Kids movies

The 20 best movies for family and kids on Amazon Prime: 2021

The secret of NIMH.
Photo: MGM / UA Entertainment Co.

More than ever, families are looking for fun that doesn’t cost a lot. If you’re one of those families who already have an Amazon Prime account, there is a selection of movies that work for all demographic groups and are available now with the cost of your membership. Now, Amazon Prime appears to be the most limited streaming service when it comes to this particular section of the virtual video store, but the shelves aren’t completely empty. Here are 20 films to entertain the little ones or program a whole family movie night.

Sometimes real little kids need a movie too, don’t they? Why not direct them to this musical starring one of the most famous characters in the history of children’s entertainment. Only the second film adapted from Sesame Street, it’s a sweet flick about everyone’s favorite ticklish red puppet.

The optimistic orphan who reminds people that the sun will come out tomorrow has been a staple of pop culture for generations, first appearing in a comic book and then in a Broadway musical in 1977 before that first film release in 1982, with Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. It’s a delight.

It lacks the nonstop creativity of the Tim Burton original, but there is enough gleeful madness in the 1988 sequel’s adventure for Pee-Wee Herman to warrant a look. Paul Reubens returns as Pee-Wee, who becomes entangled in a circus story that also includes roles for Kris Kristofferson, Penelope Ann Miller, and Valeria Golino.

Carroll Ballard directed this critical 1979 darling that adapts Walter Farley’s beloved book and features stunning cinematography of the legendary Caleb Deschanel. It might not be quick enough for modern young viewers, but kids can still enjoy the lyrical and poetic storytelling here, even if mom and dad end up loving it even more.

Considering Eddie Murphy’s very grown-up sense of humor in the ’80s, most people wouldn’t have predicted that he would have been one of the biggest family movie stars of the 2000s, but it was is exactly what happened with the Dr Dolittle and Daddy Daycare movies. This latest movie isn’t exactly a classic, but it does feature Murphy in that great state where he’s absolutely comically fearless, ready to go into the most ridiculous storylines to make kids laugh.

It was probably a mistake to make a sequel to the smash hit Almighty bruce without Jim Carrey, the main reason it was such a huge success in the first place. But if you think of the 2007 follow-up as a children’s film, that makes a bit more sense. Steve Carell stars as Evan Baxter, reprising his role as the original and the new guy who hears straight from God (Morgan Freeman), who tells the new savior to start building an ark.

Joe Dante directed this beloved 1985 sci-fi / adventure film starring Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix in their film debut. Dante himself had some issues with the final product, which was rushed to meet a release date and then fell into the shadow of Back to the future, but the film gained audiences over the years, largely because of the careers Hawke and Phoenix would develop.

Frank Capra’s classic is often replayed over the holidays, but it’s the kind of heart warmer that works all year round. This is not a simple Christmas movie, but a story about the impact a man can have on an entire community. It really defined the on-screen character of Jimmy Stewart and became a beloved movie around the world, even in hot weather.

No, not the Ralph Macchio original, but the 2010 remake starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. It doesn’t have the nostalgic side of the first movie (or even the Netflix series Cobra Kai), but Chan’s commitment is worth a look. He’s an actor who never phones, and he gives his Mr. Han the same kind of grace and wisdom that Pat Morita used to elevate the ’80s classic.

Remember when they had animated fantasies for kids that were dark and intense? The last unicorn is a thrilling 1982 adventure film based on the beloved novel of the same name by Peter S. Beagle. With the voices of Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow and more, it’s the story of its title: A Unicorn Finding What Happened To Its Kind.

It was once a Netflix original (in the US at least), but it’s since released on Blu-ray and is now available on other streamers as well. It’s a charming adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 short story that has become a beloved classic (but the only one to try to stretch the story into a feature film). Clever and visually striking, with great vocal work from Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd and many more.

Delayed and rescheduled due to the pandemic, this action comedy landed exclusively on Amazon Prime in June of last year with mixed reviews. It stars the reliable Dave Bautista as a CIA agent who gets tricked watching a precocious nine-year-old girl. A bit violent for the real kids, it’s worth a look just for Bautista.

See this as a nostalgic option for those who grew up with Selena Gomez and are now old enough to show her films to their children (yes, it is possible, believe it or not). It’s also a great option for people looking to remember the wonderful, recently deceased Beverly Cleary, one of the best children’s book writers of all time.

Animation greatshop Don Bluth made his directorial debut with this twisted 1982 fantasy film, proving he wasn’t going to make movies that belittled or pampered his audiences. Adapted from Robert C. O’Brien’s novel, it turns the existence of medium field mice into an elaborate fantasy world. Audiences of a certain generation were probably traumatized by his visuals at a young age. Pass the trauma on to your children!

Take a break from escaping and show your kids something culturally resonant and unforgettable in John Sayles’ version of a classic Irish legend. With jaw-dropping cinematography by Haskell Wexler, it’s the story of a girl in Ireland who learns that her brother was taken by a selkie when he was a baby. It’s a tale of magic and legends in a way that could only happen in Ireland.

The great Joe Dante (Gremlins) made this 1998 sci-fi / family movie about toy soldiers who not only come to life but essentially wage war against each other. Frank Langella and Tommy Lee Jones lend their excellent voices to the little guys and Kirsten Dunst plays one of the non-toy characters. It’s not a big movie, but it might be a great nostalgia for Amazon Prime subscribers who were the right age when it was released in 1998.

Michael J. Fox voices the title character in this successful adaptation of the children’s novel EB White, alongside Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie as the human parents of the lovable mouse. The 2002 sequel is also on Amazon Prime, but you’ll need to pay a rental fee for 2005s Call of the wild if you want to keep having fun with the mouse.

A parody of surf documentaries, this 2007 computer animated comedy from Sony Pictures Animation may not be “at Pixar’s level,” but certainly offers enough laughs to warrant a click on Amazon Prime. He features an excellent voice cast including Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods and many more.

This story of a 12-year-old who ends up being able to communicate with his dog is undeniably wacky and a bit of an amateurish, but it’s unlike most other movies in the family section of Amazon Prime, and so maybe this is what you are looking for tonight. Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox play the talking dog’s parents in this 2020 movie that was barely released due to the pandemic, buried on VOD by Lionsgate and now free on Amazon Prime.

There’s a movie that premiered at Sundance with Allison Janney and Viola Davis sitting there exclusively on Amazon Prime and it seems most people have no idea it exists. This lovely period piece features the wonderful Mckenna Grace from The Haunting of Hill House like Christmas Flint, an outcast who tries to defeat the most organized Boy Scout troops and win a competition. It’s sweet and funny.

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