The best children's movies to enjoy as a family this winter

Ed Power says there are some terrific children’s movies to enjoy as a family so sit back and get zapping.

The best children's movies to enjoy as a family this winter

Ed Power says there are some terrific children’s movies to enjoy as a family so sit back and get zapping.

Winter is drawing in and there really is no better place to be than cuddled up on your couch. And with the first chime of Christmas bells discernible, it’s the perfect time for watching a family movie together.

However, in this world of infinite content, endless channels and more streaming services than you can throw a remote control at, where to begin? Fret not. We’ve done the hard work for you, selecting 10 child-friendly movies to help you forget it’s freezing outside and you still haven’t ordered your turkey.

Draw the curtains, dim the lights and let your anxieties melt like snowflakes in the sun …

1. Klaus, Netflix

This Santa Claus origin story tugs tenderly at the heart-strings. Spoiled heir Jesper (Jason Schwarztman) is assigned as a postman to a remote frozen island by his exasperated father. Upon arrival, he gets more than he bargained for.

Jesper grows up in a hurry when he meets lonely toymaker Klaus (Oscar-winner JK Simmons). Soon they are popping down chimneys and giving toys to the children of local townsfolk who are locked in an ancient feud. Thus the spirit of Christmas wafts in, old enemies set their hatred aside and Jesper and Klaus learn the value of friendship. Christmas movies are often deafening tinsel-fests. Klaus is low-key and very moving.

2. Gulliver’s Travels, YouTube

YouTube is home to a vast selection of movies that can be watched for free. Your kids will love this Disney-esque 1939 retelling of Jonathan Swift’s story. It was just the second ever feature-length animation produced by an American studio, following Disney’s Snow White. A huge hit in its day it was nominated for two Oscars.

And though it obviously looks its age today, this tale of Gulliver and his adventures in the diminutive kingdom of Lilliput still has its charms.

3. Dumbo, Virgin on Demand

Virgin subscribers can access on-demand videos and one surprisingly cockle-warming offering is Tim Burton’s live action Dumbo remake from earlier this year. “Surprising” because critics were extraordinarily sniffy about it.

However, Burton’s eccentric movie-making skills are deployed to their full here as he brings us the thrilling tale of a little elephant with big ears blessed with the power to soar through the air.

Plus it has Colin Farrell as a world-weary circus handler — a part it turns out he made born to play. And on cold, pre-Christmas nights the whole thing just makes so much more sense than it did when it arrived last March.

4. Shrek, Amazon Prime

Amazon’s streaming service is coming into its own with more and more must-see shows (and that’s before it debuts its $1 bn Lord of the Rings prequel).

True, its bench of classic movies isn’t yet as deep as Netflix’s. Still, as Christmas approaches, you can’t go wrong with the classic Shrek.

It may have been based on an established children’s book but, as far as the majority of its audience was concerned, Dreamwork’s biggest kids hit, told the entirely original story of a sweet if physically unappealing ogre, his donkey side-kick and the princess it is his destiny to rescue (whether she wants to be rescued or not).

It remains every bit as charming as it did in 2001, down to Mike Myers’s kind-hearted ogre, and his unlikely Scottish accent.

5. Room On The Broom, Amazon Prime

Each Christmas brings a new BBC adaptation of a beloved Julia Donaldson children’s book. This year, Rob Brydon, Sally Hawkins and Diana Rigg star in the Snail and the Whale. But while we look ahead to that, Amazon has the animated version of the Room on the Broom from 2012.

It’s charm on a (broom) stick, featuring the voices of Gillian Anderson, Simon Pegg, David Walliams and Timothy Spall.

6. Paddington, Amazon Prime

Few films can induce a glow as warm as Paul King’s 2012 adaptation of Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear stories. Ben Whishaw is perfect as the cuddly omnivore from Peru, as are Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as his adoptive ‘parents’ and Nicole Kidman as malevolent taxidermist Doctor Millicent (Nicole Kidman being of course born to play a malevolent taxidermist).

The 2017 sequel, also on Prime, is even better, with Hugh Grant as a vain villain.

7. The Never Ending Story, Netflix

This 80s fantasy movie won an entirely new fanbase when it was referenced prominently at the end of Stranger Things season three. The original film holds up too, with its furry ‘luck dragon’, its truth-saying giant turtle and stone-chomping Rockbiter.

Few movies sweep you off completely to another world, but Never Ending story does so effortlessly — and from the first note of the Limahl theme too. For children slightly too young for Lord of the Rings, it is the perfect introduction to the fantastical.

8. Rise of the Guardians, Netflix

Cross the Night Before Christmas with Marvel’s Avengers and this is what you get: a fast-paced animated adventure in which Santa is reimagined as a superhero. It’s the perfect crossover: you want something Christmas-flavoured, your kids are obsessed with Captain American and Iron Man.

Here is the perfect mash-up of the two. Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin and Jude Law star.

9. The Angry Birds Movie, Netflix

Irreverent humour is hard to carry-off in G rated films. But the 2016 adaptation of the hit smartphone game achieves it effortlessly. Jason Sudeikis is the grumpy and paranoid bird Red, Bill Hader king of the pigs Leonard and Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones cameos as the less-than-impressive Mighty Eagle.

The colour scheme is as bright and bouncy as a birthday cake festooned with Smarties but the humour is sharp and quickfire.

10. The Lost World, YouTube

Kids love dinosaurs. And YouTube is home to a restored version of the original of the primordial species. This 1925 adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle novel features stomping Apatosaurs, snorting Triceratops and a bad-tempered Allosaur.

And because it’s YouTube, you can zip through the first hour, which features endless exposition and more scenes of men in top hats waddling about than is necessary, even for a silent film set in Victorian England.

More in this section

ieParenting Logo
Writers ieParenting

Our team of experts are on hand to offer advice and answer your questions here

Your digital cookbook

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Execution Time: 0.231 s