Summer is upon us and that can mean but one thing for parents: dreaming up ways to pacify the children now that school is officially out — until September, at least.
Longer nights and typically brighter days mean that kids are giddy with infectious energy (when are they not?), but given that the UK weather is temperamental at best, stepping foot out into the great outdoors isn’t always a viable option.
But don’t fret; Netflix boasts a library of content that is simply bursting at the seams with family-friendly adventures. Subscription plans start from £5.99 per month, and Netflix is currently offering one complimentary month to newcomers. This coupled with the ability to watch anywhere, across any compatible platform, along with the option to cancel at any time certainly makes for an enticing package.
So, whether you’re a long-time subscriber or simply a curious onlooker tempted to make the jump, let’s recount the very best family movies currently available to stream on Netflix.
How to Train Your Dragon
Running time: 98 minutes
Disney-Pixar may stand as the crown jewel of children’s animated films, but never overlook DreamWorks’ contribution to the genre. This is, after all, the animation studio that has crafted such lucrative franchises as Shrek, Madagascar and the widely successful Kung Fu Panda. The latest to tumble off the production line is How to Train Your Dragon, a mythical coming-of-age tale that chronicles the relationship between a crippled Viking boy called Hiccup and his reptilian ally, Toothless. Featuring an all-star voice cast in Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig, How to Train Your Dragon is as inspiring as it is beautiful, and at only 98 minutes in length, is a fine way to spend an afternoon with all the family.
Rise of the Guardians
Running time: 99 minutes
Picture the scene: Pitch Black, essentially the embodiment of all things evil, has hatched a plan to thrust the world into darkness — one that forces the Guardians of the world to unite in the face of a common enemy. Featuring a who’s who of childhood icons, Rise of the Guardians is an animated fantasy flick that brings together Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Jack Frost to lock horns with Pitch Black (Jude Law) and save the world. Based on William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood novel series, Guardians is a spirited adventure where legends unite, with the likes of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher also lending their voices to DreamWorks’ romp.
Running time: 143 minutes
Switching gears to a slightly more mature bracket of family-friendly movies, Avengers Assemble is similar in nature to Rise of the Guardians in that it heralds the cinematic union of six bona fide superhero icons: Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Released in 2012, it stands as the culmination of Marvel’s Phase One — a collection of loosely interconnected movies that share the same universe — and thanks to the creative energy brought to the table by writer-director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer) Avengers is a widely entertaining ride that is smart, brilliantly funny and visually stunning. Another bonus is that it’s relatively self-contained, too, meaning you and/or your children don’t have to be well-versed in the minutia of costumed heroes to enjoy the movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Running time: 122 minutes
Cut from the same cloth as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Guardians of the Galaxy is a spacefaring romp that also has its roots in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the James Gunn-directed picture is literally worlds away from Avengers Assemble, orbiting around the galactic escapades of the titular, ragtag crew. From Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) Groot (Vin Diesel) & Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Guardians of the Galaxy was once considered a creative risk for Marvel Studios, but after scoring $773 million worldwide and a string of stellar reviews, James Gunn’s hilarious sci-fi is arguably one of the best Marvel movies to date. Besides, with Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 1 packed to the brim with a collection of fist-pumping ‘80s tunes, Guardians is a true crowd-pleaser for all the family.
The Black Stallion
Running time: 117 minutes
Alec Ramsey is a dreamer. On board a Mediterranean ship with his father for reasons never explained, Kelly Reno’s wide-eyed protagonist encounters The Black Stallion, a majestic black Arabian horse. The two begin to form a unique bond, but are cast into the bubbling sea when a seemingly relentless storm dooms their ship to the bottom of the ocean. Among the jaw-dropping visual spectacle, the stallion manages to save Alec, leading the pair to a deserted island. It’s really here that The Black Stallion earns its title as an epic classic, fostering a bond between human and nature that is simply mesmerizing. Indeed not only is The Black Stallion a heartfelt tale that may very well have you reaching for the Kleenex, in its graceful cinematography and direction, it’s also a movie that is designed for both adults and children alike.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Running time: 103 minutes
Capping off our recommendations with a classic, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a beloved teen comedy that places Matthew Broderick in the shoes of the titular schemer. It is, of course, oriented toward a slightly more mature audience than, say, How to Train Your Dragon, but as a cultural landmark, Bueller's Day Off is a timeless adventure of one man’s struggle to simply take it easy. In his escapades of skipping class and avoiding parents, Broderick’s lead regularly breaks the fourth wall — that is, ignoring cinematic convention and talking directly to the audience — ensuring that we, the viewer, are fully on board with his rip-roaring trip to downtown Chicago. If ever you needed proof that Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an endearing movie, Paramount and Turner Classic recently re-released the flick into cinemas to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.