While Disney+ has entered the scene as a popular streaming service for a lot of families, the truth is that way more people still subscribe to Netflix. Are you one of them and in search of something to keep your kids entertained with something other than YouTube videos? We’re here to help with a guide to 30 family films on Netflix that you don’t need to feel bad letting your kids watch during screen time.
The Angry Birds Movie 2
They can’t all be Spielberg. Sometimes you just want something bright, shiny, and loud that you won’t feel bad putting on for your kids. Believe it or not, this one ain’t that bad. It’s certainly much better than a sequel to a movie based on an app has any right to be, filled with clever jokes and great voice work.
Maybe you’re in the mood for that holiday spirit outside of the Peppermint Mocha window? It’s a sweet, clever film about how the son of Father Christmas saves the day for one kid and recaptures the entire spirit of the holiday. We don’t talk enough about how great Aardman, the team behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, are every single time out. Aardman rules.
*The Back to the Future Trilogy
Robert Zemeckis directed all three movies in one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. The story of a teen who goes back in time turned Michael J. Fox into a household name and still serves as the template for how to do this kind of family/sci-fi adventure. The two sequels may not be as good but they’re better than you remember.
This one is for family movie night in houses where the kids are a little past elementary-school age — an animated film from the wonderful people at GKIDS that’s arguably more for adults than children, but teens can definitely get something out of it. Nora Twomey directed this adaptation of Deborah Ellis’s book about a young girl living in Kabul who is forced to dress as a boy to help her family. It’s smart and moving.
It’s hard to believe that this was the first Disney Digital 3-D film back in 2005, a movie that really ushered in the end of the hand-drawn aesthetic for the company. History aside, it’s a sweet little movie with good voice work from Zach Braff as the title character, the only one who knows the sky actually is falling.
Nicolas Cage leads a voice cast that also includes great work from Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds in this animated hit that’s basically a family sitcom set in the caveman days. It’s got some pretty generic father-daughter material, but it’s visually clever at times and an easy rewatch for young ones that has a nice blend of heart and humor.
This 2010 animated adventure really changed the game for Universal, giving them their first modern mega-franchise for kids. If you have young ones, you know what we mean. Not only did this flick produce two sequels of its own and a spin-off, it branded those little yellow guys known as Minions just about everywhere.
Steven Spielberg’s 1991 blockbuster reimagining of Peter Pan is one of the master director’s most controversial films. If you were just the right age when Hook came out in theaters, you love this movie no matter what any of the critics say. And now you can relive your youth on Netflix!
Listen, they can’t all be Pixar quality. Sometimes your kids don’t want something as deep as Inside Out or Coco. Sometimes they just want something goofy. And this Easter live-action/animated flick checks that box. Russell Brand voices E.B. (Easter Bunny) and James Marsden plays the guy he torments. Poor Marsden is always getting tormented.
Netflix keeps cycling Martin Scorsese movies in and out of its collection, including this 2011 adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel that was originally released in 3-D. Nominated for 11 Oscars (and winning five), this 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. This is a whimsical, delightful film that you can watch with the entire family. It may not be in 3-D on Netflix, but you can still enjoy its endless visual glory.
The Incredibles 2
While Disney+ continues to take more control of the market, there are still a few of their recent hits on Netflix, including the beloved sequel to one of the most popular Pixar films of all time. Brad Bird’s long-awaited sequel is one of the top films of 2018, and arguably Pixar’s best animated film (at least that’s not about Spider-Man).
The most shocking Oscar nomination this year came when this Netflix holiday original landed in the Best Animated Film category with much-bigger films like Toy Story 4. People who had seen it were less surprised. A throwback to the gorgeous days of hand-drawn animation, it’s a visually striking piece of work with an original holiday story to tell. It doesn’t have to be Christmas to watch it.
Kung Fu Panda 2
It’s a little bizarre that only the middle movie of the Kung Fu Panda trilogy is on Netflix, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch it. Kids love these movies, and this one expanded upon the unexpected hero concept of the first film with great new characters and an even a darker tone. Most animated sequels get less complex, but this one went the other way.
The Little Prince
This Netflix original (in the States at least) is one of many adaptations of the 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that has become a beloved classic (but the only one to try and stretch the story to a full-length feature). It’s smart, and visually striking, with great voice work by Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, and many more.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
The wonderful Joe Dante directed this action-animation hybrid, which wasn’t particularly well-received in 2003 but has gained a loyal following, especially among people who were young when it was first released. Dante finds the right balance of tone, going hard into the lunacy of Looney Tunes, bouncing characters like Bugs and Daffy off great comic actors like Brendan Fraser and Steve Martin.
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro
This 1979 Japanese animated comedy really changed movie history in that it’s the feature film debut of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, who would go on to found Studio Ghibli, the most important animation studio of the modern age. Based on the manga Lupin III, this is a visually striking adventure film that crosses all cultures and demographics.
*Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith return to voice the characters from the 2005 family hit in this blockbuster sequel. Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippo find their way to Africa. The penguins steal the movie again.
There’s a whole generation out there scarred by the end of this movie. It’s one of the better family films on Netflix that’s not animated, starring Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin in a coming-of-age tale of a young girl growing up in 1972. It was a massive hit, making over $120 million, and leading to buckets of tears.
My Life As a Zucchini
Maybe save this one for the middle-school-age kids who are still willing to watch a movie with you. It’s a French film based on a hit 2002 novel about a kid who accidentally kills his alcoholic mother. And it’s animated! Seriously, this is a movie with wit, depth, and beautiful visuals.
*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.
One of the weirdest movies ever made, this Robert Altman film was critically derided when it was released in 1980 but kids still like it and it even has some adult defenders now too. Whatever one can say about it, Robin Williams is fearless as the title character, giving his all as he so often did on camera.
The Princess and the Frog
With Pixar’s dominance, there’s a whole era of the major Disney films that didn’t quite get the attention they deserved. Take this 2009 film, a lyrical return to a more traditional animated-musical style, with confident storytelling and wonderful use of setting. A reimagining of The Frog Prince in New Orleans, it’s a smart, moving piece of work.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Wreck-It Ralph rules. Sure, the sequel isn’t as good as the original, but it’s still better than a lot of your streaming options, thanks mostly to the go-for-broke voice work by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, who gets one of the best Disney scenes of the modern era when the screenwriters target the tropes of the Disney Princess. You should watch this for that brilliance alone.
The Secret Life of Pets 2
While it too often plays like three interconnected episodes of what a TV series set in this world would look like, kids dig these films about the high jinks their pets get up to when adults are at work and school. It’s a goofy family movie for when you’re in the mood for bright colors and recognizable voice actors but don’t want to be particularly challenged by what you’re watching.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
There aren’t a lot of legitimately great kids movies on Netflix, especially as so many family subscribers are moving over to Disney+, so we should take the chance to watch the absolute best ones as much as possible. And maybe if you watch this very funny, clever Aardman movie over and over again, they’ll make more of them. The great silent comedy of Shaun the Sheep– meets–science fiction in this riff on E.T. that’s very sweet and very funny. And they just added a new Shaun the Sheep TV series too!
*Song of the Sea
Tomm Moore’s gentle Irish fable, a nominee for Best Animated Film at the Oscars, is the kind of movie you can feel comfortable putting on for the entire family. It’s the story of an Irish boy who learns that his sister is a selkie and contains some of the most gorgeous animation of the 2010s.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The Best Animated Film Oscar for 2018 went to this unexpected treat, one of the best superhero movies of the modern era. It’s got a little bit of everything. First, it replicates the comic-book aesthetic in ways we’ve never seen before. Second, it is a leap forward in terms of representation in superhero movies. Third, it is just an unbelievable amount of fun, the kind of movie that you can watch again and again. It will hold up for generations to come.
The last Disney animated film of the last century is this hand-drawn hit that seems to have been largely forgotten in the history of the beloved studio. It may not be Lion King, but this is a ’90s animated film that deserves a bit more attention than it’s received. It’s a solid adventure flick with some lovely visuals.
Ryan Reynolds voices the title character of this 2013 animated hit, the story of a garden snail who wants to become the world’s fastest snail. It’s not going to change your life like the best of Pixar or Laika, but it’s a pleasant diversion, something you can put on while your kids are stuck at home and not feel too bad about it.
Will Forte and Maya Rudolph are just two of the excellent voice actors in this quirky and clever adaptation of the book by Lois Lowry about a family of kids who try to leave their awful parents behind and raise themselves alone. With echoes of Tim Burton and other stop-motion animators, it’s a lovably oddball flick.
*Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Both versions of the Roald Dahl classic are on Netflix but take Gene Wilder over Johnny Depp every time. This movie is a beloved classic for a reason, carried effortlessly by Wilder’s charm and the Dahl’s unforgettable story. Everyone has seen this at some point in their life. It’s a rite of passage in childhood for a reason.