As the holidays wind down, there’s one activity that’s always perfect for families: watching a movie together on Netflix! While the streaming giant has something for everyone, it also has an impressive lineup of truly family friendly films with a great deal of appeal.
Granted, several of these movies are animated. But there are also live-action films that still live up to the goal of reaching a broad audience. Unfortunately, Netflix constantly shuffles its content around, and a few classics recently left for other outlets. That’s why we’ve updated the best family films on Netflix list, so you can hit the new year running without missing a family movie night.
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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Before winning over audiences with The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller adapted Judi and Ron Barrett’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Bill Hader voices Flint Lockwood, a young scientist who creates a “Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator” that can turn water into food. However, Flint’s desire to use his device for good goes horribly awry and threatens the entire world. That’s why it’s on Flint, Samantha Sparks (Anna Faris), and their friends to save the day.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Mr. T
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Runtime: 90 minutes
Film critics didn’t love Steven Spielberg’s Hook, but audiences embraced the story of a grown-up Peter Pan. Robin Williams stars as Peter’s older self, Peter Banning. After falling for and marrying Moira (Caroline Goodall), Peter has no idea that he was once the immortal boy. However, Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) wants his revenge. That’s why he kidnaps Peter and Moira’s children, which forces Peter to return to Neverland and reclaim himself, as well as the Lost Boys who remained behind.
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Runtime: 142 minutes
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Steven Spielberg was still relatively early in his career when he delivered an all-time sci-fi/family adventure: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Henry Thomas plays Elliott, a young boy who befriends an alien who was accidentally left behind by his companions. E.T. and Elliott form such an intense bond that the declining health of the alien affects his new friend as well. Their only hope is to let E.T. contact his people and return home before the U.S. government discovers his presence. This is a triumph on every level, and Spielberg wisely decided against a sequel. It stands alone as a masterpiece.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
Director: Steven Spielberg
Runtime: 114 minutes
Monster House (2006)
Monster House is a rare family-friendly horror story. Mitchel Musso voices as Dustin James “D.J.” Walters, a young boy who has a contentious relationship with his cranky neighbor, Horace Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). After Nebbercracker suffers a heart attack, D.J. and his friends, Chowder (Sam Lerner) and Jenny (Spencer Locke), learn that Nebbercracker’s house may be the true monster on the block. And they’re the only ones who can save the neighborhood from a dire fate.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi
Director: Gil Kenan
Runtime: 90 minutes
The Willoughbys (2020)
Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Sean Cullen, and Ricky Gervais lend their voices to this computer-animated film based on the book of the same name by Lois Lowry. It’s about the Willoughbys, two neglectful parents, and their unique children who try to survive on their own until a mysterious nanny arrives. Despite the presumably sad subject matter about orphaned children with bad parents, critics loved the film and lauded its silliness that is “anchored in genuine emotion.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Ricky Gervais
Director: Kris Pearn
Runtime: 92 minutes
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
What do your pets actually do when you’re not home all day? In the original The Secret Life of Pets, we learned that they get into a whole lot of trouble. Now, after narrowly avoiding becoming a stray, Max the terrier (Patton Oswalt) is back and ready for a fun family jaunt to the countryside. But when he mistakenly gets lost, he’ll have to deal with angry cows, hostile foxes, one mean turkey, and his own neuroses if he’s going to get back home. Thankfully, he has a little help.
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Stars: Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Patton Oswalt
Director: Chris Renaud
Runtime: 86 minutes
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus (2019)
While it may not be the same Invader Zim millennials grew up watching, the Netflix-adapted Enter the Florpus will still get the entire family reeling. The story tracks Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) after the events of the original TV series, seeing the little alien in the throes of an existential dilemma. As he’s fighting for a chance to make a difference and attempting to unlock his true purpose on Earth, Zim’s arch-nemesis plots his downfall in the shadows. Can the little alien gain the confidence he needs to overcome his human rival, or will he only be a memory? With a critics review score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, no family can go wrong with Invader Zim and his Florpus adventures.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Jhonen Vasquez, Richard Steven Horvitz
Directors: Hae Young Jung, Young Kyun Park, Jhonen Vasquez
Runtime: 71 minutes
Given the ample amount of time on everyone’s hands nowadays, Hugo is an unmissable family-friendly escape into a world that uniquely portrays this unstoppable temporal movement. Martin Scorsese’s steampunk adventure captures a 1931 Paris through the eyes of a 12-year-old and has an emotional weight unlike any of his previous films. Hugo’s (Asa Butterfield) adventures in the railway station are where the narrative and themes are expressed most boisterously, depicting a world made vibrant by its art, yet inundated with controlled abandon. Hugo is a tale of spellbinding woe and familial hardship, proving the necessity of creativity to thrive. It’s not an award winner for nothing, after all.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley
Director: Martin Scorsese
Runtime: 129 minutes
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Like any franchise, it’s probably best to start off with the first How to Train Your Dragon. But you won’t be completely lost if you jump in with the equally outstanding sequel. Five years since Hiccup and his dragon friend Toothless united the dragons and Vikings of Berk, the town is more intrepid and more peaceful than ever. However, when Hiccup and Toothless discover a secret cave out in the ocean that’s filled with hundreds of wild dragons, they begin to ask questions. Soon, they find that the dragons answer to a mysterious rider, and they’re just the first domino to fall as a power-hungry warlord closes in on Berk.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler
Directors: Dean DeBlois
Runtime: 102 minutes
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
For anime-enthusiast families and Studio Ghibli connoisseurs, here is an international Alice in Wonderland lookalike. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is as heartwarming as it is artistically expressive, namely due to the direction of Hiromasa Yonebayashi. This animated adventure is based on Mary Stewart’s The Little Broomstick. Mary (Hana Sugisaki) is a young girl with no friends, living in the northern English countryside with a deep-seated hunger for adventure. After chasing a cat into a forest, her whole life changes upon the discovery of a mysterious broom with enchanted abilities. Netflix may have an array of the best anime series, but it doesn’t often have the best selection of family-friendly animated movies. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is certainly a testament to its potential.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Runtime: 103 minutes
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
During the Golden Age of Nickelodeon, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius stood out for its unique premise and heavy focus on science. Jimmy Neutron is an 11-year-old boy whose intellect is matched by none. Of course, his brain results in the arrival of an alien species who want to kidnap and sacrifice Earth’s parents to Poultra, the species’s god, who is incidentally a three-headed chicken. Smart and humorous, the movie was the launching pad for the franchise, which brought two different television shows to Nickelodeon over the following decade.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Stars: Debi Derryberry, Rob Paulsen, Jeffrey Garcia
Director: John A. Davis
Runtime: 90 minutes
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
The classic duo of Mr. Peabody and Sherman get a modern update for a new generation in this 2014 animated hit. Mr. Peabody is the most accomplished dog in the world, and with his mischievous boy Sherman, they travel time and space together in their time machine, the WABAC. But when Sherman takes the WABAC out for a joyride to impress his friend Penny, they inadvertently tear a hole in the universe, wreaking havoc on history. Before past, present, and future are forever altered, Mr. Peabody must put everything back together again, simultaneously making the world right and becoming a parent.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Ty Burrell, Ariel Winter, Max Charles
Directors: Rob Minkoff
Runtime: 92 minutes
Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution (2019)
This Pokémon movie is a CGI remake of the massively popular 1998 Pokémon film, Pokémon: The First Movie. It doesn’t quite meet the hype of the original movie, which many of today’s parents probably went bananas for as kids, but it’s nonetheless a fun trip down nostalgia lane for adults and an action-packed ride for kids. Starring all the characters from the original Pokémon series, the movie follows Ash, Brock, and Misty as they discover the enormously powerful psychic Pokémon Mewtwo and realize he’s not the villain he’s made out to be.
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Stars: Ikue Otani, Rica, Matsumoto
Directors: Kunihiko Yuyama, Tetsuo Yajima, Motonori Sakakibara
Runtime: 98 minutes
The Little Prince (2015)
This original adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved book somehow manages to pay homage to the original story while expanding it to beautiful new heights. Directed by Mark Osborne, this visually stunning extension features a young girl (Mackenzie Foy) who strikes up a friendship with an old pilot (Jeff Bridges). As they get to know one another, the pilot regales the girl about a friend from his past: a Little Prince from another planet. Read the book with your kids, then watch the movie, and you’ll build a lasting memory.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd
Director: Mark Osborne
Runtime: 110 minutes
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