The 15 Best Family Films You Can Stream Right Now

Focus Features
Focus Features

Whether you’re in need of something to entertain the inter-generational crew that descended on your doorstep for baked meats and pumpkin pie, are looking to share a cinematic moment with your young ones, or just happen to be in the mood for an all-ages alone time, there are a ton of great family-friendly movies streaming right now.

Instead of scrolling endlessly through that plague of choices (especially if you’ve got a frustrated tot threatening to shred your couch), use this as a shortcut to picking something everyone will love. Here are 15 of the best family-friendly movies that are just a few clicks away (and where to find them).

1. COCO (2017)

Pixar magic refined by familial connections across generations and defined by millions of eye-popping colors, aspiring musician Miguel’s adventure into the underworld on Día de Muertos seems to have been built around the goal of making as many people cry for as long as possible. It’s a toe-tapping Kleenex commercial about what we owe to family—and what we owe to ourselves.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. THE NEVERENDING STORY (1984)

Here’s a fun fact: the kid in The NeverEnding Story’s full name is Bastian Balthazar Bux. Weird, right? All he gets to do is read a book in an attic while Atreyu sets forth on an epic quest to battle The Nothing, ride a Luckdragon, and save Fantasia. And we get to watch Bastian read the book about the adventure. So it’s pretty meta when you think about it. It’s also pretty awesome—and a powerful dose of nostalgia for Gen Xers and Millennials alike.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. HUGO (2011)

Paris. 1930s. A young orphan living in a train station runs afoul of a toy store owner, but after connecting with the man’s goddaughter and taking her to the cinema, they realize that the toy store owner was once a famous director. Cementing their friendship, the young boy and girl hatch a plan to reignite her godfather’s dreams. Martin Scorsese directed this wondrous, movie-obsessed melodrama starring Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Where to watch it: Amazon

4. AN AMERICAN TAIL (1986)

For yet another powerful dose of nostalgia, there’s nothing quite as powerful as the sweet, somber, harrowing journey of the plucky Ukrainian mouse named Fievel. It’s about holding onto hope even when the person you love is so, so far away. It’s about immigrating to a new place that can be both welcoming and hostile. It’s about building a new, loving home when hate has destroyed your old one.

Where to watch it: Netflix

5. CORALINE (2009)

In 2009, the newly-formed Laika Studios announced themselves in a big, ambitious way with painstaking stop-motion craftsmanship and a wondrous story based on Neil Gaiman's novel, Coraline. Written and directed by Henry Selick (who also made The Nightmare Before Christmasbe sure to bet money with your friends who think it was Tim Burton), the movie features a girl who moves into a new home in Oregon with strange new neighbors and an enticing fantasy land with loving parents, tasty food, and endless fun … if you’re willing to sew buttons where your eyes should be. Extras about how they built the movie frame-by-frame will also drop your jaw right to the floor.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. CHARLOTTE’S WEB (1973)

Just as fun and vibrant as you remember, E.B. White’s classic tale about a pig saved from becoming bacon by a literate spider really sang in this animated adaptation. The musical is a delight, the lessons about friendship are powerful, and Paul Lynde voices a sassy rat named Templeton. That’ll do pig. That’ll do.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime 

7. MULAN (1998)

It’s highly likely that your whole crew has seen Moana and Kung Fu Panda about a trillion times, so if you’re looking for an escape, there’s always 1990s Disney to the rescue. The saga of a brave young woman seizing her destiny despite the sexism of her empire will have everyone cutting off their ponytails and adopting a pet dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy. Plus, it’ll get you prepped for the live-action version set for 2020.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. A LITTLE PRINCESS (1995)

If you’re looking for a deep cut to impress the crowd, check out one of Alfonso Cuarón’s early gems—a remake of a 1939 Shirley Temple movie that features an imaginative young girl stowed away in a horrible boarding school because she thinks her father has been killed during WWI. Hijinks and the magic of youth collide with stunning production design and gorgeous visuals. It’s a cult favorite for a reason.

Where to watch it: Netflix

9. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (2000)

David Spade voices the spoiled, Incan ruler who is turned into a llama by his scheming advisor Yzma (voiced to purr-fection by Eartha Kitt). Teaming up with a kind villager (whose house the emperor wants to destroy to make way for a waterslide), the sarcastic llama attempts to get his human body and his throne back with some cartoon slapstick along the way.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. THE IRON GIANT (1999)

An all-timer (and another movie that should come with its own tissues), Brad Bird’s animated, Cold War-set masterpiece is a bit like E.T. —but with a giant robot instead of an alien. It takes a different angle from the 1950s B-movies by making the thing that “came from outer space!” the misunderstood, kind-hearted hero and a friend to a special young boy. Bring Superman capes for everyone you’re watching it with.

Where to stream it: Netflix

11. JANE (2017)

Who says family films have to be fiction? This award-winning documentary charts Jane Goodall’s decades of research into chimpanzees as she lived among them in Tanzania and tried to raise a family of her own. She has lived an extraordinary life, and this film does the enormity of her boundary-pushing success justice with personal footage and a ton of information about the animals she spent so much of her time getting to know.

Where to watch it: Hulu

12. THE HALLOWEEN TREE (1993)

Either you already know it and love it, or you’re about to. Back in the early 1990s, Hanna-Barbera took a stab at adapting a Ray Bradbury fantasy novel and cast Ray Bradbury and Leonard Nimoy in the adult roles. The story features a group of pre-teens held captive by a neighborhood crank with a magical jack o’ lantern tree who takes them on a time-bending scavenger hunt to learn about the origins of their costumes: a mummy, a witch, a demon, and a skeleton.

Where to watch it: Hulu

13. MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER (2017)

You’re a witch, Mary! The big Studio Ghibli movies aren’t available to stream (many of them have been making their way back into theaters for limited engagements), but this animated adventure about a young woman who sneaks into a witching college by using a plant called “fly-by-night” is the next best thing. Spirited and beautifully crafted, it’s also a great argument for exploring your world and learning about cool plants.

Where to watch it: Netflix

14. GALAXY QUEST (1999)

For the PG crowd with sci-fi fans in the mix, Dean Parisot’s film walks the balance beam between spoof and love letter with technical flourish. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and more star as washed-up actors from a Star Trek-esque TV show who are kidnapped by aliens who think their show was real. It’s a bigger ego boost than autographing headshots, and it takes fandom and sci-fi know-how to save the day.

Where to watch it: Amazon

15. A MISER BROTHERS’ CHRISTMAS (2008)

Recalling the classic Rankin-Bass stop-motion holiday specials of the 1970s, this spin-off saw Mickey Rooney returning to his role as Santa Claus in a story about Heat Miser and Snow Miser running the toy factory as another fantastical family member tries to sabotage Christmas without getting the blame.

Where to watch it: Hulu

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Born In the U.S.A.: How Bruce Springsteen's Anti-Vietnam Anthem Got Lost In Translation

Bruce Springsteen performs on stage.
Bruce Springsteen performs on stage.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Maybe it’s Max Weinberg’s fault. In the opening seconds of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 single “Born in the U.S.A.,” Weinberg, the drummer for Springsteen’s E Street Band, laid down some ferocious snare hits, invoking cannon blasts and fireworks and all the national pride associated with those sounds. The track explodes before Springsteen even utters a single word, casting red, white, and blue filters on a set of lyrics imbued with many more colors and layers.

Casual radio listeners in 1984 were bound to hear “Born in the U.S.A.” as an ode to patriotism, and the perfect soundtrack for President Reagan’s “Morning In America” campaign. Reagan himself invoked Springsteen’s name during an August 1984 campaign stop in New Jersey. “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts,” Reagan said. “It rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.”

From a distance, Springsteen looked the part of the jingoistic flag-waver. The scruffy, sinewy rocker pictured on the cover of 1975’s star-making Born to Run album had evolved into a musclebound, headband-wearing, stadium-wrecking legend-in-the-making. When he sang, “I was born in the U.S.A.,” it sounded like a declaration of pride and faith.

But “Born in the U.S.A.,” the title track off Springsteen’s blockbuster seventh album, wasn't the nationalistic singalong many people thought it was. In his 2016 memoir Born to Run, Springsteen rightfully called it “a protest song," and the angry tone ought to be clear from the opening line: “Born down in a dead man’s town / The first kick I took was when I hit the ground.”

The song's lyrics tell of a local loser who’s railroaded into military service during the Vietnam War, scarred by his experiences in Southeast Asia, and completely forgotten about by his country when he returns home. Springsteen's protagonist can’t find work or shake the image of the brother he lost in Khe Sanh. Ten years after the war, he’s got nothing left except a claim to his birthplace. And he’s not sure what that’s worth.

 

Springsteen wrote “Born in the U.S.A.” after reading Born on the Fourth of July, Vietnam veteran and antiwar activist Ron Kovic's memoir (which Oliver Stone later adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Tom Cruise). Springsteen purchased the book at a gas station in Arizona in 1978 and was moved by Kovic’s story of a young man who enlists in the Marines and returns from Vietnam in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

Not long after Springsteen read the book, he happened to meet Kovic by the pool at Hollywood’s Sunset Marquis hotel. They struck up a friendship, and Springsteen wound up staging an August 1981 benefit concert for the fledgling Vietnam Veterans of America.

Bruce Springsteen performs on stage
Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

In writing “Born in the U.S.A.,” Springsteen was also motivated by survivor’s guilt—or perhaps more correctly, avoider’s guilt. By his own admission, Springsteen was a “stone-cold draft dodger.” When he was called up by his local draft board in the ‘60s, Springsteen used all the tricks in the book to avoid being selected. According to Rolling Stone, Springsteen's "efforts to convince a Newark, New Jersey, selective service board of his abject unsuitability for combat in Vietnam apparently extended to claiming he was both gay and tripping on LSD, but none of it was necessary." In the end, Springsteen was dismissed not for any of those made-up reasons, but because a concussion he had suffered in a motorcycle accident resulted in him failing his physical. He was classified 4F, or unfit for service.

“As I grew older, I sometimes wondered who went in my place,” Springsteen wrote in Born to Run. “Somebody did.” In fact, Springsteen knew some people who lost their lives in Vietnam, including Bart Haynes, the drummer in his first band. During concerts in the ‘80s, Springsteen would often share the memory of Haynes coming to his house and telling him he’d enlisted, and that he was going to Vietnam, a country he couldn’t find on the map.

 

Springsteen began writing what would become “Born In the U.S.A.” while compiling material for 1982’s stark acoustic album Nebraska. The original title was “Vietnam,” and an early version of the lyrics have the protagonist’s girlfriend ditching him for a rock singer. At some point in the process, Springsteen picked up a screenplay that Paul Schrader, the writer behind Taxi Driver, had sent him. It was called Born in the U.S.A., and while it was about a Cleveland bar band, not the plight of Vietnam vets, Springsteen recognized the power of the title.

Another influence was the 1979 book Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia. As Brian Hiatt reveals in his 2019 book Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs, one draft of “Born In the U.S.A.” advocates rough justice for Nixon, suggesting we should “cut off his balls.” That line didn’t survive the editing process, but Springsteen’s anger certainly did.

Bruce Springsteen performs on stage
Michael Putland/Getty Images

There are conflicting stories about how “Born In the U.S.A.” became such a colossal-sounding song in the studio. E Street keyboardist Roy Bittan credits himself with latching onto a six-note melody Springsteen sang when sharing the song with the band for the first time. Those six notes became the central riff of the song. Having listened to Springsteen’s lyrics, Bittan aimed for a “Southeast Asian sort of synthesized, strange sound” on his Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer. It sounded even more impactful once Weinberg began slapping that snare behind it.

In Weinberg’s version of events, the floor-shaking final version of “Born In the U.S.A.” grew out of a sparser “country trio” arrangement. When Springsteen switched up and began strumming his guitar in a style reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’s "Street Fighting Man," Weinberg drummed along, and soon the whole band followed.

 

Regardless of how it transpired, Springsteen was definitely down with “Born In the U.S.A.” being a rager. In the studio, engineer Toby Scott ran Weinberg’s drums through a broken reverb plate, putting a custom spin on the “gated reverb“ sound popularized by Phil Collins earlier in the ‘80s. Weinberg is well-deserving of his nickname, “Mighty Max,” but technology helped to give his thunderous playing that extra oomph it needed.

The version heard on the album is an early live take, with some additional jamming removed to keep the runtime under five minutes. Springsteen has subsequently done more somber acoustic versions of “Born In the U.S.A,” but they lack the juxtapositions that make the studio version so compelling—and confusing for some listeners.

“On the album, ‘Born In the U.S.A.’ was in its most powerful presentation,” Springsteen wrote in Born to Run. “If I’d tried to undercut or change the music, I believe I would’ve had a record that would’ve been more easily understood but not as satisfying.”

“Born In the U.S.A.” ultimately is a patriotic song—just not the kind President Reagan was looking for. Springsteen’s traumatized, unemployed protagonist wants to believe that being American means something. Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten once said that he didn’t write the incendiary 1977 punk single “God Save the Queen” because he hates the English—but rather because he loves them and thinks they deserve better. “Born In the U.S.A.” is the same type of song, even if some people will never understand it.

“Records are often auditory Rorschach tests,” Springsteen wrote in his memoir. “We hear what we want to hear.”