The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

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Written By Maya Cantina

There’s nothing quite like the comfort of classic family movies. Tons of new movies from every genre come out throughout the year, such as the packed 2024 movie schedule, but every once in a while, it’s fun to bask in the warmth of revisiting one of these cozy movies. Each of them are timeless in their own ways, whether they’ve actually remained favorites for decades upon decades, or are barely collecting dust on our shelves. 

Classic family movies can come from all sorts of places, from the African Savannah to outer space. The main through-line is all of these are great titles to enjoy with all ages and explore why family is so important to each of us in many different forms. 

(Image credit: Dreamworks)

Shrek (2001)

One of the best movies of the 2000s that remains a cultural phenomenon to audiences since it was released is Shrek. There have been many movies based on classic fairy tales, but this DreamWorks Animation film took an amusingly modern spin on the whole thing by making its heroes a green ogre and his donkey friend, along with making his love interest Princess Fiona, a glowing parody of the traditional archetype. 

Shrek sees its titular ogre go on a quest to confront Lord Farquaad of Duloc in the kingdom’s palace after he notices an influx of fairytale characters are being exiled to his swamp, where he has long found bliss and solitude. Along the way, he becomes a hero in his own right as he meets and helps beloved literary characters like the Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, The Three Little Pigs and the Magic Mirror. 

Stream Shrek on Peacock.
Rent/Buy Shrek on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Ready to step into a world full of pure imagination? All you need is Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket and you’ll be headed straight to the twisted magic of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The 1971 movie starring Gene Wilder adapts Roald Dahl’s 1964 bestseller, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with songs, a colorful vision and mysterious wonder. 

The scrumdiddlyumptious musical fantasy follows a poor paperboy named Charlie Bucket who happens upon one of five golden tickets hidden inside Wonka chocolate bars in light of a contest promising a tour of the factory and lifetime supply of chocolate. Once he and his Grandpa Joe step inside the walls of Willy Wonka’s factory alongside the other winners, a series of unexpected occurrences shake up the tour. 

Stream Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on Max.
Rent/Buy Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Pixar)

Toy Story (1995)

Pixar’s inaugural film, Toy Story, is an undeniable triumph in family filmmaking, between its innovation in computer animation and laugh-out-loud comedic beats between Tom Hanks’ Woody, Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the Toy Story voice cast. Every kid develops their imagination by playing with toys and imagining the story around them, so the Pixar movie’s narrative is easy for audiences of every generation to connect with. 

Toy Story is about a cowboy doll named Woody, who is Andy’s longtime favorite toy and leader of the room’s chest of play things. However, when Andy becomes enamored with the hottest new toy, Buzz Lightyear, Woody has to wrestle with abandonment along with the consequences that occur thanks to his deep dislike and jealousy of Buzz. It’s also one of those great movies that’s not even 90 minutes long. 

Stream Toy Story on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Toy Story on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Universal)

One of Steven Spielberg’s most iconic ‘80s films, E.T. Extra-Terrestrial, is not only a fantastic classic family movie, but a fantastic introduction to science fiction for all ages. The touching 1982 movie explores the possibility of alien contact by exploring an unlikely connection between a 10-year-old boy and a creature from another world. 

When a young alien gets separated from its family in the San Fernando Valley, Henry Thomas’ Elliott happens upon E.T. and takes him in. The pair begin to develop an empathic connection as they spend time together, but as authorities continue to look for the alien’s presence, Elliott becomes determined to protect his otherworldly friend. 

Stream E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial For Free With Ads on The Roku Channel.
Rent/Buy E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Despicable Me (2010) 

While many family films resort to the typical maniacal villain archetype as the antagonist of storyline, Despicable Me turned all that on its head and has become a modern treasure for all ages. Not to mention, the 2010 Illumination film introduced the world to those funny yellow Minions! 

Despicable Me stars Steve Carell as the voice of Gru, a veteran supervillain who hatches a plan to steal the moon in order to stay relevant in the profession of evil. In the midst of his devising, he decides to use the likes of three orphaned girls to steal a shrink ray from his key supervillain adversary, Vector. However, as Gru and the girls become acquainted, the four of them become a found family.  It’s still the best of the Despicable Me movies we’ve seen! 

Stream Despicable Me on Peacock. 
Rent/Buy Despicable Me on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Disney)

Mary Poppins (1964) 

Now here’s a classic family movie that’s practically perfect in every way! 1964’s Mary Poppins is not only one of the most treasured Disney movies of all time, it’s one that Walt Disney’s own fingerprints are on. The fantasy musical is also one of Julie Andrews’ most renowned roles as a nanny with magical sensibilities. 

Mary Poppins is about the Banks family, a household of four living in Edwardian-era London and not necessarily connected with one another. But when the family’s patriarch, George Banks, hires Andrews’ Mary Poppins to watch over his two children, Jane and Michael, the nanny takes not only the children, but the entire family on an adventure that changes them forever. 

Stream Mary Poppins on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Mary Poppins on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Jumanji (1995)

When gathered with family, one popular pastime is diving into a fun board game. 1995’s Jumanji, which is based on Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book of the same name, explores the idea of a board game having real world consequences. 

In the original Jumanji, a young Alan Parrish, who finds a board game that was buried for a century as a kid and becomes sucked into the game while playing with his friend Sarah. Over two decades later, two kids who’ve just moved into the Parrish mansion come across the game and soon find out the game summons all sorts of creatures, like giant mosquitoes and devious monkeys. They must find adult Alan (played by Robin Williams) and Sarah (Bonnie Hunt), and finish the game together in order to stop the nightmares of Jumanji. 

Stream Jumanji on Max.
Rent/Buy Jumanji on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: StudioCanal)

Paddington (2014) 

After decades of Paddington Bear bringing smiles to children via books first created by Michael Bond, the adorable literary character was brought to the big screen in 2014 with Paddington. This story is as sweet as the marmalade Paddington is so fond of! 

Paddington is a bear whose story begins in the deep jungles of “Darkest Peru,” where his Aunt Lucy encourages the cub to travel to London after their home is destroyed. There, he comes across the Brown family, who take him in while he looks for an explorer with connections with his family. At the same time, Nicole Kidman’s Millicent Clyde, who is a wicked museum taxidermist, hopes to kill and stuff Paddington. 

Stream Paddington on Netflix.
Stream Paddington on Hulu.
Rent/Buy Paddington on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: Disney)

The Lion King (1994)

Across Disney’s fruitful Renaissance Era primarily of the ‘90s came the behemoth that is The Lion King. The spin on Shakespeare’s Hamlet follows the epic journey of a lion named Simba as he deals with betrayal, loss and adversity on his way to become the king of Pride Rock. 

Between Elton John’s unforgettable music, a ton of quotable lines and the movie’s breathtaking animation, The Lion King is one of the great classic family movies. The 1994 movie really encapsulates Walt Disney Animation at its best, along with telling a powerful (and very fun) story. 

Stream The Lion King on Disney+.
Buy The Lion King on Amazon. 

The 10 Best Classic Family Movies And How To Watch Them

(Image credit: MGM)

The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

One family movie has transcended over eighty years of time and remained a favorite: The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 musical fantasy from MGM adapted L. Frank Baum’s own classic story of Dorothy Gale’s odyssey to Oz from her farm in Kansas told through this gorgeous transition from black and white to color. 

As Judy Garland’s Dorothy follows the yellow brick road at the direction of a good witch named Glinda, she meets a Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion on her way to the Emerald City. It’s an enduring classic that every generation can appreciate and enjoy. 

Stream The Wizard of Oz on Max.
Rent/Buy The Wizard of Oz on Amazon. 

Cozy with the family with a movie queued up yet? We hope you enjoy one or all of these classic family movies on your next home movie night! 


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