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25 Can’t-Miss Family Stories and Movies

It’s family movie night! Mom, dad and the kids are relaxing on the couch, watching a film they can all enjoy and talk about when it’s over. All too often, the reality is that parents settle for watching movies they will tolerate because they know their kids will love them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The best family films appeal to two or sometimes even three generations, letting the grandparents get involved too. Often the key to finding these movies is looking for a great book the movie is based on.

There’s also fun to be found in reading the book first as a family, and watching the movie together when you’re done. Comparing the two and noting any differences helps kids develop skills in critical analysis, something they will almost certainly be asked to do in school.

Here’s a list of 25 titles perfect for reading the book and then watching on the home movie screen; they are organized by age group. Since these stories have intergenerational appeal, teens, too, are likely to enjoy the book/movie combos targeted toward younger kids:

Ages 6 to 8

Charlottes Web by E.B. White/movies from 1973 and 2006. A heartwarming tale of friendship between two creatures unlikely to find each other.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum/movie from 1939. Most people are only familiar with the movie, but a whole series of books follows Dorothy and her friends in Oz.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell/movie from 2010. An entire community changed when a boy and a dragon saw past old feuds.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett/movie from 2009. In Chewandswallow, everyone eats what falls from the sky. Good for multiple readings as kids get more of the subtle humor as they mature.

Nanny McPhee: The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand/movie from 2005. This nanny knows the cure for what ails the naughty children in the Brown family.

Ages 8 to 13

Matilda by Roald Dahl/movie from 1996. Matilda learns to fight back against the mean adults in her life by using her special powers.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen/movie from 2010. There are two sides to every story.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine/movie from 2004. An imaginative retelling of the Cinderella tale.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett/movie from 1993. Two neglected children discover how to bring happiness back to their lives.

Holes by Louis Sachar/movie from 2003. Stanley finds a way to redeem his great-great grandfather and help the boys unfairly sentenced to Camp Green Lake.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson/Muppet Treasure Island movie from 1996. The Muppets put a fresh spin on this classic tale.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis/movie from 2005. A little girl and her siblings discover the magical world that exists on the other side of a wardrobe.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie/Disney movie from 1953; Updated movie from 2003. Follow the adventures of the boy who never wanted to grow up and the children who loved him.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson/movie from 2007. A boy and a girl create a secret world they can only enter by swinging on an enchanted rope across a stream.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick/Hugo the movie from 2011. A young boy lives hidden and observes life from behind the giant clock in a Paris train station.

Ages 14 and up

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee/movie from 1962. Scout learns about life and racism in a small Alabama town.

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce/movie from 2004. When a small boy believes the bag of money he finds is a gift from God, he decides to spend it helping the poor.

Divergent by Veronica Roth/movie from 2014. Divergents stand out in a world where everyone is divided into factions.

The Giver by Lois Lowry/movie from 2014. A boy discovers what life could be like when he receives memories of the world that existed in the past.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman/movie from 2007. A young man journeys to bring back a fallen star to his beloved.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins/first of movie trilogy from 2012. A future world pits teens against each other in deadly games.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky/movie from 2012. A teen fights depression with the help of his oddball friends.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak/movie from 2013. A girl survives with the help of her adopted parents in Word War II Germany.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo/movie from 2011. A young man follows his beloved horse into the trenches of World War I.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews/movie from 2015. Unexpectedly funny story about high school friends, one of whom has cancer.

Cindy writes about reading, books and family activities at


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