The 30 Best Kids Movies on Netflix (2017)

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The 30 Best Kids Movies on Netflix (2017)

A great kids movie is a beautiful and rare thing. As a father of three, I’ve suffered through enough bad kids entertainment to be enormously thankful for filmmakers who take the same kind of care in crafting movies aimed at children as those geared toward a more discerning adult audience. Netflix’s catalog of kids titles ranges from terrible to fantastic, and the following guide is meant to help you avoid the former. Some of these movies you’ve probably already seen, like the Best Disney Movies Streaming on Netflix. But we tried to point out less-obvious options, as well, including kids films from France and Ireland. There are documentaries on both Antarctica and dancing; thrilling live-action adventures; and, of course, plenty of cuddly anthropomorphic animals.

Here are the 30 Best Kids Movies on Netflix:

antz.jpg 30. Antz
Year: 1998
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson
Before Dreamworks became a powerhouse with Shrek and Madagascar, the newly founded company recruited an all-star cast for Antz: Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken and many more. Released in the same year as Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, Antz follows the inspiring story of a lowly worker ant Z (Woody Allen) who tries to work his way up the social ladder in the ant colony while falling in love with Queen Ant’s daughter, Princess Bala (Sharon Stone). —Eric Gossett


great-gilly-hopkins.jpg 29. The Great Gilly Hopkins
Year: 1989
Director: Stephen Herek
Author Katherine Paterson’s inimitable heroine, Galadriel Hopkins, is a fierce 11-year-old foster child who wants nothing more than to be reunited with her mother. Defiant and brilliant at sabotaging every foster family she’s placed in, Gilly is sure that new foster parent Maime Trotter will be no exception. Much to her own surprise, Gilly finds a place within Maime’s odd little composite family: W.E., a 7-year-old boy who is terrified of almost everything and everyone, and Mr. Randolph, an elderly, blind African-American man who comes to supper every night. Unfortunately, the arrival of her maternal grandmother interrupts her newfound happiness. Paterson’s son David, who also penned the script for 2007’s quasi-successful Bridge to Terabithia, wrote the screenplay for this film adaptation. The actors are particularly well cast, especially Kathy Bates as the quirky Trotter. It’s a thoughtful, family-oriented film, but we’d recommend reading the book. —Shelley Wunder-Smith


honey-i-shrunk-the-kids.jpg 28. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Director: Joe Johnston
Entry A into the “We really miss Rick Moranis” file, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is one of the primary reasons that pretty much any child of the ’90s would have a soft spot for the guy. He’s the perfect cinematic dweeb, a scatterbrained, down-on-his-luck inventor who finally succeeds in building a machine that accidentally shrinks his children and the neighbor kids to the size of specks of dust. When they get taken out with the trash, the kids must traverse the backyard like jungle explorers, navigating horrors that range from the blades of the automatic lawnmower to an honestly terrifying stop-motion scorpion attack that would have made Ray Harryhausen proud. It’s a perfect coming-of-age adventure movie in the same spirit as The Goonies. —Jim Vorel


encounters-at-the-end.jpg 27. Encounters at the End of the World
Year: 1987
Director: Werner Herzog 
Werner Herzog’s uncertainty in what he was setting out to explore in Antarctica is both what makes Encounters interesting and its primary problem, as the film wavers from topic to topic without ever settling on a purpose. The film opens with a serene underwater shot, but this doesn’t last long before transitioning to an industrial plane and showing people traveling to Antarctica’s harsh setting. This beginning sets the pace, as Herzog’s trip takes him from one part of the McMurdo Research Station to the next, with the director stopping intermittently to take in the scenery and local fauna. Why do people choose to live in such an extreme environment, and what is it, exactly, that makes us human? These are big questions—especially the latter—but each is explored in a scattershot manner without enough screen time. Encounters’ strongest moments occur when Herzog finally gets around to filming Antarctica. These sections rival anything put together by Planet Earth and, here, the film reaches transcendence. From the tops of volcanoes to the underwater depths beneath the ice, each part of the continent is more mysterious and beautiful than the last. But even while visiting the most remote parts of Antarctica, the landscape the film tours is surprisingly populated. —Sean Gandert


little-witch-academia-enchanted.jpg 26. Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade
Year: 2015
Director: Yoh Yoshinari
Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade is the crowd-funded immediate follow-up to Studio Trigger’s 2013 runaway hit Little Witch Academia (also available on Netflix, but at 26 minutes, too short for this movies list). The Enchanted Parade follows the trio of apprentice witches from the previous short film, Akko Kagari, Lotte Yanson and Sucy Manbavaran, following a harrowing incident during their transfiguration class. As punishment for their involvement, the girls are tasked with orchestrating their school’s annual Enchanted Parade. But when Akko’s overzealous efforts to revamp the Parade’s image inadvertently drive a wedge between her and her friends, can the trio make it out in one piece and out of trouble? Beautiful animation, sharp humor, elaborate action sequences, and a heartwarming conclusion, the only thing wrong with Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade is that it’s only an hour-long and not a full-length series. At least, not yet anyway! —Toussaint Egan


batteries-not-included.jpg 25. *batteries not included
Year: 1987
Director: Matthew Robbins
Old people and aliens partner to fight gentrification for the crowd-pleasing win! Spouses both on and off the screen, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn play a couple who are among the low-income residents of an apartment building at odds with The Man, who goes so far as to hire a local gang to vandalize the couple’s downstairs diner and further drive out the tenants. As luck would have it, a pair of friendly flying saucers dubbed “the Fix-Its” are in town, and squat on the top of the building while repairing anything and everything there in miraculous time. Oh, and the UFOs aren’t just do-gooding Fix-Its, they’re fertile, family-minded Fix-Its at that. Exec produced by Steven Spielberg and co. and with a script co-penned by Brad Bird (his first feature screenplay), *batteries not included is smart and cute, in the best sense of that term—the Fix-Its are positively adorbs. The cast (which also includes Elizabeth Peña) is pitch-perfect, especially the sprightly Cronyn. There’s a childlike innocence to the whole thing, and darned if it doesn’t charm you. —Amanda Schurr


first-position.jpg 24. First Position
Year: 2016
Director: Bess Kargman
First Position takes a look behind the scenes as six young dancers prepare to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition. Directed by Bess Kargman, the documentary follows these performers as they tirelessly train all over the world in the hopes of winning awards, scholarships to prestigious dance schools, or even a chance to be placed in a professional ballet company. It’s an interesting look into the intense labor these children put into crafting performances that are meant to look beautiful and effortless. —Emily Kirkpatrick


phineas.jpg 23. Phineas and Ferb The Movie
Year: 2011
Directors: Dan Povenmire, Robert Hughes
Tucked among The Disney Channel’s awful TV lineup is an 11-minute show packed with intersecting plot lines, adventure in suburbia, intrigue and a pet platypus doubling as a super agent. “Hey Ferb, I know what we’re going to do today,” Phineas says each show before launching into his latest ambitious plan to pass the summer days, whether it’s building a giant tree house that transforms into a giant robot or filming a movie or creating a time machine. Unlike most Disney shows, the kids have a deep-seated affection for both siblings and parents—even as Candice tries to bust her brothers. Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh met while working on The Simpsons. Povenmire later worked on Family Guy, and the cleverness of those shows has wore off on both. And the movie captures all that’s great about the show. —Josh Jackson


Peewee.jpeg 22. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Year: 1985
Director: Tim Burton 
Tim Burton’s full-length directorial debut is also one of his best. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure brings us into the bizarre-o world of Pee-wee Herman, the excitable, ageless protagonist that’s hopelessly attached to his bike. After it’s stolen in broad daylight, we see Herman travel across the U.S. to reclaim his baby. And through the adventure and its ongoing discoveries (who knew The Alamo didn’t have a basement?) we’re introduced to unforgettable characters like Herman; his (sort-of) love interest, Dottie; the horrifying trucker ghost Large Marge; the snotty, rich Francis and Herman’s dog, Speck. Herman’s wacky world is fully realized through the eye of Burton, and this one stands alone as a film that kids and adults can both get a kick out of. Netflix’s new film Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday is definitely worth watching, but Big Adventure is the place to start. —Tyler Kane


prince-of-egypt.jpg 21. The Prince of Egypt
Year: 1998
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells
Rating: G
The scene where Moses parts the seas in this animated musical is a truly epic moment. An adaptation of the Book of Exodus, the biblical DreamWorks release follows Moses in his climatic quest to free the slaves from Egypt—all of which can be summed up by the line “Let my people go!” The score was composed by Hans Zimmer, who collaborated with Stephen Schwartz on “When You Believe,” which won Best Original Song at the 1999 Academy Awards. Disclaimer: Kids might argue plot lines are factual history at a later date. —Alexa Carrasco


home-movie-poster.jpg 20. Home
Year: 2015
Director: Tim Johnson
Home is a hammy, intro-to-colonialism flick for kids, the precursor to Disney’s 2016 intro-to-racism film, Zootopia. But Home’s goofy, hyperbolic melodrama works in its favor, in large part because said goofy, hyperbolic melodrama is couched within the parameters of animated children’s fare, and is more palatable as a result. If you’re the parent of young kids, and if you want to introduce them to the joys of science-fiction, Home is a fine place to start, where Oh (Jim Parsons), an endearingly loquacious member of the alien race known as the Boovs, befriends Tip (Rihanna), a teenager searching for her mother in Australia. (On paper you’d think Parsons and Rihanna’d go together like peanut butter and pickles, but they’re utterly charming as a team.) Why Australia? Because that’s where the Boovs relocate all of humanity following a “friendly” invasion of Earth, which they deem a suitable planet to call their new home after escaping their enemies, the Gorg. It’s a bit basic, but basic works in Home’s favor, allowing its darker subtext to shine without feeling overwhelming for kids or dishonest for adults. —Andy Crump


superman-the-movie.jpg 19. Superman
Year: 1978
Director: Richard Donner
Superman, the original superhero, had been depicted onscreen prior—with a live-action television show, as well as both animated and live-action big screen serials, it’s true. But the most iconic version of the legendary figure unquestionably belongs to Christopher Reeve in Richard Donner’s 1978 film. “You will believe a man can fly,” promised the tagline, and, although the impressiveness of the SFX of the time have diminished considerably, one has to be the hardest of hard-bitten cynics to not succumb to its euphoric tone and myriad charms. Following the Man of Steel from his exodus off his doomed planet of Krypton as a baby, to growing up the adopted child of loving Smallville parents, the Kents, Superman is a hell of a rousing tale of the ultimate immigrant, mixing happily with the action, romance and goofball comedy set pieces. Apart from Reeve’s inspired handling of his dual role as both a gentle demigod and nerdy reporter, Clark Kent, there’s practically an overabundance of talent in front of the camera. As Lois Lane, feisty journalist and fulcrum of Superman/Clark’s love triangle, Margot Kidder nails both the physical comedy and starry-eyed wonder. Gene Hackman as the Blue Boy Scout’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, instills the mad scientist with a note of vulnerability to pair with his massive ego. And—oh yeah—Marlon Frickin’ Brando is Superman’s daddy, appearing both as Krypton’s sole voice of reason in the film’s opening moments and later as a disembodied computer AI who reveals Kal-El’s true heritage to him. Of course, there’s John Williams’ unforgettable score—an iconic piece of work all on its own. Oh, Man of Steel tried to become the de facto origin of Supes in 2013, but Snyder and company should have known they were wasting their time. Superman 1978 is not just your father’s Superman, it’s the Superman. —Scott Wold


lilo-stitch.jpg 18. Lilo & Stitch
Year: 2016
Directors: Dean DeBois, Chris Sanders
Rating: PG
Writer/directors Dean DeBois and Chris Sanders wrote Mulan and wrote/directed How to Train Your Dragon, and that same humor and originality is at play in Lilo & Stitch a story about a little girl who wants a dog and an alien who fulfills her wish and then some. The adorable prankster from outer space is at the heart of this story of accepting differences, and crash-landed his place in the Disney roster of iconic animated heroes. Funny, heartwarming and imaginative with an Elvis soundtrack to boot. —Josh Jackson


emp-new-groove.jpg 17. The Emperor’s New Groove
Year: 2000
Director: Mark Dindal
The lasting appeal of this 2000 animated buddy comedy from Disney can likely be attributed to some truly genius voice casting: there’s David Spade as a vain emperor-turned-llama, John Goodman as a lovable peasant, Patrick Warburton as a dim-witted and deep-voiced palace guard and, of course, the perfect Eartha Kitt as the deliciously evil usurper of the throne. The story is fairly predictable, but the fun Peruvian setting is visually appealing and the fast-paced story allows for moments of lighthearted comedy that welcome repeat viewings. Also, the fact that it’s a Disney movie with no hokey musical numbers is a plus. —John Riti


monster-in-paris.jpg 16. A Monster in Paris
Year: 2011
Director: Bibo Bergeron
Rating: PG
One of the most American-style animation films from France, A Monster in Paris is set in 1910. Expect to see some lovely landmarks and monuments in this comedic tale of two unlikely partners saving a misunderstood monster who has landed in Paris. The film won animated film of the year and best original music in the César Awards (France’s Oscars) and earned more than $100 million internationally, while making a quieter splash in the States. —Madina Papadopoulos


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