We could all do with a little more joy, laughter, and family time in our lives. So, how about a heartwarming film? For those with an Amazon Prime membership and a compatible smart TV or streaming device, Amazon’s entire library of family-friendly cinema is right at your fingertips.
We did the honors of digging through the catalog and selected seven family films that we highly recommend. This weekend, pile on the couch with your spouse and kids (and pets!), butter the popcorn, and sink into one of these great all-ages flicks.
Looking for even more family films? Check out our favorite family movies currently streaming on Netflix. While you’re there, you can also hit up our list of the 50 best movies on the entire platform.
In 1930s New Orleans, Charlie the dog (Burt Reynolds) and best friend Itchy (Dom DeLuise), have escaped from the pound, after Charlie’s ex-business partner, Carface (Vic Tayback) arranged their lockup. But the evil Carface isn’t finished. He and his associate push a car into Charlie, killing the pooch. In Heaven, Charlie comes to, where an angel informs him that all dogs go to heaven regardless of their actions in a previous life. But Charlie pushes his luck too far, cheating his death with the help of a ticking watch symbolizing his life. The angel tells Charlie that as long as the watch keeps counting the minutes, Charlie will remain alive on earth. If time runs out, Charlie goes straight to Hell. Can Charlie redeem himself before time runs out? Will Carface succeed in his evil-doings?
This classic is brought to us by Don Bluth, an ex-Disney employee that launched his own production company, developing and releasing hit films like The Secret of NIMH and The Land Before Time. All Dogs to Heaven is a great reflection of the entire Bluth canon — richly-illustrated family films with a bit of darkness around the edges, but brightened by lively characters and a series of heartfelt and hopeful messages.
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Daryl Gilley
Director: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Dan Kuenster
Runtime: 85 minutes
Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke), a San Francisco youth, keeps having dreams about flying through the sky on some kind of manufactured spacecraft that resembles a circuit board. Ben eventually reports his dream-visions to wunderkind school-friend, Wolfgang (River Phoenix). With the help of a third friend, Darren (Jason Presson), the three boys actually construct the circuit board, using the device to create an electromagnetic field around an old Tilt-a-Whirl car that they’ve fashioned for their flight vehicle. Science meets theme-park attraction, and the boys take to the stars in search of extraterrestrial life.
Explorers is a fun film that was quickly relegated to cult-status upon its release. According to director Joe Dante, the production was infamously rushed by studio executives and released only a week after Back to the Future, the year’s mega box-office hit. But now that the dust has settled, Explorers serves as an imaginative little time capsule, one that would introduce the world to the powerful talents of Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, and further highlight the stunning visual effects capabilities of Industrial Light and Magic (the VFX team behind Star Wars).
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Genre: Drama, Kids & Family, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson
Director: Joe Dante
Runtime: 109 minutes
Co-directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, How to Train Your Dragon is a visually mesmerizing coming-of-age tale and a brilliantly fantastical spin on the boy-and-his-dog sub-genre. Our story follows Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a timid but intelligent Viking youth. Hiccup’s home-village is under constant attack by fierce dragons, and they show no signs of stopping. During one such conflagration, Hiccup shoots down one of the flying beasts. After tracking down his fallen foe, the predator turns out to be a Night Fury, a rare breed of dragon that Hiccup refuses to kill. Instead, he names him Toothless and constructs a prosthetic for one of the Fury’s maimed wings, an apparatus that allows Toothless to fly again (but only with Hiccup manning the prosthetic).
Meanwhile, Hiccup’s father and village-chief, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), assembles a band of warriors to find and destroy the main dragon nest. Hiccup realizes the danger his father and village are truly in when Toothless leads him and village friend, Astrid (America Ferrara), to the nest, only to find it commandeered by a monstrous dragon known as the Red Death.
From a screenplay by Will Davies, loosely adapted from Cressida Cowell’s 2003 book, How to Train Your Dragon is one of Dreamworks’ finest. Rich characters, an engaging story, beautiful creature design, and plenty of laughs will keep everyone rooting for the dynamic duo that is Hiccup and his new dragon-pal, Toothless.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Genre: Animation, Kids & Family, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara
Director: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Runtime: 98 minutes
Directed by Tony Leondis, from a script by Chris McKenna, Igor is a star-studded animated film that, for once, is not Disney or Dreamworks-branded (though we do love their output, too). The story follows the titular, bumbling hunchback (voiced by John Cusack), who dreams of becoming a world-renowned evil scientist, but his ambitions are stifled by the overbearing scientist he is forced to spend his days under, Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese). Fate comes knocking on Igor’s door when a rocket misfire sends Glickenstein to the heavens, leaving Igor with the perfect opportunity to hone his madman abilities. Well, turns out the aspiring evil genius has got a ways to go, as the mad monster he creates, Eva (Molly Shannon), turns out to be loving and kind. Oh, and she wants to be an actress, too.
Igor is a playful homage to many classic horror tropes, envisioned by McKenna as Frankenstein turned on its head. The who’s who of voice actors bring big amusement to every role, and the art-style and animation are lovingly envisioned and rich.
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Kids & Family
Stars: John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese
Director: Tony Leondis
Runtime: 86 minutes
Will Ferrell is the titular Megamind, a blue humanoid super-villain that will stop at nothing to take over Metro City. The only thing standing in his way is Metro Man (Brad Pitt), the hero humanoid that thwarts Megamind’s mischief. One day, Megamind actually succeeds in offing Metro Man, leading to a meaningless life of boredom. While pining for local reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey), Megamind concocts a brilliant plan to create a new superhero, one imbued with the deceased Metro Man’s DNA. Things don’t go as planned, and Roxanne’s bumbling cameraman, Hal (Jonah Hill), receives the superhero DNA instead, becoming the almighty “Tighten” (that’s not a typo). Megamind’s plans for a Megamind-versus-Tighten face-off quickly fall to pieces when Tighten decides he wants to be a villain, too. It’s up to Megamind to deal with his new-formed foe while protecting his O.G. bad-guy status.
The comedy stylings of the entire voice-cast, particularly Ferrell and Fay, are electric and irresistible, making Megamind a memorable, unconventional, and humorously twisted adventure into the day-to-day tribulations (mostly self-inflicted) of our blue protagonist.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Kids & Family
Stars: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey
Director: Tom McGrath
Runtime: 96 minutes
Robin Williams brings his unmistakable charm and wit to the beloved Popeye character, a comic-strip staple from cartoonist E.C. Segar. Directed by Robert Altman, from a script by cartoonist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jules Feiffer, our story begins with Popeye arriving in the jolly seaside town of Sweethaven, on a hunt for his missing father. The sailor rents a room at the local Oyl boarding house, where he discovers that the Oyl’s treasured daughter, Olive (Shelley Duvall), is soon to wed the hulking and deranged Brutus (Paul L. Smith), a small-town officer with a penchant for beatings. Popeye shows up to the engagement party, attracting Olive’s attention. This star-crossed meeting of two iconic characters sets off a chain of wild events, beginning with the discovery of an abandoned baby that Popeye and Olive name Swee’pea, and culminating in a battle with a giant octopus. Popeye is quite a lively and unusual film, filled to the brim with songs, antics, and enough energy to keep the whole family on their toes.
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Kids & Family, Musical & Performing Arts
Stars: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Paul L. Smith
Director: Robert Altman
Runtime: 114 minutes
Rango stars Johnny Depp as the titular chameleon, an estranged aquarium-pet that is accidentally stranded in the desert when his owner’s vehicle hits an armadillo named Roadkill (Alfred Molina). With guidance from a wandering iguana called Beans (Isla Fisher), Rango is brought to the town of Dirt, an Old-West dwelling populated by anthropomorphic desert-creatures. After a squabble with a red-tailed hawk, a turn of events leads to Rango being appointed the new sheriff of Dirt. Soon after, Rango is pressured into launching an investigation into the town’s dwindling water-supply (an homage to the classic film Chinatown), where the chameleon starts to unravel the seedy underbelly of the sun-drenched desert he was thrust headfirst into.
After his wave of Pirates of the Caribbean films, director Gore Verbinski wanted to focus on something completely new and “small.” Rango’s production would prove to be anything but, factoring in screenwriter John Logan’s multilayered narrative, meticulous art-style, and A-list voice talents. The end result is a visually stunning take on the Western genre, one that makes us wish that more animated films would dare to take the big risks that the team behind Rango did.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family
Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin
Director: Gore Verbinski
Runtime: 107 minutes