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Photograph: 20th Century Studios

The 35 best family comedies for your next movie night

Order the pizza. Pop the popcorn. Movie night just got a whole lot funnier.

Edited by
Andy Kryza

‘Family-friendly’ isn’t a euphemism for ‘made for kids’. At least, it doesn’t have to be. In the best examples of the term, a top-shelf ‘family comedy’ can make every member of the household laugh, from the kindergartener who loves funny voices to the cynical teen who can recognize a clever reference snuck in under the surface of the dialogue to the adults who appreciate both good humor and a good story.

But finding the right film that hits all those notes can be tough in an age where options are limitless. If you’re under the gun and don’t want to scroll endlessly while the tweens eye their phones in hope of an escape from the couch, any of these recommendations from TimeOut’s team of film experts should keep the whole brood cracking up on movie night. 

Written by Hannah Doolin, Danielle Valente, Alim Kheraj, Oliver Strand, Andy Kryza & Matthew Singer


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Best family comedy movies

Paddington (2014 + 2017)
Photogrpah: Courtesy StudioCanal

1. Paddington (2014 + 2017)

Want to start a debate? Ask which is funnier, Paddington or Paddington 2. Paddington has the bathtub scene and the deliciously evil taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman), while Paddington 2 has the pink prisoner uniforms and the song-and-dance numbers by Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Point is, the Paddington series is hilarious. As important, these films are good-natured, and feature important lessons about kindness and friendship. Rated PG.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Photograph: Courtesy Disney

2. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

This Disney Pixar film is a new classic. It tells the story of monsters Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal), who work together at Monsters, Inc., a power company fueled by the screams of human children collected by monsters who go into the human world to scare them. When a haunting fail brings a small child into their world, they must work together to make things hilariously right. Rated G.

The Mitchells vs the Machines
Photograph: ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

3. The Mitchells vs the Machines

From Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the creative brains behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, comes a madly eccentric and wildly inventive animated movie, merging the now familiar fractured family head out on a restorative road trip trope with an unexpected robot apocalypse. Featuring, among other things, a ginormous mutant Furby and Olivia Colman as an A.I. with evil plans, it also contains an astute social commentary about the often adverse effects of technology on our lives, delivered in a way that any screen-hungry little ones might actually listen to. Rated PG.

The Muppets (2011)
Patrick Wymore

4. The Muppets (2011)

The original Muppet Show first screened its unique combination of sweet, surreal and subtly satirical silliness in 1976 (and should absolutely be screening on your TV now that it's on Disney+). Over 30 years later, Jason Segel and Amy Adams revived the franchise with this feelgood film full of soulful psychedelic songsmithery and rubber chicken gags. But the real stars are, of course, the Muppets themselves. Prepare yourself for subversive asides, terrible puns and some of the most ludicrous, maniacal musical numbers ever committed to film. Rated PG.

Zootopia (2016)
©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

5. Zootopia (2016)

This animated adventure takes the idea of talking animals somewhere fresh by giving us a distinctly human world, with cities, streets and ice cream parlors populated by almost every mammal you can think of. It tells the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a do-gooder who's the first bunny to join the police—and who finds herself needing the help of Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist fox. You know how it's going to end—it is a Disney film, after all—but the journey is delightful, especially a brilliant comic slow burn with a very leisurely bureaucratic sloth. Rated PG.

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Tim Burton’s debut feature ranks among the best comedies of all time thanks to its full embrace of classic road-trip Americana, positing Paul Reubens’s joyous man child as a roadside prophet bringing out the best in everyone he meets in pursuit of his stolen bike. Just beware of Large Marge, looming at the center and ready to scar any and all youngsters who hitch a ride in her doomed big rig. Rated PG.

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The best entry-level introduction to the manic live-action wonders of Robin Williams (sorry… Hook isn’t as good as you remember), Jumanji doubles as a raucous special-effects bonanza with light scares and a whole lot of kid-friendly adventure. Sure, it’s become a bit dated, but it still stands up as a perfect Saturday matinee yarn… or a double feature with the Dwayne Johnson-starring reboot. Rated PG.

Finding Nemo (2003)
Photograph: Courtesy Channel 5 Broadcasting/Finding Nemo

8. Finding Nemo (2003)

Protective parents will totally relate to clownfish Marlin, a relatively new dad who just wants his only surviving child to be safe. Unfortunately, Nemo—like most youngsters—is a tad defiant and breaks his dad’s rules. When he ultimately goes missing, Marlin heads out on an epic journey across the ocean, meeting Dory (a forgetful Regal Blue Tang), uber-chill sea turtles and other interesting creatures along the way. PSA: Listen to your parents, kids! Rated PG.

Wreck It Ralph (2012 + 2018)
Photograph: Disney

9. Wreck It Ralph (2012 + 2018)

There's an arcade game character, Ralph, who's grown tired of his bad-guy persona. He embarks on a quest to prove that he can be nice, but trouble follows. In the sequel, which hit theaters in 2018, Ralph and his friend take on the World Wide Web in order to save his buddy's video game. Rated PG.

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Left behind in the chaos of a family trip, young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) gets the run of his giant suburban Chicago home and indulges in the ultimate little-kid wish fulfillment: eating massive bowls of ice cream; jumping on his parents’ bed; rifling through his teenage brother’s stuff; and beating the crud out of some robbers. (A physiologically accurate version of Home Alone would be the goriest movie ever made. As is, the violence is basically live-action Tom & Jerry.) Written by John Hughes, the silly premise comes with a warm message about the importance of family - and of not forgetting how many children you have when leaving on vacation, no matter how late for the airport you are. Rated PG

The Incredibles (2004 + 2018)
Photograph: Courtesy Pixar

11. The Incredibles (2004 + 2018)

This super crime-fighting family has won the hearts of children and adults alike as it takes on evil. The 2018 film, The Incredibles 2, takes a page from Wonder Woman's book, as Elastigirl is off fighting crime while her hubby, Mr. Incredible, is home with the kiddos. But when the crew needs to take down another nefarious plan, they'll just have to make it work. Rated PG. 

Despicable Me (2010)
Photograph: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

12. Despicable Me (2010)

Steve Carell is the voice of Gru, a suburban supervillain whose seemingly innocuous home sits above a vast underground lair populated by hordes of yellow gibberish-speaking minions. Gru is prone to freeze-raying passers-by and plots to steal the moon, but when he adopts three adorable tow-headed orphan girls it’s not long before their plucky charm and winning optimism begin to melt his cold, cold heart. Rated PG.

The Goonies (1985)
Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros.

13. The Goonies (1985)

Goonies never say die (unless it's regarding a sequel), and you'll never believe where determination gets these crazy kids. In the beloved 80s flick, a group of boys must face the music: Their homes are being taken from them, and in turn, they'll be separated. However, one precocious and relentless member of the crew is determined to find One-Eyed Willy's treasure to save their homes. Things seem somewhat plausible...until the Fratelli's get on their case. Will the kids come out of their quest successful, and more importantly, alive? Obviously. But it's a joy to see how they do it. Rated PG. 

The Toy Story series could have been a novelty, a forgotten experiment in computer animation. Instead, it becamse the most influential animated film since Snow White not simply because of its technological advances, but because it's so undeniably funny. The adventures of Woody and Buzz started out as pure comic gold, and as they built their relationships and universe, so too did they build on the humor at their core. The result is a tapestry of jokes that runs four films and two decades. From the first meeting of spaceman and cowboy to the existential malaise of Forky, this is a comedy institution in the truest sense. Rated PG.

Inside Out (2015)

15. Inside Out (2015)

This Pixar-animated film cleverly shows us when feelings (literally) come alive through Riley, an 11-year-old girl who has some trouble adjusting to her new environs when her parents uproot her from Minnesota and move to San Fransisco. There couldn't be better actors than Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Lewis Black to embody those niggling feelings better kept inside. Rated PG. 

The Willoughbys (2020)
Photograph: Netflix

16. The Willoughbys (2020)

Netflix’s underseen original takes the tried-and-true orphaned-children narrative and bends it to deranged, delightful ends. With a stacked voice cast led by Will Forte, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short, The Willoughbys flirts with going too dark—this is, after all, a tale of child abandonment—but just when things get dire, a baby vomits a full-spectrum rainbow to brighten things up. Like we said, it’s delightfully deranged. Rated PG.

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Jim Henson’s surreal vision of goblins and fart-infested bogs has achieved cult status thanks to the central performance by a glammed-out David Bowie, but the film is so much more than the Thin White Duke and his very tight pants. It’s a wildly imaginative pre-teen fairytale with some of the most spectacular puppets ever created, kicked into overdrive by some solid Bowie songs, chief of them the immortal “Magic Dance.” And though it's not a full-bore comedy, the laughs are still plentiful. Rated PG.

The Princess Bride (1987)
Princess Bride

18. The Princess Bride (1987)

Could Rob Reiner's simultaneous send-up and celebration of fairy tales have better captured the imagination of all who live for the phrase "Once upon a time..."? In-con-ceiv-able, we say! You won't find a sweeter love letter to the glories of cross-generational storytelling. Rated PG.

Shrek (2001)
Photograph: Dreamworks

19. Shrek (2001)

While kids' movies were making pop-cultural references before this DreamWorks toon came out, none of them were quite as savvy as this ogre's tale in dismantling legendary bedtime stories—and in a way that kids would find both clever and funny. It's like a collegiate Postmodernism 101 course, only aimed at elementary-school students and with better fart jokes. Rated PG.

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Setting aside the wonder of the special effect–and the difficulty of making an entire farmyard of real animals talk–this is a warm and funny story that checks all the family film boxes: Silly and slapsticky for the kids, clever and cute for the grown-ups. The story is the same as when you saw it the first time (kind-hearted Babe the pig is better at herding sheep than barking dogs), but the joy you feel when you watch the film might surprise you. Rated G.

Chicken Run (2000)

21. Chicken Run (2000)

Britain's Aardman Animations has always had a sly sense of anthropomorphist humor (see their sensational Wallace and Gromit shorts), so it's no surprise that the company's parody of The Great Escape—this time, the POWs are chickens breaking out of a farm—is hilarious. What is shocking is how what could have been a one-joke comedy becomes, in Aardman's deft clay-molding hands, something moving and absolutely poult-errific. Rated G.

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Berserk and strangely beautiful, The LEGO Movie is sheer joy: The script is witty, the satire surprisingly pointed, and the animation tactile and imaginative. Our hero Emmet (Chris Pratt), is the happiest guy in Bricksville, a construction worker who adores his coworkers, and knows that mighty President Business (Will Ferrell) has his best interests at heart. He’s thrown into an epic conflict between Business’s robot clones and the forces of creativity and invention—led, of course, by Batman and Abraham Lincoln. The 2019 sequel is just as wild, with Emmet setting out rescue his friends from the Systar System while facing down “Armamageddon.” Your little one will want to watch both the original and the sequel. Rated PG

Yes Day (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

23. Yes Day (2021)

Netflix’s Yes Day is essentially a tweenage fantasy come true – desperate to be seen as cool, parents Jennifer Garner and Édgar Ramirez agree to a day without the word ‘no,’ much to their tween children’s delight. It’s a tad hokey and the plot never completely commits to its lunatic potential, but Garner hasn’t seemed this happy on screen since 13 Going on 30. It’s good, clean (well, actually pretty messy) fun. Rated PG. 

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Speaking of Jennifer Garner, the star was never better than in this gender-flipped riff on Big, in which a teenage girl’s consciousness is transported to her adult body in the future, revealing that the grown-up world isn’t as alluring as she hoped. Until, of course, she discovers that the awkward kid she friend-zoned in junior high grew up to be Mark Ruffalo. Rated PG-13. 

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Tom Hanks’s breakout role as a kid trapped in an adult body is still one of the actor’s very best films, a master-class in awkward ticks, vulnerability and physical comedy that makes you wish America’s Dad would stop being so somber and revert to comedy. Big is a top-tier ‘80s fantasy comedy, even if the romantic subplot gives off some creepy vibes in hindsight. Rated PG.

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We don’t talk about Bruno, but good god we sure do sing about him. Don’t let the oversaturation of the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned soundtrack sour you, though: Encanto is a modern Disney insta-classic. Feeling like an outcast in a family where everyone has magical powers except her, 15-year-old Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) leaves her home in the Colombian mountains to figure out where she fits in. Enchantingly animated, it’ll cast a spell on every generation in your own household - and the music really is great for at least the first 750 times you hear it. Rated PG.

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Before he set sail with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Gore Verbinski crafted a feature-length tribute to Rube Goldberg devices in telling this old-fashioned tale of two brothers seeking to rid a rickety old mansion of one particularly pesky mouse. Basically a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon by way of Home Alone, Mouse Hunt often feels like the best film Tim Burton never made, a madcap slapstick romp that isn’t afraid to dip its toes into black comedy. Rated PG.

Enchanted (2007)
Barry Wetcher/SMPSP

29. Enchanted (2007)

A modern-day twist on classic fairytales, Enchanted begins in conventional, animated Disney territory, with Giselle being courted by Edward, her Prince Charming. His witchy mother banishes Giselle to 21st century New York City, where the film flits from animation to live-action just as Giselle (now Amy Adams), emerges from a manhole into a world of bustling humanity. As lawyer Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) begins to fall for her, Edward appears (in the guise of James Mardsen) and Giselle is left facing a typically predictable rom-com dilemma. Rated PG.

Ella Enchanted (2004)
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Ella Enchanted (2004)
Before she was an Oscar-winning capital-A Actress, Anne Hathaway was the queen of 21st century princess flicks. And watching Hathaway only slightly removed from her theater-kid roots is a riot. In this retelling of the children's book, Ella must attempt to break the spell where she's forced to obey all orders bestowed onto her. Fortunately, the handsome Prince Charmont – played by Hugh Dancy – is by her side to lend a hand. Rated PG. 

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  • Comedy

You know the drill – twin girls, separated at birth, reunite and switch places in an effort to get their parents back together under one roof. Most couples therapists will assure you this is a terrible idea. This remake of the 1961 Haley Mills classic updates the story to the ‘90s, with then-rising-star Lindsay Lohan pulling double duty and offering justification for being the biggest tween star of her era. Rated PG. 

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures/

32. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Father and failure-plagued scientist Wayne Szalinkski works tirelessly on a shrink-ray invention in his attic laboratory to no avail—until one day the contraption finally works. His kids and the neighbors unknowingly wander into the lab and are hit by the laser beam, shrinking to 1/4 of an inch. As the concerned parents search for their youngsters, the kids make their way through the now larger-than-life world around them, tackling perilous obstacles like mud puddles, an ant and a bowl of Cheerios. Rated PG.

Kung Fu Panda (2008–2016)
Photograph: Courtesy Netflix and FTP Edelman

33. Kung Fu Panda (2008–2016)

The trio of films garners a lot of attention for its ironic main character—the super-lazy, clumsy and out-of-shape Po, a panda bear who secretly wants to be a master of kung fu. Rated PG.

The Sandlot (1993)

34. The Sandlot (1993)

During the summer of 1962, a spotty crew of dead-end kids throw a baseball around at the neighborhood diamond. The new kid in town, Scotty Smalls, is accepted simply as a gofer, but the gang's leader, Rodriguez, takes him under his wing. The quirky crew gets into plenty of mischief outside of batting practice, and they'll have to put their heads together to get a prized baseball back from a snarling neighbor. Rated PG.

School of Rock (2003)
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

35. School of Rock (2003)

Science projects and study sessions go awry when "Mr. Schneebly" shows up to class. The goofy and unorganized teacher is really a rock n' roll musician and tricks the class into performing in a local competition. What will happen when his big secret lets out? Youngsters will love the laugh-out-loud moments and parents will appreciate the classic rock references and tunes. Rated PG–13.

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