The Greatest Household and Children Motion pictures on Netflix (December 2020)

While the world of streaming has opened up a vast amount of possibilities in terms of viewing options, it can sometimes be overwhelming trying to decide exactly what to choose—especially when you have the entire family on the brain. That’s why we’ve crafted a specially curated list of the best family movies on Netflix, which runs down the very best movie-watching options for all (or at least most) ages to enjoy. They range from animated features to uplifting live-action stories of real-life heroes.

But it’s not only Disney movies—our list of the best family and kids movies on Netflix features films from all kinds of studios, all kinds of eras, and all kinds of genres. So if you’re looking for the perfect viewing option that both kids and parents will enjoy, we’re pretty confident you’ll find something here. Check out our full list of the best family movies on Netflix below.

And for even more recommendations, check out our full list of the 75 best movies on Netflix right now.

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The Croods

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Image via DreamWorks Animation

Directors/Writers: Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman, and Randy Thom

The 2013 DreamWorks Animation film The Croods is charming as heck. Set during Earth’s ancient past, it follows a family of cavepeople who survive a natural disaster, only to spend much of their lives sheltered in their cave thanks to their patriarch’s (Nicolas Cage) overprotectiveness. The daughter, played by Emma Stone, wishes to be more adventurous and gets her chance when they come across a more modern boy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Guy and the father butt heads as this band of colorful characters attempt to find common ground during a dangerous time period. The film is pretty funny, sweet, and great to look at. – Adam Chitwood

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Image via Sony Pictures

Directors: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn

Writers: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein

Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, James Caan, Andy Samberg, and Terry Crews

This animated sequel returns to the food-filled town of Swallow Falls, where the enormous food that rained down has now evolved into animals. While the follow-up misses a bit of that Phil Lord and Chris Miller charm that made the original so delightfully unique, Lord and Miller remain producers and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 still finds some really great visual jokes and gags to keep audiences entertained. Plus, the addition of Will Forte to the cast is inspired. – Adam Chitwood

Klaus

Image via Netflix

Director: Sergio Pablos

Writers: Sergio Pablos, Jim Mahoney, and Zach Lewis

Cast: Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm Macdonald, and Joan Cusack

With Klaus, Netflix made a bona fide original Christmas classic without a single holiday switch (incredible, I know). Co-written and directed by Sergio Pablos, a Spanish animation master who began working for Disney in the Paris outpost before moving to America and contributing incredible performances and designs for characters as varied and unrelated as Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Dr. Doppler in Treasure Planet before becoming a one-man idea farm, coming up with the initial concepts that gave way to Despicable Me and Smallfoot. With Klaus, which tells the origin story of Santa Claus (J.K. Simmons) via his relationship between a small-town mailman (Jason Schwartzman), Pablos cannily mixed traditional, 2D hand-drawn animation with cutting edge computer animation. The resulting film is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before; it’s like watching a magic trick and being unsure how it was accomplished but being transfixed just the same. (It was nominated for the Best Animated Feature and had a good shot at winning, too.) And the story, with warring villagers and a commitment to giving a grounded, emotionally resonant portrayal of the beginnings of the legend (call it Santa Claus Begins) means that it never tips into gooey sentimentality. This is the rare Christmas classic that can be watched any time of year and will still fill you with that singular holiday magic. – Drew Taylor

ParaNorman

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Image via Focus Features

Directors: Sam Fell and Chris Butler

Writer: Chris Butler

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Alex Borstein, Leslie Man, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, and Tucker Albrizzi

If you’re looking for a fun family movie that’s also genuinely spooky and has a surprising message, I urge you to check out ParaNorman. The stop-motion animated film hails from LAIKA, the same studio behind Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, and it’s absolutely one of their best films. It revolves around a young kid named Norman who has the ability to see and speak with the dead, which comes in handy when his small Massachusetts town is overrun by terrifying ghosts. The story draws heavily from iconic 80s movies like The Goonies and E.T. but never feels derivative, and actually carries with it a surprising and emotional message about bullying and anger, and the complexity of emotions that kids can sometimes feel. It’s also just a ton of fun. – Adam Chitwood

How to Train Your Dragon 2

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Image via Universal Pictures

Director/Writer: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington

The best film in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is also the most emotional one. The 2014 sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 takes place five years after the events of the first film and finds Hiccup coming into contact with his long-lost mother (played by Cate Blanchett) and battling a madman (Djimon Hounsou) who wants to take over the world. Compassion and empathy are prominent themes in this “kids movie” that may or may not leave parents in puddles of tears by its end. It’s a testament to Dean DeBlois’s filmmaking skills (with an assist by cinematographer Roger Deakins) that this movie is as great as it is, and as a bonus you get a truly wonderful score by composer John Powell. – Adam Chitwood

Mary Poppins Returns

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Image via Disney

Director: Rob Marshall

Writers: David Magee, Rob Marshall, John DeLuca

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep

Mary Poppins Returns is the Force Awakens of the Mary Poppins-verse, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Emily Blunt steps into Julie Andrews’ iconic role as the nanny who can do literally anything with prim-and-proper playfulness, pivoting perfectly between tough love and whimsical singing on a moment’s notice. Rob Marshall’s widescreen compositions hearken back to the golden days of Disney’s live-action extravaganzas, and the script gives us musical set piece after set piece that, um, also happens to map over the original script and purpose of each set piece in the original. But when the craft is this good, the songs this catchy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda this “rapping in a cockney accent,” it is simply too fun not to allow yourself to be swept up in its earnest glory. Plus: The emotional underpinnings of the picture, and the familial strife going on with Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, and the younguns hits you hard, giving it the stakes it needs. I cry just thinking about Whishaw’s solo song in the attic. – Greg Smith

The Witches

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Image via The Jim Henson Company

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Writer: Allan Scott

Cast: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, and Rowan Atkinson

Will the 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches give your kids nightmares? Probably! But it’s kind of a rite of passage. Produced by Jim Henson, the film tells the story of a group of evil witches who disguise themselves as ordinary women and kill children. A young boy and his grandmother set out to find a way to stop them, and horrors ensue. This is a blend of Neverending Story-style practical effects with pure nightmare fuel, but it’s also a wildly imaginative story for young ones. You know best whether your kid can handle it, but this is a fun one. – Adam Chitwood

Hugo

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: John Logan

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, and Jude Law

The one and only family film from legendary director Martin Scorsese is also a celebration of cinema because of course it is. Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the 2011 film Hugo follows a young orphaned boy who lives alone in a Paris railway station. He strikes up a friendship with a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), and the two set out on a journey that puts them into direct contact with the work and legacy of groundbreaking filmmaker Georges Méliès. The movie was shot in 3D as Scorsese makes unique use of the full frame, crafting a film that’s adventurous and whimsical, but also very much a love letter to the art of moviemaking that underlines the value of film preservation. – Adam Chitwood

Ralph Breaks the Internet

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Image via Disney

Directors: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston

Writers: Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribbon

Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, and Bill Hader

While Wreck-It Ralph delved into the world of arcade and classic gaming to tremendous results, the sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet turns its focus to an entirely different kind of beast: the internet. In the mold of successful Disney sequels, this film maintains the core characters that mean so much to audiences while evolving and challenging them to compelling results. Here, we see Ralph and Vanellope potentially going separate ways as they enter the massive world of the internet, and the film explores themes of toxic masculinity and online culture—though never in a preach-y manner. There’s plenty of time for fun as well, and while one could see the Star Wars and Disney Princess references as shameless cross-promotion, that doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderfully delightful. Thankfully, this is a sequel with a story worth telling. – Adam Chitwood

The Princess and the Frog

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Image via Walt Disney Co.

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

Writers: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards

Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey, Bruno Campos, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, John Goodman

10 years ago this December, as of this writing, Disney introduced fans all over the world to Tiana, the first African-American Disney princess, in The Princess and the Frog. Set in New Orleans during the early 20th century, the story centered on Tiana, a working-class woman who dreamed of one day opening her own restaurant. That dream was was far more important to her than the romantic notions of childhood stories like “The Frog Prince”, but as Disney movies go, Tiana soon finds herself smack in the middle of a froggy fantasy that’s complicated by a voodoo curse. And while all’s well that ends well, The Princess and the Frog takes some fun liberties with the original source material.

This movie is also one of the few traditionally animated tales that Disney makes in the modern era. That fact didn’t escape critics and general audiences alike, both of whom loved the old-school Disney feel. The Princess and the Frog is probably the last big-budget production that the acclaimed studio will tackle with traditional animation, so it’s worth a watch for that reason alone. – Dave Trumbore

The Little Prince

Image via Netflix

Director: Mark Osborne

Writer: Irena Brignull (screenplay), Bob Persichetti (screenplay), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (novel)

Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Riley Osborne, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Bud Cort, Paul Giamatti, Albert Brooks

It’s not every day you get to see a modern animated adaptation of an iconic bestselling story like The Little Prince, but thanks to Netflix and the talented cast and crew assembled to bring Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s story to life, a whole new generation can now enjoy the classic tale. Now while it’s not a point-for-point translation of the tale, it does pay homage to the novella’s fan-favorite characters and scenes. The Fox, The Snake, and The Rose are all present, and they’re brought to life in contrasting animation styles that help to conjure up images of the original drawings alongside the cutting-edge computer-generated characters common in today’s kids movies. This contrast also sets apart the book’s story, which itself exists as a story within a larger framing story following The Little Girl (Foy) and her uptight, hyper-organized Mother (McAdams). Their addition brings a new wrinkle to a familiar story, but the movie’s at its best when it sticks to the original tale. If you haven’t read The Little Prince or seen any of its adaptations over the years, this is a great place to start. — Dave Trumbore

Mary and The Witch’s Flower

Image via GKIDS

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Writers: Mary Stewart (novel), Riko Sakaguchi, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, David & Lynda Freedman

Cast: Hana Sugisaki, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Yûki Amami, Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent

Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata passed away in early 2018, and though often outshined by the slightly more prolific Hayao Miyazaki, Takahata’s contributions to the famed film studio have influenced generations of artists, filmmakers, and creators alike. One such influence can be seen in the spin-off production company Studio Ponoc, whose first animated feature Mary and The Witch’s Flower promises big things ahead for the heir apparent.

Adapted from Mary Stewart’s novel “The Little Broomstick”, Mary and The Witch’s Flower captures all of that story’s magical elements and theme of self-discovery in a way that only an anime-styled movie can. Studio Ghibli’s style is very apparent here and it will take some time to see how Ponoc differentiates itself in order to stand on their own, but it’s clear that their grasp of story and eye for iconic creature creations is a strength. Seek out Mary and The Witch’s Flower to acclimate yourself with Studio Ponoc and get a jump on the next Ghibli-esque obsession. – Dave Trumbore

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeffery Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Taylor Momsen, and Molly Shannon

There’s something oddly alluring about director Ron Howard’s big budget 2000 live-action adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Even though the film as a whole isn’t great, Jim Carrey’s charismatic performance goes a long way, and the eye-popping production design and makeup bring Whoville to life like never before. On that level alone this one should keep kids enraptured from start to finish, but it’s also just a solid Christmas movie to pop on during the November/December months to get everyone in that holiday spirit. – Adam Chitwood

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