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 2018.
Brought to the big screen by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf), The Jungle Book is a remake of the original Walt Disney version, both based on the story told by Rudyard Kipling. The film follows a young boy named Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India, under guardianship of Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) the black panther. But under threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), Mowgli must go to live with his own kind. Along the way he meets many interesting animals, including Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), Kaa the snake (Scarlett Johansson), and the despotic orangutan King Louie (Christopher Walken). The Jungle Book is perfect for most kids, though there are certainly some intense scenes in the film.
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.
And now the story of a sweet little bear from Peru, whose wild adventures unfold for the first time in live-action. Paddington follows a bear named Paddington, raised in the jungles of Peru with his aunt Lucy and uncle Pastuzo, who gained their names when an explorer nearly hunted them down. Attuned with a taste for marmalade sandwiches, Paddington is forced to leave the comfort of his jungle after an accident during a storm costs uncle Pastuzo his life. Now a small bear in a big city, Paddington must find the explorer who cared for his aunt and uncle and adapt to life with the humans, including the Brown family, who take him in upon finding him in Paddington Station. Featuring an all-star cast of English and Australian actors (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman, and the voice of Ben Whishaw) and a ton of Harry Potter alumni (including Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, and the voices Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon), Paddington is perfect for all ages, from 6 to 96.
Though the film received mixed reviews upon its release in 1987, Batteries Not Included was a minor box office success and had quite the team working behind it. Originally pitched as an idea for Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories series, Spielberg liked the idea enough that he pushed for the film to be adapted into a full-length feature. Directed by Matthew Robbins, best known for his screenwriting credits (Crimson Peak, Jaws, The Sugarland Express, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind), the film was the screenwriting debut of Brad Bird, who would later go onto direct The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. In the film, a group of small, electronic aliens arrive in New York City, where they help the impoverished residents of an East Village apartment block who are threatened with eviction by an evil real estate developer. This sci-fi fantasy tale is perfect for anyone who can handle a bit of violence and action.
Written by Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman (The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live) and directed by Tim Burton in his full-length directorial debut, Pee-wee's Big Adventure adapts the stage show The Pee-Wee Herman Show for the big screen. Reubens reprises his role as Pee-wee, an overgrown pre-pubescent kid sporting a cropped haircut, blush, lipstick, and a gray flannel suit, lives a quiet yet unique life in his rather bizarre home until someone steals one of his most prized possessions: a fire-engine red customized bicycle. This leads Pee Wee to embark on a cross-country quest to nab the thieves. Along the way, he makes friends with a variety of original characters, endures a myriad of nightmares, and has a supernatural encounter with a ghastly trucker. The film is a delightful comedy for young and old alike, and eventually led the way for Pee-wee's Playhouse and two movie sequels, the latter of which is also available on Netflix as an Original film.
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.
Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda both won Oscars for their role as an elderly couple dealing with aging, memory loss, and generational conflicts while at their summer house by the lake. Their daughter (Henry Fonda's real daughter, Jane Fonda) is off to spend a month with her fiancé (Dabney Coleman) in Europe and asks her parents to look after his teenage son (Doug McKeon) while they are away. Henry Fonda spends the summer learning to communicate with the boy and to be a father to his daughter at the same time. It's a sweet story, and especially relatable to anyone who grew up around a lake. It's perfect to watch with your children, though make sure they're old enough to understand the themes before streaming.
A Disney Channel original movie, Geek Charming might seem like some pretty standard made-for-TV fare at first. Here's the secret though: this movie is actually pretty enjoyable if you turn your brain off. Modern Family's Sarah Hyland stars as Dylan Schoenfield, a snobby, French-speaking rich girl who used to be a bit of a dork before blooming throughout puberty. When Josh, played here by Matt Prokop, asks Dylan to make a film about her life for his documentary project on popularity, she accepts—only to present a false persona to his camera. As the two bond, she slowly begins to shed her cover of self-proclaimed coolness, but in the process, risks the social status she's worked for years to create. Based on a young adult novel of the same name, Geek Charming is an underrated gem of a film, and is perfect for audiences of all ages.
The first feature-length production from Aardman Animation, the studio behind Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run tells the story of a failing poultry farm in Yorkshire, England, where the chickens are forced to lay a certain amount of eggs or be slaughtered for meat. While the evil farm Ms. Tweedy begins building an automated factory farm, the chickens—led by Ginger—begin to plan an escape from the farm, with the help of Rocky Rhodes (Mel Gibson) a rooster that crash-landed in the farm and has agreed to help show the chickens how to fly. The film was critically-acclaimed upon release, with reviewers praising the animation and the humor alike. It's perfect for viewers 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.
Another live-action remake of a classic animated feature, Disney's Beauty and the Beast earned a mixed critical reception when it premiered in 2017, but became an audience favorite and a box office giant, earning over one billion dollars worldwide. The film is an adaptation of the 1991 Disney animated original, and largely plays out following the same story. Emma Watson plays Belle, the titular Beauty who trades places with her father after he is taken captive by a castle-dwelling Beast (Dan Stevens, Legion) for stealing a rose. While held at his castle, Belle begins to see the humanity in Beast—and just in time too, because he's at risk of losing out on being turned back into a human. It's a bit scarier than the animated version, but most viewers should be comfortable watching the tale as old as time brought into live-action.
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.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a childhood classic that simply must be seen by every generation, regardless of age. Released in 1971, Willy Wonka stars Gene Wilder as the title character and Peter Ostrum as Charlie Buckett, a boy from a poor family who wants nothing more than to see his family happy. When Wonka, whose chocolate factory has remained closed for years, releases five golden tickets inside candy bars around the world. When Charlie manages to scrounge up enough cash to buy a Wonka bar, he unveils the fifth and final golden ticket, from his chocolate bar, securing his trip to the factory with his Grandpa Joe. But once he arrives, he finds himself in over his head, lost in a land of chocolates, candies, and Oompa-Loompas. The film is worth it for the musical numbers, but Wilder's performance makes this one a must-watch. Perfect for most viewers of any age, despite some peril and psychedelic visuals.
If any of the kids in your family are looking to start watching scary movies, but might not be old enough to watch films filled with things that go bump in the night, consider showing them this 2002 live-action adaptation of the classic animated Hanna-Barbera series. When long-time friction between the members of Mystery Inc. force the team apart, Scooby and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard, who eventually went on to voice Shaggy in modern animated versions of the series) live out their dreams of eating and hanging out in the Mystery Van, spending their days by the beach. An invite to solve a mystery at Spooky Island forces the gang back together, with Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and Velma (Linda Cardellini) all tricked into coming to the island. Things aren't as they seem, however, and a mysterious conspiracy pushes the team to the brink. Despite being based on the cartoon, there's some seriously scary stuff here—you might want to limit this to older viewers in their double-digits.
The BFG was brought to the big screen by Disney and Steven Spielberg, who was attached to direct a film adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl novel. Originally planned to star Spielberg's friend (and star of Hook) Robin Williams, the finished 2016 film stars Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Dunkirk, Ready Player One) as the titular Big Friendly Giant who befriends Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), an orphan who suffers from insomnia and spends much of her nights awake reading in bed. One night during the witching hour, she sees an elderly giant outside her window who takes her into Giant Country, where she must now stay after seeing the BFG. She also must learn to avoid the other nine giants who live in the area, as they love to eat children. The film is perfect for any child who read the book and wants to see the tale brought to life, though it is a bit long in its runtime.
The story of three entrepreneurs who start up a new business, Ghostbusters is often considered one of the best comedies of all times. Director Ivan Reitman, who had previously worked with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis on Meatballs and Stripes, joins Murray, Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, and Ernie Hudson in a paranormal science-fiction comedy that has become a critically-acclaimed comedy, renowned for the mixture of horror and comedic elements, Bill Murray's deadpan delivery, and some fantastic visual elements that still hold up to this day. When Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler are all forced out of their positions at Columbia University, the three men start Ghostbusters, a ghost elimination service. Just in time, too: a serious evil has begun to threaten New York City, putting the lives of every citizen at peril. Ghostbusters has some crude jokes, but should be good for any child about to enter into middle school.
One of a few Marvel movies currently streaming on Netflix, Doctor Strange is one of the better origin stories we've seen from Marvel in recent years, telling the story of the titular hero as he develops from a cocky surgeon into a superhero capable of surgery and entering new worlds by using magic. After Stephen Strange's (Benedict Cumberbatch) hands are damaged beyond repair in a car accident, it seems like his life as a neurosurgeon is over. When he hears of the Ancient One from a colleague who regained the use of his legs after years of being a paraplegic, Strange begins the journey to train under Mordo and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), to become a sorcerer and to stop Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) from summoning Dormammu, an evil being also portrayed through motion capture by Benedict Cumberbatch. Like most Marvel movies, this is rated PG-13 but should satisfy any comics fans ages 11 or older.
Though not nearly as big of a hit as Disney's remake of The Jungle Book, this 2016 reimagining of the 1977 animated musical Pete's Dragon won over critics and audiences alike with its soft sensibilities. In this version of the film, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) believes her father's (Robert Redford) tales of dragons within the woods are simple fairy tales, until she meets a 10 year old orphan named Pete (Oakes Fegley), who claims to live in the woods with a giant, friendly dragon. Directed by filmmaker David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, A Ghost Story), the film manages to be simultaneously sweet and charming, feeling closer to the independent films Lowery typically films despite the backing of Disney. With Lowery set to take on Disney's Peter Pan remake over the next few years, Pete's Dragon is the perfect warm-up film for the director. Perfect for viewers of all ages.
By no means is National Treasure a perfect film. There's plenty to critique about the movie, from the lackluster direction to the guitar-heavy score that hasn't aged well since the release of the film in 2004, to Nicolas Cage's performance. But there's one thing National Treasure does revel in: having a good time on an adventure. The plot kicks in quick and doesn't let up throughout the film, keeping viewers from examining some of the plot holes in the semi-ludicrous narrative structure, and generally, the action-adventure Indiana Jones-esque plot is pretty fun to watch. The history might be a bit bunk, but viewers aged nine or older should get a kick out of this.
A remake of the original 1920s-1940s short films, The Little Rascals updates the comic premise for the modern day (or at least the 1990s) in this hit comedy. Though the film earned negative reviews upon its release in 1994, the adventures of Spanky, Alfalfa, Stymie, Froggie, Porky, Buckwheat, and of course Darla are chronicled here as the gang gets into trouble throughout the neighborhood while trying to help Alfalfa win back the heard of Darla after she leaves him for the new rich kid on the block, Waldo. The film has some potty humor in it, and it's probably not something the adults in the room will want to watch more than once, but it's a solid Saturday-afternoon film to relax with while hanging out with your kids. Plus, at 83 minutes, it's pretty short.
One of the most popular Disney Channel original movies ever released, High School Musical follows Troy (Zac Efron), Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), Chad (Corbin Bleu), Taylor (Monique Coleman), Ryan (Lucas Evans), and Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) as they return from winter break of their junior year of high school facing big decisions. Troy is the star of the basketball team his dad coaches, but after the girl he met at a New Year's Eve party starts attending his school and auditions for the musical, he's persuaded to join her. Meanwhile, Sharpay has to deal with being upstaged by new girl Gabriella, and Taylor and Chad deal with their best friends' decisions to abandon the things that define them as students. It's a fun musical romp designed to be Grease for modern kids, and despite being released in 2006, it's still one of the most popular Disney Channel movies to date. High School Musical 2 is also streaming; they're good family fun for all ages.
If you watched the original Scooby Doo, recommended above, and enjoyed it, you might like this sequel starring the same cast with an all-new case to solve. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed helps to make things a bit less scary than the original film. When monsters start to terrify and torment their town, the entire Mystery gang is called back into duty to help find out what's going on, and whether true supernatural mysteries are abound. Meanwhile, a nosy TV investigation journalist is trying to discredit the gang's cases. The film was written by James Gunn, perhaps best known to most readers as the director behind Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
In this live-action adaptation of one of the most enjoyable children's books ever written, young Fern (Dakota Fanning) must learn to take care of a pig saved from slaughter after she begs her father to let the little guy live. Named Wilbur, he enjoys a nice childhood, but once he's matured, he's taken by Fern's uncle, where he's left alone and without a companion. That is, until he meets Charlotte (the voice of Julia Roberts), a spider who lives in the rafters of the barn. With the help of the other barnyard animals, Charlotte rights words into her web, convincing the family that Wilbur is a contest-friendly pig who can do anything. With an all-star voice cast including Reba, Steve Buscemi, Robert Redford, John Cleese, Oprah, and many more, Charlotte's Web is perfect for newcomers to the story or anyone who has red the book. It's one of the most family-friendly movies in this list, and it's perfect for audiences young to old.
Based on the 1963 film The Incredible Journey and the novel of the same name, Homeward Bound has something for every viewer. A perilous journey following three pets—two dogs and a cat—through the midwest to find their owner, the film is a heartfelt journey sure to delight kids and adults alike. Michael J. Fox stars as the voice of Chance, a rebellious young bulldog owned by young Jamie. He's joined by Shadow (the voice of Don Ameche), an older Golden Retriever owned by Jamie's older brother Peter, and Sassy (the voice of Sally Field), a cat owned by Jamie and Peter's sister Hope. When the family is forced to move to San Francisco for Jamie, Peter, and Hope's father's work, they must leave behind the pets with a family friend. Fearing they've been abandoned, the animals escape the ranch they've been staying on to attempt to return home to their owners. Perfect for audiences of all ages.