Let’s say that you’re spending a relaxing evening with your family and you’d like to stream a movie that’s both kid-friendly and won’t put to you sleep in five minutes. Maybe you think you can sort out the movies based on category or rating. But don’t be too quick to trust these. The Neverending Story may have a rating of 4.5/5 but – seriously – it never ends; the 2010 Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland will likely leave your kids confused and little weirded-out; and whoa, whoa, whoa – movies like A Streetcar Named Desire and Jaws were given PG ratings! What is the world coming to?
So here are five streamable movies (available through Netflix) that are entertaining, adventurous, funny, endearing, and won’t turn your kid into the next Kevin McCallister:
-The Land Before Time, 1988: Whole generations grew up on this movie about a little dinosaur who loses him mother and must journey across a barren land to find his grandparents and the legendary Great Valley. He’s joined on his adventure by other orphaned dinosaurs whose personalities clash and combine to make one of the most unforgettable friendships in cinema. It’s an old movie, but full of warmth, courage, hope, and sweet humor. By the way, the soundtrack alone is so touching it might make you cry.
–Hook, 1991: This is a retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, which finds Peter (Robin Williams) all grown up and with a family of his own. But when Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps his children, Peter must return to Neverland and face the everlasting childhood he left behind. This movie does double duty: it will show kids why their parents are the ones in charge and remind parents that it’s okay to be a kid sometimes. Hope and innocence are fragile things, and this movie will show you why.
–The Secret Garden, 1993: Mary Lennox is an orphan who is sent to live with her brooding, mysterious, and rather absent uncle at his isolated estate. There she meets a cousin she never knew she had and learns the secrets of a family that she never felt a part of – namely through the discovery of a secret garden, which, through her care and resilience, she brings back to life. This is one of the best kids’ movies of all time, probably because it’s not totally a kid’s movie. By that, I mean that adults can just as easily watch and enjoy this little gem, which is a bittersweet study on loss, redemption, and family. As Roger Ebert said,
“It is a beautiful, intelligent film – a fable, a lesson, and an entrancing entertainment…a place of such harmony and beauty that we almost believe it can restore the lives of those who look on it.”
–Richie Rich, 1994: I know, I know – I promised no Kevin McCallister. But this movie is on a different wavelength altogether, about the richest kid in the world who unfortunately feels like the only kid in the world. Richie (Macaulay Culkin) grows up with everything – toys, a rollercoaster, even a personal McDonald’s – but all he really wants are friends. After a street baseball game, he befriends a group of regular kids with whom he proceeds to share all the glamour of his life. A side-plot concerns the greedy machinations of an employee, which further emphasizes the lovely point behind the movie: wealth does not determine a person’s worth, and only selfishness identifies the bad guy as truly “evil.”
–Monsters, Inc., 2001: Finally! A Pixar movie! Monsters, Inc. is about best buds Sully and Mike who work as professional monsters – they scare children at night to elicit screams, which is the energy that powers their world. Ironically, the monster world is actually quite scared of children and when a little girl accidently enters their world, havoc ensues. This movie bursts with slapstick comedy, which is pretty popular with little kids, but really focuses on more thoughtful themes like the injustice of preconceived notions: not all “monsters” in this movie are bad, and children are certainly not evil. Monsters, Inc. will therefore make you laugh but hopefully your kids will come away with a little bit more, like being more open-minded and not so scared of the closet.