If you’ve got kids, then you know sometimes your DVD player (or Netflix) can be a serious lifesaver. I’m not saying that we need to raise our kids on TV and movies, but everybody needs to use screen time as a babysitter now and then. Plus, family movie night can be awesome, inexpensive way to bond and hang out with your kids, and show them some of the movies you liked back in the day. We have compiled a list of the top family movies. Which ones are your favorites?
1. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (PG for mild older content, such as E.T. drinking a beer; ok for kids 7+.) Elliot (Henry Thomas) seems out of place and sometimes lonely. One day, he discovers something in his backyard: a friendly alien who was mistakenly left behind. In the process of helping E.T. get home, Elliot and E.T. learn they can communicate telepathically. Elliot becomes braver and E.T… well, you’ll have to watch to find out what happens to him.
2. Hairspray (PG for language, some suggestive content, and momentary teen smoking; ok for kids 8+.) It’s the 1960s and the nation is hooked on TV dance shows. In Baltimore, chubby high schooler Tracy Turnblad (Nicole Blonsky) and best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) audition for part on the popular teen show, “The Corny Collins Show,” even if it means defying her parents Edna (John Travolta in drag!) and Wilbur (Christopher Walken). Hairspray is a fun throwback to good, old-fashioned musical comedies.
3. Nancy Drew (PG for mild violence, thematic elements, and brief language; ok for kids 9+.) Based on the classic girl detective created by Carolyn Keene in the 1930′s, Nancy Drew (Emma Roberts) is a curious teen who loves solving “mysteries” about her neighbors. But when she travels to Los Angeles with her father (Tate Donovan), the sweet sleuth finds herself smack dab in a real case involving the death of a Hollywood starlet.
4. Ratatouille (G; ok for kids 5+.) Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat who dreams of becoming a great chef, despite his family’s skepticism and the obvious problem of being a rat in a rodent-phobic profession. But fate smiles on the little guy when he finds himself not only in Paris, but living beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett). Remy forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini (Lou Romano), a garbage boy who inadvertently discovers the rat’s amazing cooking talents.
5. The LEGO Movie (PG; ok for kids 5+). This movie is awesome, and you’ll find yourself singing “Everything is awesome” for days after watching it. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the happiest, most average LEGO guy around, until he’s mistakenly identified as “The Special.” His ordinary life is turned upside down and he experiences one adventure after another on a quest to save the world. The movie is full of famous actors lending their voices to funny and well-developed characters.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End (PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images; ok for kids 13+.) This third installment in the franchise finds our heroes Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) paired with Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) in a desperate attempt to free Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from his watery prison.
7. High School Musical (G; ok for kids 6+). It’s destiny when Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) and Troy (Zac Efron) meet at a New Year’s Eve party and end up at the same high school. He’s a basketball jock; she’s a science nerd. But will they make beautiful music together in the “high school musical?”
8. The Wizard of Oz (PG; some scenes might be scary for very young children; okay for kids 6+.) A tornado sweeps Dorothy (Jude Garland) and her dog Toto away, and she finds herself in a magical and unfamiliar place. She’s told that the Wizard of Oz can help her find her way home, so she begins an adventure to find him. She meets friends (and foes) during her journey.
9. Surf’s Up (PG for mild language and some rude humor; ok for kids 7+.) Shia LaBeouf plays Rockhopper penguin Cody Maverick, an up-and-coming teen surfer entering his first pro competition. Followed by a camera crew to document the experience, Cody leaves his family and home in Shiverpool, Antarctica, to travel to Pen Gu Island for the Big Z Memorial Surf Off.
10. How to Train your Dragon (PG; ok for kids between the ages of 6 and 8, depending on maturity.) Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is the son of Viking chief Stoick (Gerard Butler) and as such, he’s supposed to be strong and hate dragons. To prove his worthiness, he needs to capture a dragon. But Hiccup has other ideas about how his people should deal with dragons. This movie is full of adventure and has nice, positive messages.
11. The Princess Bride (PG for action and mild violence; ok for kids 8+.) In this story-within-a-story, a child (Fred Savage) listens to his grandfather (Peter Falk) read a book about a beautiful woman Buttercup (Robin Wright), an evil prince who wants to marry her, and the hero who loves her. The Princess Bride is a fun family movie with a happy ending.
12. Swiss Family Robinson (Not rated; ok for kids 5+.) Tamed ostriches, waterfall slides, pirates, adventure, suspense, romance, and laughter make this flick about a shipwrecked family a true classic.
13. Spirit: Stallion of the Simarron (G; ok for kids 6+.) A legendary stallion named Spirit takes a journey through the untamed West. He’s captured and put to work, falls in love with painted mare Rain, and bonds with a young Lakota brave.
14. The Love Bug (G; ok for kids 5+.) There’s nothing more appealing than a flying car — especially if it’s a loveable little VW bug with a personality. This movie centers around a down-on-his-luck race car driver (Dean Jones), who meats Herbie, an emotional VW.
15. Toy Story (G; ok for kids 5+.) Parents have known for years that toys spring to life as soon as we leave the room, and this movie just confirms it. Tom Hanks is a drawstring cowboy named “Woody” and Tim Allen is a spaceman action figure named “Buzz Lightyear.” The two rivals-turned-buddies and their eclectic toy friends ban together to survive when they find themselves in the outside world.
16. Babe (G; ok for kids 5+.) I like to think of Babe as the “Rocky” of all pigs. He’s a little guy who doesn’t quite know his place in the world. But a group of oddball farm-friends – including Fly, the dog he calls Mom – help Babe realize he has the makings to become the greatest sheep-pig of all time (and also save himself from the dinner table).
17. Finding Nemo (G; ok for kids 3+). This movie created my all-time favorite life-slogan: “Just Keep Swimming.” The story centers around Nemo, the only child of a single-parent clownfish, Marlin. Nemo is kidnapped from the ocean by an Australian dentist, who plans on giving the fish to his bratty niece, and it’s up to Marlin and a cast of colorful sea characters to get him back. A hip sea turtle Crush (Andrew Stanton – “You’ve got some serious thrill issues, Dude.”), Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson), Bruce the Shark (Barry Humphries), a flock of seagulls spouting “Mine, Mine,” and, of course, loveable memory-challenged Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) all make this family movie entertaining.
18. 101 Dalmations (G; ok for kids 3+.) When Pongo and Perdy’s newborn pups are stolen, it throws the household into a state of chaos. Prime suspect: fashionable, fur-loving Cruella DeVil. Follow along on the adventure to rescue the puppies from the evil Cruella.
19. The Parent Trap (G; Ok for kids 8+.) When two long-separated twin sisters, Susan and Sharon (Hayley Mills), meet unexpectedly at a summer camp where their divorced parents sent them, the pair hatch an ingenious plot to change places and bring their parents back together.
20. The Absent-Minded Professor (G; ok for kids 5+.) It’s all about a bumbling college professor who invents some anti-gravity goo called “flubber” – which has spectacular results when applied to shoes and a Model-T. Of course, there’s a bad guy, Alonzo Hawk, a corrupt businessman who wants to steal the amazing goo for himself.
21. Frozen (PG; ok for kids 4+.) The movie that spawned a million YouTube covers, Disney’s Frozen was a huge hit that had everyone, everywhere singing “Let It Go.” When Elsa (Idina Menzel) runs off into the forest after her secret power is discovered, her faithful sister Anna (Kristin Bell) sets off on an adventure to find her and bring her home. This tale of sisterly love reminds kids (and adults) everywhere that girls don’t need a man to save them.
22. Monsters, Inc. (G; ok for kids 5+.) Big, blue, fuzzy James P. Sullivan (Goodman) and his opinionated, one-eyed roommate Mike Wzowski (Crystal) are professional “scare specialists.” Their job is to make kids scream and then harness the energy, which is then bottled and used as fuel to keep their society going. But chaos ensues when a little girl named Boo accidentally gets into their world, and she learns that the monsters are more scared of her than she is of them.
23. National Treasure (PG for action violence and some scary images; ok for kids 8+.) Nicolas Cage is searching for an ancient treasure, kept secret for hundreds of years by the Freemasons. Of course, finding the treasure is no easy task. First he has to steal the Declaration of Independence, which has crucial treasure clues on the back.
24. Shrek (PG for mild language and some crude humor; ok for kids 7+.) When the tyrannical Lord Farquaad exiles all fairy-tale beings in the woods, a reclusive ogre (Mike Myers) and a chatterbox donkey (Eddie Murphy) must bring a young princess to him before he’ll set the fairy-tale creatures free.
25. The Incredibles (PG for action violence; ok for kids 7+.) Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) is forced into the Superhero Relocation Program after being grounded by lawsuits (I guess not everyone wants to be saved). His wife, Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) is raising their kids in a white-brick ranch in the burbs, while Mr. I battles traffic in his econo-car and deals with imbeciles at his job as an insurance salesman. But they’re needed again. Can they save the world from the evil Syndrome (Jason Lee)?
26. My Dog Skip (PG; ok for kids 10+.) When a shy boy named Willie (Frankie Muniz) is unable to make friends in Mississippi in 1942, his parents give him a terrier puppy for his ninth birthday. The dog, which he names Skip, becomes well known and loved throughout the community and enriches the life of Willie as he grows into manhood.
27. Tangled (PG; ok for kids 5+.) In this modern adaptation of the classic fairytale, sweet baby Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is kidnaped from her parents’ castle by evil Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) who keeps her locked in a tower so she can exploit Rapunzel’s magical hair. Charming thief Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) happens upon Rapunzel and the two set out on an adventure together.
28. Summer Magic (G; ok for kids 7+.) This 1963 Disney classic stars Hayley Mills as Nancy Carey, a teenaged girl whose family moves from Boston to a little town in Maine, after the untimely passing of her father. Ever the optimist, Nancy writes to the kindly Mr. Popham (Burl Ives) and single-handedly convinces him to rent the family a charming, if run-down, house for a mere $60 a year.
29. The Bad News Bears (PG; ok for kids 9+.) Walter Matthau plays former minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker, a lazy, beer-swilling swimming pool cleaner who takes money to coach the Bears, a bunch of disheveled misfits with virtually no baseball talent. To liven up the team, Coach Buttermaker brings aboard girl pitching ace Amanda Whurlizer (Tatum O’Neal), the daughter of a former girlfriend, and Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) a motorcycle punk who happens to be the best player around.
30. Grease (PG; ok for kids 12+.) Nothing compares to the young love in this campy classic, playing at every drive-in theater during the summer of 1978. John Travolta is Danny, the leather-clad leader of the T-Birds, the coolest guys at Rydell High. Olivia Newton-John is Sandy, the goody-two-shoes who steals Danny’s heart when they connect on a summer vacation. Never expecting to see each other again, they wind up at the same high school, but he has to play it “cool” and pretend he doesn’t care for her.
31. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (G; ok for kids 8+.) This 1962 classic stars Jimmy Stewart as a harried city-dweller who dreams of spending some quality vacation time alone with his wife (Maureen O’Hara). But when she convinces him to bring the whole family along, their relaxing escape at the beach quickly turns into a comedy of errors, complete with a dilapidated rental with some serious plumbing issues. Complicating matters are a maid who doesn’t understand English, a first love (Fabian) for the Hobbs’ awkward teenage daughter (Lauri Peters), a son who prefers to watch TV westerns all day, and the misadventures of two sons-in-law – one philandering and the other out-of-work.
32. The Moon Spinners (PG; ok for kids 8+.) Set against the sun-bleached beauty of the Isle of Crete, this 1964 movie, based on a Mary Stewart novel, pits a young English tourist (Hayley Mills) on holiday with her aunt (Joan Greenwood) against a wily Greek jewel thief (Eli Wallach). Mistaken identities and perilous escapes — including a nail-biting battle with a windmill — lead the junior-miss detective to a final confrontation aboard the yacht of an eccentric millionairess (Pola Negri) with a passion for priceless gems and pet cheetahs.
33. Corpse Bride (PG for some scary images and action, and brief mild language; ok for kids 8+.) I know what you’re thinking. A murder, ghoulish corpse, spooky underworld, bereft bride…a family movie?! But if you look beyond the surface, you’ll find a gentle tale of romance, optimism, and holding fast to your dreams when all seems lost. Starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, you’d hardly think this movie fitting for youngsters. But as with Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, this one is filled with wonderful songs, an engaging storyline, and a beautiful ending, which I won’t give away.
34. Despicable Me (PG; ok for kids 6+.) Super villain Gru (Steve Carrell) wants to pull off the biggest heist possible and steal the moon. But to accomplish this, Gru needs help stealing the shrink ray. He adopts three adorable orphans to assist him in his evil ways, but in the process, his heart softens and he becomes a father figure to the kids. This family movie contains lots of great adult humor but is appropriate for young kids as well. Despicable Me 2 is equally charming, cute and funny, so watch it too!
35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PG for a few dark scenes; ok for kids 7+.) In this 2005 adaptation of the book, Charlie (Freddie Highmore) finds the golden ticket, which earns him a trip to tour the Willie Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. Wonka (Johnny Depp) is an eccentric candy maker and the tour isn’t exactly an average experience.
36. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (PG for thematic elements, some sensuality and language; ok for kids 10+.) When four lifelong friends (Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrara, Blake Lively) are about to be separated for the first time, they devise a plan to keep in touch over the summer. The teens buy a pair of thrift-store jeans that each will wear for a week to see what luck they’ll bring her before sending them on to the next.
37. Because of Winn-Dixie (PG for thematic elements and brief mild language; ok for kids 8+.) Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni (Anna Sophia Robb) moves with her preacher father (Jeff Daniels) to a small southern town where she feels sad and lonely because her mother abandoned them. Then she finds a cute dog in a Winn-Dixie supermarket (thus his name), and together, they bring the quirky townsfolk together to celebrate friendship and joy.
38. Spy Kids (PG; ok for kids 6+.) Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) think their parents are boring. What they don’t know is that Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) used to be spies. A situation forces them out of retirement, and Carmen and Juni join the family business. The subsequent Spy Kids movies are also good for kids who like adventure movies.
39. Cheaper by the Dozen (PG for language and some thematic elements; ok for kids 8+.) Tom Baker is a small-town college football coach in Illinois who runs his brood of twelve kids the same way he runs his team. When Tom (Steve Martin) is offered his dream job of coaching at a major university in Evanston, he and aspiring-writer wife Kate (Bonnie Hunt) decide to uproot the family and move to greener pastures. When Kate heads off on a book tour, all heck breaks loose and the family falls apart – until one goes missing, that is, and they learn the true meaning of family. This is a wonderful, feel-good flick that celebrates families in the modern world.
40. Brother Bear (G; ok for kids 7+.) When selfish young Eskimo hunter Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) dies while killing the bear that killed his brother, he’s transformed by the Great Spirits into a bear himself – much to his chagrin. To regain his human form, he must find the place where “the lights of the sky touch the earth.” Along the way, Kenai picks up a chatterbox bear cub and a pair of bickering moose (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis).
41. The Lion King (G; ok for kids 6+.) A young lion named Simba is born in Africa, thus making his uncle Scar the second in line to the throne. Scar plots with the hyenas to kill King Mufasa and Prince Simba, but when the King is killed, Simba is led to believe by Scar that it was his fault, so he flees the kingdom in shame. After years of exile, Simba is persuaded to return home to overthrow Scar and claim the kingdom as his own, thus completing the “Circle of Life.”
42. The Princess Diaries (G — there is no profanity, no violence and no sexual content; ok for kids 5+.) Anne Hathaway plays Mia, a gangly girl of 15 who learns she’s the princess of a European country called Genovia. Thanks to her grandmother the Queen (Julie Andrews), she learns the ways of royalty.
43. The Greatest Game Ever Played (PG for some brief mild language; ok for kids 8+.) The year is 1913, and Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) is an amateur golfer from a working class family. He dreams of playing in the U.S. Open, but encounters obstacles at every turn. But Francis doggedly pursues his dream, with the help of a wise-cracking 10-year-old caddie (scene-stealer Josh Flitter), who has an uncanny knack for knowing just what to say at the right moment.
44. The Rescuers Down Under (G; ok for kids 5+.) In this sequel to The Rescuers, Bernard (Bob Newhart) is trying to pop the question to Bianca (Eva Gabor) when they’re summoned to Australia to rescue a boy kidnapped by a poacher illegally trapping beautiful eagles. Assisting the Rescuers are Wilbur, a chatterbox albatross, and Jake, a kangaroo mouse.
45. Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (G; ok for kids 3+.) There’s something mysterious in the Hundred Acre Wood, and Rabbit’s pretty sure there’s only one creature that could make that loud thumping noise: a Heffalump, “an evil-doer with fiery eyes and a tail with a spike!” So the gang sets out to hunt down the horrible creature, except for Roo, who sneaks off on his own, encounters a baby Heffalump, and realizes there’s nothing to be afraid of. Narrated by David Ogden Stiers, this is a wonderful story about following your heart and not believing everything you hear.
46. Sky High (PG for action violence and some mild language; ok for kids 8+.) Located in the sky among the clouds, Sky High is the first and only high school for kids with super-powers. While there, kids learn how to battle villains, hone their powers and, of course, save the world. But in some ways, it’s no different than other high schools, only instead of geeks, jocks and bookworms, Sky High kids are divided into heroes and sidekicks. Everyone wants to be a hero. No one wants to be a sidekick.
47. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (G; ok for kids 3+.) “I got a rock,” says Charlie Brown, and we all feel badly for the round-headed kid. In fact, after this show first aired, kids from all over sent him candy out of sympathy. The Peanuts gang has definitely earned our respect and admiration after nearly 40 years of ghost costumes with too many holes, pumpkin heroes who never show up, and a canine World War I Flying Ace fighting bravely for his country.
48. Mary Poppins (G; ok for kids 5+.) The Banks family isn’t exactly a happen one. Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) works too much and the children are spoiled and difficult. When an unconventional nanny named Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) answers the family’s ad, their lives are transformed by rules, magic and joy —and they all learn the true meaning of family.
49. Ghostbusters (PG; ok for kids 8+). With a snappy theme song and the wisecracking Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray, this movie about three unemployed parapsychology profs who set up shop to rid the city of pesky goblins is a must-see for grade-schoolers on up. Whoever thought the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man would earn such a hallowed place in the collective conscious of our culture?
50. Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (G; ok for kids 5+.) Cheese-loving inventor Wallace (Peter Sallis) and his loyal dog Gromit are cashing in with their humane pest-control business, “Anti-Pesto” (complete with a “SWAT” team van). With only days to go before the annual vegetable competition, they’re busy rounding up all the bunnies ravaging the village gardens — until a mysterious beast begins attacking the town’s sacred vegetable plots at night!