10. Hotel Transylvania (2012)
It’s the Dracula sequel Bram Stoker never got around to writing – y’know, the one where the Count is the proprietor of a hotel that caters exclusively for werewolves, invisible people, Frankenstein’s monster, and other literary creatures of the night. Dracula’s cosy existence is thrown upside down, however, when his daughter, Mavis, falls for a human guest who unwittingly books a room… Expect a fun movie with a zingy script and top direction from Genndy Tartakovsky, the brains behind Samurai Jack and the first, 2D-animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon.
Age range: 6 – 12
9. Minions (2015)
The breakout stars of the Despicable Me franchise become the headliners of their very own movie, and the fact it’s the highest-grossing non-Disney animated movie of all time suggests they never really needed Gru anyway. This prequel is the origin story for the diminutive yellow hench-things, revealing how their species has devoted their entire species to serving the baddest people in the world – and embroiling them in a plot to steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown. Parents may be left scratching their heads as they look for a plot beyond the slapstick and fart gags, but if you’re under 10, this is like Citizen Kane.
Age range: 6 – 10
8. Arthur Christmas (2011)
Region: UK, US
No list of the best kids’ movies on Netflix would be complete without some seasonal offerings, because – let’s face it – most tiddlers are happy to get a dose of festive spirit at any time of year. Aardman may have replaced the thumbprint charm of plasticine with a sleeker CG look, but they sacrifice none of their charm as Santa Claus’s clumsy son takes it on himself to deliver the one present his dad forgot. Expect elves, high-tech sleighs, and fun family sniping in a charming movie that delivers at any time of year.
Age range: 6 – 10
7. Matilda (1996)
Tim Minchin’s superlative West End/Broadway version of Roald Dahl’s classic novel is yet to get the movie treatment. Until it does, Danny DeVito’s movie adaptation can fill the gap. Mara Wilson gives one of the great child performances as Matilda Wormwood, the super-intelligent kid who discovers she has telekinetic powers, and uses them to turn the tables on her beastly parents and headmistress. Movie adaptations of Dahl’s books can be hit-and-miss, but this is one of the best – and if you have an under-10 at home, you won’t find a better role model than Matilda.
Age range: 5 – 10
6. Spy Kids (2001)
Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, The Faculty… Before Robert Rodriguez made Spy Kids, there was nothing on his resumé to suggest he had any intention of making a movie for children. But his pre-teen spin on the Bond formula – where a pair of unwitting kids spring into action when their spy parents are kidnapped by an evil TV host – is action-packed and loaded with ingenious gadgets. It’s also a tiny bit disturbing, with freaky hench-thumbs, lurid CG visuals, and a Roald Dahl-ish vibe – a formula potent enough to spawn two sequels and a TV spin-off.
Age range: 6 – 10
5. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
Shaun has come a long way since he was a woolly supporting player in Wallace & Gromit caper A Close Shave. With a successful TV series and a 2015 movie behind him, the ovine hero’s second big screen outing sets its crosshairs on the final frontier when a cute, dog-like alien called Lula crash lands on Mossy Bottom Farm. As ever, the whole thing’s told without dialogue, but you never notice anything missing thanks to Aardman’s flawless claymation and trademark supply of puns and visual gags.
Age range: 3 – 8
4. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Nobody was ever going to match Julie Andrews’ iconic, Oscar-winning performance as the magical nanny, but Emily Blunt gives it a damn good go in a sequel that arrived 54 years after the original. The charming story sees Ms Poppins, well, returning to watch over Michael Banks’s kids, taking them on magical adventures, while making a song and dance about everything. Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda is also up for a jolly holiday as a lamplighter whose bizarre cockney accent feels like a fitting tribute to Dick Van Dyke’s in the original.
Age range: 4 – 12
3. Hugo (2011)
If you’re going to start introducing children to Martin Scorsese’s back catalogue, Hugo is arguably a better place to start than Goodfellas – much as they’d probably love the swearing. On one level it’s the story of a pair of kids (future Sex Education star Asa Butterfield and Kick-Ass’s Chloë Grace Moretz) and their quest to discover the origins of a mysterious mechanical automaton in 1931 Paris. But more than that it’s Scorsese’s love letter to the early days of cinema, with Ben Kingsley turning up as pioneering director Georges Méliès.
Age range: 8 – 12
2. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Given Studio Ghibli’s peerless back catalogue, it would be easy to fill any list of the best kids’ movies on Netflix exclusively with movies from the Japanese masters. That wouldn’t be fair on mere mortals, however, so we’ve just allowed them one slot. It could easily have gone to Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, or Kiki’s Delivery Service, but instead we’ve plumped for My Neighbor Totoro. Why? Kids of any age will love it, everybody needs a friendly wood spirit like Totoro (a Ghibli icon to rival Mickey Mouse), and who wouldn’t want to take a ride on a Catbus?
Age range: 4 – 10
1. Shrek (2001)
In the early days of CG animation, the trailblazing Pixar tended to have things all their own way. That all changed with Shrek, as DreamWorks rewrote the rules of movie fairytales with the smart, funny, and ever-so-slightly subversive story of a grumpy ogre who turns out to have a heart of gold. The characters are memorable and the voice cast spot on – Eddie Murphy’s turn as Donkey is one of the few vocal performances ever nominated for a Bafta – but it’s the script that shines, as brilliant put-downs mingling seamlessly with the touching “true love’s kiss” finale. Shrek 2 (similarly brilliant) is also on Netflix.
Age range: 5 – 95