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

10. Monsters, Inc (2001)

(Image credit: Pixar)

The movie: James “Sully” and his assistant Mike are the best-performing team at Monsters Incorporated, the largest scream factory in Monstropolis. Every night, they sneak through wardrobe doors into kids’ bedrooms and harvest their screams for precious energy. However, everything changes when little girl Boo sneaks into the monster world, causing considerable mayhem and a whole lot of reevaluating whether humans really are as scary as they are made out to be.

Why the family will love it: A film about acceptance, positivity, and finding creative and constructive solutions to your problems, Monsters, Inc is also an absolute riot from start to finish, with gags for both kids and grown-ups around every corner. Bonus: There might not be a more fitting casting decision in cinema history than Billy Crystal as the voice of hapless Mike Wazowski.

9. Aladdin (1992)

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: Resourceful ‘street rat’ Aladdin lives day-to-day with his monkey, Abu, stealing food while dreaming of the high life inside the palace walls. At the same time, Princess Jasmine feels suffocated by the pressure to find a suitable partner and dreams of freedom. Thanks to the plotting vizier Jafar, who has his eye on Jasmine, a magical lamp inhabited by a powerful genie and a spiralling game of deceit, the two suddenly find their fates intertwined in a musical adventure.

Why the family will love it: One of the films that kickstarted Disney’s golden age in the 1990s, Aladdin is still as funny, exciting and accessible today. It has perhaps the second-greatest Disney villain ever in Scar, and Robin Williams’ performance as the Genie is worthy of eternal praise. The live-action remake is fun, but nothing will beat the 1992 original.

8. The Iron Giant (1999)

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The movie: Adapted from Ted Hughes' story, a giant alien robot crashes near a small town in Rockwell, Maine, in 1957. Nine-year-old Hogarth discovers the robot, and soon forms an unlikely friendship with this iron giant. When the robot becomes the target of a persistent government agent who is determined to destroy the robot at any cost, Hogarth and beatnik Dean undertake an epic quest to save the misunderstood machine.

Why the family will love it: Kids are treated to an emotional, heartfelt and exciting story about an unlikely friendship between a boy and a giant robot from another planet, Meanwhile, parents get a poignant fable of Cold War paranoia, where understanding and kindred spirit battled fear and suspicion for decades. The Iron Giant is a layered, understated masterpiece.

7. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

(Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

The movie: Young Kansas girl Dorothy suffers an accident and finds herself transported to a magical technicolour world filled with exotic and whimsical characters, many of whom share characteristics with her family and friends. A shimmering emerald city on the horizon could hold the answers to all her questions, and, if she's lucky, show her the way back to Kansas...

Why the family will love it: The Wizard of Oz will likely to elicit the same sense of wonder to a kid born in this last decade as it did when it came out. You can bring every generation of your family together for this one, and follow that yellow-brick road down memory lane.

6. Paddington 2 (2018)

(Image credit: Studio Canal)

The movie: Picking up where the almost-as-good 2014 movie about an animated bear left, our furry hero has now settled in with the Brown family and become a real hit within his community, spreading joy among friends and marmalade on toast. Shortly after he spots a pop-up book in an antique shop, which he wants to give to his aunt on her 100th birthday, the item gets stolen, much to his dismay. Of course, Paddington embarks on a quest to catch the thief and recover the book before his aunt’s birthday, a quest that has many surprises in store...

Why the family will love it: A sequel that improves on the original, Paddington 2 is a perfect mix of kiddie and grown-up writing in a live-action film, with both silly gags and genuinely emotional scenes, while its message to us all to try to be decent and caring at all times is as important today as it ever has been.

5. Finding Nemo 

(Image credit: Pixar/Disney)

The movie: After a tragedy took his wife and all but one of his children, clownfish Marlin is constantly overprotective of his son, baby Nemo. Despite his best efforts, Nemo is caught by a fisherman, who takes the little clownfish back to his fish tank in Australia. As a result, Marlin is forced to undertake a journey more epic than any clownfish has ever undertaken, helped along by the forgetful Dory and a succession of unlikely allies. But can he overcome the staggering odds and find his dear Nemo again?

Why the family will love it: Finding Nemo shows the love parents can hold for their child, and the lengths to which they will go for them. It’s perfectly paced, the movie filled with great designed and funny characters. Also, Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory might be the greatest fish character ever written.

4. The Incredibles (2004)

(Image credit: Pixar/Disney)

The movie: Bob and Helen Parr have three children and live in a nondescript suburb. Bob works in insurance and Helen is a dutiful housewife. However, they have a secret past: they used to be the superheroes Mr Incredible and Elastigirl, fighting baddies and saving the world on a weekly basis before superheroes were banned and forced to go into hiding. Bob, nostalgic for his past glory, sees an opportunity to don the supersuit again, but this time it puts his whole family in danger.

Why the family will love it: Along with the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises of the early-noughties, The Incredibles ignited a fire in children’s hearts around the world, and that fire is being stoked and nurtured still today by several superhero films every year. The Incredibles riffs perfectly on ‘60s spy movies for a stylish, adrenaline-filled adventure. And if you’re worried it might be ‘scary’ for tiny tots, take it from this writer: yours truly’s son has watched this and Incredibles 2 approximately once a week since well before his third birthday, still without a single resulting night terror.

3. My Neighbour Totoro

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

The movie: Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful adventure My Neighbour Totoro follows schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they move to an old country house with their father while their mother recovers from illness at a hospital some distance away. As the sisters explore their new home, they encounter playful spirits in their house and the nearby forest. One of those is the mysterious, silent and very, very cuddly giant creature Totoro. That’s it, that’s the film. And it’s perfect that way.

Why the family will love it: It doesn’t matter if you’re six, 15 or 50 years old. When you watch My Neighbour Totoro, you will become a six-year-old in your heart. No film captures the carefree spirit of childhood and the wonder and imagination of playing and running around quite like this one. And with Totoro himself and Neko the catbus joining the adventure, My Neighbour Totoro is simply one of the purest, most life-affirming pieces of cinema ever made.

2. The Lion King (1994)

(Image credit: Disney)

The movie: Young lion cub Simba will one day take over his father Mufasa’s kingdom. However, Simba’s uncle Scar has his eye on the throne, and in a vicious game of deceit, Mufasa is killed and Simba blamed for his father’s death. Little Simba flees the kingdom and finds friendship in the happy-go-lucky Timon and Pumbaa. In his absence, the kingdom crumbles into despair, but when Simba’s childhood friend Nala finds him by accident, he’ll have to decide whether to continue his carefree life or return, clear his name and save his father’s kingdom.

Why the family will love it: While the 2019 remake might showcase a visually technical achievement, it pales in comparison to the original Disney version when it comes to storytelling, emotion and pure sense of adventure. Not afraid to feature darkness and loss, The Lion King plays with the heart strings of both children and adults in an epic drama that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

1. Toy Story 2 (1999)

(Image credit: Pixar)

The movie: A couple of years after the events of the first Toy Story, Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear have formed a solid friendship. But when Woody is stolen from his home by toy dealer Al from Al’s Toy Barn infamy, the gang of toys goes on a desperate search-and-rescue mission, led by Buzz. However, when Woody discovers he's actually a valuable collectable from a once-popular television show called "Woody's Roundup" and is reunited with his horse Bullseye, cowgirl Jessie, and his sidekick, Stinky Pete the Prospector, he starts to doubt whether he wants to be saved after all.

Why the family will love it: It was hard to choose just one Toy Story film for this list, because any of the first three could stake a claim for this top spot. However, the second one gets the spot on the strength of its emotion and world-building that takes the fantastic first entry and expands it perfectly. Toy Story has become a cultural staple of the western world, the characters and their values taking on a mythological quality, all while presenting wondrously colourful stories that both children and parents can immediately relate to. Who hasn’t built a rich world of imagination with their toys, taking them on adventures, living through dramas, even finding solace in their play during times of sadness or struggle? Toy Story (any of them) and its characters perfectly embody the inner child in any of us, whether we’re an adventurous, sometimes overzealous Buzz, an organised Sheriff Woody who wants everything to stay as it is, a loving but hardy and resourceful Bo Peep, or a grumpy Potatohead. Family movie night will always have a friend in Toy Story.

Wanting to watch one of Disney's new live-action remakes? We've got you covered with this ranking of the best Disney live-action remake (opens in new tab).

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.