The Princess and the Frog.
This article is updated frequently as titles leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
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.
Just as Disney was starting its renaissance in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, Don Bluth also released a hit cartoon that didn’t get nearly the same attention but has developed a loyal following over the years. The voice cast is top-notch, filled with classic actors like Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson, Dom DeLuise, and Vic Tayback.
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.
There’s kind of been a weird revolving door thing wherein one of the two movies based on the beloved book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is available on a streaming service (usually the second one), but it looks like the stars have finally aligned: Both movies and the TV series are on Netflix now! Watch ‘em while you can. They’re funny, smart, and as sweet as maple syrup.
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.
In a year when there were too many Netflix original movies every week to watch them all, one of the few true surprises was this wonderful family action film that further proves that Millie Bobby Brown is going to be a massive star. She plays the title character, the teenage sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes, who gets involved in a mystery of her own.
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!
Any conversation about the best cinematic trilogies ever simply must include the DreamWorks films about Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. The original is still the undeniable masterpiece, but both sequels are nearly as good, including this 2014 story of how Hiccup reunites with his mother, voiced by Cate Blanchett. It’s a gorgeous, moving story of family and legacy.
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 Lynne Reid Banks book on which this is based is one of the most beloved of all time for a reason. It was adapted in 1995 by the legendary Frank Oz and tells the story of a boy who discovers that the toys he puts in his new cupboard come to life when he closes it. It’s more lyrical and intelligent than a lot of children’s entertainment, reflecting the quality of its source material.
It feels like Netflix has developed another Christmas classic in this 2020 offering that wowed critics and viewers over the holiday season. A lavish production, it’s a musical telling of an original story about a toymaker who finds his creative drive again through his granddaughter. Original music, original storytelling, and an original vision—this is the kind of family filmmaking that should be embraced.
Ralph Macchio became a household name after starring in this 1984 family film about a kid who learns the art of karate from a master named Mr. Miyagi, unforgettably played by Pat Morita. The love for this film has sustained while so many other ‘80s flicks have been forgotten by history. Check it out (and its sequel) to find out why.
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.
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.
Netflix added the two Illumination Dr. Seuss movies in August 2020, and this is actually the superior offering, a clever little story of Thneedville, a walled city that has no need for the natural world, and a 12-year-old there who learns the story of the Lorax, voiced perfectly by Danny DeVito. As the state of our planet continues its free fall, a sweet, funny reminder that we need to cherish it could be good for kids and parents too.
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.
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 aren’t nearly enough family-friendly foreign films on any of the major streaming services (other than the Studio Ghibli section of HBO Max), so take the chance to watch the ones you can, including this 2017 fable by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It’s the story of a girl who finds a flower that can make her a witch, but for only one night and the production includes some of the Ghibli masters who worked on When Marnie Was There and The Secret World of Arrietty.
The great J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) directed this 2016 fantasy film for the older kids in your family. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Ness about a child named Conor (Lewis MacDougall) who is dealing with a terminally ill mother (Felicity Jones). His fears and grief manifest in the form of a monstrous tree, voiced by Liam Neeson in a fantasy/horror tale that’s really about how children deal with death.
It’s OK for kids to be a little scared. It builds confidence that they can get through the frightening stuff in the real world to safety again. And Gil Kenan’s animated movie about a house that eats people is a little scary, clearly owing a great deal to hit family films of the ‘80s like Gremlins.
We don’t deserve Laika. The geniuses at the best stop-motion animation studio in the world delivered the goods with films like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, but their best work remains this 2012 gem about a kid who can see ghosts. As Norman tries to end centuries-old curse, this visually striking and ultimately moving work never falters once.
After stealing three Madagascar movies, the wisecracking penguins of that hit franchise got their own spin-off film in this 2014 blockbuster. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private go on an adventure in a fun, breezy piece of escapism that boasts just enough humor to keep the whole family entertained.
Robert Zemeckis’s experiments with CGI animation started with the 2004 adaptation of the 1985 children’s book of the same name. Some of the visuals here already look pretty dated (and were kind of creepy when it came out anyway) but there’s a whimsy and sweetness to the storytelling that have turned this into an annual watch for a reason.
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.
Gore Verbinski directed one of the best animated films on Netflix, 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.
Most of the family films on Netflix skew young, so it’s nice to see something for slightly older kids in this 2011 flick about giant fighting robots. Hugh Jackman gives it his all given that he has to lead a film about boxing machines, but it’s the special effects that will entrance the little ones. It’s all more then a little silly, but in a very escapist way.
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!
Oz Rodriguez co-wrote and directed this fun family/comedy/horror hybrid that’s reminiscent of genre films from the ‘80s in its blend of the spooky and the playful. Three kids in the Bronx discover that the gentrification in their neighborhood includes some literal bloodsuckers. The kids steal the show, but Shea Whigham, Method Man, and Sarah Gadon are great in the supporting cast, too.
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.
Jon Favreau has become one of the world’s most popular producers of family entertainment with his involvement with Disney, the MCU, and The Mandalorian, but he really cut his teeth in this world with the strong Zathura, a sequel to Jumanji. Once again, a magical game transports brothers to another place, sending them into the reaches of space, and they’re forced to find their way back home again.
Kevin James stars in the 2011 comedy as a zookeeper who is unlucky in love but adored by the animals at the zoo at which he works, voiced by Jon Favreau, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, and many more. Things get really weird when James’s character learns that the animals can talk, and he can understand them. Too reliant on physical humor, this is what one would expect from a family Happy Madison flick, but families who miss actually going to the zoo in 2020 may enjoy this virtual trip.
The 30 Best Movies for Kids on Netflix