This article is updated frequently as titles leave and enter HBO Max. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
Maybe the kids in the house have seen everything on Disney+? Or their parents just want a change from so much Marvel and Pixar? HBO Max, the quickest growing streaming service in history, has one of the deepest catalogs in the world, and their family selection is above average as well, amplified by being the exclusive home of Studio Ghibli’s catalog. Before getting to the best films, it should be noted that they also have a very dense Family TV section thanks to being the home for most Cartoon Network programming. This list will be updated regularly.
A Christmas Story
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Director: Bob Clark
It doesn’t have to be Christmas time to enjoy one of the most beloved holiday films in history. Bob Clark directed this 1983 slice of nostalgia that didn’t make much of an impact when it was released but became a massive hit in the eras of VHS and seasonal cable showing. Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin star in the sweet and hysterical story of an average American family around Christmas time.
Angels in the Outfield
Runtime: 1hr 43m
Director: William Dear
Remember this one? It was one of those family movies that made a huge impact on VHS and cable, appealing to kids of the ‘90s who may want to show it now to their little ones. It stars future leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a remake of the 1951 movies of the same name, but he wasn’t the only future star in this flick. Keep an eye out for Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey too!
Runtime: 1h 32m
Director: Tim Burton
Before he was Bruce Wayne, Michael Keaton starred in another Tim Burton film in this hysterically dark fable about a being who scare away the newly deceased. When Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are stuck in their former home, Beetlejuice tries to force them out in a movie that’s visually inventive in ways that Hollywood flicks are rarely allowed to be anymore.
Runtime: 1hr 58m
Director: Desmond Davis
The first Clash of the Titans was basically advertised as a family adventure film when it was released way back in 1981 and became a huge hit. Harry Hamlin stars in the film that would feature the final work of the legendary Ray Harrhausen, the king of stop-motion visual effects, and loosely retells the myth of Perseus. It’s dated, for sure, but might scratch a nostalgic itch for Gen X-ers with HBO Max subscriptions.
The Dark Crystal
Runtime: 1hr 33m
Directors: Jim Henson and Frank Oz
Look! Muppets! It’s a kid’s movie, right?!?! Sorta. Yes, there are puppets in this fascinating fantasy film, but it’s also a dark, often scary adventure story that doesn’t talk down to children and isn’t cautious about frightening them. It’s hard to express how groundbreaking this movie was for its time in terms of puppetry, special effects, and even the way children’s entertainment was written. It’s wildly influential, and there’s a reason Netflix returned to its world almost four decades later.
Runtime: 1hr 54m
Director: Richard Donner
Richard Donner’s 1985 adventure film became one of the most beloved original properties of the decade with its family fun mixed with legitimate scares. The story of a group of kids who try to save their homes from foreclosure and discover an old treasure map in the process blends humor and action in a way that doesn’t really happen in family movies anymore. It’s held up wonderfully.
Runtime: 2hr 6m
Director: Steven Spielberg
Nominated for 11 Oscars (and winning five), Hugo is one of Scorsese’s most acclaimed and beloved films, which should further put to rest any of those dumb insinuations that the legendary director only knows how to make mob movies. It’s a whimsical, delightful film that you can watch with the entire family, and while it may not be in 3D on HBO Max, you can still enjoy its endless visual glory.
Runtime: 1hr 44m
Director: Chris McKay
More than just a child’s version of a superhero movie or a spoof of the genre, this family flick is a legitimately clever and well-crafted action film. Will Arnett spins off his version of the Dark Knight that premiered in The LEGO Movie for a film that unpacks the clichés about Bruce Wayne and Batman in a manner that’s funny and very smart.
Runtime: 1hr 41m
Director: Edmund Gwenn
Two versions of the beloved holiday classic about a department store Santa who claims to be real thing are on HBO Max, and really could fit the bill on a weekend for families any time of the year. The 1947 Edmund Gwenn version is the superior one, but Richard Attenborough makes the 1994 one nearly as enjoyable.
Runtime: 1hr 39m
Director: Andrew Fleming
Literature’s favorite mystery-solving young heroine got the feature film treatment back in 2007 when Emma Roberts took on the title role in this film based on the massively successful books. Responses were mixed at the time, but it’s nice to see a film like this for young adults aimed at empowering girls to solve mysteries of their own.
Runtime: 1hr 37m
Director: Kirk Jones
Emma Thompson delivers as the title character in this 2005 film based on the Christianna Brand books. Set in Victorian England, this Mary Poppins riff is another tale of a nanny who assists a widower with seven kids that he can’t manage. Thompson also wrote the adaptation and starred in a 2010 sequel that’s also on HBO Max, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.
Runtime: 1hr 44m
Director: Paul King
What a charming movie Paddington 2 is for the whole family. Paul King returned to direct the sequel to the 2014 original, a film that actually outpaces its predecessor in both humor and heart. Ben Whishaw returns to voice the marmalade-loving bear in a story that takes Paddington to prison and teaches lessons about community that feel like they never talk down to children.
Runtime: 1hr 41m
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Remember Blue Sky? The company behind Ice Age tried for another hit franchise with a bunch of colorful Brazilian birds, and the first movie was successful enough to produce a reasonably entertaining sequel. Rio 2 is all about bright colors, catchy music, and fun voice work from people like Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, and many more.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez may be best-known for his adult action movies, but he’s mostly the guy behind Spy Kids for people who were kids in the 2000s. The breakthrough first film in 2001 led to three sequels, and they’re all on HBO Max! A rare smash franchise with a Latinx influence, these movies are fun action-adventure flicks for the whole family.
Runtime: 1hr 22m
Director: Rebecca Sugar
After Steven Universe ended its run on Cartoon Network, they produced a film in 2019 that maintains the hit show’s brilliant blend of fantasy and humor. Most of the ensemble cast returns for another story of the Crystal Gems trying to save all organic life on Earth. Steven Universe is a wonderful show, and this movie is a nice epilogue to its legacy. Note: the series is also on HBO Max.
Almost all of the Studio Ghibli films are on HBO Max, the now exclusive home to them when it comes to streaming. The truth is that we could devote about 10% of this list to Hayao Miyazaki and his colleagues but we’ll give up some that space and just point you here to the ranking of the entire output of the most important modern animation studio in the world. Start with Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Castle in the Sky. You won’t stop.
Runtime: 2hr 23m
Director: Richard Donner
So your kids are too young for Zack Snyder’s Justice League but you want to get a little DC superhero action this weekend? Go back to one of the most influential superhero flicks ever made, Richard Donner’s first film adaptation of the Man in Steel. Christopher Reeve rules as the legendary hero and no one will ever top Gene Hackman’s take on Lex Luthor.
Runtime: 1hr 32m
Director: Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail
Teen Titans Go! Is one of the smartest superhero cartoons of the modern era and their feature film debut is an underrate joy. The writers here joyfully satirize the world of superheroes, including cameos from many famous DC characters, while never losing the heart of their leading men and women. It’s very funny and clever.
Runtime: 1h 35m
Director: Steve Barron
An adaptation of the comics of the same name, this 1990 action film became a massive hit for all ages, launching an entire franchise. In fact, it was technically the highest-grossing independent film when it was released, and a top ten film overall of 1990. It led to 1991’s The Secret of the Ooze and 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, both of which are also on HBO Max. Get some pizza and relive all three.
Runtime: 1h 38m
Director: Mel Stuart
It was announced in January 2021 that creatives are returning to the well again and telling a story of Willy Wonka’s early days before he opened his famous chocolate factory. There’s a reason this 1971 musical has stood the test of time for five decades, passed down as a beloved family film from generation to generation. Gene Wilder gives one of the most timeless performances ever. It will work its magic on kids forever.
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