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: 21.456%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This animated fantasy, featuring Macauly Culkin, opens the world of books to younger viewers. The film begins in live action... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston, Maurice Hunt

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 35.839%
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: Rookie of the Year is a light-hearted comedy about a 12-year-old baseball fan who, despite his love for the sport,... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Stern

#38

Little Giants (1994)
36%

#38
Adjusted Score: 30.312%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A successful retired jock and his geeky younger brother play out their sibling rivalry by coaching rival little league football... [More]

#37

A Goofy Movie (1995)
58%

#37
Adjusted Score: 59.003%
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: This animated Disney feature centers on Goofy's teenage son Max, who is dragged off on vacation just as he was... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Lima

#36

Simon Birch (1998)
44%

#36
Adjusted Score: 45.061%
Critics Consensus: Overly mushy; tries too hard to pull at the heart-strings.
Synopsis: From the day he was born, Simon Birch (Ian Smith) was different. He was no bigger than a baby bird,... [More]
Directed By: Mark Steven Johnson

#35

Casper (1995)
47%

#35
Adjusted Score: 48.927%
Critics Consensus: A meandering, mindless family movie that frequently resorts to special effects and transparent sappiness.
Synopsis: Based on the popular cartoon character, this family-oriented "ghost story" is about a not-so-scary spirit who bonds with a little... [More]
Directed By: Brad Silberling

#34
Adjusted Score: 63.389%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A man finds himself living among the animals and enchanted spirits of the rainforest, and learns of the true consequences... [More]
Directed By: Bill Kroyer

#33

An American Tail (1986)
71%

#33
Adjusted Score: 73.044%
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely animated, An American Tail is a sweet, melancholy, immigrants story.
Synopsis: An American Tail is a beautifully rendered animated flim that tells an overly familiar story in terms children can easily... [More]
Directed By: Don Bluth

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 71.546%
Critics Consensus: The Fox and the Hound is a likeable, charming, unassuming effort that manages to transcend its thin, predictable plot.
Synopsis: The lifelong friendship between a fox cub and a bloodhound puppy provides the basis of this rollicking and tender animated... [More]

#31

The Goonies (1985)
75%

#31
Adjusted Score: 79.099%
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: Leonard Maltin wasn't alone when he noticed similarities between Goonies and the 1934 Our Gang comedy Mama's Little Pirate. Adapted... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 77.649%
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: Based on actual events that took place in 1971, a white southern high school is integrated with black students from... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

#29

Cats Don't Dance (1997)
74%

#29
Adjusted Score: 74.654%
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 song-and-dance cat from Kokomo leads a musical animal revolution at a 1930s Hollywood studio in this miscalculated blend of... [More]
Directed By: Mark Dindal

#28

The BFG (2016)
75%

#28
Adjusted Score: 86.582%
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: This film tells the tale of a young girl, the Queen of England and a benevolent giant known as the... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#27

The Mighty (1998)
75%

#27
Adjusted Score: 76.576%
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: Peter Chelsom directed this family film in the tradition of My Left Foot (1989). Charles Leavitt scripted this adaptation of... [More]
Directed By: Peter Chelsom

#26

Monster House (2006)
75%

#26
Adjusted Score: 80.305%
Critics Consensus: Monster House welcoms kids and adults alike into a household full of smart, monstrous fun.
Synopsis: A suburban home has become physically animated by a vengeful human soul looking to stir up trouble from beyond the... [More]
Directed By: Gil Kenan

#25

The Boxtrolls (2014)
77%

#25
Adjusted Score: 83.422%
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 family event movie from the creators of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman" that introduces audiences to a new breed of family... [More]

#24

Alpha (2018)
80%

#24
Adjusted Score: 85.186%
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: An epic adventure set in the last Ice Age,ALPHAtells a fascinating, visually stunning story that shines a light on the... [More]
Directed By: Albert Hughes

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 82.848%
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: Wolfgang Petersen adapted Michael Ende's children's story for this charming fantasy film that spawned several sequels. Bastian (Barret Oliver) is... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#22

The Book of Life (2014)
82%

#22
Adjusted Score: 86.426%
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: THE BOOK OF LIFE, a vibrant fantasy-adventure, tells the legend of Manolo, a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off... [More]
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 90.022%
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: "Bridge to Terabithia" is a fantasy/adventure story of friendship, family and the power of imagination Jess Aarons is an outsider... [More]
Directed By: Gabor Csupo

#20

A Monster Calls (2017)
86%

#20
Adjusted Score: 96.948%
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 visually spectacular drama from director J.A. Bayona ("The Impossible"). 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), dealing with his mother's (Felicity Jones)... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 92.942%
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: Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director who wowed audiences worldwide with his award-winning film Spirited Away, brings another visually spectacular... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#18

Fly Away Home (1996)
87%

#18
Adjusted Score: 89.106%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and beautifully filmed, Fly Away Home offers heartwarming entertainment for moviegoers of all ages.
Synopsis: Carroll Ballard returns to the form of his 1979 classic, "The Black Stallion" with this heartwarming, stunningly photographed tale about... [More]
Directed By: Carroll Ballard

#17

The Muppet Movie (1979)
88%

#17
Adjusted Score: 92.199%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
Synopsis: Kermit the Frog is persuaded by agent Dom DeLuise to pursue a career in Hollywood. Along the way, Kermit picks... [More]

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 90.862%
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: The 1993 remake of The Secret Garden is a rendition of the classic Frances Hodgon Burnett novel about a young... [More]
Directed By: Agnieszka Holland

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 96.889%
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 in the epic adventure THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING. Alex (Ashbourne Serkis)... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish

#14

Matilda (1996)
90%

#14
Adjusted Score: 90.418%
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: Based on the book Matilda, by British children's author Roald Dahl, this film moves the setting from the U.K. to... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 94.709%
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 testament to the immense complexity of nature, The Biggest Little Farm follows two dreamers and a dog on an... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: John Chester

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 94.997%
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 young boy's discovery of a gigantic peach triggers an eventful journey across the sea in this strikingly designed and... [More]
Directed By: Henry Selick

#11

First Position (2012)
93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 95.066%
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: Every year, thousands of aspiring dancers enter one of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix,... [More]
Directed By: Bess Kargman

#10

The Breadwinner (2017)
95%

#10
Adjusted Score: 98.715%
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 growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested,... [More]
Directed By: Nora Twomey

#9

The Iron Giant (1999)
96%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102.305%
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: "Iron Giant" is based upon the 1968 story,'Iron Man,' by the British poet laureate Ted Hughes. The film is about... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 98.696%
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 privileged, free-spirited young girl tries to adapt to life in a strict boarding school in this charming, critically acclaimed... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 105.34%
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: Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever,... [More]
Directed By: Travis Knight

#6

Chicken Run (2000)
97%

#6
Adjusted Score: 103.155%
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 comedy drama set on a Yorkshire chicken farm in 1950s England, the story follows the turbulent romance between Rocky... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lord, Nick Park

#5

Spirited Away (2002)
97%

#5
Adjusted Score: 102.212%
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: Master animation director Hayao Miyazaki follows up on his record-breaking 1997 opus Princess Mononoke with this surreal Alice in Wonderland-like... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 101.666%
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 this film, Hollywood's animated cartoon stars of the 1940s are a subjugated minority, living in the ghettolike "Toontown" One... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#3

The Witches (1990)
97%

#3
Adjusted Score: 99.112%
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 little boy and his kindly grandmother thwart the efforts of a coven of witches to rid Britain of children... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#2

Science Fair (2018)
97%

#2
Adjusted Score: 99.562%
Critics Consensus: Science Fair offers further proof that real-life academic competition can make for effortlessly entertaining - and ultimately uplifting - cinema.
Synopsis: Hailed by critics as "immensely likeable," "brilliant and quirky" and an "ode to the teenage science geeks on who our... [More]
Starring:

#1

Spellbound (2002)
97%

#1
Adjusted Score: 100.617%
Critics Consensus: A suspenseful, gripping documentary that features an engaging cross section of American children.
Synopsis: Eight kids of wildly disparate ethnic, class, and regional backgrounds are followed from their individual hometowns to Washington D.C. for... [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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