From The Kid (1921) to Up (2009), here are the best kids movies of all time.
Picture it: It’s Saturday morning. The weekend is here, and it’s play time for the kiddos. And for many children, this means doing diverse activities like playing with toys, reading a book, and yes, possibly watching a movie.
Now, finding appropriate movies for kids is a difficult undertaking these days. The list of quality movies that can instil fine values in kids is dwindling. And while there’s definitely more to children’s movies than colourful fast-paced action and cartoonish violence, and mind you, cinema doesn’t have to be a mindless distraction for children, questionable movies are still prevalent. But by the same token, some of the most revered classics we’ve watched growing up unfortunately seem outdated today. In fact, the ideas expressed in a few of those old-school ‘masterpieces’ even sound downright offensive. Gulp. What to do?
Cinema, as many say, is a language in itself. So it’s not nice to deny children the basic syllabus that’s necessary to learn the language. Movies for children shouldn’t just be beautiful to look at. They should also inspire creativity and offer fresh perspectives.
On that note, here’s a diverse list of the best kids movies that also make for some great ‘family movies.’
Best Kids Movies
50. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Doug Atchison’s inspirational drama follows an eleven-year old under-privileged kid named Akeelah Anderson, attending an inner-city school. Akeelah is ostracised in the class for being a ‘brainiac’. But her teacher encourages Akeelah to enter into a spelling bee contest. Soon, the girl understands that she has a knack for spelling. The school principal introduces the spelling prodigy to Dr. Joshua, a person who can mentor her to become a champion. However, Akeelah’s journey to discover her true potential is paved with doubts and hardships.
Akeelah and the Bee takes the classic under-dog story-line, but keeps everything grounded and realistic. Atchison visualises the spelling bee contest as exciting as a nail-biting sports game. The film focuses on socio-economic disparity, which can be a conversation starter between parents and their children.
49. Queen of Katwe (2016)
Mira Nair’s inspiring drama Queen of Katwe is based on the true story of a young Ugandan chess player, Phiona Mutesi. The eleven-year old Phiona lives in the slums of capital city Kampala with her widowed mother, older sister and two younger brothers. One day, she follows her brother to play chess at the outreach program for disadvantaged children. There Phiona meets Robert Katende, an engineer and former football player.
Soon, Robert realises that Phiona is a chess prodigy. With proper training and opportunity, Phiona might find a way out of poverty. Queen of Katwe realistically presents the hardships of life in the slums. So, some of the scenes are too intense for young minds to process. However, children around nine and above will definitely engage with the uplifting nature of the story.
48. Elf (2003)
Jon Favreau’s Elf is one of the delightful holiday classics of the 21st century. The renowned comedian Will Ferrell plays the central character, a man-child named Buddy. As a toddler, Buddy was accidentally transported to the North Pole in one of Santa’s gift sacks. He is raised by Elves and believes that he is an unusually tall elf. Buddy only learns the truth in his adulthood, and soon after, decides to travel to New York to find his father.
Elf is mostly kid-friendly with few exceptions, including mild swearing and brief moments of violence. There are plenty hilarious moments as Will Ferrell’s Buddy looks at the larger world like a wide-eyed kid. It deals with themes such as aspirations, greed, acceptance, and parenting.
47. Shaun the Sheep: The Movie (2015)
Shaun the Sheep is based on the popular BBC animated show of the same name. It was created by Aardman Animations, the team behind Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit shorts. Shaun the Sheep only gets more creative with the quirky slapstick humour. The near-wordless narrative is set on the farm of an ageing, aloof farmer. One day the precocious sheep, Shaun decides to liberate itself and fellow sheep from the tiring status quo. The farmer is locked up in his Camper as Shaun and his buddies take off to the city.
The wildly funny slapstick moments are influenced by the works of the silent great Buster Keaton. Calling all Old Hollywood fans! And the stop-motion animation adds much to the characters’ quirkiness. Note: The film has some crude jokes, which aren’t appropriate for kids below 5.
46. Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone is a hugely popular holiday classic with plenty of slapstick comedy. It revolves around 8-year old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin). Kevin’s family plan a trip to France for their Christmas holidays. Unexpectedly, Kevin gets left behind. He’s initially delighted since it gives him plenty of freedom to do what he wants. Soon, however, he starts missing his family. To make things worse, a couple of burglars target Kevin’s home.
Home Alone would be appropriate for kids, 9 and above. The basic premise of a kid left behind by his family can be scary for the little ones. Parental guidance is essential for kids in order to process the slapstick violence in the film’s final act. Overall, Home Alone is a film about the importance of family and love.
45. Chicken Run (2000)
Nick Park & Peter Lord’s stop-motion animated adventure/comedy is set on a British chicken farm as a group of smart chickens’ attempt to escape their coops. The ringleader of the chickens is Ginger, who tries multiple times to outsmart the grumpy farmer Mr. Tweedy. Soon, the cruel Mrs. Tweedy decides to ‘axe’ the hens that are not laying enough eggs. Now the escape plans of Ginger look inevitable. She needs to go for it!
Though Chicken Run doesn’t show blood or visualise the slaughter, the subject matter in itself can be a little dark for small kids. The scenes with mean-looking dogs can easily frighten kids under 5.
44. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
How to Train Your Dragon is loosely based on Cressida Cowell’s 2003 children’s eponymous novel. The story revolves around the friendship between a teenager named Hiccup and his pet dragon, Toothless. Hiccup is a young Viking and his entire clan is taught to perceive dragons as enemies. In fact, he smartly captures Toothless not to get acquainted with a dragon, but to kill one. However, Hiccup discovers an interesting truth about dragons, which can avert a senseless war between Vikings and dragons.
There are a few rude jokes and high-octane action sequences that can be overwhelming for small kids. Otherwise, How to Train Your Dragon is an immensely enjoyable experience for older kids.
43. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of Were-Rabbit (2005)
Nick Park’s The Curse of Were-Rabbit is the first feature-length stop-motion animated tale about the eccentric pair, Wallace and Gromit. Before this, Nick Park has made three animated short films, featuring the same quintessential British characters. In fact, Park has won an Oscar for each of the short animated films. The story revolves around the misadventures of inventor Wallace and his loyal dog, Gromit.
In Were-Rabbit, the duo runs a pest prevention company. Their mission is to save the small-town’s vegetable patch from a group of marauding rabbits. The film is full of inventive gags and witty one-liners. Nick Park parodies some of the horror stereotypes, which can look scary to smaller kids. But older children will enjoy the dramatic narrative and fun chase sequences. Related: 17 Scary Movies For Kids
42. The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Wolfgang Peterson’s fantasy drama is based on German writer Michael Ende’s 1979 novel. The story revolves around ten-year-old Bastian, a shy boy mourning the loss of his mother. He lives with his dad, but Bastian is mostly alone and gets bullied at school. One day, he seeks refuge in a bookstore. Bastian’s attention is caught by a book titled The NeverEnding Story. The mysterious book takes the boy into the mythical land of ‘Fantasia’. Interestingly, the inhabitants of Fantasia believe that Bastian is their kingdom’s only hope. Is Bastian part of their story? Is that even possible?
The power of imagination and storytelling is the primary theme of Michael Ende’s story. The wild beasts of Fantasia and the battle scenes can be too intense for little children. But kids above 10 will enjoy it.
41. Mary Poppins (1964)
Mary Poppins is based on the children’s book series by Australian-British author P.L. Travers. This was Walt Disney’s passion project. The titular character is a no-nonsense nanny, hired by the Banks family to take care of their children, Jane and Michael. The kids are surprised to find that their new nanny has magical powers. They go on a variety of magical adventures, accompanied by Poppins’ high-spirited friend Bert. Though the film has a thin storyline, the songs and the set-pieces built around it still retains the charm.
Julie Andrews’ offers an enchanting central performance. One of the best kids movies of all time, Mary Poppins offers enduring wisdom about parenting and childhood. It emphasises how we shouldn’t overprotect kids, but simply prepare them for life.
40. Wadjda (2012)
Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda is a landmark film in the history of Middle-Eastern cinema. It’s the first Saudi Arabian film by a female filmmaker. The protagonist is a fun-loving, feisty 10-year old girl, living in the suburb of Riyadh. The precocious Wadjda understands the diktats of her conservative society. Yet she tries her best to achieve her little goals and dreams.
Wadjda wants to ride a bicycle and wear sneakers like the smug boy in her neighbourhood. The law, however, forbids girls to ride bikes. There’s no strong language or violence in the film. At the same time, there are nuanced references to the ill-treatment of women within the orthodox society. Kids above 9 can watch Wadjda with parental guidance and might deeply relate with the girl’s determination and aspirations.
39. A Little Princess (1995)
Alfonso Cuaron’s film unfolds in the backdrop of WWI. Sarah Crewe loses her mother at a young age and her father, a wealthy English aristocrat Richard Crewe has volunteered to fight for the British army. In such troubled times, Sarah is sent to a harsh boarding school in New York. However, her compassion and powerful imagination help her forge a strong circle of friendship.
The brief war sequences and the harsh behaviour of teachers can be too intense for small children. Overall, A Little Princess is an enchantingly visualised film that vividly explores the world of childhood. It teaches kids the values of empathy, perseverance, and friendship.
38. The Muppet Movie (1979)
It might be more than four decades since James Crawley’s original Muppet movie was made. Yet the sing-along worthy musical numbers and distinct brand of comedy still makes it a fine kid-flick. The Muppet movie was the big-screen debut of America’s phenomenal puppet troupe. The great Jim Henson provided the voice for Kermit the Frog, who dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. Kermit sets-off on a cross-country trip, picking up his fellow muppet friends, to reach Hollywood.
Though there’s lots of enjoyable silliness, some of the humour might not appeal to children under 6. There are also few comedic violent sequences. Older children, however, will have a good time with this tale of companionship. The central theme is to celebrate an individual’s unique strengths and idiosyncrasies.
37. Time Bandits (1981)
Terry Gilliam is known for his dark stories with touches of surrealism. Time Bandits, however, is a fantasy adventure that’s squarely aimed at older children. The story revolves around young Kevin (Craig Warnock) who befriends a band of time-jumping dwarfs. The bandits’ mission is to steal treasures from different eras. Kevin and the dwarfs meet plenty of fascinating characters in their journey, ranging from King Agamemnon, Robin Hood to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Gilliam’s extraordinary creativity and imagination are well-known from his Monty Python days. But here Gilliam evokes a childlike wonderment in us. The film gets dark at times, for instance when the dwarfs are trapped in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness. However, kids, 9 and above will love this weird dream-universe.
36. The Red Balloon (1956)
Albert Lamorisse’s 34-minute short film is set in a run-down neighbourhood of Paris. A young boy, while walking to school, finds a red balloon tangled to a lamp post. He frees it and takes it to school with him. Soon, the boy learns that the balloon has a mind of its own. For the boy, the red balloon feels much like the company of a cherished friend. However, a group of older boys tries to destroy the balloon.
The nearly wordless film doesn’t offer much in terms of plot, but brilliantly navigates the world of childhood. It’s message? Enjoy life despite the uncertainties and unfairness. Its visual storytelling is heartwarming. The ending in particular is poignant.
35. Song of the Sea (2014)
Irish animation filmmaker Tomm Moore’s sophomore effort is a visual splendour. His gorgeously animated debut feature Secret of the Kells dealt with ancient Celtic myths. For Song of the Sea, Moore focuses on the Irish legend of Selkies. The story revolves around Saoirse, the last seal-child. She goes on an epic journey with her brother Ben to save the ancient world of magic and discover the secrets from her past.
Like Studio Ghibli movies, Moore takes us on an endlessly inventive journey. The Irish folklore is elegantly blended into the poignant tale of sibling bonding.
34. Coco (2018)
Pixar’s Coco pays rich tribute to Mexican culture. It follows a 12-year-old aspiring musician named Miguel. The young boy hails from a cursed family, averse to music.
During the “Day of the Dead” festivities, Miguel secretly sets out to compete in a talent show, marking the beginning of his colorful and enchanting adventure. While Coco has a few ‘jump scare’ moments, it mostly delights with humor, captivating children and adults alike. Overall, it’s a heartwarming tale that underscores the importance of family bonds, understanding, and acceptance.
33. Paddington 1 & 2 (2014, 2017)
Paddington is an anthropomorphic bear who loves marmalade sandwiches and lives in the dark woods of Peru. The adorable and naive bear lives with his aunt and uncle. But when an earthquake destroys his home, Paddington is forced to relocate to London and settle with the Brown family. In both the films, the fun-loving Paddington goes on crazy adventures. The cuddly bear also gradually becomes an important member of the Brown family.
The fictional bear character was created by British author Michael Bond. The first Paddington children’s book was published in October 1958. Paddington movies are perfectly suitable for kids above 8. The story contains a few moments of violence and peril. Nevertheless, it’s largely about familial values, kindness, and honesty.
32. The Lego Movie (2014)
The phenomenal global brand of Lego was well utilised in this charming animated battle between good-vs-evil. Directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, it opens with evil Lord Business initiating a plan to dominate the Lego universe. Master Builder Vitruvius makes a prophecy that a ‘Special’ individual will save their universe from the tyrant. What follows is a classic case of mistaken identity as ordinary Lego construction worker Emmet is considered to be ‘The Special’.
The entire narrative is made up of Lego pieces. Hence the explosions and fast-pace action sequences can be less adversely impactful on kids, compared to the animated or live-action versions of the same. Nevertheless The Lego Movie has sad moments that can upset little kids.
31. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Pete Docter – who was part of the creative team that made Toy Story – made his directorial debut with Monsters, Inc. In a hidden city, professional monsters take up the job of scaring the kids. The very lifeblood of this ‘monstropolis’ is the screams of children, which are harvested and transformed into energy. However, the city’s most revered monster’s life takes a turn when a little girl unintentionally finds her way there.
While many monsters might be nightmarish for children, the protagonist, Sullivan, is a fuzzy and endearing creature. His comedic sidekick, Wazowski – a single-eyed green being – adds a generous dose of humor and warmth to the narrative.
30. The Way Home (2002)
South Korean filmmaker Lee Jeong-hyang’s The Way Home tells a universal tale of unconditional love between a boy and his grandmother. Seven-year old Sang-woo is left with his mute grandmother, who lives in a remote mountain village. His mother hopes to find a job in the city and take him back after his summer holidays. The boy hails from a sophisticated urban place. So the lack of modern amenities in the rural home pushes Sang-woo to disrespect his old-fashioned grandma. He constantly throws temper tantrums.
However, grandma’s patience, hospitality, and empathy gradually brings a change in Sang-woo. The Way Home is about the healing power of compassion and love. The casting of non-professional actors from the rural background gives the film an authenticity. Despite the difference in culture, kids can easily relate with Sang-woo.
29. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Mel Stuart’s film adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl story is an enduring favorite of kids. It follows Charlie, a kind-hearted boy from a humble background, who has a part-time job delivering newspapers. Each day, he gazes longingly at Mr. Willy Wonka’s renowned chocolate factory, hoping for a chance to step inside.
Gene Wilder’s enchanting portrayal of Willy Wonka serves as a guide through lessons on virtues and vices, showcased through vivid characters. The film’s universal themes teach children about the consequences of greed and the rewards of integrity.
28. Moana (2016)
Moana is a fascinating gender & racial stereotypes-breaking animated musical that’s set on a fictional island in the central Pacific Ocean. The culture portrayed in the movie took inspiration from the social and cultural environment of island civilizations in Fiji and Samoa. The action revolves around the chieftain’s spirited daughter Moana. Unlike many Disney Princesses, Moana isn’t yearning for romance, but simply wants to go on a water-bound adventure like her ancestors.
Soon, she gets the chance to travel across the sea with an arrogant demi-god named Maui. The songs and soundtrack are clearly the best things about Moana. The musical genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda is perfectly visualised by the breathtaking animation. And the swirling seas and vibrant colours will keep the kids glued to their screen. Note: The ‘monster realm’ scene and the lava villain can be scary for little kids.
27. Babe (1995)
Chris Noonan’s Babe is hands down the greatest ‘talking animals’ movie. Live-action animal footage was carefully overlaid with VFX and animatronics. Legendary animal trainer Karl Lewis Miller spearheaded the painstaking process of training a great number of animals. Around 500 animals are said to have appeared in the movie. The titular Babe is a piglet (voice of Christine Cavanaugh), who’s taken away from mom and sent with farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell).
In the farm, Babe is adopted by a sheep dog mother. Soon, the sweet and naive piglet learns to navigate its way through a complex world. Babe features a few scary images and talks of animal slaughter. Hence it might disturb little children. The older kids, however, would be able to relate with the heartwarming struggles of the innocent piglet.
26. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This multiple-Oscar nominated animated musical is an adaptation of a classic fairy tale. Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of Belle, daughter of an inventor father named Maurice. She dreams of leaving her village and desires great adventures in the larger world. One day, Maurice ventures into a dark magical forest. He takes refuge in a fortress while trying to flee from a pack of wolves. However, the father is taken hostage by a hideous beast living in the castle. The beast promises to release Maurice only if Belle takes his place.
The selfless Belle agrees and goes to live in the castle. Beauty and the Beast is a perfectly executed musical with catchy tunes. The songs gracefully propel the story rather than disrupting the flow. The animation is stunning, particularly the remarkable ballroom sequence.
25. The Incredibles (2004)
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles is an animated action-adventure with a very meaningful message. The film portrays a world where superheroes exist and they fight for the common man. However, a family of super-heroes is forced to adopt a civilian life. Mr. Incredible is bored with his white-collar job and suburban life. But soon he is enticed by an opportunity to use his super-hero skills for a private company.
What Mr. Incredible fails to understand is that a trap is set for him. As a result, he needs his family to come together to avert the impending threat. Despite the imagery of giant robots and huge explosions, The Incredibles has the perfect mix of emotions and humour to impart positive messages on kids. The movie deals with timeless themes such as identity, compassion, trust, and conformity.
24. The Iron Giant (1999)
Brad Bird’s Iron Giant is based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man by British poet Ted Hughes. Mr. Hughes first created the tale as a bedtime story for his own children. The narrative, set in the year 1958, revolves around a small-town boy named Hogarth. One day, Hogarth follows a trail of huge footprints into the woods and finds a giant alien robot. Hogarth finds a new pal in the iron giant, although a scary government agent tries to annihilate the visitor.
The Iron Giant is Brad Bird’s first movie, who later directed blockbusters like The Incredibles & Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Though made after the revolution of computer animation in Toy Story, Iron Giant seamlessly blended the hand-drawn images with a computer program. The giant might initially seem scary for kids. But eventually this is a poignant film about friendship and identity.
23. Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur adventure although rated PG-13, might be a huge draw for kids any age, who are beyond eager to catch a glimpse of the classic monster mayhem. But why? Quite simply, Jurassic Park and its three original movies are tremendously popular. I watched the 1993 film in theatres at 9. Certainly, some moments are too intense to process for that age. But as long as the parents are available to discuss the child’s film experience, Jurassic Park is ok to watch for kids over 8.
Jurassic Park follows three scientists who visit a unique theme park before its grand opening. It was created by a rich businessman and the main attraction is the genetically engineered dinosaurs. Of course, the dinos escape their cages and start dining on the visitors. Oh no!
22. Frozen (2013)
Frozen took a gentle and mature storytelling approach that perfectly complemented its gorgeous visuals. The Disney film revolves around two inseparable sisters and princesses living in their ancient, snowy mountain kingdom. One day, little Elsa accidentally hurts her little sister Ana with her magical powers.
Afraid that she might hurt her loved ones, Elsa shuts herself away from the world. But Elsa doesn’t understand how much her absence is affecting the vivacious Ana. There are a few moments of emotional distress in Frozen which might unsettle kids. But overall, the film offers a meaningful emotional journey. It took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2014.
21. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated film is a brilliant adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic. The title character Mr. Fox is a brave vulpine father, who peacefully lives with his family in a hole beneath a tree in the forest. They live in harmony with their neighbours like the rabbits, moles, and badgers. However, the nasty humans make life hard for the Fox family. The three mean farmers in the area try to destroy the lands and livelihood of the animals. Mr. Fox brings together his animal neighbours to fight back.
Wes Anderson’s brand of wry humour might not really work for little kids. Children above eight will definitely enjoy the amazingly detailed animation and exciting action. The voice-acting is also top notch. Ultimately, Fantastic Mr. Fox is about self-belief and embracing one’s true nature.
20. Inside Out (2015)
Pete Docter’s animated comedy came up with an interesting original concept. What does our mental landscape look like, especially when we go through a conflict-ridden phase in life? In Inside Out, eleven-year-old Riley is uprooted from her familiar surroundings to San Francisco. While Riley finds it hard to adjust to her new life, diverse emotions bicker in her mind. Emotions like joy, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust embody important characters in the narrative. They live in Riley’s mind, simply known as ‘Headquarters’.
Inside Out could be immensely relatable to kids of Riley’s age. It can open doors to conversations related to mental health. It teaches the healthiest ways to deal with our intense emotions. Certainly, these messages aren’t anything new. But Inside Out conveys it in the most compassionate and deeply touching manner.
19. The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride promises fun, wit, and adventure. The swashbuckling fantasy is based on William Goldman’s 1973 eponymous novel. A gentle grandpa reads his sick and bored grandson a fantastical tale. Initially, the boy is reluctant to hear the fairy tale. Gradually, the boy and the viewers are pulled into the winsome tale, which involves a beautiful princess, a handsome farmhand, giants and dreadful pirates.
The taut script, clever action, and razor-sharp dialogue provide solid fun for children. There are a few moments of tense violence. Nevertheless, there’s no bloodshed and the film’s overall tone is light-hearted. The film doesn’t rely on insults and cheap gags to make us laugh. Most importantly, it breaks unfair gender stereotypes.
18. The Sound of Music (1965)
Robert Wise’s live-action musical blockbuster is based on the true story of the von Trapp family. The story is set in the WWII backdrop and follows a wannabe nun Maria (Julie Andrews). She is sent to Austria to be a governess for the seven von Trapp children. The children’s father is a widower and a retired naval captain. They both have conflicts over the ways children are to be raised. Nevertheless, the father gradually begins to respect and admire Maria.
The Sound of Music is a great classic about parenting skills and the transformative power of love. Its memorable songs have stood the test of time. One of the best family movies, Sound of Music will instil in kids a sense of togetherness.
17. Children of Heaven (1997)
Kids must be introduced to children’s movies from different nations. It helps them understand different cultural and sociological backdrops. Moreover, such movies have the power to break stereotypes. Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s masterpiece Children of Heaven, on the outset, seems like a familiar underdog story. It revolves around nine-year-old Ali and his younger sister Zahra. One day, Zahra loses her pair of shoes.
Since their family is poor, the siblings decide to share Ali’s pair of shoes while going to school. This simple premise offers kids a glimpse into Iran’s complex socio-political and cultural landscape. At the same time, the bond between Ali and Zahra, and their childhood innocence, possesses the power to move audiences across the globe. Kids around eight and above can watch Children of Heaven with their parents, which could lead to an enriching conversation.
16. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Henry Selick’s stop-motion animated musical can be potentially frightening for small kids, especially under 5. The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the story of Jack Skellington, the master of Halloween Town. He suffers from an emotional crisis when he looks at the warm-spirited Christmas Town. Subsequently, the miserable Jack plans to kidnap Santa.
The remarkable songs and score by Danny Elfman is one of the reasons for the film’s enduring popularity. Though it looks bleak on the outside, there’s a light-hearted tone to the proceedings. Macabre imagery might scare some kids but most would be enthralled by Jack’s misadventures. The meaningful narrative eventually asks us to embrace who we are and find a sense of fulfilment in what we do.
15. Ratatouille (2007)
Brad Bird’s Ratatouille is a heart-warming tale about outcasts. The Pixar animated feature follows a young rat named Remy who exhibits a passion for cooking. Born with a great sense of smell, Remy is frustrated by the food-stealing missions of his extended family. Cuteness incarnate, the little rat idolises celebrity chef Gusteau, and believes in the man’s motto: “Anyone can cook.” So you guessed it. Soon, Remy moves to the deceased chef’s Parisian apartment and gets acquainted with a young man, who is also an outcast like Remy, and together they create wonderful dishes which catch the attention of all of Paris.
Ratatouille has moments of minor violence, although the overall narrative tone is pos
14. Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
Children, 9 and above are definitely in for a treat when they discover the wizarding world of Harry Potter. The seven books in J.K. Rowling’s series were adapted into eight movies between 2001 and 2011. The story follows 11-year old orphan Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). He discovers that his deceased parents were wizards. Subsequently, Harry is accepted into Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts, Harry befriends Hermoine and Ron, who embark on great adventures and unveil earth-shattering secrets.
The movies get increasingly darker as the story progresses. The frightening aspects, however, are well-balanced with funny and magical moments. Even though the Potterheads might feel a little sad when the end credits of the final film roll, we definitely gain back the enchantment whenever we step back into Hogwarts with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
13. Finding Nemo (2003)
Andrew Stanton’s Finding Nemo revolves around the titular character, who is a young clownfish. He lives with his dad Marlin in the secure Great Barrier Reef. But one day Nemo is captured by a diver, and transported to a dentist’s aquarium in Sydney. Marlin – the overprotective father – swims out in the open sea to search for his son and has lots of adventures along the way. Meanwhile, Nemo concocts an escape plan with other marine creatures living in the fish tank.
Finding Nemo can introduce children to ocean life and marine biology. Nemo and Marlin’s journey can also foster emotional and social learning in kids. It enables conversation on themes of parental love, friendship, self-determination, and loss. Note: There’s a bit of ‘playful’ violence designed to evoke laughter. But the scenes involving a barracuda and sharks can be scary for young kids.
12. The Lion King (1994)
The popular Disney animated musical tracks down a lion cub’s bittersweet journey to adulthood. Simba is born as a prince to the righteous and powerful Lion King Mufasa. Unfortunately, Mufasa’s evil brother Scar usurps the throne through treachery and drives away Simba. The little Simba wanders the vast jungle with a pair of comical and caring friends Pumbaa and Timon. After reaching adulthood, Simon returns to his father’s kingdom to reclaim his rightful throne.
Lion King offers important life lessons for kids, touching upon timeless themes such as loyalty, friendship, courage, and responsibility. The sense of nostalgia can be overwhelming for the adults who first witnessed Lion King as kids.
11. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The American musical fantasy is the first ever feature-length animation film. The story chronicles princess Snow White’s stay at the forest with a household of dwarfs. She seeks refuge in order to escape her malevolent stepmother. What’s fascinating about this Disney movie is how painstakingly the world of Snow White is created from scratch. Artists worked for weeks to infuse life into each frame and character.
Disney’s Snow White also introduced the innovation of ‘Multiplane camera’. This allowed the placement of several levels of drawing behind one another, which provided the illusion of three-dimension. Until the use of computers in animation, Multiplane cameras set the standards in the animation medium.
10. A Christmas Story (1983)
Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story is a beloved holiday classic. So much so that, since 1997, the TV channel TNT has been showing it as an annual “24-hour marathon special” starting on Christmas Eve. The film is based on legendary radio personality Jean Shepherd’s semi-fictional stories about his childhood. It’s set in the early 1940s, and revolves around a charming 9-year old protagonist named Ralphie (Peter Billingsley). Set in the month of Christmas, the boy dreams of getting an air rifle as his holiday present. One of the best family movies, A Christmas Story is a fun film while being deep touching.
Note: Though the film’s tone is very light-hearted, it does contain a few scenes of bullying and swearing. Still, the mature topics about parenting and growing up can initiate a healthy conversation.
9. Spirited Away (2001)
Stories about kids embarking on a life-changing journey can always hold the attention of children and adults alike. In Hayao Miyazaki’s blockbuster hit Spirited Away, a ten-year old ordinary girl, Chihiro, is trapped under extraordinary circumstances. Subsequently, she goes on a journey to confront gods and monsters in order to liberate herself. The film opens with sulking Chihiro moving to a different town with her parents. On their way, the parents take a detour and come across an abandoned amusement park.
Chihiro learns that the place is a resting place for the spirits. Moreover, she gets stuck in the place alongside her cursed parents. Though Miyzaki takes us into an astonishing magical world filled with painstakingly detailed drawings, Spirited Away is eventually about discovering oneself. It’s an anime about identity, self-respect, and taking responsibility.
8. Wall-E (2008)
Wall-E’s moderate pace might not hold the attention of small kids. At the same time, the wordless storytelling and easily accessible message regarding technology and climate change can deeply resonate with older children. Perhaps, the most fascinating element of Andrew Stanton’s Wall-E is the budding relationship between two self-aware robots. The narrative is set in post-apocalyptic earth, where the last walking robot works round the clock and cleans mountains of trash left behind by humans.
Wall-E’s routine changes when a visitor from space arrives. Subsequently, the waste-collecting robot embarks on a mission to save humankind and bring them back to earth. Wall-E is an easily understandable critique on consumerism and a cautionary tale on the adverse impacts of climate change. It eventually shows how true friendships and interconnectedness can bring a positive change.
7. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Steven Spielberg’s classic sci-fi tear-jerker tells the story of a benign alien coming to Earth, who is left behind by his clan. A boy named Elliott, coping with his parents’ divorce, finds the extra-terrestrial wanderer in his backyard. He and his siblings keep E.T. a secret. They also help E.T. communicate with its family in hopes of returning home. However, scary scientists wearing hazmat suits soon descend upon Elliott’s small-town, threatening E.T.’s reunion.
Spielberg’s tale of extra terrestrial friendship can be a little emotionally upsetting for kids. Particularly, the moments of peril when E.T. gets sick or when the scientists try to track down E.T. Nevertheless, older children might immensely enjoy it as the master Spielberg gently walks us through the bittersweet phase of childhood.
6. Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)
Children above 9 can sit with their parents and get their first taste of this classic space opera. From the iconic opening credits to all the big reveals in the Star Wars saga, the wonder of George Lucas’ films is passed down to generation after generation of children. With the rise in animated and live-action series, Star Wars always remains accessible to children in pop-culture.
Considering the violence and scary imagery in the Star Wars films, children under 8 could be disturbed. Moreover, there are quite a few complicated plot lines that might be hard to follow for younger viewers. The futuristic-looking sci-fi film is ironically set in the distant past, where an extremist force tries to assume control over all of galactic society. We follow a band of heroes who try to vanquish the imperialists. It’s complicated, but white-knuckle exciting!
5. Up (2009)
Pete Docter’s Up is one of the most hilarious and heart-warming animated adventures of all time. The narrative follows a seventy-eight-year-old man named Carl, who flies in his home which is equipped with helium balloons in order to fulfil the dream of his deceased wife. In his adventurous trip to South America, the old man is accompanied by an innocent boy scout named Russell.
Pixar has a habit of making its little and older viewers cry. That’s exactly what happens at the end of the emotionally overwhelming opening montage sequence. The sequence beautifully tracks down the friendship and love between Carl and his wife Ellie. Up deals with themes of friendship, ageing, family, and dreams. It teaches how life is one great adventure and we need to fill it with love and warmth.
4. Toy Story Movies (1995-2019)
Who doesn’t love toys? Toys, in plenty of ways, are gateways to a kid’s imagination. But what if those toys came alive when people weren’t around? What if they went on fun-filled journeys to maintain the alliance with their owner? That’s the basic story of the first feature-length digitally animated film, Toy Story (1995). Kids and adults alike were engrossed by this funny rivalry between the two toys: Woody – a cowboy with a pull-string – and Buzz Lightyear – a space-action figure.
Toy Story is one of the most successful animation movie franchises in the history of cinema. Unlike many franchises, the first Toy Story was followed up with equally riveting sequels. All the adventurous missions of Woody and Buzz would never fail to tug at your heartstrings. Several moviegoers are eagerly waiting for a 5th Toy Story movie.
3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Hayao Miyazaki’s works are a perfect introduction to the world of anime for kids. My Neighbour Totoro shows us a world that’s filled with magic and kindness. In this classic Japanese anime, two kids relocate with their dad to a rural home. They hope to reunite soon with their ailing mother, who’s getting treated in a nearby hospital. One day, while exploring the area, the youngest one named Mei discovers a friendly, gigantic magical creature. Mei names it ‘Totoro’.
Subsequently, the gentle giant enriches the children’s rural life through small adventures. The anime doesn’t offer much in terms of plot and conflict. However, it’s a definite must-see, as Miyazaki genuinely portrays the bittersweet moments of childhood.
Line it up with Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
2. The Kid (1921)
It’s important to introduce kids to diverse works within the cinematic world. And if they’re are up for trying something different, why not treat them to a few hilarious and heart-warming silent films? Charlie Chaplin’s movies can always be enriching for children. The genius filmmaker’s timeless melancholic character Tramp conveys laughs and compassion in equal measure. While The Kid is not Chaplin’s greatest, it can most definitely keep the kids hooked.
The film follows The Tramp trying to raise an abandoned child all by himself. It’s a beautiful film that showcases what it means to care for a child. There’s one extremely emotional sequence that can be tough for children to watch, but the film overall is an empowering experience for kids. As Chaplin himself mentions in the iconic prologue, “A picture with a smile, and perhaps, a tear.”
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
People of all ages have enjoyed the classic American fairy tale written by Frank L. Baum. The story revolves around Judy Garland’s young heroine Dorothy, who lives on a Kansas farm. She desires for something different than a mundane life. But she’s also afraid of leaving the comfort of her home. One day, a tornado transports Dorothy to the magical land of Oz. She meets a good witch who tells her to go to Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz, who might help her get back home.
Dorothy embarks on her fateful quest, wherein she comes upon a wide range of magical beings, and three truly lovable lost souls like herself. The Wizard of Oz is all about facing one’s fears and overcoming challenges in life. This classic musical with its relevant, relatable themes makes for a great family movie that’ll also appeal to older children.
These are the best kids movies of all time that can be enjoyed by the whole family. If you’re craving for more, check out The Sandlot (1993), The Karate Kid (1984), Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), Shrek (2001), The Goonies (1985), Lilo & Stitch (2002), Tangled (2010), and The Parent Trap (1961).
An ardent cinephile, who truly believes in the transformative power and shared-dream experience of cinema. He blogs at ‘Passion for Movies.’