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The 30 best kids' movies on Netflix

(Image credit: Sony Pictures/Paramount/Disney)

With the coronavirus crisis forcing schools to close and many of us working from home, millions of parents are looking for something – anything! – to help keep the children occupied. Luckily, the world has progressed beyond trips to video libraries and scouring TV schedules, and there are hours and hours of kid-friendly content ready to be streamed directly to your device.

This list of the best kids’ movies on Netflix collects together 30 brilliant ways to make sure your young ’uns’ screentime is well spent. While most of Disney’s vast catalogue of classic films have now migrated to Disney Plus, there’s still plenty of great flicks for pre-teens to enjoy on Netflix – especially now that UK viewers can choose from a large selection of Studio Ghibli movies on the platform. Beyond that, you’ll find everything from animated classics like Shrek to ’80s fantasy epics like The NeverEnding Story – as well as a few intriguing oddities.

We’ve flagged whether the movies are available in the US or UK (or both), and because children of different ages have very different tastes, we’ve given each of the best kids’ movies on Netflix an age range to show who they’re most suitable for. But rest assured that the vast majority of these films have plenty to offer grown up viewers who might be trapped on the sofa with their sprogs. 

So put the popcorn in the microwave, turn on the TV, and get your family ready for the best kids’ movies on Netflix right now…

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30. Popeye (1980)

(Image credit: Disney)

Region: US

Worth showing to your kids as an intriguing experiment, just to see what the hell they make of it. Director of MASH, McCabe & Mrs Miller, Nashville and other classics of Hollywood’s 1970s golden age, Robert Altman seemed an unlikely candidate to direct a live-action version of the long-running cartoon about a sailor who gains super-strength by eating spinach. An early vehicle for the talents of Robin Williams, it’s an uneven affair that bombed on release. But there’s still plenty to like – and at worst, it might get the young ’uns eating their greens. 

Age range: 6 – 10

29. The Angry Birds Movie (2016)

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Region: UK

Given the ongoing, seemingly impossible quest to make a decent film based on a video game franchise – the recent Sonic the Hedgehog did as good a job as any – transferring the feathered stars of mobile gaming to the big screen seemed a tough ask. So it proved to be, because while The Angry Birds Movie takes a decent stab at adapting a plot-free game, and the cast is a who’s who of US comedy talent (Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Danny McBride, Bill Hader), the jokes are hit and miss, and there’s more than a whiff of cash-in. Not that any of that will bother its target audience…

Age range: 4 – 8

28. Peter Rabbit (2018)

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Region: UK

You have to wonder what Beatrix Potter would have made of this 21st century update of her enduring rodent hero – he certainly didn’t wear denim in the original books. The movie sees Peter and his critter chums taking on the great-nephew of original bunny-scourge Mr McGregor, with Domhnall Gleeson successfully transferring his General Hux sneer to kid-friendly pest control. James Corden is slightly miscast as the too-cool-for-school Peter – and the movie courted controversy for its ridiculously cavalier attitude to allergies – but little ’uns will still love it.

Age range: 4 – 8

27. Annie (1982)

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Region: UK

If you grew up in the ’80s, chances are this adaptation of the Broadway musical was part of the soundtrack to your childhood. Directed by John Huston – the same John Huston who made Humphrey Bogart classics The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen – Annie’s the Great Depression-set story of an orphan who gets taken in by billionaire Daddy Warbucks, a man eager to improve his PR. The plot is undoubtedly by-the-numbers stuff, but don’t say we didn’t warn you when a couple of the catchier tunes get embedded in your brain. If it’s good enough for Jay-Z…

Age range: 6 – 12

26. Free Willy (1993)

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Region: UK

Family movies were a very different beast back in the ’90s, and Free Willy is the poster boy for a whole sub-genre of treacly heart-warmers. It’s kinda like ET – albeit without the Spielberg magic – with a killer whale subbing in for the alien as a lonely kid forms an unlikely friendship with an orca in an amusement park. While the park’s owner plots to cash in on Willy, the lad plots to free him (see, it’s not just a clever title), and everybody feels better at the end. Certainly not one for the cynical, but kids will undoubtedly warm to an aquatic star who is definitely not a fish. 

Age range: 8 – 13

25. Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

(Image credit: Netflix)

Region: UK, US

The most remarkable thing about this Netflix-made, Judd Apatow-produced reboot of the freaky man-child’s adventures is that 60-something star Paul Reubens still looks the part – you can thank some impressive digital trickery for that. Otherwise it’s a faithful, good-natured return to the movie franchise Tim Burton kicked off with the cult classic Pee-wee’s Big Adventure back in 1985 – though Big Holiday is so idiosyncratic that it’s liable to leave newcomers a tad befuddled.  

Age range: 6 – 10

24. Hook (1991)

(Image credit: Sony)

Region: UK, US

As the driving force behind movies like ET and The Goonies, Steven Spielberg was regarded as a Peter Pan of cinema when he crafted this sequel to J.M. Barrie’s classic novel about a boy who never grew up. The twist? Pan has grown up and become a corporate lawyer who looks a lot like Robin Williams – so it’s all a bit awkward when Captain Hook kidnaps his kids. Despite being regarded as one of the misfires of Spielberg’s career, Hook does have its moments, with some memorable set-pieces and stunning set design. Williams goes a bit heavy on the schmaltz, but co-stars Julia Roberts (Tinker Bell), Dustin Hoffman (Hook) and Bob Hoskins (Smee) are bang on the money.

Age range: 6 – 10

23. The Boxtrolls (2014)

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Region: UK

If there’s one thing traditional stop-motion does better than a computer it’s creating freaky, other-worldly creatures. And so, following on from the macabre Coraline and ParaNorman, Laika’s third feature-length offering makes heroes out of a bunch of grotesque trolls dressed in cardboard. Game of Thrones’ Isaac Hempstead Wright plays a kid who was taken in by the Boxtrolls as a nipper, and now spends his time convincing the human residents of Cheesebridge that the trolls are all right really. Though, seeing as they have a penchant for stealing delicious cheese, that may be a tough ask…

Age range: 7 – 10

22. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

(Image credit: Paramount)

Region: US

To anyone introduced to A Series of Unfortunate Events by three seasons of the Netflix show, this Jim Carrey vehicle may feel like it’s treading old ground. Even so, there’s plenty to like in this visually stunning take on Daniel Handler’s Lemony Snicket novels. Carrey is given full licence to overact as the sinister Count Olaf, trying to scheme his way to the orphaned Baudelaire siblings’ fortune. While the movie lacks some of the snark of the novels, it successfully channels the essence of Tim Burton and Roald Dahl.

Age range: 8 – 12

21. Monster House (2006)

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Region: UK, US

The executive producing dream team of Steven Spielberg and Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis team up for a CG-animated movie that harks back to their ’80s glory days. There’s an undeniable Goonies vibe (no bad thing) to this performance-captured tale of a bunch of kids who find their way into a creepy house at the end of their street, and end up on an adventure. It’s funny, the characters are relatable and – crucially – it keeps the scares firmly in PG territory.

Age range: 8 – 12

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