The 23 Best Kids Movies That Adults Will Also Love

Whether you're a parent/guardian, teacher, babysitter, or in charge of entertaining young children for whatever reason, choosing a kids movie can be an arduous task. You don't want to be talked down to by a cartoon animal with a voice pitched so high it gives you a tension headache — and frankly, kids don't deserve that either! Here are some movies for kids that adults can actually enjoy and love. You know, the G and PG-rated movies that don't make you feel desperate for adult conversation. (Or, if there are no children in your vicinity and you just feel like watching a kids movie because you've had a stressful day or just enjoy them, that is entirely your prerogative.)

These are also films that adults can enjoy not just because they themselves enjoyed them as kids. Nobody needs any help picking a Pixar movie or a Star Wars; universally beloved by adults and kids alike, you probably already have a favorite. You already know what kids movies hit all the right nostalgia. You have the franchises you're excited to share with little ones in your life lined up and ready to go. Also, while there are plenty of adults who rock out to "Frozen" and "Moana," parents with young kids might be sick of them by now ... so it's always good to have some fresh options.

Adventures in Babysitting

From the moment the sharp opening chords of The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" start, you will fall in love with Chris Columbus' "Adventures in Babysitting" This story of a babysitting night gone awry on the streets of Chicago appeals to the entire family, adults and kids alike. The ensemble of fish-out-of-water suburbanites features the radiant Elisabeth Shue as the resilient babysitter, a haplessly lovestruck boy, his mischievous friend, and a Thor-obsessed little sister. Kids will love the various hijinks the babysitting group gets into involving colorful inner-city characters like truck drivers, gang members, and blues bar patrons. But there are also mature elements such as the babysitter's resemblance to a Playboy centerfold and the iconic line "Don't f*** with the babysitter!" The whirlwind excitement of "Adventures in Babysitting" transcends generations. It's a madcap series of adventures and mishaps that are both thrilling and hilarious. (Caroline Madden)

13: The Musical

"13: The Musical" has a very rosy view of middle school life, and is not entirely faithful to Jason Robert Brown's original stage production. However, the elaborate musical numbers are so effervescent and feature such incredibly talented and overly enthusiastic child performers that it's difficult not to be charmed by the film, even as an adult. The story follows a young boy who moves to Indiana and, in order to have people like him enough to attend his bat mitzvah, helps his popular classmates arrange their first kiss. Visually, the production is clean, crisp, and very bright, reflecting the film's generally upbeat mood. Although the musical glosses over the more difficult aspects of growing up, and lacks depth in its portrayal of teenage characters, this sugary window into adolescent life isn't too sweet for adults to enjoy. It has an infectious joy that is hard to resist. (Caroline Madden)


Amma Asante's 2013 film about an illegitimate mixed-race young girl raised in British high society feels like any other fairy tale or Jane Austen period piece when you're watching it. Dido Elizabeth Belle, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is an outsider similar to Elizabeth Bennett or Fanny Price — but different, of course, because she's not white. You're drawn to the relationship between Dido and her cousin Elizabeth. You're rooting for them both to find husbands. The film even becomes a bit of a courtroom drama, and exposes some aspects of 18th century British society that we don't often see in the lush costume dramas about the era. Then you learn that "Belle" is based on a true story, and it becomes even more fascinating. The film is kid friendly with a PG rating — so maybe suggest this as an alternative the next time kiddos want to watch "Cinderella" or "The Princess Diaries." (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Bugsy Malone

Speaking of kids re-enacting genres that are too old for them, and the temptation to turn your own kids into film snobs, "Bugsy Malone" is a gangster musical parody starring young teenagers. Instead of mass murder, the guns spout whipped cream, so the warring gangs essentially pie each other in the face. Sure, the kid in "Home Alone" loved watching old gangster movies, but if you don't necessarily want to bring gun violence into your living room, this is a nice alternative. 

It's goofy, and might remind you of "The Little Rascals" at times, but not in a way that is grating or obnoxious. For the filmography buffs out there, this is an impressive first feature for director Alan Parker, who went on to make "Mississippi Burning," "Angela's Ashes" and "Midnight Express" as well as Pink Floyd's "The Wall." The film also stars a young Jodie Foster and Scott Baio. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Camp Nowhere

Maybe this is one you grew up watching, or maybe it's a hidden gem that adults can discover for the first time right along with the kids. Like "School of Rock," "Camp Nowhere" is about a bunch of kids who pull one over on their parents with an elaborate scheme and the help of one lovable adult scumbag — but it's set at camp, instead of school, and the scumbag is Christopher Lloyd. 

The message of both films is clear: Adults and kids alike all need structure, but nobody likes to be micro-managed. Not looking forward to the strict summer plans (military camp, computer camp, FAT CAMP) their parents have set up for them, a group of kids rent some cabins and hire an actor, Lloyd, to pretend to be the camp director. The kids in this are at times chaotic and at other times capable in a way that feels actually kind of reasonable. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

The Iron Giant

In the first season of "Ted Lasso," the kindly coach hosts a movie night for his team as a bonding exercise and chooses "The Iron Giant." Soon ("around the 75 minute mark" to be exact, according to Lasso), the entire group is reduced to tears. That's the effect that Brad Bird's bittersweet animated film for has on adults. It's not as quippy or complicated as some of the Disney animated classics you may be more familiar with — even the ones made by Bird himself, like "The Incredibles" and "Tomorrowland" — though it is as thoughtful and intellectual as his later films. 

This one is a little more nostalgia bait-y than some of the picks on this list. You may have noticed that the titular Iron Giant has appeared in both "Ready Player One" and the "Space Jam" sequel. But unlike some films from the '80s and '90s that don't really hold up, "The Iron Giant" truly stands the test of time. (Leah Marilla Thomas)


Remember how nasty Roald Dahl books can get, and how much you loved that? One of the best adaptations of Dahl's work that really gets his method of telling stories to children without talking down to them is Danny DeVito's "Matilda." One of the easiest ways for a children's story to annoy tax-paying adults is by being overly cheerful, but Dahl's protagonists are almost always depressed, and Matilda is no exception. She has a horrible home life and a mostly horrible school life. As much as she likes to escape to fictional worlds in books, there is no fairy godmother or knight in shining armor coming to save her. She ultimately rescues herself. 

When Matilda reveals at the end of the film that she's been carrying adoption papers in her backpack just in case, you're actually relieved and thrilled for her. That said, this is not a grim or dark film. Rhea Perlman and DeVito's characters are the worst kind of people everyone has met, but hysterically funny and entertaining. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Monster House

"Monster House" is another great Halloween-themed children's film that adults will enjoy. A trio of tweens believes that their grumpy old neighbor Nebbercracker inhabits a house that is a living, breathing entity of evil that is out to destroy trick-or-treaters. Notably, "Monster House" is the first animated feature film to utilize the technique of "path tracing," the use of computer graphics to generate images with realistic lighting effects, along with motion capture, where the motions of human actors are placed onto CGI characters (via Webconn).  The result is something in between quirky, stylized stop-motion and the unsettling photorealism of "The Polar Express." These techniques enhance the visuals with a sleek quality that makes the creepy moments feel immediate and tangible. "Monster House" builds to an action-packed climax that is both thrilling and emotionally resonant, revealing the tragic history of Nebbercracker's wife Constance. The ways in which the old home literally comes to life, housing the body and mind of a vengeful spirit, are clever and genuinely scary. (Caroline Madden)

Mouse Hunt

Gore Verbinski's 1997 slapstick comedy about two brothers who inherit their father's mansion only to be terrorized by a clever mouse living inside holds up shockingly well almost 25 years later. It's funny. It's weird. It's messy and gross. Kids can handle comedic portrayals of violence and death better than you think. It's actually kind of disturbing, but you'll be darkly chuckling at all the ways the brothers' plans backfire right along with the kids. 

Nathan Lane (who has major kids movie cred from "The Lion King") and Lee Evans make a great odd couple as the two brothers. "Mouse Hunt" can also serve as a kid's perfect intro to Christopher Walken, who shows up as a wacky exterminator, as a performer. One final suggestion? Queue this movie up when the kid (or kids) in question want to watch "Home Alone," but it isn't even close to Christmas. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

The Muppet Movie

You know how you'll be watching "Sesame Street" with kids and all of a sudden find yourself laughing at a pop culture reference or a joke that's clearly written for the adults in the room? Not in a sexual or dirty way necessarily, just something that would go over a kid's head. We owe that to Jim Henson and The Muppets. The running gag about Hare Krishnas in "The Muppet Movie" alone is something that adults will love and the average child will just absorb, or learn to laugh at because you're laughing. 

Kids (and many adults in 2021, to be honest) may not recognize all of the celebrity cameos in the 1979 film, but between all the other throwaway lines and references there's something for everyone. For children or newcomer adults, there is no better introduction to the world of the Muppets than their first theatrical outing. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

My Life as a Zucchini

"My Life as a Zucchini" is a tender film with brisk pacing that can appeal to kids but tackles incredibly mature themes. After accidentally killing his alcoholic mother, a young boy nicknamed Zucchini, is sent to an orphanage. The film follows his adjustment to his group home where he meets other orphans, teachers, and kindhearted caretakers. The characters are constructed as wide-eyed bobbleheads with red noses, lending them both a cute and weather-worn appearance.

"My Life as a Zucchini" is beautifully directed by Claude Barras and written by Céline Sciamma, who demonstrates an intimate understanding of adolescence in her other films such as "Girlhood" and "Tomboy." Sciamma consistently constructs coming-of-age narratives that directly confront difficult topics while handling them with care. The film maintains a delicate approach to the children's rather harrowing struggles (some of which involve physical or sexual abuse) and avoids any sensationalism or melodrama. Kids will appreciate the endearing characters and whimsical animation, while adults will be moved by the portrayal of complex family dynamics. "My Life as a Zucchini" certainly covers heavy topics for children, but this film is an important work that can open conversations about the disenfranchised. (Caroline Madden)

Paddington 2

It's not exactly a deep cut to say adults love "Paddington 2," but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. You could be the snobbiest film buff or the snarkiest comedian and still melt at this polite little bear. Do adults relate to the bumbling, accident-prone protagonist just trying his best? Are they smitten with the very English cast of human actors? Are they living vicariously through a world where empathy and community win? All of the above, likely.

If for whatever reason you've missed out on this unassuming juggernaut of a franchise, don't worry. You don't even need to watch the first "Paddington" film to follow and fall for the sequel, either. Paul King's sophomore adventure stands on its own. In it, Paddington's singular goal is to buy a birthday present and he ends up in jail. Jail! It's a bonkers premise for a children's movie that somehow works perfectly. (Leah Marilla Thomas)


An eerie tale filled with witches, zombies, and ghosts set in the town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, Sam Fell and Chris Butler's "ParaNorman" is ideal Halloween viewing for both kids and adults. The main character, Norman, is ostracized for his known ability to communicate with the dead. He even loves to watch horror movies with his deceased grandmother. He has sunken eyes with dark circles and Bride of Frankenstein-esque hair that stands straight up — as if he's just plugged his finger into an electrical socket. Norman's uncle Mr. Prenderghast warns him of a witch's curse from Agatha, a young girl who was killed in the 1700s under the suspicion of witchcraft. Norman must save the town from her fiery revenge.

Visually, the stop-motion animated "ParaNorman" feels rich and exciting. Every character puppet has a unique style and shape that matches their archetype — from Norman's slender sister in a pink jumpsuit and bouncing ponytail, the triangle-shaped jock Mitch (who is also the first openly gay cartoon character in a mainstream animated film), and the stocky bully, Alvin, who wears gauges. Beneath the kooky characters and horror genre-inspired scares, there's a deeply profound message about the harmful effects of bullying that adult audiences will appreciate. "ParaNorman" builds to a very moving finale that explores how victims can often turn into perpetrators. It is a mature and thoughtful perspective that is rarely addressed in such underdog stories. (Caroline Madden)

The Parent Trap

While "The Parent Trap" is essentially about kids who are smarter than the adults in their lives and trick them into falling back in love, adults will still love it because it doesn't have that snarky tone that the precocious children on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon often take. (You know the one.) It also doesn't hurt that this movie has an incredibly sexy adult cast. Modern day Disney romantic interests wish they could have an ounce of Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson's chemistry. 

It might actually be fun to have a "Parent Trap" double feature as a family, no pun intended. You can pair the 1998 movie with the 1961 original and then host a "talk back" with kids and adults where you compare and contrast the two versions of the film. See if they spotted any Easter Eggs or references to the original in the remake. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

The Prince of Egypt

"The Prince of Egypt" approaches the Exodus Bible story of an Egyptian prince who comes from a family of Jewish slaves with a complexity and depth that adults will greatly enjoy. Even if you are not spiritual, you can appreciate the richness of this tale, one that is filled with a quest for identity, thorny family dynamics, and liberation. 

Unlike many other religious films, "The Prince of Egypt" does not paint anything in broad strokes. Moses is a confused and soul-searching man who is unsure about his divine mission to free his people from slavery, even contemplating abandoning it. He's a fully realized character, not merely a biblical archetype. His brother, Ramses, is not just a one-dimensional villain who cruelly exploits the Hebrew people, but someone striving to honor his family and their long-standing traditions, as twisted as they may be. 

Val Kilmer's vocal performance gives Moses a relatable warmth, while Ralph Fiennes provides a booming contrast that shapes the formidable Pharaoh conflicted beneath it all. The film features rousing musical numbers such as "Deliver Us" and "Through Heaven's Eyes" and breathtaking visuals, like the iconic shot of the whale swimming in the parting of the Red Sea. It's an elegantly constructed spectacle that will mesmerize audience members of all ages. (Caroline Madden)

School of Rock

"School of Rock" is a sizzling satire hidden under a family comedy. While kids are giggling at Jack Black's antics, adults are watching a take down of our educational system and adulthood. That's not too surprising; the screenplay was written by Mike White, who is responsible for HBO's equally satirical "White Lotus." 

The film is about a burnout who gets kicked out of his band, takes a substitute teaching job under a false identity, and teaches the kids how to play music instead of long division so they can win Battle of the Bands. It's irresponsible and dangerous on paper, but the students are never really in any kind of peril — which makes it low stakes for anxious adults and thrilling for kids who'd rather be rocking out at school. Plus, put this on and sharing your favorite bands with the kids won't make you feel quite so old, for once. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

The Secret of Roan Inish

For cottagecore adults, try this Irish kid's film about a city girl who moves to the country, discovers a local legend tied to her own family history, and restores a whole village of old houses just for the fun of it. If you've ever felt the urge to go off the grid and work with your hands as a form of self-care, this one's for you. There's also a fantasy element to this coming-of-age tale. This film is about selkies, shapeshifters who transform into seals. 

It's based on a book — "Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry" by Rosalie K. Fry — if you're looking for book-to-film adaptations that aren't major franchises. This would be a great family book club culminating in movie night. You could also pair it with "Song of the Sea," an animated film about selkies, or for PG-13 audiences the swoony romance "Ondine" starring Colin Farrell. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Son of Rambow

You know Will Poulter from "The Chronicles of Narnia," "The Maze Runner," and "Black Mirror" but have you seen him in this early role? This British comedy is perfect for adult action movie fans ... but it's for and about little kids! The premise is simple: two boys become friends while trying to reenact and film scenes from "First Blood." 

As a coming-of-age film it's not typical or terribly predictable, though the DIY nature of Lee's amateur filmmaking may remind you of a Wes Anderson film. (The dry humor is similar to Anderson's droll signature style as well, though in this case that's more because it's a British film). The indie vibes make this a good one to recommend to adults and kids alike who haven't seen it and maybe haven't even heard of it. You'll turn the kids into hipsters in no time. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

In the rare event that you avoided "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" when it was released in 2018 due to "Spider"-fatigue or the assumption that an animated film would be just for kids and not for you, a Marvel-loving adult — correct that immediately. It's probably the best "Spider-Man" movie ever made, putting your Maguire vs. Garfield vs. Holland arguments to shame ... or at least putting them in a separate league. 

"Into the Spider-Verse" is joyous, and funny, and fun — something we've lost in a superhero landscape so obsessed with being grim and dark — but still poignant. There's something for everyone in this movie, because as it teaches us, anyone can be Spider-Man. Kids can giggle at Spider-Ham while you lose your mind over Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir. There's a Miles Morales origin story for younger generations and a quarter-to-midlife crisis story for the grown-ups in the room. The animation is as inventive as modern comic books and the soundtrack is, like, genuinely excellent.(Leah Marilla Thomas)

Spirited Away

Pretty much all of Hayao Miyazaki's beautifully drawn animated films for Studio Ghibli have a respect for children's intelligence that make them enjoyable watches for adults as well. "Ponyo" and "My Neighbor Totoro" will enchant really young kids. "Kiki's Delivery Service" is a witchy alternative to "Harry Potter" if you need one. 

"Spirited Away" is not just a mature story with gorgeous visuals, however; it's stressful and engaging to watch even as an adult! Chihiro/Sen, whose parents turn into pigs after the family wanders into a magical village, is almost constantly in danger. You'll be hooked by the many twists and turns the story takes, especially if you're watching for the first time. You'll love the relationship that develops between Sen and Haku, another trapped soul in the village. Adults could also, especially in Western society, do with a refresher course on the evils of greed as portrayed in "Spirited Away." It's a complex film that adults are guaranteed to love. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Stand By Me

The best thing about "Stand By Me" is that it's a funny and emotionally mature coming-of-age story that will make your heart grow three sizes. The second best thing about "Stand By Me" is that it's 89 minutes long. There isn't an ounce of fat on this film. If you're watching with kids, you won't be up too late or worried that they'll stop paying attention. 

If you've never seen Rob Reiner's adaptation of Stephen King's short story "The Body," it is about four close friends who set out on a weekend camping adventure to find a dead body in the woods. This leads to some shenanigans, a decent amount of conflict, and a lot of frank conversations about death and loss. All ages can relate. Also, not for nothing, but for an 80s movie it holds up pretty well — save for one homophobic and some sexist and ableist slurs. (Leah Marilla Thomas)

Teen Beach Movie

You may have a favorite Disney Channel Original Movie from your own childhood, but if you're scrolling some of the more recent options consider "Teen Beach Movie," which is underrated and over-looked compared to the starry DCOMs like "High School Musical" and "Camp Rock." You wouldn't really expect a DCOM to obsess over something as niche as a sub-genre of light fare feature films that starred Frankie Avalon and former Disney kid herself, Mickey Mouse Club's own Annette Funicello, but it's kind of perfect for them. If you have Boomers in your family who grew up with beach party movies, or went through a phase of loving them yourself, you're guaranteed to enjoy this. 

"Teen Beach Movie" is "Pleasantville" meets "Schmigadoon" — as an overachieving girl considers breaking off her summer romance with her vintage musical-loving boyfriend, the two of them get trapped inside his favorite flick. They deconstruct gender norms all while having a toe-tapping good time. (Leah Marilla Thomas)


Speaking of "Song of the Sea" and Irish coming-of-age films about shapeshifters, the animation studio behind both "Song of the Sea" and this film, Cartoon Saloon, is quickly gaining a similar reputation to Studio Ghibli for producing visually stunning and emotionally complex films for children. "Wolfwalkers," which was released on Apple TV+ in late 2020, is about a young English girl named Robyn living in an Irish village who befriends another outsider: a girl named Mebh who turns into a wolf at night and is looking for her mother. 

Soon Robyn becomes a wolfwalker too and fears that she will be persecuted by the town and her father. The stakes and emotions are high, and the animation is just breathtakingly beautiful. There's no denying that Disney and Pixar are still putting out quality films, but if you're kind of "over" the 3D animation and the way all of the characters kind of look the same these days, Cartoon Saloon is a refreshing change of pace. (Leah Marilla Thomas)