The Best Kids Movies on Amazon Prime

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The Best Kids Movies on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime  doesn’t have a great selection of kids movies. We desperately tried to recommend 10, wading through every off-brand animation and modern take on the after-school special to find a handful of gems. But alas, when the streaming service dropped Shaun the Sheep last month, that left us with nine. And even then, we’ve included a couple of PG-13 films that might not be appropriate for the littler people. But children deserve quality as much as adults, and these nine kids movies are more than just a cute animal on the cover. Some are adaptations from classic books or movies that everyone should see before they leave the nest.

Here are the 9 Best Kids Movies on Amazon Prime:

snowy-day.jpg 9. The Snowy Day
Year: 2016
Directors: Jamie Badminton, Rufus Blacklock
I’ll admit I’m biased on this one. A Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, was my absolute favorite book as a child, and it’s one I now read to my children all the time. I was a bit nervous that this animated special, produced and narrated by Laurence Fishburne, might not capture the magical simplicity of the book. Thankfully, I was wrong. The animation brings the book’s signature drawings to life while fleshing out a very simple story about a boy who loves the snow. Angela Bassett, Regina King and Jamie-Lynn Sigler lend their voices to this soon-to-be classic.—Amy Amatangelo


red-fern-grows.jpg 8. Where the Red Fern Grows
Year: 1974
Director: Norman Tokar
Just reading the title of the movie—based on the tearjerking 1961 novel—might make you burst into tears. What is it with children’s books where the pet dies? A boy buys two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs and trains them from puppies, which means adorable scenes of puppies licking him, learning to track a scent and playing tug of war. They grow into fine hunting dogs, but when [SPOILER ALERT OR TRIGGER WARNING FOR ANY SENSITIVE KID] Old Dan is mauled by a mountain lion and dies, Ann also dies from grief. Their heartbroken owner buries them together, then finds a red fern growing on their grave, a sign (according to Native American legend) that an angel planted it. Right up there with Old Yeller for Most Heartbreaking Dog Movie of All Time. —Sharon Knolle


free-willly.jpg 7. Free Willy
Year: 1993
Director: Simon Wincer
Free Willy was ahead of its time. Before Blackfish changed the way we forever looked at SeaWorld and captive orcas, there was Jesse and Willy—two unruly kids from different species, who end up saving each other—and an amusement park owner who valued profit over his aquatic mammals. Life imitated art when the film inspired a campaign to free Keiko, the orca who portrayed Willie, from a Mexican park. He was finally released into the wild nine years after the film’s debut, but was unable to adapt to life in the ocean. Spoiler alert: The movie has a much happier ending. —Josh Jackson


nut-job.jpg 6. The Nut Job
Year: 2014
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Who knew that in the city parks across America, all the furry vermin who skitter, forage and burrow exist in a grand interlocked society built around the process of collecting a communal horde for hibernation season? As nutty as that might sound (or not), it’s the crux of Peter Lepeniotis’s richly animated misadventure that evokes The Wind and the Willows (if funneled through a rigorous round of urban planning). Much salt and season is added to the archetypal recipe and as a result, The Nut Job is an energetic, yet mixed bag. The impressive 3-D effect adds subtle enriching depth, but the parallel human story about a bunch of no-neck thugs and their pet pug trying to pull off a bank heist is done with an odd noir-ish flare. And Surly the squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) is a self-centered outlier who tries to spin everything to his advantage without contributing to the bigger social good. He’s got a few supporters in Andie (Katherine Heigl), the fox-colored squirrel with a fiery temperament and love interest potential, and Buddy, the tacit but sweet rat, proving again that the detested carrier of the plague can in fact endear on screen. Throw in Precious (Maya Rudolph) the tail-twerking pug assigned to rid the robbers of their fur-ball nemeses (yet instantaneously subservient to the holder of a shiny high-pitched dog whistle) and Raccoon (Liam Neeson), the gruff leader of Liberty Park with many agendas in play and an Angry Bird (big head, little body and a nasty peck) on his shoulder, and much circumvolution ensues. The result yields some sprite comedic darts and just enough kibbles for both sides of the family viewing equation. (The violence is cartoonish enough to be considered relatively benign.) —Tom Meek


tiger-family-trip.jpg 5. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tiger Family Trip
Year: 2017
Directors: Vadim Kapridov, Demetrius Wren, Nathan W. Fullerton, Nathalie Toriel
If you grew up watching Mister Rodger’s Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood holds a special joy as it hones in on the gentle and kind spirt of the original. In this hour long special episode, Daniel and his family take a road trip to visit Daniel’s granpere. On the road, Daniel encounters things that will be familiar to all families especially the “are we there yet” phenomenon. Once at his grandpa’s house, Daniel adjust to all the different things about being on vacation from sleeping in a new bed to eating breakfast outside. Daniel is instantly relatable to children. He’s enthusiastic, clever and caring but not perfect. He makes mistakes and learns from them. In short, he’s tigertastic! —Amy Amatangelo


american-girl-melody.jpg 4. An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win
Year: 2016
Director: Tina Mabry
One of the smartest things Amazon did was option the American Girl franchise. You know the dolls and these clever set of movies brings them to life. As a parent it’s hard to find suitable programming for the tween set—something that is not too young or too old. These movies are delightfully age appropriate. Melody 1963: Love Has to Win explores the civil rights movement through the eyes of 10 year old Melody (Marsai Martin, Black-ish). And the modern day Summer Camp, Friends for Life explores STEAM initiative through Z Yang (Zoe Manarel), one of the newest characters. What’s particularly great about these movies is that they are written and directed by women ensuring that the message of girl empowerment shines through. —Amy Amatangelo


the-last-crusade.jpg 3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Directed by:   Steven Spielberg  
After the mindfreak that was Indiana Jones and the Temple Doom left a bad taste in audiences’ mouths (creating the PG-13 rating in the process), Steven Spielberg and his collaborators went back to the drawing board, crafting a film that would retain the simpler tone of Raiders of the Lost Ark without feeling like a rehash of that Oscar-nominated adventure. After filing through several different pitches and drafts (Spielberg even admitted at one point he felt he was “too old” for some of the stories), Spielberg and producer/writer George Lucas settled on a story about the search for The Holy Grail. Spielberg’s stroke of genius, however, was not only his decision to incorporate Indiana’s Jones estranged father into the plotline but to cast Sean Connery to fill the role. The dramatic dynamic between father and son lends the film an emotional heft that is noticeably absent from the more lightweight Raiders. In this way, one could perhaps even hold up Last Crusade as the superior story (emphasis on “perhaps”). Plus, as an added bonus, the film offers a prologue featuring the late, great River Phoenix as a young Indiana Jones. —Mark Rozeman


iron-man.jpg 2. Iron Man
Year: 2008
Director: Jon Favreau 
There are plenty of important moments in the development of the superhero film, but the first Iron Man film boasts a few: It’s the first entry in Phase 1 of the MCU, and thus the easy-to-define dawn of the Marvel Age. But more interestingly, it showed that an actor could so overshadow the hero he portrays that he supplants that character, and it be good. Before Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Iron Man was a great suit of armor with a pretty boring alter ego. Stark’s personal story arcs involved heart trouble, alcohol abuse and intellectual property disputes. Downey Jr. brought the quips and the irreverence, and made Tony Stark on film much more fascinating than he had ever been in the comics. Comic book fan and neophyte alike loved the result. On a more basic level, the casting of Downey Jr. represented what would be a triumphant trio of casting moves—Downey Jr., Evans’ Captain America, and Hemsworth’s Thor—that would set the tone for the entire MCU. While Evans and Hemsworth are their respective characters, Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr. As for the film itself, Iron Man had what all the initial MCU brand launches have had thus far: a first-time-on-film freshness as an invigorating expression of the core character that had 40+ years under its belt yet not one good film to show for it. Add the increasing ability of CGI to handle the “super” of it all, and it’s pretty easy to overlook some of the film’s weaker plot points (e.g., the rushed “Wait, how does Jeff Bridges know how to operate that armor?” ending). As a result, even as we’re raging toward Infinity, the debut of the Downey Jr. show still ranks among the MCU’s most solid efforts. —Michael Burgin


raiders-of-the-lost-ark.jpg 1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Year: 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg 
A near-perfect distillation of the excitement and fun of the radio and pulp serials of yesteryear, Raiders of the Lost Ark established Harrison Ford’s wookie-free leading man credentials once and for all (with an assist from Blade Runner). The film also raises the question: Has anyone had a more impressive, more industry-transformative five-year run than Spielberg and Lucas did from 1977 through 1982? —Michael Burgin

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