The 30 best family movies to watch with the kids, from Disney classics to Studio Ghibli masterpieces

20. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: A classic adaptation of a classic folktale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tells the story of a beautiful princess, Snow White, who is forced to flee her kingdom as her jealous stepmother – a witch who can’t handle being only the second-prettiest woman in the realm. Finding refuge among seven friendly dwarfs, she is still relentlessly pursued by the witch, who will stop at nothing to end Snow White once and for all...

Why the family will love it: Out of all Disney’s early classics, none are as accomplished as Snow White. It set a new bar for animation and has been endlessly referenced, imitated and satirised. This version of the tale of Snow White, though, has never been topped. The oldest film on our list, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is now just over eight decades old, but it’s still a classic movie for the entire family. Just take the gender roles with a grain of salt.

19. Jurassic Park (1993)

(Image credit: Universal)

The movie: An eccentric millionaire spares no expense creating the world’s most unique theme park, filling it with real dinosaurs. When a group of scientists, as well as a lawyer and two members of the park’s "key demographic" – kids – go on a test ride through the park, things quickly go very, very wrong. Scattered around the park, with no help on the way, they have to fight for their lives. And even when they think they have found safety, danger still lurks... 

Why the family will love it: This one’s definitely not for the youngest kids, but (with adult supervision) Jurassic Park is a fantastic family experience. Featuring real horror-like thrills right from the opening hook, Spielberg's masterpiece still appeals to ten-year-olds the world over. 

18. The Princess Bride (1987)

(Image credit: Universal)

The movie: Perhaps the culmination of a decade of offbeat adventure films, The Princess Bride crosses tradition with innovation in a brilliant adaptation of William Goldman’s novel. It’s a fairy-tale about a beautiful young woman and her true love, who must go on a treacherous journey to save her. The knight and his unlikely companions must cross mountains and seas, fight evil in most unusual ways, all to fulfil their quest. 

Why the family will love it: The source of countless memes, The Princess Bride is much more than a mere collection of jokes and gimmicks. The film subverts many of the classic adventure genre’s conventions, while at the same time becoming a classic of the genre itself. Filled with larger-than-life characters, it’s an event-filled journey for our heroes that is sure to be quoted for days and weeks after viewing by your sprogs.

17. Princess Mononoke (1997)

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

The movie: Perhaps Hayao Miyazaki’s most epic tale, Princess Mononoke follows the 14th-century story of teenage girl Ashitaka, who is infected following an animal attack and must find the mythical Shishigami to save her life. Meanwhile, the kingdom and the delicate balance between humans, animals and nature is being tipped beyond repair. 

Why the family will love it: Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece of cinema, tapping into Japan’s rich mythology, building a world that has both light and darkness. Parents will see pointed references to the nuclear bomb and modern indifference toward nature. The storytelling transcends boundaries and languages, and a great chance to introduce kids to the fact that great animation doesn’t have to come from Hollywood. And for those kids too young to consistently follow subtitles, the English dubbing work is sublime.

16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The movie: We’re putting the movie that started the phenomena on this list, but really all eight movies are essential watching for kids of all ages. Harry Potter, an orphaned boy with magical powers, starts attending Hogwarts, a magical school for young wizards and witches. Once there, he realises his destiny is of the rather dramatic ilk, as he is the only person in the world who can possibly defeat the evil Lord Voldemort, who is plotting to defeat the forces of good in the world and rule it himself. 

Why the family will love it: Watching the franchise together from start to finish is a wonderful journey for a family to take together. Whether that’s introducing each movie to your kid at the same age as Harry is in the story, or doing one movie a week or month, it’s got adventurous thrills and a classic battle of good vs evil.

15. The LEGO Movie (2014)

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The movie: Construction worker Emmett is living an awesome life – he watches the most popular comedies, likes the big hit singles, buys the right overpriced coffee, and does his job exactly by the instructions. But, one night, a mysterious stranger in search of the mythical Kragle drags him into a world of chaos, action, moody Batmen, and legendary master-builders, changing his life forever. It’s LEGO like you’ve never seen it before, but always imagined it could be.

Why the family will love it: Pretty much everybody has played with LEGO at some point in their lives, and The LEGO Movie perfectly captures the larger-than-life, anything-goes creativity and innocent happiness associated with the plastic blocks. The movie has a great cast, frantic action, hysterical jokes, and a frankly insane amount of pop-culture references. To top it all off, it has a surprisingly poignant and emotional third act. Just like the story, it brings generations together.

14. Mary Poppins (1964)

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: The children of the wealthy and uptight Banks family are getting increasingly frustrated at the terrible nannies they keep employing – that is until a magical new nanny literally floats in holding an umbrella. It’s Mary Poppins, y’all. Quickly sorting out their misbehaving ways, Mary takes the siblings on fantastical adventures involving Mary’s Cockney friend Bert. Eventually, they all unite in their efforts to loosen the screws of the kids’ uptight parents, too, through song, dance and magic.

Why the family will love it: Watched along with Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel 54 years in the making, Mary Poppins will make an excellent first half of a great family double bill. The first film has Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke’s incomparable performances, great songs and that phrase. It really is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

13. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: Ever felt like you’re not the main character in your own story? Well, welcome to every day of Wreck-It Ralph’s life. Poor Ralph is a videogame character in Fix-It Felix, an old arcade game, and his life consists exclusively of wrecking a house, only to have Felix – you guessed it – fix it again. One day, Ralph has enough and decides to leave the game and see where else in the arcade he will fit in better. Needless to say, the result is utter chaos. Brilliant, hilarious chaos.

Why the family will love it: Even though the sequel is very good, the original Wreck-It Ralph is just a little more cohesive, clear and fresh. Without ever preaching, it teaches us to reach out and try new things, and not be afraid of making mistakes on the way, something every kid should keep in mind. Plus, it’s frequently hysterical, and almost scarily relatable for parents everywhere.

12. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

(Image credit: Universal)

The movie: A tiny, timid alien becomes stranded on Earth, but after being saved by young Elliott, who shelters the alien in his house, he finds safety and friendship in Elliott and his siblings. However, when little E.T. falls ill, the children must find a way to get him back home to his planet, and quickly, before the authorities get their grubby mitts on him.

Why the family will love it: When it came out, E.T. (along with Close Encounters a few years earlier) bucked the trend of portraying aliens as snarling, evil beasts with nothing but murder on their mind. It’s a touching tale of an unlikely friendship between human kids and a lost, little alien. It highlights how friendship and brotherly love doesn’t care about race, species or borders – even interstellar ones.

11. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

(Image credit: Fox/Disney)

The movie: In a galaxy far, far away, a young farmhand named Luke Skywalker dreams of escaping his surroundings. However, the oppressive Empire, led by the callous Darth Vader, control everything around. Soon enough, the secretive Ben Kenobi receives a message from the resilient Princess Leia, who has been captured by Vader. Along with the charming smuggler Han Solo and his hairy co-pilot Chewbacca, Kenobi and Skywalker head out to meet Vader head on, engulfing our heroes in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

Why the family will love it: A mandatory part of the curriculum for any budding film fan’s cinematic education, the original Star Wars transformed the movie world and opened up a new realm of adventure, one that’s still being added to today with new movies, games and books. A New Hope is a science fiction masterpiece.

Production Editor, Total Film

Erlingur Einarsson is a film reviewer and writer, lover of cinema, television, tractors, and basketball. Erlingur has worked at Future for Plc for five years now, having spent time as the Editor for Photoshop Creative, Operations Editor for Digital Camera World, and Deals Editor for Top Ten Reviews. Erlingur currently serves as the Production Editor for our friends over at Total Film magazine – you should expect to find his byline of film reviews and the hottest of takes.