The Best PG-13 Movies to Watch With Your KidReading Time: 6 minutes
A selection of just-edgy-enough movies that won’t scar your kids for life. Probably.
My oldest son and I have a tradition every Sunday afternoon: we watch a movie that his younger brother isn’t old enough to see yet. We started with the Toho Godzilla series and moved to live-action Disney movies, free from language and intense violence.
As someone who still carries the scars of seeing Poltergeist at a very young age, I was keenly aware of the effect movies can have on young kids. But when he was six years old, I knew my dino-obsessed offspring was ready to watch Jurassic Park. His mother and I told him there were some words that, if he repeated them, would get him in trouble at school, and if at any time things got too scary, he should tell us, and we would shut the movie off. Two hours later, he had a big smile on his face.
While I don’t necessarily seek out PG-13 movies, my son and I watch them occasionally, always preceded with the same message about language and intensity (and plenty of research by me on IMDb and Common Sense Media). If you have curious children ready to enter the world of blockbuster films, here is a list to get you started, with many tested by my son.
Will Smith joins a secret government agency protecting the Earth from alien criminals. He’s partnered with Tommy Lee Jones. Hilarity ensues.
Why it might be OK: One of the main themes of the movie is to look at the world from a different angle. Most of the violence is cartoonish, with aliens changing from pixels into slime with a pull of a trigger attached to a weapon of an exaggerated size.
Why you might want to wait: There’s some salty language, an instance of innuendo, and a few jump scares courtesy of an alien cockroach.
Where to stream: Roku, Digital rental
A serum turns the squeaky-clean weakling Steve Rogers into the titular superhuman trying to stop Nazi scientists from world domination.
Why it might be OK: When my seven-year-old wanted to watch a Marvel movie, this was the first one I thought of. Our hero is practically incapable of doing the wrong thing, including uttering a curse word.
Why you might want to wait: There’s some comic-book violence and kissing. You also might have to give a short lesson on the Nazis and World War II.
Where to stream: Disney+
This trilogy of films follows a pair of hobbits as they journey across their land to destroy a powerful ring created by a dark sorcerer.
Why it might be OK: Kids will cling to the story’s theme of how the smallest and meekest among us can be a force for good. Teamwork, perseverance, anti-industrialization, and author J.R.R. Tolkien’s infusion of Christian values are why this lengthy trilogy has resonated with fans for so long.
Why you might want to wait: The hobbits sure like to smoke their pipes. Additionally, Peter Jackson was better known as a horror director before taking on this lengthy adaptation, so if seeing orcs meeting their demise in many violent and creative ways doesn’t give you pause, then concerns over screen time might.
Where to stream: Max
Science and commerce unite with destructive results in Steven Speilberg’s tense adaptation of Michael Crichton’s bestseller about dinosaurs resurrected through genetics.
Why it might be OK: Dinosaur-obsessed kids will find a kinship with Lex and Tim, the grandchildren of millionaire John Hammond, but they’ll likely be the first to point out the film isn’t the most scientifically accurate. However, it does offer an entertaining overview of what life was like 65 million years ago on the planet.
Why you might want to wait: The children are frequently in peril as they’re hunted by realistic-looking prehistoric predators, but much of the violence is left to the imagination. Dr. Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, flirts with Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern). The language isn’t too harsh, and the use of the word ‘shit’ actually refers to a pile of dino dung.
Where to stream: Prime Video
Tobey Maguire stars as Peter Parker, a teenager who realizes with great power comes great responsibility when a radioactive spider bites him.
Why it might be OK: Even though many fans of the beloved web slinger took issue with the fact that Tobey Maguire’s version of the character didn’t make his own webbing, he still embodies a hero whose real power is his ingenuity.
Why you might want to wait: There are dead relatives, impaled bad guys, an upside-down kiss in a wet t-shirt, mild language, and a crass father figure who shouldn’t be giving out relationship advice.
Where to stream: Netflix, Disney+
‘Weird Al’ Yankovic turns a floundering TV station into a powerhouse thanks to unusual yet original shows like ‘Wheel of Fish’ and ‘Conan the Librarian.’
Why it might be OK: At its goofy core, this dated ’80s movie is about the power of imagination.
Why you might want to wait: It uses outdated stereotypes for a punchline, including a ‘Geraldo’-type talk show with guests that may require some explaining. There’s also some cartoonish violence and implied animal cruelty, but if your kids have ever read a Captain Underpants book or listened to a ‘Weird Al’ record, there’s not much cause for concern.
Where to stream: Prime Video, Pluto TV, Tubi, Roku
It’s Rocky with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, but it’s also about the love between a father and son.
Why it might be OK: It’s an excellent male-bonding movie that proves the underdogs win occasionally.
Why you might want to wait: Sex between two characters is implied but not shown. There is also robot-on-robot violence and some language not appropriate for ringside.
Where to stream: Amazon
The literal ghost crew of a cursed pirate ship has kidnapped the daughter of an island governor. Her boyfriend enlists the help of a perpetually drunk sea captain to come to her rescue.
Why it might be OK: It’s based on a Disney amusement park ride, so it has to be fun, right?
Why you might want to wait: There’s plenty of cleavage (Keira Nightly’s corset is a recurring plot point), old-timey terms for the world’s oldest profession, the aforementioned drunkenness, and some scary skeletons. There’s also Johnny Depp, which may require some explaining depending on how much your family watches Entertainment Tonight.
Where to stream: Digital rental
You may have heard about this concert film documenting one of the most popular concert tours ever, headlined by Taylor Swift, the world’s biggest pop star.
Why it might be OK: It’s cheaper than dealing with Ticketmaster.
Why you might want to wait: There is no blank space here. The show has scantily clad dancers, inappropriate language, and lyrics that refer to drugs and sex.
Where to stream: In theaters
A Marine’s loyalty is tested when he must choose between following his orders or protecting the Na’vi, the inhabitants of a distant moon named Pandora.
Why it might be OK: This three-hour epic has an environmental-friendly message.
Why you might want to wait: You can avoid the language if you check out the ‘family-friendly’ version on Disney+, but there’s still plenty of violence, smoking, alien nudity, and a scene that implies sex took place.
Where to stream: Max, Disney+
A toy company uses defense technology for its new line of action figures, causing them to battle their opponents in real life.
Why it might be OK: The film has a nice anti-war message.
Why you might want to wait: There is some violence involving power tools, but most of the action is toy-on-CG toys. One of the toys puts a sleeping pill in a parent’s drink. There’s also some mild language and a scene where soldiers flirt with Barbie-like dolls.
Where to stream: Max
Set several decades after Return of the Jedi, a new weapon threatens a galaxy far, far away, causing history to repeat itself yet again.
Why it might be OK: There are some powerful themes here: anyone can be a hero, and it’s never too late to become a force for good.
Why you might want to wait: There’s space violence, including an intense death scene and a nasty run-in with a creature known as a rathtar. There’s also the matter of introducing your child to a trilogy of films that unleashed a toxic fan culture, but if they never go on the internet, they should be fine.
Where to stream: Disney+
Storm chasers hit the road during some intense tornados to test their new research equipment.
Why it might be OK: You learn a lot about the weather.
Why you might want to wait: There’s some innuendo, impalements, and weather-related violence. The main couple is about to get divorced, which may require an explanation.
Where to stream: Hulu
Based on the television show and comics, this movie follows an unusual family who is the target of con artists trying to fleece them from the fortune hidden inside their home.
Why it might be OK: The film’s central theme is that family sticks together no matter what, even if they’re dysfunctional.
Why you might want to wait: There’s some innuendo and cartoonish macabre violence, along with some mild language.
Where to stream: Netflix
A spin-off of the live-action film series, this movie follows the exploits of the titular yellow Autobot as he finds a new base for his team.
Why it might be OK: The characters learn teamwork and togetherness. It’s also the best live-action Transformers movie by a mile, free of the vulgar, racist robot caricatures that plagued previous installments.
Why you might want to wait: The requisite violence and language, along with some robot torture.
Where to stream: Paramount+
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