Family movie night

29 September 2022

Last fall, when June started kindergarten, we joined the ranks of many, many families before us and set aside Fridays for family movie night. This is not an original idea, but it has become a beloved tradition. The kids look forward to it all week and, to be fair – since we paired it with the takeout tradition we started early last year (after a mini emotional meltdown over the passing of time, no big deal) – so do we. Fridays have never been better over here.

A mostly-unrelated photo because I don’t have any of movie night… I’ve been practicing my French braiding!

Today, I thought it might be fun to share the movies we watched in the 2021-2022 school year along with a few mini reviews! But first, a little background:

  • June was 5 and 6 and Shep was 3 when we watched the movies below. Annie was under one and did not participate in family movie night.
  • On movie night, we aim to eat dinner no later than 6:30, then do quick baths and pajamas and be watching the movie by 7:30/8. Since most kid movies are about 90 minutes, this still gets our kids in bed by 9:30ish, which works for our us. (June had no problem staying up, though Shep would occasionally fall asleep or even ask to go to bed halfway through the movie, ha! Know thyself, buddy.)
  • We eat dessert during the movie. Historically, this was a cookie from the bakery we can walk to from preschool, but since it recently closed (sob!), we’ve been improvising.
  • Something I feel passionately about: this is family movie night, not kid movie night. I want my children to see me enjoying leisure time, not scrolling on my phone or cleaning up the kitchen while they enjoy themselves. And why wouldn’t I?! Movie night is FUN! Our rule is that the adults get to pick the movie for family movie night, since the kids get to pick their shows most of the time, so of course we pick favorites from our childhood and newer movies we want to see.
  • We do also have family movie night during the summer, but it tends to be more sporadic than during the school year, since we’re traveling, have more plans, or prioritize playing outside.

Onto the movies! Here’s what we watched last school year, as best as I can remember and roughly in order.

  • Ratatouille (I love this movie! June thought parts were scary and lots went over Shep’s head, but I adore it.)
  • Luca
  • Robin Hood (One of John’s favorites from childhood!)
  • Cars (Shep liked it; June was ambivalent.)
  • Lady & the Tramp
  • Monsters, Inc. (June thought this one was too scary – sensing a theme? :))
  • Cars 2 (I had never seen the Cars movies, so movie night was the perfect excuse to watch them!)
  • Toy Story (Our kids were not into it! Hoping they like it more as they get older.)
  • Peter Pan (It pains me to say it – John even had a cat named Peter Pan when he was little! – but I would not recommend this one – it just doesn’t hold up well, in my opinion. The Native American scenes were painful.)
  • A Bug’s Life (This isn’t one of my favorites, but our kids loved it! When they have a babysitter on a Friday night, we let them pick the movie from one we’ve watched together, and this is often their pick.)
  • The Sword and the Stone (One of my favorites from childhood! It held up and our kids went wild for the squirrel scene. June did think it was a little too scary at times.)
  • Aladdin (Also too scary at times for June.)
  • Encanto (Loved it! The story was a bit thin but the music and colors are great.)
  • Pocahontas (A hit! This was a favorite of mine from childhood, but I hadn’t seen it in decades and worried it wouldn’t hold up (a la Peter Pan). I actually thought it was surprisingly respectful and beautifully done, though of course I’m sure not 100% historically accurate. June’s eyes absolutely lit up during “Colors of the Wind.”)
  • Moana (Certain songs/scenes in this one always make me tear up!)
  • Brave (This was a bit of a pass – we found the accents a bit hard to understand and the story a little strange. With all of my Scottish heritage, I wish I could give it a better review!)
  • Charlotte’s Web (I must have watched this movie a billion times as a child, because it all came rushing back like muscle memory when we watched it! We watched this after reading the book and they loved it.)
  • Mary Poppins (This one is over two hours and it couldn’t hold the kids’ attention. We’ll try again when they’re older!)
  • 101 Dalmations (They LOVED this one! Characters do call each other rude names, but overall a very popular choice.)
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (Also watched this after reading the book. Much of the humor went over the kids’ heads, but we enjoyed it.)
  • Finding Nemo
  • Ice Age
  • The Lion King (You guessed it – June thought it was scary – but we were able to warn her and she enjoyed it despite the scariness. Just so many epic songs in this one.)
  • The Aristocats (We ended on a high note – the kids LOVED this one! This was one of my favorites as a child, too, and it held up. Just a sweet and fun adventure.)

I would love to hear: what movies have been hits at your house for movie night? Do you use it as an excuse to watch favorites from your childhood? (We have SO many more on the list I’m eager to get to!)

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
September 29, 2022 9:19 am

What a great list! We love family movie night at our house! We’ve been doing pizza and a movie on Friday nights this past year. I love the idea that adults pick the movies since the kids usually pick the shows. We end up re-watching many favorites and not expanding our horizons when the four-year-old chooses. :)

September 29, 2022 11:27 am

Thanks for the movie ideas! I’ve added them to my list. We also do movie night Friday. It used to be pizza (our favorite was the giant home-baked Aldi supreme pizza and then takeout pizza once a month) but my husband is now avoiding gluten and dairy for medical reasons. A friend recommended sheet pan nachos (also easy, fun, customizable and seems like a treat!) so we’ve switched to that. Our dessert is always popcorn (on our stovetop whirley-pop!) We also take a break in the warmer months as we are out and about or swimming, so I’m looking forward to starting our tradition up as the weather turns! We alternate between kids and adults choosing (they usually don’t watch movies at other times of the week) and even though I’m all about being present, there have been a few kid selections that were a struggle! lol. As for suggestions, my kids have loved the Ice Age movies, Tangled, Sonic, all the minion movies, Sing 1 & 2 and Zootopia. They also enjoy musicals (including a phase where we watched The Greatest Showman several times and my oldest dressed up as Hugh Jackman’s character for halloween!) I’ve enjoyed reliving some of my childhood favorites and looking forward to some of my older favorites like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

Kristen M
September 29, 2022 11:37 am

This is a great list!
The Trolls movie is a big favorite in our house and Cinderella is a good Disney movie that’s older but doesn’t really have any scary scenes. Toy Story 2 is I think the funniest of the Toy Story movies (and the least scary) that might be more of a hit now that they’ve met the characters? It’s also the shortest of the Toy Stories!

September 29, 2022 11:51 am

Great analysis. Our daughter is still too young to sit through any movies. And we’ve even tried to get her to do it on rainy weekends! I guess we should be thankful that she’s not yet hypnotized by the screen. However, she LOVES the first 15 minutes of Encanto and the music videos (both the original and the Panic! At the Disco cover lol) for Into the Unknown from Frozen 2, and Hakuna Matata from the Lion King. I haven’t watched the Peter Pan animated movie in a while, but have always loved the book (Ripley has a quote from it hanging in her room) and the songs (I learned to play one on the piano LOL). Maybe try “Hook” later? As a 90s kid, you can never go wrong with Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts all in one movie haha

September 29, 2022 12:59 pm

This is so helpful! My oldest is also really sensitive to the “scarier” or more intense scenes. We actually all really enjoyed Little Rascals together recently!

Kelly Strawberry
September 29, 2022 1:41 pm

This post cracks me up so much because this is the one area where my parenting really comes into question, lol! We watch a lot of movies and 90% are not age appropriate AT ALL. Hopefully I’m not damaging him for life. :)
We keep a list on the notes app whenever we think of childhood movies we loved. For the classics, Sandlot, Home Alone, Mighty Ducks, Goonies, Jumanji, Beethoven, Homeward Bound, Milo & Otis just to name a few.
We are on a Halloween kick now so…more geared towards those with older kids… Edward Scissorhands, Addams Family Values, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are ones we’ve enjoyed.

September 30, 2022 2:38 pm

Great list! 101 Dalmatians is a huge hit with my son too!

October 2, 2022 7:19 pm

This is so fun! My daughter is 4 and we’ve been doing movie nights for about a year now. We have really loved it. We take turns choosing the movies. Some of the hits w/the grown-ups that didn’t make your list are the Tinkerbell movies (these are surprisingly good!), Swan Princess (I loved this as a little girl- so my enjoyment was mostly nostalgic), Tarzan, Homeward Bound, Babe, some of the Miyazaki movies (Kiki, Totoro, Ponyo), & Lilo & Stitch.

Also, you might try Lion King 1 1/2- it’s from Timone & Pumba’s perspective so it skips almost all the sad & scary bits and focuses on the humor.

October 19, 2022 7:45 pm

I am a bit behind on your blog but wanted to say this is one of our favorite family traditions! We started when Lenora was so young, and it was kind of just an excuse to wind down at the end of the week together. There’s something about Friday nights that leave us all just exhausted and drained, and it’s one of the most relaxing, lovely ways to end to a busy week away from each other to end it together.
We’ve seen most of the movies you shared… and I feel the same about Peter Pan – it does not hold up well! It was very cringy when we watched it, which was so sad because I loved that movie as a kid.
We are just now starting to get to introduce them to really fun movies I loved as a kid since my girls are 5 and 6. I showed them The Parent Trap this summer and it was so fun! I think they were tickled over the fact that I loved it and was so excited to watch it with them. Made me so excited about more movies I’m excited to show them!

November 29, 2022 4:53 am

Such a great post. Awesome ideas in there. How do you kids cope with the late night? Do they sleep in or does it make them more grumpy?

Ashley Morosky
February 25, 2023 12:48 pm

Love this! I’ve been thinking about starting movie night with my 4 year old (we had a playdate with friends recently and they mentioned it, now he wants to do it ????), and I appreciate your reviews!