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: 21705%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Live action and animation blend in this tale of a boy who must escape from a world inhabited by book... [More]
Directed By: Maurice Hunt, Joe Johnston

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 36253%
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 boy (Thomas Ian Nicholas) lands a job with the Chicago Cubs after an arm injury leaves him with major-league... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Stern

#38

Little Giants (1994)
36%

#38
Adjusted Score: 35537%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A man (Rick Moranis) leads a group of misfits into competition against his brother's (Ed O'Neill) successful youth football team.... [More]
Directed By: Duwayne Dunham

#37

A Goofy Movie (1995)
59%

#37
Adjusted Score: 60354%
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: Goofy's teenage son must put his date with a lovely friend on hold after Dad drags him along on a... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Lima

#36

Simon Birch (1998)
44%

#36
Adjusted Score: 44386%
Critics Consensus: Overly mushy; tries too hard to pull at the heart-strings.
Synopsis: An undersized New Hampshire boy (Ian Michael Smith) helps a friend (Joseph Mazzello) learn his father's identity.... [More]
Directed By: Mark Steven Johnson

#35

Casper (1995)
50%

#35
Adjusted Score: 52488%
Critics Consensus: A meandering, mindless family movie that frequently resorts to special effects and transparent sappiness.
Synopsis: A teen (Christina Ricci) who lost her mother befriends friendly ghost Casper while staying at a mean heiress's (Cathy Moriarty)... [More]
Directed By: Brad Silberling

#34
Adjusted Score: 62783%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A lumberjack helps a tribe of rain-forest elves protect their kingdom from an evil spirit and greedy clear-cutters.... [More]
Directed By: Bill Kroyer

#33

An American Tail (1986)
71%

#33
Adjusted Score: 73566%
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely animated, An American Tail is a sweet, melancholy, immigrants story.
Synopsis: A Russian immigrant mouse finds himself alone in New York City after being separated from his family.... [More]
Directed By: Don Bluth

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 72128%
Critics Consensus: The Fox and the Hound is a likeable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot.
Synopsis: A fox cub and a puppy become fast friends, but circumstances pit them against each other when they are older.... [More]

#31

The Goonies (1985)
76%

#31
Adjusted Score: 81504%
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: Coastal Oregon kids (Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen) follow the treasure map of pirate One-Eyed Willie past his deadly... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 77639%
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: A Virginia high school hires a black football coach (Denzel Washington) after undergoing integration in 1971.... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

#29

Cats Don't Dance (1997)
74%

#29
Adjusted Score: 73885%
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 small-town cat lands a part in a '30s Hollywood musical but must cope with a nasty child star and... [More]
Directed By: Mark Dindal

#28

The BFG (2016)
74%

#28
Adjusted Score: 88750%
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: A 10-year-old girl (Ruby Barnhill), Queen Victoria (Penelope Wilton) and the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) must devise a plan... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#27

The Mighty (1998)
75%

#27
Adjusted Score: 76982%
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: Friendship develops as a physically handicapped youngster (Kieran Culkin) teaches a fellow outcast (Elden Henson) how to read.... [More]
Directed By: Peter Chelsom

#26

Monster House (2006)
75%

#26
Adjusted Score: 80152%
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: 85223%
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: A boy (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his new friend (Elle Fanning) hatch a plan to save a community of mischievous cavern-dwellers... [More]

#24

Alpha (2018)
80%

#24
Adjusted Score: 86507%
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: Left for dead, a Cro-Magnon teen forms an unlikely alliance with a lone wolf that was abandoned by its pack.... [More]
Directed By: Albert Hughes

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 83561%
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: A New York schoolboy (Barret Oliver) escapes into a book about a boy warrior (Noah Hathaway) and an empress (Tami... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#22

The Book of Life (2014)
83%

#22
Adjusted Score: 87679%
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: Torn between family expectations and following his heart, a young man (Diego Luna) journeys through three fantastic worlds and faces... [More]
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 90896%
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: A boy (Josh Hutcherson) and his new friend (AnnaSophia Robb), the class outsider, create an imaginary world in which they... [More]
Directed By: Gabor Csupo

#20

A Monster Calls (2016)
86%

#20
Adjusted Score: 99040%
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: A massive, ancient tree monster (Liam Neeson) takes a 12-year-old boy (Lewis MacDougall) on a journey of courage, faith and... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 92625%
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: After a witch (Lauren Bacall) transforms her into a crone, a hat maker (Jean Simmons) seeks shelter at the ambulatory... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#18

Fly Away Home (1996)
87%

#18
Adjusted Score: 88656%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and beautifully filmed, Fly Away Home offers heartwarming entertainment for moviegoers of all ages.
Synopsis: A Canadian sculptor (Jeff Daniels) builds an ultralight plane so his teen daughter (Anna Paquin) can lead geese south.... [More]
Directed By: Carroll Ballard

#17

The Muppet Movie (1979)
88%

#17
Adjusted Score: 93188%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
Synopsis: Fried-frogs-legs franchisers (Charles Durning, Austin Pendleton) follow Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and company to Hollywood.... [More]
Directed By: James Frawley

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 91686%
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: An English orphan (Kate Maberly) discovers her bitter uncle's garden with her sickly cousin (Heydon Prowse), and it is magical.... [More]
Directed By: Agnieszka Holland

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 99056%
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 joins forces with... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish

#14

Matilda (1996)
90%

#14
Adjusted Score: 90664%
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: A little girl (Mara Wilson) develops extraordinary mental abilities, despite neglectful parents (Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman) and a brutal headmistress.... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 95650%
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: 94864%
Critics Consensus: The arresting and dynamic visuals, offbeat details and light-as-air storytelling make James and the Giant Peach solid family entertainment.
Synopsis: A kindly British orphan (Paul Terry) escapes his cruel aunts (Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes) to sail the sea on a... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#11

First Position (2011)
93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 95807%
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: 99521%
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, a young Afghan girl living under the Taliban regime, must disguise herself as a boy and become the breadwinner... [More]
Directed By: Nora Twomey

#9

The Iron Giant (1999)
96%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102170%
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: A malevolent government agent threatens to destroy the friendship between a boy and a huge alien robot.... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 99050%
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: A British Army captain's (Liam Cunningham) 10-year-old daughter (Liesel Matthews) irks the headmistress (Eleanor Bron) of her girls school in... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 106516%
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 (Art Parkinson) leads a quiet life in a small village until a spirit from the past renews an... [More]
Directed By: Travis Knight

#6

Chicken Run (2000)
97%

#6
Adjusted Score: 104478%
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: A dashing rooster and the hen he loves lead an escape from a farm in 1950s England.... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lord, Nick Park

#5

Spirited Away (2001)
97%

#5
Adjusted Score: 103523%
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: Lost in a forest, a 10-year-old girl (Daveigh Chase) meets animals, ghosts and weird creatures.... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki, Kirk Wise

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 101929%
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: In a world where cartoons coexist with humans, a private eye tries to clear a long-eared fugitive of murder charges.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#3

The Witches (1990)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 96247%
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: A Norwegian (Mai Zetterling) and her grandson (Jasen Fisher) outwit British witches after one (Anjelica Huston) turns him into a... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#2

Science Fair (2018)
97%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100290%
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: 101466%
Critics Consensus: A suspenseful, gripping documentary that features an engaging cross section of American children.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Jeff Blitz follows eight diverse children to the finals of a spelling bee in Washington, D.C.... [More]
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz


Thumbnail image: © Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection, © Focus Features, Alan Markfield /© Columbia Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

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