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The 18 Best Kids' Movies on Netflix Instant

August 22, 2012  |  4:49pm
If you’re a parent, movie night can be an exercise in compromise, steering the young ones away from the abundance of terrible kids’ movies out there. But there are also some great kids’ movies out there that grown-ups will enjoy as much as the kids, and many of them are just a couple clicks away on Netflix Instant. Here are the 18 Best Kids’ Movies on Netflix Instant:

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9. Rango
Year: 2011
Rating: PG
For Ages: 4+
The most surprising thing about Rango is how much Johnny Depp disappears into the character of a nameless pet chameleon who creates his identity when his terrarium falls out of the back of a car into the desert frontier. Unlike a certain cartoon panda, who was basically an animated version of every Jack Black character ever, Rango is no Keith Richards with an eye-patch or crazy barber/milliner/chocolatier. He’s a cipher who becomes a fraud who becomes a hero. It’s truly gritty, and that seemed to be what my own kids loved about it. Kids don’t always need primary colors and fluffy bunnies and 3-D effects. Sometimes a scrawny, ugly chameleon in the dirty Old West will do.

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8. Thor
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
For Ages: 10+
Though it’s rated PG-13, Thor may be the most kid-friendly of the Avengers films. It’s a very well-executed movie, offering corny one-liners and plenty of muscle-bound heroism to whet fan appetites. Featuring characters taken from the Marvel comic universe, the film stars Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman and is directed by Kenneth Branagh (a guy more normally associated with the Great Bard than with Stan Lee). The story has warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) exiled by his father Odin (Hopkins) to Earth from his fantastical home of Asgard. It should be lauded for maintaining a tongue-in-cheek tone. It’s surprisingly literate and even sharp in places, while not ever getting too dark or disturbing. It’s that balance between edgier complexity and lighthearted appeal that makes Thor suitable for just about everyone.—Jonathan Hickman

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7. The Muppet Movie
Year: 1979
Rating: G
For Ages: 4+
This 1979 movie is a trip back to the beginning, when Kermit was just a frog with a dream. He stumbles across like-minded puppets with grand plans—Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and our personal favorite, Animal—to form a variety show that continues to make us smile. Your kids deserve to know the whole story, right?—Josh Jackson

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6. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Year: 1993
Rating: PG
For Ages: 8+
On simply a shot-by-shot basis, The Nightmare Before Christmas ranks as one of the most visually splendid films ever made. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, becomes obsessed with Christmas and decides to hijack the holiday. Often presented under the title Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, the film echoes many of the hit director’s pet themes, with Jack being one of Burton’s many brooding artistic protagonists. The film’s actual director was Henry Selick, who oversees an ingenious design and a cast of endearing monsters. The film doesn’t quite have the narrative fuel and graceful song lyrics to match Disney’s best animated musicals, but every year the film looks better and better.—Michael Burgin

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5. The Secret of Nimh
Year: 1982
Rating: G
For Ages: 4+
The film adaption of Robert C. O’Brien’s award-winning book was another Don Bluth creation (the opposite of brightly-colored, pop-culture-referencing Pixar flicks—feats of artistic prowess set in dystopic environments and populated by bizarre creatures). It’s the story of mouse Mrs. Brisby and her frantic search to move her children to safety as plowing season threatens to destroy her home. Along the way she uncovers N.I.M.H.‘s (National Institute of Mental Health) horrific animal-testing past and meets the world’s most terrifying owl.—Rachel Dovey

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4. The Gold Rush
Year: 1925
Rating: NR
For Ages: 8+
Alongside City Lights, The Gold Rush remains Charlie Chaplin’s pinnacle as a filmmaker and actor. He agreed, calling it a personal favorite amongst his immense body of work. With stunning set pieces and memorable scenes, including the famous roll dance and shoe-eating dinner, the film provides one of the earliest and profoundest examples of dramedy in cinema. In quintessential Chaplin fashion, it weaves together slapstick and melancholy, generating both laughs and cries for the lonely yet hilarious Little Tramp.—David Roark

tintin.jpg3. The Adventures of Tintin
Year: 2009
Rating: NR
For Ages: 6+
Created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (under the pen name Hergé), the intrepid carrot-topped reporter/sleuth stands as a titan of European comics. But director Steven Spielberg held the film rights for nearly 30 years, waiting for the right moment to give Tintin his cinematic due. The Adventures of Tintin does just that, impressively capturing the spirit of the source material. It’s clever in the best sense of the word—from the Tintin mini-adventure embedded in the opening titles to the meticulous attention to details throughout (a quality for which Hergé himself was so admired). As one would expect from a Spielberg-directed adventure, the pacing is “Raiders brisk”—so much so that there was even a little hesitant expectation at film’s end as half the audience seemed unsure whether the latest climax was the last.—Michael Burgin

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2. The Secret of Kells
Year: 2009
Rating: NR
For Ages: 6+
Set in 8th-Century Ireland, our hero is the 12-year-old apprentice Brendan, who befriends a forest spirit namd Aisling in his quest to protect The Book of Kells from Viking invaders. The Secret of Kells’ hand-drawn style gives it a gorgeous and breathtaking visual flair, a charm most of its contemporaries lack.

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1. Hugo
Year: 2011
Rating: PG
For Ages: 6+
With Hugo, director Martin Scorsese has created a dazzling, wondrous experience, an undeniable visual masterpiece. In his adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese weaves together his many passions and concerns: for art, for film, and for fathers and father-figures. He retells the story of a boy (Hugo Cabret, played by Asa Butterfield) in search of a way to complete his father’s work. Alongside Hugo’s tale is the true story of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), one of the world’s first filmmakers.—Shannon Houston

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