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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!
Adjusted Score: 103.23%
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.
Walt Disney Animation Studios' magical classic Beauty and the Beast returns to the big screen in Disney Digital 3D(TM), introducing... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.15%
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.
A comedy drama set on a Yorkshire chicken farm in 1950s England, the story follows the turbulent romance between Rocky... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99.787%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated, smartly written, and stocked with singalong songs, Frozen adds another worthy entry to the Disney canon.
Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, "Frozen" is the coolest comedy-adventure ever to hit the big screen.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.735%
Critics Consensus: Kiki's Delivery Service is a heartwarming, gorgeously-rendered tale of a young witch discovering her place in the world.
Veteran animator Hayao Miyazaki directs this buoyant children's adventure yarn about a young witch striking out on her own. At... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.648%
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.
A privileged, free-spirited young girl tries to adapt to life in a strict boarding school in this charming, critically acclaimed... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92.041%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
Kermit the Frog is persuaded by agent Dom DeLuise to pursue a career in Hollywood. Along the way, Kermit picks... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97.63%
Critics Consensus: My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood.
This superbly animated children's tale is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan's most beloved animators. The story follows Satsuke... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97.231%
Critics Consensus: The Red Balloon invests the simplest of narratives with spectacular visual inventiveness, making for a singularly wondrous portrait of innocence.
Six-year old petit garçon Pascal Lamorisse and the biggest, shiniest ballon rouge ever--25,000 were used during shooting--share near dialogue-less adventures... [More]
Adjusted Score: 110.847%
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.
It was called "Disney's Folly." Who on earth would want to sit still for 90 minutes to watch an animated... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.81%
Critics Consensus: Entertaining as it is innovative, Toy Story reinvigorated animation while heralding the arrival of Pixar as a family-friendly force to be reckoned with.
Woody, a traditional pull-string talking cowboy, has long enjoyed a place of honor as the favorite among six-year-old Andy's menagerie... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.101%
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.
After hundreds of lonely years of doing what he was built for, WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class)... [More]
Adjusted Score: 119.317%
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.
L. Frank Baum's classic tale comes to magisterial Technicolor life! The Wizard of Oz stars legendary Judy Garland as Dorothy,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.297%
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.
A young pig fights convention to become a sheep dog -- or, rather, sheep pig -- in this charming Australian... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.344%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
Contemporary high schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) doesn't have the most pleasant of lives. Browbeaten by his principal at... [More]
Adjusted Score: 111.877%
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 baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician... [More]
Adjusted Score: 110.879%
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.
Both a classic movie for kids and a remarkable portrait of childhood, E.T. is a sci-fi adventure that captures that... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.523%
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.
For his sophomore stab at directing, actor/writer/director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Made), took on this holiday comedy starring Saturday Night Live-alum... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.989%
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.
Mr. and Mrs. Fox live an idyllic home life with their son Ash and visiting young nephew Kristopherson. But after... [More]
Adjusted Score: 80.158%
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.
Leonard Maltin wasn't alone when he noticed similarities between Goonies and the 1934 Our Gang comedy Mama's Little Pirate. Adapted... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.716%
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.
The best-selling novel by J.K. Rowling (titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in England, as was this film adaptation)... [More]
Adjusted Score: 70.738%
Critics Consensus: Home Alone uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin's cute performance and strong supporting stars.
Home Alone is the highly successful and beloved family comedy about a young boy named Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) who is... [More]
Adjusted Score: 105.315%
Critics Consensus: Boasting dazzling animation, a script with surprising dramatic depth, and thrilling 3-D sequences, How to Train Your Dragon soars.
The son of a Viking chief must capture a dragon in order to mark his passage into manhood and prove... [More]
Adjusted Score: 112.795%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving, Inside Out is another outstanding addition to the Pixar library of modern animated classics.
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92.027%
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.
Newly arrived in California from New Jersey, teenager Daniel (Ralph Macchio) almost immediately runs afoul of karate-trained high school bullies.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.324%
Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.
"Iron Giant" is based upon the 1968 story,'Iron Man,' by the British poet laureate Ted Hughes. The film is about... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106.131%
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.
"The LEGO (R) Movie" is the first-ever, full-length theatrical LEGO (R) adventure. The original 3D computer animated story follows Emmet... [More]
Adjusted Score: 77.196%
Critics Consensus: Little Manhattan is a sweet story of young love that provides an enlightening if pragmatic view on love and courtship.
New York City is the most romantic place in the world -- even if you're only 10 years old and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.414%
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.
Based on the book Matilda, by British children's author Roald Dahl, this film moves the setting from the U.K. to... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82.753%
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.
Wolfgang Petersen adapted Michael Ende's children's story for this charming fantasy film that spawned several sequels. Bastian (Barret Oliver) is... [More]
Adjusted Score: 110.294%
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.
PADDINGTON 2 finds Paddington happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, where he has become a popular member... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.2%
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.
Robin Wright and Cary Elwes star in this fairytale adventure about a beautiful princess and the gallant hero who rescues... [More]
Adjusted Score: 67.057%
Critics Consensus: It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure.
The Sandlot is a coming-of-age story about a group of young boys growing up in California in 1962. A new,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.323%
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.
Master animation director Hayao Miyazaki follows up on his record-breaking 1997 opus Princess Mononoke with this surreal Alice in Wonderland-like... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.938%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages.
Gregorio and Ingrid are the two greatest secret agents the world has ever known: masters of disguise, mavens of invention,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106.029%
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.
Nineteen years after the formation of the Empire, Luke Skywalker is thrust into the struggle of the Rebel Alliance when... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.846%
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.
Promoted as a family musical by Paramount Pictures, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is more of a black comedy,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 107.574%
Critics Consensus: A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.
"The 400 Blows" marks the birth of legendary nouvelle vague character Antoine Doinel; his is the story of a 13-year-old... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89.509%
Critics Consensus: A warm, family-friendly underdog story, featuring terrific supporting performances from Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett.
Akeelah Anderson is a precocious 11-year-old girl from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99.179%
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.
During the Nazi occupation of France, a young Catholic boarding-school student witnesses the courage of his teachers as they defy... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.17%
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.
Throughout his extraordinary career, Academy Award-wining director Martin Scorsese has brought his unique vision and dazzling gifts to life in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.797%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
The directorial debut of filmmaker Jared Hess, who also co-wrote the screenplay, Napoleon Dynamite is a quirky, offbeat comedy set... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.022%
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.
Co-written by Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman, Pee Wee's Big Adventure marks the debut of director Tim Burton, who stamps... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.989%
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.
"Queen of Katwe" is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.394%
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.
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is no ordinary archeologist. When we first see him, he is somewhere in the Peruvian jungle... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.497%
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.
Zeffirelli's acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's timeless love story. Nominated for Best Picture Academy Award!... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81.154%
Critics Consensus: Though undeniably sentimental and predictable, Rudy succeeds with an uplifting spirit and determination.
Since he was a little boy, Rudy Ruttinger (Sean Astin) has idolized the University of Notre Dame and its football... [More]
Adjusted Score: 113.978%
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.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, bring their unique talents... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.529%
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.
A young boy joins a group of renegade dwarves on an unpredictable journey through time in this humorous fantasy. Monty... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.677%
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.
This romantic musical update of 'Romeo and Juliet' won ten Oscars. The tale of a turf war between rival teenage... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.575%
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.
A little boy and his kindly grandmother thwart the efforts of a coven of witches to rid Britain of children... [More]