The 10 Best Family Movies on Amazon Prime

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The 10 Best Family Movies on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime still doesn’t have a great selection of family and kids movies, to put it mildly. To compile this list of 10, we had to wade through every off-brand animation and modern take on the after-school special and skateboarding chimpanzee adventure. Even still, we had to include a few Freevee channel offerings that are free to Amazon Prime members but include ads. Children deserve quality as much as adults, and these 10 kids movies are more than just a cute animal on the cover, from adaptations of classic books to movies that everyone should see before they leave the nest.

Here are the 10 best family and kids movies streaming on Amazon Prime Video:

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox

mr-fox.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman
Rating: PG
Runtime: 86 minutes

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Wes Anderson’s trademark ironic eccentricity and Roald Dahl’s vaguely menacing but entirely lighthearted surrealism combine to form Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson’s first animated effort, which uses the same maddeningly traditional stop-motion techniques as Isle of Dogs. It’s ostensibly a children’s film (Mr. Fox and his family and friends try to outrun the mean farmers), but rather transparently aimed at their parents, who likely read Dahl’s books in grade school, remember stop-motion when it didn’t feel vintage and have followed Anderson’s work for years. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is broader and more straightforward than any of Anderson’s other films. The tale has been greatly expanded from the Dahl original to cover familiar Anderson themes of family, rivalry and feeling different. And with its lush autumnal palette and hijinks worthy of Max Fischer or Dignan, the result is a film that only Wes Anderson could have made.—Alisa Wilkinson


2. Shrek

shrek.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
Stars: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow
Rating: PG
Runtime: 90 minutes

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There’s far more to Shrek than its status as a mean, green, meme machine. The parody-filled winner of the first-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar, Shrek’s pop cultural references and confident computer animation were a massive smash—establishing Dreamworks as a modern CG company to be taken seriously, even if its ogres were explicitly not to be. The quotable blend of superstars, fart jokes and company-defining smarm remains the cool kids’ alternative to fairy tales even if some of its humor (and Smash Mouth soundtrack) has aged like an onion’s many layers in the sun. It still showed a surprising amount of respect for its young audience and waggled many an eyebrow at the older crowd taking those kids to the theater. How many Disney baddies have names that sound like “fuckwad”? Cannes, historically, has never been wrong about movies with animated talking donkeys.—Jacob Oller


3. The Sandlot

the-sandlot.jpg Year: 1993
Director: David Mickey Evans
Stars: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna
Rating: PG
Runtime: 101 minutes

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No other film in the history of cinema captures childhood summer nostalgia like this classic about a group of boys in the early ’60s who play baseball (nearly) every day at a local sandlot. When they aren’t playing, the thing they “tolerated best” is going to the pool, where on one day, the geeky Squints plays out every boy’s dream and lays a big one on the lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn. Ah, one of the best and most appropriate uses of the Drifters’ “This Magic Moment.” And then, there’s “the pickle”—where Smalls naively borrows and loses his step dad’s Babe Ruth autographed ball, never hearing of the “lady” who signed it. Who says childhood is simple? —Joe Shearer


4. The Last Unicorn

the-last-unicorn.jpg Year: 1982
Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Stars: Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee
Rating: PG
Runtime: 92 minutes

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The Last Unicorn was unlike anything else that existed in 1982. From the stacked voice cast that included everyone from Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin to Angela Lansbury and Christopher Lee, to the earnestly twee soundtrack by the band America and its general refusal to fit into neat narrative boxes, it is a film that consistently makes surprising and unexpected choices of the deeply risky sort we still don’t often see today. Based on the novel of the same name by fantasy author Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn follows the story of a unicorn who sets off on a quest to find her missing kin, who have reportedly all disappeared. Along the way she is kidnapped by a magical carnival and learns of the existence of the Red Bull, a flaming supernatural creature controlled by a maniacal king that has been driving all the unicorns to the ends of the Earth. She meets a magician named Schmendrick and a cook named Molly Grue, who both vow to help her find the other unicorns and join her on her journey to King Haggard’s castle. It’s a bittersweet, surprisingly realistic and decidedly un-fairytale-like rumination on regret, loneliness and loss. And honestly? It’s perfect in all its oddness, a children’s film that treats its audience as though they are adults, rejecting easily digestible platitudes in favor of honesty—and an admission that sometimes there are no easy answers. The animation remains uniquely beautiful—and still holds up nearly four decades later—thanks to the deliberate, delicate work by Rankin/Bass and the Japanese studio Topcraft (the forerunner of Studio Ghibli). From its gorgeous opening credits sequence, which artfully incorporates actual images from the famous 15th century Unicorn Tapestries to the lush landscapes of the unicorn’s forest and the sharp peaks of Haggard’s keep, The Last Unicorn is full of striking imagery that stays with you well past the closing credits. The whole movie is full of complex, thoughtful contradictions—a story that is both hopeful and sad, bittersweet and romantic, beautiful and bleak. It’s a fairytale that reflects the often difficult truths of real life. To know joy, one must also experience pain. Things outside yourself will never make you happy, no matter how hard you chase them. Love in itself is a gift, even if it doesn’t last forever. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Or, as the movie puts it: There are no happy endings, because nothing ends. —Lacy Baugher Milas


5. It’s a Wonderful Life

wonderful-life.jpg Year: 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
Rating: PG
Runtime: 130 minutes

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If you don’t adore this 1946 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, then perhaps, like the Grinch, your heart is two sizes too small. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has a crisis on Christmas Eve and believes the world would be better without him. He’s wrong, of course, and this life-affirming movie always makes me happy. Remember: “No man is a failure who has friends.” —Amy Amatangelo


6. Sonic the Hedgehog

sonic-the-hedgehog-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Jeff Fowler
Stars: Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz, James Marsden
Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes

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The simplicity of Sonic the Hedgehog, a generic family-friendly action/adventure based on Sega’s flagship videogame character, is both its saving grace and its downfall. It doesn’t overcomplicate the run-and-jump platformer source material by cramming in a ton of schlocky blockbuster lore (see 1993’s Super Mario Bros), but the script by Patrick Casey and Josh Miller is so by-the-numbers that it comes across as a Mad Libs genre template with the infamous blue hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) inserted as the kooky alien archetype. You know the drill: The alien, or creature from an alternate dimension, somehow ends up on Earth while escaping from bad guys in their home turf. The creature forces an alliance with a group of human characters who are reluctant to help it at first, but eventually build a strong bond with it. Which of course leads to an overblown special effects climax with the alien and human characters facing the bad guys together, teaching the kids a lesson on the importance of teamwork or something. Yet the movie’s real joy, if there is any, lies with Carrey fully embracing his ’90s rubberface days. Director Jeff Fowler makes the right decision by letting Carrey’s signature madness loose on such a vanilla scoop of family entertainment. Carrey chews the scenery until there isn’t a crumb left. Only he could get away with coming across as the true cartoon character in a film that has an actual cartoon character as its hero. May the comedy gods bless him for that. —Oktay Ege Kozak


7. The Secret of Roan Inish

secret-roan.jpg Year: 1995
Director: John Sayles
Stars: Jeni Courtney, Eileen Colgan, Mick Lally
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes
Free with ads

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In 2013, we talked to the legendary director John Sayles about this film about a little girl solving a mystery in her small island village, and we’ll let him tell you about it. “There was a children’s book called The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry, set in Scotland, that Maggie, who I live with and who produced the movie, had read as a 10-year-old girl and loved. And she had been bugging me for years to read it and make the movie. At one point she was visiting her home town, and the library was selling a bunch of old books, and she bought it for a quarter. And she said, “Finally, you have to read this thing.” And I knew I’d have to add some things to make it a feature, but I knew it was a great story. The writer was also an illustrator, and there were beautiful little line drawings, some of which are replicated in the movie. The shooting of it was fun. We went over to Ireland with maybe four crew people. We brought Haskell Wexler and his operator, and a couple more people, and we got everyone else over there. We were informed that this was the first time a lot of these people had worked on a mixed crew. And we thought, “But there’s no black people in this crew.” But what they meant was, people from Northern Ireland and the south of Ireland on the same crew. But luckily, they liked each other, and went on to make other movies together. And we went over there not knowing a single actor we were going to work with. I had just John Lynch in a movie, and knew I wanted to cast him. But other than that, we thought, “We’ll find some actors. And we’ll find an amazing little girl.” And we did. The only performers that we had really lined up were the seals. —Michael Dunaway


8. Megamind

megamind.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Tom McGrath
Stars: Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt
Rating: PG

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Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt and David Cross, Megamind is a family-friendly superhero-themed movie with a simple premise: What is an arch-villain to do when he successfully and permanently defeats his nemesis? The answer is not really that inspired, but neither is it annoying, wasteful or otherwise an example of the type of misstep so common with subpar superhero movies—this is competent kid fare whose focus on the villain will remind many of Gru and Despicable Me, though the humor falls short of that minion-infested franchise. In this and other particulars, Megamind is unlikely to stick with the viewer long after the closing credits. —Michael Burgin


9. A Monster in Paris

monster-paris.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Bibo Bergeron
Stars: Matthieu Chedid/Sean Lennon, Vanessa Paradis, Gad Elmaleh/Adam Goldberg
Rating: NR
Runtime: 82 minutes
Free with ads

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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. Loosely inspired by Phantom of the Opera, the film was nominated for the César Awards for Best Animated Film and Best Original Music in 2011. —Madina Papadopoulos


10. Benji

benji.jpg Year: 1974
Director: Joe Camp
Stars: Higgins, Patsy Garrett, Cynthia Smith
Rating: G
Runtime: 85 minutes
Free with ads

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The soft-focus photography and mawkish music—not to mention the ’70s fashions worn by the humans—have dated this much-loved dog movie, but it doesn’t diminish the charm and courage of the titular lovable pooch. Much like Tramp, Benji is a stray known all over town to different people by different names—and loved by all, including two children whose dad won’t let them have a dog of their own. Dad reverses his “no dogs” policy after the kids are kidnapped and Benji leads them to the culprits. Fun fact: Benji was first played by Higgins, a shelter dog. In subsequent Benji films, including the dreadful Oh Heavenly Dog with Chevy Chase, Higgins’ daughter, Benjean played the adorable mutt. —Sharon Knolle