Planning a family film night is one great way to capture your kids’ attention. There is something magical about the whole family settling down together and losing themselves in someone else’s story for a while.
More than mindless entertainment, the best films will help children see the world from a whole new perspective. They will make them think as well as enjoy themselves. And after the end credits, the bonding experience between you and your children can continue as you reflect on the film together. Ask a couple of well-placed questions about favourite moments, characters or bits they didn’t like and ask them why. For younger children the memories will be happy enough, and older children will learn more about any messages in the film that could help them grow.
For those days when money and time are flush, and you’re looking for something even more standout special, a trip to the local cinema
is a wonderful family outing. There’s something about the occasion of getting your ticket torn, swing seats and the flutter of excitement as the lights dip that promises a winning family trip.
Film nights at home, snuggled on the sofa, sharing popcorn, can be amazing as well. If your family don’t seem inspired by the prospect of an evening on the couch, here are some suggestions for upping the fun factor of family film night even more.
Tips for making family film night extra special
- Turn it into an event: Make tickets that have the time, place and film name on. Line up cushions beanbags and blankets so that everyone is cuddly-warm and comfy.
- Theme the whole night: Decorate your living room with snowflakes and glitter for Frozen, fill the space with stuffed toy animals from the Savannah for The Lion King. Plan dinner around the film, a wizarding feast fit for Hogwarts or a spooky spread for Hocus Pocus. Dress as a beautiful princess for Disney, or a colourful cowboy for Toy Story.
- Superior Snacks: Savoury snacks like pizza or nachos are a great choice, because the kids can even get involved in constructing them before they hit the oven. And every film night has to have sweet treats, brownies, cookies or candied nuts make a great addition to the classic popcorn.
- Read all about it: Plenty of popular family films are based on books. If your family loves the movie, they’ll love the chance to spend more time with the characters while reading the book.
There are so many wonderful family movies to watch, it can be a bit of a daunting choice. So here are some classic children’s films that we love to bits and we think your family will too!
10 of the best family films ever
Child genius Matilda develops telekinetic powers and uses them to seek revenge against her abusive parents and bullying headteacher. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like the set-up for a rollicking family film, but then it is based on a book by twisted children’s writer Roald Dahl. And, like all his stories, it has a tender heart.
The relationship between Matilda and her teacher Miss Honey is beautifully touching, and this story is an enduring celebration of the wonder of reading that will resonate with bookworms of any age.
At last count there were eight ‘episodes’ of Star Wars, giving the potential for a whole week of family movies to watch. Chances are you’ve seen at least one of these epic space operas before but take this excuse to fill in the gaps or simply revisit the ones you know.
The themes of good versus evil, corruption of power, never stop being relevant and every film is studded with characters you can’t help but root for. Even when you already know the biggest twist in cinema history!
Fantasy adventure film ‘Hook’ is not actually an adaptation of the classic ‘Peter Pan’ story but a sequel. Peter has grown-up, got a job and forgotten about Neverland. So, it’s a bit of a surprise when a man called ‘Captain Hook’ kidnaps his children and leaves him a note telling him he can find them in his old home.
‘Never forget your inner child’ is the moral of this film, and that will really hit home for an adult sat with their own offspring sprawled in their laps. There’s plenty for the kids to enjoy too, with fairies, food fights and a couple of swashbuckling sword clashes.
Riley’s parents just moved her across the country, and this is the story of her five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger) as she copes with the rollercoaster experience of moving home, and of growing up.
The film was inspired by the personality changes that the director’s daughter displayed as she grew up and a number of psychologists helped shape the story. The emotional core of Inside Out will educate kids as well as entertain them, and we defy any adult not to catch a tear on their cheek before the credits roll.
Superheroes are everywhere these days and we had to put one on this list. Thor gets the spot for having humour that will appease the adults as well as the kids.
The plot is also family-centric. The Norse God is exiled to Earth for being too arrogant, unable to return to his Asgardian home until he proves himself worthy (humble) to wield his enchanted hammer.
The early nineties was a brilliant time for family-friendly Disney films, making it nearly impossible to pick just one. If you’re looking for an emotional evening, then maybe The Lion King is the way to go. For romantic whimsy, pop in Beauty and the Beast. For sheer side-aching humour the choice has to be Aladdin.
A tale of a simple street-rat come good, it has the essential star-crossed lovers, the underdog hero and dastardly villain. And, it has the genie. Robin Williams’ hilarious Genie, who is goofy enough to delight children and sassy enough to give grown-ups the giggles too!
A tale of two sisters, Disney’s latest and greatest phenomenon of a film is perfect for a family night in. It’s well-paced, with humour and heart, and it has strong empowering messages of self-acceptance and a Princess who isn’t afraid to be who she truly is. Even more, it is the love between the sisters that saves the day. An unusual twist on the standard Disney formula, and one family members of all ages can enjoy.
Just don’t watch it unless you’re prepared to spend the next fortnight humming that
It’s easy to forget just how brilliant this film is. So much of it is culturally significant; from its use of Technicolour, to its iconic lead actress, to its Oscar winning feature song. This can overshadow just what a joy it is to watch.
And it’s truly wonderful family film. Share it with your children, warm with the memories of the first time you saw it and confident that one day they might just share it with their own family as well.
Repeatedly voted the greatest children’s film ever made, it would be irresponsible not to include E.T. here. The story of a lonely boy who discovers a stranded alien, and the firm friendship that blossoms between them, balances touching moments of adorable interaction with dark drama.
- Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone
Orphan Harry lives in a cupboard under his evil Aunt and Uncle’s stairs until the day a very big, very hairy, man turns up on his doorstep and tells him that he’s a wizard.
You will know the story of the ‘Boy-who-lived’ by now, whether you’ve read the books, seen the films or just absorbed it through second-hand snippets. It’s still a brilliant film choice though, with the first two films in particular, suiting an audience that includers younger children right through to teens. With the world a wind-drenched dreary place, winter is the perfect time for a little magic and maybe this will give you an excuse to dust off the books for bedtime reading