The 25 Best Family-Friendly Movies Streaming on Netflix – May 2019
Family-friendly movies often get a bad reputation, often known for being entirely too cutesy and unfocused on being able to provide actual entertainment for viewers over the age of seven or eight years old. There’s no shortage of bad family films either, cheap direct-to-DVD or direct-to-streaming movies that are made to generate a quick buck, and nothing more. Plenty of people might argue that family movies should be resistant to criticism; they’re meant for an afternoon at the movies with your kids, or to distract your children for 100 minutes while you finish some housework. Ultimately, arguing that family-friendly films have to be bad is a wasted argument. There’s enough incredible, well-made, entertaining films meant for parents and children alike that watching random, bottom-of the barrel content is simply a waste of your time.
Netflix has a pretty wide library of family content, both in their movies and television sections. If you’re looking for something appropriate for movie night that will work to entertain both you and your children, there are plenty of excellent offerings to be had on the site. These are 25 of our favorite family-friendly films on Netflix, perfect for a movie night in or for watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon. While we can’t guarantee every film will be one of your all-time favorites, each film on this list has something special to offer, whether it be classic life lessons, laughs for the whole family, or action-filled excitement. If you aren’t sure whether a film is appropriate for certain children, we recommend using Common Sense Media’s guide for films, which allow you to view age suggestions for each film. Here’s 25 of the best family-friendly movies on Netflix as of April 2019.
This excellent film by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias tells the story of the clash between two families who live and work on the same block in Brooklyn. When Brian (Greg Kinnear) inherits a brownstone, he also inherits a tenant–Leonor (Paulina Garcia)–who his father liked and gave a rent break as the neighborhood gentrified around them. An unlikely friendship forms between both of their 13-year-old sons, one of whom wants to be an artist, the other a painter. The boys get caught in the middle as conflict intensifies between the parents. Little Men is an excellent drama, but you might want to limit the audience to this for tweens and older.
Prepare to run through an intense cycle of emotions in this comedy about a cop (Tom Hanks) who has to work with a new partner: a drooling Mastiff. Turner & Hooch is one of the greatest dog movies of all time, and that’s saying a lot. The dog, Hooch, witnesses a murder and subsequently helps his new owner to catch them, while Turner strikes up a relationship with a veterinarian played by Mare Winningham. The adventures of Turner and Hooch are ideal for anyone who can handle a bit of violence along the way.
When the Hendersons, who are vacationing in the Pacific Northwest, accidentally run over a strange Bigfoot-type animal, they mistake him for a bear and take him home to be stuffed. When they realize what the creature really is, they decide to adopt Harry as a pet. In order to protect Harry from the authorities who hunt him, they must keep him a secret. This 1987 fantasy comedy stars John Lithgow as the patriarch of the Hendersons, and won an Academy Award for Best Makeup. This sweet story of a lovable Bigfoot is perfect for audiences of all ages.
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, Coraline is the first feature film produced by Laika Studios, a stop-motion animation studio that has created some incredible work over the past decade. Coraline tells the story of Coraline Jones, an adventurous 11-year-old who is uprooted from her home to move to a new one she doesn’t much care for. While looking for something to do in her new area, she goes exploring and discovers a secret door in her new house—one that leads to a parallel world, where her parents have time for her and listen to her needs. While this idealized world feels too perfect to be true, the truth is far more sinister: the world is hiding a dark secret. The film was directed by Henry Selick, best known to animation fans as the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. The film’s a bit creepy, so make sure younger viewers have gone to bed before tuning in for some spooky fun.
A quintessential entry in the catalogue of great American sports movies, Miracle tells the story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, from their formation through their training and, eventually, their victory against the Russian hockey team at the height of the Cold War. The story begins when University of Minnesota head coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) meets with the US Olympic Committee to discuss strategies for winning the 1980 Olympics. Brooks pitches the group on picking amateur players as opposed to pro-level athletes, leading to doubts that the American team will make it far in their quest for gold medals in any way. Even if you know the story, Miracle is a worthy retelling, an entertaining and fascinating story of training hard for the things you want and for sticking with the ideas you believe in.
A remake of the original Benji tale updated for 2018, this newly-made, Netflix Original film is directed by the original director’s son, Brandon Camp. A reboot for the modern age, Benji tells the story of the titular dog, an orphaned puppy who meets two children who quickly fall into danger. When the kids are kidnapped, it’s up to Benji and his scruffy sidekick dog to save the day. Benji doesn’t do anything new to the basic formula of dog movies, but it is a solid entry for a family night in as opposed to traveling to the movie theater. Plus, as a Netflix Original, it’ll never leave Netflix. Benji is perfect for anyone in the family.
The sole entry on this list that happens to be a documentary, The Pixar Story tells the story of Pixar’s founding and success, from the late 1980s to 2007 when the film was made and released. The Pixar Story follows exactly the story you’d expect it to, acting as a retrospective of Pixar as a humble company pushing the envelope for both animation and technology working together. From creating short films that went on to win Oscars, to releasing the first theatrical-length CGI-animated film in Toy Story, the documentary explores the critical and commercial success of the company leading up to the release of Ratatouille. While Pixar’s 2010s output hasn’t been as highly-rated as their past work, there’s plenty to love above the company—and their films. Any creative-minded youngster will love following the story of this company.
In this Netflix original comedy, Candy Jar follows two highly-competitive prep-school teenagers, Lona (Sami Gayle, Blue Bloods) and Bennett (Jacob Latimore, Detroit), who have been spurred on by their mothers (Christina Hendricks and Uzo Aduba) for years to consider each other rivals in academia. When they both become co-captains of their high school debate team, they find themselves unable to work with each other thanks to their competitive nature, as both teens face the consequences of possibly losing a debate and sacrificing their college hopes. As the two are forced to work together under the guidance of the high school counselor played by Helen Hunt, the two teens will have to reckon with a life they may not have asked for in the first place, and will have to learn to grow before eventually heading off to an Ivy League school.
One of the newest original films from Netflix, The Christmas Chronicles follows two siblings on Christmas Eve. When their single mother leaves them home alone for the night, Kate and Teddy Pierce hatch a scheme to capture Santa Claus to prove his existence using a camera. When they manage to capture footage of his sleigh, the two try to land in his sleigh, only to meet the man himself (played by Kurt Russell). The film is a wild adventure through Chicago as the trio attempts to save Christmas, and while we won’t argue the film is high art in any way, Kurt Russell’s performance makes this all the more merrier. Definitely check this one out.
The fourth narrative-based film from acclaimed director Ava DuVernay (Selma) promised to be a major milestone in film for multiple reasons. With the filming of A Wrinkle in Time, DuVernay became the first African American woman to direct a film with a budget totalling nine figures, and the first African American director of a film to make more than $100 million at the box office. Despite these historical precedents, A Wrinkle in Time is no perfect film. Though it’s visually stunning, the novel is a difficult work to adapt to the big screen. While we enjoyed it, it’s definitely something to keep an open mind on before diving into such a divisive film.
Based on the young-adult novel of the same name, Coin Heist is a Netflix original crime-drama film directed by Emily Hagins, best known for appearing in the documentary Zombie Girl: The Movie and for her own works Grow Up Tony Phillips and My Sucky Teen Romance. Coin Heist represents a big step for the young filmmaker, creating her best film to date and a fun watch for older kids and teenagers. The film tells a coming-of-age story backed by a heist, as the four students—Jason, Alice, Dakota, and Benny—hatch a plan to save their high school by breaking into a mint to create a limited run of coins to sell to collectors in order to create the necessary $10 million needed for the school. The film is a fun, dramatic look into the world of four teens who will do anything to save the student body—and themselves.
A 2007 adaptation of the classic children’s novel of the same name, Bridge to Terabithia tells the story of Jesse “Jess” Aarons (Josh Hutcherson, in a pre-Hunger Games role), a 12-year-old boy who attends a local school where he’s routinely bullied by Janice Avery, Scott Hoager, and Gary Fulcher. One day, he meets Leslie Burke, a new student in his class who manages to beat Jess in a running contest, much to his frustration. Jess learns Leslie isn’t just a new classmate, but a new neighbor as well. Together they become fast friends, exploring the woods behind their houses and finding a creek, an abandoned tree house, and an entire world created out of their own imaginations. Together, as they explore Terabithia, they’ll deal with school, family problems, and more as they learn to bond together as their own makeshift family. Bridge to Terabithia is a faithful adaptation and, at times, a difficult watch, but it’s worthy of viewing.
Yes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a controversial film, with a large minority of people who very strongly dislike the narrative choices made along the way. But for every Star Wars fan who hates the eighth film, and the second in the sequel trilogy, there’s yet another who unabashedly loves the film. The Last Jedi picks right up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey on an island standing in front of Luke Skywalker. She’ll quickly learn he’s not the hero he was once thought to have been, a man who exiled himself after a fatal mistake cost thousands of lives in the process. Meanwhile, with the Resistance being followed and pursued by an army of the First Order, Poe Dameron and Finn hatch a plan to save themselves by sending Finn and his new friend Rose undercover to disable the First Order’s tracking unit. And Kylo Ren, recovering from his loss in the first film, finds himself tempted by both Rey and his evil master, the mysterious Snoke, unable to come to terms with his place in the universe. Controversy aside, The Last Jedi is an interesting film, with themes of failure, self-improvement, and the idea of choosing your own destiny. It’s well worth a watch—or a rewatch.
In Steven Spielberg’s classic throwback to serials of the 1930s and 1940s, Raiders of the Lost Ark (later known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) introduced viewers to the now-famous professor-turned-archaeologist-turned-adventurer. All four Jones films are streaming on Netflix, but if you only choose one, the original still stands as one of the best adventure films of the last fifty years. Harrison Ford stars as Indiana Jones, who finds himself in over his head when he’s up against a group of Nazis trying to find the Ark of the Covenant, a religious relic said to contain supernatural powers. Alongside his ex-girlfriend Marion, Jones will have to try to reach the Covenant before the Nazis in order to ensure its power doesn’t fall into the hands of evil.
National Treasure is, in our eyes, the ultimate adventure film, an ode to Indiana Jones that might not live up to the greatness of its predecessors, but manages to create a historial heist movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire runtime. The film follows Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage, in one of his most famous roles), a historian and treasure hunter whose grandfather told him the story of the fabled national treasure held secret by the Founding Fathers, a rumor that Gates, now an adult, continues to chase. On an expedition with his colleague Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and his friend Riley (Justin Bartha), Gates discovers a clue that leads the group to believe the next hint is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Betrayed by Ian and his men and laughed out of the offices of the National Archives, Gates realizes he has no choice but to do the only thing possible to save the day: steal the Declaration of Independence.
Based on the 2002 musical of the same name (itself based on the John Waters’ 1988 cult classic), Hairspray follows the story of dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad living in 1960s Baltimore, who auditions for a spot on The Corny Collins Show and wins. Becoming an overnight celebrity, she uses her status as a teen sensation to become a trendsetter in dance and to bring racial integration to the show during a contentious time in American politics. With a stacked cast including Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, James Marsden, and most famously, John Travolta as Tracy’s mother, the musical was a major box-office hit and a critical success, and though a sequel was originally greenlit, it failed to materialize.
Based on the incredibly true story, Secretariat tells the story of Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), a housewife and mother who agrees to take over management of the family farm after her father becomes ill. Despite any thoroughbred experience, Penny manages to get into the male-dominated world of horse racing alongside Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), a veteran trainer who coaches Penny on how to horse race successfully. Under immense pressure, Chenery eventually manages to succeed beyond anyone’s dreams, entering the Triple Crown in 1973.
As a series, Spy Kids has secretly has become a long-running franchise. Four films, all directed by Robert Rodriguez, along with two loosely-related adult-only spin-offs in Machete (yes, they’re the same character), and a Netflix Original animated series. What you may not know, however, is that within the fairly bloated series lies a stone-cold classic. Yep, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams is the rare sequel that improves on the original tenfold. The film follows Carmen and Juni, now full members of the OSS, who arrive on a distant island filled with monsters causing mayhem. When they meet a mysterious scientist (Steve Buscemi, in an amazing role), they’ll have to rely on their family members in order to defeat their rivals, Gary and Gerti Giggles, and the mastermind behind the scheme.
The first adaptation of the modern classic children’s novel The Golden Compass was brought to screen by Chris Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy), and though it failed to start the trilogy of films that would adapt all three of Philip Pullman’s books, it’s worth checking out before the BBC and HBO series premieres later this year. The film follows Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), who lives in a parallel world of our own in which human souls take the form of lifelong animal companions called daemons. Dark forces are at work in the girl’s world, and many children have been kidnapped by beings known as Gobblers. Lyra vows to save her best friend, Roger, after he disappears too. She sets out with her daemon, a tribe of seafarers, a witch, an ice bear and a Texas airman on an epic quest to rescue Roger and save her world. Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman also star.
Avengers: Infinity War won’t go on any “best films you don’t know about” list anytime soon. If you have any passing interest in the MCU as a series, you probably saw this film in theaters, or at home when it hit iTunes and other digital platforms a few months after its release. Whether or not you saw it, its release on Netflix makes it the perfect time to revisit before catching the record-breaking Avengers: Endgame in theaters. The film follows the entire Avengers team, from Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy, as they clash in a head to head against Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet. On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos begins to collect the stones in order to bring destruction, chaos, and his own twisted version of “order” to the universe.