The tears when Simba tries to wake his fallen father, the booby-traps in Home Alone, dancing along to ‘The Bear Necessities’… Watching films is a massive part of growing up, and those scenes can take you back to sitting glued to the TV or silver screen.
Once you start reminiscing, it’s easy to get lost in the endless library of excellent kids’ films. We’ve somehow whittled them down to a top 20, in no particular order
1. Toy Story (1995)
Pixar has long been a titan in the kids’ films realm, and Toy Story is where it all began. The company’s first big hit, an entire generation grew up alongside Andy, Woody and Buzz. And the timeless storyline about a boy and his favourite toy has appealed to children ever since.
What child doesn’t secretly wonder if their toys ever come to life? Just as the children of the ‘90s did, kids today will revel in the banter between cowboy Woody and space ranger Buzz. They can join their adventure and travel from the safety of Andy’s bedroom through the lands of Pizza Planet "and beyond".
2. The Lion King (1994)
From Simba being thrust into the air all the way through to "hakuna mattata", The Lion King is one of Disney’s best known and loved feature films. The classic tale will take kids through a ‘safari’ of emotions: joy, tears, and everything in between. Set in the fictional Pride Lands of Africa, it’s a story of family, enemies, and new friends, with the hilarious duo of Timon and Pumba sure to keep the giggles flowing. And nobody can resist the seriously catchy songs.
3. Frozen (2013)
“Let it go, let it go…” If you’ve been out in public since Frozen’s release, you’ll have heard these words echoing out of a shop, a car window, or one of the countless viral parent-child videos that probably clogged up your news feed in the last few years. Frozen appeals to just about everyone, due its empowering storyline that offers a modern spin on the Disney formula. Anyone with a brother or sister will relate to the sibling rivalry between sisters Anna and Elsa, and they won’t be able to stop laughing at the antics of Olaf, the clumsy snowman.
4. Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone has become a Yuletide staple for families, as new audiences get hooked on mischievous eight-year-old Kevin McAllister’s fight to save his home from being robbed by the hapless Wet Bandits.
It’s funny, it has memorable catchphrases (“Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”) and its soundtrack is composed by none other than Star Wars’ John Williams. It’ll speak to kids’ ultimate wish: to have the run of the house and do whatever they want.
5. Despicable Me (2010)
Many odd factors come together in Despicable Me: a super-villain, a plot to steal the moon and three orphaned little sisters. The result is a quirky and heart-warming film that’ll have everyone laughing the whole wacky way through.
The all-star comedy cast, which includes Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand, provide vocal talent and an offbeat sense of humour to this brilliant film about the most unconventional of families. Look out for the return of the mischievous yellow Minions in Despicable Me 3, showing at Vue soon.
6. Shrek (2001)
Shrek warps classic fairy tales into a hilarious new storyline that features the villain as the hero. Kids will see a new side to well-known storybook characters like the Gingerbread Man and the Three Blind Mice, as they feature in a world where an ogre unexpectedly falls in love with a princess.
Starring the voices of Mike Myers and Eddie Murray, Shrek sees the most unlikely of partners – an ogre and a donkey – do whatever it takes to break the conventions of the fairy-tale world, and the comedic blunders they make along the way.
7. The LEGO Movie (2014)
Taken from the bedroom shelf to the big screen, the characters of LEGO proved that everything is awesome (as the movie’s infectious theme song exclaimed) when The LEGO Movie became a hit with kids and adults back in 2014.
Both will chuckle at the exciting story of Emmet, an everyman who is mistakenly trained as a prestigious Master Builder. With jokes for the kids and a clever undercurrent of subtle humour that adults will appreciate, 2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie is just as awesome.
8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
It’s the ultimate dream: a giant building brimming with chocolate and sweets. Charlie’s adventure through the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory is a whimsical ride that’ll have your children checking every chocolate bar for the movie’s famous golden tickets.
There’s Tim Burton’s 2005 remake, but our pick is the 1971 original starring Gene Wilder, which first revealed Wonka’s factory and all its sweet treats and dangerous temptations. What will be the fate of Charlie and the other lucky golden ticket holders?
9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, based at the mid-point in the Potter saga, is arguably the most exciting in the series. Action is paired with a strong message: Harry must shoulder the true responsibility of being The Boy Who Lived and, essentially, grow up.
Mix in a thrilling inter-school magic competition, the return of The Dark Lord, and the appearance of the most astonishing player in world Quidditch, and you have a recipe for one magical experience.
10. WALL-E (2008)
Pixar’s WALL-E is a masterpiece, where a charming little robot takes us with him on an epic adventure. Full of silly mishaps and hilarious moments, the film is entertaining from start to finish, but it also delivers a powerful moral message.
On a version of Earth where all resources have been used up, WALL-E is the only robot left. Every day is the same, until fellow robot EVE shows up. Dazzled by her beauty, WALL-E falls in love and follows her to space, and inadvertently gets entangled in the fate of the human race.
11. Big (1988)
Starring the supreme acting talents of Tom Hanks, Big is a story of "be careful what you wish for". Wanting to skip past his childhood and become an adult, young Josh has his wish granted by the fortune-telling machine, Zoltar Speaks.
Leading him into unexpected jobs and relationships, join Josh (Hanks) on his hilarious journey into adulthood. Big is an inspirational story that encourages kids all over the planet to cherish their childhood, and reminds adults to indulge themselves in a bit of childish fun.
12. Jumanji (1995)
Think a board game is a family-friendly fun night in? Jumanji invites you to think again. Trapped in the board game Jumanji for 25 years, Alan (Robin Williams) is released when a new generation of unsuspecting gamers discover it.
Kids will be captivated by the fantasy adventure as Alan and two young helpers attempt to banish Jumanji and a zoo-worth of wild animals from their lives.
The legend of the board game continues in December 2017's Jumanji, an all-new story starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
13. Finding Nemo (2003)
In this Pixar classic, little clown fish Nemo gets lost and goes on an accidental deep-sea adventure. His father, accompanied by the whimsical Dory, heads out into the open sea to find him.
Children will discover some brilliant ocean creatures and characters during the turbulent and heart-warming journey, as a father searches for his son in this tropical adventure. If the kids enjoy it, there’s always the equally colourful sequel Finding Dory to watch next.
14. Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin is the story of rags to riches in Arabia, where a street boy falls in love with a princess. Kids will be transported to a "whole new world", complete with an irresistible soundtrack and characters that immediately feel like their best friends.
They’re sure to love the hilarious antics of Genie, voiced by the late Robin Williams, and his love-hate relationship with Abu, the monkey. Comedy, romance and the classic good vs. evil dynamic between Aladdin and Jafar: it has everything we love about Disney.
15. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A young girl falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in another place, taking us with her on an unforgettable experience. With fantastic and frightening surprises at every turn, she encounters a series of wacky characters, like the nutty Mad Hatter and the ruthless Queen of Hearts.
From the Mad Hatter-like mind of Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland was reimagined in 2010, and never has a journey through Wonderland been so bright, colourful, and at times, a little scary. While keeping faith with the source material, children will be mesmerised by the reimagining of the tale’s wondrous beasts.
16. The Jungle Book (1967)
A film known, loved, and sung along to by generations of children and adults alike, The Jungle Book is another Disney masterpiece. Kids will love exploring the joys and terrors of the jungle with Mowgli, a young boy who was raised by wolves.
In a rollicking adventure through the wilderness, Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther try to help Mowgli find his way back to his own kind before Shere Kahn, the tiger, strikes. The epic soundtrack is enough of an excuse to press play on this colourful story about friendship.
17. Kung-Fu Panda (2008)
Rotund panda Po may not be the traditional shape for a kung fu warrior, but that’s not going to stop him from following his dream to become a martial arts master.
Under the guidance of harsh teacher, Shifu, and the patient Master Oogway, Po’s journey takes him to a final face-off against the powerful Tai Lung, in a showdown that’ll keep you and the kids on the edge of your seats until the dust finally settles.
18. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Kids’ sci-fi fantasy film E.T. was 1982’s highest-grossing picture for good reason. In a twist on a classic friendship tale, Elliot sets out to help his companion (who happens to be an alien) return home after he falls ill. He must act fast to save E.T.’s life. But getting a child-sized alien back into outer space is no easy feat.
A strange and wonderful friendship between two misfits, E.T. is a timeless tale that’s a little different and have kids hooked until the end.
19. Monsters Inc. (2001)
Playing on the childhood fear of monsters in the bedroom, Monsters Inc. is a story about two beasts, best pals Mike and Sulley, who come to learn that being nice to kids is way better than scaring them.
A film that’s full of laughs and lessons, children will not only be engaged by the action and friendship, but they’ll never be scared of monsters under the bed again.
20. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Wallace and Gromit have had many jobs, but perhaps none as dangerous when they’re tasked as pest controllers, preventing the Giant Vegetable Competition from being overrun by the Were-Rabbit.
Attempting to save the day in their usual haphazard style, Wallace and Gromit’s appeal is the humour and remarkable clay-mation action. The tension and the laughter caused by the classic odd-couple is handled brilliantly all the way through, and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit hits all the right notes.
What's on and coming soon to the big screen?
The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
The Joker is causing havoc in Gotham City once again, and Batman is going to need his allies’ help to send him back into the shadows this time around. Will Robin and Batgirl make the decisive difference in the battle against Gotham’s underworld? Hilarious for parents and kids, you might enjoy this one more than them.
Cars 3 (2017)
He’s used to being on the top of the podium, and so when he finds himself being outraced by new, modern race cars, Lightning McQueen feels a little bit lost. But with the help of some new friends, he’s determined to make his way to the front of the pack once again.
Featuring everyone’s favourite characters from the previous two Cars films, as well as some fresh talent, kids will be revved up and raring to get tickets to Cars 3.
The Emoji Movie (2017)
Such is the hype around emoji, the little text messaging characters, that a whole movie has been dedicated to them. Due to hit Vues in August 2017, it centres on a multi-expressional emoji called Gene, who just wants to be normal like everyone else.
Those are our top 20 kids’ films, both over the recent decades, and looking to the future as well. Do think we’ve missed any obvious picks, or are there any personal favourites you’d add to your list? Tweet us at @vuecinemas with the hashtag #top20kidsfilms to let us know.