The 40 Best Family & Kids Movies on Netflix

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The 40 Best Family & Kids Movies on Netflix

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 Children & Family movies 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, Brazil and Japan. There are documentaries on both Antarctica and babies; thrilling live-action adventures; and, of course, plenty of cuddly anthropomorphic animals. We’ve included anything Netflix lists as “Children & Family.”

Here are the 40 Best Children & Family Movies on Netflix:

boss-baby.jpg 40. Boss Baby
Year: 2017
Director: Tom McGrath
Rating: PG
By all accounts, Tom McGrath’s The Boss Baby is a bizarre film. It imagines that the horror of displacement from the center of one’s family is analogous to corporate takeover (with new babies churned along on a conveyor belt, a select few chosen for “upper management”); that capitalism is so entrenched in the way we think and operate it shapes how we view conception; and that the selfishness of babies is comparable to the dispassionate self-interest of the Suits. Still, most poignantly, it dissects not only how we feel about validation, but how we prioritize it. Its recent Academy Award nomination has sparked skepticism, but perhaps its vivacity and emotional acumen make it both deserving of its nod. When the arrival of a younger brother (Alec Baldwin as Theodore, though the movie mostly refers to him as the Boss Baby) upends seven-year-old year old Tim Templeton’s (Miles Christopher Bakshi) domestic life—once filled with phantasmagorically imaginative episodes of adventure for only him and his parents—Tim initially sets out on a quest to mark his territory. Unused to the attention not being on him, he butts heads with his new baby sibling, and the two vie for their parents’ (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow) attention. The Boss Baby looks like a manager, an uncompromising force all suited up, and the tension between the two reaches a detente when the Boss Baby reveals his identity and his mission: He is an undercover manager from BabyCo (where babies come from!) sent to Earth to recenter love and attention on babies because scientifically manufactured young pet animals have become a threat to the status quo. It is both a comedy of sibling rivalry and a corporate espionage film. The Boss Baby articulates a simplified version of Karl Marx’s theory of alienation, specifically the alienation of the worker from the act of production. Even though he makes it to the top of the hierarchy that exists within Baby Corp, the Boss Baby soon realizes that since he experiences such detachment from that labor, he might as well give it up altogether. The film’s reinforcement of nuclear family ideals ends up somewhat more egalitarian; the masculinist obsession with corporate success turns out, in fact, to be hollow and stultifying. That it can delineate between all these different types of fulfillment with such panache more than makes The Boss Baby worthy of a cookie. And cookies are for closers. —Kyle Turner


bfg.jpg 39. BFG
Year: 2016
Director:  Steven Spielberg 
Rating: PG
The work of beloved author Roald Dahl has a vivid cinematic history. As the writer of some of the most epochal children’s literature of the past century, Dahl’s work has been rightfully praised for its imaginative characters, immersive worlds and a sense of humor that doesn’t condescend to a younger audience—but may also keep them up past bedtime. As such, it’s been fertile ground for cinematic adaptations, attracting idiosyncratic directors including Nicolas Roeg, Wes Anderson and Danny DeVito. Steven Spielberg, a director whose reputation precedes him as a master of wonder, is a welcome addition to that list. But while Spielberg’s new adaptation of Dahl’s celebrated 1982 novel, The BFG, is speckled with signature moments of scale and grace that characterize both Dahl’s and Spielberg’s respective output, The BFG fails to convincingly evoke danger, and as a result, falls unusually flat as a satisfying narrative. The BFG manages to avoid issues of visual artificiality, even as it relies completely on the believability of a friendship between Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and a 25-foot-tall, Dumbo-eared, avuncular CGI giant (Mark Rylance). Taking place mostly in a mythical place called Giant Country where the landscapes are endlessly steep, and even the composition of a cottage is transformed into a jungle gym thanks to its colossal sense of scale, The BFG constantly teeters on the possibility of falling apart—but thanks to Spielberg, none of these scenarios feel goofier than they should. It’s the work of a director who still knows how to wave his wand and conjure magic, but to what end? The BFG seems unsure. —Michael Snydel


mars-gen.jpg 38. The Mars Generation
Year: 2017
Director: Michael Barnett
Rating: PG
Documentary filmmakers have a fascinating responsibility to shed light on particular subjects that a typical movie-going audience wouldn’t necessarily be privy to. If someone can capture an audience with complex scientific topics, for instance, they’ve accomplished a feat worthy of celebration. In a film featuring science icons Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and Michio Kaku, director Michale Barnett asks the question, “Will we ever put people on Mars?” The kids featured in The Mars Generation certainly hope so. Coupled with a generous amount of historical space exploration footage (some of which is fairly heavy), this film concurrently follows a group of teenagers at Space Camp and the science community’s general desire to go to Mars, highlighting a younger generation of aspiring astronauts who just want a chance to get off the Earth. —Pete Mercer


antz.jpg 37. Antz
Year: 1998
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson
Rating: PG
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


homeward-bound.jpg 36. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Year: 1993
Director: Duwayne Dunham
Rating: G
Adding voices to the three lost pets trekking home (as opposed to the genial narration of the ’60s original) means we get bulldog pup Chance (Michael J. Fox) constantly saying, “Dogs drool and cats rule!” Some of the nobility and dignity of the species is restored by the wise old golden retriever Shadow (voiced by Oscar winner Don Ameche). He’s the one who decides it’s time to go find their humans, who counsels the young pup on a dog’s duty of loyalty, and who finds and comforts a lost little girl in the wilderness, despite Chance’s warning that strangers will turn them over to the pound. Sassy the cat (voiced by Sally Field) comes to Shadow (Don Ameche)’s rescue when he’s captured by animal control on their long trek home. As he limps over a hill at the movie’s end, just try not to burst into tears. —Sharon Knolle


hercules.jpg 35. Hercules
Year: 1997
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Rating: G
Hercules is yet another staple to come out of Disney’s ’90s reign, stuck between 1996’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1998’s Mulan. Featuring voice contributions from Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito and James Woods, the film follows the harrowing adventure of Greek demigod Hercules (Donovan), who, after he’s banished to Earth by his evil uncle Hades (Woods), must learn to become a “true hero” and go back home to Olympus to defeat his uncle once and for all. It’s not the most substantial of Disney films, but its quality and style is impressive, vaguely reminiscent of Greek art without feeling flat, given how many films Disney was churning out at that time. —Eric Gossett


pocahontas.jpg 34. Pocahontas
Year: 1995
Directors: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
Rating: G
On my seventh birthday, I got two identical Pocahontas Barbie dolls. My parents asked me if I wanted to return one of them and exchange it for something else. I opted to keep them both. That’s how obsessed with Pocahontas—or in my case, the two Pocahontii—I was. Of course, as with most Disney movies, as I got older I could recognize its whitewashing of history and the less-than-feminist ideals, but despite its problems, Pocahontas remains at the very least a conversation-starter, a jumping-off point from which to begin talking to your kids about race. Pop it in and then discuss it with them, warts and all. —Bonnie Stiernberg


great-gilly-hopkins.jpg 33. The Great Gilly Hopkins
Year: 2016
Director: Stephen Herek
Rating: PG
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


little-prince.jpg 32. The Little Prince
Year: 2016
Director: Mark Osborne
Rating: PG
The film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s seminal novella The Little Prince is a strange film—and not just because it finishes the entire story set out by the original source material before the first hour is over. But even as it struggles to not undermine its own messages in its second half, Mark Osborne’s adaptation bursts with life, and serves as an overly blunt but effective story about growing up without losing why childhood mattered. Or as the film succinctly puts it: It’s the difference between growing up and becoming a grown-up. Osborne creates a new framing device for Saint-Exupéry’s story of allegorical power—a little girl (Mackenzie Foy) who’s living a painfully practical existence. She lives with her single mother in the house next to the narrator, The Aviator (a madcap Jeff Bridges), her mom (Rachel McAdams) planning out every minute of her day, as represented by a comically detailed wall tableau. A friendship develops, and soon the little girl hungers to hear more of the Aviator’s story and The Little Prince’s adventures that he’s written over many years. Cutting between Bridges’ folksy narration and the internal world of the story he’s telling, the film flashes between computer-generated animation with photorealistic environments and stunning stop-motion. The storybook world is presented as a sprawling diorama fantasia with The Little Prince (Riley Osborne), made up of malted wood and meticulous tissue paper placement, and the world around him layered in fine fabric, construction paper and purposely artificial details like stars hanging from a string off the top of the frame. The Little Prince is a conflicted final product. The film is admirable for its gentle hand when it comes to difficult subjects like the ephemeral nature of life, and its bold visual style, but it’s also a film whose final reel seems unwilling to recognize the realities of its own story. —Michael Snydel


encounters-at-the-end.jpg 31. Encounters at the End of the World
Year: 1987
Director: Werner Herzog 
Rating: G
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 30. Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade
Year: 2015
Director: Yoh Yoshinari
Rating: NR
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 29. *batteries not included
Year: 1987
Director: Matthew Robbins
Rating: PG
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


babies.jpg 28. Babies
Year: 2010
Director: Thomas Balmès
Rating: PG
If you’re averse to cute things—raindrops, roses, whiskers on kittens etc.—then Babies probably isn’t for you. Directed by Thomas Balmès, this beautifully shot film follows four infants (one each in Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco) from birth to their first steps. The children have no dialogue, obviously, and their parents have minimal roles. But Babies offers surprising moments of both tension and humor: Bayar, in Mongolia, is left alone in a field among cows; a grumpy Mari in Tokyo struggles with a toy; Hattie in San Francisco masters the art of banana eating; and the daily rituals of Ponijao and her family in Namibia are fascinating if only because their culture of communal child-rearing is so far removed from Western practices. Babies is billed as nonfiction and not as a documentary; the film is devoid of narrative­ structure, and makes a point to side-step the grumpy underbelly of child-rearing. Yet it still offers a clear and resonant message of common, shared humanity, providing contours to the film’s nebulous aesthetic even as it straddles the line between reality and fairy tale. —Christine Ziemba


phineas.jpg 27. Phineas and Ferb The Movie
Year: 2011
Directors: Dan Povenmire, Robert Hughes
Rating: G
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


pirates-dead-men.jpg 26. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Year: 2017
Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Rating: PG-13
One of the many right moves that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales pulls off in order to steer this behemoth of a franchise in the right direction is to acknowledge that Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) works better as comedy relief than the absolute focal point of the narrative. A little of Depp’s unholy love child of Keith Richards, Buster Keaton and a drunken octopus goes a long way. The fifth film in the series embodies a fairly superficial, yet breezy and well-executed pirate adventure/fantasy story—handsome rapscallion Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) wants Poseidon’s trident to break a curse that keeps his father, Will (Orlando Bloom), trapped in a ship under the sea. The smart and gorgeous Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) wants to find it to prove the validity of her father’s scientific research. Captain Barbarosa (the always reliably gruff and cranky Geoffrey Rush) wants it to, well, it’s not exactly clear. In the midst of all this, Jack Sparrow has to come along in order protect himself from the wrath of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a ruthless ghost captain whose zombie crew is wreaking havoc across the sea in service of one goal: Kill Jack Sparrow. Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t rewrite the rulebook for the franchise or the genre as a whole, and is wholly predictable from start to finish, but the likable characters—Thwaites and Scodelario have more natural presence and mutual chemistry than Bloom and Knightley—creative action set pieces, and Depp finally being put in his place in the franchise creates a fun ride that’s instantly forgettable. You know, like the ride itself. —Oktay Ege Kozak


Peewee.jpeg 25. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Year: 1985
Director: Tim Burton 
Rating: PG
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 24. 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


queen-of-katwe.jpg 23. Queen of Katwe
Year: 2016
Director: Mira Nair
Rating: PG
Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in 2016, Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe is based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi (newcomer Madina Nalwanga), the first titled female chess player in Ugandan history. Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) directs the Disney biopic, following Mutesi’s unlikely journey of a girl living in the Kampala slum of Katwe, who dropped out of school at age 9 when her father died of AIDS to help her mother Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o) sell maize in the streets. When Robert Katende (Selma’s David Oyelowo) teaches chess to some of the local children, Phiona becomes fascinated with game. The film is as much about Phiona’s the struggles of discovering a world outside of her slum as it is a typical underdog sports biopic. —Paste Staff


monster-in-paris.jpg 22. 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


Coolrunnings.jpg 21. Cool Runnings
Year: 1993
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Rating: PG
Cool Runnings is based on the true story of disgraced American Olympian ex-bobsledder Irv Blizter. Living in Jamaica, working as a bookie, he is approached by young Jamaican athletes who want to start a Jamaican bobsledding team. This unique story has everything it takes to make a good movie: fallen hero, great underdog, hilarious moments, and an amazing soundtrack. (Also, John Candy, Leon and Doug E. Doug are all great in it.—Ed.)—Madina Papadopoulos


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