By Betsy Bozdech
From superhero adventures to eagerly anticipated sequels to groundbreaking role models and representations, these movies offer the best of 2018 for kids, teens and families. 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 oohing and aahing at their big-screen spectacle. All also earned the Common Sense Seal, which means they offer an exceptional media experience to families with kids of all ages.
Many of these movies are available on DVD or in your streaming queue — and some are still in theaters.
Mary Poppins Returns, age 6+
Whimsical and playful, this sequel follows in the original’s footsteps with its catchy songs and strong messages about imagination, gratitude, empathy, kindness, looking past the surface and — of course — being close to your family and believing in yourself.
Paddington 2, age 6+
This delightful sequel to 2015′s Paddington will charm audiences of all ages with its silly hijinks and physical humor — not to mention messages about compassion, empathy, kindness and the importance of families.
Pandas, age 6+
Sweet and educational, this nature documentary about a conservationist teaching a clever little panda how to survive in the wild is packed with adorable animals and themes of conservation and cooperation/teamwork.
Pick Of The Liter, age 6+
This easygoing, upbeat documentary about all the time, effort, sacrifice, heartache, hope and love that go into training guide dogs for the blind is a treat for dog lovers, with messages of the value of empathy, teamwork and community service.
Smallfoot, age 6+
Looking for a charming mix of positive themes, physical comedy, and a few catchy songs? This star-studded animated adventure is it. It strongly promotes the ideas of appreciating traditions but questioning the status quo, thinking outside the box, staying true to your ideals and giving those unlike you a chance — in other words, curiosity, communication, and integrity.
Incredibles 2, age 8+
Fourteen years in the making, this eagerly awaited sequel lives up to expectations, delivering a satisfying story that combines intense superhero action with themes of teamwork, courage, communication and perseverance — as well as how easy it is to be manipulated by the screens that are all around us.
Mary And The Witch’s Flower, age 8+
This magical fantasy adventure based on Mary Stewart’s classic children’s novel The Little Broomstick — a great pick for Harry Potter fans — has messages about believing in yourself, being courageous and generous and more.
Ralph Breaks The Internet, age 8+
Disney’s colorful, clever sequel to Wreck-It Ralph fully explores how the internet can be both wonderful and terrible and has strong themes of empathy, courage, perseverance and self-control.
Science Fair, age 8+
Brilliant teens compete in the Olympics of science fairs in this fascinating, inspiring documentary about the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). It’s likely to inspire science-loving kids to find ways to think big, pursue research and make getting to the fair a goal for their STEM interests.
Laugh-out-loud funny, filled with teachable moments about courage and teamwork and appealing to parents and kids of all ages — this rousingly entertaining superhero adventure is everything a great family movie should be.
RBG, age 10+
With clear messages about the importance of integrity and equality, this riveting, surprisingly touching documentary reveals how the quiet, intense Ruth Bader Ginsburg became one of the most iconic Supreme Court justices in American history.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, age 10+
This poignant documentary about Fred Rogers is a touching, triumphant tribute to a children’s TV icon. He was a remarkable man who reminded generations of young children that they mattered and were loved.
Liyana, age 11+
Powerful and unique, this documentary about a group of African orphans who create a story as a form of creative therapy is an extremely effective tool for building empathy and opening perspectives. It also emphasizes the importance of courage and perseverance.
Black Panther, age 12+
Not only is this the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to center on a superhero of color, but it also has deep characters, a strong storyline and outstanding acting. Viewers get all that plus strong, smart female characters and clear themes of integrity, courage and teamwork.
Avengers: Infinity War, age 13+
This is the most intense, complex and stirring Marvel Cinematic Universe film yet, with consequences unlike any that have come before in this massive franchise. It’s also one of the funniest MCU movies, and it offers strong themes of teamwork and courage.
Crazy Rich Asians, age 13+
The very rare mainstream Hollywood release to feature an all-Asian cast, this delightful romcom is also refreshing for featuring a heroine who doesn’t need saving by a man. Plus, it has strong messages about loving yourself, staying in control and addressing problems with dignity and class.
Green Book, age 13+
This crowd-pleasing 1960s-set drama has important and thought-provoking messages about empathy and the danger of prejudice and stereotypes. And the story is a timely reminder of how, only a few decades ago, there were whole parts of the country where segregation kept African Americans from fully participating in civic life.
The Hate U Give, age 13+
Like the book that inspired it, this movie is about more than a police shooting. It’s about speaking out against injustice, healing wounds, the importance of family, finding true friends and uniting communities. And, for parents, it’s about supporting kids as they find their voice.
Love, Simon, age 13+
Tender, sweet and affecting, this is the mainstream romcom that gay teens might not have even known they needed. It’s not free of iffy content (there’s teen drinking, strong language and some sex talk), but it’s ultimately positive and affirming, with messages of courage, integrity and empathy.
Eighth Grade, age 14+
Despite some mature content, this is a great movie to watch with your teen. There’s so much here for parents and kids to unpack, from mean-girl behavior to issues around social media and screen time. And ultimately, it promotes open communication between teens and their parents, as well as courage.