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50 Essential Movies For Kids
Looking to enrich your kid’s viewing habits? Or if you’re under 13 yourself, love movies, and you want to watch some of the best ever made, take it from us when we list 50 Essential Movies For Kids!
These are not just great children’s movies, but movies that play well for the curious and growing mind. While all these movies are classics and can be seen at any age, some have stronger themes than others that would play better during upper years. So, we separated the movies in suggested age categories:
Ages 1-5: Kids may not actively recall everything from this age, but a good baseline is fundamental in developing a healthy appetite for movies. Here we feature colorful classics (The Wizard of Oz), fun adventures (Chicken Run), and tales as old as time (Beauty and the Beast).
Ages 6-9: As more time is devoted to school and outside life, movies become more of an escape, and their power to transport starts to become apparent. Don’t miss out on epic quests (Star Wars), wish fulfillment (Home Alone), and dazzling fantasies (Spirited Away).
Ages 10-12: The magic window, the time in life when movies can move and change tweens, and stick for the rest of time. A good era for the classic portrayals of youth (The 400 Blows), face-melting action (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and romance (Romeo & Juliet).
Whether you’re a parent looking for a moral, entertaining movie night with your kids, or you’re a young student of movies making the leap on your own, check out these 50 Essential Movies For Kids! —Alex Vo
Adjusted Score: 103092%
Critics Consensus: Enchanting, sweepingly romantic, and featuring plenty of wonderful musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's most elegant animated offerings.
An arrogant young prince (Robby Benson) and his castle's servants fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress, who turns... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103371%
Critics Consensus: Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular.
This engaging stop-motion, claymation adventure tells the story of an American rooster who falls in love with a gorgeous hen... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99591%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated, smartly written, and stocked with singalong songs, Frozen adds another worthy entry to the Disney canon.
When their kingdom becomes trapped in perpetual winter, fearless Anna (Kristen Bell) joins forces with mountaineer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98488%
Critics Consensus: Kiki's Delivery Service is a heartwarming, gorgeously-rendered tale of a young witch discovering her place in the world.
In this anime feature, 13-year-old Kiki moves to a seaside town with her talking cat, Jiji, to spend a year... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98753%
Critics Consensus: Alfonso Cuarón adapts Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel with a keen sense of magic realism, vividly recreating the world of childhood as seen through the characters.
When young Sara (Liesel Matthews) is sent to a boarding school by her well-meaning World War I-bound father (Liam Cunningham),... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91849%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
After Kermit the Frog decides to pursue a movie career, he starts his cross-country trip from Florida to California. Along... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96668%
Critics Consensus: My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood.
This acclaimed animated tale by director Hayao Miyazaki follows schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they settle into... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98264%
Critics Consensus: The Red Balloon invests the simplest of narratives with spectacular visual inventiveness, making for a singularly wondrous portrait of innocence.
A red balloon with a life of its own follows a boy around Paris.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99477%
Critics Consensus: With its involving story and characters, vibrant art, and memorable songs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set the animation standard for decades to come.
The Grimm fairy tale gets a Technicolor treatment in Disney's first animated feature. Jealous of Snow White's beauty, the wicked... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106183%
Critics Consensus: Wall-E's stellar visuals testify once again to Pixar's ingenuity, while its charming star will captivate younger viewers -- and its timely story offers thought-provoking subtext.
WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying... [More]
Adjusted Score: 115178%
Critics Consensus: An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old.
When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101353%
Critics Consensus: The rare family-friendly feature with a heart as big as its special effects budget, Babe offers timeless entertainment for viewers of all ages.
Gentle farmer Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) wins a piglet named Babe (Christine Cavanaugh) at a county fair. Narrowly escaping his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103920%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the '50s when... [More]
Adjusted Score: 124598%
Critics Consensus: Coco's rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly -- and deeply affecting -- approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.
Despite his family's generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de... [More]
Adjusted Score: 110780%
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
After a gentle alien becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a young boy named Elliott... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91313%
Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa's elves.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103540%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal -- and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation.
After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids... [More]
Adjusted Score: 79710%
Critics Consensus: The Goonies is an energetic, sometimes noisy mix of Spielbergian sentiment and funhouse tricks that will appeal to kids and nostalgic adults alike.
When two brothers find out they might lose their house they are desperate to find a way to keep their... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89181%
Critics Consensus: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone adapts its source material faithfully while condensing the novel's overstuffed narrative into an involving -- and often downright exciting -- big-screen magical caper.
Adaptation of the first of J.K. Rowling's popular children's novels about Harry Potter, a boy who learns on his eleventh... [More]
Adjusted Score: 71019%
Critics Consensus: Home Alone uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin's cute performance and strong supporting stars.
When bratty 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother (Catherine... [More]
Adjusted Score: 107572%
Critics Consensus: Boasting dazzling animation, a script with surprising dramatic depth, and thrilling 3-D sequences, How to Train Your Dragon soars.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a Norse teenager from the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 114428%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving, Inside Out is another outstanding addition to the Pixar library of modern animated classics.
Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90670%
Critics Consensus: Utterly predictable and wholly of its time, but warm, sincere, and difficult to resist, due in large part to Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio's relaxed chemistry.
Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves to Southern California with his mother, Lucille (Randee Heller), but quickly finds himself the target of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102194%
Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.
In this animated adaptation of Ted Hughes' Cold War fable, a giant alien robot (Vin Diesel) crash-lands near the small... [More]
Adjusted Score: 107293%
Critics Consensus: Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages.
Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO figurine who always follows the rules, is mistakenly identified as the Special -- an... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77494%
Critics Consensus: Little Manhattan is a sweet story of young love that provides an enlightening if pragmatic view on love and courtship.
Gabe (Josh Hutcherson), a sixth grader, is partnered with Rosemary (Charlie Ray) in his karate class. Though he's known her... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91547%
Critics Consensus: Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book's spirit.
This film adaptation of a Roald Dahl work tells the story of Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson), a gifted girl forced... [More]
Adjusted Score: 84838%
Critics Consensus: A magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids adventure.
On his way to school, Bastian (Barret Oliver) ducks into a bookstore to avoid bullies. Sneaking away with a book... [More]
Adjusted Score: 114374%
Critics Consensus: Paddington 2 honors its star's rich legacy with a sweet-natured sequel whose adorable visuals are matched by a story perfectly balanced between heartwarming family fare and purely enjoyable all-ages adventure.
Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102878%
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 68442%
Critics Consensus: It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure.
When Scottie Smalls (Thomas Guiry) moves to a new neighborhood, he manages to make friends with a group of kids... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103705%
Critics Consensus: Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them.
10-year-old Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) moves with her parents to a new home in the Japanese countryside. After taking a wrong... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97968%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages.
Two young kids become spies in attempt to save their parents, who are ex-spies, from an evil mastermind. Armed with... [More]
Adjusted Score: 107417%
Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.
The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95400%
Critics Consensus: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is strange yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don't always work but express the film's uniqueness.
The last of five coveted "golden tickets" falls into the hands of a sweet but very poor boy. He and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104487%
Critics Consensus: A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.
For young Parisian boy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), life is one difficult situation after another. Surrounded by inconsiderate adults, including... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90841%
Critics Consensus: A warm, family-friendly underdog story, featuring terrific supporting performances from Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett.
Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99221%
Critics Consensus: Louis Malle's autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth.
In 1943, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a student at a French boarding school. When three new students arrive, including Jean... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101600%
Critics Consensus: Hugo is an extravagant, elegant fantasy with an innocence lacking in many modern kids' movies, and one that emanates an unabashed love for the magic of cinema.
Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 79027%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
In small-town Preston, Idaho, awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) has trouble fitting in. After his grandmother is injured in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89236%
Critics Consensus: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure brings Paul Reubens' famous character to the big screen intact, along with enough inspired silliness to dazzle children of all ages.
Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens), an eccentric child-like man, loves his red bicycle and will not sell it to his envious... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104987%
Critics Consensus: Queen of Katwe is a feel-good movie of uncommon smarts and passion, and outstanding performances by Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo help to elevate the film past its cliches.
Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101965%
Critics Consensus: Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time.
Dr. Indiana Jones, a renowned archeologist and expert in the occult, is hired by the U.S. Government to find the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97850%
Critics Consensus: The solid leads and arresting visuals make a case for Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet as the definitive cinematic adaptation of the play.
In the Italian city of Verona, the Montague and the Capulet families are perpetually feuding. When Romeo (Leonard Whiting), a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81249%
Critics Consensus: Though undeniably sentimental and predictable, Rudy succeeds with an uplifting spirit and determination.
Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame, but has neither the money for... [More]
Adjusted Score: 121600%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse matches bold storytelling with striking animation for a purely enjoyable adventure with heart, humor, and plenty of superhero action.
Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93388%
Critics Consensus: Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe.
Young history buff Kevin (Craig Warnock) can scarcely believe it when six dwarfs emerge from his closet one night. Former... [More]
Adjusted Score: 104357%
Critics Consensus: Buoyed by Robert Wise's dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein's score, and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.
A musical in which a modern day Romeo and Juliet are involved in New York street gangs. On the harsh... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95626%
Critics Consensus: With a deliciously wicked performance from Angelica Huston and imaginative puppetry by Jim Henson's creature shop, Nicolas Roeg's dark and witty movie captures the spirit of Roald Dahl's writing like few other adaptations.
While staying at a hotel in England with his grandmother, Helga (Mai Zetterling), young Luke (Jasen Fisher) inadvertently spies on... [More]