The best family movies ever made

Kermit, Gonzo, and Fozzie in a car together during The Muppet Movie

What are the best family movies? This is it – the whole family’s together for a film. Plenty of popcorn and beverages to go around, and everyone’s promised to keep off their phones. But, what to watch? There’s so much to choose from across all the streaming services.

Between Disney movies, Pixar movies, fantasy movies, adventure movies, and whatever else, deciding on the film can take as long as watching one would take. We’re spoilt for choice, and there’s nothing more paralysing than too many options.

We have the solution. We’ve narrowed the selection right down to what are the best films suitable for everyone – so long as a parent or guardian is present, that is. From beautiful, engrossing animations, to joyful, fantastical romps, and some pure rock riffage, any of these movies will provide a pleasant viewing experience for everyone in your household. Unwind, take a load off, and let the magic of cinema take care of the family for the evening.

What are the best family movies?

  • Hook
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • Muppets from Space
  • Jurassic Park
  • Wolfwalkers
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • The Mummy
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Great Muppet Caper
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • School of Rock

Hook (1991)

Has there ever been a more roundly affable actor than Robin Williams? The powerhouse comedic performer is absolutely magnetic to everyone, regardless of age. Playing an older Peter Pan in director Steven Spielberg’s return to Never, Never Land, Williams’s ability to have you switch from giggling to sobbing in a moment’s notice is out in full force.

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When Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook kidnaps his children, an elderly Wendy reminds corporate lawyer Peter Branning that he used to be Peter Pan, and if he wants to save them, he has to remember the magic. Cue an extended, Spielbergian reminder of the importance of staying young at heart.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

At over 80 years old, Victor Fleming’s blockbuster musical is still as spellbinding as ever. Though younger viewers may get restless during early scenes in black-and-white, the transition into technicolour is sure to calm any itchy feet.

Judy Garland’s Wendy and her trusty pet dog Toto are ideal audience surrogates for the wiles of Oz, gradually accompanied by the cowardly lion, tin man, and scarecrow. Occasional glimpses of the Wicked Witch of the West keep an ominous mood through the musical numbers, and once we reach the Emerald City, the grandeur comes at the cost of knowing the adventure’s at an end.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Instead of making one Spider-Man film, why not make five at once, each with its own distinct aesthetic and tone. On paper, Into the Spider-Verse sounds fun: a bunch of Spider-People from across the Marvel multiverse come together to stop baddies. But with several different art-styles, from anime to black-and-white, to CGI, all seamlessly intertwined, it’s a revelation.

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Miles Morales leads this one, with a middle-aged Peter Parker. Then there’s Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, and other characters we won’t spoil. In an era where the Marvel Cinematic Universe delivers plenty of Spidey, writer Phil Lord and co-directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman treat him the webhead like a ubiquity and go from there. Watch, then dig into the history behind each version.

Muppets From Space (1999)

None of the Muppets have ever needed origin stories, but this exploration of Gonzo’s more than justifies itself. Though his muppet family have always cared for him, Gonzo becomes very aware he seems to be the only one of his kind, leading him to try and uncover his roots.

Talking fish show up, invisibility spray is used, and at one point there’s a conversation with a sandwich. All in good time with Kermit and co, who provide their usual wholesome warmth. Plus, it starts with ‘Brick House’ by The Commodores, and that’s never a bad call.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum – c’mon. Spielberg’s horror movie about a dream theme park that becomes the total opposite is pure popcorn fare that hasn’t lost one iota of its charm or terror. The Tyrannosaurus Rex is an eyesore, the velociraptor the stuff of nightmares, and when the theme hits on the brachiosaurus? Masterful.

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The cast is led by Laura Dern and Sam Neill, who seem appropriately bewildered by most of what’s happening. Few blockbusters ever even get close to the prehistoric thrills here. Show it to young ones for the first time to see the looks in their eyes, then try and explain why the computers look and sound the way they do.

Wolfwalkers (2020)

The last part of Cartoon Saloon’s Irish mythology trilogy, Wolfwalkers closes on a beautiful high. Young wolf hunter Robyn becomes friendly with Mebh, who comes from a tribe that can transform into wolves. Despite their differences, they grow close, forcing Robyn to eventually choose where allegiances lay.

Gorgeous as ever from the Irish studio, Wolfwalkers carries on the spirit of The Book of Kells and Song of the Sea by exploring an ancient Ireland we rarely see elsewhere. The land is treated with mystique and grandeur, and you’ll come away feeling like you know the country, and its cultural heritage, a little better than you did before.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Director Hayao Miyazaki has created many films suitable for this list, but we’ve gone for one with plenty of action, and some more mature themes. The titular wizard travels the land in his ramshackle homestead with a small crew. He soon picks up Sophie, who’s been cursed to become an old lady. While helping her, they fall in love, all amid a growing war in the background.

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Light comedy keeps the pace spry between fiery battle sequences, and introspective character drama. In the end, it would’ve all been much simpler if everyone had just learned to talk. A good lesson at any age, well delivered for whomever cares to heed it.

The Mummy (1999)

Brendan Fraser deserves far more love and adulation than he gets, and if you’re wondering why, put this on and see for yourself. He and Rachel Weisz tackle one of the Universal Monsters in epic fashion. Equipped with several guns, Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is the kind of fearless hero who yells into a mummy’s face when out of options.

Director Stephen Sommers takes a mighty good swing at Indiana Jones, putting together a darkly charming adventure that stands on its own merits. A fascination with scarabs gives it some squelch, and Jerry Goldsmith’s score hits all the right notes. Underappreciated.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Jack Skellington and his ghost dog staring at a Santa hat on a gravestone

Perhaps the great millennial musical, you’d be hard pushed to find a goth or emo from the 2000s who can’t still sing along to every word. Henry Salick’s wondrous claymation leaves you agape at the level of detail when you aren’t grooving.

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Jack Skellington, one of the primo organisers of Halloweentown, accidentally lures sentient bag of bugs Oogie Boogie to Christmastown, threatening the festive period all around the world. Luckily, Jack has allies in Sally, a lady Frankenstein, and old Saint Nick himself. The midpoint between Halloween and Christmas works all year round for some ghoulish entertainment.

The Muppet Movie (1979)

Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and more of the muppets standing together facing the camera

If you’re going to give the Muppets an origin, make it strange and irreverent, and open with Kermit singing ‘Rainbow Connection’. That’s what The Muppet Movie did, produced while The Muppet Show was still being made, and it’s a laugh-filled time capsule.

Kermit finds and recruits each member of the troupe on a roadtrip to Hollywood. Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, all the usual suspects are rounded up, each with their own particular gag or theme. Absolutely pleasant.

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

This thing is a mess, but gosh, what a fun mess. John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins are perfectly cast as Nintendo’s iconic plumbing duo, who’re magically transported to the Mushroom Kingdom and must battle Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa.

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Beyond the colour-coded overalls, almost none of it looks anything like the platform games. But what it does resemble is some kiddy-park version of Blade Runner, full of new-fangled technology and lizard-men that are seven feet tall. Princess Peach’s father is a literal fungus, and Yoshi’s a tiny raptor. Daft, but it’ll give everyone a healthy giggle if you let it.

School of Rock (2003)

Rocking out is good for you. We’re not doctors, but you can take our word for it. Jack Black is rarely more in his element than Richard Linklater’s ode to cool substitute teachers and the art of the riff. Dewey (Black) becomes a sub at a preppy middle-school where, over the course of months, he gradually teaches the students to let loose and find their voice via heavy metal and distortion.

Watching the kids come out of their shells is enough encouragement for anyone to do the same, all under the tutelage of elder rocker Black. Some of the finest licks ever conceived are peppered amid plenty of quotable dialogue. Save room after to stick on some tunes before bed.

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Anthony McGlynn

Staff writer

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

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