Growing up, whomst among us didn’t pretend to be an astronaut? Or a Jedi? Or a super-hero battling aliens to save the planet? It was fun to play make-believe and some of our best ideas came from science fiction family movies. The movies, and the adventures we went on in our imaginations after watching them, were such a foundational part of our childhoods and, for many of us, paved the way to a nerdy adolescence and adulthood. (It’s a good thing!) Now that we’re parents, we want our kids to be able to have those same experience... but what are the best sci-fi family movies to watch together these days? What are the youths watching? We’ve got you covered.
We tried to balance new favorites with old classics because, come on, if we don’t instill a love of classic cinema in these kiddos who will? We’ve also included MPAA ratings so you can make an informed decision about whether your kid is ready to handle the themes presented. Because aliens and monsters are cool... but sometimes maybe a little scary for sensitive children. But from spaceships to aliens to superpowers, silly to a little bit scary, these movies have something for everyone.
Escape to Witch Mountain
Orphaned siblings Tony and Tia have incredible psychic powers. When they’re kidnapped by an evil millionaire who wants to exploit their gifts, they must escape and, in the process, discover who they truly are.
Stream Escape to Witch Mountain, rated G, on Disney+
A young gamer named Reid (often known by his gaming handle, Fe@rless) must protect three baby superheroes who have emerged from his favorite video game, keeping them safe from a similarly escaped villain and return them home to their father, Lightspeed.
Stream Fe@rless, rated TV-Y7, on Netflix
We Can Be Heroes
Aliens have invaded Earth and kidnapped all of its superheroes. It’s up to their children, who have powers of their own, to save their planets... and the planet!
Stream We Can Be Heroes, rated PG, on Netflix
A family of superheroes is forced to hide their powers and live as every-day people until a villain named Syndrome threatens every undercover “super” in the world.
Stream The Incredibles, rated PG, on Disney+
Monsters vs. Aliens
Susan Murphy was just an ordinary gal before she was struck by a meteor that transformed her into an almost 50-foot woman. Now, as a government agent named Ginormica, she and a cadre of monsters must battle an evil robot that has landed on Earth.
Stream Monsters vs. Aliens, rated PG, on Netflix
Lilo & Stitch
A convicted space villain crash lands in Hawaii and becomes the unruly but bizarrely adorable pet of a strange little girl name Lilo. But when intergalactic forces come after the prisoner (and social services threatens to break up Lilo’s family), they work together to learn what ohana means.
Stream Lilo & Stitch, rated PG, on Disney+
Honey I Shrunk The Kids
An eccentric scientist accidentally shrinks his children with his latest invention, launching them into a big adventure in their own back yard.
Stream Honey I Shrunk The Kids, rated PG, on Disney+
After a “friendly” invasion of Earth brings a hive-minded alien race called the Boov, a girl named Tip befriends a free-thinking, kindly Boov named Oh. The two team up to find Tip’s mother.
Stream Home, rated PG, on Netflix
Flight of the Navigator
A 12-year-old named David awakes after a coma-like state after eight years, but hasn’t aged at all. NASA scientists soon discover that the secret to this mystery involves UFOs and that David’s brain holds the key to interplanetary discovery.
Stream Flight of the Navigator, rated PG, on Disney+
Big Hero 6
When Hiro’s brother Tadashi dies, Hiro is left with a robot named Baymax, Tadashi’s last invention, for company. Fortunately, Baymax’s primary directive is to take care of people... which comes in handy when there are dangerous plots afoot!
Stream Big Hero 6, rated PG, on Disney+
Artemis Fowl Jr. comes from a long line of criminal masterminds and this 12-year-old must draw upon all his cunning to rescue his father from a powerful fairy civilization. (Sci-fi purists will perhaps argue that this is more of a fantasy story than sci-fi, but there are definitely elements of both here.)
Stream Artemis Fowl, rated PG, on Disney+
Walter and Danny expected a quiet afternoon when they begin playing a space-themed board game called Zathura. But what happens in the game does not stay in the game... (Think “Space Jumanji”.)
Stream Zathura, rated PG, on Netflix
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
When crime-lord Kingpin creates a rift in the space-time continuum, Miles Morales and Peter Parker — both their own dimensions’ versions of Spider-Man — bring together web-slingers from across dimensions to save their worlds.
Rent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, rated PG, on Amazon Prime
Based on the Chinese web comic 7723, Next Gen tells the story of the rebellious Mai Su and 7723, a runaway combat robot, who work together to stop a tech genius from taking over the world.
Stream Next Gen, rated TV-Y7, on Netflix
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Katie Mitchell is headed to film school, so he and her family decide to get there via family road trip for a memorable bonding experience. But when all of the world’s electronics begin a machine revolution, they must come together to save humanity.
Stream The Mitchells vs. The Machines, rated PG, on Netflix
The gallant crew of the Protector are beamed aboard an alien space craft and asked to help defeat the evil empire that rules their solar system. There’s only one problem: the gallant crew are washed-up actors from a 1970s TV show called Galaxy Quest, whom the aliens have mistaken for real heroes!
Stream Galaxy Quest, rated PG, on Amazon Prime
When detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, it’s up to his son Tim and former Pokémon partner, Pikachu, to solve the mystery.
Rent Detective Pikachu, rated PG, on Amazon Prime
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Failed inventor Flint Lockwood builds a machine that converts water into food, solving his town’s food shortage. But when the whole world becomes buried in mountains of food, people discover there can definitely be too much of a good thing.
Stream Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, rated PG, on Netflix
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
High school underachievers Bill S. Preston and Theodore Logan (aka Wyld Stallions) are about to fail history. Little do they know this could create a chain of events that destroys the world. So Rufus, a time traveler, gives them a time machine of their own to crush their history project and save the future!
Rent Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, rated PG, on Amazon Prime
The Iron Giant
Hogarth is an ordinary boy living in Maine in the 1950s when he befriends a giant robot from outer space. He must keep his new friend hidden from government agents who want to destroy and weaponize him.
Stream The Iron Giant, rated PG, on Hulu
An eccentric millionaire opens a park where dinosaurs once again roam and invites a small party to preview the place before opening. Things go predictably awry. Kids will love the dinosaurs... but, really, is anyone too young to take a deep dive into the ethics of genetic engineering?
Stream Jurassic Park, rated PG-13, on Peacock
Men in Black
Working for a high-tech, top-secret government agency, Agent Kay and Agent Jay uncover an intergalactic terror plot to wreak havoc in the universe.
Stream Men in Black, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime
All Star Wars Movies
The gold standard of sci-fi family entertainment, the Star Wars movies (nine over three trilogies, plus several stand-alones like Rogue One and Solo) tell the tale of a rebellion standing up to an evil empire a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. (Sci-Fi purist will say these movies are science fantasy, not proper science fiction. We ignore purists.)
Start streaming the Star Wars movies, rated PG to PG-13, on Disney+
Happy watching, to infinity and beyond!