When the whole family finally gathers around the TV for a movie night, the last thing you want is to spend 20 minutes thumbing through every streamer to decide on what to watch. We’ve combed through Amazon Prime to find the best and widest array of free family-friendly movies to help make your choice as easy as possible.
If your family loves action-packed adventures, we’ve got you covered with a sci-fi franchise, a dystopian favorite, and a martial arts classic. If you prefer a sweet coming-of-age romance, Amazon Prime has one of the best from this year. And if animated comedies or emotional dramas are more in your wheelhouse, you’re in luck with a handful of options. Now you can use that extra time you would’ve spent scrolling to prep the snacks, or even squeeze in a double feature.
1. Shaun the Sheep Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie is that rare animated adventure that’s charming and endlessly rewatchable no matter your age. Even more rare, it doesn’t have a word of dialogue. The claymation comedy from Aardman Animations — the studio behind Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run — takes us on a raucous journey from Mossy Bottom Farm in the English countryside to the Big City.
One day, our eponymous hero Shaun concocts a plan to take a day off from the monotony of farm labor, but his plan quickly goes haywire when the beloved farmer is accidentally whisked away into the city and is struck with amnesia. Shaun, along with his flock of clever sheep and the farmer’s loyal dog Bitzer, gets wrapped up in a series of wacky misadventures as they try to bring the farmer home safely. Before you know it, you realize you’ve been giggling and smiling at a film with nothing but mumbles and sound effects instead of dialogue. Like the very best of early silent slapstick cinema, Shaun the Sheep Movie is a testament to the power of wordless comedy and heartwarming visual storytelling.
2. The Hunger Games
Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate
The Hunger Games has an ideal mix of suspense, high emotional stakes, and beloved teen characters, plus some political commentary. The first of the film adaptations of Suzanne Collins’s dystopian YA book series introduces us to the iconic Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the young archer who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields).
In this society where a totalitarian regime runs rampant and the wealthy exercise power over the poor, a brutal battle to the death is televised each year. We follow Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), tributes from their home of District 12, as they train for the games with former winner Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). It’s an excellent set up to an entertaining franchise full of thrilling action, romance, heroic female characters, and a surplus of extravagant costumes that’s perfect for a family weekend movie marathon — yes, all four Hunger Games films are on Amazon Prime for your binging pleasure.
Credit: Roadside Attractions/Amazon/Moviestore/Shutterstock
Rarely do we get a mature, grounded family drama told through the eyes of young children. In Todd Haynes’s quietly affecting Wonderstruck, the filmmaker beautifully captures the awe and curiosity of looking at the world through a child’s gaze. Adapted from the YA novel of the same name by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck follows two young deaf children from separate time periods as they each set out on a journey to New York City to connect with an estranged parent.
Haynes jumps from 1927 sequences shot in black and white where Rose (Millicent Simmonds) searches for her mother, a revered stage actress (Julianne Moore), and color sequences in 1977 when the orphaned Ben (Oakes Fegley) sets out to find his father. A film that’s as enchanting as it is emotional, Wonderstruck is perfect for any age, and will definitely find fans among kids fascinated by museums and mysteries.
4. Anything’s Possible
If teen romances are a frequent favorite in your household, then definitely queue up Anything’s Possible for the next family movie night. The directorial debut from Emmy/Grammy/Tony-winner Billy Porter (Pose) is a sweet and joyful coming-of-age romance in the vein of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Love, Simon. In a classic YA romance scenario, high school senior Kelsa starts to fall for the tenderhearted Khal (Abubakr Ali); only thing is Kelsa’s best friend also has a crush on him. As expected, much high school drama ensues along with swooning romance, heartbreak, and tough-love conversations between parents and teens.
Anything’s Possible may follow expected coming-of-age genre conventions, but what makes it especially groundbreaking and unique is that it’s a love story with a trans girl as the lead. Most remarkably, Porter’s film — written by trans screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona — depicts Kelsa (played by trans actress Eva Reign) as an average 17-year-old girl with interests, dreams, and desires as opposed to a character defined solely by her identity. Kelsa’s transness is a part of her story, but never the primary focus. When her identity does fold into the narrative, Lecuona’s script explores pertinent topics around discrimination and harassment.
The film never feels didactic and instead will likely help start necessary conversations with families watching at home around inaccurate and harmful beliefs relating to trans women and trans identity. Anything’s Possible gives us both a cute YA love story to swoon over and something rarely shown in media: a Black trans woman being loved and getting to fall in love like any other heroine of the genre.
5. Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland
Take the otherwordly adventures of Alice In Wonderland, cross it with the strange and dark mystery of ’80s fantasy films, and top it off with gorgeous Japanese animation, and you get Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. In the 1989 film based on Winsor McCay’s comic strip of the same name, we meet Nemo, a young boy with a vivid imagination and an adorable flying squirrel for a best friend. One night, Nemo and his squirrel Icarus are invited to the magical dreamworld of Slumberland to meet the King and befriend the young Princess. Soon after arriving the ever-curious Nemo breaks the King’s one rule and unleashes the King of Nightmare Land. What follows includes shapeshifting goblins, magical battles, and surreal visuals that look like something out of Fantasia meets the 2001 stargate sequence. While this is a kids movie, be warned it does ride that line of dazzling-yet-kinda-terrifying-visuals typical of ’80s fantasy. With its stunning animation, courtesy of renowned Japanese studio TMS, and imaginative story, Little Nemo is unlike anything we’re used to seeing in modern day kids animation.
6. Rookie of the Year
Credit: Michael P Weinstein/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock
Sixth grader Henry (Thomas Ian Nicholas in the first of multiple ’90s fantasy Little League movies) is a typical baseball-loving boy; unfortunately, he’s really bad at it. Something magical happens after Henry breaks his arm during a Little League game, resulting in a super-powered arm that throws insanely high-speed pitches. He’s so fast, in fact, that the manager of the Chicago Cubs recruits the 12-year-old kid to join the team alongside the pros. Pure goofy antics ensue. It’s incredibly silly, but it’s delightfully fun for any young kid or parent nostalgic for the playful magic of ’90s movies.
7. Star Trek Into Darkness
If the thing that gets your family together and gathered around the TV is big explosive action and intergalactic sci-fi adventures, then Star Trek Into Darkness is the best plan for your next movie night. In the second film in the rebooted franchise from director J.J. Abrams, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk has his eyes set on a new nemesis, Benedict Cumberbatch’s snarling Khan. The rest of the Enterprise crew returns as well, including Zachary Quinto’s Spock, Zoe Saldana’s Nyota Uhura, John Cho’s Sulu, Karl Urban’s McCoy, Simon Pegg’s Scotty, the late Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, and Leonard Nimoy, returning for an appearance as Spock Prime.
Though Into Darkness may not be the highlight of J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Trek trilogy, it’s still packed with fast-paced action set pieces, impressive visual effects, tons of warp speed, and playful Enterprise crew banter. Best of all, you don’t need to be a hardcore Trekkie to enjoy this space adventure.
8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
It’s no surprise why Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon earned loads of Oscar nominations and remains the biggest box office earner for a non-English language film to date. Over two decades since it debuted, Ang Lee’s lush wuxia drama remains a marvel. It’s got everything an audience could want from an absorbing historical epic, from a terrific narrative to its devastating romance and some of the most breathtaking martial arts fight sequences of its genre.
Set in 19th century China, Crouching Tiger follows a love story between Chow Yun-fat’s master swordsman Li Mu Bai and Michelle Yeoh‘s warrior Yu Shu Lien, a pair who’ve long loved one another but kept their feelings to themselves. After a legendary sword is stolen by a thief, the two set out on a journey of epic and magical proportions, including soaring fights across tree tops, Zhang Ziyi’s Jen taking on dozens of men in a tea house, and an incredible head-to-head between Zhang and Yeoh, all choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix, Kill Bill). While Crouching Tiger may require patience from some for subtitles and slower pacing, it’s well worth it for the gravity-defying wire work fight scenes.
9. It’s A Wonderful Life
It may not be the Christmas season just yet, but it’s never too early to get into the spirit with It’s A Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey, among the kindest and most selfless men of Bedford Falls, New York, and often to his own detriment. George saves his younger brother’s life but becomes partially deaf from the heroic act. He later sets aside his grand dreams of traveling the world when the downfall of his father’s bank threatens the livelihoods of his local townsfolk. After a lifetime of putting others first, George turns bitter and angry, and in a moment of lapsed judgment he contemplates ending it all. But that’s when the magic of Christmas arrives in the form of guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers), to show George what his life, and that of those he loves, would have been like if he were never born. A story about learning to not take life for granted, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is an enduring classic for a reason — it’s a heartwarming tale that never loses its potent emotional touch no matter how many times you revisit it.
10. Edward Scissorhands
A gothic love story about what it’s like being the weirdo in a town of normies, Edward Scissorhands is an essential film for all angsty youth. In this Tim Burton-directed classic, a rumor wends its way inside the pastel-colored homes of a sunny suburban neighborhood: Up in the ruinous castle on the hillside lives a reclusive inventor (Vincent Price) and his invention, a human-like robot with hands for scissors. The fable is revealed to be true when a makeup saleswoman (a perfect Dianne Wiest) discovers Edward (Johnny Depp) and takes the boy with sharp hands home to live with her family. A romance soon blossoms between Edward and Kim (Winona Ryder), tension brews between him and a local housewife, and drama follows as the unsocialized Edwards struggles to adapt to an ordinary world. Edward Scissorhands, with its script by frequent Burton collaborator Caroline Thompson and score by Danny Elfman, is a welcome throwback to the vividly inspired world of early Burton films and will surely satisfy nostalgia for wacky mid-century vintage decor and brooding ’90s angst.
Oliver Whitney is a freelance journalist and film critic. He has written for ScreenCrush, The A.V. Club, HuffPost, Vulture, Vanity Fair, and TV Guide.
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