It’s a fact: the best kid’s movies are those that adults can enjoy too. But there’s more to making a film appealing for both adults and children than letting Adam Sandler run rampant or dropping double-entendres and pop-culture references in among farting jokes. The story has to speak to the child in all of us while not talking down to its main audience.
I hesitate to make any lists with movies or music because the material is so subjective; influenced by nostalgia, gender, personal taste, and circumstance. I do believe, however, that the genre of “kid’s movies” is a fairly common space for many of us and so here is my list of the Top Ten Children’s Films of all time.
*All the movies I mention below I have viewed (multiple times).
1. The Sound of Music
Though this 1965 musical film was not made exclusively for children, it is certainly a timeless piece that is fit for all ages. I was memorized at an early age and have been enraptured ever since. If I made a list of the Top Ten People I Want to Meet, Julie Andrews would be at the top. Her voice, grace, and ability to “enchant” far surpass her fellow colleagues. From the music to the beautiful landscapes, the film in its entirety is what I would call a “masterpiece.”
If you like The Sound of Music, you might also enjoy these similar (wonderful) films: Oklahoma, Annie, Mary Poppins*, and all the Shirley Temple classics like Heidi and Poor Little Rich Girl.
*In an effort to choose a variety of movies from different genres, Mary Poppins is not listed in the Top Ten as it also contains Julie Andrews and all her brilliance. But let it be known that it is, of course, also one of the very best.
2. The Parent Trap
This 1961 flick was remade in 1998 starring the now infamous Lindsay Lohan and is also (surprisingly) worthwhile. Both films are about identical twins Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers finding each other at summer camp and eventually reuniting their parents.
While the plot is quite unrealistic, it is a fun, humorous, and heartwarming (without being too heartwarming) story that we can all enjoy. I have watched it both as a child and as an adult, and it passed the test that many other flicks have failed (Have you tried watching Land Before Time as an adult? Yikes).
If you like The Parent Trap, you should also check out Freaky Friday (both the 1976 and 2003 version) and Pollyanna.
This is a Baker family classic and a movie I have seen at least a dozen times (mostly on VHS). Hook is the story of Peter Pan, the sequel. The movie focuses on a grown-up Peter, a successful corporate lawyer with a wife and two children. Captain Hook kidnaps his two children, and he must return to Neverland and reclaim his youthful spirit as Peter Pan in order to challenge his old nemesis, Captain James Hook.
It sounds cheesy, and many parts clearly are, but as a whole Hook is every kid’s dream movie. It’s a fantasy film but also a comedy with underlying themes of loyalty and family values. Bottom line: I think it’s a stitch, definitely one of my favorites. The critics (at the time) were not so nice—but even as an adult, I still love it.
If you like Hook, you should definitely watch Jumanji—a movie I wanted to include but didn’t for fear of being Robin Williams heavy. I actually just re-watched it this weekend (so good). Mrs. Doubtfire is another William’s classic that never disappoints.
4. The Adventures of Milo and Otis
The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a live action Japanese film about an orange tabby cat named Milo and a pug named Otis. The original Japanese version was released in 1986, the reworked English language version released three years later. The most amazing element of this movie is that the directors edited the film from 400,000 feet of footage (which is roughly 40.3 hours), shot over a period of four years. Incredible.
Some friends and I re-watched this movie in college and thoroughly enjoyed it (under the influence of no drugs!). It is such a sweet and simple movie. And who can resist adorable baby barn yard animals? You will not be disappointed.
If you like The Adventures of Milo and Otis, you should also rent Beethoven, Homeward Bound, Andre, and Babe.
5. Anne of Green Gables
You may say that this is a total girl’s movie, but I happen to know two grown men who admit to loving it as well (Austin and Dad). Anne of Green Gables is a 1985 television movie based on the novel Anne of Green Gables by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Anne is a funny, wily, and adventurous orphan who transforms in this (fairly lengthy) miniseries. Wildly popular in the US, Canada, and my childhood home—Anne of Green Gables and its sequel Anne of Avonlea is a work of art with its beautiful cinematography, moving plot, and gorgeous original score.
If you like Anne of Green Gables, you should of course watch Anne of Avonlea and then rent Sarah Plain and Tall and its sequel Skylark (both starring Glenn Close), based on the wonderful books by Patricia Maclachlan.
6. The Emperor’s New Groove
You may be surprised to find this fairly recent (2000) Disney movie on a list of classics, but do not judge until you watch it! Bottom line: it is really, really funny.
Like it or not, I grew up on Disney. I’m not embarrassed by it (nor do I think it influenced me negatively), but I do admit that looking back, the typical Disney princess is rather smutty. The Emperor’s New Groove sidesteps the stereotypical Disney mold with no scantily clad princess or terribly evil villain. In fact, the villains are the best (and most humorous) part of this movie. The first time I watched it, I laughed so hard it hurt.
If you like The Emperor’s New Groove, be sure to check out Aladdin –another famously funny Disney flick. The Lion King is also a classic.
7. Monsters Inc.
In an effort to include movies from all sorts of genres and categories, this particular movie had a lot of competition. As a fan of blockbusters such as Up, Finding Nemo and WallE, it was hard to choose just one Pixarish movie to place on a Top Ten list. I chose this movie simply because I really like it.
Monsters Inc. stars great voices such as John Goodman and Billy Crystal as monsters who scare children for a living. The storyline had the potential to be very weak, but the movie turned out to be a hit, receiving near universal critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 95% of critics have given the film a positive review.
I re-watched this movie a few months ago, curled up on the couch and terribly nauseated with morning sickness. Even after having watched it multiple times before while babysitting, I laughed out loud. Bottom line: it’s unique, imaginative, and Billy Crystal is always hilarious.
If you like Monsters Inc., you should most certainly watch Up, Bolt, Finding Nemo, WallE, and A Bug’s Life. If Pixar is not your style and you want something more classic, Kelly and I watched The Muppet Movie over and over and over as kids. The songs are great, and who doesn’t love Jim Henson’s funny creatures?
8. Robin Hood
Robin Hood is a 1973 animated feature produced by Disney. The film is based on the legend of Robin Hood, but uses animals instead of people to tell the story. If you can’t quite remember this childhood favorite, youtube has the intro with the famous Rooster’s song to jog your memory. Bottom line: Robin Hood is a sweet and folksy film based on a legendary tale of the bravery of an underdog.
If you like Robin Hood, check out The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under (which were in close competition). These three movies are some of Disney’s finest, and won’t leave you feeling icky about princess cleavage. If you’re not worried about princesses, The Little Mermaid was my personal favorite growing up. I really wanted to be a mermaid.
9. Little Women
This 1994 movie could place on my list for its’ soundtrack alone. The original score is breathtaking, ranking #1 on my list of movie soundtracks.
Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women has actually been made into a movie 5 different times. The 1994 version stars big names such as Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, and Claire Danes. Like The Sound of Music, this film was not made exclusively for children, yet it’s a movie the whole family will enjoy. Full of depth, heartache, and beauty, I cannot think of a better movie to watch on a cold night by a flickering fire.
Bottom line: The acting, directing, plot, and soundtrack are all top notch.
If you like Little Women, be sure to watch The Secret of Roan Inish and The Indian in the Cupboard.
10. Home Alone
Unless you’ve never turned on a TV at Christmas, you have seen this movie. Home Alone is a coming-of-age story about an 8-year old boy named Kevin who gets left behind (and home alone) during the holidays while his family goes on vacation. When robbers come to the house, Kevin sets up elaborate (and completely unrealistic) pranks to stop them. You know what happens, you’ve seen it.
I hesitated to include Home Alone on this list until I realized how funny this movie is to every single kid who has ever watched it. These past few Christmases I definitely watched both the original and the sequel, Home Alone: Lost in New York and thoroughly enjoyed them both.
If you like the Home Alone movies, you probably also enjoy 90s kid favorites like Richie Rich, Blank Check, Free Willy, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. They may not be the most intelligent movies, but these nostalgic flashbacks still stir up some laughs.