Looking for a great flick to watch with the kids at your next family movie night? Hoping to introduce your child to the films that defined your childhood? From A Miracle on 34th Street to Despicable Me, here’s our definitive list of the movies your kids absolutely must see before they’re not so little anymore. Grab the popcorn.

kids-moviesphoto: Rhys A. via flickr

1. E.T. (1982)
Still one of the best science fiction movies ever, E.T. is all about friendship and childhood. From Reese’s Pieces to the classic phrase “E.T. phone home,” every moment of this movie will live with your extraterrestrial forever.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

2. Frozen (2013)
Snow cold fun and adventures in Disney song! This movie about sisterhood, family, and love will surprisingly warm your hearts, fill your home with song and should have come with a disclaimer: For the next five months, your princess won’t sing anything but Let It Go or Do You Want to Build a Snowman.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

3. Finding Nemo (2003) 
Laugh until your tummy hurts as this timid clownfish dad searches the great ocean for his son. Every underwater creature has a catchphrase that’ll become your guppy’s new mantra. Just keep swimming … just keep swimming!

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

4. Princess Bride (1987)
Part comedy, part romance, part adventure, part fantasy and 100% perfect—Princess Bride is the ultimate movie for story time lovers, big, small, boy or girl. And yes, there is some kissing.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

star-wars-movie-posterphoto: Thomas S. via flickr

5. Star Wars Series (1977-)
With The Last Jedi set to hit theaters in December, now is a good time as any to introduce this epic space opera. Your space lover will be on the edge of his or her seat during this story of lightsabers, telepathic powers, space-flight adventures and the biggest plot-twist in cinematic history. Our inner geek is giving this PSA: Please remember to start your Jedi with A New Hope and not The Phantom Menace.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

6. Tangled (2010)
Get lost in Disney’s retelling of Rapunzel, which is a lot more exciting than the original story. Hint: She gets to leave the tower and goes on a thrilling journey of magic, song, and self-discovery.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

7. The Little Mermaid (1989) 
Ignore the original Hans Christian Andersen (that ending is unfortunately not very happily ever after), and opt for Disney’s The Little Mermaid for a movie night in with the kids. It’s got unforgettable songs, enchanting characters and, best of all, a happy ending.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

8. Home Alone (1990)
This perfect Christmas movie will give your tots a movie dose of bravery, when it comes to being by themselves, as they watch a smart-aleck eight-year-old defend his home from a pair of bumbling burglars. Note: There is some sibling squabbling that isn’t all that nice.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

9. The Sandlot (1993)
Your short stuff will definitely relate to Scotty as he makes new friends on a ragtag baseball team and goes on grand adventures involving tree houses, rival groups, a legendary ball-eating dog and all the things that childhood memories are made of.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

10. Toy Story (1995) 

Every kid will love this warm-hearted tale of the secret life of toys. Tom Hanks plays the loyal “Woody,” a toy cowboy who is threatened by the introduction of a new toy, the fancy, talking and beeping “Buzz Lightyear.”

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

11. The Goonies (1985)
Hidden treasure, secret caves, deadly traps—this movie is like Indiana Jones meets The Sandlot. It’s a high-energy film, so don’t be surprised if your mini-me isn’t ready for bed by the end of it.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 10 & up.

miracle-34th-streetphoto: Insomnia Cured Here via flickr

12. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
No movie portrays the spirit of Christmas better than Miracle on 34th Street. Save this one for the holidays because it’ll definitely make your lil’ helper feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

13. Annie (1982) 
A Cinderella-esque story of an orphan who is taken in by a billionaire, Annie is a musical family film that’ll have you singing and cheering all throughout.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

14. The Sound of Music (1965)
How else is your musical tot going to learn the lyrics to Do-Re-Mi? The Sound of Music is completely captivating with equal parts song, romance and family bonding.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

15. Despicable Me (2010) 
Kids and adults alike will love this bad-guy-turns-good-guy fairy tale about a curmudgeonly villain who learns to love an orphaned trio of little girls.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.


16. The Jungle Book (1967)
Disney gets downright jazzy in this classic tale of an orphaned little boy raised by wolves in the jungles of India. These are the sorts of songs you won’t be able to get out of your head—and that’s OK. Bear Necessities rocks! 

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 4 & up.

17. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton’s delightful holiday fantasy film redefines Christmas for all our lil’ lovers of spook. Get carried away into a new world that celebrates two holidays in one—candy and presents? Every tot’s dream.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

18. Moana (2016)
Girl power is at its best in this modern Disney classic that puts a strong-hearted young girl on a mission to return the “heart of the ocean” to its rightful owner. Besides the memorable songs and moving story, this film stands apart from most Disney flicks in that there are no princes (or romances of any kind) to be found during the whole 113 minutes.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

19. Beauty and the Beast (2017) 
The “tale as old as time” gets a modern retelling that stays true to its trademark Disney sweetness, with Emma Watson starring as a Belle every little girl will want to be. Note: Because it’s live-action, some of the scenes (like the ones with the wolves chasing Belle toward the beginning of the film) can be a little scary.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

20. The Karate Kid (2010) 
This remake of the 1984 classic is geared toward a slightly younger audience with the help of the talented Jaden Smith, who stars as the new kid on the block who struggles to learn karate to fend off bullies and win the girl.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 9 & up.

18. The Secret of Nimh (1982)
This movie has some scary parts, but kids ages 8 & up will love the tale of extraordinary courage. The story centers around a group of super-intelligent rats who escape an animal laboratory and a family of field mice who enlist their help. Warning: Sensitive children may find some scenes disturbing (including a sword fight that ends in the death of one rat).

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

22. An American Tail (1986)
Long before Nemo and his dad were separated by oceans, a lanky immigrant mouse named Fievel journeyed to find his family “somewhere out there.”

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

23. Space Jam (1996)
Animation, live action, comedy, and sports—it’s time to introduce your sports fan to the legend that is Michael Jordan and his greatest achievement … Space Jam. 

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

24. Free Willy (1993) 
Animal lovers will enjoy seeing this feel-good film about a boy becoming best friends with an orca. Your swimmers will be so engaged, they might even shed a tear or two for Willy.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

25. Cars (2006)
Every kid who loves going “vroom vroom” with his toy cars will love this fast-paced film about a smooth-talking race car who learns the meaning of true friendship and the joy of the open road when he gets stuck in the small town of Radiator Springs.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

photo: Free To Be Foundation via Youtube 

25. Free To Be You And Me (1974)
In a compilation of shorts that were edgy at the time of this film’s release, Free To Be You And Me explores things like gender roles, working mothers, and racial stereotyping with the help of celebrities including Mel Brooks, Alan Alda, Marlo Thomas, and a young Michael Jackson.

Not rated.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

26. Freaky Friday (1976)
Like mother, like daughter—the hilarity that ensues when this mom and daughter duo switch bodies also gets across the important lesson of family bonding.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

28. A Christmas Story (1983) 
TBS airs a 24-hour marathon of this movie every Christmas season because it’s just that great of a classic. Memorable one-liners, childhood clichés and a depiction of a family that’s more accurate than we’d like to admit, A Christmas Story is a perfect fireplace movie.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

29. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
A wannabe scientist accidentally sends his machine into the sky, and food starts falling. If the quirky plot doesn’t capture your foodie’s attention then the colorful and dynamic animation will.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

30. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Your magical creatures won’t be able to get enough of the Harry Potter adventures. Everything from the food to the spells is a unique discovery. Start off with The Sorcerer’s Stone, which introduces the wizarding world. The film series is completed, but the rest of the films skew for an older audience.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

31. Enchanted (2007) 
Fairytale characters are thrown into the modern world in this wonderful live-action musical that shows what happens when a young maiden from the fictional “Andalasia” falls in love with a jaded New York City lawyer. Julie Andrews narrates this infectiously-sweet story. Note: There is a scary part at the end featuring a fire-breathing dragon that may rattle sensitive tots.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

32. Lassie (1994)
Loyal, brave and affectionate … your youngest is going to want a Collie after seeing all the extraordinary feats Lassie can do, from saving his owner from a mountain lion to snuggling with him all night.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

33. Babe (1995)
Perseverance, friendship and making your dreams come true—who knew a pig could teach us all that? Psst … at the start of the film, there is a bit of frightful honesty about animals being used for food, so true tiny animal lovers beware.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

34. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Golden ticket. Chocolate factory. Everything candy. Your sugarplum will remember the amazing, zany world of Willy Wonka for the rest of his or her life.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

35. Charlotte’s Web (1973)
This animation musical about Wilbur, the runt of the litter, and Charlotte, a friendly spider, is as touching as the novel by E.B. White. Prepare a package of tissues for the ending: It’s both sad and happy.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

photo: Common Sense Media

36. Newsies (1992)
This Disney musical inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 follows a group of street-savvy kids who form a union and go on strike against the money-hungry newspaper typhoons of their time. The movie features catchy music and energetic dance numbers—and inspired the 2012-2014 Tony Award-winning Broadway show.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 9 & up.

37. Hook (1991)
For all the inspiration that Peter Pan gives as a rambunctious child, Hook shows how grown-ups can still have fun. Your Lost Boy (or Girl) will be hugging you tight throughout this movie.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

38. BIG (1988)
For every kid who talks about growing up all the time, have them watch BIG. Jumping from 12 years old to 30 years old is only a good idea in theory … and on film.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 10 & up.

39. Labyrinth (1986)
Set in a bizarre world that’ll delight the most imaginative kiddo, Labyrinth will captivate your imagination with Muppets, riddles and a lighthearted sense of danger.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

40. Up (2008)
An upbeat boy and a grumpy old man make an unlikely team … inside a floating house. They go on a journey that has a little bit of danger, a lot of humor and a grander story of love.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

41. The Dark Crystal (1982)
Fantasy lovers will jump right into the dark world of The Dark Crystal. Think of it as a more family-friendly version of Lord of the Rings—it’s a hero’s story about an elf-like creature on a quest to restore balance to his world.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

42. Spirited Away (2001)
One of the greatest animated films of all time, Spirited Away will take your daydreamer on an adventure like no other. There are a few frightening scenes, but the bravery of protagonist Sen magically transfers to young viewers to continue the ride.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 9 & up.

43. LEGO Movie (2014)
An ordinary LEGO minifig must save the universe from a tyrannical business lord. Forget Frozen, your LEGO maniac will be singing Everything is Awesome even before the movie ends.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

43. The Red Balloon (1956)
Even though the film is in French, there’s not much dialogue so even your youngest one will be able to enjoy the simple story about a balloon and boy becoming best friends.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

44. Mary Poppins (1964)
A magical nanny uses her unique brand of lifestyle to bring a family back together. If your munchkins loved Sound of Music, this one is a must-add to their movie list.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

45. The Muppet Movie (1979)
Way before Jason Segel starred in the 2011 Muppet movie, there was The Muppet Movie, which goes way, way back to before Kermit the Frog was in show business. Fans of those classic fuzzy puppets will love watching this origin story.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

46. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Ruby red slippers, flying monkeys, catchy songs and the breathtaking transition from a world of black-and-white to color, The Wizard of Oz is a timeless story that’ll inspire your kiddo for ages.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

47. The Parent Trap (1961/1998) 
A pair of twins set out to reunite their separated parents. Cue the chaos, humor and aww moments! We’ll leave it up to you to decide to show the classic 1961 or 1998 one—both are that good.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

photo: Common Sense Media

48. Wall-E. (2008)
While there is minimal dialogue throughout the whole movie (not a word is spoken in the first 22 minutes of the film), the lovable little robot who is stranded on a trash-filled future Earth will steal your family’s heart and make you think twice about your recycling habits. Messages about environmentalism—as well as our reliance on technology—ring loud and clear, even without words.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

49. Aladdin (1992)  
Disney’s retelling of the classic Middle Eastern folktale, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, is filled with memorable music and a wise-cracking genie voiced perfectly by the late Robin Williams who will entertain the grown-up viewers almost more than the kiddos.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

50. Cinderella (1950) 
Bippity-bobbity boo! A story of a love so simple that even the smallest slipper wearer can watch this Disney classic in one sitting.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

51. Ghostbusters (1984)
So your tiny Ghostbusters may not be old enough to appreciate Bill Murray, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start now! It’ll be hard to find a “scary” movie that’ll have you crying from laughter like this one.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 10 & up.

52. Akeela and the Bee (2006)
A little girl from a tough neighborhood in LA learns she’s got a knack for spelling—and that she doesn’t need to change herself to fit in. Lawrence Fishburn stars as the spelling tutor who coaches her to the Scripps National Spelling Bee while teaching her to believe in herself. Note: There is some mild profanity in the film, so parents who have a no-tolerance policy toward this may want to wait a few more years.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

photo: Common Sense Media

53. Inside Out (2015)
Kids may not understand the big concepts at the heart of the movie (that they’re watching the personified emotions inside a little girl’s brain), but they’ll be entertained just the same. We think the real value is for Mom and Dad, who may actually learn a little something about what’s going on in their kids’ crazy little heads.

Rated PG.

Recommended for kids 7 & up.

54. Peter Pan (2003)
We love the original, but this live-action remake has magic galore and will be a hit with big kids who have graduated from cartoons.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 9 & up.

55. Fly Away Home (1998) 
Anna Paquin stars in this inspiring story of a motherless little girl who learns to fly an ultralight aircraft so she can fly her adopted flock of geese south for the winter. Note: The death of the girl’s mother in the beginning of the film may be upsetting for kids.

Rated PG.

Recommended for kids 6 & up.

56. The Incredibles (2004)
Superhero family. Pixar. What more can we say? This spectacular animated film is simply made for a movie night with mom, dad, sis, brother, and babe.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

57. Chronicles of Narnia (2005)
If your reader is devouring the book series, the movies are pretty captivating too. Your Narnian won’t believe that Azlan is made up of special effects and not a real lion.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 10 & up.

58. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Sing-a-long adventures in a flying car! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a comical adventure with a dash of danger. Fun fact: The script was co-written by Roald Dahl.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

59. Cinderella (2015)
Disney’s remake of its 1950 classic is just as magical with dazzling special effects and a live-action spin. Younger princesses may still prefer the original (this one has no songs), but parents longing to revisit the Cinderella story with their kids will find it to be a faithful and gorgeous retelling.
Rated PG.
Recommended for ages 6 & up.
 
60. Monsters Inc. (2001) 
Middle-of-the-night monsters won’t be so scary anymore after kids watch this film and learn that they’re the ones who have all the power.
Rated G.
Recommended for ages 5 & up.
61. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
This was the first of the Peanuts movies, and it introduces Charlie Brown as the sweet and sensitive little boy who can’t seem to get anything right. The movie follows him as he works to compete in a national spelling bee with the help of his faithful buds, Linus and Snoopy.
Rated G.
Recommended for ages 4 & up.
62. ELF
Will Farrell is at his best in this sweet-hearted holiday film about a boy who was raised as one of Santa’s elves but sets out at age 30 to find his real father in New York City.
Rated PG.
Recommended for ages 8 & up.
63. Big Hero 6 (2014) 

Disney’s adaptation of the Marvel comic about a boy named Hiro and his robot creation, a “personal health companion” named Baymax, will delight little robot fans. But be forewarned: Much of the film deals with the idea of grief since the boy’s older brother dies in the beginning of the film. Despite the sad beginnings, the film has a sweet heart and ending.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

64. The Black Stallion (1979) 
This Francis Ford Coppola-directed film about a boy stranded on a desert island with a wild stallion who saves his life is a must-see, whether or not you’re into horses. The film morphs from a wilderness survival tale to a root-for-the-underdog horse race. Note: The beginning shipwreck scene may be disturbing, even for adults, so feel free to skip to the island and go from there.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

65. Superman (1978)
Sure, special effects have improved since the ’70s, but this superhero movie is still as good as it gets—without too many scares to ruin the family fun. There are a few close calls (a school bus almost falls off the Golden Gate Bridge), but Superman always saves the day.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

66. The Lion King (1994)
Grab a tissue for that one scene (you know which one we’re talking about), but after that, the rest of the movie is all song, dance, and excitement for your lil’ monkey.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

67. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
A shrink ray accidentally goes off and sets a group of kids on a journey back home (even though they never leave their backyard) while their parents search high and low for them.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

68. The NeverEnding Story (1984)
For enthusiastic readers with a wild imagination, The Neverending Story will take them for an exciting ride as a young boy tries to save the world of Fantasia.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

69. Trolls (2016)
With an awesome pop rock soundtrack that you’ll want to download, like, asap, this light-hearted flick is about a duo of trolls (Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick) who partner up to rescue their friends from the troll-hungry bad guys.
Rated G.
Recommended for ages 6 & up.

70. Cool Runnings (1993)
Everything seems stacked against these athletes who are completely unprepared for the cold, let alone bobsledding. Loosely based on a true story of the Jamaica national bobsled team, Cool Runnings is a real inspirational film for young dreamers.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 8 & up.

71. Pete’s Dragon (2016) 
Disney’s dragon flick gets a special effects overhaul with this dazzling remake. Note: The first scene features a car accident which kills young Pete’s parents, so if you want to avoid sad questions, skip ahead a few minutes.

Rated PG

Recommended for ages 7 & up.

72. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
From rags to riches, it’s the story of King Arthur in true to Disney style. Your lil’ knight will be giggling, dancing and bopping to the wizarding whimsy of this animated musical.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 5 & up.

73. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
If your budding athlete loves the sports-movie formula of losers becoming winners, then she’ll love this movie that follows a ragtag hockey team as they shape up and learn the value of teamwork and friendship. 

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 10 & up.

74. Shrek (2001)
One unforeseeable plot twist on the classic fairytale? Coming right up! An ogre sets out to rescue a princess with a talking donkey—plus all the characters from your cupcake’s bedtime stories.

Rated PG.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

75. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) 
Three loyal pets escape and journey through the West Coast to find their beloved owners in San Francisco. Your sidekick is going to be asking for a furry family addition after this movie.

Rated G.

Recommended for ages 6 & up.

What’s on YOUR list of must-see films? Share them in the Comments below! 

— Christal Yuen and Melissa Heckscher

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