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The Best Family Movies Of 2022 So Far

No matter how often a modern family might find themselves splintered off doing their own things — sometimes even watching their own movies or TV shows on separate televisions or mobile devices — the tradition of gathering everyone around to watch a family film is still alive and well for many households. If anything, it's a more viable option than ever given how many more streaming options we have to choose from at home without the need to gather up the brood and take them to the theater to spend a small fortune on snacks and popcorn.

2022 saw a number of excellent family movies from a variety of platforms and in almost every type of genre. From films made primarily for younger kids but with just enough to keep the adults entertained to all-ages fare meant to equally appeal to family members young and old, the year saw just about every combination of demographics catered to.

After a rocky few years, Pixar knocked it out of the park in 2022 with one of their best films yet. Disney continued to make the case for its streaming service with several top-notch original films. Despite some troublesome business-related headlines this year, Netflix showed that it's still committed to AAA original movies. And yet another strong DC animated movie proves that maybe live-action isn't the only way to go for that universe.

DC League of Super-Pets

While there are plenty of DC animated movies, most of them are direct-to-video or straight-to-streaming and take the source material very seriously. However, DC also isn't afraid to let people have a little fun with their properties when bringing them into animation — with one of the most notable examples being 2017's "The LEGO Batman Movie." While "DC League of Super-Pets" doesn't quite get into self-awareness and parody territory like "LEGO Batman" did, it still represents a looser interpretation of the DC universe and a willingness to have a little fun with it.

"Super-Pets" stars Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) and Ace (Kevin Hart) — the canine companions of Superman (John Krasinski) and Batman (Keanu Reeves), respectively — who have to rescue not only their human pals but the entire Justice League from Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) and his guinea pig, Lulu (Kate McKinnon). Luckily, they not only have their own super abilities, but they also team with other animals who find themselves powered up as well. It's a fairly standard "pets have to rescue their humans" story, but being told through the lens of the DC universe makes it feel a lot more fresh and novel.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Based on the first two books in the beloved "Lyle" children's book series by Benard Waber, "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" is about the titular reptile who is able to walk, talk, sing, and dance. Lyle befriends a young boy named Josh Primm (Winslow Fegley) who had been having trouble fitting in after his family moved to New York City, with Mrs. Primm (Constance Wu) and the rest of the family soon taking to Lyle as well. Along for the fun is Lyle's owner, Hector P. Valenti (a particularly fun Javier Bardem), who not only bonds with the Primm family as well but also joins them in keeping Lyle out of the crosshairs of their neighbor — the suitably named Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman).

Musician Shawn Mendes voices the computer-animated Lyle, called a "wise choice" by RogerEbert.com reviewer Nell Minnow in a three-star review. Minnow not only praised the movie's musical numbers but also the animation of Lyle, pointing out that the "CGI is exceptionally well-integrated, and with the help of good sound design, avoids the frequent mistake of making heavy creatures seem weightless." And critic Sarah Knight Adamson claimed in her review that the kids at the screening she attended not only clapped at the end of the movie but got up and danced during the end credits — the ultimate ringing endorsement of how fun "Lyle, Lyle" is.

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

The animated series version of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" refreshes every few years. And as it tends to go with that type of thing, whichever version happened to be the one a generation of fans grew up with, that remains their favorite, with them shunning each additional incarnation as inferior. The most recent incarnation, titled "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," got more flack than usual from the fanbase at large due in no small part to the style of the turtles themselves — giving them each their own distinct looks, this marked their most drastic visual reinvention ever outside of the live-action adaptations

While the "Rise" series was divisive, the movie that capped it off was well-received, and many reviewers pointed out its effectiveness as a standalone story — meaning families can enjoy it even if they completely sat out "Rise" on TV. In his review of the film for IGN Movies, Hayden Mears said, "Not only does [it] function as a superb entry point for new fans, but it also commits to tonal and stylistic makeovers that elevate the franchise in unexpected ways." 

So even if you completely sat out the "Rise" era because you were put off by how it looked, at least give the movie a shot. Who knows — you may even find yourself wanting to go back and watch the show after all. 

Sneakerella

The folktale of "Cinderella" has been adapted numerous times, notably several times by Disney in particular. In fact, one could argue that Disney's 1950 feature-length animated version is the definitive screen adaptation — and they've already done a live-action one as well. So why would they bother doing yet another version of the story? Well, when the version is as fresh and inventive as "Sneakerella," we're completely fine with it.

If you can get past the admittedly corny title, "Sneakerella" more than justifies its existence in the pantheon of Cinderella adaptations first and foremost by cleverly gender-swapping the two leads. Here, it's a boy named El (Chosen Jacobs) who takes on the lead role, working in his mean stepfather's (Bryan Terrell Clark) shoe store as he dreams of designing his own sneakers. Instead of a fancy ball, El attends a sneaker release party, where he meets Kira (Lexi Underwood), who isn't a princess but is instead the daughter of a pro athlete-turned-sneaker tycoon, Darius King (former NBA star John Salley). 

Every step of the way, "Sneakerella" cleverly reimagines the details of the story we all know so well — and in doing so, makes it almost an entirely new movie with only a slight hint of a familiar foundation. Courtney Howard of Variety put it best when she called it a "surprisingly satisfying reboot of a tired but timeless classic."

Wendell & Wild

The director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Coraline" teams with the writer-director of "Get Out" and "Nope" to deliver the best spooky family film in years with "Wendell & Wild." Henry Selick and Jordan Peele co-wrote the script based on Selick's own unpublished story about the titular demon brothers, played by Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, who still have as much chemistry as they've always had. Tired of doing menial tasks for their devil dad (Ving Rhames), they hatch a plan to build an underworld amusement park that involves possessing a troubled teenage girl named Kat (Lyric Ross). To say things don't go smoothly would be an understatement.

With "Wendell & Wild," Selick once again proves his prowess at crafting gorgeous stop-motion worlds and animation while also showing that he doesn't only have to direct other people's stories. And Peele shows that he's just as adept at putting together spooky movies for families as he is for adults. But they don't deserve all the praise, as the wonderful performance of Ross as Kat gives the movie most of its heart — while the incredible score by Bruno Coulais pairs flawlessly with the expertly curated soundtrack that emphasizes Afro-punk artists including Fishbone, Living Colour, and X-Ray Spex. Since it is a Selick film, it'd be safe to approach it with the same mindset you would "Coraline" — expect tons of demented imagery and intense situations, including a traumatic car accident at the beginning of the film.

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Disney as a company might not be known for having the biggest sense of humor about itself or its properties, but it deserves credit for greenlighting not only the concept of the "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" movie but the finished project itself. The film exists in a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"-esque world where live-action people and animated characters freely co-exist without anyone questioning it — and more specifically, a world where the original "Rescue Rangers" series existed and its chipmunk stars (John Mulaney and Andy Samberg) essentially played themselves.

Playing with and poking fun at all kinds of tropes, from nostalgia to reboots to celebrity culture and more, the "Rescue Rangers" movie's overall meta vibe might go over the head of younger viewers at times — and absolutely delight adults — but it's still an effective action-adventure movie that they'll enjoy plenty on that level alone. The cameos are plentiful but never feel forced, with some even playing surprisingly large roles. We won't completely spoil it here, but the original version of Sonic the Hedgehog from the first trailer of the "Sonic" movie is not only his own character, but he hangs around a lot longer than you might expect.

It's partly a fresh take on the original TV series, partly a spiritual successor to "Roger Rabbit" (and, yes, he briefly appears as well), and partly a legitimately good modern family adventure movie. If only Disney would loosen the reins like this more often.

Better Nate Than Ever

Disney+ is becoming quite a destination for musical theater fans, from scoring the highly coveted filmed version of the smash hit "Hamilton" to great originals like "Better Nate Than Ever." Written and directed by Tim Federle based on his novel of the same name, "Nate" tells the story of the titular boy (Rueby Wood) who dreams of being a Broadway star while having trouble even getting cast in his own middle school's theater productions. Still, he ambitiously decides to just go for it and audition for a Broadway adaptation of "Lilo & Stitch," and the movie follows that hilarious and heartfelt journey.

The Rotten Tomatoes consensus of "Better Nate Than Ever" calls it "a modern musical with old-fashioned charm," which seems to be the type of movie musicals that has been most successful as of late (see also: "La La Land," "The Greatest Showman," et al). Movie musicals may experience peaks and valleys in popularity, but the genre remains timeless and is one that has always made for great family movie night fodder — and "Nate" is one of the best family-friendly live-action musicals in years. 

My Father's Dragon

In terms of original animation, Netflix first made a name for itself in that department largely by teaming with DreamWorks Animation and doing series based on their movies. But the streaming service has since shown an increased preference for working with smaller studios for its original fare — and in turn, producing much more creative and inspired fare. Such is the case with "My Father's Dragon," an excellent animated film that sees Netflix team with Cartoon Saloon, nominated for multiple Best Animated Feature Oscars for movies like "The Secret of Kells," "Wolfwalkers," and "The Breadwinner."

Based on the 1948 novel of the same name — previously adapted into an anime movie in 1997 — "My Father's Dragon" tells the story of a boy named Elmer (Jacob Tremblay) who is not adjusting well to a recent relocation with his mother (Golshifteh Farahani) and copes by going on an adventure to a magical island where he meets a dragon named Boris (Gaten Matarazzo). Tara Bennett of Paste Magazine says "'My Father's Dragon' is another top-tier addition into the Cartoon Saloon library of contemporary animation classics." Other critics have suggested that it's Cartoon Saloon's most accessible film, which makes it a great starting point for any family's journey into the studio's already stellar collection of animated works.

The Bad Guys

Based on a popular graphic novel series that is up to 16 installments and counting, the movie version of "The Bad Guys" might very well be DreamWorks Animation's best non-sequel movie since 2010's "How to Train Your Dragon." It's the story of a group of criminals who are finally caught by the law after an impressive run of eluding arrest, and they come up with a plan to pretend to be reformed as do-gooders in order to stay out of jail. Of course, they quickly discover that even just pretending to be good feels good, and it isn't long before they are no longer pretending.

Sam Rockwell absolutely nails the lead role of Mr. Wolf, expertly walking the line between smarmy and charming. His sidekick, Mr. Snake, is voiced by comedian and podcaster Marc Maron, who not only does a great job but actually manages to not be immediately recognizable. The cast is stellar all around, also including Zazie Beetz, Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, and Richard Ayoade. Rotten Tomatoes sums things up quite well with its critical consensus, proclaiming, "Fast-paced, funny, and full of colorful visual appeal, The Bad Guys is good news for audiences seeking options the whole family can enjoy," and following it up with the audience consensus, which states that it will "entertain the kids [while] parents will appreciate the movie's message."

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood

While this is filmmaker Richard Linklater's third film using rotoscoped animation following "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly," "Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood" is the first that is aimed at the entire family. It is also his most personal film to date, inspired by his own childhood spent idolizing astronauts and dreaming of space travel (per Collider). Of course, Linklater never actually got to walk on the moon as the movie's young Stanley (Milo Coy) seemingly gets to. But it's a beautiful way to recount what it was like to be a child watching real people get to go to space and walk on the moon for the first time, milestones of human achievement that subsequent generations tend to take for granted.

This coming-of-age story with a slight sci-fi bent is perfect for family members of any age, from those who actually have memories of the time the movie is portraying to current children who will be able to identify with the way the film so perfectly nails what it's like to be a kid and to still feel a sense of magic and wonder about the world and life itself. The visual style does wonders for the story, looking like live-action if you squint at it but with it being just cartoony enough to sell some of the more fantastical elements of a movie that Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly calls "lulling and immersive and surprisingly lovely."

The Sea Beast

Netflix claims that 2022's "The Sea Beast" is their most successful original animated film to date, being viewed for over 165 million hours within its first month of release (via Cartoon Brew). And unlike some of Netflix's other record-setting successes like the panned "Bright" and "Red Notice," "The Sea Beast" has the critical praise to match its viewership with an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A wholly original story by Chris Williams, who also wrote the seafaring hit "Moana," "The Sea Beast" takes place in a world where dangerous sea creatures are prevalent and those who slay them are heroes. One such hunter is Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), who soon discovers — thanks to an orphan stowaway named Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) — that some sea creatures actually mean no harm to humans whatsoever.

Bilge Ebiri of Vulture said that "The Sea Beast" is "so thoroughly immersive it might make you believe in sea monsters," while Kevin Maher of The Times goes so far as to say that the only major flaw in the entire movie is its rather generic title. And if that generic title previously had you scroll past this one, definitely rectify that error for your next family movie night.

Enola Holmes 2

Netflix doesn't do many sequels to its own original movies — and when it does, it's most often of the more-of-the-same, cruise control variety of the "Kissing Booth" series and the like. This makes "Enola Holmes 2" a welcome exception in that it took a promising but flawed original and made a superior sequel that fulfilled the ambitiousness of its predecessor. Showing that Millie Bobby Brown is so much more than just El of "Stranger Things," the actress is fantastic as the title character, the younger sister of famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) carving her own niche in the crime-solving game.

Rather than adapting one of the "Enola Holmes" books as the first film does, "Enola Holmes 2" instead tells an original story, inspired by the real-life events of the 1888 matchgirls' strike in London (via Decider). In the movie, Enola finally opens her own agency and quickly finds that nobody with a legitimate case is willing to take he seriously — that is, until a poor matchstick girl enlists Enola's help in finding her sister. 

In here review for The New York Times, Beandrea July gushed, "One can't help but cheer on this Y.A. feminist tale as a welcome addition to the Sherlock Holmes universe." Kids have always liked family-friendly mystery stories, and this is one of the best that's been put on screen in a long time. 

Belle

Though it debuted in 2021, "Belle" didn't see release in North America or the UK until 2022. Better late than never for this incredible reinterpretation of the story of "Beauty and the Beast" that, unlike other adaptations of properties that Disney already tackled, doesn't go out of its way to pretend that the 1991 movie doesn't exist. In fact, as several critics pointed out, "Belle" is special in part because it knowingly acknowledges and borrows from the Disney classic, with Alistair Harkness of The Scotsman calling it "a mind-blowing riff on the Disney version [...] filtered through the virtual high-tech aesthetics of 'Ghost in the Shell' and 'The Matrix.'"

If an anime cyberpunk version of "Beauty and the Beast" sounds bizarre, well ... it is. But it's also brilliant, placing the action in a virtual world with Belle being the digital persona of a girl named Suzu and the movie's version of the beast being an overpowered character known as Dragon. In this way, his beastly form is entirely virtual, and Suzu/Belle having to look past that to find the gentle soul beneath actually ends up making the story more realistic than magical spells and curses being involved.

It's also the perfect way to make the don't judge a book by its cover theme more relevant to modern youth, who will never be trapped in the castle of a cursed beast and his singing cutlery but will definitely know the struggle of parsing out digital personalities from their real-life counterparts. The film, though animated, does contain heavy themes, including sequences depicting child abuse and some intense scenes, so maybe it's not best for little kids.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Turning Red

For a time, Pixar was a company that could seemingly do no wrong. It wouldn't be until "Cars 2" that a Pixar movie was first critically panned, which is impressive given that it was their 12th feature film. Pixar has definitely made some of its best films since then, but seeing their name in front of a movie is now no longer an automatic signal of excellence, and the company has continued to land all over the map qualitywise with its releases.

However, 2022's "Turning Red" saw Pixar make not only one of its most creatively daring movies in years, but also one of its most acclaimed — earning a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score that puts it in the same league with Pixar classics like "Wall-E," "Monsters Inc.," and "Ratatouille." It's the story of a young girl named Mei (Rosalie Chiang) who is going through puberty, cleverly utilizing the metaphor of her transforming into a giant red panda when she feels certain feels.

Dealing with the topic in such a frank manner had many people praising the movie but plenty criticizing it (per Vox), though the overall consensus seemed to fall on the side summed up by Newsday critic Robert Levin who said, in a glowing four-star review, "This is a movie for anyone who has experienced the turmoil Mei experiences, which is to say just about everyone."

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Lest you think we're just trying to show off by capping off our list with the most unusual, least mainstream kids movie we could think of, you should know that "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On" has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, where it is summed up as "poignant, profound, and utterly heartwarming." It's the best-reviewed family movie of 2022 by a considerable margin, a distinction that is well-earned indeed.

Actor and comedian Jenny Slate not only voices Marcel, but she also co-wrote the movie, which is based on the three Marcel shorts she also co-wrote (via SF Chronicle). The movie sees a documentary filmmaker (Dean Fleischer Camp, also the real film's writer-director) discover Marcel — who indeed is a tiny, talking shell who wears shoes — and comes to learn that he and his grandmother (Isabella Rossellini) are the last of their kind. The filmmaker makes a short film about Marcel, which gains Marcel worldwide fame and has millions of people helping him on his quest to see if any of his other shell-people are still out there somewhere.

It might sound like a concept that works best as a short and would feel stretched thin as a 90-minute movie. And yet, the "Marcel" movie more than justifies its feature-length existence, with Fox 10 Phoenix's Caroline Siede calling it "the perfect movie for the moment" and saying that it's "whimsical, bittersweet, life-affirming and a little bit heartbreaking all at once."