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Common Sense Media: Best family movies of 2020

Common Sense Media
January08/ 2021

By Betsy Bozdech

This may have been a year like no other, but at least 2020 still brought us memorable movies for kids, teens, and families, from exciting adventures to inspiring, moving real-life stories. They entertained us, made us think, and gave us plenty to talk about.

At the same time, they offered worthwhile messages, modeled important character strengths, and left us smiling, sometimes through tears. All also earned the Common Sense Seal, which means they offer an exceptional media experience to families with kids of all ages.

Look for these movies on DVD or in your streaming queue, and here’s hoping we get back to the theater in 2021!

Dino Dana: The Movie, age 5+
Dino Dana asserts that “science is magic,” and the same could be said for this film adaptation of her popular TV series, which is a heartfelt, relatable, educational, and exciting STEM adventure that’s remarkably entertaining, even for adults.

Elephant, age 6+
This stunning nature documentary celebrates the mighty elephant and its resourcefulness and resilience in surviving against significant odds. The film also promotes wildlife conservation, and the elephants’ dedication and loyalty to their families will inspire viewers of all ages.

Over the Moon, age 6+
Set in China, this beautifully animated fantasy combines magical locations, impressive visuals, memorable musical numbers, sweet characters, and positive life lessons in a fairy tale about the boundless love of family.

Terra Willy, age 6+
This animated space adventure is full of positive messages about friendship, kindness, and adapting to new environments. With peril kept mild — and always dealt with in a reassuring tone — this one is fun for the whole family.

Onward, age 7+
With messages about teamwork, getting along with siblings, and acting selflessly and courageously, Onward is a heartfelt movie that’s sweet and optimistic and a reminder that everyone could use a little more magic in their lives.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, age 8+
This holiday film is filled with exciting musical numbers and positive themes about family, tradition, patience, forgiveness, and curiosity. Kids will be inspired by the diverse ensemble cast and the main character, a girl with a vivid imagination and a gift for STEM.

My Octopus Teacher, age 8+
A man finds his humanity by spending time with a charming and intelligent invertebrate in this stunning nature documentary. It’s a must-see for animal lovers and their families, with messages about friendship, compassion, and perseverance woven into the inspiring story.

Soul, age 8+
Pixar’s beautiful, creative existential dramedy has themes of compassion, empathy, and perseverance and messages about living your best life that may resonate most with adults (but kids will enjoy the adorable souls and the movie’s laughs).

Wolfwalkers, age 8+
This gorgeously animated, emotionally resonant film from the creators of The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea is a hopeful, if bittersweet, story about what the enduring folktales of Ireland represent. It promotes courage, empathy, perseverance, and teamwork.

We Are the Radical Monarchs, age 9+
Kids with an interest in activism will particularly enjoy this documentary, which is packed with excellent female role models. And by watching the Radical Monarchs leaders teach their troop members, adults can see great examples of how to talk about tough issues to kids in an age-appropriate way.

John Lewis: Good Trouble, age 10+
Dawn Porter’s poignant, powerful documentary is both a tribute to a civil rights legend and a call to action, arguing that the work of fighting racial injustice is far from done.

Hamilton, age 11+
The filmed version of the original Broadway production about America’s founders has plenty of inspiring, empowering messages. And casting all-White historical figures with a diverse group of actors offers new role models for young people studying U.S. history and thinking about what it means to be an American.

Mulan, age 11+
Powerful performances and intense battle sequences make this take on Mulan more mature, stressing the story’s themes of female empowerment and family devotion. Audiences open to a more serious retelling will appreciate it for what it is: the tale of a young woman busting gender stereotypes to lead men in battle and bring honor to her family, village, and empire.

Emma., age 12+
Gorgeous details plus a funnier-than-expected screenplay and a wonderful ensemble make this one of the best Jane Austen adaptations in many years.

Enola Holmes, age 12+
Fast-paced, clever, and hugely entertaining, this book adaptation will delight fans of star Millie Bobby Brown. Parents couldn’t ask for a better role model for their tweens and teens than strong, independent Enola, who models courage, intelligence, and integrity.

Love and Monsters, age 13+
For an uplifting view of humanity, even at what seems like the end of the world, check out this understated adventure about a guy who survives and thrives against all odds.

The Prom, age 13+
This teen coming-out tale based on the Broadway show is filled with splashy numbers and positive messages about acceptance. With its all-star cast and feel-good vibes, it’s a musical comedy that both dazzles and warms the heart.

Rising Phoenix, age 13+
Relevant and inspiring, this documentary about the Paralympic Games helps counter stereotypes and prejudice. The profiled athletes are strong role models who are defined by their drive, perseverance, and competitive spirit, rather than their disabilities.

River City Drumbeat, age 13+
This is a touching, powerful documentary about a program that has empowered and educated generations of young Black musicians and students. With themes of communication, empathy, perseverance, and teamwork, it’s a story of triumph and cultural awareness.

Yellow Rose, age 13+
Driven by Eva Noblezada’s standout central performance, writer-director Diane Paragas’s memorable drama is an exploration of identity and immigration, as well as a lovely tribute to the power of music.

Common Sense Media

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