Netflix is relentless with its continual release of new series, movies, feature-length documentaries, competition shows, and even animated kids shows — so it's easy to get a bit lazy and depend on their release schedule and algorithm to find us something we'd like. It's no wonder that we actually miss a lot of what lies beneath our individual landing pages — like the absolute wealth of great family movies, both new and vintage, that await us in the streaming service's catalog. But with just a few clicks of the remote, it doesn't have to be that way.
The challenge that we come across time and again when trying to find great family movies is that they're often either great for just kids, leaving us bored to tears, or great for one kid but totally wrong for another — or completely boring for everyone five minutes in. Then there are on-point flicks that pretty much work for everyone on some level, satisfying even the pickiest family members. These are the movies that have jokes for the elementary school kids, slight gags for the little ones, and unexpectedly deep story lines that capture adults' attention.
The following are 15 of the best family-friendly movies found on Netflix are worth digging around for because they each pretty much hit those characteristics. Happy watching!
'Mary Poppins Returns'
If anyone could take over the role of Mary Poppins after Julie Andrews made the character immortal, it's Emily Blunt. The actress was pitch-perfect portraying the lovable and slightly conceited nanny. The movie, which has several good songs, is set about 20 years into the future — when the Banks children are all grown up and about to lose their family home ... until Mary Poppins drops right back into their (and their kids') lives. Another highlight is Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda as a lamplighter who can sing and dance.
This is the movie that spawned not one, but two blockbuster series. (The Minions series is the second, of course.) It all began with a supervillain bent on stealing the moon with the help of his mischievous yellow workers. But when he ends up with a trio of adorable orphans, his heart melts, and his plans to be evil forever come to an end.
'Ralph Breaks the Internet'
The visuals alone in this movie make it worth our while. There's so much happening in every frame. It's a feast for the eyes. This follow up to Wreck It Ralph starts six years later, when the former video game villain takes his friend Vanellope on an adventure inside the internet. Yeah, the movie name checks a lot of tech companies, which almost turns the movie into one big ad, but it's still fun.
'Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse'
We screamed loud enough to wake the neighbors when Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars — because this movie is everything: a visually stunning masterpiece that also has an incredibly moving, funny, and engaging coming-of-age story at its center, and a Black and Latino teen as the lead. It's the kind of movie that should be a reminder to Hollywood studios that bringing diverse stories to the big screen is not a "risk" — it's a no-brainer.
This is hands-down the weirdest, most underrated kid movie ever — from Jim Henson, the dude who created the Muppets. In Witches, a boy stumbles into a gathering of witches (hence the title) and is turned into a mouse, spending the rest of the movie trying to stay alive and find a way to stop the evil witches from taking over the world. It's pretty amazing and trippy.
'Batman: Mask of the Phantasm'
It's not slick — or even computer animated; it's hand drawn and looks pretty flat. But this feature-length Batman movie is fun, and surprisingly bracing, and there's something to be said for not having to sit through yet another super dark Batman movie where everyone needs antidepressants. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is just old-school goodness.
Good child actors are a joy to come across, and one who can carry an entire movie that is heavy with emotion is a rarity. But two really good child actors carrying that movie? Rare. Asa Butterfield is that good in this film about an orphan who lives in a train station, and is trying to decipher a message that will solve a mystery that will ultimately let him find his way home.
'The Little Prince'
The Little Prince is a movie based on a beloved book got it right with gorgeous animation, and by wrapping up the story — about a boy from an alien planet who visits Earth and asks a lot of Big Life Questions, within another equally charming story. Utterly different from any other movie on this list.
Just watch it.
'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'
Jim Carrey is brilliant as the Grinch, the famous green creature who lives above a town filled with goody two-shoes and expresses his extreme loneliness in the worst way possible: by trying to ruin Christmas. Alas, though he comes close, he meets a style-challenged little girl who turns his heart into a puddle and saves his soul. Some movies transcend the season they're meant for, and this is one of them.
'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms'
We can never get enough of the Nutcracker, whether it's a live show, or a movie based on the world's most famous ballet — which itself was based on a short story. This movie, directed by Lasse Hallstrom of Chocolat, and My Life as a Dog fame, may be a bit hard to follow, but the costumes and visual effects are enough to keep the whole family engaged.
'Mary and the Witch's Flower'
Beautifully animated in the style of Studio Ghibli, this Japanese-made film is a sweet tale of a girl who turns into a witch for a night and stumbles upon a witch school. She has to find the strength within to rescue some friends, and understand that she is good enough and doesn't need magic to be great. A great lesson for kids.
'The Spiderwick Chronicles'
Before he was creepy budding serial killer Norman Bates in Bates Motel, Freddie Hightower was just a kid named Jared who has the ability to see Faeries through a holed stone and stabs his own father — actually a monster in disguise. In the Spiderwick Chronicles, Jared has to work with magical creatures to stop an evil ogre who is up to no good.
This cute flick debuted in April, but quickly got buried pretty deep inside Netflix (thanks, 2020) — so it was a joy to unearth it. Maya Rudolph voices a nanny who helps a pack of sweet and love-starved siblings find the true meaning of family, given that their vacationing parents left them behind and have zero interest in them.
This film hits us over the head pretty bluntly with its message of nature conservation, but then again, the entire West Coast is on fire right now — so we obviously need to be hit on the head with the urgency of taking care of the planet. Anywho is unstintingly optimistic, and bright even, as it warns against the destructive effects of greed, The Lorax is a great way to introduce kids to environmentalism.
'The Princess and the Frog'
She's the only Disney princess with an actual job — and specific aspirations beyond finding a dude — and she's a sweetheart. We love Tiana, and we love this movie, which is set in New Orleans and a bayou. The movie is full of great music. There's a love story, of course, but the best part is that Tiana gets everything: Her dream restaurant, and a hot dude.