40 Good Movies That Are Family-Oriented

40 Good Movies That Are Family-Oriented

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The best family movies are the ones that showcase the wide range of emotions we feel about our kin. Sure, we love our parents and adore our siblings, but we’re also just as often frustrated, perplexed, and hurt by them. It’s this multitude of feelings—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but always very strong—that really define our complex ties with them.

So, whether you’re in a loving mood or an angsty mood, here’s a list of the best movies that capture our complicated but unparalleled love for family.

40. Pieces of April (2003)

7.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Peter Hedges

Actors

Adrian Martinez, Alice Drummond, Alison Pill, Anney Giobbe

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Grown-up Comedy

The entirety of Pieces of April takes place on Thanksgiving Day, a busy holiday meant to bring loved ones together. Sure enough, April, the eldest Burns daughter, takes great pains to prepare a nice dinner for her visiting family. But we soon learn that she is motivated less by excitement than by dread: she’s long been estranged, disowned even, by her uptight mother, Joy, who is only agreeing to come because she’s sick with cancer. April seems to be on a reluctant mission to fix their fraught relationship, but pesky (albeit funny) mishaps, both on her and Joy’s end, keep getting in the way. 

Shot digitally and very closely with hand-held cameras, Pieces of April looks as intimate as it feels. It’s a snapshot of an era and of a particular family dynamic, one that relatably relies on both love and scorn to keep going. It’s an excellent, honest, and underrated gem of a movie.

39. The Secret Garden (1993)

7.4

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Agnieszka Holland, Female director

Actors

Andrew Knott, Arthur Spreckley, Heydon Prowse, Irène Jacob

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

Even if it seems like nothing really “happens” for much of The Secret Garden, its characters paint quite the moving picture of neglected children and their indomitable capacity to find hope in the world. Director Agnieszka Holland tells this story with just the right amount of whimsy: at times it’s spooky and magical, but everything is grounded in the charming performances of the film’s young actors, who are allowed to be difficult, smart, and sorrowful whenever they need to be. It may be old-fashioned, but watching it in this new decade—when we’re all trying to guard our kids from sickness and death—makes it feel all the more relevant.

38. Twinsters (2015)

7.5

Country

France, Korea, South Korea

Director

Female director, Ryan Miyamoto

Actors

Anaïs Bordier, Kanoa Goo, Samantha Futerman

Moods

True-story-based

Twinsters is a documentary about a young Asian American actress, Samantha Futerman (also co-director), who is contacted over the internet by a young French-Asian woman, Anaïs Bordier, who has been shown a video of Samantha on the internet — and cannot believe their remarkably similar physical appearance. After initial perplexity and uncertainty, Samantha and Anaïs are soon embroiled in excited correspondence and travel to meet one another in their respective countries — eventually confirming via DNA testing that they are in fact long-lost twin sisters given up for adoption 25 years earlier in South Korea. A remarkable true story with a wonderfully beating heart, Twinsters does a lovely job of not just spelling out the amazing story of the sisters’ unlikely connection, but also finding and exploring the growing love and affection between both the two girls, as well as their extended families and groups of friends. A truly touching and humanistic film-viewing experience.

37. 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

7.6

Country

Japan

Director

Makoto Shinkai

Actors

Akira Nakagawa, Ayaka Onoue, Hiroshi Shimozaki, Keiko Izeki

5 Centimeters per Second is a quiet, beautiful anime about the life of a boy called Takaki, told in three acts over the span of seventeen years. The movie explores the experience and thrill of having a first love, as well as being someone else’s. In depicting how delicate it is to hold special feelings towards another, director Makoto Shinkai also perfectly captures how cruel the passing of time can be for someone in love. While the early stage of the movie maintains a dreamy mood, as the stories develop we become thrust back into reality, where it is not quite possible to own that which we want the most. All things considered, 5 Centimeters per Second is a story about cherishing others, accepting reality, and letting people go.

36. Whale Rider (2002)

7.7

Country

Germany, New-Zealand

Director

Female director, Niki Caro

Actors

Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Mana Taumaunu

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Feel-Good, Lovely

The story that Whale Rider tells is a familiar one: that of a young girl challenging the expectations of a patriarchal community in order to claim her rightful place in a position of authority. But this isn’t a superficial girl-power movie; writer/director Niki Caro maintains the utmost reverence for this Māori community, even if its customs might not appear fair to an outsider’s point of view. It’s a film full of realistically flawed people, whose struggles are all borne from a common love for their culture in their little corner of the world. What could have been generic and simplistic is made beautiful—especially thanks to a truly moving performance from Keisha Castle-Hughes, who at the time became the youngest nominee for the Best Actress Oscar.

35. Minari (2021)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Lee Isaac Chung

Actors

Chloe Lee, Darryl Cox, Ed Spinelli, Eric Starkey

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Dramatic

Minari is a film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, about a Korean-American family in search of the so-called American Dream. It is an intimate drama that is powerful yet quiet, and filled with moments of innocence. With dreamlike scoring, unique characters, and a captivating climax, this movie tugs on the heartstrings, and serves as a great reminder of the beauty of gratitude.

Thanks to these, plus winning performances across the board, Minari earned plenty of nominations at the 2021 Oscars, with Youn Yuh-jung eventually bagging the Best Supporting Actress award—a monumental first for South Korea.

34. Ilo Ilo (2013)

7.8

Country

France, Japan, Singapore

Director

Anthony Chen

Actors

Angeli Bayani, Chen Tian Wen, Chen Tianwen, Jialer Koh

Moods

Character-driven, Slice-of-Life, True-story-based

At the height of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a small Singaporean family scrambles to keep their middle-class status afloat. The parents shave their expenses and work extra-long hours, but their busyness causes them to neglect their misbehaved son. When his misdemeanors prove to be too much, the mother is forced to hire a stay-at-home nanny, and her presence (along with other external pressures) brings about a change in the house. Suddenly, everyone becomes a bit more aware of their limitations and potential, and from this, a shared empathy grows. In other hands, this story might come off as bare and forgettable, but under first-time-feature director Anthony Chen’s helm, Ilo Ilo comes to life in rich detail, thoughtful shots, and captivatingly natural performances. Despite its many heartbreaking scenes, the film rarely dwells in sentiment, and it’s this restraint that makes Ilo Ilo all the more gripping to watch. 

33. Secondhand Lions (2003)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Tim McCanlies

Actors

Adam Ozturk, Adrian Pasdar, Billy Joe Shaver, Brian Stanton

Moods

Easy, Lighthearted, No-brainer

This forgotten gem is the perfect family movie. It stars Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as the two eccentric uncles of Walter, a shy city kid (played by Haley Joel Osment). When Walter moves in with his uncles in rural Texas, he first has a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. However his routine is changed after he starts hearing local gossip about his uncles, and reminiscence spurs in all three an incredible eagerness for adventure. Secondhand Lions has gathered impressive cult following in the past few years, and rightfully so. Its fast-paced, entertaining yet substantial storyline shines a light on the amazing performances by the cast, and offers a surprising mix of funny, heartwarming and sad. Look out for the flashback scenes.

32. In the Heights (2021)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Jon M. Chu

Actors

Anthony Ramos, Ariana Greenblatt, Christopher Jackson, Corey Hawkins

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Feel-Good

Even if you aren’t familiar with the original, Tony Award-winning Broadway production from Lin-Manuel Miranda, this adaptation of In the Heights is still infused with the same infectious energy and loaded with many of the same eclectic songs. This is musical theater at its most fundamental (cheesy, us-against-the-world romance; unstoppable optimism) and also at some of its most unique—with old-school Broadway numbers mixing seamlessly with hip hop, Latin dance, and cheery 2000s pop. But beyond its music, In the Heights offers a gorgeous tapestry of stories about life in a proud immigrant community and the challenges of staying rooted to home while reaching for the stars.

31. Ernest and Celestine (2012)

7.9

Country

Belgium, France, Luxembourg

Director

Benjamin Renner, Stéphane Aubier

Actors

Adeline Chetail, Anne-Marie Loop, Brigitte Virtudes, Colleen O'Shaughnessey

Moods

Easy, Emotional, Feel-Good

Ernest is an old bear and Celestine a young mouse; he lives above ground, while she lives underground. Their kinds fear one another, and borders are set in place so that they never intermingle, but despite all the odds, Ernest and Celestine form a bond—they share one similarity, after all, which is that they’re both outcasts. 

Ernest & Celestine is a classic buddy tale of outsiders finding their place in the world. The story and its messages of acceptance and equality are already charming and weighty on their own, but the hand-drawn and watercolored animation gives the film an extra rush of nostalgia and delight. Beautifully made and surprisingly relevant, it’s a children’s film for all ages. It makes sense that it was nominated for Best Animation in the 86th Academy Awards (what doesn’t is it losing to Frozen).  

An English dub is available on most streaming platforms, but we highly recommend watching it in French, how it’s originally meant to be heard.

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