‘Mum! Come and watch a film with us!’ Eight words guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any parent who’s been forced to endure endless Frozen re-runs or your child’s inexplicable interest in The Emoji Movie. A DNA test is surely required.
So try these instead. We’ve compiled ten of our favourite family films – stone-cold classics as well as more recent releases – all of which come complete with decent plot, believable acting and gags a-plenty. Whisper it but we’d even watch these movies without kids. Yes really.
My Neighbour Totoro (U)
A total classic from Japanese Studio Ghibli, My Neighbour Totoro is a mind-bending tale of bizarro creatures helping out two little girls whose mother is ill in hospital. Doesn’t exactly sound fun (for either you or the kids, tbh) but it’s a beautiful and strange film that captures the imagination of everyone who watches it and is especially attractive to children with autism (as is much of the animé genre). If you like this, other winners from Studio Ghibli including Ponyo, Spirited Away, and Arietty.
The LEGO Batman Movie (U)
Your nippers will want to repeat watch The Lego Movie because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! But instead try The LEGO Batman Movie featuring Arrested Development’s Will Arnett as a brooding Caped Crusader, Michael Cera as a perky Robin and Zach Galifianskis as a bonkers Joker. It has tons of knowing pop culture references plus a particularly brilliant end credit sequence. Even if you don’t like superhero films or just know Batman as Adam West via a hungover Saturday morning, there are more than enough lolz in this to keep you going until bedtime. Daleks in a LEGO film? Oh yes!
The Simpsons Movie (PG)
Made for everyone who’s happy to watch back-to-back Simpsons re-runs (and that is everyone), our favourite dysfunctional animated family star in their own full-length feature. With all the gags and disastrous events you’ve come to expect from the Simpsons, kids adore how subversive it is (Bart drunk! Lisa whacking Bart! Post-apocalyptic Springfield in the dome ruled by Moe!) while there’s plenty of dialogue that will go right over their heads and hit you square in the mush. Brilliant yellow genius.
And 2 while we’re at it. Directed by Paul King, one of the addled brains behind The Mighty Boosh, you don’t have to be a marmalade addict to heart this movie. It’s the delightfully Anglophile tale of everyone’s favourite anthropomorphic bear bumbling his adorable way around a curiously Wes Anderson-esque London town. There’s a spot of mild peril in the form of Nicole Kidman’s baddie, Millicent Clyde, director of the Natural History Museum, who attempts to hunt down our furry hero to kill, stuff and put him on display. The fact that there’s a sequel tells you how that particular plotline goes down. Watch these now and fall in love with film all over again.
George of the Jungle (U)
Adapted from the classic Jay Ward cartoon series, The Mummy’s Brendan Fraser stars as the eponymous hero of this film, a primitive man who was just about raised by animals in an African jungle. Summary: it’s totally hilarious. Think talking gorillas (voiced by John Cleese), a Tarzan-and-Jane love story, and a naïve/feral George trying to navigate his way around New York City like a impressively ripped fish out of water. Ahem. Be warned: the theme song is beyond catchy and the central character is beyond hot. Like this? Check out the Rocky and Bullwinkle live remake for the same blend of dumb fun.
Guardians of the Galaxy (12)
The only one in our list rated 12, we’ve included this one for those who know their kids well and are happy to let their tweens stay up late. Together you can enjoy a space cowboy adventure that’s more about the cheeky dialogue and impeccable Seventies FM rock soundtrack than keeping track of the intricacies of superhero continuity or who shot first. Guardians of the Galaxy is a little known Marvel Comics series given new life by the silver screen, now rollicking around a galaxy where bounty hunters bodypop on distant planets, Peter Serafinowicz is a space bobby and only a monosyllabic talking tree can save the day. Pirates of the Caribbean in space? As good as that sounds.
The Princess Bride (PG)
Children of the eighties everywhere adored this cult classic fairy tale with attitude, consistently charting high in those Channel 4 greatest films talking head shows. Rob Reiner’s 1987 film tells the story of farmhand Westley and his gaggle of oddballs setting out to rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the awful Prince Humperdinck. The cast reads like a who’s-who of comedy, including Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Peter Cook, Mel Smith, an uncredited Gene Hackman (soup anyone?), plus an inconceivable cameo from everyone’s favourite cutie-pie, The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage. Bless.
Recently adapted from the best-selling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder is as good as its name suggests. Starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as the parents of Auggie, a ten-year-old boy with Treacher Collins syndrome (and its resulting facial deformity) navigating school for the first time. The film is worth watching for so many reasons – it’s funny and kind, features those all-too-familiar school bully dynamics, plus it’s a great way to talk to kids about differences in a really easy and informal way. Wonder-ful.
The BFG (PG)
We’re not sure who’s the biggest star here – Steven Spielberg, Roald Dahl or the Mark Rylance-voiced giant himself. Most parents are familiar with the plot: orphaned 10-year-old Sophie is captured by a Big Friendly Giant who takes her to Giant Country, where the pair have to escape the man-eating giants who plant nightmares into children’s minds every night, enlisting the Queen herself to help. The danger with film adaptations of much-loved books is that they fall short of our imagined versions, but The BFG does an excellent job of bringing popcorn to the page. Extra points for the grossness of the Snozzcumbers.
The Muppets (U)
Sitting down to watch the first Muppets reboot totally guarantees two outcomes. After watching this film you will 1. ADORE Amy Adams more than any other human alive (if you don’t already); and 2. Find yourself belting out some the songs from the movie (written by ex-Conchord Bret McKenzie who bagged an Oscar for his work) for the next month or three. All your childhood favourites are brought together again, from Kermit and Miss Piggy (new Vogue editor!) to Gonzo and Fozzie Bear, plus the ever-excellent Chris Cooper as a scenery-chewing villain alongside plus cameos from Jack Black, Whoopi Goldberg and Dave Grohl (who stars as rival evil drummer, Animool). Altogether now – “Am I a maaaaaaaan/Or am I a muppet?/(Am I a muppet?)/If I’m a muppet/Then I’m a very manly Muppet…”