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A Monster Calls

40 Under-the-Radar Flicks To Watch With Your Kids At Home

A lot of people will be working from home for the next few weeks, and potentially longer, and many will have their kids home with them. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of family flicks to help you pass the time – movies we think both parents and kiddos will like equally. And which might have a nice little lesson to teach before the credits role.

To keep things interesting, we decided to avoid the obvious choices – recent blockbusters or Disney and Pixar classics that your kids (and you) have probably seen dozens of times. We want to help you discover something new.

With that in mind, our list includes some popular 1980s and 1990s hits we think it’s high time you introduced your kids to (The GooniesAn American TailThe NeverEnding Story); some more recent movies that went criminally underseen (A Monster CallsAlpha); quirky and off-beat staff favorites from our own childhoods (The WitchesCats Don’t Dance); and some absolute classics you may have forgotten about (A Little PrincessThe Secret GardenWho Framed Roger Rabbit). Plus, we’ve included a handful of documentaries that will charm – and educate – the whole fam (The Biggest Little FarmSpellbound). And, of course, there’s a Miyazaki or two.

These are films that will thrill, delight, and entertain, but also leave you with a moral or life lesson to chew on and maybe even discuss, whether it be embracing your differences (like the Boxtrolls do), facing grief (The WitchesA Monster Calls), or appreciation of the environment (FernGully). They may not all be Fresh according to the critics, but they’re worth your and your family’s time.

Enjoy these films, and let us know if you have other suggestions for families to watch in the comments.

Click on the titles to discover more – including where to stream, rent, or buy. 

#40

The Pagemaster (1994)
21%

#40
Adjusted Score: 21414%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A storm forces frightened Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin) inside a nearby library for shelter. Mr. Dewey (Christopher Lloyd), the librarian,... [More]
Directed By: Maurice Hunt, Joe Johnston

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 35845%
Critics Consensus: Rookie of the Year gets some laughs from its novel premise, but a high strikeout rate on jokes and sentimental fouls keeps this comedy firmly in the minor leagues.
Synopsis: A freak accident causes 12-year-old Little League player Henry (Thomas Ian Nicholas) to become such a powerful and accurate pitcher... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Stern

#38

Little Giants (1994)
36%

#38
Adjusted Score: 29464%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ever since childhood, nerdy Danny O'Shea (Rick Moranis) has felt inferior to his brother, Kevin (Ed O'Neill), a former college... [More]
Directed By: Duwayne Dunham

#37

A Goofy Movie (1995)
61%

#37
Adjusted Score: 61141%
Critics Consensus: A Goofy Movie offers enough of its titular ingredient to satisfy younger viewers, even if most parents will agree that this beloved character deserves better.
Synopsis: Though Goofy always means well, his amiable cluelessness and klutzy pratfalls regularly embarrass his awkward adolescent son, Max. When Max's... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Lima

#36

Simon Birch (1998)
44%

#36
Adjusted Score: 43942%
Critics Consensus: Overly mushy; tries too hard to pull at the heart-strings.
Synopsis: Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) and Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) are boys who have a reputation for being oddballs. Joe... [More]
Directed By: Mark Steven Johnson

#35

Casper (1995)
51%

#35
Adjusted Score: 53135%
Critics Consensus: A meandering, mindless family movie that frequently resorts to special effects and transparent sappiness.
Synopsis: Casper (voiced by Malachi Pearson) is a kind young ghost who peacefully haunts a mansion in Maine. When specialist James... [More]
Directed By: Brad Silberling

#34
Adjusted Score: 66742%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Crysta (Samantha Mathis) is a fairy who lives in FernGully, a rainforest in Australia, and has never seen a human... [More]
Directed By: Bill Kroyer

#33

An American Tail (1986)
72%

#33
Adjusted Score: 72331%
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely animated, An American Tail is a sweet, melancholy, immigrants story.
Synopsis: A young mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz (Phillip Glasser) and his family emigrate from Russia to the United States by boat... [More]
Directed By: Don Bluth

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 71363%
Critics Consensus: The Fox and the Hound is a likeable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot.
Synopsis: After his mother is killed, Tod the fox (Mickey Rooney) is taken in by the kindly Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan).... [More]

#31

The Goonies (1985)
76%

#31
Adjusted Score: 79711%
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.
Synopsis: When two brothers find out they might lose their house they are desperate to find a way to keep their... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 76869%
Critics Consensus: An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it's also well-crafted and features terrific performances.
Synopsis: In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas,... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

#29

Cats Don't Dance (1997)
73%

#29
Adjusted Score: 72549%
Critics Consensus: Cats Don't Dance, but they should easily entertain all-ages audiences thanks to some colorful animation, sharp humor, and a catchy soundtrack.
Synopsis: A world of cats and Danny (Scott Bakula) is trying to break into '30s Hollywood. His only problem is that... [More]
Directed By: Mark Dindal

#28

The BFG (2016)
74%

#28
Adjusted Score: 93947%
Critics Consensus: The BFG minimizes the darker elements of Roald Dahl's classic in favor of a resolutely good-natured, visually stunning, and largely successful family-friendly adventure.
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Sophie is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she meets the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). Naturally... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#27

The Mighty (1998)
75%

#27
Adjusted Score: 76428%
Critics Consensus: Spirited and sweet with an emphasis on the healing power of friendship, The Mighty is a modest charmer that comes by its whimsy honestly.
Synopsis: Kevin Dillon (Kieran Culkin) suffers from a disorder known as Morquio's syndrome, which weakens his heart and stunts his growth.... [More]
Directed By: Peter Chelsom

#26

Monster House (2006)
75%

#26
Adjusted Score: 80908%
Critics Consensus: Monster House welcoms kids and adults alike into a household full of smart, monstrous fun.
Synopsis: No adults believe three youths' (Mitchel Musso, Spencer Locke, Sam Lerner) assertion that a neighboring residence is a living creature... [More]
Directed By: Gil Kenan

#25

The Boxtrolls (2014)
78%

#25
Adjusted Score: 84419%
Critics Consensus: While it's far from Laika's best offering, The Boxtrolls is still packed with enough offbeat wit and visual splendor to offer a healthy dose of all-ages entertainment.
Synopsis: Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), an orphan, lives with the Boxtrolls -- a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who inhabit a cavern... [More]

#24

Alpha (2018)
80%

#24
Adjusted Score: 87838%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and beautifully filmed, Alpha offers a canine-assisted epic adventure that blends rousing action with an extra helping of canine charm.
Synopsis: Young Keda tries to survive alone in the wilderness after he's left for dead during his first hunt with his... [More]
Directed By: Albert Hughes

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 84840%
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.
Synopsis: On his way to school, Bastian (Barret Oliver) ducks into a bookstore to avoid bullies. Sneaking away with a book... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#22

The Book of Life (2014)
83%

#22
Adjusted Score: 87075%
Critics Consensus: The Book of Life's gorgeous animation is a treat, but it's a pity that its story lacks the same level of craft and detail that its thrilling visuals provide.
Synopsis: In the Mexican town of San Angel, Manolo (Diego Luna), Maria (Zoë Saldana) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum) have been friends... [More]
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 92023%
Critics Consensus: Bridge to Terabithia is a faithful adaptation of a beloved children's novel and a powerful portrayal of love, loss, and imagination through children's eyes.
Synopsis: The life of Jesse (Josh Hutcherson), an adolescent, changes when he befriends Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), the class outsider. The children... [More]
Directed By: Gabor Csupo

#20

A Monster Calls (2016)
86%

#20
Adjusted Score: 106529%
Critics Consensus: A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre.
Synopsis: Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones)... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 93349%
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely illustrated by master animator Miyazaki, Howl's Moving Castle will delight children with its fantastical story and touch the hearts and minds of older viewers as well.
Synopsis: Sophie (Emily Mortimer) has an uneventful life at her late father's hat shop, but all that changes when she befriends... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#18

Fly Away Home (1996)
88%

#18
Adjusted Score: 89375%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and beautifully filmed, Fly Away Home offers heartwarming entertainment for moviegoers of all ages.
Synopsis: After Amy (Anna Paquin) loses her mother in a car accident, she must uproot her life and move to Canada... [More]
Directed By: Carroll Ballard

#17

The Muppet Movie (1979)
88%

#17
Adjusted Score: 91856%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
Synopsis: After Kermit the Frog decides to pursue a movie career, he starts his cross-country trip from Florida to California. Along... [More]
Directed By: James Frawley

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 90967%
Critics Consensus: The Secret Garden honors its classic source material with a well-acted, beautifully filmed adaptation that doesn't shy from its story's darker themes.
Synopsis: Adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic fairy tale, "The Secret Garden." Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is an orphan sent to... [More]
Directed By: Agnieszka Holland

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 100750%
Critics Consensus: The Kid Who Would Be King recalls classic all-ages adventures -- and repurposes a timeless legend -- for a thoroughly enjoyable new addition to the family movie canon.
Synopsis: Old-school magic meets the modern world when young Alex stumbles upon the mythical sword Excalibur. He soon unites his friends... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish

#14

Matilda (1996)
91%

#14
Adjusted Score: 90547%
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.
Synopsis: This film adaptation of a Roald Dahl work tells the story of Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson), a gifted girl forced... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 96673%
Critics Consensus: Uplifting, educational, and entertaining, The Biggest Little Farm is an environmental advocacy documentary with a satisfying side dish of hope for the future.
Synopsis: A couple are followed through their successes and failures as they work to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres... [More]
Directed By: John Chester

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 94274%
Critics Consensus: The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment.
Synopsis: Featuring stop-motion animation and live action, this inventive adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's tale follows the adventures of James... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#11

First Position (2011)
93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 95701%
Critics Consensus: An upbeat and visually dramatic documentary of children's ballet, First Position displays the potential of the human spirit when fostered at a young age.
Synopsis: Six young ballet students, all from different backgrounds, prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, a competition in which dance... [More]
Directed By: Bess Kargman

#10

The Breadwinner (2017)
95%

#10
Adjusted Score: 102435%
Critics Consensus: The Breadwinner's stunning visuals are matched by a story that dares to confront sobering real-life issues with uncommon -- and richly rewarding -- honesty.
Synopsis: Parvana is an 11-year-old girl who lives under Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 2001. After the wrongful arrest of her... [More]
Directed By: Nora Twomey

#9

The Iron Giant (1999)
96%

#9
Adjusted Score: 101195%
Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.
Synopsis: In this animated adaptation of Ted Hughes' Cold War fable, a giant alien robot (Vin Diesel) crash-lands near the small... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#8
#8
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.
Synopsis: When young Sara (Liesel Matthews) is sent to a boarding school by her well-meaning World War I-bound father (Liam Cunningham),... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 110502%
Critics Consensus: Kubo and the Two Strings matches its incredible animation with an absorbing -- and bravely melancholy -- story that has something to offer audiences of all ages.
Synopsis: Young Kubo's (Art Parkinson) peaceful existence comes crashing down when he accidentally summons a vengeful spirit from the past. Now... [More]
Directed By: Travis Knight

#6

Chicken Run (2000)
97%

#6
Adjusted Score: 103367%
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.
Synopsis: This engaging stop-motion, claymation adventure tells the story of an American rooster who falls in love with a gorgeous hen... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lord, Nick Park

#5

Spirited Away (2001)
97%

#5
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.
Synopsis: 10-year-old Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) moves with her parents to a new home in the Japanese countryside. After taking a wrong... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 101571%
Critics Consensus: Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an innovative and entertaining film that features a groundbreaking mix of live action and animation, with a touching and original story to boot.
Synopsis: Down-on-his-luck private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to investigate an adultery... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#3

The Witches (1990)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 95620%
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.
Synopsis: While staying at a hotel in England with his grandmother, Helga (Mai Zetterling), young Luke (Jasen Fisher) inadvertently spies on... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#2

Science Fair (2018)
97%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100874%
Critics Consensus: Science Fair offers further proof that real-life academic competition can make for effortlessly entertaining - and ultimately uplifting - cinema.
Synopsis: Filmmakers follow nine high school students from around the globe as they compete at an international science fair. Facing off... [More]

#1

Spellbound (2002)
97%

#1
Adjusted Score: 101794%
Critics Consensus: A suspenseful, gripping documentary that features an engaging cross section of American children.
Synopsis: Eight youthful competitors, sponsored by their hometown newspapers, travel with their families to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 1999... [More]
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz


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