A good family film is just that — it has something to offer for every member of a family, serving entertainment and encouraging some kind of genuine reaction from viewers of every age, whether they are toddlers, middleschool kids, highschoolers, or adults. A family film is more than just a movie without any kind of questionable or inappropriate-for-younger-audiences content. It has to be relatable on a lot of levels to keep kids and adults engrossed. And that’s a big deal. Only a specific little group of filmmakers have figured out how to make movies that are fun for the whole family and are able to pass the test of time and it has a lot to do with commendable stories and remarkable directing.
However, it can be quite time taking for a family to pick a movie that works with everyone on a streaming service, with the genre’s vast variety of options — a lot of which may not be worth it to watch. But HBO Max is a specific space for quality content that welcomes all ages, and we’ve compiled some of the best family movies that are on there for you to choose from.
All Dogs Go to Heaven
“All Dogs Go to Heaven” is a goofy animated film, brilliantly animated frame by frame by the old Disney artist Don Bluth, bringing something for both kids and adults. For the adults, there’s this plotline about the dog criminal underworld and the theoretical question regarding life after, in which a illegal strong gambler pooch called Carface murders Charlie, dog casino owner, who then magically turns ut alive after dying thanks to a magical timepiece. Instead of setting out to seek revenge from his murderer, he accepts a young, abandoned human girl named Anne-Marie under his wing and tries to make her happy and then rescue her from the dog that tried to kill him.
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Judith Barsi, Dom DeLuise
Director: Don Bluth
The Call of the Wild
Grown-ups who have read Jack London’s classic novel of escapades in the harsh border of the Alaskan Yukon and kids who haven’t had the chance to yet will all likely enjoy “The Call of the Wild” all the same. Despite the beautiful camera work trapping the aesthetic mountains and cold wild of Alaska, it’s a sensitive story, shown mostly from the perspective of an adorable big dog called Buck as he shifts from one human master to another. It’s a ride that will take him from a comfortable living in California all the way to a place on a dog sled team carrying mail, and along the way, his journey will have him gold prospecting, protecting himself from cruel humans, and adapting to the ways of his wolf ancestors.
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Gillan, Dan Stevens
Director: Christopher Sanders
This title has wordplay in it — “Dolphin Tale” is the story of an amiable, otherwise dangerous water animal, but also literally about the dolphin’s ‘tail’, and endearingly enough, its based off of an actual true story about a compassionate kid’s determination to hook his ocean friend up with a prosthetic tail.
Winter the dolphin gets stuck and ends up bruising her tail so badly that her rescuers and caretakers at a Florida marine hospital don’t believe that she will be able to survive without a tail that fits her and works properly. Sawyer, a kid who was otherwise accustomed to solitude finds friendship at the marine hospital with its staff and particularily with Winter the dolphin, and he forms such a special bond with the dolphin that he recruits the assistance of a biologist and a specialty prosthetics designer to arrange for Winter the work she requires in what ends up to be a very beautiful, very emotionally satisfying movie for people of any age.
Starring: Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Kids who enjoy fairy tale stories are bound to enjoy “Ella Enchanted,” a modern story in the princesses/princes/evil guardians category but delivered via a 21st-century perspective, meaning that the female characters have diverse well built character that are beyond being just damsels in distress.
Shortly after she is born, baby Ella’s fairy godmother puts annoying curse on her that forces her to do anything anybody tells her to do. Thanks to this curse, our heroine ends up becoming a servant-like Cinderella after her mother passes away and Ella is forced to go and live with the cruel and suffocating Dame Olga. But when Ella is done with this unfair lifestyle of hers where she has no control of her life, she sets off on a long awaited adventure with the handsome Prince Charmont to find her fairy godmother and get her to lift her spell so she can finally live her life the way she wants to.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes
Director: Tommy O’Haver
Peter Pan is one of the most widely adored characters in the English language. “Finding Neverland” is his back story — or actually, the sensitive and touching story of how playwright J.M. Barrie was apparently provoked to envision Peter, Wendy, and their universe. Built in London in 1903, Barrie, planning to fix a loss in his professional treasures, becomes friends with a recently widowed mother of four. He ends up forming a unique special bond with her young, grieving son As Barrie and this family get tangled uo together, they support each other in their most dire times. The stories Barrie created to cheer up Peter, end u forming the foundation of this magical play, about a boy who always stays in his youth and never grows up.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Freddie Highmore
Director: Marc Forster
Directed by Jon Favreau, this 2003 masterpiece immediately became a Christmas classic. However, Elf has so much of family-friendly fun that its delightful to watch all year round. Will Ferrell act as Buddy, a human man who lived at Santa Clas’s North Pole and was raised as an elf. Even though he tried his best and had unquenchable holiday spirit, he was never able to fit into his adoptive family, just like he wasn’t able to fit into their tiny furniture. So, it’s with a lot of innocent hope and a kind heart that Buddy goes out to his long-lost father in a very festive but not very friendly New York City. There, this classic comedy entertains the viewers with joyful exchanges including snowball fights, spaghetti with maple syrup, and more seasonal activities. Children and Adults both will roll over with laughter on Ferrell’s ever-cheerful vibe, wild physical comedy, and blissful quirkiness. Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel, Amy Sedaris, and Peter Dinklage co-star.