Family Movie Night Recommendations

Movie Night from the Tent (and Family Movie Recommendations)

Movie Night from the Tent

This post contains affiliate links.This was our evening a couple nights ago.

A family movie night watching My Neighbor Totoro (one of our favorites!) from the camping tent set up in the living room.

It was the perfect combination of cozy and novel and a good way to spend a holiday evening together.

Movie Night from the Tent 2

The large tent took up the entire floor space of our small living room. And, of course, the kids LOVED playing in and around it before we started our movie. Half the doll and animal population in our home was soon moved in as well as any pillow they could pilfer from the beds and sofa.

By the way, we are on the look out for other family movie recommendations!

Ideally we’d like really good kiddo movies that Maia, age 7, and Daphne, age 3, can both watch. Maia likes a good story with some complexity whereas Daphne doesn’t like anything scary. If we watch a movie, its usually all together, so we need to choose something they can both enjoy.

We love the other Studio Ghibli films (such as Kiki’s Delivery Service), but other than that, haven’t watched too many movies. Stellaluna, Mary Poppins, and Tangled are all that are coming to mind, although I’m sure I’m missing some.

Anyway, we could use some recommendations!!

UPDATE Oct 2014 :: Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the wonderful recommendations, both here and on facebook!

We have been enjoying weekly family movie nights thanks to your suggestions and I wanted to come back and list those recommendations as a reference for others to use as well. I’ll note which ones we’ve watched with the kids with an asterisk…

Family Movie Night Recommendations

52 Family Movie Recommendations

A year’s worth of weekly family movies!

(To read more about the movies listed, including rating, age, reviews, etc, I’ve included links to the Amazon listings.)

 Studio Ghibli Films

*My Neighbor Totoro

*Kiki’s Delivery Service

*The Secret World of Arietty


*Whisper of the Heart

*The Cat Returns

Princesses and Fairytales




*The Princess and the Frog

*Peter Pan


*Ella Enchanted

*Rise of the Guardians

Movies about Animals

*Rio and *Rio 2

*Whale Rider

*Dolphin Tale

*Free Willy

*Big Miracle

*Turtle’s Tale

*Finding Nemo

*How to Train Your Dragon

*Racing Stripes

*Monsters Inc

*Night at the Museum

*Ice Age

*Mr. Popper’s Penguins

*We Bought a Zoo

Disneynature: Oceans

Family Movie Night RecommendationsMovies about Family Dynamics

*The Croods

*Ramona and Beezus

*The Parent Trap

*Freaky Friday

*Lilo & Stitch

*The Incredibles

*Despicable Me

*Nanny McPhee

*Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

*The Sound of Music

*Honey I Shrunk the Kids

*The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Adventure and Other Movies

*The Neverending Story

*Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium


*Wreck it Ralph


The Goonies


*Pippi Longstocking

*Laura’s Star


*The Love Bug

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  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    “Annie.” Pretty much anything the Muppets have made- “The Muppet Movie”- original is still best- “The Muppets Take Manhattan”, etc. The older version of “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin. Good luck, and happy movie watching!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    The fantastic Mr Fox.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    My 2 yr old and 6 yr old girls are agreeing right now on a limited few: Rio, The Lorax, The Muppets (new version bc the baby loves the whistling Muppet). Brave is too scary for the littl’un and nobody likes Emmet Otter but me. :(
    Good luck!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    We have the same issue in our home. With a 4, 6 and 13 year old, it is difficult to find movies that we can enjoy together. So, our movie shelf has a lot of the old musicals: Singing in the Rain, On the Town, etc. We also found that everyone seems to enjoy travel videos (Rick Steves) and Blue Planet. It doesn’t always go smoothly though. There are times when my 6 and 13 year olds want to watch Cars or some other Disney movie and we can’t because it scares the 4 year old. That’s ok, though, they have to learn how to compromise, consider others feelings and even be disappointed. Good luck with your search and I look forward to reading other’s suggestions too.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    It’s not a movie, per we, but the Muppet Show is great. Our 26 month old loves it, though we save it for special occasions and sick days. You can get the first three seasons on DVD.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Another Studio Gibli film – Ponyo. Loved by boys and girls and right in your age bracket. I know quite a few kids who rate it the best film ever!

  • Reply
    J. Marie Weldon
    December 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Heidi (Shirley Temple) is a safe one. We like other old movies like “White Christmas” as well.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    more ghibli: Ponyo – another golden studio Ghibli; Borrower Arrietty (this one is a bit sad though); Pom Poko – this one introduces ideas of ecological conservation and conflict; The cat returns – my little ones love this but I find the cat king a little freaky; Spirited Away.
    non Ghibli: The Heffalump Movie; Arthur Christmas; Wallace and Grommit movies; Despicable Me; Curious George; Brave – definitely one for older children, the bear fight scenes are a bit scary but if you skip those bits this is a great movie for young girls. The protagonist is a strong and brave young princess who’s major rival is her graceful, gracious, proper and head strong mother; Up; Underdog (we have beagles, this movie is a big hit at my place); Shrek;
    Read and watch: Hugo; How to Train your Dragon, The Tale of Despereaux; Horton Hears a Who; Fantastic Mr Fox (if you don’t mind the raw nature of Roald Dhal’s story telling, George Cluney’s voice over is very well done, very funny movie); Winnie the Poo; Howle’s Moving Castle (another Ghibli, the book this one is derived from is wonderful, we read the sequel together and loved it).

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    That could be a scene from our living room in the winter, except we have two boys. We love My Neighbor Totoro! My older son (7) has just discovered the Muppets and the original Pippi Longstocking movies. My younger son likes pretty much anything that his big brother watches, but he especially likes Cars. I’ve heard that Fantastic Mr. Fox is good, but we haven’t seen it yet.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    sorry, forgot to add any of the older Disney movies are a hit here too – The Fox & The Hound, The Aristocats, Oliver & Company, Mary Poppins – they love them all.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Black Stallion (so great)
    The Fox and the Hound
    Toy Story
    Finding Nemo
    Horton Hears a Who (love!)
    Chicken Run
    Milo and Otis
    The Borrowers (double love!)
    Bambi (if you can deal with the traumatic part)
    Wizard of Oz
    And maybe our favorite kids movie ever, Matilda (maybe too scary for Daphne for a bit longer)

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Oh, and don’t forget Lady and the Tramp!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    My (almost) 3 year and 6 year old girls watch the usual Disney schlock. And I love it. Give a movie with catchy songs and I am happy. They do like Ponyo. We are lucky, because not a lot scares them. They even watched Snow White. Anyway, I haven’t tried these yet, but what about the old movies. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Herbie? The Happiest Millionaire (it has alligators, so I think my 6 year old would love that the family had gators as pets). My girls love Brave, and Tiana. Which I like because they are strong, make it happen kind of girls. And I second “How TO Train Your Dragon.” Both girls love it, even the 3 year old princess lover. Sound of Music was on right before Christmas and both kids liked it. Mary Poppins is one I want them to see. There are also some cute Disney movies that aren’t as popular. The Rescurers, Oliver and Comapny, Mulan (they love Mulan, good role model, except the lying that your a guy part). The 6 year old watched Willy Wonka after reading Charley and the Chocolate Factory at school and liked it. Good luck and would you post a recap of this discussion and let us know what worked? Always looking for good suggestions. Thanks!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    the sound of music! a classic
    heidi – original black and white version

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    This is a brilliant website to get info about movies –
    It has really helped us make choices for our kids.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    They’re short, but I highly recommend The Little Travelers series — about two young girls exploring the world. Nothing scary at all, and fascinating stuff. Also, check out the film list on — tons of great options there!

  • Reply
    butterflywishes wonderland dreams
    December 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    my girls enjoy: Brave, Tangled, Curious George, Secret World of Arrietty, Tinkerbell secret of the wings, and Piglets Big Movie. my girls are 6 and 12
    we also like Hugo, the Narnia’s The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who just to name a few :)

  • Reply
    December 28, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    My daughter is 3 1/2 and we don’t watch a ton of movies but a few that she loves that haven’t been mentioned are:
    Newer version of Annie with Victor Garber
    Newer version of Black Beauty (Alan Cumming narrates)
    Dolphin Tale
    Madeline (the original animated version)
    Toy Story 2
    And I have to mention Sound of Music again because I think that is her favorite movie by far!

  • Reply
    December 29, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I have three girls… ages 5, 8, and 10, and they ALL love Shirley Temple movies. Brights Eyes and Baby Take a Bow are their favorites. They also love the American Girl movies (I prefer the ones about the historical characters over the modern ones). But honestly their favorite thing to watch is Little House on the Prairie; the old series with Michael Landon. I bought the series on dvd and they LOVE it. There’s an episode here or there that we skip over because the storyline is a little too intense, but there are so many fun ones, especially in the first two seasons. The nice thing about these shows is we (the parents) enjoy them too. They also love Leave it to Beaver. Not very girly, but super fun. :)

  • Reply
    December 29, 2012 at 1:09 am

    I have an extremely sensitive 7 1/2 year-old (she cried for weeks over Disney’s Fantasia — the scene where the dinosaurs are falling down in the desert; we had to turn it off. She then asked me if our planet would get too hot and we would die), so our movie choices are very very limited. Her little brother, 4, is not so sensitive, but he still has to hide behind me during the soot sprite scenes in Totoro, which we adore.
    They both adore, and so do I, this funny Swiss claymation series (very short episodes!): PINGU. I can’t do it justice trying to explain; youtube has many episodes. They laugh out loud when they watch this.
    They don’t like the Muppets or Fraggles, but two old Disney movies are the Jungle Book and Aristocats, both filled with music (and certain outdated ideas!).

  • Reply
    Pilar Amezquita
    December 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Dear Jean, we love Mr Popper’s Pinguins. I also have two girls, Sara (8) and Catalina (5) and sure Catalina doesn’t like scary things. We don’t see Disney pictures, many of them have bad ones that scare my little one.
    I have bought several movies of Hermie, from Thomas Nelson. They are perfect for little ones and each movie teaches a value. The first one is beautiful, is called Hermie a common caterpillar, and it teaches of how we are all special. I live in Colombia and i bought these movies in christian libraries. The author is Max Lucado he writes books for kids and he also write incredible, incredible books for adults. He is a gift for all of us.
    I love your blog and thanks a lot for the beautiful pages of your new book that you send for your newsletter subscribes. Thanks a lot for your generosity and for sharing all those beautiful ideas. Art is certainly important in our home, several walls are full of my kids drawings. Your blog has been very helpful, inspiring and challenging, thanks a lot. God bless you, your lovely family and your precious work.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2012 at 11:10 am

    We recently found the charming “Magic Silver”–it’s in Norweigian with subtitles. My seven year old loved it, and didn’t mind reading along. I would think a younger child could easily piece the story without specifically understanding the language. A tomten-esque adventure.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:29 am

    What a lot of great recommendations!! Thanks so much, everyone!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:30 am

    We have Ponyo and love it, too! Daphne finds it scary, though, at the moment…

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:32 am

    We watch Mary Poppins quite a bit but haven’t seen the others. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:32 am


  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Sure! I’ll try to post a recap. Thanks for the ideas! I didn’t think about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Thanks! Yes, we like The Sound of Music, too. I don’t think they’ve seen Heidi, though.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Thanks!! I wasn’t aware of that site.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Oh yeah, I forgot about A Mighty Girl – thanks.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Maia is reading the Little House series with her father right now, so maybe we’ll look for that DVD series when she’s finished. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:37 am

    We’ve checked PINGU dvds out from the library! They are hilarious!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Musicals sound like a good bet. I haven’t thought of travel videos, but that’s something I’d like to watch myself, so I’ll have to give it a try… :)

  • Reply
    December 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    My nearly 3 year old is currently obsessed with the Wizard of Oz!

  • Reply
    December 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    My 3 year old loves Toy Story 1-3; Shrek 1-4; and Alvin and the Chipmunks 1-3.
    hmm, I think he really likes movies where they made more than 1 of them! He gets attached to characters and loves seeing them have different adventures.

  • Reply
    December 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Hayley Mills’ classic Disney movies are big at our house (my husband has a crush!), and other ones from that era, like Herbie, Apple Dumpling Gang, Shaggy Dog, etc. The Peep series are great for teaching science in an accessible, amusing way. My kids (4, 7, 9; 2 girls and a boy) all enjoy Richard Scarry’s Busytown. We also love vintage TV shows, like I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith, and Brady Bunch.

  • Reply
    Carrie @ Rhubarb Sky
    December 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Seconding The Little Travelers DVDs. Oh, Jean, if you haven’t found these yet. . . you MUST. They are wonderful. I found a few of them available for streaming through my local library’s website.
    Also, another hearty recommendation for the Common Sense Media Website. . . as well as
    My girl is VERY sensitive and now, just a few weeks away from turning 8, we’re finally starting to go back and see some of those Disney movies that have mean and terrible mother-figures in them (why do they do that!?).
    The old-school Herbie movies crack her up and have for a long time.

  • Reply
    December 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I agree about the weird way mothers are portrayed in Disney movies… I find it odd. We LOVE the Little Travelers series as well; my 5yo son loves them and I feel like they are very educational. Babe is a really fun one that doesn’t have any scary parts that I can remember. I also really like Old Yeller, Fantastic Mr. Fox and the Planet Earth series. It’s been nice to read the recommendations.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Thank you for this Q and A in your comments! I have a 3.5 year old that doesn’t like ANYTHING scary. Even Mary Poppins is out. I’m going to check a bunch of these out!
    Also, your winter ebook was a great success over holiday shut down. We did so many of the activities and had fun. Thank you!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees. It is a combination of her story and lovely footage of the chimps. Love reading through this list, I’m always glad when you ask for suggestions on things because you have such a great group of readers!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Kristen’s Fairy House, The Red Balloon, Paddle to the Sea, The Snowman, The Bear, Pollyanna

  • Reply
    January 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    I’ll be showing my age, but as a Mom of 7 ages 28 to 6 (and a grandbaby along the way). I’ve dealt with the movie delemma a looong time. I’ve had all sorts of kids including some super sensitive- (Fern Gully was an absolute no-no) also my now 16 yr old DD hated cartoons growing up. She’s still not much into movies. She loved all the Shirley Temple movies and would dance on the coffee table along with Shirley.She loved musicals as well- The King and I being her favorite- there’s a nice animated version of it, but some of it is scary. A lot of what we’ve enjoyed has been mentioned. I’d like to add a couple that are special favorites: So Dear to My Heart(a boy raises a black lamb)-Disney 1940’s and The Phantom Tollbooth ( a bored boy enters an animated world and learns to think creatively)done by Chuck Jones. Both of these have great messages. The Phantom Tollbooth book has a lot more to it and is great for 9 and up, but I LOVED the movie as a kid. I was 7 when it came out! These are all still family faves in our house.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    My son could watch Wall-E over and over and over (he is 4) :) Other movies that have been a hit: Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Emperor’s New Groove. He doesn’t have any interest yet in live action films, but I am looking forward to watching Mary Poppins with him some day! We don’t watch a lot of longer movies, because we also have a 20 month old–and he doesn’t sit still for anything. Ha! In terms of shorter shows, have you checked out How It’s Made? They are wonderful…we have learned so much from them about production and where our things come from.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I second – Dolphin Tale

  • Reply
    January 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    We love Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

  • Reply
    January 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Totoro – also from Studio Ghibli

  • Reply
    January 13, 2013 at 2:16 am

    I was a nanny for a boy who found the blueberry part very scary and had nightmares though!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Princes and Princesses directed by Michel Ocelot the description on imdb says “Six old-style funny silhouetted fairy tales for not so-old-style people.” It is so awesome!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Nothing is better than Totoro! Have you guys watched Shaun the Sheep? It’s a series, not a movie, available on Netflix, and is so perfect for the problem you’re describing. At our house, the grownups loved it as well as the 8, 6, & easily scared 3 year old… it’s really funny!

  • Reply
    Mansi N
    December 26, 2017 at 12:00 am

    How about Ratatouille- ( It’s so much fun watching this movie with kids.

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