This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Hulu, which you can sign up for here. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
You’re stuck at home, pushing the remote control through so many options on your smart TV, looking for something, anything, that you can use to distract the kids and not make you feel guilty. Let us help.
The truth is that none of the streaming services are particularly great at family options now that Disney+ has cornered that market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great choices on Hulu. Here are 30 worthy films to distract the little ones or schedule an entire family movie night around (if you have the energy after homeschooling).
It may have some familiar story elements, but this 2019 film has some of the most gorgeous visuals in any recent animated movie, including a wave of flowers and the design of its lovable main character, a Yeti who needs the help of a girl and her friend to get back to his home at Mount Everest.
The Addams Family
Not the superior live-action version with Christina Ricci, but the 2019 animated version that made a minor dent at the box office. Still, kids love to see new stuff, and this was very recently in theaters, so will likely be a major draw on Hulu. And if it introduces them to the live-action films and series, then it will have done some good.
Nancy Meyers co-wrote this clever family comedy about a successful woman who finds herself the unexpected mother of a 14-month-old baby girl when her long-lost cousin leaves her the child after her death. This may be for the slightly older kids, and some of its gender politics are dated, but Diane Keaton keeps it moving with her ace timing.
Exactly which titles Disney allows to jump from its streaming service to others doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but here’s the adventures of a sweet stunt dog named Bolt, the leading pup of this fun movie from 2008. John Travolta voices the dog who believes he actually has superpowers, which allow him to head out on a cross-country journey to save his owner, Penny.
A Golden Globe nominee that was released during the 2020 holiday season, this sequel to the 2013 DreamWorks hit is already on Hulu. The entire voice cast returns in another story of the prehistoric family that everyone loves, this time as they encounter another clan who has literally walled themselves off from the dangers of the world. It’s a bit hyper but also one of the few newer family flicks on Hulu.
Hit books always equal hit movies. There are four in this franchise, but only the first (and still best) is on Hulu right now.
This live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon has no right to be as funny and clever as it is. It helps that newcomer Isabela Moner is a delightful lead as Dora, but there’s also a delightfully self-aware tongue-in-cheek tone to this film, one that’s funny without every taking itself too seriously. It’s a sweet family adventure movie that works equally for parents and little ones.
Maybe wait for the real little ones to go to bed first, but there are certainly some families that can handle this coming-of-age story from the master Steven Spielberg. Christian Bale stars in the story of a young boy whose life is changed forever when he becomes a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp.
It became something of a punch line, but this family film was huge when it was first in theaters. Who can’t relate to the story of trying to free a gorgeous animal like the orca that gives this movie a name? It made over $150 million on a $20 million budget and launched a franchise. Willy was freed to run all over pop culture.
Relatively unsuccessful when it was released, Dean Parisot’s 1999 sci-fi comedy has become a major cult hit in the last two decades. It’s a loving ode to the world of shows like Star Trek, starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, and Tony Shalhoub. The ensemble plays the cast of a fictional sci-fi show who get caught up in an actual alien invasion. Funny stuff.
From the director of Mad Max: Fury Road! The family-filmmaker side of George Miller directed this musical comedy about penguins who basically have to stop the apocalypse with their dancing and singing. It’s not as good as the original, but it has some clever visuals, incredible voice work, and some good tunes to boot.
Family classic! John Ford directed this beloved 1941 film based on the 1939 film of the same name that tells the story of the Morgans, a hard-working family in Victorian era Wales, and centers the youngest Morgan child. A massive hit for its era, it famously won Best Picture over Citizen Kane, Sergeant York, and The Maltese Falcon. John Ford also won Best Director.
Hulu gets so random with their family choices, choosing different films in this franchise on about a quarterly basis. They’ve gone back to the 2002 original as of this writing. Watch this and remember a time when Manny, Sid, and Diego led one of the biggest franchises in the world. This one launched a multi-billion dollar franchise. So while nearly every kid on Earth has probably seen it, there’s no reason they can’t watch it again.
Indian in the Cupboard
The Lynne Reid Banks book on which this is based is one of the most beloved of all time for a reason. It was adapted in 1995 by the legendary Frank Oz and tells the story of a boy who discovers that the toys he puts in his new cupboard come to life when he closes it. It’s more lyrical and intelligent than a lot of children’s entertainment, reflecting the quality of its source material.
Before The Incredibles, Brad Bird made a different kind of superhero movie, a 1999 masterpiece that pays homage to Americana and entertainment from generations before while also remaining somehow timeless. The story of a boy who finds a literal giant robot in the woods has only gained popularity and power in the two decades since it was released. It’s a perfect movie.
The LEGO Movie is one of the most creative and enjoyable animated films of the 2010s. The sequel may feel a bit too cluttered at times, but it retains enough of that energy to make it worth a look on Hulu, especially as all of our creative faculties have been reduced by the insanity of 2020.
Coming off the massive success of Ace Ventura, Jim Carrey was quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in the world when this Dark Horse Comics adaptation was released in the Summer of 1994. Carrey is fearless as Stanley Ipkiss, a bank clerk who discovers a mask that unleashes his dark side. His energy made this into a quotable, worldwide smash hit.
Will Ferrell voices the title character, the supervillain who wants to get some of the credit and adoration of his superhero counterparts. After actually killing his superhero nemesis, Megamind learns that life isn’t worth living for a villain without a hero and ends up creating a villain even worse for him to defeat. A clever spoof of the superhero genre that would dominate the next decade of blockbusters, this movie plays even better now than in 2010.
We don’t give Laika enough credit. They don’t make nearly as much money with films like Paranorman and Kubo and the Two Strings as companies like DreamWorks and Pixar. Their latest is already on Hulu, dropping less than a year after its theatrical release. It may not be their best, but it’s gorgeous to look at, revealing the company that made it as arguably the most visually fascinating animated studio around.
This is a weird one. Someone at Paramount Animation took the concept of monster trucks from auto shows literally, delivering a wacky story about a high school kid who discovers a monster literally living in his truck. It’s not great, but it’s got a surreal energy that’s almost admirable and a game cast that includes Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, and Danny Glover.
My Dog Skip
This family dramedy from 2000 adapts the autobiographical book of the same name by Willie Morris. It’s the story of a 9-year-old who is given an adorable Jack Russell terrier on his birthday, whom he names Skip, and some formative chapters of his life that he shares with his pup. It’s a sweet coming-of-age movie with added interest for dog lovers.
Listen, this movie is kind of a disaster, but it’s always a fascinating disaster. Joe Wright directs this prequel telling of a new origin story for Peter Pan and Captain Hook, played by Garrett Hedlund. Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, and Levi Miller co-star in this undeniably strange blockbuster that seems to be gaining a reappraised following over the years. Why are people still talking about Pan? Check it out on Hulu and report back.
The Pink Panther 2
Let’s just politely call this one a gateway to better things. The sequel to the Steve Martin–led reboot of the Pink Panther series isn’t objectively “good,” but it may intrigue your kids enough to watch the brilliant Peter Sellers movies or even some of the original cartoons. And, heck, even if it makes them want to see more of Steve Martin, that’s probably a good thing too.
The Polar Express
Yes, motion-capture animation in 2004 looks even creepier now than it did then, but there’s enough charm and sentiment in this Robert Zemeckis film that people keep returning to it every holiday season. And, no, it doesn’t have to be Christmas to watch it.
There was a time in the ‘90s when every family cartoon or comic strip character was turned into a live-action version, and the classic Richie Rich got that treatment in 1994 with Macauley Culkin as the title character. The story of the world’s richest boy is a little silly in this form but Hulu subscribers who were kids when it came out may be interested in seeing if it holds up to their childhood memories.
*Rookie of the Year
People who were of a certain age in 1993 probably remember the film with nostalgic fondness. It was a surprising hit that summer, telling the story of a kid who has arm surgery that makes him into a Major League Baseball star. It was kinda mediocre when it came out, but kids who loved it at the time may now be parents who want to pitch it to a new generation.
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel has been adapted multiple times over the last century, most recently in this 2020 version by director Marc Munden. Dixie Egerickx plays the orphan girl who discovers a magical garden in her uncle’s backyard this time, and she supported by the great Colin Firth and Julie Walters.
How big was this skewering of fairy tales? It was announced in 2020 that it would be inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, that’s how big. It’s the first non-Disney animated film to get that recognition. As for the movie itself, it’s held up remarkably well, a modern classic with great voice work and clever writing.
People often point to the massive success of the original Shrek as a gamechanger for modern animation, but it was how incredibly well its sequel that equally changed the game in that all hit animated flicks seem to get one now. Shrek 2 was arguably more beloved than the first movie, grossing nearly $1 billion worldwide after its Cannes Film Festival debut in 2004. It really is a smart continuation of everything people loved about the first movie.
Channing Tatum wonderfully voices the lead character in this musical comedy from 2018. He plays a Yeti who descends from his cloudy mountain village and encounters a human — both realizing that the other species thought them a mythical creature. The visuals are engaging and the jokes are just clever enough to work for all ages.
After years of struggle to get off the ground, video game icon Sonic the Hedgehog finally got his blockbuster adaptation in this 2020 live-action/animated hybrid. Parents who are put off by hyperactive action should probably stay away, but there’s a charming go-for-broke attitude that’s admirable, particularly in the great voice work from Ben Schwartz as Sonic and remarkable overacting from Jim Carrey as the villain.
With Lebron James accepting the destiny of Space Jam: A New Legacy this month, it’s time to revisit the 1996 original. A vision of what Michael Jordan might have been up to between his championship runs, the film thrusts one of the best athletes of all time into the world of Looney Tunes, as he helps Bugs Bunny and the gang beat a group of aliens at basketball. People who love this movie really love this movie. Maybe you’re on the team?
Disney+ has stolen almost all the superhero movies but Sam Raimi’s original version of the webslinger is still on Hulu. Starring Tobey Maguire, this blockbuster doesn’t get enough credit for revitalizing the entire superhero genre in a way that plays to both parents and kids. It still rules.
Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) wrote this cute blockbuster with a clever concept that basically turns the stork concept of delivering babies into a buddy/workplace comedy. A junior stork in the business makes a mistake and has to work with a female human partner to deliver a baby to a new family. It’s not perfect but has some clever ideas and strong voice work from Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammar, Jennifer Aniston, Danny Trejo, and more.
Trolls: World Tour
One of the biggest early box office stories of the pandemic was when Universal decided that this highly anticipated sequel would land on premium video on demand instead of waiting for theaters to open. And now it’s already on Hulu! Poppy and Branch return in a hyperactive follow-up that explores more musical styles than the original with a manic energy that can be fun at time but also sometimes feels pretty exhausting. Still, in a year without blockbusters for the families, it’s nice to get one at home already for your Hulu subscription price.
This 1988 TV movie actually landed 14 years after the end of The Brady Bunch, and reunited almost all of the original cast members (Cindy was recast. Poor Cindy). It’s pretty simple — reunite with the Bradys, this time around Christmas! With the kids all grown, Carol and Mike buy airline tickets so everyone can get together around Christmas, in-laws and grandchildren included. It’s likely to make you jealous in 2020.
Young Sherlock Holmes
Long before he became a major director, Chris Columbus wrote this clever adventure film for Barry Levinson. Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the film never talks down to its audience, presenting that kind of mid-‘80s action film that’s a bit intense and complicated in ways that family films often aren’t allowed to be anymore.