What makes a great family movie? Is it just a film that will keep the kids quiet for a couple of hours while the adults catch up on some much-needed sleep? Or is it a motion picture that allows multiple generations to sit down together and enjoy the same story? Perhaps, then, the best kids’ movies ought to keep both the little ones occupied and the grown-ups engaged. They can be in literally any genre, too; the following 25 flicks, for example, feature everything from animated classics and musicals to fantasy epics and oddball comedies. And as a result, our definitive guide to the very best family movies on Netflix as of August 2, 2019, is practically guaranteed to serve up something for everyone.
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If you also love films that aren’t always child-friendly, however, then check out our list of “The 50 Best Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Penchant for high-octane thrills? Then take a look, too, at our list of “The 25 Best Action Movies On Netflix Right Now.” If you feel like a chuckle, on the other hand, then have a glance at our guide to “The 25 Best Comedy Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Want to experience combat and all the danger it entails? Head over to “The 25 Best War Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Or do you just fancy your pick of the most recent releases? Then you may want to see our list of “The 25 Best New Movies On Netflix Right Now.”
If you prefer being immersed in fantastical worlds, meanwhile, then have a glance at our definitive guide to “The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies On Netflix Right Now.” Fancy a fright? Head to our list of “The 25 Best Horror Movies On Netflix Right Now.” If you’re more up for nailbiting tension, though, then check out “The 25 Best Thriller Movies On Netflix Right Now.” And those wanting love should take a look at “The 25 Best Romance Movies On Netflix Right Now.”
To establish which movies should be included on this list, we first turned to New on Netflix USA’s ratings of family movies currently available on Netflix. We then selected the 25 films with the highest scores on that site, excluding documentaries. In addition, we conducted our own independent research to ensure that we featured only the very best movies out there.
To establish our ranking, we then gathered ratings for those 25 movies from each of the following touchstone sites: IMDb, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Any film for which only an IMDb rating was available was subsequently disqualified; and this was also the case for any movie with a Rotten Tomatoes rating based on fewer than 15 reviews.
The ratings were then combined to give each movie an average score out of 100, and the 25 films with the highest average scores were concluded to be the best currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S. These scores also, of course, determined the final ordering of the movies.
25. The Dark Crystal (1982)
There’s no better time to reacquaint yourself with The Dark Crystal, because a TV prequel is due to hit Netflix some time in 2019. And for those yet to witness Gelfling Jen’s exploits to save the mystical planet of Thra, it’s certainly worth making Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s cult classic your next must-see movie. As fans across the generations know, The Dark Crystal sees Thra on the verge of collapse as the villainous Skeksis battle against the benevolent Mystics for control of the titular magic stone. It’s all down to Jen, then, to carry out his master’s plan and restore balance to the world. Plus, the message at the heart of the film – that good triumphs over evil – may well, as Variety put it in its contemporary review, “teach a lesson in morality to youngsters at the same time [as] it is entertaining their parents.”
24. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
It took Disney 54 years to release a sequel to Mary Poppins, although this wasn’t for lack of trying. In the intervening decades, a couple of studio bosses – including Walt Disney himself – had touted another Poppins outing, but P. L. Travers had told them both where to go. Following the success of Saving Mr. Banks, though, Travers’ estate finally gave Disney the go-ahead to revisit everyone’s favorite flying nanny, this time with Emily Blunt as the lead. And audiences turned out in droves to see the magical Brit once again come to the rescue of the Banks family, with the follow-up film ultimately bringing in close to $350 million worldwide. Critics were mostly on board with Rob Marshall’s musical ride, too. Variety, for instance, aptly dubbed Blunt’s performance “practically perfect in every way,” while The Guardian’s Mark Kermode even confessed that the movie had reduced him to tears.
23. See You Yesterday (2019)
Director and co-writer Stefon Bristol first came up with the idea for See You Yesterday while still at film school. Back then, though, Bristol’s mentor, Spike Lee, told him that he simply wasn’t accomplished enough to shoot a full-length feature. So, after the budding moviemaker took Lee’s words on board, he instead chose to create a short version of his time-travel drama in 2017 – before ultimately expanding the concept two years later. Perhaps that extra development time was to See You Yesterday’s benefit as well; at the very least, the 80-minute version went on to be labeled both “engaging” and “often ingenious” by The Guardian. What’s the story here, you ask? Well, the film centers around young protagonists Sebastian and CJ, who throw together a couple of time machines in a bid to stop CJ’s brother from being wrongfully gunned down by a cop.
22. Spy Kids (2001)
Inspired by how the heroics of Escape to Witch Mountain’s young characters made him feel as a child, director Robert Rodriguez created Spy Kids to similarly empower a new generation. Naturally, then, children Carmen and Juni Cortez – played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, respectively – take center stage in Rodriguez’s movie, which sees the brother-and-sister duo follow in their parents’ footsteps by utilizing their new-found skills in espionage. Roger Ebert was certainly won over by the end result, with the veteran critic dubbing the flick “intelligent, upbeat [and] happy” and a “treasure.” Plus, Spy Kids proved to be a sizeable hit with audiences, earning more than $147 million at the worldwide box office after production costs of $35 million. The comic adventure has also since spawned three sequels.
21. Stardust (2007)
Miramax first tried to make a movie of Neil Gaiman’s book Stardust at the end of the 1990s – but things didn’t exactly go as planned. In fact, Gaiman had been so disappointed with the process that he initially thought he’d never let his novel be adapted for the big screen at all. When the writer met British director Matthew Vaughn, though, everything changed. So, with Gaiman’s blessing, Vaughn assembled a star cast – including Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro – to bring the tale to life. Stardust’s plot involves a man attempting to bring a shooting star back from a fantasy world – only to discover that the star is actually a woman. And Vaughn’s flick was well received; The New Yorker, for example, called the picture “a rollicking adventure story.”
20. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
In 2005 Tim Burton told Entertainment Weekly, “A lot of people are huge fans of [Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory] and hold it in awe. I wasn’t one of them.” Besting the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was likely on the director’s mind, then, when he was filming the 2005 version of the tale. Cast-wise, Burton reunited with Johnny Depp for the new movie, with the actor taking the part of Willy Wonka; meanwhile the role of Charlie went to Depp’s Finding Neverland co-star Freddie Highmore. And fortunately for Burton and his team, the completed film was enthusiastically received by audiences and critics alike. Charlie took in almost $475 million in global box-office receipts, in fact, and also ultimately garnered an impressive 83 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The story here, of course, sees five children explore Wonka’s fantastical candyland – although sometimes to their cost.
19. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller made their feature film directorial debuts with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Apparently, though, their original vision for the picture was a little different. “We wanted to do it as a serious action movie,” Lord told The New York Times in 2009. “But silly on purpose,” Miller chipped in. Eventually, though – and after a long period in development in which both Lord and Miller were fired then later re-hired – the movie morphed into the inventive comedy that we know today. The finished film, then, is all about a guy who creates a machine that changes water into tasty treats. And Meatballs subsequently proved a hit with audiences, if its $243 million box-office haul is anything to go by.
18. Bolt (2008)
Bolt actually started out life as a film called American Dog and featured a radioactive rabbit among its stars. But as original director Chris Sanders revealed to IndieWire in 2013, Disney decided that it “didn’t want to go forward with that particular version of the movie.” And that explanation chimes with what John Lasseter – then-head creative at Disney – told The New York Times in 2007. Ultimately, Lasseter said, the director just “couldn’t take [the feature] to the place it had to be.” Sanders was therefore replaced with Byron Howard and Chris Williams, and American Dog duly became Bolt. The resulting critically acclaimed adventure sees John Travolta’s Bolt – a canine TV star who believes he has super powers – trying to save his kidnapped co-star.
17. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
When reviewing The Emperor’s New Groove, the Chicago Reader praised Mark Dindal’s movie for its “ingenious action sequences” and “a climax full of the transmogrification [that] animation was invented for.” If the initial plans for the film had come to pass, however, both critics and audiences may have seen a very different picture. You see, The Emperor’s New Groove started life as the more dramatic Kingdom of the Sun; and Sting also came on board to write the songs. But after the head honchos at Disney disagreed with the proposed tone of the feature, it slowly transformed into the lighter, mostly non-musical adventure that it is today. And by the end, most seemed to agree that the emperor-turns-into-a-llama movie was all the better for the change. Even Sting was impressed with the finished film, although he had had to revamp his soundtrack in the process.
16. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
During the development stages of The Princess and the Frog, Disney found itself under censure. At first, you see, the movie was known as The Frog Princess and featured an African American protagonist called Maddy. But critics subsequently pointed out that the original title could be interpreted as an insult towards the people of France. It didn’t help, either, that the lead character’s name sounded similar to “mammy” – the moniker given to the offensive stereotype of the black, female and often enslaved domestic servant. Yet fortunately the studio took the feedback on board and subsequently renamed its pioneering heroine Tiana. And for the most part, the tale of an ambitious young woman-turned-amphibian was greeted with open arms. Certainly, Ron Clements and John Musker’s animation performed well internationally, taking home just over $267 million at the box office.
15. Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first movie to have been released by Tokyo-based Studio Ponoc. Yet while many critics acknowledged the debt that the animated adventure owes to the films of Studio Ghibli, Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s work – inspired by Mary Stewart’s The Little Broomstick – stands resolutely on its own. “We had a clear vision that we wanted to make a quality film for children that could also be enjoyed by adults,” producer Yoshiaki Nishimura told Den of Geek in 2018. And by many accounts, the team succeeded. Critic Sheila O’Malley wrote, for instance, that the picture is “transportive and entertaining,” while The Village Voice declared that “your eyes might never be the same after seeing [the film].”
14. Hercules (1997)
“On any level – Earthly or otherwise – the ingenious new animated Hercules is pretty divine,” The New York Times’ Janet Maslin wrote in her 1997 review of the Disney picture. Maslin didn’t stop there, either. The reviewer additionally claimed, for example, that the movie has “cleverness to spare” – and not only this, but that it also makes “superb use of James Woods” as villain Hades. Woods was similarly singled out for praise by Entertainment Weekly, which lauded the actor for turning in “an inspired piece of deadpan vaudeville.” And while such acclaim didn’t quite translate into box-office gold back in the ’90s, the critical response to Hercules at least tallies with the latter-day assertion that the movie is one of Disney’s most underrated gems. The animated comedy was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and sees the eponymous hero working to recover his former immortality.
13. Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
In 2012 Wreck-It Ralph scored what was once the biggest opening weekend of any Disney animated flick. A follow-up film was almost inevitable, then, although Ralph Breaks the Internet actually only marks the third occasion on which the Mouse House has released an animated sequel in movie theaters. Still, given that the family-friendly adventure ultimately pulled in a mighty $529 million at the worldwide box office, the smart money is on Disney reprising yet more of its future hits. This time around, John C. Reilly-voiced Ralph and Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope burst out of their respective video games to explore the exciting – and occasionally frightening – world of the internet. And as well as bringing in the big bucks, Phil Johnston and Rich Moore’s picture also earned an Oscar nomination.
12. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
In 2002 Lilo & Stitch co-director Chris Sanders confessed to Animation World Network that he’d promised to “bring [the movie] in on a very low budget [and] very fast.” This wasn’t entirely a bad thing, the film’s other director, Dean DeBlois, added, as such an approach allowed the pair the room to create a “quirky and unique” picture. And that process appears to have paid off when it comes to the finished product. Roger Ebert, for one, was seemingly won over by Lilo & Stitch, writing in his review, “It’s one of the most charming feature-length cartoons of recent years.” The Chicago Reader was full of praise for the film, too, dubbing it “smart, poignant and utterly beguiling.” The comedy-adventure relates the story of a destructive alien – Stitch – who forms a strong bond with young girl Lilo.
11. Mulan (1998)
In 2016 Ming-Na Wen reflected on the impact that Mulan has had since its initial release. The actress behind the voice of the movie’s eponymous heroine told Entertainment Weekly, “When I go to conventions… some girls actually shake and cry when they tell me stories about how much Mulan has influenced their lives.” And that may have been down to the fact that the film represents minorities who were otherwise rarely given a significant screen presence at the time. In fact, Wen had apparently been surprised to learn that Disney were even interested in making a film out of a Chinese legend in the first place. Ultimately, though, directors Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook created the acclaimed action adventure, which tells the tale of a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to save her ageing father from having to go to war.
10. Tarzan (1999)
Although Tarzan doesn’t feature musical numbers in the same manner as many other Disney films, it does still have a pumping soundtrack that propels the animated movie along. For this, the filmmakers had turned to Phil Collins – and they seemingly hit the jackpot, too. Collins’ song “You’ll Be In My Heart” ultimately won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, you see, and the soundtrack also earned Collins and Mark Mancina a Grammy. Critics raved, too, about the movie’s groundbreaking animation; Entertainment Weekly even suggested that Tarzan is up there with The Matrix in terms of its “visual virtuosity.” Plus, Chris Buck and Kevin Lima’s feature was just as big a hit with audiences; it managed to reap almost $450 million at the worldwide box office.
Image: via IMDb
9. The Little Prince (2015)
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic novella The Little Prince first appeared in print in 1943. And the wildly successful book has since been translated into 300 different languages – the only non-religious title to have received such an honor. It’s not without reason, then, that members of the team behind the 2015 animated movie adaptation had concerns about doing “justice to the original source material.” But, in the end, they needn’t have worried, as the stop-motion fantasy is now without a doubt one of the best family movies on Netflix. In 2016 SFGate even wrote, “No child – or adult, for that matter – will be able to resist the considerable charm of The Little Prince.” The film recounts the tale of a young girl who ends up learning about both the Little Prince and his incredible world.
8. Coraline (2009)
Henry Selick followed up stop-motion efforts The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach with another gem in 2009’s Coraline. And critics heaped praise on the creepy fantasy, which sees a young girl discovering a world where all is not as it seems. The New Yorker even went so far as to say that the film is both “beautifully designed” and features 3D effects that are “a gift to imagination.” Such compliments may also have been music to the ears of Coraline’s crew. They’d certainly put the hours in, after all; the production saw dozens of animators working laboriously on miniature sets to create just 90 seconds of footage each week. Ultimately, though, Selick seemingly wasn’t bothered about having a flawless end product. Instead, as the filmmaker told Animation World Network in 2008, he believes it’s the “imperfections” that make stop-motion animation so “attractive.”
7. Boy and the World (2013)
Intriguingly, Alê Abreu has suggested that he tapped into another realm to bring Boy and the World to life. The director elaborated on this point to IndieWire in 2015, saying, “One day I discovered the figure of this boy… I felt like this boy was calling me to follow him into this world and to discover his story.” Wherever Abreu drew his inspiration from, however, it was worth it, as the resulting film was nominated for an Oscar. What’s more, that honor came despite the fact that the animated adventure tells its story without almost any dialogue. The visuals are unusual, too, becoming ever more complex the further protagonist Cuca travels on his mission to find his father. And The Philadelphia Inquirer was certainly charmed by the movie upon its release, with the newspaper dubbing it both “beautiful” and “visionary.”
6. The Breadwinner (2017)
The Guardian’s critic Mark Kermode gave The Breadwinner five stars out of five and praised Nora Twomey’s animated tale as “superb.” Meanwhile, the film holds a staggering 95 percent “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It goes without saying, then, that The Breadwinner is not a cartoonish story aimed at calming screaming toddlers; instead, thanks in part to its subject matter, it possesses considerable gravitas. The movie is set in war-torn Afghanistan and sees young girl Parvana’s father being caught by the Taliban, after which Parvana has to disguise herself as a boy in order to help her family survive. And the feature took its cues from a novel of the same name by Deborah Ellis, who interviewed real-life refugees in a bid to more accurately reflect their lives in her work.
Image: via IMDb
5. Incredibles 2 (2018)
To say that Incredibles 2 made a lot of money upon its release is rather an understatement. It is, after all, the second highest-grossing animated flick of all time, with more than $1.2 billion in box-office receipts. Furthermore, Brad Bird’s superhero comedy has the critical plaudits to justify that astounding sum. The Guardian claimed, for instance, that Incredibles 2 “is as thrilling and just as much fun” as the first film; and the movie also earned an Academy Award nod for Best Animated Feature. This time around, then, we join the super-powered Parr family right where we left them – only this time it’s matriarch Helen, voiced by Holly Hunter, who has to go out and set the world to rights.
4. April and the Extraordinary World (2015)
April and the Extraordinary World holds a staggering 96 percent “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And as that figure suggests, Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci’s animated feature has had its fair share of praise. The Arizona Republic, for instance, called the sci-fi adventure “smart, exciting and wonderfully weird,” while The Philadelphia Inquirer said that the movie “will have your imagination doing somersaults and cartwheels.” So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, April and the Extraordinary World takes place in a steampunk-flavored realm where all the scientists are strangely going missing; at the same time, young girl April – originally voiced by Marion Cotillard – is on the hunt for her parents. Not only that, but the French-language film takes inspiration from the graphic style of artist Jacques Tardi, and it painstakingly recreates his visuals for the silver screen.
3. My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
This Swiss-French animated movie may have a strange title, but it’s actually more touching than it is bizarre. You see, My Life as a Zucchini – or Ma vie de Courgette, to give it its official name – is about neglected and mistreated young people who find solace in one another’s company. And its themes are therefore likely to resonate with even those adult viewers who may otherwise scoff at the idea of watching a stop-motion film without little ones around. The reviews for Claude Barras’ effort are glowing, too. Mark Kermode, for instance, wrote that the movie is “beautifully tender,” while the Chicago Sun-Times claimed, simply, that it is “marvelous.” My Life as a Zucchini was also in contention for the Best Animated Feature Film award at the 2017 Oscars.
2. Coco (2017)
Incredibly, Coco is the first Pixar movie to showcase a protagonist from a minority background. It’s also by far the most expensive movie ever made with a predominantly Latino cast. So, it’s fair to say that there was a lot riding on the film. Director Lee Unkrich was aware of this too; as he told The Independent in 2017, “With me not being Latino myself, I knew that this project was going to come under heavy scrutiny.” The production team – including co-director Adrian Molina – therefore brought in cultural advisers to help make sure they got everything just right. The result is a charming adventure story that sees 12-year-old Miguel plunge into the Land of the Dead to track down his ancestors. And critics and audiences alike fell head over heels for Coco. It’s more than worthy, then, of topping our list of the best family movies on Netflix.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
After Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hit movie theaters in 2018, some of Hollywood’s brightest lined up to sing its praises. Moonlight director Barry Jenkins dubbed the superhero saga “one of the best films this year,” for instance, while Chris Pratt labeled it a “masterpiece.” Even live-action Spider-Man star Tom Holland honored Into the Spider-Verse, calling it “one of the coolest films [he’s] ever seen.” And in 2019 Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman’s picture received arguably its highest accolade of all: an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. So, assuming all of this has convinced you to select the animated adventure for that next family movie night, you can look forward to following teen Spidey Miles Morales as he attempts to save multiple realities – and multiple Spider-characters – from being destroyed.
Not to be forgotten…
The following were previously on our list of the 25 best family movies on Netflix, but they’ve either now left the streaming service or have since been pushed out of the top 25. Even so, these films are still very much worth watching.
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
For some critics, at least, it appears that Kurt Russell’s Santa Claus is the best thing about The Christmas Chronicles. The Los Angeles Times’ Gary Goldstein, for instance, claimed that Russell’s “performance [in the role] is a gas” and that the actor “was born to play” St. Nick. Such praise probably boils down in part to Russell’s distinct take on the Christmas legend. Indeed, as the star told Parade in 2018, “I’m not playing [Santa] as a jolly old elf… If you’re not in bed when [he] comes around, that’s not a good thing.” But the movie’s protagonists do more than just stay up late; the brother-and-sister pair climb aboard Santa’s sleigh as well – after which they almost ruin the holidays for everyone. Still, the resulting adventure was a hit with Netflix viewers, it seems. Indeed, Clay Kaytis’ film reportedly received a whopping 20 million streams during its first seven days upon release.
Cars 3 (2017)
Before Cars 3’s makers set out to bring the movie to the big screen, they spoke to real-life racers to find their inspiration. “We even talked to a sports psychologist who explained that many of these drivers can’t imagine doing anything else,” director Brian Fee revealed in the film’s production notes. And so, it appears, the story for this animated threequel was born. Yes, in Cars 3 Lightning McQueen – voiced by Owen Wilson – faces the prospect of retirement when up-and-coming vehicles threaten to take his racing crown. McQueen has to go back to basics, then, in order to discover how he can win even as he grows older. The end result, moreover, is a movie that Variety has called both “touching” and “exceedingly sweet and polished.”
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
In March 2006 Meet the Robinsons was a very different film to the version that eventually hit movie theaters. And it seems that the sci-fi comedy initially had its problems. After John Lasseter – then-chief creative officer of Disney Animation – viewed a rough cut of the movie, you see, he had a six-hour meeting with director Stephen J. Anderson to discuss what could be changed. Apparently, the main issue, according to The New York Times, was that the villain just wasn’t evil enough. But after redoing more than half of the animated flick, Anderson and his team delivered a story that Lasseter ultimately declared would leave the audience “sobbing.” The film sees genius inventor Lewis embarking on a time-traveling adventure to both find a family and foil the plot of the evil Bowler Hat Guy.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016)
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday marked the first time that Paul Reubens had appeared on the big screen as his much-loved character in almost 30 years. A lot had happened in the interim, of course – not least Reubens’ 1991 arrest for indecent exposure. Even after Reubens announced work on a new Pee-wee Herman film, the finished product took years to eventually emerge. “It’s just been very, very slow to get the right people involved,” the actor told The A.V. Club in 2014. After that lengthy period in development, though, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday finally found a home on Netflix. And as you may guess from the title, John Lee’s comedy sees Herman go on vacation for the first time.
Christopher Robin (2018)
According to Christopher Robin director Marc Forster, the release of the Disney movie was rather well timed. “We could all use a little bit of [Winnie the] Pooh’s heart and wisdom right now,” Forster is quoted as having explained in the production notes to the 2018 film. Some viewers may well also be able to relate to the now grown-up title character – portrayed by Ewan McGregor – who finds himself floundering amid the humdrum realities of adulthood. And yet when Robin is greeted again by his boyhood bear, Pooh, a familiarly magical world opens up to him. If Forster’s objective was therefore to charm the audience, then he’s surely done exactly that – judging, at least, by Christopher Robin’s 7.4 rating on IMDb. Clerks director Kevin Smith even named the family flick as one of his films of the year for 2018.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Based on the wildly popular Ann Brashares book, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sees four young women inextricably bound together by a seemingly magical pair of jeans. And while this premise may sound rather twee, it’s worth noting that the comedy-drama explores some hard-hitting themes – terminal illness and suicide among them. Credit should also go to the film’s quartet of stars – Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn – all of whom have since gone on to bigger things. Oh, and even if you’re not a teenage girl, you may want to stock up on Kleenex before watching. That’s according to Washington Post writer Scott Moore, who in his review of the movie remarked, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is supposed to be a… chick flick, but I have to confess that at the emotional high point, a tear formed in the eye of this middle-aged man.”
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The numbers involved with Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast are frankly staggering. The fantasy romance cost an incredible $255 million to produce, for instance – and that’s not counting marketing costs, either. Fortunately, though, director Bill Condon’s film earned a smidge over $504 million at the U.S. box office. And when you add in another $759 million internationally, that makes Beauty and the Beast the 14th highest-grossing movie ever. Critics were also largely kind about the magical tale of a woman – played by Emma Watson – who slowly falls in love with a prince cursed to appear as the titular beast (Dan Stevens). Variety went so far as to call the movie “lovingly crafted,” while The New York Times said that it “revels in joy and enchantment.”
Monster House (2006)
Despite a title that brings to mind a B-movie horror, Monster House is a decidedly family-friendly adventure. That said, Gil Kenan’s directorial debut does possess an element of threat, for it tells the tale of three young kids battling against – you guessed it – a possessed home. All in all, then, while the flick may not be suitable for really small children, there are still enough jump-scares and thrills in store to keep older kids and parents happy. And that’s not even to mention the novel method that the filmmakers used to animate the horror-comedy. You see, instead of going the traditional CGI route throughout, Kenan and his team chose to also shoot many scenes with real actors on a darkened soundstage. All this work paid off, too, as the feature ultimately scooped a nomination in the Best Animated Film category at the 2007 Academy Awards.
The Water Horse (2007)
In The Washington Post’s review of The Water Horse, the newspaper lauded Jay Russell’s fantasy feature as being “a rich, mostly tender fairy tale.” And the film’s 74 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests that it was generally well received by other critics, too. Even so, star Alex Etel has confessed to being embarrassed by one particular moment in the movie. As the then-13-year-old told the press in 2008, “In the first scene, I’m in a pair of swimming trunks… and I’d been eating blueberry muffins quite a lot, so I was a bit pudgy.” The Water Horse takes its inspiration from Dick King-Smith’s novel of the same name, which follows a young boy who discovers a bizarre egg that brings a legendary sea creature into the world.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)
David Soren’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie may not have exactly set the box office alight, but it did nevertheless catch the eyes of many critics. The animated adventure went down well in some quarters, too; The Guardian called it a “delightful surprise,” for instance, while Observer also praised the film as being “genuine and sharp.” The flick is based on the incredibly successful series of stories from Dav Pilkey and focuses on the exploits of two friends – one of whom is voiced by Kevin Hart – and a dumb, tighty-whities-wearing superhero. And while DreamWorks initially had trouble convincing the author to agree to the film, Pilkey ultimately relaxed after meeting with director Soren. The result, then, is a madcap movie that, as Soren told Den of Geek in 2018, “will age well” and have a life beyond its initial release.
The 2007 version of Hairspray is a spin on the Broadway adaptation of John Waters’ movie of the same name. But don’t worry: you don’t need to have seen any previous iterations to get the most out of this musical. And when you do watch the film, you’ll likely appreciate both the star-studded cast – which includes John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer – and the toe-tapping song-and-dance numbers. Yet there’s also a serious side to Adam Shankman’s movie. Hairspray is set, you see, at the time of racial segregation in the U.S., and it spotlights the protagonist’s attempts to introduce equality into her favorite TV show. Ultimately, though, all aspects of the movie come together neatly. The New York Post apparently loved the remake, too, calling it “the best and most entertaining movie adaptation of a stage musical so far this century.”
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Gábor Csupó’s adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia was co-written by David Paterson, who is the son of the author of the original novel. And said book actually took its cues from a heartbreaking moment in Paterson’s own life. As author Katherine Paterson explained on her website, “David’s best friend, an eight-year-old named Lisa Hill, was struck and killed by lightning. I wrote the book to try to make sense out of a tragedy that seemed senseless.” Safe to say, then, that Bridge to Terabithia packs more of an emotional punch than your average PG-rated flick. But it’s nonetheless a piece of work that critics feel is worth watching. The Globe and Mail, for example, wrote that the film “stands to become a beloved family movie.”
Ten years passed between Steven Spielberg purchasing Shrek’s movie rights and DreamWorks bringing the film to the big screen. And it took a while to nail down Shrek’s cast, too. Initially, Steve Martin was considered for the voice of Donkey, while Nicolas Cage was tipped for Shrek – although he ultimately rejected the role. Nor did the changes stop after all the actors were on board. Mike Myers chose to re-record all of Shrek’s lines, for instance, after he convinced the producers that giving the grumpy green ogre a Scottish accent would be more fitting. But everything clearly came good in the end, as directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson’s light-hearted take on fairy tales ended up winning an Oscar and spawning a franchise.
Chicken Run (2000)
From the movie’s conception to its completion, the Aardman Animation team took nearly half a decade to make Chicken Run. This included a couple of years spent coming up with the characters and planning the action as well as a further year and a half of laborious production time. During filming, a 250-strong crew worked with 534 silicon-and-plasticine figures to help produce a movie that, for all that work, remains the most lucrative stop-motion animation in cinematic history. Originally described to distributors DreamWorks as “an escape movie with chickens,” Chicken Run follows a bunch of feathered friends who look to flee a farm before they get made into pies. Yet for directors Nick Park and Peter Lord, the film is about so much more than that. As Park told Hollywood.com in 2000, it’s “a story about people in chicken costumes, really.”
A Little Princess (1995)
Long before Alfonso Cuarón earned an Oscar for Gravity, the director had turned critics’ heads with A Little Princess. The family film – inspired by the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel of the same name – tells the tale of a ten-year-old girl who becomes a servant after her father is deemed to have been killed in action during WWI. However, despite the attempts of a stern headmistress, the child’s spirit can’t be crushed – as seen in the movie’s stirring fantasy sequences. A Little Princess received rapturous reviews from critics upon its initial release; unfortunately, though, it failed to find an audience in theaters. By way of explanation for the feature’s relatively poor box-office performance, producer Mark Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in 1995 that “the movie was better than the marketing.” It’s also certainly among the best animated movies on Netflix.
Image: Alex Ross via IMDb
The Iron Giant (1999)
Speaking to Animation World Network in 2009, Brad Bird said of The Iron Giant, “We were dead on arrival on opening day.” And as that rather blunt statement suggests, the director was referring to the movie’s abysmal box-office performance in theaters. It cost $70 million but ultimately earned just over $31 million in receipts, making it a big flop. Bird went on to blame the situation on Warner Bros., saying that the studio “refusing to give [the picture] a release date… made it impossible to get awareness for the film going in time.” Still, The Iron Giant’s timeless tale of a boy and his robot has received considerable plaudits from critics. In fact, its Rotten Tomatoes score is a highly impressive 96 percent.
Song of the Sea (2014)
In 2009 director Tomm Moore saw his film The Secret of Kells released to critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination. So what better way to follow that up than produce another animated movie to yet more praise and a second hat tip from the Academy? The feature in question is Song of the Sea – a fantasy that follows a mute girl who, along with her brother, embarks on a quest to save a mythical land. Having taken inspiration from the films of Hayao Miyazaki, Moore kept this adventure story hand-drawn and personal; the director’s son even inspired one of the main characters. Hopefully, then, Moore’s boy can be proud of a movie that Variety called a “treasure” and The Boston Globe labeled “aesthetically breathtaking.”