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 2016 (that adults can also enjoy).
April and the Extraordinary World
April and the Extraordinary World is a French animated film with a very interesting premise: All of the scientists in the world went missing before doing anything of consequence. We’re stuck with technology from the early 1900s. Our protagonist, April, has her parents stolen from her, and she goes on an adventure to find them. It’s a gorgeous movie that gets great use out of its steampunk setting, and it’s a fun adventure that reinforces the importance of scientists.
Pixar movies are almost always going to find their way onto lists like this, as the studio primarily makes good-to-great movies that kids absolutely adore. Finding Nemo remains one of its most enjoyable movies, and in 2016 a sequel was released: Finding Dory.
Finding Dory follows, as one might expect, Dory, the amnesiac supporting character from the first film. It’s a got a simplistic story and it turns out that Dory isn’t strong enough to comfortably lead the film – a big subplot focuses on Nemo and his father as they try to rescue her – but it’s funny and looks amazing and it has some good action.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Laika is one of only a couple of companies that is still doing stop-motion animation, and in 2016 it released its best movie: Kubo and the Two Strings. The film is a hero’s journey story that’s thematically rich, visually stunning, emotionally compelling, and works just as well for adults as it does for kids – perhaps even more effectively for adults, whose life experience will amplify the emotional impact of its plot.
The Jungle Book
I was not looking forward to a live-action Jungle Book. There wasn’t a reason beyond money to remake the film, the “live-action” looked to be just the child protagonist, and it just seemed like a bad idea.
Turns out, it wasn’t.
The Jungle Book is a lovely movie that looks amazing – even though it’s 90% CGI, it’s fantastic CGI – and the small changes to the story are successful. It only has two songs – and only should have had one, “Bear Necessities.” It’s a great adventure movie with strong vocal work and enough thematic and emotional depth to keep our minds and hearts engaged.
The Little Prince
The Little Prince had an odd path to release, at least in America. It was scheduled for a March 2016 release, but a little while before that, it was dropped by its distributor. Fans feared the worst – dropped for a lack of quality. Netflix eventually picked it up and released it in August. The result? Yeah, it’s pretty good.
It has a unique animation style – a mix of CGI and stop-motion – and tells a good story, which statistically speaking you’ve probably read, since it’s based on one of the best-selling books ever (140+ million copies). It’s clever and funny and sweet and looks amazing, and since you probably have Netflix you can watch it on there for no additional charge.
Moana tells a familiar story that is made more interesting because it has a fresh paint of Diversity™. If you take away its specific culture and setting – which we don’t see in movies very often – and you’ve got a pretty bog-standard Disney movie. But with its South Pacific islands setting and by using the culture’s mythology to tell the story, it becomes something fresh. New things are good.
Anyway, it’s a Disney Princess movie about discovering your self-importance. She goes on an adventure. Songs are song, a couple of action sequences are had, self-discovery happens, and that’s that. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but its strength lies in showcasing a culture we don’t see much, as it gets an inherent boost in interest by showing us something new.
Queen of Katwe
Queen of Katwe is an underdog sports movie where the sport in question is chess (not a sport) and the underdog is a young impoverished girl from Uganda. It’s uplifting and has good acting. Other than that? You’ve seen this story before. Its fresh coat of paint (chess, Uganda, girl) helps out a bit, but it’s too much like every other underdog sports movie, and it’s a little too predictable.
But do kids care? No. They won’t have seen those other movies. And even if you have, it’s not a bad movie. It’s just held back by its lack of originality.
Sing is valuable to adults for one reason: its songs. It’s got some good covers of pretty well-known songs. Its story, which sees a bunch of talking animals enter a singing competition, is secondary. You’ve seen it before. the songs are good, if you’re into musicals.
Kids love talking animals and will eat it up. And, hey, the animation isn’t bad, either, so at least you can appreciate that while you’re tapping your toes to the music.
Trolls is a simplistic, well-animated movie that’s filled with energetic pop songs, a bunch of creative sequences, and has a strong central message – that’s admittedly delivered frequently and in a heavy-handed method. It’s entertaining enough, and it has so many colors that kids won’t be able to look away. It’s kind of fun for adults, too.
One of the movies of the year and the best animated movie of 2016. It’s a fun, funny, incredibly entertaining buddy cop movie about a bunny cop and a sly fox trying to solve a mystery. It’s also about prejudice within our society, which is a slick move for Disney to pull. “Oh, you wanted a talking animal movie? Well here’s that … and also a lesson about diversity and prejudice.” The central metaphor might not hold up under close scrutiny, but the message gets through. And even beyond that, you’ve got a gorgeous movie with a highly detailed world that’s hilarious and packed with action. It’s fantastic.