With the kids at home during the coronavirus lockdown, and attention spans at an all-time low, it’s going to be harder than ever to keep the little ones entertained.
There are plenty of things to check out online to keep them busy, but sometimes nothing beats picking a good movie and sitting down together to watch as a family.
But what to choose? The most successful kids’ films, of course, resonate with adults as much as they do with children. There’s something special about seeing films passed down from generation to generation, too, so never be afraid to revisit movies that made an impact on you growing up.
With that in mind, these are our picks of the best family-friendly films to watch on streaming services Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Sky Movies now, or available to rent on Amazon Prime.
Toy Story 2 - Available on Disney+
While Disney’s Toy Story brought us some of the greatest animated characters of all time, the 1999 sequel took audiences deeper into the world of Woody and Buzz, introducing the "round-up gang" and taking the series to new heights. It's all delivered with great warmth and wit and Randy Newman’s When She Loved Me, sung by Jessie in the movie, is one of the great songs written for a motion picture. The fourth movie was released last year, but this is the best of the lot.
The Wizard of Oz - Available on Netflix
The appeal of this 1939 classic is as strong now as it's ever been. The film has woven its way into popular culture more than perhaps any other, inspiring pop culture icons like Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and the hugely popular stage musical Wicked. The original movie still holds up, with the fantastical world of Oz and the vibrancy of the characters encountered along the way still striking a chord. It's a timeless adventure that has transcended generational divides ever since it was released. Click your heels together three times and revisit this wonderful film once more – there’s no place like home.
Aladdin - Available on Disney+
Disney took fans to a whole new world back in 1992. Aided by a magic flying carpet and a charismatic genie voiced by the late, great Robin Williams, ‘diamond in the rough’ Aladdin sets about winning the affections of Princess Jasmine and defeating the evil Jafar in this loveable film. Aladdin isn’t just a movie with some of Disney’s best songs and vivid characters, it also offers one of the studio’s most important messages. Aladdin, at its heart, is a film about identity, proving that it doesn’t matter where you come from, whether the streets of Agrabar or the palace of a sultan. The 2019 remake is worth seeking out too, if only for the more empowering character ark undertaken by Naomi Scott’s Jasmine.
The Lion King (1994) - Available on Disney+
The 2019 remake proved divisive with critics, but love it or hate it, at the very least it reminded fans of the power of Disney’s 1994 original. There are so many things to love about it, from Elton John’s cracking soundtrack to the sassiest of vocal performances from Rowan Atkinson as Zazu and even the nods to Shakespeare’s Hamlet – which the film is loosely based on. Just try not to get too emotional during Mufasa’s tear-jerking death scene. Gets us every time.
Mary Poppins - Available on Disney+
Emily Blunt did a fine job recapturing the spirit of Julie Andrews’s magical nanny in Mary Poppins Returns, and the fact that the sequel was a hit with fans 54 years after the original is a testament to the story's enduring appeal. Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (with an endearingly hit-and-miss cockney accent) are perfect leads in this romp over the rooftops of Edwardian London, which is packed with whimsy and wonder, and always worth introducing new generations to.
Finding Nemo - Available on Disney+
When a young clown fish is taken from the reef, his father will stop at nothing to save him and bring him home in this heartwarming tale which became an instant classic in 2003. No other animation articulates the lengths a parent will go for their children quite like this one, and the characters we meet along the sea bed are among the most fully-realised and well drawn in the Pixar canon – not least the loveable Dory, who got her own spin-off in 2016.
Matilda - Available on Netflix
Matilda is another timeless Roald Dahl adaptation that manages to capture the magic of the novel, which follows a young girl who develops magical powers while living with neglectful parents. Danny Devito and Pam Ferris are both perfect as Mr Wormwood and Miss Trunchbull respectively in the film, which is exhilarating, funny and touching all at once, while still retaining the vivacity that features in so many of Dahl’s stories.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Available to rent on Amazon
Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes star in the timeless 1968 classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It features great songs like Hushabye Mountain, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Toot Sweets and it also manages to remain an-all time favourite among film fans despite the inclusion of the Child Catcher, one of the most genuinely terrifying movie characters of all time.
The Incredibles - Available on Disney+
Disney Pixar delivered another hit when they released The Incredibles, taking the superhero movie format and flipping it on its head. As well as featuring great action set pieces and fantastic central characters in Mr and Mrs Incredible, Violet and Dash, it’s also simply a terrific premise for an animated film: superheroes are forced to go into hiding, tackling the mundane every day and only able to use their powers in private. Mr Incredible hunched over, driving to and from work in that tiny blue car and Dash being forced to hide his lightning speed during sports day are just two of many terrific moments.
Paddington 2 - Available on Sky Movies
One of the best updates of a classic children’s character we’ve seen in recent years, the Paddington series is an absolute joy. The sequel – a superior follow-up to the first live-action film from 2014 – is as warm and fuzzy as the bear himself, following Paddington as he finds himself imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. The sharp script from Paul King and Simon Farnaby means there’s plenty in it for the adults, too.
Home Alone - Available to rent on Amazon
Keep the change ya filthy animal…
Watching young Macaulay Culkin booby-trap a house to evade robbers will never not be an enjoyable experience. Home Alone’s premise is so brilliantly simple that it inspired a run of films just like it after arriving in 1990, including the likes of Problem Child, Blank Check and Getting Even With Dad – not forgetting a string of Home Alone sequels which drop off in quality faster than a burglar falling off a roof. The original is a classic of its kind, though – even if the biggest thrill is watching baddie Joe Pesci walk into homemade traps, all the while trying to make it through a PG film without swearing.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) - Available to rent on Amazon
Gene Wilder gives one of his most magnetic performances as the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka in this, another adaptation of a stellar Roald Dahl novel. It’s more thrilling than you might remember, with the boat trip along the chocolate river and the narrow-escape during the bubbled sequence both pretty scary in their own way - though the songs, the characters and the setting are some of the most fantastical put to screen in kids movies. Forget Tim Burton’s remake starring Johnny Depp, because there’s really only one version of this story worth watching.
Frozen - Available on Disney+
Oscar-winning Frozen, one of Disney’s most empowering films, became a phenomenon after being released in 2013 – unless you were living under a rock, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the anthemic Let It Go, sung by the wickedly talented Idina Menzel. Most importantly, it’s one of the few films that has strong and complex female characters and their stories at its heart, with Anna and Elsa acting as role models for young girls and boys alike.
The Goonies - Available on Sky Movies
The Goonies is one of the ultimate coming-of-age films and it’s been an inspiration for countless movies and TV shows ever since, not least Netflix’s sci-fi hit Stranger Things. The movie follows a gang of children on the hunt for a pirate's treasure, and the film’s adventurous spirit had a huge impact on an entire generation of kids in 1985. It remains a cult classic today, embodying the essence of the great 80s coming-of-age films alongside the likes of Stand By Me and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Up - Available on Disney+
If you can make it through the opening 10 minutes, which are heartwrenching, Up is one of the best kids films of the past 15 years. The loveable odd-couple movie sees a 78-year-old widower unintentionally head off on an unforgettable adventure with young explorer Russell and adorable golden retriever Dug. It’s a testament to the power of friendship, and how human kindness can always have an impact – no matter how old or how world-weary you may be. The film became only the second ever animated film ever to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, after Beauty and the Beast, and it was well deserved.