Even if you don’t do Christmas, you still might find yourself in a holiday-season situation involving children, time spent indoors, and a need to fill that time with a movie viewers of all ages can enjoy watching. Pick one of these Netflix selections, then binge-watch Medici: Masters of Florence when all the kiddies go to sleep.
io9's pick for the year’s best animated film is a clever and eerily timely tale set in a pressure-cooker of a city where predators and prey have learned to get along—or have they? Kids will love the animal characters (especially Judy, a small-town bunny who overcomes some huge obstacles to achieve her dream of being a big-city cop); grown-ups will appreciate the way Zootopia makes its point about overcoming differences without being preachy. Also, pelt me with night howlers, but Shakira’s theme song (“Try Everything”) is catchy as hell.
2) The Wiz
Last December, the unexpectedly outstanding The Wiz Live proved that the “live musical on TV” trend doesn’t always have to be a cringe-inducing affair. But Netflix has the original 1978 musical film—adapted from the Broadway show—and it’s still the best. Diana Ross plays Dorothy, a pre-Off the Wall Michael Jackson plays the Scarecrow, Richard Pryor plays the Wiz, and the production design is gritty 1970s NYC meets surreal disco inferno. The music, of course, is soulful as ever.
3) Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
A timeless story about a man-child who’s willing to travel any distance and do just about anything (hitch a ride with a ghostly trucker, dance on top of a bar, try to worm his way into the basement of the Alamo) to get his stolen bicycle back. Tim Burton’s first feature holds up over multiple viewings, and still features one of the funniest “Hollywood” endings ever.
4) Sky High
A pretty typical high school movie—except all the kids, parents, and teachers have superpowers, which makes all the usual coming-of-age problems even more dramatic (but in a goofy way, not in an angsty X-Men way). The younger actors (including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the popular girl/villain) are great, but the grown-ups are the secret weapon here, with Kurt Russell, Bruce Campbell, Cloris Leachman, and Lynda Carter (as Sky High’s principal) popping up in the cast.
5) The Last Unicorn
Based on the book by Peter S. Beagle about a lonely unicorn searching for others of her kind, this 1982 fantasy animation features work by Japanese artists who’d later join the newly-formed Studio Ghibli. You can really play name-that-voice with this one; the cast includes Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Alan Arkin, and Jeff Bridges (the same year as Tron). And for hippie cred the kids won’t even notice, all the music is by English rockers America.
6) Fantasia and Fantasia 2000
This Disney classic from 1940 features eight surreal, imaginatively animated sequences set to classical music, including Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and, most famously in this Mickey Mouse-centric context, Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. If you want to make a music-appreciation double-feature out of it, Netflix also has the sequel, Fantasia 2000, which follows a similar formula with compositions like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
7) The Secret of Kells
A long-shot Best Animated Film Oscar nominee back in 2009 (it lost to Up), this France-Belgium-Ireland co-production takes inspiration for both its adventure tale and its gorgeous art style from Celtic mythology.
8) Galaxy Quest
You know it, you love it, and by Grabthar’s hammer, it’s time to share this scifi cult classic with everyone you’re even distantly related to.
9) *batteries not included
A run-down NYC apartment managed by an elderly couple (real-life spouses Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy) is threatened by thuggish developers—until a pair of cute, friendly robot aliens appear and fix everything. Literally. This 1987 comedy hails from Amblin Entertainment, which means the fingerprints of executive producer Stephen Spielberg are all over it. It’s also co-written by Brad Bird, who went on to make films like The Incredibles and Tomorrowland.
10) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Yes, this series has dragged on far too long. I can’t be the only one who groaned when the teaser trailer for what feels like the 546th entry started making the rounds. BUT! Kids love pirates. Join them in the world of make-believe by pretending the first film in the swashbuckling saga—made at a time when Johnny Depp’s turn as Captain Jack Sparrow actually felt funny, original, and worthy of an Oscar nomination—is a stand-alone film. Geoffrey Rush’s knowingly hammy performance is practically enough to wipe away the stench of too many sequels.