The current wave of superhero-centric action films might be reasonably family-friendly, but some of the movies in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes contain scenes too intense for younger viewers.
Fear not! Kid-friendly action doesn’t have to mean “bland,” as this list of 10 kid-friendly films that parents can also enjoy aims to prove.
10 – Brave (2012)
Pixar hardly ever fails. They’ve brought us some of the most unforgettable stories ever told, and even some of their less successful ventures are fantastic. Just consider 2012’s Brave: a true action classic that’s often overlooked when speaking of the studios’ many hits.
Based on Scottish legends, Brave marks many “firsts” in Pixar’s history. Not only is Brave the first Pixar movie with a (human) female protagonist, but it’s also the studio’s first attempt at creating a fairy tale. The result is an incredibly engaging and highly captivating adventure that never disappoints, with a core cast of characters people from all age groups will find relatable.
9 – Spy Kids (2001)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids is an unexpectedly kid-friendly film from the man who made a living making some of the bloodiest action flicks in Hollywood. After movies like Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, no one could have predicted that Rodriguez’s next film would be something as innocent as Spy Kids.
The visuals might look dated by today’s standards – or maybe they always were dated – but the charm of Spy Kids is undeniable. Kids will love the gadgets and kid-friendly humor, while parents might also enjoy the performances of Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino. It’s best to ignore the sequels, though.
8 – Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
Considering how good it was, Raya and the Last Dragon doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for how great of a true action adventure film it was. Starring Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina, the film takes inspiration from Southeast Asian cultures to craft a visually-stunning world that truly feels magical.
The story follows Raya, a warrior princess who must find a dragon’s magical gem to restore order to the mystical continent of Kumandra. Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender might immediately spot some similarities with the film’s approach to humor and action scenes – which are all choreographed and shot splendidly.
7 – Spies in Disguise (2019)
The last film to use the 20th Century Fox name, Spies in Disguise was also the last film released by the beloved animation studio Blue Sky (Ice Age, Rio.) Even though the film is far from perfect, I believe it was a great send-off to a studio that once pioneered the art of turning standalone CGI films into extensive franchises.
Spies in Disguise stars Will Smith and Tom Holland in a wacky espionage thriller for kids. Thanks to a healthy dose of genuinely funny scenes, Spies in Disguise easily transcends its target demographic.
6 – Superman: The Movie (1978)
Sometimes, you just can’t beat the classics. The original Superman live-action film is just as entertaining today as it was in 1978. Sure, the effects aren’t as convincing anymore, but the amazing performance by Christopher Reeve and the timeless score composed by John Williams still evoke the same feelings of grandeur.
If anything, Superman: The Movie is a great film for kids to watch as a way of showing them how much superhero films have changed.
5 – Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
In 2016, Laika – the masterminds behind Coraline and ParaNorman – brought us Kubo and the Two Strings. Easily their most ambitious film to date, Kubo uses Japanese mythology as a basis to construct its mythos, and the result is as exciting as it is mesmerizing.
Stop-motion animation has always been a success with kids, but add a story as gripping as Kubo‘s, and you got yourself the perfect recipe for a film that both kids and adults will fall in love with.
4 – Big Hero 6 (2014)
Based on one of Marvel’s lesser-known superhero teams, Big Hero 6 took a dysfunctional team of characters and turned it into something much better: an instant classic that kids (and adults) will surely love.
From its colorful visuals to its surprisingly emotional storyline, Big Hero 6 is everything an outstanding animated film should be. The movie doesn’t pull any punches with its action scenes, either. It might not be part of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that doesn’t stop Big Hero 6 from being one of the best superhero-themed films in recent memory. Also, Baymax is adorable.
3 – How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
At some point, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise became one of the most prominent pieces of kid’s media in the industry, and with good reason. The fantastical world of Berk – yes, that’s the real name – has been the backdrop to some exciting adventures, but the first movie in the film trilogy is as good a place as any to delve into its rich lore.
The series doesn’t shy away from some serious emotional stuff as the trilogy goes on – which is great, as the stories effectively grow up together with the kids watching them.
2 – The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)
One of the most energetic animated movies I’ve seen in a long time, The Mitchells vs. The Machines combines the shenanigans of classic cartoons with the exciting setpieces of an 80s action/adventure flick to deliver a truly unforgettable experience.
While kids are sure to love the film’s overall aesthetic, fans will no doubt recognize most of the movie’s more obscure tech references. A real must-watch for animation fans of any age.
1 – The Incredibles (2004)
2004’s The Incredibles is, to a good number of animation fans, the best movie Pixar has ever produced. The film’s vibrant tone and its unique blend of Golden Age-era superhero elements turned Pixar’s original superhero family into one of the best the big screen has ever seen.
It’s also worth noting that the film has aged like wine. While the sequel is good and all, the original The Incredibles will always hold a special place in the hearts of fans, serving as the perfect example of how to do a proper kid-friendly action flick that parents will not just tolerate – they will love it to bits.