When it comes to movies that the whole family can enjoy, there's a plethora of options both live-action and animated on HBO Max. Home to timeless favorites such as the Harry Potter series, the works of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, or those treasured films of your youth such as Space Jam, HBO Max has hours upon hours of family-friendly entertainment that’s perfect to pop in and enjoy both as an adult and as a child! Here are some of our favorite kid and family movies on HBO Max.
Editor's note: This article was updated October 2023 to include A Cinderella Story.
Spirited Away (2001)
Run Time: 2 hr 5 min | Genre: Animated Fantasy | Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi
Without any hyperbole, Spirited Away is one of the most beautiful films ever made, and perhaps the crowning achievement of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s career. The story of young Chihiro Ogino as she travels to a mystical land that her parents can’t see still continues to be a delight for viewers both old and young, and for those looking to dive in Miyazaki’s filmography for the first time, there’s no better place to start. Nothing computer-generated can top the beauty of the Studio Ghibli hand drawn animation. HBO Max thankfully has a great Studio Ghibli collection, and after watching Spirited Away, you’ll surely be hooked. — Liam Gaughan
A Cinderella Story (2004)
Run Time: 1 hr 35 min | Director: Mark Rosman
Cast: Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, Regina King
A mid-noughties interpretation of the classic Cinderella tale, A Cinderella Story sees Hilary Duff’s Sam find love online with Chad Michael Murray’s Austin. Though the two don’t know each other’s identities, they eventually set to meet at their school’s Halloween dance. A Cinderella Story is a classic family film set at high school, with romance driving the dreams of seemingly every pupil. Duff is endearing as Sam, with Leigh Dunlap’s script perfectly summarising the feelings of 2004’s hopeless teenage romantics. A box office success, the film has become a cult classic for the generation that grew up with it. Brimming with positivity, A Cinderella Story is an uplifting tale guaranteed to make you want to chase your dreams and reach the stars. - Jake Hodges
Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
Run Time: 1 hr 32 min | Genre: Musical Comedy | Director: Tim Hill
Cast: Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Ross Bagdasarian Jr.
Inspired by the classic virtual band turned animated series, Alvin and the Chipmunks and director Tim Hill (Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever) charmingly modernize the premise of three musically inclined anthropomorphic chipmunks and their adopted human father figure, Dave (Jason Lee). Featuring the voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds), and Jesse McCartney as Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, respectively, Alvin and the Chipmunks rediscover their origin story, following the talented animals as they find themselves on a journey to rock-stardom. Along with an entertaining soundtrack of chipmunks singing pop songs, Alvin and the Chipmunks is truly a playful and upbeat adventure. – Yael Tygiel
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)
Run Time: 1 hr 46 min | Genre: Drama | Director: Wayne Wang
Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Eva Marie Saint
Based on the novel of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie is the story of a friendship between a lonely young girl and a mischievous dog who changes her life. India Opal Buloni (AnnaSophia Robb) and her father (Jeff Daniels) move to a new town filled with unfriendly locals, and she wishes that she could find just one friend. Her wish is granted in the most unexpected way as she saves a stray dog from the pound and adopts it into her family — much to her father’s chagrin. This southern small-town tale is a pleasant stroll through the ways that connection and compassion can soften those around us.
Tooth Fairy (2010)
Run Time: 1 hr 41 min | Genre: Family, Comedy | Director: Michael Lembeck
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews, Stephen Merchant
Tooth Fairy is an early installment in the acting career of Dwayne Johnson (The Game Plan) and lives in a uniquely late-90s-to-early-2000s space that occupies two separate tropes: a mean and skeptical man reluctantly becomes a mythical figure and learns a lesson like in The Santa Clause and big tough guy learns to empathize with children like in The Pacifier. The story follows Johnson as a hot-shot hockey player that’s forced to become a tooth fairy in order to rid him of his curmudgeonly dream-crushing ways and show him the importance of wonder. It’s a pretty whimsical affair that’s fun for kids of all ages. – Tauri Miller
Evan Almighty (2007)
Run Time: 1 hr 36 min | Genre: Comedy, Family | Director: Tom Shadyac
Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman
Speaking of the man becoming a mythical figure trope, Evan Almighty is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Noah’s Ark starring Steve Carell (The Office). Serving as a spinoff to the Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty, the film takes Evan Baxter, the newscaster played by Carell in that film, and moves him to Virginia to dip his toes into politics. Unfortunately, Evan is chosen by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark for the next world-ending flood — a calling that interferes with his newly elected position in Congress. Now Evan has to choose between his career ambitions and shepherding the living creatures of Earth into the new world. – Tauri Miller
Hotel for Dogs (2009)
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min | Genre: Family, Comedy | Director: Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Don Cheadle
Based on the novel of the same name by Lois Duncan, Hotel for Dogs follows two orphans, played by Emma Roberts (Aquamarine) and Jake T. Austin (Wizards of Waverly Place), who create a community of friends that secretly take in stray dogs and care for them in an abandoned hotel. These five friends have to contend with the city’s dog catchers and outsmart local dog haters to create a safe space for the cute little pups that are just as left behind as they feel. Any household of dog lovers will be howling at the moon after watching this treat. – Tauri Miller
Nancy Drew (2007)
Run Time: 1 hr 39 min | Genre: Comedy, Crime | Director: Andrew Fleming
Cast: Emma Roberts, Tate Donovan, Max Thieriot, Rachael Leigh Cook
Loosely based on the Edward Stratemeyer detective novels, Nancy Drew stars Emma Roberts (Hotel for Dogs) as the titular amateur teen sleuth as she travels to Los Angeles and uncovers an unsolved mystery revolving around the mysterious death of a movie star that only she can crack. Unfortunately, murder isn’t even her biggest problem, as she struggles to fit in with the kids at her new school and has to do all her investigation secretly without her father finding out. This teen drama with a flare for mystery is a smashing good time for young teens who like to do things their own way. – Tauri Miller
Daddy Day Care (2003)
Run Time: 1 hr 32 min | Genre: Family, Comedy | Director: Steve Carr
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston, Regina King
Eddie Murphy (Shrek) and Jeff Garlin (WALL·E) star in this wild and wacky family comedy about two dads who start a makeshift daycare after losing their jobs. Daddy Day Care is a cute film that, although it plays into the trope idea of men being incompetent caregivers, is a wonderful journey for the two main characters as they find comfort with being the homemakers and child care providers instead of the breadwinners — a message that is rarely seen in modern media. Plus, Murphy delivers a charming performance as always, making the film a must-see for any fans of his work in the family-friendly space. – Tauri Miller
Run Time: 1 hr 26 min | Genre: Fantasy Adventure Comedy | Director: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Matthew Lillard, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Isla Fisher
Scooby-Doo got his first live-action treatment in 2002 in the form of Matthew Lillard, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, and Freddie Prinze Jr. The Mystery Inc. gang are at the top of their game but a fight about their roles within the group causes them to disband for two years. They’re reunited by the owner of Spooky Island, Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), to solve a ghostly mystery. Here, the gang get caught up in voodoo rituals, sinister demons and of course, Scrappy-Doo. Isla Fisher also appears as Shaggy’s love interest, aptly named Mary Jane. Scooby-Doo is one of the most iconic movies of the 2000s. From Daphne kicking luchador ass – “Now who’s the Damsel in Distress?” to Scooby dressed as an old lady to get on a plane, you don’t have to be a child to enjoy these 90 minutes of wacky, harmless fun. It’s camp, it knows exactly what type of film it is, and it honors the legacy of Scooby-Doo with a modern twist. — Emma Kiely
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Run Time: 1 hr 41 min | Genre: Musical Fantasy | Director: Victor Fleming
Cast: Judy Garland, Billie Burke, Ray Bolger
One of the most iconic and inventive films of all time, The Wizard of Oz is more than just a work that holds up all these decades later as it continues to be just as glorious as it was when it first came out. It centers on young Dorothy (Judy Garland) who is swept away to the magical world of Oz after a tornado descends on her home in Kansas. Seeking to return home, she will have to undertake a journey where she will meet a whole host of friends while trying to avoid the clutches of a terrifying witch. Full of vibrant colors and wondrous songs, it is a classic for a reason, as it managed to push the medium of cinema forward even with its notoriously troubled production. There is nothing quite like it, making it always worth going over the rainbow to see it once more. - Chase Hutchinson
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Run Time: 1 hr 43 min | Genre: Animated Fantasy | Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Kappei Yamaguchi
Compared to some of the more emotionally grueling films in the Studio Ghibli filmography, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a heartwarming love story of magical outsiders. Hayao Miyazaki drew inspiration from the classic children’s story of the same name by author Eiko Kadono. The titular protagonist is a young witch who uses her newfound mystical abilities to land a job delivering toys, and as always Miyazaki subtly incorporates a meta-commentary about the state of capitalism. The natural beauty of the Japanese landscapes come to life in vivid detail during the flying sequences, which are among the most beautiful hand drawn visuals of the entire Studio Ghibli outlet. — Liam Gaughan
Run Time: 1 hr 41 min | Genre: Animated Fantasy | Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Yuria Nara, Hiroki Doi, Tomoko Yamaguchi
If you’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki movie, Ponyo is the perfect starter – it features all of the legendary animator’s hallmarks (magical realism, environmental themes, a strong female hero, luscious animation) while also being more palpable and easily digestible as some of his other, knottier work. Essentially his incredibly weird version of The Little Mermaid, Ponyo is a kind of mermaid-esque sea creature who loves ham and dreams of living as a human on the surface world. She befriends a young boy on land and helps a small coastal village after a tsunami (see! Environmentalism!) One of the master filmmaker’s most underrated fantasies, Ponyo is deeply felt and effervescently told – the kind of movie that is too strange and dangerous to be produced by Disney, but feels like one of their animated classics just the same. – Drew Taylor
Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
Genre: Fantasy | Director: Chris Columbus (1-2), Alfonso Cuaron (3), Mike Newell (4), David Yates (7-8)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes
Based on the highly successful book series, the Harry Potter series of films is one of the most successful franchises to ever grace the screen and for good reason: these stories are highly original and have some of the strongest world-building of any franchise. The film follows orphan Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) who is whisked away from his cruel relatives to learn how to become a wizard at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he meets new friends such as Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson) and learns his connection to the evilest wizard of them all: Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Some films in the franchise are better than others and the prequel series, Fantastic Beasts (which are currently unavailable on HBO Max) leave a lot to be desired, but the original eight films are go-to family entertainment, especially at the end of the year.
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Run Time: 1 hr 44 min | Genre: Animated Superhero Comedy | Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes
Nobody expected The Lego Movie to be any good when it was first announced but when it finally hit theaters in 2014, audiences everywhere were gobsmacked by the film’s brilliance and snarky sense of humor. So much so that the film was a huge box office and critical success. Warner Bros quickly put a sequel and several spin-offs in the development, and while The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and The Lego Ninjago Movie may not have lived up to the high standards of the first film, The Lego Batman Movie is an absolute riot.
Set in a completely Legofied version of Gotham City the film follows Batman (Will Arnett) as he is forced to suddenly take responsibility for himself and learn to work with others after he accidentally adopted Robin (Michael Cera), all while the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) stages a threatening villain uprising. The Lego Batman Movie will absolutely delight Batman fans of all ages, from its countless in-jokes and snark, to its beating heart. It is also most certainly a romantic comedy between Batman and the Joker.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Run Time: 1 hr 26 min | Genre: Animated Fantasy | Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Dakota Fanning (dubbed), Elle Fanning (dubbed), Tim Daly (dubbed), Lea Salonga (dubbed)
Hayao Miyazaki is not only one of the most legendary and revered filmmakers in the world of animation, he’s one of the most gifted cinematic storytellers ever. HBO Max offers every single Studio Ghibli film, but the perfect starting point for any young viewer is My Neighbor Totoro. The film follows two sisters who move to the countryside to be with their ill mother and soon have adventures with various cutesy forest spirits including the adorable Totoro. The film gives young audiences a sense of the creative mind of Miyazaki and his wonderful imagination, but it’ll also win over the hearts of older viewers as well.
Space Jam (1996)
Run Time: 1 hr 28 min | Genre: Sports Comedy | Director: Joe Pytka
Cast: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randall, Bill Burray, Larry Bird, Billy West, Dee Bradley Baker
Space Jam: A New Legacy may or may not have made you fed up with the Looney Tunes, but the original 1996 film, while far from perfect or even that good of a movie, is a nostalgic blast from the past. After being challenged to a basketball game by a group of intergalactic critters who have acquired the basketball skills of some of the NBA’s greatest, Bugs Bunny and his crew recruit Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan to help them. It’s dorky, it’s stupid, but man, is it a great time. Plus it’s got Bill Murray.