The Best Family Movies Of 2020
The year 2020 has certainly been a fantastic one for family movies. In a year that has been dramatically different to what we’d imagined, a little magic and some wholesome storylines have gone a long way. It’s no wonder some of these family movies have been so successful at the box office and on their respective streaming services. In fact, four of our picks for the best family movies of 2020 are in the top ten highest grossing films of the year. It seems that adults and children alike have enjoyed escaping to these fantastical worlds on their screens this year.
As film experts explained to The Telegraph, a great family movie is actually pretty hard to achieve. “The great children’s films are the ones that adults love too, that everybody loves,” Catherine Des Forges of the Independent Cinema Office said. She added that a good family movie “takes you into its world and you come out thinking differently.” That’s why we loved these family movies of 2020 — and why we think everyone should add them to their list, even people who aren’t watching with a child!
This magical retelling of Doctor Dolittle has an all-star cast
Doctor Dolittle is the much-loved vet who’s famous for his ability to talk to animals. He first appeared in the children’s books by Hugh Lofting. The stories were then adapted for the 1967 musical version, Doctor Dolittle, and later for the 1998 Eddie Murphy flick. The latest version of the extraordinary vet is played by Robert Downey Jr. in the 2020 film Dolittle.
While this film didn’t get the best reviews, it’s still bound to be a hit with both adults and children. For the kids, this film offers a colorful cast of human and animal characters, along with an epic adventure. For adults, the all-star cast alone makes the 2020 family movie a fun watch — in addition to Downey Jr., you’ll see familiar faces or hear familiar voices like those of Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, and Tom Holland, to name a few.
The visuals of the film are also seriously impressive. As the young actor Harry Collett, who plays Tommy in the movie, said to Screen Rant after first watching the finished product, “seeing how well the animals have been put together” was a great surprise. And he’s right — it really is magical to see these talking animals come to life on screen!
Pixar's film Onward is a touching 2020 family movie about childhood grief
Pixar is well known for producing profound family movies that deal with quite serious issues in a child-friendly manner. For instance, the 2015 movie Inside Out made headlines for its nuanced portrayal of mental health issues, while 2008’s Wall-E tackled humanity’s role in climate change. In 2020, Pixar brought us Onward, about a world that was once filled with magic, but has since turned into one much like our own. Two teenage elves discover a spell that will bring their deceased father back for a day, but the spell fails halfway through, leaving them with just their father’s legs. They begin a magical quest to complete the spell before sundown.
What makes this film great is the sophisticated way it touches on grief and moving on. As director and co-writer Dan Scanlon explained to The Guardian, the story is actually based on his own experience of grieving for his own father who passed away from a car accident when Scanlon was 1. He explained, “I want the takeaway to be: talk to that person who went above and beyond for you. Say it now while you can.” Talk about a deep message for a family film!
The cult-favorite book series Artemis Fowl was finally made into a family movie in 2020
Back in the early 2000s, the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer were all the rage amongst young sci-fi fans. Now, the stories have finally been turned into a feature-length film — and it’s been a long time coming. The film rights were originally bought after the first book was released in 2001, but several adaptations fell through.
Artemis Fowl is the perfect movie for Harry Potter fans — but it does manage to offer something entirely new, too. As the director Kenneth Branagh put it to Slash Film, “It felt as though Eoin had created Artemis in a space that belonged entirely to him.” He added, “There was more lunacy running through Artemis Fowl, more people howling at the moon as it were.” Sounds like any fans of fantasy, whether they be young or old, are sure to absolutely love this magical new adaptation — especially since its been such a long time coming!
The live-action Mulan movie is a must-see for Disney fans
One of the most talked about family movies of 2020 was the live action version of the Disney classic Mulan. The original 1998 animated Mulan is definitely a fan favorite, thanks to its spunky lead character, unforgettable soundtrack, and feminist undertones.
Unlike many of the other live action Disney remakes, which recreated our favorite shots and images from the originals, this live-action remake decided to do things differently. First of all, the film didn’t include any musical numbers. Nor did it include the much-loved little dragon, Mushu. While you may think these controversial decisions would ruin the film, it turns out that they made the film even more interesting and more realistic. As the film’s director, Niki Caro, said to USA Today, “Part of bringing it into the live action was to commit to the realism of her journey.” While we still adore the animated musical version for its humor and killer soundtrack, we have to admit, this new, more realistic version makes Mulan feel so much more real — and the story so much more epic!
Sonic the Hedgehog finally came out in 2020 after a redesign
Many of us probably remember the super speedy video game character Sonic the Hedgehog from our youth. In 2020, we were treated to a live-action film version of the iconic little blue hedgehog in a family movie starring Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz, and James Marsden.
As it turns out, this movie was actually meant to be released in 2019. But the director, Jeff Fowler, announced the team would be redesigning the character of Sonic shortly after the first trailer debuted. As The Verge reported, many fans of the video game were horrified by the original design, which featured long, human-like legs and a full set of teeth. Luckily, the production team listened and gave fans what they wanted. As Fowler wrote on Twitter, “You aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen.” He added, “Everyone at paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be.”
The Verge noted that this film is great because it is filled with “genuinely fun stuff” that will delight fans of the video game and newcomers to the character alike.
The Call of the Wild is an epic adventure tale for dog-lovers
There’s a reason why old-school family movies like Old Yeller and Homeward Bound were so popular — the dogs! Who doesn’t love an adorable pooch on the big screen — especially when they’re part of an epic journey. If you’re a fan of cute pups and their emotional bonds with their human friend, you are sure to love The Call of the Wild.
This film is based on the Jack London novel, and follows a man and his dog through some stunning places. Plus, it stars the one and only Harrison Ford, so it’s bound to be pretty great — who wouldn’t want Indiana Jones plus a dog! As director Chris Sanders explained to The People’s Movies, the dog in the movie was created using CGI, but he had a real-life counterpart, which explained why he looks so lifelike.
So, what can you expect to get out of the film? “Poignant, emotional drama,” Sanders said succinctly. “If you love dogs it’s for you, our dog survives so if people don’t know the story no concerns are necessary.”
Anne Hathaway is mesmerizing in this Roald Dahl adaptation of The Witches
Roald Dahl is often considered the king of children’s literature. His well-loved, distinctive books include Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — all of which went on to become classic family films (here are Roald Dahl adaptations ranked worst to best by Rotten Tomatoes). His book The Witches was turned into a movie of the same name in 1990 and again in 2020. And by the sounds of things, it’s not to be missed! It stars Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, and Octavia Spencer and features some incredible Dahl-esque wacky costumes and sets. Hathaway as Lilith, the Grand High Witch, is, according to the Independent, “exquisitely watchable” and “delightfully camp.”
In an interview for FabTV, director Robert Zemeckis explained what drew him to the story. For him, he was drawn to the “subversive” nature of the witches, as well as “underlying themes” like “acceptance, individuality, and being ok with who you are.” Sounds like this 2020 family movie definitely ticks all the boxes for appealing to multiple generations.
The Legend of the Five immersed kids in the magic of Australia
The Legend of the Five has everything you could want from a fantastical kids’ movie — beautiful Australian landscapes, a misfit group of kids, a magical forest, and an ancient curse. The film was directed by Joanne Samuel, whom you may remember as Max’s wife in Mad Max. Her son, and one of the film’s producers, explained where they got their inspiration to Film Ink. “Joanne loves the classic fantasy stories,” he said. “One thing the entire team had in common was their love for films like The Goonies, The Labyrinth and The Neverending Story.”
As Samuel told The Next Rush Magazine, “My goal was to create a world with fantastical possibilities, while still representing as much of modern Australia as possible.” She added, “The Legend of the Five is about youth, coming of age, finding your place, and understanding that you are worth so much more than the nay-sayers tell you.” Wow, sounds like there are a lot of great things to take away from this film!
This enchanting adaptation of The Secret Garden will reawaken your childhood wonder
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett tells the story of Mary, the sullen orphan who moves in with her elusive uncle. Mary discovers a secret key which opens the gate to a hidden garden. As The Guardian noted, the garden teaches both Mary and readers “to live a full life of both the body and the imagination.”
In 2020, a new film version of the book was released starring Colin Firth, Julie Walters, and Dixie Egerickx. If you’re after some much-deserved escapism, this heart-warming family movie is packed with breathtaking, fantastical magic that will banish all worries and cares from your mind.
What makes this film such a must-see? As The New York Times put it in a review of the movie, it’s the perfect remake for a rough year like 2020 purely because of its charming “predictability.” Most of us know what to expect from an adaptation of The Secret Garden, which makes it all the more calming to watch. Plus, it’s filled with heartwarming moments that, as the paper’s review put it, “can teach even the most cynical among us a lesson or two.”
The famous mystery-solving gang's back together in Scoob!
Anything to do with Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Gang, who solved mysteries and caught the bad guy (usually pulling off his or her mask), will probably bring up a lot of fond memories for people of all ages — whether they remember the 1969 TV show or the 2000s live-action movies.
In 2020’s Scoob!, we get to see the friends’ first meeting and their first mystery as a fivesome! This alone is enough to delight older fans of the original. However, there’s plenty in this fun family movie to recommend itself to new Scooby fans, too. Tony Cervone, who directed the film, explained to Stack, “We kept thinking of different storylines and every time it was the relationship between Scooby and Shaggy that interested us the most.” He then explained that the origin story seemed the most interesting idea as it meant “putting their friendship at the emotional core.” So, for fans of the classic series, you’re sure to love seeing where these characters came from. And for newcomers to the world of Scooby-Doo, you’ll still get a lot from the film. As Cervone put it, “This is a big, giant, goofy adventure movie but with friendship at its heart.”
Trolls: World Tour delighted families after going straight to streaming
You may have first known the Trolls in their doll form — think colorful bodies and gigantic, fuzzy tufts of hair. But then in 2016, the first Trolls movie was released, and it was praised for its great music and its trippy, creative design. Fortunately, the 2020 sequel certainly did not disappoint. As The Guardian noted in their rave review, it’s an excellent film for music-lovers of all kinds. The family movie is packed with musical references that adults will love and incredible musical numbers that will thrill the kids.
The film’s director, Walt Dohrn, spoke to FQ about the movie’s message, and let’s just say, it’s perfect for a year like 2020. “I think first it’s about having a good time and laughing and dancing and just feeling good,” Dohrn said. “But underneath is this message of tolerance, the idea of the importance of diversity and how we can’t blanket over differences. And to celebrate each culture and everyone can live side by side.” It really does sound like the perfect movie to watch this year, no matter your age!
The One and Only Ivan is a charming, though heart-wrenching, story
In this live-action tale about Ivan, a gorilla who lives a mall, you’ll find everything you could want from a good family movie — a few laughs, adorable animals, and, of course, a wonderful message. The movie is based on a popular children’s book of the same name by Katherine Applegate that gently encourages its readers to think about the ethics of keeping animals in captivity. According to IndieWire, the movie version does the same thing by “offering up a smart kids’ movie that is likely to really stick with its youngest viewers.” It’s rare that a family movie can have such a powerful impact!
Mike White, writer and actor, spoke to ComingSoon.net about how the film was released on the Disney+ streaming service rather than having a cinematic release. “It’s a big movie visually, and so, you want that to come across,” he said. “But it’s also a very intimate movie, too. So I think it actually will work as a movie that you see at home.” Whether you prefer the cinema or not, it’s clear this is a must-watch for fans of good family films.
The fantastical 2020 family movie Come Away is all about imagination
The 2020 film Come Away takes Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Peter from Peter Pan and reimagines them as siblings in the Victorian era. Their parents, Rose and Jack, are played by David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie. In their creative household, the children’s fantastical imaginations are allowed to run free — they predictably play with rabbits, tea sets, and pirate ships. However, tragedy strikes and the children escape deep into their pretend worlds. While the family movie got some pretty poor reviews, other critics were blown away. The Washington Post wrote, “It’s a smart conceit, and in the hands of director Brenda Chapman (Brave), it’s executed with discerning taste and a rich visual palette.”
We think that this film definitely ticks all the boxes for being a really good family film. Chapman explained to ScreenRant, “For me, it’s the whole idea of imagination helping you cope with life, and how important that is.” She added, “Being able to show that, and especially [now], it’s very timely.” We couldn’t agree more — in a year filled with tough times for many of us, the power of the imagination couldn’t be more important.
Soul is Pixar's first animated feature with a Black protagonist
Soul was another Pixar film scheduled for release in 2020, following Onward. Like most Pixar films, it promises to provide creative, state-of-the-art visuals, a crisp, witty script, and a profound message for all age groups. In this film, Joe, a struggling jazz musician, falls into a manhole and finds his soul journeying to “the Great Beyond.”
An important aspect of this film is that it marks a significant moment in Pixar’s history — it’s their first animated film to feature a Black protagonist. As Pete Docter, one of the film’s directors, said to SyFy, “We’re always looking to reflect as much of the world out there as we can, and we’re happy that it’s finally happened, that we are representing a part of the population that just hasn’t had as much of a voice in our films up to now.”
Not only does Soul deserve praise for its proactive approach to diversifying Pixar’s catalogue, it also deserves praise for simply being a fantastic movie. The Guardian gave it five stars and summed it up simply, writing, “It’s a deeply sweet, happy, gentle film.” Sounds like the perfect flick for the whole family to us!
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