Motherhood

The 10 Best and Worst Family Movies (According to Toby and Anton)

The Best and Worst Family Movies (According to Kids)

Eight-year-old Toby loves a good ritual, and he recently named Wednesday evenings “Family Fun Night,” where we order pizza and watch a movie. Fine by me! Here, Toby and five-year-old Anton share their favorite and least favorite movies we have seen (and I’d love to hear yours)…

Parent Trap

The Parent Trap
Toby: If I could have a sister, it would be the girl in Parent Trap. Hallie lives in California, and Annie and her mom have a butler! They do a special handshake. I think kids would like it. I could teach kids how to do it, if they want to know. I’ve watched Parent Trap three or five times!
Anton: I’ve seen Parent Trap two times. I like the pranks. They put a lizard on a lady’s head.
Toby: I also wrote a letter to Dennis Quaid. I said, I’m a fan!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Toby: It rains food, and I would like it to rain pasta every day. I would have rigatoni with marinara and parmesan cheese. I have the book, too.
Anton: I like that movie. I would have it rain anchovies because I love anchovies and Daddy loves anchovies.

Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Toby: I love Spider-Man. He is very cool and learns how to swing from trees. But at the beginning, Peter Parker died because of Kingpin. I would not recommend watching that movie if you don’t like death scenes. It was so sad. All the people in the movie were crying and covering their mouths. It made me feel sad the next day, too.

Enchanted

Enchanted
Toby: I would recommend this movie to kids. They live in New York, and all the animals come to help clean the apartment but they are rats and pigeons and cockroaches. It’s funny and gross. I like when they get married at the end and the dad does a funny dance.
Anton: (Does the funny dance)

Sing

Sing
Toby: You get to hear all the animals singing in a competition. I liked the part where Johnny’s dad says, ‘Son, I’m so proud of you.’
Anton: I like Johnny and his song, ‘I’m Still Standing.’ If I could sing a song, I would sing ‘Take on Me’ or ‘Let My Love Open the Door.’

Sound of Music

The Sound of Music
Toby: I didn’t like this one as much. I guess it’s okay, but I think there are better movies.
Anton: I love the Sound of Music. (hiccups) I liked the chase scene, and I like when they sing Edelweiss because we sing that at home.

Inside Out

Inside Out
Toby: I think this movie is boring. The family moves to this house that’s really annoying. And Joy is annoying because she’s always happy. And it’s confusing. Also, they say Fear keeps Riley scared but he actually keeps her safe. They should call him ‘safe.’

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Toby: This movie makes us laugh all the time. The door of their minivan falls off. Alexander’s big brother goes to prom. I kind of think I look like the big brother.
Anton: You do look like the big brother!

Coco

Coco
Toby: This movie is really good. You think it will be scary because of the skeletons but it’s not scary. Daddy cried when we watched it. But I thought it was happy because you get to see your family who died.

Trolls

Trolls
Toby: Trolls has a lot of good Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick songs. And it’s all about how to be happy. Everyone has it inside them to be happy. Basically, you don’t need to eat a troll to be happy.

And for the future?
Toby: I would recommend Freaky Friday. It’s PG. I haven’t seen it but I want to.
Anton: I just want to watch any grown-up thing.

Thoughts? What would you — or the little ones in your life — add to the list?

P.S. A seven-year-old’s guide to surviving family travel, and parenting in 10 words or less.

(Photo illustration by Maud Passini for Cup of Jo.)

  1. This is just about the cutest thing ever. Your boys are so cute and I love when you interview them.

  2. Liz says...

    Toby writing a letter to Dennis Quaid made me laugh out loud! Your boys re so sweet and funny. I loved Inside Out but it would NOT hold my 4-year-old’s attention so I think they’re probably right on about it being boring for kids.
    My little guy loves spooky movies and was very into Goosebumps (with the kid who Toby looks like from Alexander!) but also E.T., Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. And like Anton is very interested in seeing something for grown-ups—he’s recently been asking when he’s able to watch “rated R.”

  3. Blair Williams says...

    The Parent Trap is unironically my favorite movie of all time—your boys have good taste ;)

  4. Kathleen says...

    My 2 daughters (6 and 3) love the 2 Home Alone movies. They can watch it over and over and still laugh at the silly jokes.

  5. Diana says...

    My nice is 6 years old and she LOVESsss MamaMia. She loves Meryl Streep’s caracter, she loves how she dresses, she laughs about the parents stories (she always making fun commentaries about the scenes she doesn’t really understands!!!). And she loves the musics. She wants to go to Greece!
    She also loves The devil wears Prada. And I love whacking MOANA with my niece!!!

  6. Lindsay says...

    Ok, Sandlot, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Dolphin Tale, We Bought a Zoo, Ferdinand, and I’m waiting for my kids to be old enough for Adventures in Babysitting!

  7. Becky says...

    Wow! Toby’s review if Inside Out blew my mind… he’s has such an awareness of emotions and that they are far more complex than the characters! Xx

    • Sydni Jackson says...

      Agreed!!!

  8. Chelsea says...

    This is so adorable! I have 2 kids the same ages as Toby and Anton plus a 2 year old. We recently watched the original Mary Poppins then Mary Poppins Returns. My kids loved both and it was so much fun to watch them sing and dance along with the music. Lin Manuel Miranda was fantastic and we loved the scene with Trip a Little Light Fantastic!

    Does anyone else have recommendations for good family friendly musicals? We are trying to think of others we could watch with our kids.

  9. Sirena Shamounki says...

    We do this once a week as well! Our boys are usually wiped out from a nerve wracking day week in kindergarten and preschool. It’s hard to find fun family movies that fit the bill! For animated films we have loved Balto (and it’s sequels), The Little Prince and Tin Tin. Non animated: mighty Ducks 2, the Tooth Fairy, THE big Green and the one about the little dog who is an alien (good boy?). And hotel for dogs!

  10. Emily says...

    We do pizza and a family movie on Friday night at our house and we love introducing new movies to our five year old daughter! Some are classics, some we remember watching as kids, and some we’ve never seen but were recommended to us. A few of her favorites have been: The Sound of Music, E.T., My Neighbor Totoro, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, The Sandlot, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, The Muppets, and Harry and the Hendersons. We hope to keep the tradition going for as long as she wants to continue hanging out with her parents on a Friday night :)

  11. Jennie says...

    Love this. My three year old requests “Johnny Song” in the car every single drive we take. Glad to hear it’s a kid-favorite in your house too.

  12. Katie says...

    This is just so adorable. You get such a good sense of their personalities here. Thank you for sharing them with us ❤️

  13. Stephanie says...

    This is too pure. I love all their comments!!! and I’ll have to watch Sing with my 2.5 year old—I think she’d love that. Thanks for the recommendations Anton and Toby!

  14. teadrinker says...

    I have a very sensitive 7.5 yo boy who loves movies. In the past I had to screen reviews carefully to gauge what might be scary for him, so I know to either avoid, prepare him, or add levity. For example, before we watched Paddington 2, I warned him that there would be a part where it looked like Paddington was really in danger, but to know that he was going to be okay, and then I’ll ask him how he’s doing during those intense scenes.

    He loves silly movies with songs, so here are some he’s liked:
    Muppets movies
    Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
    the Shrek series
    Coco
    Rio 1 & 2
    Tangled (possibly just because of the I Have a Dream song, which, as they kids say, slaps)
    Moana (though parts are nearly too intense for him)

    We are the rare household that did not care for The Incredibles movies, and I’m with your boys about Inside Out! I have issues with many beloved Pixar films. We are reading Pippi Longstocking at night, so I’m excited that many have recommended the movies!

  15. Jemma says...

    I love so many of these movies and wish my 6 year old felt half as enthusiastic as me! She finds most Disney/Pixar movies too scary – even if a character gets yelled at she’s ready to drop her popcorn and head out the door.

    We did have success with Mary Poppins Returns and funnily enough, the Greatest Showman! The music, the choreography, the spectacle of it all just appealed to her so much. We now have the songs on repeat on Spotify and I must admit I’m singing along with her now!

  16. Andi says...

    Huge fans of:
    Moana
    Song of the Sea
    Christopher Robin

    I agree that Inside Out was just okay. But let’s not forget solid gold Pixar from 10-15 years back…namely Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Monsters Inc, and original Incredibles.

    These are the definition of family movies, not just because the humor is sharp enough for adults, but more importantly because they have been evergreen for our 15-year old. They have grown with him and he picks up on different jokes and nuances with each viewing. Awesome to see.

  17. Bailey says...

    Wow, Toby’s comment on Inside Out is so insightful and spot on! Leave it to an eight year old to explain so clearly that fear is just trying to keep us safe.

  18. Naomi says...

    Fantastic! I agree with their thoughts… and so does my 8yo daughter. We’re reliving our childhoods by watching some of the movies we loved as kids – and they are holding up surprisingly well: Honey I Shrunk the Kids; Home Alone; Princess Bride; and more…

  19. Mary says...

    I have two boys spaced six years apart, now 22 and 29. Many fond memories of Chinese take out (wine for mom) and a movie on Friday nights. Some of their favorite movies: Swiss Family Robinson ( 1960), The Iron Giant, Ninja Turtle Movie (1990), An American Tale: Fievel Goes West (1991), Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Lost In Space (1998). So many others but most of these we could watch together!

  20. Heather says...

    They are spot-on! However, I’m with Anton…I LOVE the Sound of Music! My 4 year old daughter really loves Little Rascals (her #1 recommendation to anyone under the age of 10), Lady and the Tramp and both Mary Poppins movies. She says she didn’t like Annie (Carol Burnett) but I catch her singing the songs all the time so, the jig is up. It’s a winner too!

  21. April says...

    Toby is right! Inside Out is the worst!! (I actually wish I never would have let my kids watch it.) My kids favorite movies that Toby + Anton didn’t mention: Mary Poppins (old + new), Sing of the Sea, Moana, Annie (Carol Burnette/Albert Finney version), Book of Life, Milo + Otis.

  22. Anna says...

    This is a deep cut but I love Fly Away Home to this day. Your boys will love the geese and the airplanes and you will love the tender dad and daughter story!

  23. Courtney says...

    There’s a Sesame Street movie from the 80s called Follow That Bird – Big Bird gets sent to live with a new bird family but dislikes it and runs away back to Sesame Street, toddler appropriate hijinks ensue. I was obsessed as a kid and now my 3 year old is also a fan. She also loves Mary Poppins (so much magic!) and the most recent Winnie the Pooh. We watch Sound of Music too, but usually set the dvd to play the singalong instead of the whole movie. I’m excited to introduce her to more of my childhood favorites and be able to see new movies in the theater… in a few years, I suppose!

    • Andrea says...

      I was also obsessed with Follow That Bird!! I even had the cassette tape soundtrack. Every time I pass hay bales in a field I think of it (I’m in Illinois so that’s often). I tried to force it on my son but he was not at all interested. I might try again though now that little brother can watch too…

    • Kelly says...

      oh my gosh Follow that Bird! I was TERRIFIED of the bird that follows Big Bird to try to get him back to his new bird family. And doesn’t he get captured and painted blue and displayed in some kind of country fair at one point? Wow, I had a serious love/fear relationship with that movie that I haven’t thought about in ages.

  24. `Laura says...

    Ahhh I love to read kid’s comments on basically anything in life! My favorite lines were Toby’s wish for raining rigatoni and marinara with cheese (I’m all about the rigatoni), and their sweet comments from the movie Sing (one of my favorite movies). The fact that Toby like when the Dad says he’s proud of Johnny made me almost tear up. Kids are so sensitive :-). And Anton’s song pics – Take on Me! They are the sweetest kids – Keep the posts coming about them. I love all your parenting posts. They are so relatable and and touching. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Trudy says...

    Two Brothers, a 2004 film about baby tiger brothers who are separated and then reunited in a very dramatic way. Guy Pearce stars, although really the tigers star. It is a delightful film with a few scary moments and a grand ending that appeals to kids and adults.

    Wild at Heart is a British tv series about a veterinarian and his family who move to Africa to start an animal sanctuary. Available streaming on Acorn and totally worth the time investment.

    I’m a lifelong fan of classic movies, so I introduced my daughter to them at a young age with comedies – Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello (my dad loved them and so does his granddaughter), and the divine Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. There is enough physical comedy in these films to make young children giggle. And as children begin to appreciate verbal humor, there it is in the same films. I also shared classic 30’s musicals with my daughter, which also have a lot of physical comedy along with verbal comedy and, of course, fabulous dancing and music. The appeal of these movies is universal. My daughter is an adult now, but she has thanked me more than once for introducing her to classic films.

  26. Kimberly says...

    The Santa Clause (all 3…all year long!!!)
    I could name so, so many great movies but I think there are some real forgotten gems in the 90’s genre. I mean it WAS like the greatest decade to grow up in! Am I right or am I right?
    P.S. Kid movie critics are great

  27. Caroline says...

    Late to the party here, but The Three Ninjas. Hands down.

  28. Thivia says...

    Can you have Toby write some posts?! MY GOD!!! “Joy is annoying because she’s always happy.” I would trust his reviews!!!!!! He’s so dope, that guy!

  29. SnoweFall says...

    Our son is 5 and we have really been enjoying the latest Peter Rabbit. It has a super cute love story in it for the adults. I may have left it on a few times until it fully gained traction with my son. ;) Btw, that trick actually works.
    It wasn’t until we had watched Peter Rabbit several times that I figured out WHO the gardener is. They hid the identity of the actor so skillfully.

    We love, love, love Trolls for the music and positive story. Hug Time!

    We’re just now getting him interested in Winnie the Pooh movies and it helps facilitate our talks about positive, caring approaches to others.

    • Alia says...

      The latest Peter Rabbit has a scene where the rabbits purposely use one of the villain’s allergy to induce anaphylaxis. My son has severe allergies to several foods. My husband watched this scene and was very disturbed. It seems like the wrong message to send to kids – use someone’s allergy to bully them and give them a life threatening reaction. Peter Rabbit is banned from my house.

    • Trudy says...

      This reply is for Alia, who has banned Peter Rabbit for weaponizing a character’s allergies against him, because her sweet boy has severe allergies – Brava, Alia! And Brava! again for posting this info here. And Thank you.
      My daughter uses a wheelchair for all of her mobility purposes. I was stunned to learn that her second grade teacher was reading A Secret Garden to the class, because the boy in the wheelchair in the book is able to rise up and walk again just by wanting to do so. Just like the disabled girl in Heidi. I banned those books and movies from our house and asked the teacher to stop reading the story to the class, which she did. She had never thought about how stories about miracle cures would affect my daughter. Instead, she wanted to read a story about a child with a disability. I suggested Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book in which Mary goes blind and learns how to live with it. She graciously made the switch.

  30. marty says...

    Great recommendations! My kids also loved the first (animated) Charlotte’s Web and Jungle Book, Epic, Shrek, Wall-E, Ponyo, Totoro, the Goonies, the first Jumanji, Star Wars, Princess Bride, and Elf.

  31. Bridget says...

    What wonderfully poignant reviews, just gorgeous.

  32. Maryann says...

    Haha! Loved this. What a great bunch of reviews!

    Favorite line from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: when Jennifer Garner says: “Is that the Thunder from Down Under?”

    Spiderverse was such an excellent movie. Visually beautiful and a great story.

  33. I enjoyed this movie reviews! My son who is 5-year-old felt the same on Sing and Inside Out. He loved Sing and watched it over and over. He was singing the songs after the movie, too. Then, when we played Inside Out, he said, “Can we watch something else?” I assume kids movie reviews are done by adults who have different opinions from kids. With that being said, this post helped lots for parents like me to chose a new movie on the day for the movie night. I am going to play Enchanted. Thank you, Toby and Anton.

  34. Joanna Tsay says...

    Most recently, we loved watching Christopher Robin, it was so heartwarming! Then off the top of my head that hasn’t been mentioned yet, I really like Meet the Robinsons. My son also liked Boss Baby and Bolt for a while.

  35. Brady says...

    “Daddy cried” during Coco. :) Along with every other adult who sees that movie!

    • frannie says...

      no kidding!

  36. Old Jumanji trumps the new one (awful, in our opinion), LOVE Big Hero Six and I really think your boys will like it. Goonies is the best old family movie (although there are some swear words).

    • Amanda says...

      Big Hero 6 is so good!

  37. Jenna says...

    Toby’s takes on Inside Out and Coco are so insightful; he seems to be an old soul. And Anton has great taste in music! I go back and forth maybe weekly on whether I want to have a kid, then I read the things these two say and it makes me think it could be just the most fun adventure.

  38. MaryAnn says...

    Definitely the first “Sandlot” movie and Shrek – my boys are off to college now but we still can’t shut those movies off whenever they are on!

    • Kiki says...

      Awwww bless how cute that you still can’t turn them off xxx

  39. Hannah says...

    I love Parent Trap, and Enchanted too! My kids really like Nim’s Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Pippi sails the seven Sea (you tube), and Home Alone! Frozen and the Incredibles are favorite ones too!

  40. Kristian says...

    I had classes from 1st-5th grade (one grade a day each day of the week) and part of the classroom management was earning parties, usually movie parties. The films that stuck out as the biggest hits for students: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the teacher next door popped in to watch when she didn’t have students); Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Disney 70s film with Angela Landsbury. Lots of singing and helping the WWII war effort with a magic, travelling bed); and Big Hero 6 (Also Pixar. Boy’s brother dies, as a warning. It IS a brilliant look at what gifted kids are really like though, and since the class was for gifted kids….. I think Toby would like it for sure!)

  41. Annie says...

    I can’t even think about Coco without crying.

    • Brady says...

      Same.

  42. Ana says...

    My now six-year-old can’t get enough of Big Hero Six (me neither).
    I’ve shown the old Jumanji to him and it was definitely huge hit.
    However, Pirates of the Caribbean is still scary, as well as Harry Potter and all those spooky movies. I can’t wait, though.

  43. Anna Cohen says...

    This may be a bit M-rated for some but my 8 year old’s favourite movie in the WHOLE world is – ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ – he watches it with my Mum everytime he stays with them and quotes it perfecty.

  44. I live for these Toby & Anton reviews! “I just want to watch any grown-up thing” <3

  45. anne says...

    Love this! I’m filing this away for my son. They need to see The Sword in the Stone- 1960s Disney animation that is hilarious and of course, magical. I think adults would appreciate it too. I can’t wait until my baby is older and can watch it with me.

  46. Tiffany says...

    The Rise of the Guardians is gorgeous and has adventure and humor. It was a favorite when mine were younger. The picture books are beautiful too.

    Also Hugo; we read the book as a family first and it kept my then 5 year old and 4 year old interested the whole time.

  47. Coco makes me cry every time!! So good <3

    But

  48. Erin says...

    Your boys are adorable.

  49. Allison says...

    My two are 4 and 8 and Saturday night has recently become “movie night”. We usually take 2-3 movie nights to watch the whole thing. Kikis Delivery Service and Mary Poppins were both successes. My Neighbour Totoro is the current in progress movie. I can’t wait til they are old enough to stand the scary bits of Willow and The Princess Bride. The Court Jester was fun for my 8 year old but not the 4 year old. Will try again in a couple years as it’s a fun classic. I remember loving the original Parent Trap and The Sting when I was around 10 or 11.