Picking a movie for the entire family to enjoy can be tricky. There’s never a lack of kids’ movies to choose from, but most of the time those tend to only cater to the young ones, leaving little to entertain adults. And then there’s the risk of a PG-13 movie being a little too much for the little kids to handle. Thankfully, Netflix offers an especially wide selection of movies for any age to enjoy, both animated and live-action.
We’ve scrubbed through the streaming service to find 15 of the very best family-friendly movies including everything from action-packed adventures to catchy musicals, from uplifting emotional dramas to animated wonders. Now no one has to compromise.
1. Paddington (2014)
If there’s one movie that will make anyone, regardless of their age, giggle, cry (on average three to four times, guaranteed), gasp in anticipation, and wear a big goofy smile, it’s Paddington. Not merely a movie for kids with a few jokes to entertain the parents, nor simply one appropriate enough for the young ones to watch, Paddington is just an all-around splendid story made for anyone with a big heart.
After fleeing an earthquake in the jungles of Darkest Peru, an exceptionally adorable orphaned bear named Paddington (voiced oh-so-wonderfully by Ben Whishaw) ventures to London to find himself a loving family. A kind but hesitant English family takes him in for one night, setting off a series of wacky misadventures as the bear searches for a new home and tries to escape the clutches of Nicole Kidman’s evil taxidermist. Paddington is really a story about acceptance and embracing difference, and unlike many films of its PG-rated ilk, it doesn’t force that message in a cloying or overbearing way. It’s as earnest as its titular bear and as sweet as the marmalade he loves: truly the perfect family movie.
2. Monster House (2006)
Almost every kid has memories of that one spooky old house on the block that you never dared walk past, with legends of ghostly stories that got passed around from kid to kid. In Monster House, a nostalgic throwback to the eerie dilapidated houses that haunted our childhoods, the 12-year-old D.J. lives directly across the street from one. The cranky old Mr. Nebbercracker lives there, and he screams at every kid who steps on his lawn. But one day when the old man seemingly dies of a heart attack, D.J. and his best friend Chowder begin noticing some very strange things happening at the house. It might just be… alive!
Monster House is a delightfully fun haunted house movie, one with genuinely spooky thrills, a playful sense of humor, and most notably, a whole lot of visual panache. Director Gil Kenan brings a strong visual style to the CG filmmaking, something especially rare among movies for kids. Anyone itching for a Tim Burton-esque animated adventure for spooky season will be more than satisfied.
3. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
The 2004 movie based on the Lemony Snicket books may not be the truest adaptation of the gloomy Baudelaire orphans’ many outrageous, often harrowing, and clever adventures, but it’s an undoubtedly entertaining one. Combining the first three books in the children’s series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the lives of the young Baudelaire siblings, full of, as the title promises, many, many unfortunate events.
After their parents tragically die in a fire, Violet the inventor (Emily Browning), Klaus the avid reader (Liam Aiken), and their baby sister Sunny are sent to live with the menacing Count Olaf (an especially goofy Jim Carrey), a thespian who orchestrates schemes to steal their fortune. The siblings endure everything from escaping a speeding train to a deadly (but not really deadly) snake to a very anxious Meryl Streep in a very creaky house.
The 2004 movie brings the Baudelaire kids’ innovation and wits to the screen with action and suspense, but it’s also very much the Jim Carrey show. The actor’s zany, high-energy comedy dominates his Olaf, which may put off some book purists, but also gives way to some exceedingly funny Carrey improv. If your family is hooked and looking for more Baudelaire stories, follow up the movie with Netflix’s Lemony Snicket series.
4. Enola Holmes (2020)
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Millie Bobby Brown swaps superpowers for sleuthing in Enola Holmes, Harry Bradbeer’s movie about the 16-year-old sister of the famed Sherlock Holmes. In this detective tale, it’s Enola who gets the spotlight and the chance to solve a mystery. When her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola sets out to find her but soon discovers a series of hidden clues her mother’s left behind that reveal a much bigger story at play.
Enola Holmes has the classic intrigue of a Holmes tale, full of clever clues and quizzical riddles — and yes, Sherlock himself does appear, played by Henry Cavill — but brings a youthful and feminist spin to the old detective genre. Parents who’ve watched Amazon’s Fleabag will also find something unique to enjoy here as well — Bradbeer, who directed the Phoebe Waller-Bridge comedy series, brings that same cheeky, breaking-the-fourth-wall character commentary to Enola Holmes. It adds a fresh, winking sense of humor to what’s already a fun family adventure full of mystery and romance.
5. Spider-Man (2002)
Before the world-ending stakes of today’s Marvel movies and the brooding darkness of DC heroes, there was 2002’s Spider-Man, a superhero movie that’s bursting with goofiness and kid-like spirit. It may not be the best Spider-Man movie, but the first Sam Raimi Spidey film is a must-see for any kid who loves the web slinger, and anyone who enjoys the silliness of comic book heroes.
This Peter Parker origin story, the first of many on the big screen, is downright silly in the best way. There’s a campy villain (Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, who looks like he’s jumped right off the comic page with his Power Rangers-like suit), a gloriously sappy romance — with, mind you, one of the most iconic movie kisses of all time — and a very dopey sense of humor. I mean, Spider-Man fights in a wrestling cage match! What more do you want, Peter testing out his powers by shouting “Up, up, and away web!”? You got it.
6. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)
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In the world of The Mitchells vs. The Machines, everyone is addicted to their phones, a mega tech corporation launches a fancy new software, and kids are endlessly annoyed by their parents. Sounds familiar, huh? The animated Sony/Netflix movie is pretty obviously a reflection of our current moment with technology and how it can disrupt our daily lives, making it perfectly relatable across many ages. It’s also super hilarious and wickedly entertaining. That’s far from surprising given that it’s produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the filmmakers behind the beloved LEGO Movie.
In The Mitchells vs. The Machines, an A.I. voice software (think Siri or Alexa) decides to take over humanity, and it’s up to the titular Mitchell family to save the planet from the robot apocalypse. There’s Katie, a queer teen and aspiring filmmaker (Abbi Jacobson), her dinosaur-obsessed little brother Aaron, their parents Rick (Danny McBride) and Linda (Maya Rudolph), and their dog Monchi (noises voiced by none other than Doug the Pug). What follows is a series of big and dazzling action sequences reminiscent of The Incredibles — while there’s no super powers here, there is an incredible fight scene against giant Furbys.
7. A Little Princess (1995)
When Sara’s (Liesel Matthews) father heads off to join the British army in World War I, the young girl is sent to live at a boarding school in New York City. But soon after, bad news arrives about her father’s fate, and Sara is essentially forced into child labor by the boarding school’s cold-hearted headmistress (Eleanor Bron). The imaginative Sara pushes on by entertaining the other schoolgirls with fanciful tales and holding on to the hopeful, child-like beliefs her father passed on to her.
As bleak and heartbreaking as that all sounds, A Little Princess is a beautiful and moving story about finding optimism and joy despite painful circumstances. This movie is my earliest memory of watching a film as a kid that made me cry yet filled me with a sense of warming comfort and hope, and that kind of well-made mature children’s movie is a rarity these days. Director Alfonso Cuarón (Roma, Gravity) brings a glistening magical realism to a realistic story grounded in deep emotion, and it’s sure to be one that will stay with you for a long time.
8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
What kid doesn’t fantasize about skipping school and spending the day bopping around town with their crush and best friend? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is that fantasy come to life on screen, and even three and a half decades later, it remains a fun joy ride through a rebellious teen’s dreamlike adventure.
Matthew Broderick’s Ferris fakes sick (we’ve all done it) to play some hooky, and he convinces his anxious best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to join him. The trio spend the day looking at art, hopping on a parade float, cruising around in Cameron’s father’s classic Ferrari, and evading the school principal (Jeffrey Jones) adamant on catching Ferris. Besides a few swear words and perhaps some clever inspiration for how to skip class, Ferris is the perfect classic teen comedy for the whole family to enjoy.
9. Vivo (2021)
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Vivo has all the makings of a beloved animated musical you and your kids can’t help but fall in love with. There’s a singing kinkajou who wears a tiny fedora, infectiously catchy musical numbers composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Hamilton and In the Heights collaborator Alex Lacamoire, bright animation popping with radiant color, and an emotional love story at the center. (Oscar-winner Roger Deakins served as a visual consultant, and it shows.)
Set in Havana, Cuba, the movie follows the titular kinkajou (voiced by Miranda) who spends his days playing music with Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) in a local city square. When Andrés gets a letter from his long-lost love, famous musician Marta (Gloria Estefan), inviting him to her final show, Vivo sets out to meet her and deliver a song Andrés wrote for her. Plenty of hijinks follow, along with an assortment of songs any Hamilton fan will be singing along to for days.
How to watch: Vivo is now streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)
10. A Cinderella Story (2004)
Did Cinderella need a 2000s makeover? Absolutely not. But we got one anyway, and it is a glorious encapsulation of early aughts pop culture. Hilary Duff is the classic princess from folklore, only this time her name is Sam. She lives in Los Angeles, she works at her evil stepmother’s diner, oh and that evil stepmother is a Botox-loving, tanning-bed-obsessed, feather boa-donning Jennifer Coolidge. Perfection, indeed! Chad Michael Murray is Prince Charming (remember this came out in peak One Tree Hill and Gilmore Girls era) and Regina King’s Rhonda is her inspiring Fairy Godmother. A Cinderella Story may be most enjoyable as a nostalgic throwback for millennials with its flip phones and Hilary Duff-filled soundtrack, but it adds a YA romance energy to the classic fairytale that any kid can delight in.