Summer is here, which means the kids are out of school -- and we bet you’re already in dire need of some family-centric entertainment suggestions to keep everyone happy. Fear not! We’ve compiled a list of some of the all-time best family films that you’ll want to introduce your kids to, or revisit for some nostalgic fun, when you're not off to the theater for one of the new releases.
We find out the “true” story about where those monsters in our closets really come from in this ingenious tale of scare-experts Sulley and Mike Wazowski. Their quest to get little human Boo back to her world is heartwarming and worthy of a prequel, Monsters University, in theaters now.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg’s instant classic about a long-necked alien that bonds with a lonely kid named Elliott (Henry Thomas). The score, the comedy, the cast, the flying bikes: all winners. And yes, while it’s a bit dated, there’s still a lot that holds up—like the message that family matters, regardless where you come from .
It’s the quintessential neighborhood BFF bonding adventure. Mikey Walsh leads his buddies on a quest to discover the missing treasure from pirate One-Eyed Willie’s lost ship in order to save their homes from being torn down by a developer. It remains hilarious, a little blue at times yet a nostalgic coming-of-age tale.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Gene Wilder is the perfect embodiment of author Roald Dahl’s eccentric candy-making tycoon. Timeless (despite being more than 40 years old), Willy Wonka is equal parts comedy, thriller, adventure and endearing morality tale.
A Christmas Story
Dare we say, move over Santa because Ralphie Parker is just as much a Christmas icon as that guy in the red suit now? A little seen, critically lambasted slice-of-life tale released in 1983, A Christmas Story has since bloomed into first a cult hit and then an American mainstream tradition to be viewed over the holiday season. Ralphie’s Red Rider mania still remains potent today.
The Iron Giant
Another classic that initially failed to find its audience in theaters, The Iron Giant has since become a family cult favorite. Essentially the tale of a human boy who discovered and befriends a top secret Army robot, the film has action, thrills and a touching ending about the endurance of friendship. Seek it out.
The Harry Potter Saga
It's been two years since the final Potter film, but thank goodness we got eight fantastic films that play out the young wizard’s epic journey to battle evil Voldemort. There’s enough for a week-long marathon or a weekend spent cuddled on the couch with popcorn and wands at hand.
The Toy Story Trilogy
Pixar’s finest film series features Andy’s beloved toys: Woody, Buzz and his whole toy chest gang. Each installment is exceptional balancing comedy, action and real tear-inducing emotion. Your kids will eat it up, while you tear up watching Andy grow up and leave his best friends behind so they can make another kid very happy.
The aquatic adventures of Marlin, the anxiety-ridden single parent of little Nemo still remains another of Pixar’s perfect films. It also gave us one of the best side-kicks ever in forgetful tang, Dory.
The Sound of Music
If your family enjoys music and singing, then let the effervescent Maria von Trapp (Julie Andrews) lead you on a musical journey with the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein’s tale of the von Trapp family’s daring escape from German-occupied Austria. The songs are forever memorable, even if the acting can be a little too precious.
The Princess Bride
Rob Reiner and William Goldman’s fractured fairy-tale classic has romance, adventure, swash-buckling, rodents of unusual size and so much more you just have to see it. You and your kids will be quoting it for the rest of your lives.
It’s the beautifully animated story of Po, a tubby panda, trying to find his path in life. A great story for kids in that awkward age where they feel they don’t belong and are feeling the heat of peer pressure.
The Wizard of Oz
A perfect adaptation of Baum’s The Wizard of Oz book featuring Judy Garland as beautiful farm girl Dorothy Gale of Kansas who gets stranded in the land of Oz. It features musical favorites, characters and, for its time, the richest color this side of a crayon box.
For animation fans looking for something more exotic and different, Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away is the kind of work that inspires kids to become artists. Watch this one together and then jump into the rest of Studio Ghibli’s catalog of great films.
Star Wars: Episode 4
The original Star Wars is the film that launched a billion imaginations. More than 35 years old and the story, visual effects and characters still hold up like it was made yesterday. If your kids are Star Wars newbies, launch them into the world of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader with the original.
Rapunzel gets updated for this generation with an empowered heroine who doesn’t need or even want the charming cad Flynn Rider to save her. Cute, romantic and beautifully animated, Tangled is a crowd-pleaser for boys and girls.
It still remains one of Disney’s most beautiful traditionally animated films and a must-see for anyone that loves art and animation. Derived from the classic folk tale, Pinocchio the marionette goes on an (often dark) journey to become a real boy.
The pinnacle of talking animal films, Babe tells the adventures of a little farm pig that dreams about becoming a sheep dog. If your kids have been asking for a pet, watch out…you might have them begging for a piglet pal by the end of this one.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman created a twisted holiday classic in this stop-animation story about Jack, the King of Halloweentown, having an existential crisis about his life’s work. Gothic and seeped in black comedy, Nightmare is perfect for your counter-culture kiddies who like gentle and offbeat scares.
The Muppet Movie
Kermit and company’s first big screen film remains one of their all-time best as the swamp frog heads to Hollywood to fulfill his dreams of becoming an entertainer. A lot of the human cameos feature some actors your kids won’t recognize today, there’s still more than enough to still love in this road trip adventure.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Pee Wee is the ultimate big kid who never grows up, and as weird a character he is, he's somehow lovable in his first film. When his beloved bike is stolen, P.W. heads out across the country to track it down and makes a lot of weird friends along the way.
The Lion King
One of the most-beloved of the Disney’s new era of animated films, The Lion King boasts a fantastic score and songs, a Shakespearean-like story about the importance of family and some of the best comedy relief ever -- Timon and Pumba.
This is the film in which Mike Meyers made a green ogre with a Scottish accent a big screen star. The first of the franchise, Shrek remains the best of the films, which mock fairy tale tropes with wit and excellent fart jokes.
If you ever spent a summer playing street sports with your neighborhood pals, The Sandlot is the perfect way to recapture that fun. Small in scope but huge in heart and laughs, your kids will love everything about this classic.
While it’s best suited to the tween and up age group, Big is still worthy of a family viewing because of Tom Hanks’perfect performance as a teen boy who gets his wish to become a grown-up overnight.
A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke make Mary Poppins one of Disney’s best live-action musicals. With fantastic songs and some animated interludes, Poppins is still tops.
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