19 movies you won’t hate watching with your kids


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When it comes to bonding with my son, few experiences have measured up to watching a great movie with him. If we both feel the same way about the movie, that is.

Unfortunately, a lot of kid’s movies frequently fall short of entertaining us both. If the movie is geared more toward adults, he’ll fidget and harrumph until the credits roll, as if he’s receiving a two-hour stern lecture. If it’s geared too much towards kids, it usually means I’m in for an invasive, migraine-inducing, 3D CGI ordeal that’s mainly a vehicle for fart jokes.

Luckily, there have been some movies that I’ve watched with him, that both of us liked, if not equally then at least enough for a 60/40 split. 

Many movies with PG or even PG-13 ratings have swept him up in them just as much as they do for me, and many G-rated movies made specifically for kids actually affected me more than I anticipated. A lot more. 

Here are 19 movies that we both enjoyed, regardless of the intended audience. I think you and your kids may enjoy them as well.

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1. Babe

Babe is the story of a pig who wants to work as a sheepdog, despite the fact that both tradition and zoology are working against him. It’s an utterly simple story, and its nonconformist theme appears in almost every children’s movie, such as Happy Feet. But Babe’s overall sweetness is so sincere that it’s impossible to resist, and the pig is just so ridiculously cute you’ll find yourself rooting for him just as much as your kids will.

Image Credit: Universal Studios.

2. Big

Before Tom Hanks was an Academy Award winner, he was just an endearingly funny actor, and this 1988 movie shows him at what was arguably his comedic peak. The movie is about a boy who wants to become a grownup and then wakes up in an adult body. Your kids will enjoy such gags as when Hanks tries to eat baby corn off the cob, and grownups will appreciate the performances by Hanks and the rest of the cast, which are so flawlessly executed that you never once question the movie’s believability.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

3. A Christmas Story

Few movies capture the crazed exasperation of the holidays and the travails of growing up in small-town America as well as 1983’s A Christmas Story. While it has an awkward moment or two that you might need to gently explain to your kids – such as “why does the father have a lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg with a fishnet stocking?” – the movie is otherwise utterly appropriate and entertaining, and it will even provide you with the perfect response if your child asks for a BB gun: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

4. Coco

Ever since 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar Animation Studios has been making consistently great movies. Its films have deftly handled such potentially upsetting topics as death, aging and illness in a way that doesn’t condescend to kids or upset them, and 2017’s Coco is no exception. The story of a boy who’s accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, it handles end-of-life issues in a way that kids can appreciate, but that won’t traumatize them. You, on the other hand, should be advised to bring a full box of Kleenex to this one.

Image Credit: Disney Pixar.

5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

It’s hard to imagine any parent who doesn’t already have E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on their short list of movies to show the kids, but on the off chance that you don’t, you are hereby advised to put it there. The story of a boy who makes friends with an alien, the movie is next to impossible not to be moved by, no matter how unflappable you might believe you are. Also, if you’re of a certain age and saw it in the theaters when it came out, be advised that watching it as a parent is an entirely different experience from watching it as a kid. Again, bring a hanky.

Image Credit: Universal Studios.

6. Edward Scissorhands

If there’s an awkward tween in your home, 1990’s Johnny Depp vehicle Edward Scissorhands is a great movie to watch with him or her. It instantly resonates with any kid who’s struggling with not fitting in. It has some flaws that are hard to ignore, and a few sequences are just plain goofy. But it’s hard to criticize a movie with this much heart, or one with as sympathetic a main character as this one. So suppress your groans when you see Winona Ryder in old-age makeup and appreciate the movie for the fairytale that it is.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

7. Elf

The 2003 Will Ferrell vehicle Elf is a great comedy that sacrifices not one ounce of Christmas cheer in its quest for laughs. Ferrell plays Buddy, a human being raised as an elf in the North Pole at Santa’s workshop, who comes to New York City to meet his father, played by a very crabby James Caan. Almost every joke in the movie works, and it’s across-the-board funny no matter how old you are. Also, watch out for the cameo by Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

8. Freaky Friday (2003)

While most remakes don’t measure up to the original, the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday is a notable exception. It’s not necessarily better than the 1976 Jodie Foster original, but this Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis update brings the body-switching story into the new millennium, so your kids can relate to it, while never sacrificing the essence of the original story. Be warned – the movie features both a BlackBerry and a landline telephone, so you may get questions about what those are from your tech-savvy child.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

9. Inside Out

Many Disney Pixar movies work expertly on two levels. They manage to be zany enough to keep your kids entertained, but also pack an emotional wallop that sails over their heads and affects only the adults. Inside Out is no exception. The movie depicts a tween girl’s emotions as anthropomorphic characters inside of her head, with such brilliant voice casting as Lewis Black as Anger. Your kids will enjoy it from start to finish, and while you’ll enjoy it too, it will also bring up bittersweet memories from that age that you may have forgotten.

Image Credit: Disney Pixar.

10. The Karate Kid (1984)

Forget the 2010 remake. With the exception of the hair, music and clothes, the original version of The Karate Kid remains timeless and needed no updating. It’s the story of a misfit kid (Ralph Macchio) who learns karate to deal with bullies, and it’s automatically understandable to any child. The rest of it has such high nostalgia value that it’s a great ride for grownups too. Just seeing Mr. Miyagi say, “wax on” and “wax off” will take you right back.

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

11. The Muppet Movie

Another classic from yesteryear, The Muppet Movie holds up effortlessly. Your kids may not know who Dom DeLuise, James Coburn or any of the other stars who make cameos in the movie are, but it doesn’t matter. It’s legitimately funny and engrossing and is paced to keep a child’s interest while still satisfying adult attention spans. You should also see The Muppet Christmas Carol, which stars Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge in a performance worthy of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.

12. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Suitable for both Christmas and Halloween, The Nightmare Before Christmas is great for kids who can handle minor scares and have an appreciation for the mildly macabre. The story of Jack Skellington, a resident of Halloween Town who is transported to Christmas Town, the movie is utterly unique and unpredictable, and its tidy 80-minute running time makes impatience impossible. As a bonus, the 1993 movie was made with stop-motion animation, a joy to watch in this day and age.

Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

13. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

When it was originally released in 1985, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was the rare movie that parents could take their kids to and all parties concerned could enjoy it equally. The passage of more than 30 years has done nothing to change this. The movie is still every bit as funny and surprising as it was when it was released, and it’s likely to find you and your kids relentlessly quoting dialogue from it when it’s over.

Image Credit: Warner Bros..

14. Superman: The Movie (1978)

If your kids only know Superman from Justice League, do them a favor and show them this 1978 movie. Yes, some of the special effects are dated, and certain sequences, such as Lois Lane’s (Margot Kidder) voiceover recitation of “Can You Read My Mind?” during the scene in which she and Superman fly over Metropolis, are quite simply laughable. Having said that, Christopher Reeve’s performance remains the definitive portrayal of the Man of Steel, and the practical effects give the events in the movie a weight and immediacy that CGI can’t.

Image Credit: Warner Bros..

15. Toy Story 3

The entire Toy Story franchise is excellent, and all three movies work for young audiences and old. The third movie, however, is geared toward the grownups. Your kids will enjoy it as the children’s movie that it is, but its themes of getting older, growing up and leaving your old toys behind will make you not just cry, but ugly cry. If you saw Toy Story 2 and were able to contain yourself during the sequence in which the cowgirl doll Jesse remembers her old owner forgetting about her, imagine it stretched out to feature length and see if you can make it to the credits without getting completely choked up.

Image Credit: Disney Pixar.

16. Up

The story of a widower who deals with urban sprawl by tying thousands of balloons to his house and floating off to South America, 2009’s Up is both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving. The plot gets a little complicated in the third act, and you may need to pause and explain it to younger kids. Also, if you don’t want to have to explain to them what infertility is, sit this one out. But if your kids are a little older and more sophisticated, they’ll appreciate Up on the many levels on which it works.

Image Credit: Disney Pixar.

17. Wall-E

Another Disney Pixar release, Wall-E takes place in a future in which Earth has become so polluted and garbage-strewn that all the people have left, while robots like the title character are put there to clean it up. If you feel like most kids’ movies are too loud and busy for your tastes, you’ll be happy to know that much of the movie, including most of the entire first act, contains no dialogue whatsoever, and conveys its information through the robot’s body language. This makes the movie instantly accessible to anybody who’s watching it, even very young children.

Image Credit: Disney Pixar.

18. The Wizard of Oz

Let’s face it – if you have children you’re going to eventually show them The Wizard of Oz. If you have’t seen it in a while, you’ll be glad to know that it still holds up, so you can actually watch it with them rather than pretending to watch and playing with your phone. In terms of its look and effects, the 1939 movie is pretty dated and would never get released in this form today. But if anything, kids who are used to CGI-heavy 3D features will find the primitive effects to be so far removed from what’s considered normal today that it will be like stepping into an alternate universe for them.

Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

19. Yellow Submarine

OK, maybe it wasn’t originally made with kids in mind, and in terms of its animation style, story and pacing, 1968’s Yellow Submarine is pretty dated. But like many of the older movies on this list, that only adds to its charm. Nothing else looks like this, and the psychedelic animation style paired with the truly great music is impossible to resist. Just prepare for your kids to run around the house saying “I’ve got a hole in me pocket” until they move out.

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Image Credit: King Features.