Hopefully, everyone is staying home to wait out the pandemic in order to prevent the spreading. However, staying home for weeks leaves us all with way too much free time. Over the course of the next few days, I will give recommendations for films and series to watch during that time on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. Netflix by far has the largest assortment of content, so, I will be starting with the OG subscription service, and as families with several children are the most in need of time consumers, here are 20 films, in no particular order, on Netflix fit for the whole family. (As I plan on doing Disney+, all Disney films are excluded from the list. That said, the Disney films on Netflix are always great options.)
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Easily on of my favorite movies of all time that hits all the marks of great family fun: superheroes, comedy, animation, depth. It’s easy to make a “kid film”, but it is something else to make a “kid friendly” film that delights all audiences. This is a Spidey outing that you do not want to miss.
A cult classic that is oddly very divisive among critics and audiences alike. I would recommend it nonetheless as it is a quite enjoyable Robin Williams romp and an interesting Spielbergian take on the classic Peter Pan character. Also, too many children today just haven’t seen it; sometimes it’s better to recommend something new than watch something again for the thirtieth time.
3. Indiana Jones Trilogy
Indiana Jones is one of the quintessential movie franchises that everyone needs to enjoy at sometime in life, and the trilogy is known as one of the greatest of all time. Highly recommend showing these films to the next generation right now (especially as a new and final installment with Harrison Ford is in development right now). The Crystal Skull is on Netflix as well, but feel free to ignore that one.
4. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
A lot of film goers, unfortunately, bypass the rich content of Japanese animated films. When they do see one of these films, it is normally a Studio Ghibli movie, so movies like Mary and the Witch’s Flower unfortunately fly under the radar. This film is amazing and is a great example of the wonderful films that come out of Japan. If you aren’t a subtitle fan or have young kids, don’t worry, the English dub is very well done.
5. The Adventures of Tintin
It hurts my heart when incredible movies, like this one, get neglected at the box office. The second Spielberg film on this list, The Adventures of Tintin, is an incredible adventure film based on a famous French comic. This is a great option for movie night as too many people haven’t seen this gem. Please give it the light of day.
Staying in the vein of highly acclaimed directors adapting stories set in France, this Martin Scorsese classic is incredible. Despite being known for his gangster films, Scorsese directs a beautiful and magical film about the beauty and magic of film. It is heartwarming, touching, and emotional. Might be a little slow for younger crowds, but it is crowd-pleasing for just about anybody else.
7. The Little Prince
I just can’t shake the French thing. This Netflix original animated film adaptation of the French novella of the same name, is a beautifully crafted movie about the importance of human connection. The original animation style and wonderfully told story is sure to touch the hearts of the entire family.
8. The ’90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies
Sometimes the family just needs some campy fun. With the oddly disturbing costumes, questionable action, and cheesy dialogue, everything about these films scream the ’90’s, and I wouldn’t want them any other way (insert side-eye scowl to Michael Bay here). Campy fun that the whole family can love to cringe at together.
I should have saved this one for last because a lot of people will see this and question my sanity, but hear me out. Robin Williams’ debut feature film is the quintessential cult masterpiece. It is camp to the extreme and the type of off the wall “why did this get made” that we all live for. That said, it really isn’t a bad film and I feel like too many people dismiss the film without ever giving it a chance. Also, I know I said no Disney, but no one looks at the film as a Disney film so I think I am in the clear.
10. Stuart Little
This was a staple children’s film in the early 2000’s that has seemed to have disappeared from people’s memory. This charming film about an adopted mouse fending off the family pet is weird, heartfelt, and a was pleasant surprise re-watching. I highly recommend revisiting this polite little mouse.
11. Spy Kids
Unfortunately, the greatness of the original Spy Kids has been tainted by its third and fourth installments. This goofy and original take on the spy and telenovela genres offer great family fun with simple jokes for the kids and subtle… adult humor for the parents. After watching, don’t let the kids see that the third and fourth films are on there though (they are abominations).
12. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
One of the most underappreciated movie musicals of all time, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an incredible family movie, based on Ian Fleming’s book of the same name) with great musical numbers, colorful sets and costumes, and a fantastic story. It may go above the heads of young viewers and the Child Catcher is very unsettling, but this kids film is a classic that opens itself up to the wonders of today’s youth.
13. Nacho Libre
I want it to be said that I personally do not like this film. However, as I am reminded every time it comes up in conversation, I am in the vast minority. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring it up. People love their Jack Black. Nacho Libre is, at its very core, a Jack Black movie that hits all the marks for his fans. While it might not be my favorite outing of his, for many people this is one of his best.
14. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island
This marks a little bit of a shift: from here on out all of the films are going to be a little heavier or darker, so super young audiences (6 and younger) are at their parents’ discretion. That said, this is the single greatest Scooby-Doo movie to date (we’ll see about Scoob! coming out later this year). During the 90’s, Hannah-Barbera was putting out a lot of direct-to-video Scooby movies—all of which are fantastic—that people who didn’t grow up in the 90’s have had the chance to see. Zombie Island excels in all aspects: best Scooby plot, best Scooby animation, and overall one of the best non-Disney animated films from the 90’s. One of my childhood favorites that 100% still holds up today.
15. The Breadwinner
This is a film that did not see a wide release which is very unfortunate because this film is beautiful. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, The Breadwinner is about an 11-year old girl living in Taliban ran Afghanistan where a female cannot leave their home without a male relative. Her father is unjustly arrested and her brother is dead, so this girl must disguise herself as a boy in order to support her and her mother. This film is as dark as it sounds, however, this is a movie I highly recommend families watch together. It is PG-13 and I would recommend no younger than 10 unless you are using it to introduce your children to deeper conversations about cultures or death. That said, if they watch Marvel/DC films or Star Wars, they will have seen worse than what’s in this.
16. John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch
It’s more of a “television special”, but it is listed under Netflix Original Movies, so I guess I’ll recommend it again here. My full glowing review is here on the site, but I cannot reiterate it enough, this is fantastic. If your family loves the Sesame Street format but wants something a little more mature, this is the watch for you. Between the overly kiddy Sesame Street and the definitely adult SNL, this variety special delivers for all ages (except maybe those not quite school age).
17. Back to the Future III
Despite being the worst of the three, the finale of the trilogy is still entertaining. The only reason this film is normally seen as a disappointment is because the first two installments are so unbelievably good. It is the only BttF film on Netflix, but if the family has already seen the first two installments, make sure to finish out the trilogy.
18. Corpse Bride
I am a strong believer that horror is a viable genre for children when done right, and this and the next film do it right. This gothic fantasy-romance, stop-motion animated musical is directed by Tim Burton. That kind of says it all. If you haven’t seen this film, I can’t really blame you as the main film that gets pushed is The Nightmare Before Christmas, but this film is absolutely incredible and is a nice change of pace from the “everything is sunshine and friendship and magic” that is seen in TOO MUCH children’s programming.
If you haven’t seen this film, where have you been? Widely regarded as one of the best stop-motion films, Coraline is a horror-esque dark-fantasy based on the bestselling book by Neil Gaiman. If you want to introduce your children to horror, this is the quintessential children’s horror film as it still creeps out adults today. While there is nothing overly violent or disturbing (there are some disturbing moments), the main driving force of the chills is the darkness, mixed with the 3-D stop-motion style. It will 1000% go down in history as one of the greatest children’s films ever made (particularly in this decade).
20. My Life As a Zucchini
Unless you make it a point to watch every Oscar nominated film every year, you had probably never heard of this Swiss-French stop-motion dramedy (also called My Life As a Courgette and Ma vie de Courgette). This film is, simply put, phenomenal. Quick run down of the plot: a boy accidentally kills his drunken abusive mother, by pushing her down the stairs, and is sent to an orphanage where he develops deep bonds with the other children who all either face foster care or nasty custody battles. This is a film that every person needs to sit down and watch. I know it doesn’t sound kid-friendly, but this is a movie every child needs to see at some point. For adults, it reminds us of the innocence of children in our dark world. For children, it shows them that people come from places that they can never understand and it teaches them that even in dark times they can find hope and beauty in others, including broken people. It is rated PG-13, but it is one of the most poignant and most beautifully crafted films in a very long time. Do not let the material scare you away; this film is much more charming than it is grim. Please watch this film.