So I grew up in a large family. Even when a few of us were old enough to start watching slightly more mature movies, it wasn’t usually an option because then the younger kids wouldn’t be able to join in or they would join in and become irreparably scarred by seeing some kind of horrible violence.
In other words, I understand how difficult it can be to find good solid family movies that aren’t extremely boring or so squeaky clean that they can’t hold the attention of the grownups.
I’ve tried to put together a short list of some of the best family movies, not animated.
We’re not gonna be looking at any Pixar stuff here, not Disney animated work, none of that. It was a little tough, though. In fact, we had to double-check to make sure that each of our choices wasn’t in fact an animated movie.
What can we say? We talk about animated movies a whole lot here.
But I think that’s a pretty good intro. How ‘bout we move on to the movies themselves and talk about why each of them is a good pick for family movie night?
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Yes, this is a movie we’ve talked about here a good number of times before. And sure, a lot more people have become familiar with this one in the days since director Taika Waititi made himself one of the most important Hollywood directors working today.
But we need to mention in again just in case there’s someone out there, or indeed a whole family, who haven’t yet checked it out.
On the family side of things, the whole movie is about family, really. Is it 100% appropriate for children of all ages? Well, we can’t say that for sure since there are a good few cuss words in the movie. So if that’s going to be a problem, just skip it for now or get ready with that mute button.
But if you can get past the potty words, then this is just an excellent movie, and it absolutely holds up for both kids and adults.
It’s also paced incredibly well so you won’t need to worry about everyone falling asleep during a slow scene.
The Harry Potter Series (Or at Least the First Five)
It was basically guaranteed that the Harry Potter movies would be claimed and socked away by the hardcore HP fans, but even if you and your kids aren’t exactly big on the books or even know what a Harry Potter is, these are actually great family movies. Well, most of them are great family movies.
The movies matured as their core audience matured, which means that the last 3 or 4 movies, depending on who you ask, get very dark.
But the first few in the series are indeed meant for kids around the ages of 8-14. There’s action, but nothing too crazy. There’s light humor. There’s adventure and excitement, all without any real risk of death or destruction.
Best of all, Hogwarts is a consistent and extremely comforting setting, so even as you move from one movie to the next, there’s never a jarring adjustment to a new set of surroundings.
In terms of content, there’s really nothing controversial happening here. No cursing, well, at least not real-world cursing. Harry and his buddies both have wizard swears and do actual, literal cursing sometimes.
The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)
This is a movie we’ve talked about before, and it’s certainly worth bringing up again. It’s a British movie about some kids who strike out on a grand adventure that mixes Earthly challenges with fantasy ones.
This movie feels a bit old-fashioned in several ways, and old-fashioned only as far back as the 1980s and 1990s.
Back then, there were plenty of live-action movies about kids being thrown into wild n’ wacky situations. You’ve got The Goonies, The Gate, kind of Gremlins 1, The Sandlot, E.T., all that kind of stuff.
The Kid Who Would Be King brings back that core idea but updates its characters and the story for modern audiences.
Yes, it’s a family movie, but it’s also just a fun movie to watch, period.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
The original film adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s book series, Willy Wonka is destined to remain a classic, despite its slightly shaky production.
Gene Wilder helps enhance every scene inside of (or above) the Wonka factory. It’s one of his best performances and probably the most memorable one by a longshot.
Kids of any era can easily get drawn into the world of the movie, although it does take a bit of time for the cast to actually make their way inside the factory, but it all contributes to a great sense of tension and expectation.
The sets are unique and highly inventive, and the messaging of the movie still holds up rather well today. Sure, we might no longer support the idea of punishing children by making them disappear up a chocolate pipe, but the movie encourages kids to be honest and selfless.
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a parent who doesn’t think these are positive messages for kids today.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Let’s turn the clock back even more, to the oldest movie on our list, The Wizard of Oz. Contrary to popular belief, this actually wasn’t even the first film adaptation of the Oz book series. And as we all know, it definitely wasn’t the last adaptation, either.
However, this is the best one. This is the best Wizard of Oz movie we’re ever going to get. Plain and simple.
It’s also probably the oldest movie around that you can actually convince kids to watch.
I remember being a kid and seeing the movie for the first time. Like a lot of first-time viewers, I got bored out of the gate, expecting it to be just another crusty old black and white movie, but when Dorothy stepped outside her recently tornado’d house into the magical world of Oz, I was blown away.
And we won’t argue that there aren’t still parts of the movie that feel dated. It does still look like a classic movie, and Dorothy’s performance, though great, reeks of Old Hollywood.
But come on. Come on. It’s The Wizard of Oz and it’s fantastic. The pacing is lovely, the settings are fantastical, and the songs are still catchy after almost 100 human years.
Jurassic Park (1993)
We’ll leave off with a classic of a different color. Jurassic Park maybe isn’t seen by many specifically as a family movie, more just as an American classic, but like a lot of the best Spielberg movies, it works for many different audiences, and kids and grownups can both enjoy this wild adventure.
Are there any content concerns in Jurassic Park? Well, yes, depending on your own preferences for the media that your children consume. And all of those concerns fall under the ‘violence’ category.
Though, if it helps, the violence in Jurassic Park is never anything other than realistic, at least given the setting and the circumstances.
It’s animals being violent, essentially, not a lunatic action star murdering actual people by the dozens. (Can you guess why we decided to leave the Indiana Jones series off the list?)
It also has the benefit of kid characters who are, well, they’re maybe not the most annoying kid characters in movie history, so that’s something.