7 Best Non-Animated Movies for Kids

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Some of the most brilliant, and revolutionary projects in the history of the movie industry fall into the category of non-animated kid movies. Most of these movies were groundbreaking when they came out, utilizing technology and cinematography techniques never seen before on the big screen. They also featured some of the most memorable performances, skyrocketing the careers of the brilliant cast to acting stardom. From the classics like Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins to sci-fi and fantasy flicks such as E.T. and Maleficent – here is our list of the 7 best non-animated movies both parents and kids can enjoy together.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) Age: 7+

The Wizard of Oz is undoubtedly one of the greatest movies ever made. It is based on the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and stars Judy Garland who gives one of the most iconic performances of her career. In addition to a great story placed in a magical setting and complemented with stunning visual effects for the time, the Wizard of Oz features one of the most recognizable songs in movie history – Over the Rainbow.

When Dorothy Gale was swept away by a Tornado and transferred to the magical land of Oz, she thought she would never see her home again. Luckily, she meets a group of friends that help her embark on an exciting journey down the yellow brick road to reach the almighty Wizard and get her back to her home in Kansas. After several unfortunate meetings with her biggest foe, the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy together with her friends, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin man finally manages to reach the all-powerful wizard who can help Dorothy find her way back home and give her friends that which they long for the most – a heart, a brain, and courage.

This charming movie realization teaches us that if we gather the courage to face our fears, we can accomplish almost anything. It teaches us the importance of friendships, and that the best friends always have your back. Most importantly, The Wizard of Oz shows us that no matter how exciting or magical another place can be, there is still no place like home.

The Incredible Journey (1963)

Rated: G (General Audiences) Age: 5+

For all you animal lovers out there, The Incredible Journey is a pure classic, in every sense of the term. The live-action family flick was made by Disney back in 1963, but is still a worthy watch, especially for your kids. This inspiring story revolves around three pets who journey on to find their beloved home. The brave furry companionship consists of two dogs, and a cat – Tao the Siamese cat, Luath the Labrador Retriever, and Bodger the Bull Terrier. The Incredible Journey is a heart-warming story that all animal lovers can appreciate and will definitely further strengthen their love for their furry companions.

The movie also offers some incredible scenery, as the main setting is located in the Canadian wilderness. Another great thing about this movie is the brilliant narration perfectly delivered by Rex Allen.

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Mary Poppins (1964)

Rated: G (General Audiences) Age: 5+

The next movie on our list is a well-known musical that left its mark on many childhoods, spanning generations. Mary Poppins is a Disney classic, directed by their long-serving director Robert Stevenson. This magical tale takes us to Edwardian London, where the Banks family is about to have their life completely changed by an extraordinary nanny. The children of the household, Jane and Michael, have known to misbehave in the effort to grab their father’s attention. Unfortunately, they have been driving away many nannies in the process, leaving both their parents desperate to find a new one that will stick around. All their prayers are about to be answered as Mary Poppins literally flies into their lives using her magical umbrella. Together with Bert, the charismatic and multi-talented chimney sweep, they embark on many adventures, each with a valuable lesson. The movie teaches us that laughter is the most effective cure. That we should all learn our own measurements, in other words, get familiarized with both our strengths and flaws. That there is always time for the simple things in life that bring us joy. Like flying a kite or riding on a carousel. Most importantly, Mary Poppins teaches us the importance of family and the value of the attention we give to our siblings.

The Sherman brothers were behind the iconic soundtrack that features songs such as A Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Step in Time, and the award-winning Chim Chim Cher-ee.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) Age: 10+

If you’re trying to persuade your kids to love science, letting them watch sci-fi movies is a good start. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is not just a sci-fi classic, but some call it the greatest movie ever made. The director, Steven Spielberg, is a master of the genre and is credited for many highly successful cinematography projects, but if there is one movie that put him on the map and cemented his place in cinematography history, it’s E.T.

The movie tells the story of a sweet and kind-hearted alien called E.T. who finds himself stranded on Earth after an unsuccessful mission to gather plant specimens. He hides in a tool shed only to be quickly discovered by a ten-year-old boy. This boy is called Elliott, and they quickly become best friends. Their bond grows so strong that they develop a psychic connection with each other. Elliot together with his brother Michael and sister Gertie, try to help E.T. find his way back home.

Apart from being an unprecedented cinematography achievement for its time, E.T. is a beautiful story that teaches us the value of true friendship.

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The Karate Kid (1984)

Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) Age: 7+

In our opinion, there is no better movie for teaching your kids about discipline, wisdom, and humbleness, than The Karate Kid. Every line uttered by the wise and charismatic martial arts teacher, Mr. Miyagi, can be considered as a sincere lesson in life. This martial arts drama movie is an inspiring underdog tale that shows just how much hard work pays off in the end. It stars Ralph Macchio as a 15-year-old teenager who struggles to hold his ground against high-school bullies. That is until he meets Mr. Miyagi, played by the legendary Pat Morita. Mr. Miyagi agrees to mentor the young boy and takes up the role of his sensei in order to prepare him for a Karate tournament where he can face his high-school foes on equal terms.

The Karate Kid is a sincere martial-arts flick that teaches us how to be respectful, committed, and to face our fears. It does that in an action-packed way that will keep your kid’s attention on the TV screen during the entire duration of the movie.

Back to the Future (1985)

Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) Age: 11+

No list of non-animated kid movies can be complete without the hilarious sci-fi sensation – Back to the Future. While the Back to the Future franchise ended up being a trilogy, the original remained by far the most popular of them all. The movie was directed by Robert Lee Zemeckis and stars well-known actors such as Michael J. Fox as the main protagonist, and Christopher Lloyd as the somewhat odd scientist.

Back to the Future tells the story of a young teenager Marty McFly and his time traveling adventure. Marty loves playing the guitar and is a great skateboarder but is also mischievous at times. That’s precisely why it took him no effort at all to discover the laboratory belonging to the eccentric scientist Emmett “Doc” Brown. The two become best friends as Marty shows instant appreciation for Doc’s work. Not long after, Doc introduces Marty to his precious time-machine – a modified DMC DeLorean powered by plutonium. Marty accidentally ends up in 1955 without a way to go back home. He encounters his parents who were teenagers at the time, as well as other familiar characters including a younger Doc.

Marty keeps getting into trouble as he tries not to alter the course of time and change the future. In the end, everything comes into place, and Marty manages to get back to the present. Aside from being a sci-fi comedy, Back to the Future carries a lot of lessons. It teaches not to be afraid of making mistakes, in the end, the future has its way of working things out. Still, we need to give it our best to be successful. The movie teaches us to be curious, to explore, and search for valuable lessons every step of the way.

Maleficent (2014)

Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) Age: 10+

There were so many classic movies we could have included in our list of 7 best non-animated kids movies, but we wanted to finish it with a newer take on an old and well-known fairy tale. Maleficent is a fantasy movie that, unlike the original fairy tale, tells the story from the perspective of the antagonist. The role of the powerful forest fairy is perfectly portrayed by Angelina Jolie while other cast members include Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, and Sam Riley. Maleficent is a worthy watch as it is visually spectacular, features excellent acting, and teaches us that there are always two sides to every coin.

And there you have it, 7 non-animated cinematography hits ideal for a cozy movie night with the kids. Let us know what your favorites are.

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

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