Photo: Dreamworks/Pearl Studios
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.
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.
The weirdest animated story of the early days of the CGI form was the competition between DreamWorks with Antz and Pixar with A Bug’s Life — two films that the detail lives of the Earth’s smallest creatures in clever ways. Pixar seems to have won the longer battle, but there’s more to like here than you remember, including a strong voice cast and fun visuals.
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.
Travis Knight of Laika fame (Kubo and the Two Strings) directed the best Transformers movie in this unexpectedly joyous spinoff of the massive Hasbro series of films. It’s a movie with the same kind of family-adventure spirit as ’80s classics of the genre, buoyed by fun performances from Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena.
We don’t deserve Aardman. The geniuses behind Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and others made their biggest cinematic splash with this 2000 hit. A clever riff on prison-break movies like Escape From Alcatraz (but with chickens!), this is actually the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time, a title it’s held for almost 20 years now.
Who doesn’t love the Man in the Yellow Hat and his lovable primate? This is the 2006 theatrically released version of the book series by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey that have been popular around the world for generations. With voice work by Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy, and many more, it’s a sweet adventure story for the whole family.
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.
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.
People often point to the Toy Story movies as the model for a great animated series, but credit should be given to the trilogy of movies about a boy named Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. The third and final film in this blockbuster series is already on Hulu, and it’s a gorgeous, heartfelt, moving final chapter to one of the best franchises of the 2010s, animated or live-action.
Hulu gets so random with their family choices, plucking the second film of the Ice Age franchise out and streaming it 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 in particularly made over $660 million. So while nearly every kid on Earth has probably seen it, there’s no reason they can’t watch it again.
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.
This is not the Danny DeVito–voiced recent version but the 1972 short original that aired on TV about a thousand times when you were young. One of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved books gets a loving adaptation in this classic, a story of responsibility and environmental consideration that will never grow old, and should spark some memories for parents of the right age.
Look, a documentary! Yes, non-fiction films can be family ones too. In fact, it was that cross-demographic appeal to the story of the annual journey of emperor penguins in Antarctica to find their breeding grounds that made this such an amazing success, winning Best Documentary at the Oscars after making over $120 million worldwide. Having Morgan Freeman narrate always helps too.
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 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.
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.
This was the first DreamWorks feature to be traditionally animated back in 1998 and was a bigger hit than you probably remember. It’s the story of the Book of Exodus and how Moses went from being just the title character to leading the children out of Israel. It’s a very pretty film visually and features some good music as well, but history seems to have forgotten it in the wake of how much Disney dominated the ’90s.
Gore Verbinski directed one of the best animated films on Hulu, this Oscar-winning featuring voice work by Johnny Depp in the lead role and some of the most inspired visuals in any animated film this decade. Rango is a chameleon who stumbled into a town called Dirt in this inventive riff on the Western genre that plays equally to children and adults.
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.
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.
This 2016 animated film is the story of how storks work to deliver babies, assisted by humans at a distribution center in the sky. One of those humans gets involved in a mistake when she creates a baby they’re not supposed to and end up having to help care for it with her stork partner. The visuals here are strong even if the story is slight. Still, it’s a creative story that you haven’t really seen before.
Not only is the beloved Tiny Toons series on Hulu, but so are several movies from the franchise: 1992’s Tiny Toons Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, 1994’s Tiny Toons Spring Break Special, and 1995’s Tiny Toon Adventures: Night Ghoulery.
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.
Yes, they made a movie about a creepy line of toys. No, it’s not a modern animated classic. But it is something recent that may get the attention of your kids. You can’t make them watch old shows and movies all the time. And sometimes they just want to see something that was in theaters not that long ago, especially given they can’t go out to one in 2020. So, what’s this about? You probably know. Dolls. They’re kind of ugly.
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.
Paramount released this computer-animated flick in early 2019, which feels like a lifetime ago now. It’s a bit simple and silly, but that’s kind of all right in our current stuck-at-home situation. Wonder Park is the story of a girl who puts her imagination away when her mother gets sick and how an imaginary amusement park helps her find that creative spark again.
The 30 Best Movies for Kids on Hulu