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The 13 Best Kids Movies on Amazon Prime

Movies Lists Amazon Prime
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Amazon Prime still doesn’t have a great selection of kids movies, to put it mildly. Last time we compiled this list, we could only find nine decent titles free to Amazon Prime members. This time, we’ve waded through every off-brand animation and modern take on the after-school special and skateboarding chimpanzee adventure to find a full baker’s dozen of kids movies that we could recommend right now. We did include a couple of PG-13 films that might not be appropriate for the youngest viewers, but children deserve quality as much as adults, and these 13 kids movies are more than just a cute animal on the cover, from adaptations of classic books to movies that everyone should see before they leave the nest.

Notably, Amazon Prime lists a treasure trove of Indian film under its “Kids” category, but we’ll reserve those for a much bigger list to come. So until then…

Here are the 13 Best Kids Movies on Amazon Prime:

13. The Black Stallion
Year: 1979
Director: Carroll Ballard
We had to scratch our heads a little bit when Criterion repackaged Carroll Ballard’s 1979 achievement, The Black Stallion a few years ago and we can only partially recommend it here. Though originally marketed as a family-friendly action-adventure presented by Hollywood mogul Francis Ford Coppola, the film looks and moves like art house cinema, driven visually with little dialogue and a simplistic plotline, invoking the silent era and proving to be a mesmerizing achievement for the director’s first feature. On the other hand, this release feels slightly out of place given our current cultural landscape, specifically as it relates to subjects such as race and gender, given the film’s untamed masculinity and overt racism. Indeed, for all the beauty beheld by a seamless marriage of sound and image, The Black Stallion conceives a world in which women have no place and where only white Americans can be trusted. Nevertheless, because of these contradictions and complexities, there is something altogether fascinating, if not troubling, about Ballard’s film that makes it worth exploring and discussing. —David Roark


12. Sky High
Year: 2005
Director: Macaela VanderMost
Disney’s Sky High manages to be neither that memorable nor the least bit offensive. (And the latter may seem like faint praise, but the kids selection on Amazon Prime is pretty bare.) Instead, Sky High is one of those films a nerd-leaning adult can watch with his or her kids and enjoy for its cast alone. There’s Wonder Woman classic (Lynda Carter), Ash (Bruce Campbell), Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and even Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost from the CW’s Flash (Danielle Panabaker). While kids will likely not care about any of those names, they will enjoy this straight-forward, lightly spoofy take on what awaits them (or currently afflicts them) in high school. —Michael Burgin


11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Year: 1990
Director: Steve Barron
Once you get past the explicitly turtle-based finishing moves (like the shell-smushing knock-outs) and the Domino’s Pizza plugs, what’s left is a brooding narrative and surprisingly extended, unadorned fight scenes. Although Steve Barron’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still staunchly a product of its time (featuring a young, greasy Sam Rockwell as “Head Thug,” no less), it’s also a handsome, even appealingly gritty film, shot with sepia filters and samurai silhouettes, and threaded throughout by the kinds of panoramic melees that years later M. Night Shyamalan attempted with The Last Airbender and then failed. Look especially to the brawl in April’s family’s antique shop to watch how four grown men in turtle costumes—that have gotta weigh a ton—combatting a bunch of ninjas can best serve Barron’s unexpected talent at flushing out visual space in order to make a dead premise feel—seriously—lived in. —Dom Sinacola


10. Dear Mr. Watterson
Year: 2013
Director: Joel Allen Schroeder
Dear Mr. Watterson illustrates what can happen when a passionate young filmmaker decides to put together a documentary that pays tribute to one of his childhood totems. A warm salute to the acclaimed comic strip Calvin and Hobbes—and, tangentially, its creator Bill Watterson—the full-length debut of director Joel Allen Schroeder does an impressive job gathering plenty of talking-head interviews from notable individuals in the comics world, although not from the press-shy Watterson himself. But even if you share Schroeder’s abiding love for this strip about a troublemaking boy and his loyal tiger, you may still wish that he hadn’t approached the material with such wide-eyed enthusiasm. When Dear Mr. Watterson less about himself, the film opens up to become an engaging study of a misunderstood, often dismissed art form. Responsible for coming up with funny strips on a daily basis that can appeal to a large mainstream audience, cartoonists must be a combination of storyteller, entertainer and stand-up comedian, trying to stay faithful to a dependable formula while flirting with experimentation to keep things fresh for themselves and their audience. That in such a pressure-cooker environment Calvin and Hobbes didn’t just blossom but thrive is something of a miracle. That’s the central message of Dear Mr. Watterson, and it’s an important one, even if the messenger leaves something to be desired. —Tim Grierson


9. Where the Red Fern Grows
Year: 1974
Director: Norman Tokar
Just reading the title of the movie—based on the tearjerking 1961 novel—might make you burst into tears. What is it with children’s books where the pet dies? A boy buys two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs and trains them from puppies, which means adorable scenes of puppies licking him, learning to track a scent and playing tug of war. They grow into fine hunting dogs, but when [SPOILER ALERT OR TRIGGER WARNING FOR ANY SENSITIVE KID] Old Dan is mauled by a mountain lion and dies, Ann also dies from grief. Their heartbroken owner buries them together, then finds a red fern growing on their grave, a sign (according to Native American legend) that an angel planted it. Right up there with Old Yeller for Most Heartbreaking Dog Movie of All Time. —Sharon Knolle


8. Iron Man 2
Year: 2010
Director: Jon Favreau 
For all of its star power and CGI wizardry (some of the action scenes seem perfectly calibrated to tickle your superfan receptors), Iron Man 2 can’t quite manage the balance between plot development and action. Just as you think there’s about to be some payoff for yet another overlong sequence spent plumbing Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) family history, or watching Mickey Rourke’s Vanko pace like a caged animal and generally devour scenery, the movie abruptly shifts gears and tosses in another joyless chase sequence or string of explosions. It’s a shame that director Jon Favreau didn’t place more of the film in the hands of his actors; where the first Iron Man was a character-driven delight—something of a thinking-man’s blockbuster—the sequel succumbs to, well, sequel-itis, opting instead to crank up the special effects and noise and hope for the best. The most cynical and calculating part of it all is that the movie never really finds a justification for its existence—except, that is, as a bald-faced setup for The Avengers. —Michael Burgin


7. An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win
Year: 2016
Director: Tina Mabry
One of the smartest things Amazon did was option the American Girl franchise. You know the dolls and these clever set of movies brings them to life. As a parent it’s hard to find suitable programming for the tween set—something that is not too young or too old. These movies are delightfully age appropriate. Melody 1963: Love Has to Win explores the civil rights movement through the eyes of 10-year-old Melody (Marsai Martin of Black-ish). And the modern day Summer Camp, Friends for Life explores the STEM initiative through Z Yang (Zoe Manarel), one of the newest characters. What’s particularly great about these movies is that they are written and directed by women, ensuring that the message of girl empowerment shines through. —Amy Amatangelo


6. Whale Rider
Year: 2002
Director: Niki Caro
Whale Rider tells the story of a young girl, Paikea, living in New Zealand with a stern grandfather who, apparently, needs to get modern. Every scene tells us this and gives us an opportunity to tsk-tsk his staunch rejection of his granddaughter who he believes, despite her lineage, can’t inherit the leadership of this Maori village because of her gender. She’ll need to convince her grandfather she can lead just as well as the boys can, and she’ll need to do it before the end of the movie. But just when you think you have the film pegged, its sincerity manages to break through the thin characterizations and age-old plot. Young actress Keisha Castle-Hughes gives Paikea a richly expressive voice, and the turning point is an astonishingly heartfelt speech she delivers at a school program for parents. Castle-Hughes’ grace and beauty on the screen is probably the main reason Whale Rider became a surprise art-house hit. —Robert Davis


5. The Adventures of Tintin
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg 
It’s actually amazing that The Adventures of Tintin marks the first big screen treatment of the immensely popular comic book character in nearly 40 years (and, really, the first one of note originating from Hollywood, ever). After all, the intrepid carrot-topped reporter/sleuth stands with fellow Franco-Belgian characters Asterix and Obelix as a titan of European comics. Created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (under the pen name Hergé), Tintin’s adventures have been translated into more than 50 languages and inspired a decently rabid following of “Tintinologists” who have discussed, debated, critiqued and theorized on virtually every imaginable aspect of Tintin and his friends. (For proof, check out www.tintinologist.org.) Part of that can be attributed to careful guardianship of the property, first by Hergé himself and then by his estate. How else can one explain how a series started in 1929 and involving a resourceful boy and his resourceful and cuddly dog has escaped the clutches of the Disney merchandising behemoth? But then there’s also the fact that the new film’s director, some guy named Steven Spielberg, has held the film rights for nearly 30 years, waiting for the right moment to give Tintin his cinematic due. The Adventures of Tintin does just that. Not since Rob Reiner’s pop culture quote font, The Princess Bride, or perhaps Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, has a film worked so hard—and so successfully—to capture the spirit of the source material. —Michael Burgin


4. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
Year: 1971
Director: Mel Stuart
Few children’s authors have been sourced by Hollywood more than Roald Dahl. But despite over a dozen efforts at bringing his books to the big screen, none is more memorable than the original Willy Wonka with Gene Wilder. Based on his 1964 novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mel Stuart’s imagining follows poor young Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) from his paper route, to his golden ticket, to the fantastical factory filled with Oompa-Loompas and dangerous inventions from the mind of the eccentric candy baron. Accompanied by Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson), Charlie and the other winners fall prey to the temptations of the wondrous confectioner, with imagery, music and scares that won’t soon be forgotten. And Wilder’s turn as Wonka remains one of the greatest performances of all time (in a kids movie). —Josh Jackson


3. The Dark Crystal
Year: 1982
Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Aside from being one of the darkest children’s movies of all time, the Frank Oz- and Jim Henson-directed puppet film is also one of the most beautiful. Taking place in “a land of wonder,” it’s the story of a nearly-extinct race, the Gelflings, who are trying to restore a missing shard to the Dark Crystal and establish unity among the races of their world. The buzzard-shaped Skeksis are the objects of terror here, as they die and decompose before our eyes, eat the tendons of small animals and suck the souls (and then drink them!) out of the creatures they capture. But your kids may love it. —Rachel Dovey


2. Star Trek
Year: 2009
Director: J.J. Abrams 
J.J. Abrams’ slick movie reboot of the Star Trek franchise is essentially a louder, flashier take on the ’60s television show. While it eschews the series’ usual M.O. of sci-fi-as-social-commentary, it’s largely faithful to the source material and features a top-shelf ensemble cast. Star Trek resurrects the idealistic flights of fancy of pre-’70s sci-fi, and offers us a compelling glimpse at what a multicultural (not to mention multicivilizational) utopian future might look like. Perhaps more importantly, this movie takes a franchise that’s seemingly indelibly stamped with the scarlet letter of geekdom and gives it mass appeal. —Michael Saba


1. Hugo
Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese 
With Hugo, director Martin Scorsese has created a dazzling, wondrous experience, an undeniable visual masterpiece. In his adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese weaves together his many passions and concerns: for art, for film, for fathers and father-figures. He retells the story of a boy (Hugo Cabret, played by Asa Butterfield) in search of a way to complete his father’s work. Alongside Hugo’s tale is the true story of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), one of the world’s first filmmakers. By film’s end, Hugo makes a persuasive case that the art of film is as Méliès defines it—the invention of dreams. (And conversely, there’s a case to be made that, in our modern world, dreams are now the invention of film.) Regardless, as an ode to the history of movies, this film is a success. Indeed, it soars in visual achievement, which is what the moving pictures were originally about. Martin Scorsese has made a 3D film in an attempt to point to that lifelike quality in movies that has always existed—even before 3D. This quality is the very essence of film, and it is glorified—and rightly so—in Hugo, a cinematic tribute to the art of movies and to art itself. —Shannon M. Houston

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