15 Best Live Action Kids Movies

by IMDb-Editors | created - 11 Aug 2015 | updated - 18 Aug 2015 | Public

If you and the kids are suffering from animation overload, it's time to watch some real, live people performing real, live action. We've rounded up 15 of the best live action children's films of all time (Free Willy, anyone?), all of which are available for your streaming pleasure. So make the most out of summer movie nights, and don't bother putting the little ones to bed — audiences of all ages are invited to the party. - Mehara Bonner

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1. Jumanji (1995)

PG | 104 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

39 Metascore

When two kids find and play a magical board game, they release a man trapped for decades in it and a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.

Director: Joe Johnston | Stars: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, Jonathan Hyde

Votes: 270,595 | Gross: $100.48M

Rating: PG. Sure, your kids might side-eye the CGI monkeys, but Jumanji is a total blast — plus, it stars comedy legend Robin Williams as a man who's been stuck in a board game since childhood. Every roll of the dice brings a new adventure for kids to "ooh and ahhh" over, though keep in mind — the end of the film is pretty scary.

2. Finding Neverland (2004)

PG | 106 min | Biography, Drama, Family

67 Metascore

The story of Sir J.M. Barrie's friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Director: Marc Forster | Stars: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell

Votes: 191,057 | Gross: $51.68M

Rating: PG. This is a great pick for pre-teens, and stars Johnny Depp as author J.M. Barrie, who's inspired to write Peter Pan after making friends with a widow and her children. Moving and sweet, Finding Neverland will make you wish you'd never grown up, and will teach your kids the importance of valuing what remains of their childhood.

3. Fly Away Home (1996)

PG | 107 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

A father and daughter decide to attempt to lead a flock of orphaned Canada Geese south by air.

Director: Carroll Ballard | Stars: Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Dana Delany, Terry Kinney

Votes: 22,105 | Gross: $24.51M

Rating: PG. In this gorgeous family film, Anna Paquin plays a plucky teenager who raises a flock of baby geese on her father's farm. The problem? The geese have to learn to fly — which means Paquin has to teach them. Heartfelt and beautifully filmed, this is truly a movie for all ages. Just remember, Paquin's on-screen mother dies in the beginning, which could be upsetting for younger children. This is why the fast forward button was invented!

4. The Parent Trap (1998)

PG | 128 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

64 Metascore

Identical twins Annie and Hallie, separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, later discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.

Director: Nancy Meyers | Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix

Votes: 108,836 | Gross: $66.31M

Rating: PG. The great news is that both the original and new version of The Parent Trap are available on Amazon Instant Video, which means you can watch Lindsay Lohan or Hayley Mills, depending on what mood you're in. Either way, The Parent Trap is tons of fun for the elementary school crowd — though it should be noted that divorce is a main theme. Kids with parents going through separations might have a hard time watching.

5. Little Women (1994)

PG | 115 min | Drama, Family, Romance

87 Metascore

The March sisters live and grow in post-Civil War America.

Director: Gillian Armstrong | Stars: Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes

Votes: 43,791 | Gross: $50.08M

Rating: PG. Little Women is bar none one of the best family movies of all time, and truly an example of a film being as good as the book on which it's based. Starring Winona Ryder and Claire Danes, the film is a beautiful (and flawlessly acted) look at sisterhood, friendship, and kindness. A must-watch during the holidays!

6. Enchanted (2007)

PG | 107 min | Animation, Comedy, Family

75 Metascore

A young maiden in a land called Andalasia, who is prepared to be wed, is sent away to New York City by an evil queen, where she falls in love with a lawyer.

Director: Kevin Lima | Stars: Amy Adams, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Patrick Dempsey

Votes: 165,420 | Gross: $127.81M

Rating: PG. All the appeal of a Disney princess movie, except with live action! Well, ish. Enchanted starts off as a typical animated film, until Princess Giselle gets time-warped from her fantasy land into the real world before her wedding day. If this sounds like a recipe for movie success, that's because it definitely is: Amy Adams is hilarious, her vocal chops are spot on, and your kids will be Frozen-level obsessed.

7. The Muppets (2011)

PG | 103 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

75 Metascore

A Muppet fanatic with some help from his 2 human compatriots must regroup the Muppet gang to stop an avaricious oil mogul from taking down one of their precious life-longing treasures.

Director: James Bobin | Stars: Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones

Votes: 82,834 | Gross: $88.63M

Rating: PG. The Muppets is a solid option for parents looking for a kid-friendly movie that's just as entertaining for adults. Full of famous faces and cameos from the likes of Emily Blunt and Selena Gomez, The Muppets proves the indisputable fact that there's no such thing as being too old for Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.

8. The Princess Diaries (2001)

G | 111 min | Comedy, Family, Romance

52 Metascore

Mia Thermopolis has just found out that she is the heir apparent to the throne of Genovia. With her friends Lilly and Michael Moscovitz in tow, she tries to navigate through the rest of her sixteenth year.

Director: Garry Marshall | Stars: Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo

Votes: 116,662 | Gross: $108.25M

Rating: G. Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews in a light-hearted fairy tale? There's just no going wrong! Hathaway plays a high school princess in major need of a makeover, and Julie Andrews plays her queenly grandmother — who's dead-set on turning her into royalty. So yes, in case you can't already tell, this is the ultimate tween girl flick — but rated G, so the younger kids can watch, too!

9. Babe (1995)

G | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

83 Metascore

Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs, learns to herd sheep with a little help from Farmer Hoggett.

Director: Chris Noonan | Stars: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes

Votes: 109,304 | Gross: $66.60M

Rating: G. All you really need to know about Babe is that it's about an adorable baby pig who thinks he's a dog. What else could a child want out of a movie? Heart-melting moments of friendship and gorgeous scenery? Because it has that too. True fun for the entire family and a total classic.

10. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

PG | 93 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

63 Metascore

The scientist father of a teenage girl and boy accidentally shrinks his and two other neighborhood teens to the size of insects. Now the teens must fight diminutive dangers as the father searches for them.

Director: Joe Johnston | Stars: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland

Votes: 130,099 | Gross: $130.72M

Rating: PG. This movie is proof that no decade does it better than the '80s. The entire premise revolves around a dad (played by Rick Moranis) accidentally shrinking his kids, and the adventures that ensue are so funny you'll forget the movie was made before the days of good special effects. Not only will children love Honey I Shrunk the Kids due to the fact that it's straight-up amazing, adults will adore it for the throwback factor.

11. Free Willy (1993)

PG | 112 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

79 Metascore

When a boy learns that a beloved killer whale is to be killed by the aquarium owners, the boy risks everything to free the whale.

Director: Simon Wincer | Stars: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen, Jayne Atkinson

Votes: 62,780 | Gross: $77.70M

Rating: PG. One of the classics to come out of the 90s, Free Willy is about a boy's unlikely friendship with an orca whale. It's full of emotion and a reminder of just how strong the bond between children and animals can be. The film is best suited for ages seven and up, as the action is limited and the boy has been abandoned by his mom — a tough concept to have to explain to the little ones.

12. Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

PG | 101 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

71 Metascore

Yearning for escape and adventure, a young boy runs away from home and sails to an island filled with creatures that take him in as their king.

Director: Spike Jonze | Stars: Max Records, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Pepita Emmerichs

Votes: 96,569 | Gross: $77.23M

Rating: PG. This absolutely stunning movie adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak book is a parent's dream (it was written by Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze, after all), but will leave kids delighted as well. As you probably remember from your own childhood, Where the Wild Things Are is pretty bittersweet, so expect your kids to be crying happy-tears.

13. The Goonies (1985)

PG | 114 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

62 Metascore

A group of young misfits who call themselves The Goonies discover an ancient map and set out on a quest to find a legendary pirate's long-lost treasure.

Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman

Votes: 217,770 | Gross: $61.50M

Rating: PG. Probably the most classic kids film on this list, The Goonies is an '80s gem about a group of friends who go on a mission to find the legendary One-Eyed Willie's pirate booty. Quotable lines include "Goonies never say die!" and "dead things, Mikey. DEAD THINGS!" so expect to hear your kids screaming them in the weeks to come. Note: The movie has some adult themes and language and is best for kids 10+.

14. The Little Rascals (1994)

PG | 82 min | Comedy, Family, Romance

45 Metascore

Alfalfa is wooing Darla and his "He-Man-Woman-Hating" friends attempt to sabotage the relationship.

Director: Penelope Spheeris | Stars: Travis Tedford, Bug Hall, Brittany Ashton Holmes, Kevin Jamal Woods

Votes: 39,873 | Gross: $51.76M

Rating: PG. Is your kid too young for The Goonies? Check out The Little Rascals, a sweet and silly film about a group of adventurous friends (including Alfalfa, Porky and Spanky!) who get themselves into all kinds of neighborhood trouble. Not too surprising, considering they're part of the He-Man Woman Haters Club!

15. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

PG | 102 min | Adventure, Drama, Family

46 Metascore

A troubled boy dives into a wondrous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen | Stars: Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Gerald McRaney

Votes: 118,976 | Gross: $20.16M

Rating: PG. Last but not even close to least, we have The NeverEnding Story, aka the most innovative and groundbreaking live action children's movie ever made. The film—about a boy who gets caught up in a marvelous fantasy world while reading a book—has influenced pop culture since it came out in 1984, and remains highly entertaining to this day. Stream it for children ages 8+ and watch as their minds are completely blown.



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