You’re stuck at home, pushing the remote control through so many options on your smart TV, looking for something, anything, that you can use to distract the kids and not make you feel guilty. Let us help.
The truth is that none of the streaming services are particularly great at family options now that Disney+ has cornered that market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great choices on Hulu. Here are 30 worthy films to distract the little ones or schedule an entire family movie night around (if you have the energy after homeschooling).
It may have some familiar story elements, but this 2019 film has some of the most gorgeous visuals in any recent animated movie, including a wave of flowers and the design of its lovable main character, a Yeti who needs the help of a girl and her friend to get back to his home at Mount Everest.
Not the superior live-action version with Christina Ricci, but the 2019 animated version that made a minor dent at the box office. Still, kids love to see new stuff, and this was very recently in theaters, so will likely be a major draw on Hulu. And if it introduces them to the live-action films and series, then it will have done some good.
Nancy Meyers co-wrote this clever family comedy about a successful woman who finds herself the unexpected mother of a 14-month-old baby girl when her long-lost cousin leaves her the child after her death. This may be for the slightly older kids, and some of its gender politics are dated, but Diane Keaton keeps it moving with her ace timing.
Exactly which titles Disney allows to jump from its streaming service to others doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but here’s the adventures of a sweet stunt dog named Bolt, the leading pup of this fun movie from 2008. John Travolta voices the dog who believes he actually has superpowers, which allow him to head out on a cross-country journey to save his owner, Penny.
Travis Knight of Laika fame (Kubo and the Two Strings) directed the best Transformers movie in this unexpectedly joyous spinoff of the massive Hasbro series of films. It’s a movie with the same kind of family-adventure spirit as ’80s classics of the genre, buoyed by fun performances from Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena.
Who doesn’t love the Man in the Yellow Hat and his lovable primate? This is the 2006 theatrically released version of the book series by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey that have been popular around the world for generations. With voice work by Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy, and many more, it’s a sweet adventure story for the whole family.
Hit books always equal hit movies. There are four in this franchise, but only the first (and still best) is on Hulu right now.
This live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon has no right to be as funny and clever as it is. It helps that newcomer Isabela Moner is a delightful lead as Dora, but there’s also a delightfully self-aware tongue-in-cheek tone to this film, one that’s funny without every taking itself too seriously. It’s a sweet family adventure movie that works equally for parents and little ones.
Maybe wait for the real little ones to go to bed first, but there are certainly some families that can handle this coming-of-age story from the master Steven Spielberg. Christian Bale stars in the story of a young boy whose life is changed forever when he becomes a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp.
It became something of a punch line, but this family film was huge when it was first in theaters. Who can’t relate to the story of trying to free a gorgeous animal like the orca that gives this movie a name? It made over $150 million on a $20 million budget and launched a franchise. Willy was freed to run all over pop culture.
Bill Murray voices the comic strip cat who hates Mondays and loves lasagna in this 2004 blockbuster hit. Critics mostly hated it (and Murray notoriously claims he only made it by accident), but kids still like this kind of broad, goofy humor for a reason. It’s something that goes down easy if you’re looking for something for the whole family. Even on a Monday.
From the director of Mad Max: Fury Road! The family-filmmaker side of George Miller directed this musical comedy about penguins who basically have to stop the apocalypse with their dancing and singing. It’s not as good as the original, but it has some clever visuals, incredible voice work, and some good tunes to boot.
Hulu can be so random when it comes to franchises, often including specific installments instead of entire things. To wit: Right now, they only have the 2009 third film in the massive Ice Age series. Luckily, this is one of the more popular entries in the saga of Manny, Ellie, and Diego, making almost $1 billion worldwide.
Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne are just charming enough to make this simple family comedy work. They play a married couple who adopt three young children in this movie based loosely on the real-life experiences of co-writer/director Sean Anders. That personal touch helps make this relatively silly comedy work, as does the committed performances from the cast. It may be slight, but it’s also sweet.
The LEGO Movie is one of the most creative and enjoyable animated films of the 2010s. The sequel may feel a bit too cluttered at times, but it retains enough of that energy to make it worth a look on Hulu, especially as all of our creative faculties have been reduced by the insanity of 2020.
Will Ferrell voices the title character, the supervillain who wants to get some of the credit and adoration of his superhero counterparts. After actually killing his superhero nemesis, Megamind learns that life isn’t worth living for a villain without a hero and ends up creating a villain even worse for him to defeat. A clever spoof of the superhero genre that would dominate the next decade of blockbusters, this movie plays even better now than in 2010.
Disney+ may have the reboot series that they’re hoping becomes a nostalgic hit, but sister streaming platform Hulu has the films that inspired it, including the 1992 Emilio Estevez original and the 1994 and 1996 sequels that did so well on VHS. These are simple but very watchable underdog sports stories that play well for the whole family.
We don’t give Laika enough credit. They don’t make nearly as much money with films like Paranorman and Kubo and the Two Strings as companies like DreamWorks and Pixar. Their latest is already on Hulu, dropping less than a year after its theatrical release. It may not be their best, but it’s gorgeous to look at, revealing the company that made it as arguably the most visually fascinating animated studio around.
This family dramedy from 2000 adapts the autobiographical book of the same name by Willie Morris. It’s the story of a 9-year-old who is given an adorable Jack Russell terrier on his birthday, whom he names Skip, and some formative chapters of his life that he shares with his pup. It’s a sweet coming-of-age movie with added interest for dog lovers.
Remember when the franchise was one of the biggest in the world? Relive the story of Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), a normal night guard at the American Museum of Natural History, who discovers that an Egyptian artifact brings the exhibits to life every night. A massive hit that produced two gigantic sequels, this is a sweet and smart action film for the whole family. And the kids might learn about history too.
Listen, this movie is kind of a disaster, but it’s always a fascinating disaster. Joe Wright directs this prequel telling of a new origin story for Peter Pan and Captain Hook, played by Garrett Hedlund. Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, and Levi Miller co-star in this undeniably strange blockbuster that seems to be gaining a reappraised following over the years. Why are people still talking about Pan? Check it out on Hulu and report back.
Let’s just politely call this one a gateway to better things. The sequel to the Steve Martin–led reboot of the Pink Panther series isn’t objectively “good,” but it may intrigue your kids enough to watch the brilliant Peter Sellers movies or even some of the original cartoons. And, heck, even if it makes them want to see more of Steve Martin, that’s probably a good thing too.
Yes, motion-capture animation in 2004 looks even creepier now than it did then, but there’s enough charm and sentiment in this Robert Zemeckis film that people keep returning to it every holiday season. And, no, it doesn’t have to be Christmas to watch it.
Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel made movie history. It’s the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand who will do whatever it takes to reunite with the love of his life, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). To say that people love the movie would be a massive understatement.
Blue Sky Studios recently shuttered but one of the best films of their prime just flew into Hulu in this clever flick about culture in Rio de Janeiro. Jesse Eisenberg voices Blu, a domesticated macaw who ends up in the wild of Rio, where he meets colorful characters voiced by Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, and Jamie Foxx.
It’s always fun when a movie transcends its original response to become a cult classic. This coming-of-age comedy barely made a dent when it was released, but years of rentals and cable airings turned it into a phenomenon. Ask people their favorite baseball movies, and most will have this on the list.
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel has been adapted multiple times over the last century, most recently in this 2020 version by director Marc Munden. Dixie Egerickx plays the orphan girl who discovers a magical garden in her uncle’s backyard this time, and she supported by the great Colin Firth and Julie Walters.
How big was this skewering of fairy tales? It was announced in 2020 that it would be inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, that’s how big. It’s the first non-Disney animated film to get that recognition. As for the movie itself, it’s held up remarkably well, a modern classic with great voice work and clever writing.
People often point to the massive success of the original Shrek as a gamechanger for modern animation, but it was how incredibly well its sequel that equally changed the game in that all hit animated flicks seem to get one now. Shrek 2 was arguably more beloved than the first movie, grossing nearly $1 billion worldwide after its Cannes Film Festival debut in 2004. It really is a smart continuation of everything people loved about the first movie.
Channing Tatum wonderfully voices the lead character in this musical comedy from 2018. He plays a Yeti who descends from his cloudy mountain village and encounters a human — both realizing that the other species thought them a mythical creature. The visuals are engaging and the jokes are just clever enough to work for all ages.
After years of struggle to get off the ground, video game icon Sonic the Hedgehog finally got his blockbuster adaptation in this 2020 live-action/animated hybrid. Parents who are put off by hyperactive action should probably stay away, but there’s a charming go-for-broke attitude that’s admirable, particularly in the great voice work from Ben Schwartz as Sonic and remarkable overacting from Jim Carrey as the villain.
Disney+ has stolen almost all the superhero movies but Sam Raimi’s original version of the webslinger is still on Hulu. Starring Tobey Maguire, this blockbuster doesn’t get enough credit for revitalizing the entire superhero genre in a way that plays to both parents and kids. It still rules.
This 2016 animated film is the story of how storks work to deliver babies, assisted by humans at a distribution center in the sky. One of those humans gets involved in a mistake when she creates a baby they’re not supposed to and end up having to help care for it with her stork partner. The visuals here are strong even if the story is slight. Still, it’s a creative story that you haven’t really seen before.
One of the biggest early box office stories of the pandemic was when Universal decided that this highly anticipated sequel would land on premium video on demand instead of waiting for theaters to open. And now it’s already on Hulu! Poppy and Branch return in a hyperactive follow-up that explores more musical styles than the original with a manic energy that can be fun at time but also sometimes feels pretty exhausting. Still, in a year without blockbusters for the families, it’s nice to get one at home already for your Hulu subscription price.
Yes, they made a movie about a creepy line of toys. No, it’s not a modern animated classic. But it is something recent that may get the attention of your kids. You can’t make them watch old shows and movies all the time. And sometimes they just want to see something that was in theaters not that long ago, especially given they can’t go out to one in 2020. So, what’s this about? You probably know. Dolls. They’re kind of ugly.
This 1988 TV movie actually landed 14 years after the end of The Brady Bunch, and reunited almost all of the original cast members (Cindy was recast. Poor Cindy). It’s pretty simple — reunite with the Bradys, this time around Christmas! With the kids all grown, Carol and Mike buy airline tickets so everyone can get together around Christmas, in-laws and grandchildren included. It’s likely to make you jealous in 2020.
Paramount released this computer-animated flick in early 2019, which feels like a lifetime ago now. It’s a bit simple and silly, but that’s kind of all right in our current stuck-at-home situation. Wonder Park is the story of a girl who puts her imagination away when her mother gets sick and how an imaginary amusement park helps her find that creative spark again.