Kids movies for adults: 21 best children's films that grown-ups will enjoy too

Why not make it a family affair with one of these films?

Just because something is labelled a children's movie doesn't mean adults can't enjoy it, too.

Whether it's a film filled with jokes that youngsters might miss but adults won't, or it follows a theme that's truly universal, there are plenty of movies that children and their parents can watch together. Or even films that adults might simply want to enjoy on their own.

Our team has selected their favourite multigenerational films that are perfect for family movie nights ...

1. 'Inside Out' (2015)

Inside Out is the best film I've seen – in fact I think it's actually meant for adults. Beyond the animation and plot of a young girl adjusting to making a move across the country, is the interesting story about how our subconscious minds (may) work. It provides insights into our brains, our physiology, our decisions and our life paths.

Panna Munyal, lifestyle editor

2. 'Coco' (2017)

Like all good Pixar films, Coco features just the right mix of humour and colour, alongside a story that tugs at the heartstrings. What makes the film so great, though, is the way it tells the story of a Mexican cultural tradition, the Day of the Dead celebrations.

It follows one boy's quest to carry out his dream of becoming a musician, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. And what it highlights is the importance of family, especially in remembering those who are no longer with us. A poignant message, especially in these times.

Sophie Prideaux, assistant features editor

3. 'Up' (2009)

The first 10 minutes of the animated Pixar film will probably make adults cry more than children through its heartbreaking montage. But the rest of the run time isn't as depressing.

Youngsters will enjoy the film as it follows the unlikely duo of Carl and Russell as they go on an adventure of a lifetime. Adults can also appreciate the movie, as it draws on themes of friendship, love and loss, and most importantly, the lesson to keep seeking out adventure, no matter your age.

Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor

4. 'The Jungle Book' (1967)

Based on one of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, 'The Jungle Book' is the tale of an orphan boy called Mowgli, who is raised by a pack of wolves who find him lost in the jungle. His wolf family decide it's unsafe for him to stay because the evil tiger Shere Khan has returned to the jungle, swearing vengeance on all humans. Mowgli's friends, Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther, are entrusted with the task of guiding him back to the safety of the human village and the three set out on a journey filled with danger and adventure.

It has great characters, especially Phil Harris as Baloo, Louis Prima as King Louie and George Sanders as Shere Khan, and jaw-droppingly beautiful illustrations of the jungle. But what really makes this film a stone-cold classic for adults and children alike are the brilliant, funny and timeless songs. Ooh be doo, I wanna watch with you-oo-oo!

Stuart James, production editor

5. 'Hook' (1991)

Robin Williams plays an overworked businessman who is unwillingly thrust back to his childhood home, the magical Neverland. With a little help from his sidekick, Tinkerbell, a playful fairy played by Julia Roberts, he remembers he is, in fact, Peter Pan. After his arch nemesis, the notorious Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman), kidnaps his children, Peter is forced into a showdown with the eccentric pirate.

With a good dose of comedy and a sprinkling of innuendo, adults can enjoy this film just as much as children. As an 80s baby, it fills me with so much nostalgia. But the garish costumes, colourful characters and a storyline that prods one to believe in the impossible should keep children entertained for the full 144 minutes running time.

Kelly Clarke, senior national reporter

6. 'The Lego Movie' (2014)

Don't be fooled by the Lego figurines. This is a good versus evil plot filled with lots of jokes for adults. It follows the humdrum, ordinary life of a happy-go-lucky Lego man who stumbles into the task of saving the Lego world. And Batman's in it, too.

Melanie Smith, chief sub-editor, features

7. 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' (2016)

This is for slightly older children as it's pretty dark – death is the pervading theme – and there are elements of the supernatural that will spook the wandering adult mind as well as those of teenagers, but this is a Tim Burton film, so what else did you expect?

One boy's adventure to find out the truth about a school for gifted children leads him into a quest to defeat some rather frightening-looking beasts and discover some fascinating differences that make people as wonderful and unique as we are.

Melanie Smith, chief sub-editor, features

8. 'Despicable Me' (2010)

The plot is quite outlandish – supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) plots to shrink and steal the Moon with the help of his Minions, so as not to be outdone by his great rival, Vector (Jason Segel), who has stolen the Great Pyramid of Giza. But there are some heart-warming lessons that will appeal to adults – our capacity for love and the monumental changes we are prepared to go through to protect it. If you can get over the sound of the Minions, you'll love it.

Melanie Smith, chief sub-editor, features

9. 'Spirited Away' (2001)

Animated by the renowned Studio Ghibli from Japan, this fantasy film follows the story of a young girl who becomes trapped in the realm of spirits and must find her way out. With its vivid visuals and curious twists, Spirited Away is a hopeful coming-of-age film about bravery in the face of adversity.

Alexandra Chaves, visual arts writer

10. 'Wall-E' (2008)

A cute action adventure for children, a robot and its pet cockroach are the stars in the genuinely brilliant dialogue-free first half. It's also a cautionary tale for adults about waste, greed, over-consumption and slovenly behaviour. It's beautifully animated, of course, from Pixar.

Nic Ridley, night editor

11. 'The Parent Trap' (1961 and 1998)

Either the original with Hayley Mills playing separated-at-birth twins Annie and Hallie, or the 1998 remake with 11-year-old Lindsay Lohan will lift the spirits of any locked-down family. Spot Joanna Barnes playing roles in both films.

James Langton, correspondent

12. 'Shrek' (2001)

Shrek is about a not-so-loveable green ogre unwittingly charged with rescuing a princess from a tower and bringing her to the kingdom of Duloc, where she is to be wed to its fairy-tale-hating ruler. While Shrek and his talkative sidekick Donkey set out on an adventure to free Princess Fiona, it turns out that the princess has some tricks up her sleeve, too.

Not only is this pure entertainment for chilren, adults can appreciate the creative fairy-tale world, andnumerous scenes inspired by other hit movies of the time (a Matrix-style fight sequence comes to mind). And, of course, the eternal message that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder – that one's for all age groups.

Janice Rodrigues, lifestyle writer

13. 'Pom Poko' (1994)

A band of raccoon dogs fight to save their forest from urban sprawl in this 1994 film by Studio Ghibli. Tanuki, or raccoon dogs, are ubiquitous in Japanese folklore, known for mischief and shape-shifting powers. The film's existential questions are fitting for these times. Catch it on Netflix.

Anna Zacharias, senior national reporter

14. 'Enchanted' (2007)

Fed up with the tropes of the typical fairy tale? This live-action musical turns a lot of them on their head to highlight just how silly they are. After all, what kind of woman agrees to marry a prince after first meeting that very same day?

That's the scenario that Amy Adams's Giselle finds herself in, before being cast out of the fantasy land of Andalusia by a wicked stepmother and into ... modern-day New York City. As she tries to find her way back to happily ever after, this self-deprecating parody shines a light on Disney archetypes, with a smattering of knowing lines to keep the adults chuckling.

Emma Day, deputy features editor

15. 'Harry Potter' series (2001-2011)

JK Rowling's imaginative world of wizards dispensing magic with wands gets a fascinating portrayal in the movie productions of the popular book series.

Potter's misadventures at Hogwarts can allow parents to slip in a lesson or two on following rules, or they can simply threaten to let a dementor loose when one of the children is naughty next time.

There's plenty of action and intrigue to keep adults entertained, and the movies are beautifully shot.

Mary Gayen, sub-editor

16. 'The Sound of Music' (1965)

While youngsters can enjoy the theatrics of the Von Trapp children and beautiful singing by Julie Andrews, adults can indulge in a war-time love story and an almost fairy tale ending of a family that escapes into the unknown together.

Mary Gayen, sub-editor

17. 'The Little Rascals' (1994)

As children, we were in a hurry to be adults and often behaved like a parent, teacher or whoever we looked up to.

This movie lets a group of children live exactly that fantasy, while also looking absolutely adorable. It is a fun Saturday afternoon movie that is sure to bring a few laughs to all ages. Oh, and if you look carefully, you'll find that a younger Donald Trump also makes an appearance.

Mary Gayen, sub-editor

18. 'Aladdin' (2019)

This live-action remake retells the story of the most famous street thief, Aladdin, his magic lamp and carpet and his beloved princess Jasmine. It's interactive and will engage adults as well as children.

The new version also has a feminist twist, with Jasmine portrayed as a strong woman leader as opposed to the traditional 'princess waiting to be rescued'.

Haneen Dajani, senior news reporter

Read more: 5 ways the new Aladdin film is less racist than the cartoon version

19. 'Maleficent' (2014)

Maleficent tells the story of Sleeping Beauty's evil witch – but reverts the fairy tale entirely. It's engaging and entertaining with beautiful scenery. And after all, who wouldn't want to watch Angelina Jolie in anything?

Haneen Dajani, senior news reporter

20. 'Time Bandits' (1981)

This is Terry Gilliam's mad tale of an 11-year-old boy who goes on a wild and slightly morally suspect ride with a group of dwarfs who jump from era to era looking for treasure to steal (after said youngster finds a portal in the back of his wardrobe). It has a cast list including Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall and John Cleese, who no one under 30 will have heard of, but there you go.

The thing is, it's interesting because it's not one of these films that make children and adults laugh at different things – both groups will be chortling at the same points.

Simon Wilgress-Pipe, homepage editor

21. 'Toy Story' (1995)

The film follows Woody (Tom Hanks), a cowboy doll who belongs to a young boy named Andy (John Morris). Woody sees his position as Andy's favourite toy jeopardised when his parents buy the boy a Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) action figure. Even though the film is mostly for children, upon viewing it again as an adult, you'll definitely catch things you might have missed when you were younger.

Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor

A version of this article was first published on April 26, 2020

Updated: February 25, 2021 03:32 PM

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