These are films that I believe to be made specifically for children and families to enjoy. A lot of movies for children are so targeted toward a young audience or poorly executed that it’s a real joy to find some that can be on an adults list of must see films. I’ve left off some real obvious ones, like Wizard of Oz, because it’s so well-regarded already. Also, films like “Spirited Away,” while a great film, and many may argue that it is for kids, is a little inaccessible for the smaller ones. As usual, tell us your favorites in the comments.
The first of several Pixar films on this list. This is an amazing film with themes that soar over the heads of little ones. It’s almost Chaplinesque in style, and has already been compared to Chaplin’s classic “Modern Times.” Extremely intelligent, funny, touching and with a message that is worth heeding. Great music too. What other kid’s movie would feature Louis Armstrong’s version of Le Vie En Rose?
Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Absolutely sublime and hilarious. This smart Brit stop-motion feature stars the great clay duo made famous in several shorts, and adds a crew of memorable characters. The transformation scene itself is worth the price of admission. And look for the funny little winks throughout like a jar of “Middle-Aged Spread” or the cleverly place box with the label “May contain nuts.” Bang, zoom, right over kids heads and into the laps of adults.
The Iron Giant
This little seen gem was written and directed by Brad Bird, the genius who later joined Pixar and created The Incredibles and Ratatouille (see later on list). It’s traditional cell animation, with some CG enhancements, but that’s not what makes this a classic. The story is kind of a nod to E.T. (extraterrestrial stranded on earth, befriends young boy), but it’s told with such unique wit and heart, you can’t help but love it for it’s own outstanding merits. And the retro ’50s style and be-bop soundtrack are right on spot.
The Muppet Movie
The original was completely original. It didn’t have to resort to making Kermit a character other than himself. The genius hand of Jim Henson is all over this, and the hilarious cameos, like Steve Martin, Carl Reiner and Big Bird are great. It’s fun, funny and a real classic for kids and adults.
Another great Pixar entry, from the mind of Brad Bird. These guys are master story tellers, and never resort to winks about pop culture or smarmy asides to make their films connect with audiences. This is a beautiful film, Paris is perfectly rendered, and the food is mouth-watering, even if it is prepared by a rat. Only Pixar could do that. Very little ones might get bored, but for the ‘tweens and adults with heart, this is a must see/must own.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
A fun Disney film, one that Disney seems to have forgotten. Robert Zemekis created an incredibly fun world where toons co-exist with humans. The opening cartoon is a hoot, especially for anyone that loves the mayhem of classic Tex Avery cartoons. Kids will think Roger is hilarious, and adults will love the double entendres and Jessica’s assets. Patty-Cake anyone?
Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Connery before Bond. Live action Disney at it’s finest. Sure, Mary Poppins was great and The Absent-Minded Professor is a classic, but this one is just a real joy. Never silly, always full of whimsy. Kids will love the bouncy fun, adults get to relive childhood. And the effects are pretty darn good for the time.
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
If you don’t love Spongebob, take your pulse, because you’re probably dead. He’s one of the best cartoon characters to be created since Bugs Bunny. Continually funny and outlandish. And Patrick is the perfect idiot to accompany him. This is an incredibly hilarious movie for everyone. I dare you not to sing the “Goofy Goober” song after it’s over.
It’s a superhero movie. It’s a dysfunctional family movie. It’s a mid-life crisis movie. It’s all these things and it’s an absolute joy. Mr. Incredible’s desire to regain his glory is so heartfelt that every guy in the theater will think of their own past success with a tear. Every character is perfectly realized. It’s funny and thrilling but with a really big heart in the middle of it. Kudos to Brad Bird and Pixar again. Watch for the winks to the Incredible’s sex life…
The Nightmare Before Christmas
One of the most memorable and wonderful family films ever. Christmas, Halloween, Tim Burton, how can it miss? The soundtrack from Danny Elfman is amazing, with witty, beautiful tunes and lyrics. Jack is perfectly realized as the “town hero” who seeks more in his life (or death, as it may be), a place we all find ourselves time to time. Sally is lovelorn and pines for Jack to not only love her, but just notice her. Incredibly animated by Henry Selick, based on Tim Burton’s original story, NBX has become a cult classic that Disney often sweeps under the carpet in place of pushing their more mainstream offerings. Too bad. This one is a true masterpiece.