‘Tis the season for family-friendly movies and TV — particularly if the weather outside is frightful. And in the age of streaming, we’ve never had so many options.
But finding something to watch together that you haven’t seen a thousand times before can be tricky. And locating a show for the wee ones that won’t set parents’ teeth on edge — among the thousands of options on Netflix — can be an especially difficult challenge.
So we’ve rounded up a few good options, all of which are available to stream or to rent for a few bucks on major digital platforms. And since they’re all rated PG or lower, they’re suitable for all ages.
Happy holidays, to you and yours.
For the younger set
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Many of us grew up with Daniel Tiger’s father: Once upon a time, he was the beloved puppet friend of Fred Rogers on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Now, the son has his own neighborhood, and a gentle show that uses simple yet catchy songs to teach the same lessons that Mr. Rogers once taught: kindness, caring, courage, and a lot more.
Over the last few years, Netflix has embraced a smart strategy of adapting beloved children’s books into animated films, and one such adaptation is The Gruffalo, a clever rhyming tale of a mouse who learns a valuable lesson after making up stories to get out of trouble. The movie, based on Julia Donaldson’s memorable book of the same name, features voice work from Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, and Tom Wilkinson.
The Gruffalo is streaming on Netflix.
Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir
Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir is a French show that’s been dubbed so English-speaking kids can enjoy it too. It’s about two French teenagers who transform into superheroes to protect Paris from supervillains, and teach kids about confidence, too.
Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir is streaming on Netflix.
We dare you not to fall for this sweet animated kids’ series about Oona the Puffin and her little brother Baba, narrated by Chris O’Dowd. The two pufflings and their parents have all sorts of fun adventures on the little island of Puffin Rock, sometimes with friends like Bernie the Hermit Crab, Mossy the Shrew, and Silky the Seal in tow. And the animation is beautiful enough that adults might just want to settle in and watch it, too.
Puffin Rock is streaming on Netflix.
Room on the Broom
Another Julia Donaldson book-to-animated-film adaptation, Room on the Broom is about a nice witch whose broom gets a little crowded when she keeps offering rides to animals. The movie features voice work from Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, and Rob Brydon, and its rhymes are as delightful as can be.
For the whole family
The critically acclaimed hit Hidden Figures tells the true story of three black women scientists in the 1950s who were instrumental in NASA’s efforts to launch John Glenn into orbit. Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer star.
Martin Scorsese doesn’t usually direct movies that are suitable for kids, but Hugo is an exception. Based on Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it’s set in Paris and centers on a boy who lives in the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars, and won five.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
A documentary about sushi might sound pretty dull. But Jiro Dreams of Sushi (made by the same team behind Netflix’s Chef’s Table series) is a gentle, meditative, and entrancing portrait of a man who’s been making sushi for a long time in his tiny, exquisite restaurant. Order some tuna rolls beforehand and make an evening of it.
One of 2018’s best films is Leave No Trace, the story of a bond between a daughter and her father. Ben Foster stars as a military veteran with PTSD who is raising his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), off the grid in a state park — until they’re found. Written and directed by Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Leave No Trace is an often surprising and very moving film about familial love.
Starring Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and newcomer Madina Nalwanga, Queen of Katwe seems on first blush to be a conventional sports movie about an underdog (even if the sport in question is chess). But it’s a lot more: Centering on a Ugandan orphan raised in the slums of Kampala, it’s also about a community that comes together to build confidence and a vision for the future into its young people.
The Truman Show
The Truman Show is a classic, and it’s hard to believe it came out in 1998, just before our culture started to drown in reality television and a whole host of technologies — like smartphones and social media — that urge us to document every part of our lives. Jim Carrey stars as a man who’s been raised in an artificial environment as the unknowing star of a hit reality show, but doesn’t know it — and has his world turned upside-down when he finds out.
2018’s hit documentary at the box office was Won’t You Be My Neighbor, about Fred Rogers and the children’s show he helmed from 1968 to 2001. It’s much more than a biographical documentary, though — it argues that Rogers was, in his own way, a quiet revolutionary. And it’s the kind of film that both makes you want to cry, laugh, and be a better person, all at the same time.