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 2020.
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.
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.
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.
Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck, American Vandal) has an epic imagination and a slight problem with authority, and these things collide when he transfers to a middle school where students are expected to follow the rules. This doesn’t sit well with Rafe. With help from his new friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca), the mischievous lad concocts schemes to drive his tyrannical principal (Andy Daly, Review) crazy while also using his charm and wits to impress a girl (Isabela Moner) and battle the bullies. The film is based on the novel of the same name by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, and also features Rob Riggle and Lauren Graham in supporting roles.
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.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnson (The Rocketeer, Captain America: The First Avenger) and written by Ashleigh Powell and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight, Win Win), Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an updated take on the classic ballet. The film follows a young girl named Clara, the holder of a box containing a priceless gift. Unfortunately, Clara lacks the magic key to unlock the box, until she follows a golden thread appears to lead her to her goal. When the thread disappears into a mysterious world, she meets a nutcracker, a group of mice, and regents who preside over three magical realms. Clara and Phillip, the nutcracker and a soldier, enter a fourth realm to retrieve the key and restore harmony to all four realms.
The winner of the Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Oscars, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is an absolute knock-out on both a technical level and a storytelling one. The film is set outside the traditional Marvel Universe, telling the story of Miles Morales, a teenager who is granted spider powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. After Morales’ universe’s own Peter Parker gets taken out in a battle, Miles will have to team up with Peter B. Parker, a Spider-Man from an alternate reality, along with Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, and Peni Parker and SP//dr to take down Kingpin as he attempts to use a supercollider to cross through reality. The film is funny, heartwarming, and feels fresher than most thought a new Spider-Man movie could be. Meanwhile, the visual style and animated makes Spiderverse one of the prettiest CGI films ever made.
Saturday Night Live has had its fair share of cinematic spin-offs, so when Nickelodeon created their own kid-friendly sketch show, it seemed like a matter of time until they followed suit. One of the most popular sketches on All That, Good Burger follows Dexter (Kenan Thompson) and Ed (Kel Mitchell) as they work at the titular friendly neighborhood burger joint. However, when big chain rival Mondo Burger sets up across the street, Good Burger seems doomed to fail. With the public going crazy over the new burgers offered by Mondo Burger, Ed and Dexter make their way to Mondo to infiltrate the restaurant and find the dangerous secret behind their success.
A remake of the 1980s classic, The Karate Kid tells a familiar story for a brand-new generation. When his mother’s career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a stranger in a strange land. Though he knows a little karate, his fighting skills are no match for Cheng, the school bully. Dre finds a friend in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man who is also a martial-arts master. Mr. Han teaches Dre all about kung fu in the hope that Dre will be able to face down Cheng and perhaps win the heart of a pretty classmate named Mei Ying. The film received solid reviews, and though a sequel was discussed for years, it was never actually made.
The second (and possibly final) installment in the A Star Wars Story saga, Solo tells the story of a young Han Solo, set years before his run-in with Luke Skywalker and his future wife Leia. When Han finds himself indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, him and his crew find themselves planning a daring adventure to travel to the mining planet Kessel, a dangerous world that spells trouble for our heroes. Thankfully, his gang—made up of smugglers, criminals, and a 190-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca—have each others’ backs. Of course, to pull the plan off perfectly, they’ll need a fast ship, and for that, Han turns to one man: Lando Calrissian. Though the film features plenty of controversy along the way, including the firing of the original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, this film gets by on a sense of fun and adventure that too many films lack these days.
Loosely based on the children’s novel of the same name, Stuart Little is a 1999 family comedy with an insane cast and crew. Directed by first-time live-action director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, The Forbidden Kingdom) from a script written by, get this: M. Night Shyamalan and Greg Brooker, along with a starring cast of Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire), and of course, the voice of Michael J. Fox. When the Littles go to an orphanage to adopt a new family member, a charming young mouse named Stuart is chosen. While George is initially unwelcoming to his new brother, the family cat, Snowbell, is even less enthusiastic about having a mouse as his “master” and plots to get rid of him. Against these difficulties, Stuart resolves to face them with as much pluck, love and courage as he can muster. In doing so, he shows his beloved new family that great things can truly come in small packages.
Anyone who watched Nickelodeon in the 2000s probably remembers this teen comedy classic. Big Fat Liar tells the story of Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz), a 14-year-old pathological liar who can talk his way out of any problems in his life. After getting caught in a lie with his English teacher, he’s given three hours to submit his final creative writing essay, or face failing the class and losing his vacation to summer school. Jason manages to write Big Fat Liar, based on the lies he’s told throughout his life, but while rushing to turn it in, his essay is stolen by Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti), an arrogant Hollywood producer (Paul Giamatti) who hits him with his limousine. Now facing summer school, Jason and his friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) travel to Los Angeles to get Marty to admit to stealing the story.
Plenty of people remember Space Jam, the first theatrically-released Looney Tunes film, either through nostalgia goggles or ironically. The film was a box office success but was panned by critics upon release. Fewer people remember the follow-up to that film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but that’s unfortunate—it’s undoubtedly the better of the two films. Directed by Joe Dante, one of Hollywood’s most inventive and underrated directors (Gremlins and Gremlins 2, The ‘Burbs, Small Soldiers), Looney Tunes: Back in Action is far more in tone with the original cartoons. While the plot is convoluted and a bit of a mess, the entire experience of watching the film is reminiscent of watching those classic shorts. With plenty of gags, silly jokes, and moments designed purely for laughter, the film—which also stars Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman as the human leads—is worth revisiting.
Though it was eventually rebooted into a Netflix Original series, A Series of Unfortunate Events started life as a major motion picture, covering the first three books in the critically-acclaimed children’s book series and starring Jim Carrey as the villainous Count Olaf. The film follows the three Baudelaire siblings, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who are left orphaned after a fire burns their family’s mansion to the ground. After being forced to move in with their distant relative, Count Olaf, they soon discover he’s only after the inheritance Violet is set to receive. Though they manage to escape from Olaf’s clutches, he’s never far behind, as they move in with both their Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) and their Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep).
Steven Spielberg’s 1991 fantasy continuation of Peter Pan holds up nearly 30 years after it premiered in theaters, thanks to starring roles from Robin Williams as Peter, and Dustin Hoffman as the titular Hook. The film follows Peter Banning, an investment banker who is too involved with his work to spend time with his family. While visiting his wife Moira’s grandmother Wendy, he learns from Wendy that, in truth, he’s Peter Pan, having given up on his life in Neverland to spend his life with Moira. When Hook returns to kidnap his children, Peter will have to rediscover the magic of his forgotten childhood to save the day. With a truly all-star supporting cast including Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dante Basco, Pan is absolutely worth revisiting.
Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo’s job is to oil and maintain the station’s clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father (Jude Law). Accompanied by the goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) of an embittered toy merchant (Ben Kingsley), Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese, Hugo is an exploration of the magic of movies, and a heartwarming adventure tale the whole family will love.
Although the first two entries in the acclaimed Back to the Future series might not be streaming at this moment, you can still view the epic conclusion to the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III. Leaving behind the 1900s entirely, the third film in the franchise heads back to the Old West, where Marty has to save Doc from an untimely death. After returning to 1985 from the grim future of 2015, Marty learns Doc’s adventures in the Old West ended in tragedy. In order to rescue Doc, Marty will have to travel back in time, disentangle a lovestruck Doc from a local schoolmarm, and repair the DeLorean—all while avoiding a posse of gunslingers.
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. Of course, the series had a much smaller start in Spy Kids, a critically-acclaimed film that was praised for being intelligent and fun for viewers of all ages. The film follows two young kids, Carmen and Juni, who become spies in order to save their ex-spy parents from an evil mastermind. Armed with a bag of high tech gadgets, the siblings will jet through the air, dive undersea, and travel the entire globe to save their parents Fegan Floop, a kids’ show host who has sinister plans.