Ask Design Mom: Movies For All Ages

By Gabrielle. Poster by Wonchan Lee.

Hi Design Mom. You mentioned that your older kids watched You’ve Got Mail, and I’d love to know what movies you watch as a whole family. Are there movies that the younger kids and older kids both like? I need a list for our own movie nights. Thanks! — Joanna.

Such a fun question, Joanna! As you know, we love a good movie party at our house. : )

Before I share a list of favorite titles, I feel like I should give some kind of parental guidance warning. We don’t consider ratings (G, PG, PG-13, R) super accurate at our house. School of Rock is PG-13, but we watch it as a whole family. On the other hand, Skyfall is rated PG-13, but we won’t let our kids see it — even the older two who are 13+. And The Kings Speech, which is rated R, would definitely be on my approved list for my teens. So if there’s something on our list that would offend your kids, forget my recommendation and stick to your own instincts.

Here’s a list of 15 of the favorites at our house in no particular order. These are movies the whole family can watch together and everyone seems to enjoy them.

– The Incredibles (We actually love lots of Pixar movies, but The Incredibles is our favorite. Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo are probably next in line.)
– The Princess Bride (Love these posters!)
– School of Rock
– Mega Mind
– PeeWee Herman’s Big Adventure

– Tangled
– Nanny McPhee Returns (We like it better than the first one.)
– Babe
– Nightmare Before Christmas
– Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron (Not to be confused with Spirited Away, which is also very cool, but my kids felt it was toooo long.)

– Napoleon Dynamite
– Fantastic Mr. Fox
– Spy Kids
– Back to the Future
– Nacho Libre 

How about you? What are some of the favorites on your family’s list? We’re always looking for good recommendations and I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Minimalist movie posters.

73 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom: Movies For All Ages”

  1. After seeing your movie night post, i decided to make Family Movie Night more if a special occaison. We recently watched the Muppet Movie with our 5 &7 year olds. A really fun show for everyone.

  2. We love a good movie night at my house too. I agree that ratings can vary with each movie as to who it is appropriate for.

    One of our favorite movies is the Disney animated movie Meet the Robinsons.

  3. We LOVE Spirit. I bought it on VHS right before DVDs came into vogue. Our family adores it and we often choose it over newer/fancier/flashier movies. That being said, I think you’re the first person in the world I’ve ever heard mention it, other than myself. People never know what I’m talking about; tragedy! To miss out on that soundtrack, how sad. I have to admit, the main reason I talked my husband into it the first time, was that Spirit shared a voice with Jason Bourne. :) It was reason enough for him.

    1. We have Spirit too. I bought the movie because my husband was obsessed with the Bryan Adams song that is in it. He heard it in the grocery store and all he knew was a couple lines of the chorus. Took me awhile to figure out what it was and who sang it.

  4. Between my kids and my sisters kids (who only live a block away!) we have 6 kids ages 1 – 6. As an addition to your list, we’ve found that Wall-E is perfect! There’s nothing too scary for the littles, the older kids think it is hilarious, and the grownups don’t get bored. (:

    We also LOVE Fantastic Mr. Fox. Who am I kidding, I love anything Wes Anderson does! But Fantastic Mr. Fox is pretty kid friendly, surprisingly.

  5. I totally agree with the considerstion of ratings. Here in switzerland no on really pays attention toratings anyway(except in cinemas they have
    age limits).
    We love muppet shows, pixar stuff, nanny mcphee, mary poppins,stripes

    1. Racing stripes,peter pan stuff, winnie the pooh movies, mamma mia, audrey hepburn movies,cars ..
      Kids are between 3 &12.
      We also love german movies like:
      Willi wills wissen
      Mama Muh
      Petterson und Findus

  6. I have an 11, 8, and 6, and we esp love musicals and older shows. But these are some favorites:

    – Annie
    – Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
    – Mary Poppins
    – Night at the Museum (they like the 2nd one better than 1st??)
    – Old Yeller
    – Ramona and Beezus
    – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
    – Sound of Music
    – Swiss Family Robinson
    – Wizard of Oz

    We are eager to show other musicals, but don’t think they’re quite ready yet…

  7. When I was a kid I was obsessed with Sound of Music. I’m looking forward to introducing that to my nieces and nephews. They also like Princess and the Frog, Tangled, the Toy Story movies, Japanese movies (Totoro, etc.), Princess Bride, lots more I’m forgetting.

  8. I love to watch Corina Corina and Uncle Buck with my teen. Our new favorites are Moonrise Kingdom and Pitch Perfect.

  9. I love having Movie Night with my nieces and nephews — which are a huge age range, basically 1-18! We usually pick to watch a classic film like “The Apple Dumpling Gang”, or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. I love that they enjoy these movies as much as we did when we were kids and that they are so engaged by them. When it’s just the teens, we’ll dive into Hercules Poirot with David Suchet or the classic “Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation”.

  10. We enjoy dramas based on historical events:
    Temple Grandin
    We are Marshall
    Remember the Titans
    Soul Surfer
    Miss Potter
    Night at the Museum (s)
    and most recently we have entered the world of Pirate of the Caribbean.

  11. I was lamenting that my boys 9 and 12, were spending so much time quoting movies I considered less than noteworthy and realized that while I don’t have the means to regularly attend more elevated things such as cultural performances, I had the power to expose them to things more substantial during our weekly movie nights. While they would never choose to watch My Fair Lady, with the promise of popcorn, treats and family time they’ll endure most things. And despite themselves, they rise the next morning singing “I could have danced all night….”
    After enjoying a comedy skit that drew on the Crispian’s Day speech form Henry V, they were even game for the real deal. Hooray for movie night!

  12. Oooh, new movies to consider. Love it. Some we (two boys 4 & 7) have watched recently and enjoyed…Despicable Me and James and the Giant Peach. Mine love musicals too like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And, I love to introduce them to old movies, like The Love Bug and The Ugly Dachshund (two great Dean Jones movies), The Shaggy Dog and The Parent Trap (not the remakes – I don’t like remakes). Oh yeah…and any Wallace and Grommit . We love those.

  13. Great recommendations, thank you. As you are in France, the Jacques Tati collection of films are worth a look as they are mainly visual gags with a bit of French dialogue and very atmospheric. Our now 8-year-old has loved them since he first saw them age 2 or 3. Jours de Fête and Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot’s are particular favourites. We watch while eating French patisserie!

  14. School of Rock is one of my favorite movies of all time! We also all love Kung Fu Panda (you can say we’re Jack Black fans), Muppets movies, the new one is our kids’ favorite, mine is the Muppets take Manhattan, The Sound of Music, August Rush, October Sky, Sleepless in Seattle

  15. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the recent Hugo are great “real movies”, not cartoons enjoyed by my 8 and 12 yo. Also Mr. Bean (any of them) and Wallace and Grommit if you enjoy that kind of humor.

  16. I love all these great suggestions! I agree with your ratings comment… My 7-year-old watched Brave and was terrified! (It made me wonder who exactly the intended audience was.) Lately she’s been obsessed with the Brady Bunch (not the movie though — the TV shows!)

  17. Great movie suggestions
    I also want to recommend the site We use it as a discussion starter with our kids to decide whether or not a show is right for them.

  18. If you like Spirited Away, try some other Miyazaki (sp? sorry…didn’t go look it up)/Studio Ghibli movies. I highly recommend Ponyo, particularly for families with very young children, as there are no scary bad guys and no missing parents (so far, even Finding Nemo is too much for my sensitive 3-year-old; we’ve pretty much ruled out all of Disney except Tinkerbell for now). My Neighbor Totoro is another good one.

    1. Totoro is one of the best movies for kids! I saw it when I was seven, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since. Other goods films: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Adventures of Tintin, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

    2. ya, but the mom does leave the kids alone and it does get a bit scary – that said my kids love Ponyo and Totoro. They are 9 and 6 and although we own Spirited Away (thrift store!) I am holding off till they’re a bit older…

      Family favs :
      ANY Ice Age
      Night at the Museum
      Anything Pixar (as a 6 degrees of seperation we hang out every summer with the director of Finding Nemo & Wall-E, my husband’s best freind growing up!)
      Chronicles of Narnia
      Never Ending Story (bit scary near the end)
      How to Train Your Dragon
      of course the kids will watch anything animated recent fans of the more serious nature that the groaned at when the movie started and were glued to by the end are :
      Opal Dream
      Children of Heaven

      Note – these stories all have a sad undercurrent, but end happy :)

  19. if you like “school of rock”, you will love “here comes the boom.” it is hilarious and it has a great message. it’s about mixed martial arts, so it might not be appropriate for younger kids, but your older kids would probably love it!

  20. TPB will always be the most quoted movie around here. Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball is another family favorite. We’re going through a Don Knotts phase right now – Mr. Limpet, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken all hit the mark with my crew.

  21. Perfect for your time in France: How to Steal a Million. I don’t know why more people don’t know this Audrey Hepburn gem. (I’d show it to anybody, but kids under 8 might find it a bit slow.)

    Any age: Singin’ in the Rain. My now-10 year old used to watch this with rapt fascination as a 1 year old. She loved the singing & dancing — and she still does.

  22. we love all the old classic musicals, and last summer we were watching a lot of old disney movies, like escape to witch mountain and bed knobs and broomsticks and things like that. my kids (that are old enough to watch) are 9 and 6, and they love those kinds of things.

  23. We have many family favorites (movie night every Friday!), but our top three are The Secret of Kells, My Neighbor Totoro, and The Secret World of Arietty. All three movies cover pretty grown-up topics (childhood illness, death of a parent, war) in a kid-friendly way, and each is a visual delight. One Christmas afternoon we put in The Secret of Kells and it kept eight of us (ages 5, 7, 8, 12, 21, 24, 38, and 39) positively rapt. Nobody moved for two hours!

    All that said, I can’t wait to introduce my boys to Grease (that was absolutely one of my faves growing up)!

  24. My kids, ages 4 and 7, LOVE the old Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry movies. Other favorites include Despicable Me, Rio, the Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Cars.

  25. 4 kids – 3, 9, 10, and 14 and we love, love movies.

    Our favorites include The Goonies, The Wilderness Family, Princess Bride, Savannah Smiles, National Treasure, Home Alone, School of Rock, Napolean Dynamite, Sandlot, Angels in the Outfield, Monsters Inc, Sound of Music, Chronicles of Narnia Series, Rio, Harry Potter Series, Peter Pan, and Hook.

    My oldest loves films and is intrigued with all things film making, so I’m introducing her to more movies from the 70s-present that I won’t allow the younger ones to watch just yet.

  26. Spirit! I loved that movie! When I was a kid my favorites, besides Disney and Pixar, were A Little Princess, Iron Monkey, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Star Wars, and a series of “oldies” thanks to my parents: Roman Holiday, Fiddler on the Roof (to this day we all sing along to this movie whenever we watch it), The Sound of Music (which I watched SO much I’ve given myself a “break” so I can learn to appreciate it again), and Gone with the Wind (I was in love with Clark Butler.) I also love everything by Hayao Miyazaki, but I get Spirited Away as being a bit too long. My Neighbor Totoro is my absolute favorite, followed closely by Kiki’s Delivery Service.

  27. Ok, since you are living in France you must see Asterix and Obelix!!
    Also I agree that How to Train Your Dragon is great movie. I would add
    The Road to El Dorado
    Despicable me
    Anastasia ( Meg Ryan gave voice!)
    Help! I’m fish ( Danish , but recored in English)..great!

    As far as non animated movies
    Chronicles of Narnia, Pirates of the Caribbean, Asterix and Obelix

  28. My kids are older now (high school and college), but nothing made us laugh harder than Young Frankenstein and The Pink Panther Strikes Again. I believe they were in upper elementary/middle school when we watched those. So funny!

  29. Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro by Miyazaki. These movies are absolutely genius and very gentle. Ponyo is great too!

  30. I have a hard time with the “kids movies.” They constantly use language like stupid, idiot, shut up, and just don’t seem great for smaller kids especially. We work on using kind words with our friends, which is hard to reinforce if they are watching the opposite. Also guns and fighting in general. Am I alone in this? My son is 4 and I hope those things are never “normal” to him. I’ll have to check out some of the older musicals.

  31. Great list(s). My 8 year old loves Newsies, Sound of Music, Pricess Bride and Family Ties (I know it’s TV, but we watch a few episodes on the weekend). Can you tell when I was raised? :)

    Side Note: You should try partnering with NetFlix to create movie lists for family movie night!

  32. My kids are 12 and 9 and our favorites are (or used to be) the Japanese Totoro, Kiki delivery service, Arietti, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Princess, August Rush, Swiss family Robinson, Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush and Modern Time. I would totally recommend Jacques Tati for your French movie making education.
    My challenge these days is to find girlie movies my 12 y.o. daughter will enjoy without being too kidish but appropriate enough: Bent it like Beckham, You’ve got mail, Sleepless in Seattle, The Holidays, 50 first dates, Amelie Poulin, any other suggestions?

  33. Oh, another thought. My kids have LOVED the avatar series that Nickelodeon has put out. We have watched every single one on Netflix. The kids and al my fellow artist parents live these. They are very entertaining and also very philosophically deep. My friend Louise swears theirs elements of The Brothers Karamazov to the first series, but for kids ;). The second series is excellent as well. Good got kids and grown ups….

  34. Our girls are 2 and 4 so we watch a lot of things like Cailliou and Dora, but we do have a few movies in our rotation. Our youngest loves Cars, which I hate to admit I love too. We also love Chicken Little (or shicken yittle as they say,) The Lorax and Tangled. Shriek is fun too!

  35. I totally agree with the ratings comments. I really think you need to know your kids and trust your own parenting philosophy. The two movies that have scared the daylights out of my 9 y/o are Brave & Big (scary mommies are just way too scary) and Wall-E (still not sure why). We live in a big city where the kids unfortunately hear plenty of swearing when they are out and about, so that doesn’t rule out a movie for us — we just use it as a teachable moment that that is not something we do in our family.

    That said, I think it is really sad that I got to grow up with summer blockbusters like Star Wars & Indiana Jones that were all PG. Now everything is PG-13. Why The Devil Wears Prada and Skyfall are both PG-13 is beyond me.

    We do a lot of sports movies (Hoosiers, Secretariat & even Moneyball), horse movies (Secretariat again, Black Stallion, Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken, Sea Biscuit) and nature documentaries. Fortunately, both of my kids have inherited my costume drama gene, so they love anything Jane Austen or Downton Abbey :)

    I keep trying to sell the Sound of Music, but haven’t been successful yet!

    1. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken is wonderful. My then-two year old nephew (now he’s 23!) used to ask for “the horse movie” and watch it over & over.

  36. Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Kipper, Mary Poppins, Pinnochio, Spirited Away, the old Willie Wonka. Looking forward to Pollyana and Pippi Longstockings.

    I try to stay away from movies that depict the boy girl hook up (keep in mind most movies were made from an adult male perspective its wierd)/trashy humor/ big conflict story arcs – kids don’t need it!

  37. We’ve loved so many of the movies on this list. I especially second Matilda and A Little Princess, and would add Nancy Drew. I’m a mother of girls, and all these movies have girls who are celebrated for being kind, smart, imaginative and responsible.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top