Storytelling in the 21st century has gone beyond the book form. While the influence of printed texts is still undeniably strong, visual stories in the form of films are becoming more and more popular, especially among younger audiences. Movie nights will probably sound appealing to your kids more than fairy tale recitals or storybook readings. If your kids are finding it hard to fall asleep at night, why not give them a dose of Pixar or Disney magic? They may be more willing to go to dreamland after an hour’s trip to fantastic places with otherworldly but likable characters.
We’ve collected 8 of the best family-oriented films that your kids will surely love watching and rewatching throughout their childhood. The movies that made the cut are those released after the turn of the century. So while Dumbo, Mary Poppins, My Neighbor Totoro, E.T., and Babe are all great in a classical sense, you won’t find them here. Below is a list of 21st-century films—both animated and live action—that you can let your kids watch before sending them to bed. Enjoy!
- Monsters, Inc.
This unique story by Pixar revolves around—you guessed it—monsters. Pretty odd for a children’s movie, isn’t it? Well, that is until you realize that the monsters in this movie look, act, and live nothing like the kind of monsters you tell your kids about. Yes, some of them have horns, and yes, some of them have more than four legs, but they’re just as adorable in the same way that pugs are cute. The heroes of the story are James P. Sullivan, who’s better known for his nickname, Sully, and his one-eyed assistant, Mike Wazowski. They’re both employed in a scream-processing factory (Monsters, Inc.) that generates electricity from the screams of terrified children.
The story rises to a complication when Sully accidentally brings a human girl called Boo to Monstropolis, the world of monsters. Children are believed to be toxic and dangerous, so you can just imagine how the other monsters would react if they found out. Sully and Mike go on a quest to get Boo back to her world before her presence becomes known throughout Monstropolis. Why is this movie such a great pick, you ask? Apart from the unique story concept and good animation, this movie has the capacity to tickle your funny bone and touch your heart, whatever your age.
What happens when you combine animation and live action in one movie? You get Enchanted. This classic fairytale set in New York City is one to win the hearts of every Disney fanatic. It follows the story of Giselle, the typical lovable princess whose daydreams revolve around being with her prince charming—in this story, Prince Edward. There’s just one problem. Edward’s mother, Queen Narissa, abhors the idea of his son marrying someone as unworthy as Giselle so she sends the damsel to a land faraway: New York City. There, Giselle meets Robert, an amiable lawyer, and his lovable daughter Morgan. The beauty of the movie is probably best credited to the innocent wonder that Giselle, played by the lithe and graceful Amy Adams, shows to everything around her. It’s a feel-good movie in every way. It’s everything that you and your kids need to feel as relaxed as possible before hitting the hay. This movie, combined with the comfort of a memory foam mattress, is sure to send you and the kids to dreamland.
Of all the bedtime movies out there that we can recommend, WALL-E is by far the most emotionally engaging. It’s not hard to fall in love with the movie’s main character, WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), whose soulful eyes communicate a multitude of emotions that transcend the barriers of language. WALL-E speaks only the language of robots, which consists mainly of rattles and clunking noises, but this doesn’t stop him from warming the hearts of viewers. This movie is a story of hope, change, and redemption. It’s the kind of science fiction story that children will love and adults will appreciate—a perfect pick for movie night.
If there is one children’s movie that even adults can enjoy, it’s Up. This movie, another masterpiece by Pixar, stars two old men and a boy scout as lead characters. The movie is easily about following your dreams, but you’ll unravel deeper messages as you move along with the story. From the true and everlasting love shared by Carl and Ellie to the dark secrets that lie where you least expect them, Up is both a fresh adventure for kids and a nostalgic treat for adults. The vibrancy of the animation and the genuineness of the story make it all the more a must-watch film.
- The Muppets
If you’re considering what movies you can let your kids watch before bedtime, The Muppets should be on your list. Surely, everyone has heard about the Muppets. One of its members, Kermit the Frog, is an iconic character that kids can easily recognize. The movie follows the story of how Walter, the biggest Muppet fan, tries to reunite the Muppets with the help of his friends, Gary and Mary. The Muppets’ reunion is important because it could be the only way to save the Muppet Theater from being destroyed by a greedy oilman. The movie is full of silly jokes and slapstick stunts that will send kids laughing. It’s a nice way to end the day and let your kids relax before a good night’s sleep.
Based on the New York Times bestseller by Brian Selznick, Hugo is a story about an orphan boy who goes on a quest to unlock a secret left by his late father. Hugo Cabret lives in a train station in Paris with his uncle, the only relative he has left. He tends to the train station clocks and keeps them running day in and day out. One day, his nagging curiosity about an automaton left by his father urges him to embark on an adventure where he meets George Melies, a shopkeeper, and his goddaughter, Isabelle. What follows is a magical story that your kids will treasure until they grow old.
- Inside Out
Inside Out is considered as one of the best family-oriented movies to watch because it does a good job in stirring certain emotions within us. The concept is actually pretty simple: there are different emotions that control a person, but there is always that predominant one among them. Joy, Sadness, Envy, Fear, and Anger all influence our behaviors. The movie shows how these emotions control the life of Riley, a teenager uprooted from her happy life in Minnesota to live in the strange city of San Francisco. In the movie, you’ll see the rollercoaster ride of emotions that Riley feels in the early stages of their relocation. Of course, there’s more to the story, but you’ll have to figure out the rest by watching the film.
- The Jungle Book
Stunning CGI, unique storytelling, and energetic characters—what more can you ask for from the 2016 remake of the classic story by Rudyard Kipling? The Jungle Book is a rare find, especially given the fact that modern movie remakes are seldom better than their originals. It’s easier to come up with a glorified rehash than to create a more impressive version of a good classical movie. What’s great about the 2016 version of The Jungle Book is that it has done justice to the story collection and the older films while at the same time injecting a fresher and more realistic vibe to the story. Your kids will undoubtedly love Mowgli and his odd family and friends from the jungle.
Creative and inspiring movies will help your kids develop a wilder imagination and a better understanding of the world around them. Just remember to not let your kids go to bed beyond their sleeping schedule just to watch a movie. Make movie nights fun and healthy by planning things ahead.