We’ve got some major classic family movie inspo that kids and grown-ups will love for family movie night.
With some restrictions still in place across Singapore and concerns about avoiding COVID-19 if we spend too much time out and about, families in Singapore will be spending a lot more time at home this summer than normal. When you’ve played all the board games, spent the day in online camps, and conducted multiple science experiments, may I humbly suggest implementing family movie night? It’s a great excuse to eat popcorn, it doesn’t require you to use your brain…too much, and it’s almost guaranteed to provide some much-needed laughs.
Best Family Movies for Young Kids
Best Family Movies for Kids 6+
Best Family Movies for Older Kids/Preteens
Watching classic family movies with your kids is also a wonderful way to bond. Don’t think of it as mind-numbing screen time – view it as teaching your children about great stories, interesting characters, memorable songs, and even sharing your own childhood memories. Both during and after a movie, ask your kids questions (and answer theirs); talk about what they liked and didn’t liked, or what they thought was funny. It’s been amazing for me to revisit some of my favorite classic films and see what my 5-year-old daughter takes away from them.
Since the stay-home notice began we’ve been recommending a family movie of the week in our Weekend Planner; see below for dozens more recommendations from Team Sassy Mama’s all-time favorite family movies.
Note that I’m defining “family movies” as “movies for all ages that you can watch with your kids.” I’ve left off Disney cartoons and great Pixar titles like Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo etc., which I’d classify as more explicitly kids movies (though they’re great films in their own right that are plenty appealing for grown-ups, too. For more movies in this vein check out Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 100 top-rated kids & family movies). All that said the below list does include some all-time classic kids movies that are sure to get children of the 80s and 90s feeling nostalgic.
In terms of age guidelines, as ever, every family is different. Mileage will vary greatly when it comes to swearing, violence, and kissing. I’ve linked to each and every movie’s review on Common Sense media, and have also noted where you can watch these movies (streaming on Netflix, renting on iTunes, etc.). And for even more great home viewing, check out our guides to the best educational TV shows for kids, and our favorite new shows to binge on Netflix and other streaming services.
If you’re like me and have a child obsessed with farm animals, you can’t go wrong with this delightful live-action tale of a sweet little pig with big sheep-herding dreams. My 2.5-year-old was mildly dismayed when the piglets were separated from their mother, and there is some allusion to animal slaughter, but honestly really young kids will totally miss that aspect. Babe was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture!
Stream it on: Netflix
I grew up watching the 1973 animated version (linked above) of EB White’s classic children’s novel, and it taught me important lessons about love, friendship, and even death in a truly relatable way that left me far less scarred than, say, Old Yeller. I’ve not seen the 2006 live-action version, though that also gets good reviews.
This Oscar-winning animated short film (it comes in at just under 7 minutes) is heart-warming and lovely, but makes a particularly wonderful watch for families given the current climate around Black Lives Matter and increased emphasis on inclusion and diversity in children’s media. With very few words, Hair Love focuses on a little girl named Zuri and her father’s sweet attempts to style her hair in her mother’s absence (explained by a heart-wrenching reveal near the end). My kids love Zuri’s semi-comical battles with her hair (and her silly cat). As the San Francisco Film Festival succinctly put it, “Hair Love is a beautiful and refreshing story that touches on topics around family, self esteem, pride, style, identity and culture.” That’s an impressive amount to pack into seven minutes! NB: There is also a companion story book (with a less overtly sad plot) that my kids also like.
Stream it on: YouTube
Who doesn’t love this 1964 classic filled with fantastic songs, stupendous dream sequences, and the coolest no-nonsense nanny of all time? My kids adore the songs, and don’t find any aspect of it to be scary. This movie’s timelessness is unrivalled.
Paddington + Paddington 2
If your children love the books about the irrepressible bear always finding his way into mischief in London, they’ll surely enjoy these two delightful movies (which provide plenty of laughs for parents as well). The first movie has some slight scary parts – Nicole Kidman plays a mean villain, after all, and Paddington’s home is destroyed early on – while the sequel is a bit milder (Hugh Grant plays the bad guy, for goodness sake!).
NB: Some parents might consider a good half of these movies more appropriate for older kids (12+). I’m basing my recommendations off my own personal experience and have noted where issues might arise.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
When you combine Tom Hanks with Mister Rogers, could things really get any more gentle and good? Younger kids might find the plot – following a jaded journalist who learns important lessons about the power of kindness, love and connection from Mister Rogers – a bit dull, but there’s so much warmth and positivity to be drawn from it.
A League of Their Own
I saw this movie – yet another Tom Hanks classic – when I was 10 years old and I’m hard pressed to think of another film that’s delivered a better story about women’s empowerment and sisterhood (both literal and figurative). There’s lots of great sports action, it’s so funny, and it’s where Hanks’s famous line about No crying in baseball came from. There is some mild swearing and very slight sexual innuendo, and Tom Hanks is drunk for parts of it, but that’s not what kids will remember.
What little girl hasn’t belted out The sun’ll come out…tomorrow! in front of the mirror at some point in her life? You might as well show her where the song comes from in this delightful classic about a plucky optimist who overcomes her hard-knock life. Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage is a little scary in a sloppy drunk kind of way.
Stream it on: Netflix
Back to the Future
Is this time-travel classic dated, anachronistic, or totally timeless? It’s hard to say, but it’s a super fun watch and so inventive and different from almost anything else out there (the next entry on this list is kind of a shameless rip-off, to be honest!). There’s some bullying and mild violence, some swearing, and some racial epithets in the 1950s parts to which Marty McFly travels from 1985.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
There may have been a ‘Keanussance’ in 2019, but this 1988 flick is where it all began. Get ready for lots of “whoa’s!” I distinctly remember my father shaking his head and muttering about losing brain cells as we walked out of the theatre, but I LOVED this movie, and absolutely credit it with introducing me to a bevy of important historic figures, from Socrates to Genghis Khan to Napoleon and Sigmund Freud (“Frood dude!”). Two slackers have to travel through time in a magic phone booth to ace a history report and save the galaxy, with some guidance from a droll time traveller played by George Carlin. It’s totally bonkers and silly but really fun – and a long-awaited sequel is scheduled to come out this year!
The Blind Side
This uplifting sports drama is based on a true story (that actually had a pretty happy ending!), and won Sandra Bullock an Oscar for playing an indefatigable mama grizzly with Southern grit to spare. The film glosses over a lot of the challenges and obstacles that African-American football player Michael Oher faced before meeting the wealthy Tuohy family – and the white savior aspects might be slightly unsettling – but the story is uplifting and the acting performances are all solid and moving.
Stream it on: Netflix
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
This all-time classic family movie is sure to enchant your kiddos with its scenes of the cuddly alien and bicycles that lift off the ground to fly across a moonlit sky. As Common Sense Media puts it, E.T.’s “themes of loyalty, trust, and caring are both affecting and easy to understand, and Elliott and E.T.’s extraordinary friendship is one of cinema’s most enduring.” Plus was Drew Barrymore ever cuter?
Jumanji The Next Level
This new release on Netflix had our kids laughing a lot. Though parents beware there are some bad language warnings that you can check out at Common Sense Media! If you caught the first Jumanji, you’ll love this one too. It’s hard not to laugh at The Rock and Kevin Hart’s hilarious on-screen chemistry (combined with Jack Black’s antics!), and there are multiple levels of humour for kids and adults alike.
Stream it on: Netflix
This early 90s Bill Murray classic – in which a selfish weatherman wakes up on the same day over, and over, and over again – particularly resonates during this stay-home period where it’s easy to forget exactly what day it is. The humor is dry and witty, with bits of slapstick and romance mixed in. Violence (and failed suicide attempts played for laughs) are the only red flags.
Legendary director John Waters is known for outrageously campy films with brilliant casts. Hairspray, which starred a young Ricki Lake alongside legends like Sonny Bono, Deborah Harry, Ruth Brown, Jerry Stiller, and the infamous drag queen Divine, is a body positive story about a teenage girl who loves to dance and becomes passionate about racial integration (the film is set in 1962 Baltimore). It has a killer soundtrack and features lots of dance sequences – when I was a little girl I’d put on dress-up clothes and dance along to it. The humor is totally off-kilter and there is some bad language, mild make out scenes, and racial violence depicted, but Hairspray is wacky in the best possible way and has lots of heart (it was my first introduction to the meaning of integration and America’s awful racial legacy). NB: the subsequent Broadway musical and 2007 film version based off that are less risqué, with catchy new original songs.
The Harry Potter series
Like JK Rowling’s iconic books, these movies – eight in total! – get darker and more complex as the series progresses. The first entry, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is a truly enchanting introduction to the magical world of Harry Potter, from the Hogwarts Express, to Diagon Alley, to the talking paintings at Hogwarts and of course quidditch. The cast – kids and adults alike – is so good. There is always some darkness and death hovering around the edges, though – I’d suggest reading the books first to see how your kids handle the scary parts.
For a good chunk of my childhood this Steven Spielberg-directed film – in which Robin Williams plays a grown-up Peter Pan returning to Neverland – was my all-time favorite movie. The scenery is magically inventive, the cast (also including Julia Roberts, Dustin Hoffman, and Maggie Smith) is star-studded, and the story is moving without being too sappy. There is some violence and death, and mild bad language, but most kids will be captivated.
This all-time classic sports movie about a small-town basketball team in 1950s Indiana overcoming the odds manages to be inspiring without being cloying, owing in part to strong performances from Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper as coaches who both undergo redemption arcs while teaching the kids about teamwork.
The Karate Kid
The original 1984 film – in which scrappy underdog Daniel learns the ways of Karate, and along the way, all about life from the wise Mr. Miyagi – spawned three sequels and a 2010 remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. It’s a story about resilience and friendship, and given how popular martial arts are with kids here in Singapore, we think they’d love all the action scenes. There is some swearing and racial slurs.
I remember watching this movie in a packed theatre and being blown away by how realistic and lifelike the dinosaurs seemed. It might not have the same effect on today’s kids, but is still an interesting story with plenty of scary (but not too scary) surprise moments. There is also mild gore (people getting eaten by bloodthirsty velociraptors and whatnot).
The Mighty Ducks & D2
Can you name any other kids’ movies that inspired the name of a real-life professional sports team? I recently watched this early-90s kids’ hockey movie with my own children and they enjoyed the same slapstick humor and exciting game action that I remembered (they were also awed by all the snow in Minnesota). The sequel, Mighty Ducks 2 (D2 to those in the know) is one of the dumbest movies ever made and yet my husband and I are both obsessed with it (you just have to watch it to understand). In addition to Emilio Estevez as imperfect Coach Gordon Bombay, keep an eye out for a young Joshua Jackson and Kenan Thompson.
Stream it on: Both movies available for rental/purchase on Google Play and AppleTV/iTunes
It’s a proven fact that all children love the larger-than-life zaniness of Robin Williams, and they also love watching men dress up like women. Put the two together and you’ll start to understand why this movie is such a hit with families. The story – about a divorced dad doing whatever he can to spend more time with his children – is also lovely and unusual, and quite moving. Expect kids to ask questions about divorce.
The Muppet Movie
This is one of those movies that, on its face, seems like it is purely for kids. It’s a bunch of puppets, after all! And yet after recently watching this 1979 classic with my daughter, I found myself cackling at the jokes that come a mile a minute. The songs are particularly brilliant. It’s a road trip buddy film with a dash of frog-pig romance thrown in, and mild slapstick violence.
My Neighbor Totoro
This animated Japanese classic from Studio Ghibli is a moving depiction of family and friendship as two little girls befriend (gentle) mystical creatures in the forest near their grandparents’ house.
Stream it on: Netflix
The Princess Bride
I first saw this movie when I was 6 and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. Besides being filled with indelible performances and so many memorable quotes (“As you wish…” “Inconceivable!” “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”), it appeals to kids with its fairytale costumes, sword fights, pirate ships, and slight magical touches, plus a dash of slapstick. There is some real violence and torture, and a couple scary witches appear (one in a dream sequence), but its irreverent take on fairytale tropes will surely be a hit with kids.
The Sound of Music
Like so many family movies on this list, it’s perhaps the memorable songs that elevate this film to landmark status (it also won the Oscar for Best Picture). Throw in spectacular scenery and a cast of adorable children, and there’s much that kiddos will love about this classic film based on a true story. Note that the final segment turns pretty dark as the family is pursued by Nazis, but this plot point will probably go over most younger children’s heads.
That Thing You Do!
This 1996 film is a lighthearted, wholesome and funny look at the rise of a band in 1964. After winning a local talent contest in Pennsylvania, The Oneders (pronounced Wonders) release an EP and are quickly scouted and brought to the attention of Playtone record executive Tom Hanks. The movie was written and directed by Tom Hanks (the original COVID-19 survivor!) and features a cameo from Rita Wilson as well, as a sultry cocktail waitress. The music is super fun – especially The Oneders hit song ‘That Thing You Do’, which you’ll be humming for days afterwards. Sadly Adam Schlesinger, the composer who wrote the hit song, died recently of COVID-19. (He also wrote many of the songs from Crazy Ex Girlfriend.) Rated PG, the only thing to watch out for is a bit of swearing (and there is some kissing, to the horror of my 7-year-old).
Troop Beverly Hills
Just about every other movie on this list gets good reviews on Common Sense Media. This 80s relic starring Shelley Long…does not. It celebrates excess, and superficial appearances, and employs lazy racial stereotypes. And yet it’s a candy-colored fantasy for little girls filled with fabulous outfits and all sorts of adventures relating to selling girl scout cookies. It’s silly – and it knows it – and I still love it after all these years.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
My daughter and I recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory together so it was kind of magical for her to get to see it come to life watching Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (old school version with Gene Wilder). Despite the fact it’s almost 50 years old the movie still holds up extremely well with its fantastical chocolate waterfall, lickable wallpaper, and blueberry-licious Violet Beauregarde. The only scary moments: the acid-trippy boat scene, and Willy Wonka yelling at Charlie at the very end. My daughter couldn’t get enough of the Oompa Loompas (who I recall being scared of as a child!).
The Wizard of Oz
At some point I started singing songs from The Wizard of Oz to my 2.5-year-old son, and that evolved into showing him the YouTube clips and listening on Spotify (“If I Only Had a Brain” is his favorite). On a recent rainy Sunday we all watched the movie together and it’s still as enchanting as ever; my kids are most fascinated by Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West, which makes me think we’ll have to move on to “Wicked” next! I remember being terrified of the Flying Monkeys when I was younger but my kids thought they were pretty silly.
Sassy Mama Partnerships Manager Marisa, who has two boys ages 8 and 10, heartily recommends this film and everything else from the Marvel universe. Expect lots of violence, but little bloodshed.
Yet another Tom Hanks entry, in some ways this is the most kid-friendly since it’s about a young boy who makes a wish to be turned into a grown-up…and becomes one overnight. While the comedy is ostensibly told from a kid’s perspective (Hanks was nominated for an Oscar for playing a 12-year-old in a man’s body), mature topics like sex and swearing are addressed. It’s a really fun watch, though; who didn’t want to grow up and work in a toy store?
This modern reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma came out 25 years ago but is just as quotable and appealing to middle and high schoolers today as it was back in my day. Much like its star Paul Rudd, it’s basically ageless. There is just so much to love – the fashion, the slang, the soundtrack – and the humor still holds up incredibly well. There is mild drug use, swearing, and kissing.
Stream it on: Netflix
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
It made my day when I saw this 80s classic has come to Netflix. Ferris Bueller leads a charmed existence in the Chicago suburbs and decides to play hooky one day with his best friend and girlfriend. They get into some mild misadventures while being trailed by their vindictive vice principal, but it’s clear that only good things happen to Ferris. There’s some swearing and kissing, but nothing major. And of course there’s the all-time quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” A good lesson for us all as we take a gigantic pause from normal life.
Stream it on: Netflix
This mind-trippy movie features incredible special effects and a somewhat confusing plotline about disconnecting from our perceived reality to break free in rebellion. This was Keanu’s first big comeback. There’s lots of violence, and some swearing. The overall effect is pretty bleak, but the action sequences are imaginative and very cool.
The Truman Show
This sweet Jim Carrey film about a man whose entire life is unknowingly filmed for a reality show was eerily prescient. As Common Sense Media points out, it raises thought-provoking points about how “society’s insatiable appetite for entertainment leads to our own lives being led vicariously through characters on-screen.” Maybe hold off on that Netflix reality binge?
Stream it on: Netflix