Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) in 'The Princess and the Frog'
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

10 Movies Guaranteed To Define Any Childhood

G-rated movies “for kids”? Sure, like these masterpieces don’t appeal to every single human being with two braincells and a beating heart. These films movies are for the kid in all of us—the inner child that this ugly world can never force to grow up.

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10. Monsters, Inc.

The animated cast of Pixar's classic Monsters Inc. standing together.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Monsters, Inc. prepares children for a corporate world—a world where old ideas rule and newcomers have to fight to change the status quo. But sure as water rolls off a duck’s back, the old makes way for the new. Mike and Sully are two Monsters working for an energy company that transforms the screams of scared children into electrical power. One day, top-scarer Sully discovers that a little girl named Boo has escaped into the monster world, and has to protect her from a monster society trained to believe children are toxic. The only thing infectious about this little kid is her laugh, which, as it turns out, generates more electrical power than screams ever could.

9. Mulan

Ming-Na Wen as Mulan
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

This ’90s-era Disney masterpiece is a modern retelling of the Chinese folk legend of Mulan, a woman warrior who disguised herself as a man in order to join the army and became a national hero. The songwriting crew behind this masterpiece decided to kick it up a notch with consummate bangers like the pensive “Reflection” and the blood-pumping “I’ll Make a Man out of You.” Pair that with amazing performances by Lea Salonga and Eddie Murphy, and you’ve got a Disney film that, like Yao, is King of the Rock … and there’s nuthin’ you girls can do about it.

8. The Princess and the Frog

Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) in 'The Princess and the Frog'
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Princess and the Frog was a groundbreaking moment in the world of Disney, featuring the first-ever Black Disney princess, Tiana. Set in New Orleans in the roaring twenties, Tiana and her father are working hard to open their own restaurant. In order to secure the bag, Tiana kisses self-identified frog prince Naveen, who promises her enough cold hard cash for her to by an abandoned mill and build a restaurant. Instead of turning the frog into a prince, Tiana is turned into a frog herself by the kiss. With the help of her bon vivant best friend Charlotte La Bouff, she might be able to untwist fate.

7. Finding Nemo

(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Finding Nemo is the tale of a parent’s worst nightmare: losing their kid. And that’s exactly what happens to Marlin the clownfish. His only surviving son, Nemo, goes missing! Who can help? A blue tang with short-term memory loss, a surfer bro sea turtle, and an ethically reformed shark who has been convinced that “fish are friends, not food.” It’s funny, smart, and, like the best of kids’ movies, totally heartbreaking. Show it to your kids to teach them to never, EVER go off alone, even if it’s to “touch the butt.”

6. My Neighbor Totoro

Cuddly monster Totoro celebrates in the moonlight with their babies and two little human girls in "My Neighbor Totoro"
(Studio Ghibli)

Studio Ghibli films tend to be dark rhapsodies filled with flesh-eating spirits, demonically possessed boars, and giant toxic bugs. My Neighbor Totoro breaks the mold. Perhaps the most lighthearted Ghibli flick, Totoro centers around two kids doing what kids to best: messing around. After moving to a rural home with their father, two siblings venture into the woods to find a cuddly cat-raccoon-bear monster named Totoro. Totoro is all about a good time. He plants magical trees in their backyard, takes them flying through the air at night, and helps them hitch a ride on a totally rad cat bus. There isn’t a conflict. No big bad. No ticking clock. No complicated moral. Just good times with fluffy forest creatures. What else could you ask for?

5. The Emperor’s New Groove

An animated Kronk from "The Emperor's New Groove" offering Yzma something to eat.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Emperor’s New Groove features perhaps the funniest Disney character ever committed to the big screen. I’m talking of course about the spinach puff cooking, theme song singing, lever-pulling evil henchman with a heart of gold: Kronk. Sure Groove is a cool story about a spoiled rich kid getting a new appreciation for how the other half lives through a series of hard knocks, but is that really what makes this film warrant a thousand rewatches? No, it’s Kronk. We wanna see him work as a short order cook, speak squirrel, and wrestle with moral questions posed by the angel and devil on his shoulders. And watch Eartha Kitt chew the scenery as his evil boss, Yzma. An icon.

4. The Secret World of Arrietty

Arrietty and Sho in 'The Secret World of Arrietty'
(Studio Ghibli)

Are your children annoying you? Just won’t leave you alone? Put on The Secret World of Arrietty and get them looking for little thimble-size people living in the house! The teenage Arrietty and her diminutive family are Borrowers, itty bitty people who live in the cracks and corners of houses, borrowing bits and bobs from big homeowners in order to survive. A missing coat button here, one less sugar cube there, a matchbook light one match—the Borrowers have struck! Arrietty’s secret existence is discovered by a bedridden boy, and the pair strike up a cautious friendship that seems to be on the cusp of something more. The lesson of this movie that kids need to learn? Sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes friends can’t stay friends. In this world, you need to learn to say “goodbye” just as much as “hello.”

3. The Lion King

Mufasa and Simba in The Lion King (1994)
(Buena Vista Pictures Distribution/Disney)

Disney was on fire in the ’90s. Surely bangers like Aladdin and Beauty and The Beast were enough? Surely these films couldn’t get BETTER? But Disney wasn’t through. They decided to pull a page out of the folio of the greatest writer in the English canon: William Shakespeare. In a stunning interpretation of Hamlet featuring a cast of African savannah creatures, The Lion King staked its claim as arguably the best animated Disney film ever made. Beautiful animation, a gut-wrenching story, and a soundtrack of bops penned by Elton John? This film was too big to fail. Just be warned, showing this film to your Disney children may turn them into Disney adults…

2. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki rides on a broom at night, holding her arm out.
(Studio Ghibli)

Hayao Miyazaki strikes again! Kiki’s Delivery Service is a kid-oriented Ghibli film that is thematically more mature than films like My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo. The action centers around a young witch named Kiki, who is looking for her place in the world. Determined to make something of herself, she and her talking black cat set out on a quest to be helpful. Literally that’s it, just be helpful. She finds a charming little town whose residents need help sending mail, and voila! Kiki’s Delivery Service is born! The lesson of this film? There is a wide open world out there that needs your help, and with your natural talents and a little ingenuity, you can make that world a better place for all. Having a flying broomstick helps, but isn’t a necessity.

1. Toy Story

Tim Allen as Buzz and Tom Hanks as Woody in Toy Story
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The ultimate children’s film, Toy Story taught children what they knew already—that their favorite toys have hearts and minds of their own. The film is about a group of well loved toys owned by the young Andy. His favorite? A cowboy named Woody with an eternal snake in his boot. At least … until Andy brings home the brand new space exploring action hero Buzz Lightyear and kicks poor Woody to the curb. Buzz and Woody form a bitter rivalry for Andy’s affections, but end up joining forces to return to Andy after his family forgets them on move-out day. It’s an endearing film that spawned a series of sequels that are equally touching. It’s unforgettable. Timeless. It’ll never fall out of style. It’s falling with style.


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.