From Pixar flicks to non-animated productions, there were a lot of solid contenders for family films in 2020. Our choices aren’t just enjoyable for kids, but entertaining for parents as well, so you’re not bored out of your mind.
Though we’ll always adore the 1998 cartoon version of this Disney classic, the live-action version was an exhilarating, must-see adaptation. A rebellious main character (with the coolest action scenes) steals the audience’s hearts, while teaching children about feminism. For parents who can’t stand musicals, this unique Disney work takes on a more realistic interpretation.
We fell in love with “Soul”, Pixar’s first animated movie to star a Black lead character. This creative and witty work on Disney+ is about a jazz musician who falls into a manhole. The audience gets to follow along on the journey of his soul to “The Great Beyond”. “Soul” was a favorite for critics and fans alike, with philosophical themes for the whole family.
3. Doctor Dolittle
Robert Downey Jr. brought this famously lovable vet to life in 2020. Based on an animal doctor who can talk to animals, this version is more nuanced and fulfilling than the same story told by Eddie Murphy in 1998. The cast is just as enjoyable to watch as the plot itself, with familiar voices coming from A-listers such as Emma Thompson, Michael Sheen, and Antonio Banderas.
4. The Witches
Roald Dahl always had the ability to conjure up perfect and completely original (though sometimes terrifying) premises for his books. Anjelica Huston did the Grand High Witch justice in the 1980s adaption, but special effects simply weren’t up to par. However, the effects in the 2020 version are absolutely delicious, thanks to a stellar performance by Octavia Spencer and a particularly evil Anne Hathaway. A thrilling watch for the whole family.
5. Call of the Wild
Any dog lover, child or adult, will soon fall in love with “The Call of the Wild”, which fits into the same category of “Homeward Bound”. The film, based on a novel by Jack London, shows us the bond between humans and dogs. Starring Harrison Ford, this flick has a CGI powered dog that’s realistic enough to fool most viewers. It explores the journey of this man and his canine friend, through thick and thin. Don’t worry: this pup survives unlike some other tragic animal films.
Pixar never disappoints — they always manage to integrate daring and profound content that teaches a lesson but is never preachy. “Onward” has a theme about childhood grief, introducing us to a world where two elf teens discover a spell to bring their father back from the dead. However, the spell fails halfway, and only their dad’s legs make a comeback. On this quest to find the rest of him, we learn about grief and moving on from a new light.
7. Sonic The Hedgehog
The more youthful members of the family will be obsessed with this movie based on video game character Sonic the Hedgehog. The live-action version stars Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, and Jim Carrey. The movie was set to be released in 2019, but the production team had to change a slightly unnerving version of Sonic to make him more hedgehog-like, and less humanlike.
8. The Legend of the Five
This kids’ movie has a misfit friend group with undeniable chemistry, exploring the jaw-dropping landscapes of Australia and a fantastical forest within. As they work to solve an ancient curse, this flick shares lessons on teamwork and adventures. It also makes us want to go to Australia ASAP.
9. The Secret Garden
When we read the secret garden years ago, we imagined all the lush greenery of that hidden garden. In the film, a grumpy orphan moves in with her uncle, eventually discovering a secret key that opens the gate to a hidden garden. This adaptation is a lesson in both living life fully in your physical world, and in your imagination.
10. The One and Only Ivan
Though this live-action movie has sometimes tragic themes, it ultimately has a powerful lesson that sticks with young viewers. It’s based on a novel by the same name, and beyond the cutie animals and jokes, there’s an educational message about the ethics of keeping animals in captivity.
11. Come Away
If a child’s richly visual imagination were manifested into a movie, it might look like the fantastical “Come Away.” The protagonists are Alice (from “Alice in Wonderland”) and Peter (from “Peter Pan”), in a magical fusion that sees them as would-be siblings in Victorian times.
12. Artemis Fowl
This science-fiction book series has a cult following that rivals Harry Potter and the film adaptation has been a long time coming. The director says that there’s “more lunacy” in Artemis than HP, whatever that means. If you and the kiddos love fantasy, adventure, and battles with fairies, this is sure to impress.