a promo poster.

Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger – quite possibly the most famous high schoolers in the world. (Image credit: Warner Bros)

Where to watch: Max, Peacock Premium (US); Netflix, Sky Go, Now (UK)

JK Rowling’s beloved series of seven magical novels becomes a beloved series of eight magical movies courtesy of the most lucrative book adaptations in history. 

While few of the movies are stone-cold classics – the mediocre The Deathly Hallows Part 1, in particular, struggles to justify the decision to split the final Potter book in two – they capture the wonder and imagination of Rowling’s Wizarding World in spectacular style, making numerous generations dream of securing a place at Hogwarts. 

Keeping the most of the core cast together across an entire decade also marks a remarkable filmmaking achievement, especially as the Hogwarts staff room is populated by some of the finest acting talent the UK has to offer.

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone's Kevin McAllister in the famous hands-on-face pose.

Macaulay Culkin had no idea he'd one day become an internet meme...  (Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

Where to watch: Starz (US); Disney Plus (UK)

The movie that made Macaulay Culkin the most bankable pre-teen star of his generation mined childhood wish fulfillment (and the stuff of parental nightmares) to create a monster festive hit. 

Despite being scripted by ’80s high-school movie legend John Hughes and directed by Goonies writer Chris Columbus, Home Alone was seen as such a gamble that its original studio, Warner Bros, walked away when its comparatively meagre budget grew larger than they were expecting.

They would soon be left to regret it, as the story of a kid left home alone at Christmas – and fighting off a pair of incompetent burglars with only his ingenuity and some Looney Tunes-style slapstick to protect him – conquered the box office for 20th Century Fox. It’s now a mainstay on Yuletide playlists, though the 1992 sequel – where Culkin not only finds himself abandoned again, but also runs into the same pair of crooks – pushes credibility one step too far.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Hiccup rides Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon.

Hiccup and Toothless take to the skies in How to Train Your Dragon. (Image credit: DreamWorks)

Where to watch: Peacock Premium (US)

Okay, it’s not going to win any points for historical accuracy, but DreamWorks’ hit adaptation of Cressida Cowell’s Viking adventures is an absolute delight. Set in an alternative reality where the town of Berk finds itself at the mercy of flying, fire-breathing monsters, the film focusses on the unlikely friendship that blossoms between the teenage son of the local chieftain, and a dragon with an injured tail. United by their outsider status, Hiccup and Toothless gradually bring the two communities together – but not before they’ve found time for some spectacular aerial action, memorable comedy and a few genuinely tender moments.

How to Train Your Dragon has since spawned two sequels, spin-off shorts, a TV show and a videogame, while a live-action remake is also reportedly in the works.

Hugo (2011)

A screenshot of Hugo hanging from a clock in Martin Scorsese's Hugo movie

Hugo does his best Harold Lloyd impression – or, if you prefer, Doc Brown. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Where to watch: Prime Video, Paramount Plus, MGM Plus (US)

Seeing as he’s spent most of his filmography hanging out in the sweary, violent extremes of the R-rating, the legendary Martin Scorsese isn’t the first filmmaker you’d expect to find on a list of the best family movies. 

Nonetheless, Hugo is entirely the film you’d expect a self-confessed cinephile like the GoodFellas director to direct. This is an unashamed love-letter to early cinema, as the eponymous Hugo (future Sex Education star Asa Butterfield) and his companion Isabelle (Kick-Ass’s Chloë Grace Moretz) discover a broken clockwork automaton in 1931 Paris, and find themselves in the orbit of silent movie pioneer Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). The result is heartfelt, visually stunning and fun, and doesn’t feature a single use of the F-word.

The Incredibles (2004)

The Parr family run through a corridor to save the day.

Saving the world is a family affair in The Incredibles. (Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

It's not easy being a superhero, especially when everyday life starts to get in the way. That's the main takeaway from this early Pixar classic, in which retired supers and married couple Mr Incredible and Elastigirl learn that saving the world is much, much harder when you also have to worry about the kids.

Writer/director Brad Bird's movie is funny, emotionally intelligent and smart enough to gently mock the conventions of superhero stories – something that felt incredibly fresh back in 2004, when Marvel and DC movies weren't as ubiquitous as they are now. And nearly two decades later, The Incredibles still looks, well, incredible, thanks to the timeless design of the characters, and the stunning, retro-futuristic world they inhabit.

2018 sequel Incredibles 2 is also available on Disney Plus. 

Jumanji (1995)

A screenshot of Robin Williams in 1995 movie Jumanji

Robin Williams plays the game in Jumanji. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where to watch: Max (US)

Who knew board games could be a major risk to your health? A pair of children (one of them played by a pre-Spider-Man Kirsten Dunst) discover an old board game in the attic, and inadvertently unleash herds of dangerous animals on their town. A throw of the dice also rescues Robin Williams, a middle-aged man who was trapped inside Jumanji as a child, and becomes the kids’ unlikely protector.

Director Joe Johnston (who, in another life, played a major role in the design of Boba Fett’s armor) makes the most of early CG to bring the movie’s malevolent menagerie to life, while Williams delivers one of the best of his many kid/adult performances.

The movie was also cleverly reinvented for the 21st century with videogame-inspired reboots Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Next Level.

The Karate Kid (1984)

A screenshot of Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita from The Karate Kid movie

Daniel LaRusso with his mentor, Mr Miyagi, in The Karate Kid. (Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Where to watch: Netflix, Fubo TV (US); Sky Go, Now (UK)

You only have to look at the success of Netflix spin-off Cobra Kai to see the impact The Karate Kid had on previous generations of viewers. It rightfully gained a reputation as one of the best family movies of the 1980s, an era that specialized in delivering box office smashes with universal appeal. 

Although it’s undoubtedly pushing the upper age limit of the family remit – a certain level of violence comes with the martial arts territory – The Karate Kid gets lots of mileage out of a teen defying the odds to come out triumphant. Indeed, on many levels it works as a junior Rocky – it even has the same director in John G. Avildsen – though it didn’t inspire quite as many sequels.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

A poster image for Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings pushes stop-motion animation to the next level. (Image credit: Laika)

Where to watch: The Roku Channel, Pluto TV (both with ads) (US); ITVX (UK)

Like Wallace & Gromit creators Aardman Animations, Oregon-based Laika Studios continue to keep the stop-motion flame alive amid the ongoing advance of CG. 

Where Aardman predominantly ply their trade with more traditional plasticine techniques, however, Laika use state-of-the-art 3D printing technology to create their characters. Never has it been used to more spectacular effect than on Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic tale set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan.

Ambitious in its scale, action and themes, the story of the titular Kubo – on a quest to track down three segments of a magical suit of armor that can save the realm – is a feast for the eyes. And in his talking monkey and beetle travelling companions, the movie boasts sidekicks of surprising depth.

Labyrinth (1986)

David Bowie in a promo poster for Labyrinth.

David Bowie in the a-maze-ing Labyrinth. (Image credit: Netflix)

Where to watch: Hulu, MGM Plus (US); Netflix (UK)

After the ambitious-but-bleak, puppets-only action of The Dark Crystal (since adapted into a short-lived TV spin-off by Netflix), Muppets legend Jim Henson adds a few humans – and songs – to the mix with an adventure scripted by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. 

A Beautiful Mind Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly plays a teen who accidentally wishes her baby brother away to the Goblin King’s castle, and has just 13 hours to make it through the titular maze before the kid becomes a goblin forever.

The journey through the Labyrinth is essentially an excuse for brief encounters with numerous memorable Jim Henson Company puppet creations, while David Bowie just about holds his own as an idiosyncratic, very un-goblin-like Goblin King.

The Lego Movie (2014)

Lego Batman, Emmet and Wyldstyle run towards the camera in a Lego Movie poster.

Right now everything does not look awesome for Emmet in The Lego Movie. (Image credit: Lego)

Where to watch: Max, Hulu (US); Sky Go, Now (UK)

Apologies to Michael Bay’s Transformers saga, but – until Barbie came along – The Lego Movie had to be the greatest toy commercial ever made. 

Hot off the back of similarly anarchic animation Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller somehow built a coherent movie out of multi-colored plastic bricks, staying true to the brand’s core values about imagination and having fun, while subverting them at the same time.

A pre-Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt voices the ordinary Minifig who may (or may not) be the savior of Bricksburg, and the celebrity cameos keep coming all the way through to an oh-so-meta finale that turns everything you’ve just seen on its round, plastic head. Tegan and Sarah’s theme song, ‘Everything is Awesome’, may also be the most earwormy earworm you’ll ever hear.

The Lion King (1994)

Simba, Pumbaa, Timon and Rafiki in a classic still from The Lion King

Simba, Pumbaa, Timon and Rafiki in The Lion King. (Image credit: Disney)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

Disney puts an animalistic spin on Hamlet in one of the standout movies of the animation studio's 1990s renaissance kickstarted by The Little Mermaid

Despite the catchy, upbeat Elton John songs on the soundtrack, the story is dark in the orphaned-kid tradition of Bambi and Dumbo, as lion prince Simba loses his dad (James Earl Jones, reinventing his absent father motif from Star Wars) in a spectacular stampede. 

He then spends the rest of the film searching for redemption before returning to claim his rightful place as ruler of the jungle. The Jon Favreau-directed, photoreal remake, on the other hand, looked amazing, but struggled to capture the charm of the original.

Matilda (1996)

The Wormwood family sit down for dinner in Matilda.

Matilda plots revenge on the beastly grown-ups in her life. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where to watch: Netflix (US); Sky Go, Now (UK)

Considering the massive, ongoing success of his children’s books, it’s remarkable that the works of Roald Dahl haven’t inspired more bona fide classics. Adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches and The BFG all have devoted fans, but its arguably director/star Danny DeVito’s adaptation of Matilda that best captures the essence of the source material.

Mara Wilson is wonderful as the genius tot rebelling against the beastly grown-ups in her life (a Dahl staple), with DeVito himself, Rhea Perlman and Pam Ferris having the time of their lives as Matilda’s parents and evil headmistress “the Trunchbull”, respectively. 

An adaptation of the hit Matilda stage musical – complete with "revolting children" came to UK theaters in 2022, and is now available on Netflix in both the US and UK.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

The Mitchell family screaming in a car.

The Mitchells vs the Machines has an animation style all of its own. (Image credit: Netflix)

Where to watch: Netflix (US); Netflix (UK)

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller serve as producers on this innovative Netflix animation, a natural successor to their work on The Lego Movie and the magnificent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Effectively a family-friendly update of The Terminator, it focusses on a lone family fighting back against a machine uprising led by an Alexa-style AI gone bad (voiced by a typically brilliant Olivia Colman). The story is packed with memorable moments – including a hilarious Furby-led kitchen appliance rebellion – while contemporary themes (notably the debate over human connection vs screentime) are handled with plenty of heart.

But the thing that really elevates The Mitchells vs the Machines is the presentation. With clever, fourth-wall breaking asides to camera and visual tricks aplenty, this feels like a new evolution in CG animation.

Mary Poppins (1964)

A screenshot from "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" in Mary Poppins.

It's a jolly holiday with Mary Poppins. (Image credit: Buena Vista International Pictures)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

Pop quiz: for which 1960s musical did Julie Andrews win her Oscar? While the natural instinct for many would be to plump for The Sound of Music, it was actually her turn as PL Travers’ magical nanny that most excited Academy voters. 

More than half a century later, it’s easy to see why. Andrews talks, sings and dances her way through this classic, and even integrates seamlessly with an assortment of animated characters. 

At well over two hours long, Mary Poppins may try the patience of younger viewers – and Dick Van Dyke’s unique interpretation of a cockney accent is memorable for all the wrong reasons – but no list of the best family movies would be complete without it.

Emily Blunt inherited Julie Andrews' famous carpet bag in 2018 follow-up Mary Poppins Returns, also available on Disney Plus.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Michael Caine surrounded by Muppets in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Michael Caine alongside arguably his greatest ever co-stars in The Muppet Christmas Carol. (Image credit: Courtesy of Disney)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

With Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar on the House of Mouse payroll, it’s easy to forget that the Muppets are also part of the Disney family. That means Disney Plus subscribers have access to the numerous big screen adventures of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest, and this festive offering is arguably the best of the lot.

While most of the cast are made of felt, this is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. All the Muppet regulars get to play Victorian cosplay, from Kermit and Miss Piggy as the Cratchits to perennial hecklers Statler and Waldorf as ghostly Jacob Marley and his previously unseen brother, Robert. But at the heart of it all is a masterful performance from Michael Caine as legendary miser Ebenezer Scrooge – he takes the role so seriously that you almost forget he’s acting alongside puppets.

Nimona (2023)

Nimona stares into the camera with a mischievous grin on her face in her self-titled movie

Nimona is more than initially meets the eye. (Image credit: Netflix)

Where to watch: Netflix (US), Netflix (UK)

When Disney bought 20th Century Fox in 2019, it decided to shut down Blue Sky Studios, the animation studio responsible for Ice Age, Rio and an unfinished adaptation of Nimona, a graphic novel from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator ND Stevenson. It looked like the movie was destined to remain forever unseen, until Annapurna Pictures and Netflix stepped in to save the day. And we should be thankful they did, because this tale of a wrongfully accused knight and his shapeshifting sidekick is more than worthy of a place among the best family movies.

Much as Shrek did two decades earlier, Nimona does a brilliant job of subverting Disney fairytale tropes, but there's so much more to it than that. Heavily stylised 2D animation and a (surprisingly non-contradictory) futuristic medieval setting combine to create a world like no other, while the movie's clever twists and prominent LGBTQ+ themes add extra dimensions to a fun, knockabout adventure.

Paddington/Paddington 2 (2014/2017)

A wide-eyed Paddington Bear looks at someone just off camera.

Paddington, a bear who can go toe-to-toe – or claw-to-claw – with Citizen Kane. (Image credit: Paddington / Amazon)

Where to watch (Paddington): Netflix (US); Netflix, ITVX, StudioCanal Presents (UK)
Where to watch (Paddington 2): Netflix, ITVX, StudioCanal Presents (UK)

Paddington 2 isn’t just one of the best family movies of all time – in April 2021 it knocked perennial “greatest film ever made” Citizen Kane off the top of aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes’ rankings. It’s no computer error, either, because both of the Paddington movies have already sealed their status as feelgood classics.

Indeed, it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite between them, thanks to their effortless mix of charm, humor and slapstick. The casting is perfect throughout, but special mentions should go to Ben Whishaw as Michael Bond’s marmalade-munching hero, and Hugh Grant as the sequel’s villain, disgruntled thespian Phoenix Buchanan. There’s a man who more than earns his patented Paddington hard stare.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Pee-wee rides his beloved bike in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure: a simple story of a man and his beloved bike. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Director Tim Burton had always struggled to find a fit for his offbeat sensibilities when he was an animator at Disney. He found the perfect vehicle, however, when he took Paul Reubens’ weird-but-popular man-child creation Pee-wee Herman to the big screen – in fact, it was such a successful match that it paved the way for Burton to direct Beetlejuice and Batman.

Nominally the story of the hero’s quest to find his beloved bike, it’s an unconventional and surreal road-movie that brings a succession of eccentric supporting players into Pee-wee’s orbit. Undoubtedly one of the oddest entries on our collection of the best family movies, but extremely charming nonetheless.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

The titular puppet boy in Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

There's no strings attached with Pinocchio. (Image credit: Netflix)

Where to watch: Netflix (US); Netflix (UK)

There were two big screen takes on Pinocchio in 2022. There weren’t many reasons to get excited about the first, the latest installment in Disney’s never-ending mission to turn all its cartoon classics into live-action movies. The second, however, was a beautiful piece of stop-motion animation that put a novel spin on Carlo Collodi’s original book, and ended up walking away with an Oscar.

Guillermo del Toro’s name in the title should be enough to tell you this isn’t some cutesy fairytale. Alongside co-director Mark Gustafson, he creates a visually stunning story, where familiar characters like the titular puppet boy, his cricket conscience and the life-giving fairy are given imaginative makeovers. Along the way, the movie deals with weighty themes like grief, the search for acceptance and – thanks to the setting being shifted to Mussolini’s Italy – fascism. In fact, in some ways Pinocchio will probably appeal more to the adults than the kids, though everyone should be able to appreciate the work of a master craftsman.

The Princess Bride (1987)

A promo image for Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride.

As you wish... it's Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride. (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); ITVX (UK)

When an old man played by Peter Falk (Columbo) tells his sick-but-sceptical grandson (The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage) that the book he’s about to read contains “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love [and] miracles]”, he’s only revealing half the story. 

The Princess Bride (adapted by screenwriting legend William Goldman from his own novel ) is also a hilarious reconstruction of fairytale tropes, loaded with quotable dialogue – “You killed my father, prepare to die”, "Inconceivable!" – as well dastardly villains, and memorable cameos from Billy Crystal, Peter Cook and more. As far as we’re aware, it’s also the only fantasy movie to feature dangerous R.O.U.S.s (aka Rodents of Unusual Size).

School of Rock (2003)

A promo shot for the movie School of Rock featuring Jack Black and his class.

Those who are about to watch School of Rock... we salute you. (Image credit: Paramount)

Where to watch: Paramount Plus (US); Paramount Plus (UK)

It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Jack Black taking the lead in School of Rock, a comedy that plays to his strengths as both a fast-talking comic actor, and the lead singer of Tenacious D. 

Indeed, the whole of indie legend Richard Linklater’s (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Boyhood) movie is built around Black’s energetic performance as a hard-rocking slacker who masquerades as a substitute teacher at an exclusive private school. But, crucially, it’s not just the Jack Black Show, as he’s joined by a perfectly cast ensemble of kids who are not only brilliant actors – they also play their instruments as they take on the grown-ups in a battle of the bands.

Shrek/Shrek 2 (2001/2004)

Shrek and Donkey on a quest.

Shrek and Donkey – one of ’00s cinema’s greatest double acts. (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Where to watch: Peacock Premium (US); Sky Go, Now (UK)

The movie that proved DreamWorks Animation could go toe-to-toe with Pixar, Shrek delighted in giving Disney fairytales a Princess Bride-style makeover.

A monster hit on its original release, the first movie turned a grumpy green ogre (Mike Myers) and his donkey sidekick (a scene-stealing Eddie Murphy) into superstars as they fought dragons who didn’t need fighting, and rescued princesses who didn’t need rescuing.

Follow-up Shrek 2 recaptured much of its predecessor’s magic, as Shrek faced a meet the parents scenario just as excruciating as the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro movie. Unfortunately, the third and fourth movies went off-the-rails somewhat, but Shrek is still to DreamWorks what Woody and Buzz Lightyear are to Pixar.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Miles Morales, Spider-Man and Spider Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Multiple Spider-people in the brilliant Into the Spider-Verse. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where to watch: Fubo TV, FX Now (US)Netflix (UK)

Spider-Man: No Way Home grabbed plenty of headlines when it brought together multiple Spider-Men, but this dimension-hopping animated adventure got there first. Into the Spider-Verse shifts the focus from Peter Parker to alternative timeline Spider-Man Miles Morales, who’s joined by numerous other webslingers (including a film noir version and talking pig Spider-Ham) on a mission to thwart the nefarious schemes of the supersized Kingpin.

As well as being packed with blockbuster action and an impressive amount of heart (Morales learns the hard way that great power tends to come packaged with great responsibility), Into the Spider-Verse feels like an evolution in CG animation. From start to finish it’s a feast for the eyes, and its hyper-real, comic-book-riffing style has since inspired everything from The Mitchells vs the Machines to Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Spider-Man has had 10 big-screen outings to date and this is arguably the best.

Sequel Across the Spider-Verse swung into theaters in 2023 and is now available to rent and buy on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and other SVOD platforms.

Spirited Away (2001)

Chihiro and Haku in Spirited Away.

In the midst of a CG wave, Spirited Away showed that 2D animation still has the magic. (Image credit: GKIDS)

Where to watch: Max (US); Netflix (UK)

Legendary director Hayao Miyazaki had been turning out animated classics for decades by the time Spirited Away came along. But this story of a girl forced to work in a magical bathhouse after her parents are transformed into pigs catapulted the filmmaker – and Studio Ghibli, a company he co-founded – into mainstream Western consciousness. It even won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

In an era when CG animation was becoming a major player at the box office, Spirited Away proved there’s still a place for lovingly crafted hand-drawn creations. But more than that, it displays layers of emotional depth and storytelling complexity that go way beyond most of its Hollywood counterparts.

Toy Story 1-4 (1995-2019)

Buzz Lightyear tries to make contact with Star Command in the original Toy Story.

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue in the original Toy Story. (Image credit: Pixar)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

Any list of the best family movies could easily include a dozen Pixar classics, such is the pioneering CG animation studio’s mastery of telling stories that resonate equally with kids and grown-ups. But it’s arguably their beloved debut movie, and its subsequent sequels, that best define the Pixar brand.

Spread over more than two decades, the quartet of Toy Story movies turn the residents of a kid’s toybox into characters you care deeply about, whether they’re getting lost during a house move, or coming to terms with their owner out-growing them – it takes a stern constitution to fight off the tears during the final acts of installments 3 and 4

Most integral to Toy Story’s success, however, is the ensemble cast, who banter like the stars of a classic sitcom. Other Pixar movies are available, but they rarely get better than this.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Roger Rabbit handcuffed to Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Bob Hoskins gets up close and personal with Roger Rabbit. (Image credit: Disney Plus)

Where to watch: Disney Plus (US); Disney Plus (UK)

For a certain generation, watching a monochrome Dorothy step into the Technicolor world of Oz was a seminal moment. Half a century later, ’80s theater-goers got a wow moment of similarly epic proportions when a live-action director walked onto the “set” of a cartoon, kicking off 90-plus minutes of movie magic.

There’s much more to Who Framed Roger Rabbit than the magic of humans and ’toons living side by side in 1940s Hollywood, however. Sure, there’s plenty of fun to be had with the big-name cameos – most notably Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse getting the rare opportunity to share a scene – but this is also an engrossing crime story in the tradition of the great films noirs. 

Londoner Bob Hoskins is the quintessential American PI, reluctantly negotiating a labyrinthine world of (mostly animated) hired goons, femmes fatales and unlikely allies. Meanwhile, Christopher Lloyd’s brilliant villain, Judge Doom, has been the cause of many a childhood nightmare.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

Follow the yellow brick road... it's The Wizard of Oz. (Image credit: MGM)

Where to watch:  Max (US); Sky Go, Now (UK)

Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, left Kansas a long way behind when a twister blew them to the magical land of Oz. Suddenly their black-and-white world was turned into vibrant Technicolor, and movies were never the same again.

Even at 84 years old, this famous take on L. Frank Baum’s fantasy novel holds its own among the other entries on this list of the best family movies. It’s also loaded with iconography, dialogue and songs that have been wholeheartedly absorbed into our collective pop culture consciousness – mention ruby slippers, “There’s no place like home” or ‘Over the Rainbow’ and everybody knows what you’re talking about.

Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi and fantasy magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.