The Most Underrated Family-Friendly Movies and Where to Stream Them

Let’s face it: Finding the perfect movie for the entire family can be tricky. Either the humor falls flat, the jokes get mangled, the acting is atrocious, or it’s catered too much to one audience group over another. There are just too many movies out there labeled “family movies” that are just … not good.

Despite these films being described as movies intended for the whole family, it’s difficult to find a film that is truly entertaining for all viewers, regardless of age. For every Shrek, Toy Story, and The Lego Movie out there, there seems to be dozens of other, lesser family-friendly movies hogging space on every streaming platform from Netflix to Disney+.

Lots of Winners

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Image Credit: Walt Disney.

However, there are some incredibly decent movies that, for some reason or other, are frequently glossed over by families searching for something entertaining to watch together on family movie nights.

Here are 15 of the most underrated family-friendly films we recommend seeing, from modern retellings of beloved fairy tales to underappreciated hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early 2000s.

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Big Fish

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Image Credit: Columbia.

Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) has never had a good relationship with his father, Edward (Albert Finney/Ewan McGregor). Having grown tired of what he believes are Edward’s continuous lies, Will struggles to separate fact from fiction when a potentially fatal illness strikes his father.

Tim Burton

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Image Credit: Columbia.

One of Tim Burton’s most criminally underappreciated films, Big Fish is an exciting and surprisingly heartwarming film about family and the stories we hand down from generation to generation about our forbearers.

Sprinkled throughout are Edward’s youthful adventures serving in the Army, joining a traveling circus, battling a werewolf, and running away from home with a benevolent giant. It’s a creative, fun adventure movie with plenty of emotion, able to be enjoyed by parents and kids alike.

Currently streaming on Netflix.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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Image Credit: Disney Enterprises.

Traveling to the rural English countryside amid the chaos of WW2, four siblings find themselves magically transported to a fantasy world via a mysterious wardrobe. While there, they encounter talking animals, mythical creatures, and a sinister witch (Tilda Swinton) who wants to conquer the world for herself.

C.S. Lewis

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Image Credit: Disney Enterprises.

Adapted from the classic children’s fantasy series by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia is a well-made contemporary translation of its original source material, creating what feels like a junior version of The Lord of the Rings

Made during a time when young adult franchises were all the craze (Harry Potter, Twilight, and so on), the series itself only received three films, but the first two remain well worth watching for any fantasy fans out there.

Currently streaming on Disney+.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest – 20th Century Fox

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As the magical rainforest of FernGully faces imminent destruction from the diabolical Hexxus (Tim Curry) — a spirit who thrives off of pollution and deforestation — a young fairy (Samantha Mathis) and her friends try to save their home before it’s too late.

Conservation

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Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Featuring the likes of Curry, Christian Slater, and Robin Williams, FernGully is a wondrous, lighthearted animated movie that underscores the importance of natural conservation and environmentalism.

It’s a rare animated movie with a message, as well as one of the best family movies of the ‘80s, every bit as good as some of the movies Disney was putting out at the same time.

Currently streaming on Prime Video (premium subscription required).

Peter Pan (2003)

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Three siblings in Edwardian England are invited by a playful young boy (Jeremy Sumpter) who never ages to Neverland — a magical island occupied by pirates, mermaids, mischievous fairies, and giant, man-eating crocodiles.

One of Many

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

There have been plenty of takes on the age-old story of Peter Pan, but this 2003 adaptation is one of the best and most frequently overlooked. 

Strengthened by some solid acting from the cast members involved (especially Sumpter and Jason Isaacs, who plays the most dastardly version of Captain Hook ever put to screen), it’s an excellent adventure film that will capture your imagination and leave you tearfully weeping.

Not currently streaming but available to rent online.

Time Bandits

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Image Credit: Handmade Films.

Eleven-year-old medieval enthusiast Kevin (Craig Warnock) finds himself swept into an adventure unlike any other after joining a band of rogue time travelers journeying across various historical eras looking for any precious valuables to steal.

Odd Characters

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Director Terry Gilliam is known for his audacious and absurdist plot lines, with Time Bandits perfectly illustrating his penchant for colorfully odd stories and characters.

Bridging some of the most important centuries in human history and featuring appearances from such figures as Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese), Agamemnon (Sean Connery), and Evil itself (David Warner), Time Bandits is an infinitely imaginative cult favorite in the time travel genre of film.

Currently streaming on HBO Max.

Coraline

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Image Credit: Focus Features.

Rarely noticed by her absentminded parents, a young girl (Dakota Fanning) ventures through a strange door she finds in her home, traveling to an idyllic world of her dreams. However, the longer she spends in this world, the more she begins to realize it may not be as merry and whimsical as it initially appeared to be.

Scary

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From the wonderfully dark imagination of Neil GaimanCoraline is a grim stop-motion animated movie that more closely resembles a macabre fairy tale than anything else.

Ominous and, at times, genuinely frightening, it may not be ideal for extremely young viewers, but the movie is undeniably suspenseful, exciting, and engaging for older age groups.

Currently streaming on Tubi.

Matilda

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Image Credit: Tristar.

Matilda (Mara Wilson) is a precocious young girl who realizes she has psychic abilities. Using these newfound powers for good, Matilda can finally stand up to her abusive family and her school’s tyrannical headmistress (Pam Ferris).

From Page to Screen

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Image Credit: Tristar.

There have been a ton of adaptations of Roald Dahl’s many children’s novels that are worth seeing — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Witches, to name just a few.

Among the best and most underrated, though, is easily Matilda, a sincere take on Dahl’s original book that captures the spirit and tone of the novel and perfectly translates it for the big screen.

Currently streaming on Starz and Prime Video (premium subscription required for Prime).

George of the Jungle

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Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

On vacation in the remote jungles of Africa, a wealthy American heiress (Leslie Mann) discovers a buffoonish yet kindhearted man (Brendan Fraser) who’s been raised by apes his entire life.

Tarzan?

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Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

Based on Jay Ward’s 1960s animated series of the same name (a parody of the famous Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs), George of the Jungle boasts one of Fraser’s earliest starring roles, helping him climb the ladder to Hollywood prominence in the next decade.

Aside from that, it’s also an incredibly funny live-action film that makes clever use of its concept and contains plenty of humorous callbacks to the original ‘60s series (including relying on an overly sarcastic narrator and an enjoyably narcissistic villain played here by Thomas Haden Church).

Currently streaming on Disney+.

The Land Before Time

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After a brutal carnivore kills his mother, a young Apatosaurus and his four friends set out to find Great Valley — an area of lush vegetation where they hope the rest of their herd might be.

Better Than Disney

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It’s difficult to remember a time when another animation company was outclassing Disney, but in the 1980s, Don Bluth Productions was all the craze, delivering films that directly competed with the animation giant.

The best and most notable of these films was The Land Before Time, a thrilling and adventurous story that might be geared more heavily toward younger audiences but still has plenty for older viewers to enjoy.

Currently streaming on Starz, Hulu, The Roku Channel, and Prime Video (premium subscription required for all but Starz).

Anastasia

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Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Set in the late 1920s, an amnesiac young woman (Meg Ryan) is found to be the heir to the royal Romanov family, leading two conmen (John Cusack and Kelsey Grammar) to try and return her to imperial grandmother (Angela Lansbury) for a reward.

Back to Life

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Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

However, their efforts are soon hindered by the resurrection of the infamous mystic Grigori Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), who sets to destroy the Romanovs for good.

Despite being commonly mistaken for a Disney movie, Anastasia remains one of the more impressive musical animation movies to be released by a company other than Disney. 

Combining history with a more fantastical approach, it’s a great movie from a visual, narrative, and musical point of view, rarely failing to excite viewers.

Currently streaming on Starz, Hulu, and The Roku Channel (premium subscription required for Hulu and The Roku Channel).

The Emperor’s New Groove

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Finding himself transformed into a talking llama, selfish, egotistical Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) enlists the help of a reluctant peasant (John Goodman) to regain his throne from conniving former advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt).

Very Underrated

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We’ll do our best to avoid making this list just a collection of underrated Disney movies, but in all honesty, no list of family-friendly movies is complete without mentioning The Emperor’s New Groove.

It’s the closest thing Disney has ever come to making a classical screwball comedy — an incessantly funny movie with plenty of hilarious moments and a memorable cast of characters (most especially the main villains, Yzma and Kronk, two of the best comedic villains ever depicted on screen).

Currently streaming on Disney+.

Holes

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Convicted of a crime he never committed, teenager Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) is transported to a juvenile detention camp in the desert, where prisoners are forced to dig holes for some mysterious reason.

Not Quite Summer Camp

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The interesting thing about Holes is how much it jumps around, using flashbacks to tell stories about how Stanley ended up at the camp, a generational curse plaguing his family and the story of a local outlaw (Patricia Arquette) active during the late 1800s.

It’s a great Disney live-action film from the early 2000s, wrapped around an intriguing story and made all the better by its incredibly talented cast (including LaBeouf, Arquette, Henry Winkler, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, and Tim Blake Nelson).

Currently streaming on Disney+.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Aspiring to finally win the prestigious Pirate of the Year Award from his rivals, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his carefree crew embark on an adventure that involves Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), a young Charles Darwin (David Tennant), and the world’s last living dodo bird.

Academy Award Nomination

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Most people probably associate Aardman Animations with Wallace and Gromit and Shawn the Sheep, but the company’s other films (such as The Pirates!) are supremely entertaining in their own right.

Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 85th Academy Awards, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is an effortlessly fun swashbuckler with every audience member hooked on its humor and impressive stop-motion animation.

Not currently streaming but available to rent online.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

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After their wealthy parents are killed in a mysterious fire, three recently-orphaned children are adopted by an eccentric stage actor (Jim Carrey) who not-so-secretly plans to kill them and claim their inheritance for himself.

Carrey

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Years before Neil Patrick Harris donned the hawkish nose, bald pate, and sweeping goatee of the evil Count Olaf in Netflix’s version of the show, Jim Carrey was both delighting and creeping out viewers with his rendition of A Series of Unfortunate Events’ main villain.

This 2004 movie — like the original books and the Netflix TV show — may be a little dark for some. But if your kids can handle a Tim Burton movie, they can probably fare well with this underrated gem in Carrey’s filmography.

Not currently streaming but available to rent online.

Zathura: A Space Adventure

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With no other way to occupy their time, a pair of argumentative young brothers (Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo) begin playing a strange science fiction-themed board game, only to get drawn into the dangerous world of the game itself.

Jumanji?

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Image Credit: Columbia.

If that plotline sounds like the original Jumanji, that’s no accident. Based on children’s author Chris Van Allsburg’s sequel to his earlier Jumanji book, Zathura is a movie very much in the same vein as the Robin Williams-led fantasy movie.

Bolstered by some amazing special effects, great performances, and ‘50s-esque space-age sci-fi presentation, it’s arguably just as good — if not better than Jumanji.

Currently streaming on Hulu, Peacock, and fuboTV.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).