Best Movies for Toddlers iMore 2021
There are plenty of great family-friendly movies available thanks to giants in the genre like Disney and Pixar. While there are dozens of different options to search through, it isn't always easy to find the movies that you want your kids to watch. We've narrowed down the best of the best, but the movie better than anything else available today is Moana. It delivers a great story, excellent animation, catchy tunes, and teaches kids about the power of forgiveness.
- Best Overall: Moana
- Best Value: How to Train Your Dragon
- Best Superhero: Incredibles 2
- Best Story: The Lego Movie
- Best Fairytale: Frozen
- Best Pixar: Toy Story
Best Overall: Moana
Disney is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to making movies for children, and toddlers are no exception to that rule. While they have dozens of great options for parents to choose from, 2016's Moana is our pick for the best overall choice. It features an excellent story about forgiveness and adventure, an extraordinary story, and songs that will most definitely get stuck in parents and children's heads alike.
On the island of Motunui, every person has a job. Moana is in line to be the next leader of the island, but her heart is in the ocean, past the borders where her people sail. Torn between her love for the ocean, and her duty to her people, she doesn't know what her future holds. A dark blight begins to eat away at the island and threatens everyone who lives there. Her grandmother shows Moana a secret cove. One filled with ships that can sail far beyond those borders so that she can turn away the blight by returning the heart of Te Fiti.
Moana's story revolves around both her and the demigod Maui, the one responsible for having stolen the heart, to begin with. It follows Moana as she embraces her true destiny, fights against her fears and anxieties, and ultimately finds a way to save her people. Between the music, the Polynesian representation on screen, and the story itself, there is plenty here to love.
- Amazing story
- Excellent Polynesian legends and representation
- Beautiful animation style
- These songs will get stuck in your head
- Cartoon violence may be intense for some children
Best Value: How to Train Your Dragon
Vikings live on the northern island of Berk where things are pretty desolate. It's cold and rainy, and the only thing they have in regular supply is a serious problem. Dragons. Big dragons and small ones, and the Vikings who live on Berk hunt all of them. After all, it's a kill them before they destroy the village situation.
Hiccup isn't your average Viking though, and when he finds an injured dragon in the forest, he doesn't kill it. Instead, he begins to realize that the Vikings don't know much about the dragons they hunt. Realizing that dragons can be subdued nonviolently, Hiccup begins a quest to change the way the Vikings at large, and his father in particular deal with dragons. It's a movie that talks about accepting who you are, your limitations, finding peace between a father and son, and more.
- Great story
- Gorgeous graphics
- Excellent representation of family and disability
- Cartoon violence may be too much for some parents
Best Superhero: Incredibles 2
Not all heroes wear capes in the Incredibles universe. If you watched the first movie, you'd understand why, but now the family of superheroes return with an all-new story. The Superhero relocation program is defunded after a very public incident, which includes severe property damage. Afterward, the Parr family finds themselves without any financial help from the government and in dire straits when they receive an offer to bring heroes back into the spotlight. Winston Deaver and his sister Evelyn want to send heroes out on secret missions that are recorded to bring them back into the light.
Things don't go as planned, though. This time Elastigirl takes the lead away from her family as she tries to do the right thing. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible tries to keep the family together. All while Jack Jack's powers begin to manifest, Violet and Dash have trouble at school, and a scary new enemy starts to show up. This sequel to the original movie is funny, fresh, and brings the characters you already know back to the screen with delightful results.
- Awesome depiction of a family
- Fun characters
- Great animation style
- Some parents may take umbrage with cartoon violence
Best Story: The Lego Movie
It's easy to see plenty of absolutely ridiculous movies and reboots based on toys or nostalgia. While The Lego Movie didn't look like much when it was initially released, but that's where you'd be wrong. It's a rollicking, hilarious ride that uses satire, humor, toys, and more to deliver a fun movie that children and adults can enjoy together.
It follows Emmett, a construction worker who is found to be "the special," the one person who can save the entire lego universe. This is a hero's journey that is far more amusing than most. It has Emmett trying to save the world from Bad Corp and an evil mastermind who wants to glue Legos into his view of perfection.
- Hilarious story
- Excellent cast
- Brings Legos to life in great chaotic ways
- Satire and jokes aren't things kids will understand
- The story isn't particularly new or groundbreaking
Best Disney: Frozen
Elsa and Anna are sisters in the northern kingdom of Arendelle. While Anna is a normal princess, the crown princess Elsa has special powers. The ability to control ice. As a child, after an accident involving Anna, her parents told her to hide her abilities to try and control them. This only worked for so long, and at the beginning of the movie, Elsa loses control. It leaves all of Arendelle covered in magical ice and snow as she flees to the mountains. Anna is left behind and decides to find her sister and bring her home.
Frozen gained popularity when it first released thanks to the breakout hit of Let it Go, and with a sequel on the way, it's back in the news again. The story is based around the relationship between Elsa and Anna, and while there is a romance for Anna in there, it isn't an essential aspect. If you want a funny and heartwarming story, then this is the movie to show off to your toddler.
- Great soundtrack
- Hilarious characters
- Shows a great relationship between siblings
- You will get tired of hearing Let it Go
- The story can feel thin to adults
Best Pixar: Toy Story
Every child wonders if their toys come to life when they aren't looking. Toy Story 4 might have come to theaters recently, but Woody and Buzz got their start a long time ago back in 1995 with the original movie. While the animation might be noticeably dated to older children, chances are your toddler isn't going to pick up on that. Instead, they'll see how Woody and Buzz became friends under less than auspicious circumstances.
Woody has been Andy's favorite toy for years, and he takes that job very seriously. However, when a new toy, an astronaut named Buzz Lightyear, shows up things start to change. To begin with, Buzz doesn't seem to know that he's not real. Woody deals with some severe jealousy over the new toy. He eventually has to learn to work with Buzz instead of against him. Altogether it's a funny, smart movie about friendship uniquely suited for children.
- Funny story
- Teaches kids about friendship
- Graphics are dated
Every movie that made our list here is family-friendly and sure to catch the attention of your toddler. From the Incredibles, to How to Train Your Dragon, there are a variety of different stories and characters that will get them giggling as they watch. Out of everything available, Disney's Moana is the top-notch choice that shouldn't be missed.
Moana tells the story of a young girl who seeks to save her people from an encroaching darkness. To do it, she needs to return the heart of Te-Fiti, not an easy task since a demigod stole it. With catchy tunes and themes like forgiveness and understanding of yourself, it's an excellent movie filled with the best Polynesian representation out there today.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Jen Karner has been a movie buff for years. She read reviews and sought the recommendations of parents before compiling the list of suggested movies here. You can follow her on Twitter
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