Looking for under-the-radar family movies.
April 6, 2013 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for PG or PG-13 movies that will interest 6-yr-olds and 46-yr-olds. It's easy enough to find the big blockbusters (like Avatar, Pirates of the Carribean, X-Men - all of which fit the bill for us), but I'd like to find movies that don't show up in searches as often (Mission to Mars with Tim Robbins was a recent one that we liked.) Thanks!
posted by cherrybounce to Media & Arts (68 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
What about The Goonies?
posted by something something at 3:36 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

"My Neighbor Totoro" is a delightful Japanese animated movie. Gentle, funny, and imaginative, children and adults will enjoy it.
posted by mermayd at 3:40 PM on April 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

These aren't exactly under the radar, but... anything Muppets, especially the first movie.
posted by maryr at 3:41 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

The Princess Bride
The Iron Giant
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (watch Charlie & The Chocolate Factory later)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
The Mighty Ducks
Pete's Dragon
Free Willy
posted by carsonb at 3:42 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

This list of 100 great family films from Scholastic Books is pretty good.
posted by carsonb at 3:42 PM on April 6, 2013

Last I checked, The Secret of Kells is a *delightful* animated movie available on Netflix Instant Play.
posted by foxfirefey at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

When I was young, my dad showed us classics like Marx Brothers films (the innuendo will hopefully go over the 6 year old's head!), To Sir With Love, The Great Escape (some violence), and Born Free.
posted by knile at 3:51 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole appeals to almost any age, you might want to preview it for violence for the younger kids.
posted by HuronBob at 3:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Despicable Me
2nding Pete's Dragon
Black Stallion (although I guess it can be a bit slow in spots)
The Little Rascals
posted by Sassyfras at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2013

Big Fish
posted by royalsong at 3:58 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

We enjoyed watching Microcosmos with our neighbour's kids. It's a closeup camera doc of the bug world through the course of a year and IIRC was very light on frightening life/death struggle footage, though it did have one embarrassing sex sequence with snails.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:00 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Super 8
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:04 PM on April 6, 2013

Galaxy Quest is still funny even if you know nothing about Star Trek.
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:08 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

posted by bdk3clash at 4:10 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe A Knight's Tale? My whole family loves it, for a bunch of different reasons.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 4:16 PM on April 6, 2013

The Sandlot! Apollo 13! A Little Princess (though that movie made me sob like whoa)! Maybe Moonrise Kingdom?

And, depending on the adults and children in question, this may be either a brilliant or horrible idea but I'll just put it out there: Mamma Mia. My goddaughter and I both love it. YMMV.
posted by kat518 at 4:16 PM on April 6, 2013

We Bought a Zoo (Matt Damon, Scarlett Jo)
Not sayin it's an oscar winner, just sayin.
posted by artdrectr at 4:19 PM on April 6, 2013

October Sky
Seconding Millions
posted by asockpuppet at 4:25 PM on April 6, 2013

Most Studio Ghibli movies qualify (Kiki's Delivery Service, Laputa, Spirited Away, etc.), though not all, so make sure.

At that age I liked Superman, Tron, War Games, and Star Wars. I know, blockbusters, but vintage enough they might be worth a mention. I'm not sure if The Mask would be too scary. Depends on the kid, I guess (ditto Ghostbusters...and Mystery Men might just be inappropriate).

A bunch of kind-of dumb movies like Beethoven (the first one), the Pink Panther, The Love Bug, The Cat from Outer Space, Flight of the Navigator, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, etc. can be at least moderately entertaining for adults -- nostalgia and all. (Though the Lohan/Curtis remake of Freaky Friday was actually pretty good.)
posted by wintersweet at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

"The Secret of Roan Inish", Irish fantasy about the legend of the Selkie, or Seal People, and a lost child. Beautiful scenery and atmosphere, an adventure involving children, and a happy ending.
posted by mermayd at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

The Secret of Roan Inish
posted by belladonna at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by belladonna at 4:29 PM on April 6, 2013

Around the World in 80 Days (2004) is a very under-rated, hugely fun family movie (rated PG).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:30 PM on April 6, 2013

(NB: I haven't seen "Bedknobs" etc. in years, so if they've been visited by the Suck Fairy--i.e., they're full of racism and more-egregious-than-usual sexism etc.--I wouldn't know.)
posted by wintersweet at 4:31 PM on April 6, 2013

2nding Iron Giant, and the older Muppet movies. Also, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

And it got mixed reviews, but Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow strikes me as one that would appeal to all ages.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 4:35 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

possibly Breaking Away? I loved it when I was 9 or 10, but not positive if a 6-year-old would be into it.

Also not under-the-radar, but definitely put Hugo on the list if you haven't seen it already.
posted by scody at 4:46 PM on April 6, 2013

posted by supercres at 4:48 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Speed Racer! (Yes, the mid-2000s one by the makers of the Matrix)

Castle in the Sky (aka Laputa)
Howl's Moving Castle
Adventures of Tintin*
Atlantis: The Lost Empire*
Treasure Planet*
Titan AE*
Fantastic Mr. Fox
A Series of Unfortunate Events
James & the Giant Peach*
The Incredibles

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Iron Giant
Other Ghibli movies
Muppet movies

A lot of Justice League* and Justice League Unlimited* episodes are two- or three-part, which gets you nearly movie-length.

*available on Netflix Instant Watch last time I checked
posted by sleeping bear at 4:48 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't know how strict you are but my kids liked True Grit (the new one), Mars Attacks, 8 Legged Freaks, and of course, Ghost Busters.
posted by lasamana at 4:49 PM on April 6, 2013

City of Ember was released in 2008, has Tim Robbins and Bill Murray in prominent roles, and completely flopped. It's a marvel of production design, and one of my family's favorites. Also appropriate for kids and starring Tim Robbins, the Coen Brothers' PG-rated flop The Hudsucker Proxy.
posted by eschatfische at 4:55 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Breaking Away. My husband and I were huge fans of The Emperor's New Groove - it's wicked funny.
posted by lasamana at 5:04 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Macdrifter's Kid's Movie Index is a personalized list that rates movies based on their Child Enjoyment and Adult Enjoyment. There's even a nice bubble chart, so you can pick out the movies in the top right quadrant for most enjoyable.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:09 PM on April 6, 2013

nthing Bednobs and Broomsticks. I've been watching that movie for 30 years. It doesn't get old, and the kids still love it.

Don't know if Sound of Music fits your bill, but that's another one the kids like that is enjoyable for adults on multiple viewings.
posted by colin_l at 5:09 PM on April 6, 2013

Second Hand Lions, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (well, in 1973 10 year old me loved lifting the car and the bubblegum scene)
posted by Sophont at 5:14 PM on April 6, 2013

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Fly Away Home (1996)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Hook (1991)
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
The Parent Trap (1961, 1998)
Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
Treasure Island (1950)
posted by Birchpear at 5:22 PM on April 6, 2013

I love love the Hudsucker Proxy, but had I seen it as a 6 year old, it would have gone completely over my head and seemed boring.

However, when I was just a little older than that, my absolute favorite movie of all time was Raising Arizona. There is some risque material but I didn't get it at that age and just thought it was hilarious.

Especially if the 6 year old is female, but either way, you may want to look at Hayao Miyazaki's animated films: from Princess Mononoke to Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Kiki's Delivery Service, the Secret World of Arrietty. Stronger female characters than we are used to encountering from the sad situation in the American children's film market.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:54 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

A Town Called Panic is deeply weird and deeply funny. Our whole family loved it, and it is (or was) on Netflix Instant.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:10 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Flight of the Navigator
posted by chiababe at 6:16 PM on April 6, 2013

Twice Upon A Time
posted by Mchelly at 6:23 PM on April 6, 2013

A Town Called Panic is great stuff - my kids have watched it multiple times. And this movie guide from Unbored is pretty great: http://unbored.net/best-ever-movies-from-around-the-world/
posted by chr1sb0y at 6:39 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also investigate all 60s and early 70s Disney live action flicks, like all the Kurt Russell ones (computer wore tennis shoes) and the Fred Macmurray ones (shaggy DA, Absent minded professor, etc) as well as The Apple Dumpling Gang etc
posted by chr1sb0y at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sita Sings the Blues
posted by belladonna at 7:13 PM on April 6, 2013

Studio Ghibli is a good idea, I especially like NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. I also thought of The Fall, but when checking the rating just now I was surprised to see that it is not PG 13 but is rated R for "some violent images".
posted by mediated self at 7:14 PM on April 6, 2013

The Secret Garden was beautifully made and the story is also great. It feels like Wuthering heights, but it's kid friendly.
posted by Tarumba at 7:32 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My son (7) likes:

Avatar: The Last Airbender Animated Series (and it is a great one for adults too; really good).
all Star Wars movies (plus Clone Wars spinoffs)
all Harry Potter movies (though I find them dull)
Adventures of Baron Munchausen (some suggestive humor but flies right over his head; brief nudity)
Indiana Jones movies (not the second one, but the rest) plus Young Indiana Adventures (which are surprisingly sophisticated but he likes them all the same)

Basically, go through movies you like and look for things like Too Scary/Gory and Too Sexy/Nude and if there's none/not much of that, and it's fast-paced, you can usually go for it.

For the first Indiana Jones movie (which he had heard about and demanded to see) I paused right before the face-melting scene and told him what would happen and that we could skip it if he wanted. He was fine. No nightmares. But every kid is different.
posted by emjaybee at 7:34 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am here to advocate for some oldies. My parents loved watching movies with us when we were kids. Some memorable ones (we probably saw them more than a couple of times) are:

-Dreams by Akira Kurosawa
-anything by studio Ghibli They are responsible for Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Kiki's delivery service, etc. It has to be said that these works of art were completely drawn by hand! Miyazaki (the artist behind it all) is the creator of what we call now scenery porn (weird name, not porn at all!)
-Who framed Roger Rabbit?
-Singin' in the rain
-Anchors Aweigh
-Labyrinth (with David Bowie!)
-Mon Oncle
-The witches (this movie is AWESOME, with Angelica Huston)
-Yellow Submarine
-My Fair Lady
-The umbrellas of Cherbourg (my sisters and I did not understand it very well, but we loved the colors and the music)
-Star Wars!
-Indiana Jones movies
-Fantasia (the first one)

They also made the mistake of making us watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. WE HATED IT and we had nightmares about the freaking monolith for weeks. I don't know what they were thinking! I still hate that movie.

Here is a very handy list from Rotten Tomatoes. I think many of the ones on my list are there, so you can just take that link as reference. Don't be afraid of watching very old movies (60's, 70's) together. We watched Jason and the Argonauts (60's) in the early 90's and we had a blast. It was such a special thing for my parents to share their childhood favorites with us!
posted by Tarumba at 8:19 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had fun watching the Christopher Reeve Superman movies from the late 70s and early 80s. They seem incredibly slow-paced and gentle compared to contemporary PG films. It was refreshing.

We also enjoyed a few Jack Black movies: School of Rock, Nacho Libre, and Gulliver's Travels.

For a while I was digging around for older films. The 1959 Shaggy Dog is fun.

Some I've just thought of: the old Herbie the Love Bug movies and Edward Scissorhands,

I really like Common Sense Media when I'm trying to figure out if a movie would be appropriate for my kids.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:23 PM on April 6, 2013

Time Bandits
posted by toxic at 9:37 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

The National Treasure movies, with Nicholas Cage. Totally dorky, but also kept me totally entertained for 90 minutes... it did it's job. =)

Short Circuit, Harry and the Hendersons.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:28 PM on April 6, 2013

Speed Racer. Ignore the bad reviews and watch it.
I like the Pokemon animated movies.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:07 AM on April 7, 2013

That's about the age I was when I started watching classic movies with my dad. (My faves were Easter Parade and I Remember Mama.) Go old-school!
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:13 AM on April 7, 2013

Not mentioned yet are these three movies which we've enjoyed for years, all of which at 43 I will still happily sit down to watch with my 9 year old kid:

The Water Horse
Sky High
The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl

She also loves, from my past, though a little less than I do: Candleshoe, Swiss Family Robinson, and Misty and the Incredible Journey (which is the original version of Homeward Bound.)

The whole family loves Big Fish, Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Big Top Pee Wee and the Addams Family
posted by peagood at 9:16 AM on April 7, 2013


I've watched this several times with my niece and nephew and they both love it. Some action, some sibling rivalry drama and some humor.

And I know it's been recommended earlier, but Pete's Dragon, Pete's Dragon, Pete's Dragon. I first saw that in theaters at age six and I haven't ever stopped loving it. It's just a great family film.
posted by BrianJ at 9:43 AM on April 7, 2013

The recent animated film Wreck-It-Ralph is great, especially if you're a nerdy forty-something, and its a hoot for kids as well.
posted by elendil71 at 9:52 AM on April 7, 2013

Oh, you know what movie was really quite good and I'd forgotten about? Jumanji.
posted by maryr at 12:27 PM on April 7, 2013

Tokyo Godfathers is amazing! It's an anime about a group of three homeless bums (one MtF transvestite, one bearded bum, and a skinny teenage girl) who find a baby in the trash and, during their quest to return the baby to its rightful parents, start dealing with the issues in their lives that led them to become homeless in the first place. It all happens on Christmas, there are minor miracles, and it's a fine morality play, too. And if you like this, you should Google up Satoshi Kon; Studio Ghibli is great but I'll take a non-schmaltzy Satoshi Kon production over their recent offerings any day.

Mary and Max isn't MPAA rated and it would pass a PG rating but for a couple of context-free naughty words and portrayal of mental illnesses on a Judy Blume-esque level of honesty. It's a cutesy claymation about a young, socially isolated girl who lives with an alcoholic mother and hobby taxidermist father who finds a pen pal in a 50 year-old man living in New York City who is on the autism spectrum (they call it Asperger's in the film). It's a really beautiful film with a ton of smart jokes built into the scenes (think the crappy pickup truck with 'TOY' written on the back in Toy Story but better and far more numerous).
posted by dubusadus at 2:38 PM on April 7, 2013

My 10 year old and I like watching musicals together. Have had success with Guys and Dolls, Singin' in the Rain, Sound of Music, Help.

Also recently liked some European and Japanese kids movies we found streaming on netflix: A Cat in Paris, Miss Minoes, anything Gibli.

We've done well with Charlie Chaplin movies too.
posted by latkes at 4:01 PM on April 7, 2013

No one mentioned Sneakers. It's a great thriller.
posted by Monochrome at 4:22 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Warriors of Virtue. Kung-fu fightin' kangaroos defend the Land of Tao against evil, life-force-sucking badguys, and help teach a young boy from the regular world life lessons.

Bloodless ass-whooppery and positive messages. This is made for family-movie-night. Or "The kids are at Grandma's and we're at home with a bottle of wine and/or a couple of hash brownies" movie night. Assuming you have those.

Goes equally well with either.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:39 PM on April 7, 2013

Warning: not everything by Studio Ghibli is kid-friendly. For example, Grave of the Fireflies is a grim war(-related) movie, and Pom Poko is fun, but features magical tanuki and their amazing testicles.

That said, most of what you'll easily find from Studio Ghibli (distributed in the US by Disney, with English voice acting that varies from decent to what the hell were they thinking) is great for families. My son loves Totoro and Ponyo, and both movies impressed his grandparents with how well done animation can be, especially compared to typical saccharine modern Disney animated fair.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2013

Wallace and Gromit, though that might be G rather than PG.
posted by mattu at 10:38 AM on April 10, 2013

Groundhog Day
posted by seemoreglass at 12:12 PM on April 10, 2013

...I'm not sure Groundhog Day is kid safe. For example, he drives angrily into a train.
posted by maryr at 7:36 AM on April 11, 2013

I also thought Hoodwinked was pretty good. At first I thought it was going to be awful--the CGI animation is, unfortunately, ugly, and the beginning seems incoherent--but it kept getting better. My kids love it, especially the singing goat.
posted by mattu at 4:55 PM on April 13, 2013

It might be a bit intense at times but my nephew enjoyed Oliver! when he was around that age.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:42 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Note about A Town Called Panic: Netflix only has it in French with English subtitles.
posted by Dragonness at 11:50 AM on April 15, 2013

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