Movies for kids save me on those days when I’m too tired to parent actively but still want to be with my family. Unlike, say, zoning out in front of a Paw Patrol marathon, I have zero guilt about screening great kid movies for my girls. That’s because the best movies for kids are practically literature, with imaginative stories, indelible characters, and life lessons that last—plus, a lot of giggles and songs.
I love sharing the best movies for kids from my childhood and watching my minis’ minds get blown the first time they spot the Wicked Witch or hear E.T.’s voice. It’s also fun checking out some of the top kids movies of today (Moana, make way!) and deciding together what our family classics will be. Need a guaranteed winner for your next family movie night? These movies for kids are sure to wow your kiddos again and again.
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
When I was growing up, this classic kid movie aired only once a year on broadcast television, but even on demand, The Wizard of Oz still feels just as special. From the moment a tornado lands Dorothy’s house atop a ruby slipper-wearing bad witch in the technicolor land of Oz, we are transformed, forever. And when we watch it with our own kids, there really is no place like home.
2. Mary Poppins (1964)
The original Supernanny, made practically perfect in every way by Julie Andrews, will delight even your youngest movie fans, whether she’s using magic to clean up the nursery, having tea with animated penguins or racing a rogue carousel horse. And there is nothing cuter than teaching a toddler how to say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, will be released on December 25, 2018.
3. The Sound of Music (1965)
When stern Captain Von Trapp (he disciplines by whistle) hires flighty Maria (Julie Andrews) to care for his seven (!) adorable kids, she brings music — and a little mayhem –into their lives. “Do-Re-Mi” and “Favorite Things” are the most famous song and dance numbers, but littles also love “The Lonely Goatherd” puppet show scene, and the sweetness of “So Long, Farewell” will have you wondering if you should have more kids.
4. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Some may love the Johnny Depp remake, but there’s no substitute for the Gene Wilder original about a reclusive candy-maker who awards five kids golden tickets to tour his magical chocolate factory. One lucky winner, Charlie, is a good boy from a poor family, but the rest are overpriviliged brats and it’s great fun watching them get their just desserts, especially gum-smacking Violet who is turned into a giant blueberry.
5. Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)
I still have trouble referring to the original Star Wars as #4, because it will always be my #1, and it’s definitely the best way to introduce kids to a galaxy far, far away, where Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewie, and the Droids do battle with The Empire. May the Force be with you when everybody wants a light saber for Christmas.