13 live-action family movies that are suitable for all ages

What constitutes a classic 'all-ages' movie? We're talking about those unforgettable films that are capable of captivating everyone from five to 105, from restless toddlers to moody teens, cynical adults to discerning grandparents.

No doubt many of you will be looking for family movie inspiration while you're stuck in lockdown. So, we've done the hard work for you and rounded up 13 masterpieces that are sure to bring multiple generations of one family together, uniting everybody in the magic of the movies.

1. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Dreary, sepia-toned reality meets astonishing Technicolour fantasy in one of the most cherished Hollywood movies of all time. The Wizard Of Oz embodies why Tinseltown is known as 'the dream factory', conjuring a host of delightful characters and musical numbers led by Judy Garland's wide-eyed Dorothy.

The template for the modern fantasy blockbuster was laid down here, as Dorothy sets off down the Yellow Brick Road with her companions the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. The practical effects, cast chemistry and mixture of laughs and scares (watch out for the Wicked Witch Of The West) create an irresistible sense of fun that hasn't dimmed in seven decades.


2. Mary Poppins (1964)

Remarkably, Julie Andrews had never acted in a movie prior to her role in Mary Poppins. She delights and enchants as cinema's greatest nanny, who swoops in on her umbrella to school the disobedient Banks children.

Disney's infectious live-action fantasy is only loosely inspired by P.L. Travers' source novel (itself the subject of 2013 biopic Saving Mr. Banks), but the movie carves out its own wonderfully offbeat atmosphere. And that's just Dick Van Dyke's 'Cockney' accent.

Graced with countless classic songs, and winner of five Oscars, Mary Poppins has lost none of its power to charm.

3. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

The early-to-mid 1970s were renowned as an experimental and progressive period in Hollywood history. It fell to George Lucas in 1977 to resurrect the swashbuckling spirit of old Hollywood in Star Wars, a nostalgic throwback to the kind of adventure serials that had fallen out of favour.

That the movie swiftly became the biggest of all time showed there was a clear appetite for its broad strokes story of good and evil. Directly opposed to the shades of grey filmmaking in vogue at the time, Star Wars openly tells us who to root for and who to hiss at, in the process launching one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher became overnight pop culture icons, John Williams' Oscar-winning score is one of the greatest of all time, and villain Darth Vader became one of the most imitated (not to mention parodied) in movie history.


4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Director Steven Spielberg is famed for his sentimental touch, and never was it put to better use than it E.T. Spielberg's tear-jerking story of a stranded alien became the most successful movie of all time, until the director's very own Jurassic Park toppled it in 1993, and it's not hard to see why.

The filmmaker has always shown an affinity with child characters, often filtering his outlandish creations from a youthful point-of-view. In the process, this causes viewers to reconnect with their own childish sense of innocence. E.T. is arguably Spielberg's most powerful example, largely shot at the eye level of the young actors as Henry Thomas' Elliot seeks to help friend E.T. get back home.

Set to the tune of John Williams' magisterial, Oscar-winning score, E.T. continues to move and inspire viewers of all ages.


5. The Indiana Jones quadrilogy (1981-2008)

More Spielberg is on offer in the form of the blockbusting Indiana Jones trilogy. The director was an unstoppable colossus throughout the 1980s, showing an intuitive knack for the kind of popcorn filmmaking that would thrill, scare and ignite the imaginations of kids and adults alike.

Harrison Ford first donned the weather-beaten fedora of archaeologist/adventure/Nazi-puncher Indiana Jones in 1981's Raiders Of The Lost Ark. While Spielberg's regular collaborator John Williams cemented Indy as an icon through that unmistakeable theme, the character would go on to appear in 1984's The Temple of Doom, 1989's The Last Crusade and 2008's The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

All the films are good-hearted, spirited and often suprisingly scary throwbacks to the kind of adventure serials that captivated Spielberg and co-creator George Lucas. And Ford's laconic, immediately likeable presence is the magic element that speaks to younger and older audiences alike.


6. The Back To The Future trilogy (1985-1990)

The most purely likeable and good-natured film series ever made? It has to be Back To The Future. Directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis (Steven Spielberg produces), the trilogy hits that wonderful sweet spot of laughs, thrills and mind-bending time travel shenanigans. It's hard to be cynical about a franchise whose central friendship is so endearing – actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd bottle some genuinely brilliant chemistry as Marty McFly and Doc Brown.

Any number of elements from Back To The Future have gone down in history, from the immediately recognisable time-travelling DeLorean to Alan Silvestri's thunderously exciting theme music. Although the second movie is darker than the sunnier first instalment, it all concludes on a joyous note with the Western-themed finale. Sit back and treat yourselves.


7. The Princess Bride (1987)

Here's a satirical Rob Reiner classic, adapted by writer William Goldman from his own novel, that acknowledges the apparent limitations of its appeal in the opening scene. We see young kid Fred Savage being read to by grandfather Peter Falk – and his expectation is that he'll get a mushy, silly, sentimental fairy tale story with too much kissing.

Reiner and Goldman then take great relish in blowing those expectations out of the water. The Princess Bride is a razor-sharp takedown of fantasy cliches, while at the same time emerging as a sweet, endearing love story in its own right. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright are the two lovers destined to be together, but it's the supporting cast, and their associated dialogue, that steals it.

From Mandy Patinkin's Inigo Montya ("You killed my father... Prepare to die!") to Andre The Giant's towering Fezzik, the cast of characters boasts appeal for all but the most cynical of viewers.


8. Jurassic Park (1993)

Forget the increasingly overblown sequels and spin-offs – the original Jurassic Park is where it's at. Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking adventure, adapted from Michael Crichton's novel, walks that finest of lines between petrifying and enchanting, pushing the nerves of younger viewers to their absolute limits in the manner of his classic Jaws.

However, because it's a Spielberg movie, even the most menacing moments are underscored with that comforting, homely sense that all will be OK in the end. This makes it the ideal family movie experience, uniting all of us in the wonder of our prehistoric predecessors – before later having us grip our seats as the eponymous Jurassic Park goes into meltdown.

A game human cast (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough et al) does well to stand out against the extraordinary effects, a mixture of then-cutting-edge CGI and animatronics. So good are they, the film's dinosaur creations knock most contemporary visual effects sequences into a cocked hat.


9. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)

There were many Harry Potter films we could have chosen for this list. However, we opted for the third, Azkaban, because of its unique positioning. As per J.K. Rowling's source novel, Azkaban is located between the more kiddie-friendly exploits of the first two adventures, and the much darker, more emotionally brutal offerings that were to follow.

That means Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, has definite, wide-ranging appeal for both youngsters and grown-ups. The child actors, led by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, are still youthful enough to connect to that sense of innocence. But at the same time, the story's darker impulses speak of greater maturity and menace, from the dementors to the complex time-turning storyline.


10. Iron Man (2008)

As with Harry Potter, trying to whittle down a single movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was incredibly difficult. In the end, we went back to where it all began: Iron Man, the superhero movie that became an unlikely blockbuster hit, singlehandedly launched the biggest comic book franchise of all time, and re-ignited star Robert Downey Jr.'s career.

The first Iron Man is one of those rare blockbusters that gets practically everything right. It balances a cynical, smart-alek hero, Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, with a morally robust story about putting wealth in favour of world-saving. It's the first puzzle-piece in a burgeoning franchise, yet feels self-contained enough to be satisfying on its own terms. It's funny, emotional and hugely entertaining, and the alchemical mixture between Downey Jr. and the character he's playing takes our breath away.


11. Hugo (2011)

Although he's best known for brutal gangster masterpieces like Goodfellas, director Martin Scorsese has a tender side. It's ably demonstrated in the utterly delightful Hugo, a fantasy adventure that also doubles-up as an educational look into the formative years of cinema.

Whether you're in the market for a story of a young orphan finding his place in the world, or want to find out more about movie pioneer Georges Melies, you've come to the right place. Scorsese's lavishly appointed movie largely takes place in and around a Parisian train station, as Asa Butterfield's titular character seeks out the mystery of a clockwork automaton left behind by his late father.

The story unfolds in a manner that is gentle but not overly sentimental, with Ben Kingsley's depiction of the melancholy Melies a highlight. This is a film with the capacity to both entertain and illuminate, the ideal lockdown treat.


12. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)

When it was announced that popular 1995 Robin Williams movie Jumanji was getting a sequel, those of a certain vintage were offended. How could they possibly trample on the legacy of the late, great comic actor?

Fortunately, the resulting movie, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, was far better than we had any right to expect. It continues the mythology of the Williams movie (the name of his character, Alan Parrish, is movingly glimpsed at one point), and also updates it, actually taking us inside the jungly, dangerous world of Jumanji.

The spirit of adventure is one thing, but the element that really makes the film sing is the chemistry between the brilliantly chosen cast. Dwayne Johnson is a delight as invulnerable avatar Smoulder Bravestone, and he's capably supporting by scene-stealers Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart. So successful was the movie that sequel The Next Level, perfectly enjoyable in its own right, was released in 2019.


13. Paddington 2 (2017)

Very few films have scored a perfect 100% score on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Paddington 2 is one of them, which tells you something about how utterly wonderful and well-regarded it is.

We didn't think that 2014 Michael Bond adaptation Paddington could be improved upon. How wrong we were. Again anchored by Ben Whishaw's lilting tones as the title character, Paddington 2 has the flavour of the best marmalade: sweet and enticing, with just the slightest zingy undercurrent needed to keep older viewers onboard.

The presence of the peerless Hugh Grant as impossibly vain yet failed actor Phoenix Buchanan is what leavens the potentially gooey onslaught with a delicious sense of self-deprecation and cynicism. Grant sits brilliantly alongside Paddington veterans Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Julie Walters to help fashion a masterful family adventure.


Which of these family movies will you be watching during lockdown? Let us know @Cineworld.

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