My husband and I were fans of animated movies long before we were parents. He still laughs until he cries during the final fight scene of Kung Fu Panda. I know every word to every song from every Disney movie of the late 80s and early 90s. Lucky for us, our teenage sons still get excited for family movie night—and while we’ve added more superhero blockbusters and irreverent comedies to the queue, my husband and I are glad to say some recent animated movies have become big hits within our family.
Our Best Animated Movie Recommendations
From Tweets to TikToks, everyone is talking about Encanto (now streaming on Disney+). And for good reason—Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved, so you know it’s a movie worth watching! Some viewers might shake their fists at the earworm-filled soundtrack, but honestly, there’s worse music that could get stuck in your head.
My teen sons wouldn’t put this one at the top of their favorite movie list; however, I appreciate the honest portrayal of the complexity of family life and the message that we all have significant roles to play, even when it doesn’t feel like it. As Mirabel sings, “This is my family. A perfect constellation. So many stars and everybody gets to shine.”
Encanto tenderly depicts Colombian culture and the challenging realities of refugee life and we learn through the Madrigal family: “Nothing could ever be broken that we can’t fix together.”
Luca, another animated movie streaming on Disney+, tells the story of a sea monster tween and his quest to buy a Vespa with prize money from a triathlon. That might sound strange, but trust me, it works. Even with hints of The Little Mermaid, this film stands on its own.
The animated Amalfi coast scenery is so breathtaking, you might want to start saving for an Italian family vacation. (Or at least go have dinner at your favorite local Italian restaurant!)
This movie’s theme centers on the power of friendship for tweens and teens. I also liked the subtle message (voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) that most parents just want what’s best for their kids, even if we have to loosen our tight grips on them.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
In Transformania (available on Amazon Prime), vampire Drac and his human son-in-law Johnny switch places: Drac becomes a boring human while Johnny becomes an enthusiastic monster. Together, they embark on an adventure to find the cure to switch them back.
We mostly enjoy this film for nostalgic reasons. We became a family of four via adoption in 2012, the year the first installment was released, and we’ve made a point to see every sequel since then.
Admittedly, while some movie franchises improve with sequels, this might not be one of them. However, this movie stays on my recommendation list because when we’re at the end of a busy week of school and work, this movie is the kind of mindless entertainment we’re looking for. My family got a kick out of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg voice-acting together. Throw in some funny scenes with Drac’s friends and some sweet themes about accepting family for who they are, limitations and all, and we had a movie we all enjoyed.
In 2022, we deserve a movie about triumph, and when that movie features the voices of Chelsea Peretti and Bono, we have a win-win. Sing 2 is currently in theaters.
In this sequel, Matthew McConaughey’s Buster Moon gathers his friends to make a hit musical extravaganza. The rehearsal scenes feature a flying pig, a dancing gorilla, and a self-absorbed yak, and reminded us of “Circus Americano” from Madagascar 3, another family favorite.
We enjoyed the upbeat soundtrack. The character Clay Calloway hits the right notes, and let me tell you, when the guitar started in “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” I was crying. It’s so moving!
Sing 2 is colorful and sweet-spirited, maybe even saccharine—just what we need as we near the two-year mark of this ongoing pandemic.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Like Rio, a movie our family watched so many times in our early days that we had to put it in a time-out, The Mitchells vs. the Machines (available on Netflix) became an instant family classic. It has our perfect ingredients: valuable lessons, hilarious tech-related humor, and repeatable one-liners (we still say “Just to educate you, that’s a harmful stereotype” months after watching).
Teens and parents alike will relate to the coming-of-age storyline as the family prepares for big changes when the daughter heads off to college. (There’s also a pug resembling a loaf of bread, and that’s the movie content I’m here for.)
The Mitchells are quirky, and neurodivergent, and amazing. As they take on a technology revolution, they learn to accept each other, even the parts they don’t understand. They teach us you get the family you have, and you love them for who they are, even when it’s difficult. As Katie Mitchell reminds us, “Families can be hard, but they’re so worth fighting for.”
I couldn’t agree more.