Alien Encounters: 10 Kid-Approved Sci-Fi Films for Family Night

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The sci-fi movie genre offers some of the most captivating stories, but not all sci-fi content is suitable for younger viewers. But why should they miss out on all the fun?

So, I’ve curated a list of some of the best sci-fi movies for kids and family nights. So, “Buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye.

E.T. (1982)

First up on the list is one of the best-known classic movies, E.T. Released in 1982; it stars Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Peter Coyote and was directed by Steven Spielberg.

Since its release, it has become a cult classic and is one of the best-known child-centric sci-fi films. The story follows a cute alien from outer space who has been separated from its family and the troubled child on Earth who helps it return home.

It is an incredibly touching tale and a family film that has stood the test of time, even with modern technology making many older films outdated. 

Why You Should Watch

Regarding family movies with a good story and can appeal to all genders and ages, few are better than E.T.

It has a beautiful story that helps teach children about the importance of accepting people for who they are and helping people out, even when they look different from you.

The film contains no questionable content and has transferred well into the modern era. It is just one of the best films out there, and if you are looking for a film to have your children watch, you can never go wrong with E.T.

The Iron Giant (1999)

Next, we have a universally beloved kids’ movie, The Iron Giant.

Created by Brad Bird, The Iron Giant tells the story of a giant robot that came to Earth in 1957 during the height of the Cold War.

Voiced by Vin Diesel, the kind and helpful robot is discovered by a young boy from the local town of Rockwell, Maine, who falls in love with the main character of this animated film.

While everything goes fairly well at first, a government agent learns about the Iron Giant’s existence and, deciding that he poses a threat to the human race in the form of an alien invasion, launches a military and governmental response to destroy the said threat.

While the film has darker undertones, it is still great for younger viewers.

Why You Should Watch

The Iron Giant is a poignant story with a positive message about the power of friendship and how just because something or someone seems scary at first doesn’t mean they aren’t kind and helpful underneath their exterior.

This animated movie is one that kids of all ages can relate to and enjoy, from the lovable cast of characters to the story with several layers that help add extra depth for older kids.

Remember, though, that it can have some darker undertones and be disturbing to some very young children, so if you need a movie for your young toddler, it is best to check out some of the other films on this list.

Wall-E (2008)

Another beloved animated space movie is Wall-E, which is not only great for younger children but also tells a story that is not only relevant to the modern era but that even adults can enjoy.

Directed by Andrew Stanton and starring Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, and Fred Williard, Wall-E tells the story of the last trash-compacting robot that was left on Earth to clean up humanity’s mess and the scouting robot EVE sent back to Earth by space-faring humans hoping that it may be possible to return to their home.

Why You Should Watch

Wall-E is a metaphor and warning about allowing corporations and consumerism to dictate our future and the cost that comes with an uncaring attitude towards our environment and the planet that supports our lives here.

On its surface, it is a cute robot love story that most young viewers will pick up on, but it offers a deep story for older teens and adults that will keep their attention.

Especially in recent years, climate change and the environment are playing a larger role in global politics and how we approach many things.

It is arguably one of the most important topics to discuss, and this film helps break down such topics into an enjoyable medium for children.

Back To The Future (1985)

Next, we have Back to the Future, the only non-animated film on this list.

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson, this movie tells the story of Marty McFly, a high school student sent back in time in the infamous DeLorean by his mad scientist friend, where he has to ensure that his mother and father get together and his future isn’t changed.

It is rated P.G. but has some swearing, making this film better for older teens than young children.

Additionally, it has some crude material that can be questionable for younger children, so unless you are fine with your children watching such content, it is best to save this for your older kids.

Why You Should Watch

Back to the Future is a classic sci-fi movie that tells a great story about time travel and some of the paradoxes that can come from it, and it is just all around one of the best science-fiction movies out there.

It is a timeless tale that has been around for nearly forty years, making it one of the oldest films on this list.

Once you have introduced your kids to the first film, multiple other Back to the Future movies are just as wild and can make for some really fun experiences as they watch Doc Brown and Marty McFly deal with time-traveling foes. 

The Incredibles (2004)

Released in 2004, The Incredibles is one of the best-known kids’ films ever created, and for a good reason.

It has a compelling storyline that follows a group of interesting characters as they each attempt to achieve their various goals in life.

The main villain has somewhat of a complex backstory beyond “I’m evil because I’m evil,” which isn’t common in many movies made for children.

It introduces them to the concept that people can be multifaceted, and something that meant nothing to one person can be another person’s traumatizing event. 

Why You Should Watch

The Incredibles has a lot of important lessons that can be beneficial for younger kids to begin learning, including the importance of family (when that family is loving and properly takes care of the children) and being kind to people because you never know what they may be going through or what could cause them to spiral.

The movie stays away from any darker subject matter and language and is perfect for children of all ages, making it one of the best movies on this list for younger children.

You can never go wrong with this movie, and if your kids like this one, two more films are just as good as this one waiting to be watched.

Spy Kids (2001)

Next, we have Spy Kids, a kids’ sci-fi film that often feels like a weird fever dream from swirling colors, robots shaped like thumbs, and a villain who seeks to build an army of children androids to take over the world.

It is a bit darker when you stop to think about it, but it has enough comedy and absurd plot points that younger kids will not catch onto some potentially dark themes.

If your children like the first one, there are four more films in the Spy Kids franchise to enjoy, each slightly more absurd than the last one.

Why You Should Watch

Spy Kids may not tell a story with deep morals or bring up important issues like Wall-E, but it is still an enjoyable movie with a simple story for children.

There are a lot of cool high-tech gadgets, and the two main kid protagonists are just a lot of fun to watch as they go on a journey to save their parents from the hands of a crazed T.V. show host.

It brings a lot of light-hearted fun that younger audiences enjoy watching.

However, it is a film that people quickly grow out of due to its more childish acting and plot direction, so don’t expect your older kids to hang around to watch this movie if they have already seen it.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

By far one of the most popular movies ever created, Big Hero 6 was directed by Chris Williams and Don Hall and starred Ryan Potter, Maya Rudolph, and T.J. Miller.

It tells the story of a young teen who loves robotics but has little drive to explore his genius beyond winning bot fights and cashing in on them.

That all changes when his brother takes him to a college dedicated to robotics, where he sees some of the most amazing wonders he has ever seen.

This leads to him trying to get into the school and launching him into a story he never could have guessed would happen.

Why You Should Watch

Big Hero 6 is an incredibly touching and emotional story about finding oneself following your dreams and never giving up on them. It’s about the importance of the family we choose and reminding us that blood is not the be-all it is often made out to be.

Sometimes, our family is the best friend who stood by our side at the lowest points in our lives and helped us stand back up after we fell.

Besides those important messages that all children need to know, it also has amazing characters and a story that sucks you into it from the very beginning.

You can never go wrong with this movie. it is excellent for people of all ages and is bound to be a hit during movie night. 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

Released in 2014, Mr. Peabody & Sherman doesn’t look super special at first glance, but its genius begins to shine when you give it a chance.

Starring a young boy and his adopted father, a dog, this movie takes kids via a time machine through multiple historical periods, including Ancient Rome, The French Revolution, and the Battle of Troy.

It is a light-hearted movie with a cast of characters that are genuinely a lot of fun to watch and root for, and the story doesn’t fall flat as it boils down many important historical events into a format that children can understand. 

Why You Should Watch

Mr. Peabody & Sherman take the traditional time-traveling type of space movies and flip them around on their head.

Most movies like this would have the dog be a pet or the main characters all be human, but instead, science and history are taught by a dog who is a literal genius.

It makes for an interesting scenario that works well in a kids’ film and helps keep them entertained.

The animation style is also gorgeous and has a lot of various bright colors to catch your eye and keep you focused on the movie instead of getting distracted.

This is a great film; if you haven’t already shown it to your kids, they’re missing out.

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Yet another animated film by Walt Disney, Meet the Robinsons, was released in 2007 and stars Tom Selleck, Stephen Anderson, and Wesley Singerman.

It follows the story of an orphan deemed unadoptable by all families who come to the orphanage looking for a new child.

His inventions always scare them off one or another, and just when everything seems pointless, a boy his age shows up in his time travel machine from the future.

An adventure begins to unravel before them as they battle against the mysterious Bowler Hat man, with the end of the film hitting with a great twist.

Why You Should Watch

Meet the Robinsons is an excellent film for a young audience as while it does have some scary imagery (evil robot hat), it is still designed to be child-friendly.

It shies away from showing anything graphic that would be scary or improper for children and instead focuses on the film’s core message: no matter what stands in your way, you should never give up on your dreams.

Sometimes, you have to deal with some boring first steps, or maybe you have to fight a traumatized man with an evil bowler hat, but regardless, your dreams are worth fighting for, and you should never give up on them.

It is a touching story that every child should get the chance to experience.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

The final movie on our list is a new release, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, and it is one of the best-animated films to come out in the last five years.

It stars Alex Hirsh, Michael Rianda, and Abbi Jacobson in a story where the artificial intelligence that everyone has in their homes turns against their human overlords and begins to gather them all up and stick them in basically entertainment boxes with a T.V.

The Mitchells are one of the only families not to get captured, so it falls upon their shoulders to help save their neighbors and everyone else from the grasp of the robots. 

Why You Should Watch

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another classic family story, but this time, instead of a more traditional family, it is a family of clearly neurodivergent people and how that can come out in a family dynamic.

It also has some LGBTQIA+ representation without becoming a character’s entire personality and helps show that such people are just like everyone else.

One of the most important messages of the movie, though, is the discussions about technology and how it can function in the family home and the world as a whole, especially as we become more dependent upon it.

While younger kids may not pick up on these topics, it is the perfect time to converse with your older children. 

Conclusion

Finding movies in the sci-fi genre that are appropriate for a younger audience can sometimes be difficult, especially if the child is somewhat older but not of an age suitable for early adults/late teens.

Luckily, there are some good options out there, and hopefully, this list helped you find one for your child’s next watch and to help inspire the next generation’s love of science fiction.

If you enjoyed this article, check out Spooky Horror Movies for Tweens and Young Adults (Rated PG-13) for some terrifying tales for your older children!

Author

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  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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