Finding entertainment for a child can be difficult—especially if you have to stick around and participate in it, too. The truth of the matter is that most movies designed with children in mind are not made with quality in mind. They’re made to sell toys, distract with bright colors and loud noises, and tell jokes that only people under the age of 6 will find entertaining. “Quality movies for children” may not be an oxymoron, but it’s not that far off.
With all that said, here are the best movies for children from 2017 (that adults can also enjoy).
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie not being garbage wound up being one of the biggest surprises of 2017, film-wise. In all honesty, it’s not a fantastic film, but it’s perfectly serviceable for both children and adults. It’s got enough jokes for both age groups, its plot isn’t terrible, and it’s got a different-looking animation style that will hold your attention for its relatively brief running time.
Even a lower-tier Pixar film is still a Pixar film, which means that, barring a catastrophe, it’s going to wind up being one of the top movies for children in any given year. The Cars movies are consistently on the weaker side of the studio’s filmography, but Cars 3 took things in a different enough direction to at least warrant a little bit of attention from its adult audience. It’s still a Cars movie, one that’s fundamentally designed to sell toy cars and little more, but it’s moderately entertaining and at least opened the door to future installments that might be more interesting.
Coco is one of the best animated movies of the year and, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best movies of the year period. Its plot is a “kid goes on an adventure to get X so that Y happens” story, but because it takes place in the Land of the Dead and uses Mexican traditions, scenery, characters, and so on, it feels fresh. It’s also tremendously heartfelt, and has some good music. If it doesn’t make you feel something, I don’t know what to tell you.
Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ten great movies that fit into a given category, so you get entries like Ferdinand, which gets included because, well, it’s not exactly bad and therefore it stands above most of its peers. The movie is about a bull who doesn’t like bullfighting. So it has talking animals, an anti-violence message, and the irony of John Cena—who got famous for (fake) fighting in a ring—preaching against that very practice.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
If the Captain Underpants movie was one of 2017’s biggest cinematic surprises, right beside it would be Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the sequel to Jumanji almost nobody wanted. And then it turned out to be kind of fun, and almost everyone who watches it has a good time. It’s also one of the best video game-centric movies we’ve had, so hopefully other movies will follow its lead on that front.
The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie is one of the best Batman movies we’ve ever gotten—it’s #2 on my list—and that’s saying something. It’s especially weird since it spends a decent amount of time mocking the character’s history—particularly the current dark-and-gritty incarnation. It’s hilarious and handles Batman’s aversion to creating new family ties better than almost any other movie about him, which came as a surprise.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie
While The LEGO Ninjago Movie doesn’t reach the heights of either of its theatrical predecessors, it’s still exciting and funny enough to warrant an inclusion on this list. It’s got a good amount of laughs and also handles a character’s relationship with his parents—it just feels a little too similar to both other LEGO movies we’ve seen over the last couple of years. It’s fun, though.
My Little Pony: The Movie
Chances are, you’ve already made up your mind on My Little Pony. Either it’s not for you, or you’ve fallen in love with the revamped TV show (in which case, you’ve probably already seen the movie). My Little Pony: The Movie is a solid version of the show, essentially functioning as a longer, big-budget episode. It’s not my thing, but if it’s yours or your kid’s, you could do a lot worse.
Wonder tells the story of a young boy who suffers from a facial disfigurement making his first attempt to attend public school. You can probably expect what happens. The movie handles it far better than you’d expect, foregoing saccharinity with strong characters, realistic scenarios, and focusing on the child’s entire family, not just on him. It’s really well done.
Technically speaking, Your Name made its US theatrical debut at the end of 2016, but didn’t receive its true release until mid-2017, so here it is. (It also got its dub in 2017, which matters for children who may not want to read the subtitles; adults do not have this excuse.)
This animated movie from Japan is amazing. It’s a body swap movie featuring high school students and … well, saying any more would ruin the fun. Suffice to say that it’s another one of those that will make you feel a lot of emotions—and probably will do so more for adults than children, odd as that may sound.