These days, children have a seemingly unlimited number of ways to entertain themselves. From fidget spinners and interactive toys, to cell phone and iPads, there's definitely no shortage of entertainment options. But nothing beats a good old-fashioned movie viewing, especially if it's a kids movie with a progressive message. Whether it takes place at a theater, at home in front of the television set, or on a mobile device, watching a movie transports you to another world in a way that a fidget spinner simply can't.
And just because a movie's target audience is children doesn't mean the story can't convey a message that's progressive and thought-provoking. Not all family-friendly movies are full of silly jokes and one-liners — not that there's anything wrong with laughing at something silly either. But there's something undeniably special about watching a movie that touches on an issue near and dear to your heart. Especially in today's current polarized political climate, a light-hearted movie that touches on climate change or features a non-traditional lead can leave you feeling satisfied, or even inspired.
So whether or not you have children yourself, or are a fully-grown adult just looking for a few great family movies to watch during a weekend Netflix marathon, here's a list of movies that are actually quite progressive.
1. The Lorax
Based on the popular Dr. Seuss book of the same name, The Lorax has an all-star cast including Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, and Betty White. More importantly though, it tells a cautionary tale about abusing the planet, and has a truly inspirational ending.
Disney's recent hit Zootopia is all about different species getting along. It's touching and relatable, while also being totally hilarious at times.
Released back in 1996, Matilda has been justifiably called one of the most progressive kids movies of the '90s. Its star is a young girl who, without any romantic angle whatsoever, prioritizes learning. And as a result, she's triumphant over her adversaries.
Set in an animated future where humans no longer live on earth, Wall-E was groundbreaking for a number of reasons — including the fact that there's no spoken dialogue for the first 20 minutes of the film. It also touches on the danger of multinational corporations becoming too powerful.
5. Hotel Transylvania
Starring Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez, Hotel Transylvania tells the story of a father vampire learning to accept his daughter's non-vampire boyfriend. It's all kinds of adorable and a perfect Halloween movie for the whole family.
6. Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
Talk about an animated cult classic. Ferngully definitely has its share of strange moments, but it takes on deforestation in a way that's both scary and entertaining.
Released in 2009, Coraline is a stop-motion fantasy film based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name. It stars Dakota Fanning as a young girl who goes on an adventure to the Other World. Coraline is strong, brave, and a great example of a female character who doesn't need a romantic counterpart to be a hero.
8. The Brave Little Toaster
Although it's one of Disney's lesser known films, The Brave Little Toaster is actually a fantastic children's film. It's about family, self-sacrifice, and has a truly powerful ending. Definitely a must-watch if you haven't (or even if you have) already seen it.
How could someone possibly compose a list of progressive movies and not mention Frozen? The massively beloved film is all about the power of sisterly love, and it also features a prominent character who's widely believed to be gay.
You're probably thinking... Minions? A progressive movie? Well, hear this one out. The main villain in the film is a woman named Scarlet (voiced by Sandra Bullock). She's strong, powerful, and a true adversary to the Minions.
11. The Land Before Time
Another late '80s throwback. The Land Before Time has a strong message about friends and family. It'll probably make you cry, but don't let that prevent you from watching, or re-watching, this timeless children's movie.
The original Cars movie had a truly progressive message about appreciating landmarks of the past. And for bonus points, the recently released Cars 3 also has a pretty progressive female race car character who shows that you don't have to be a boy to be interested in racing.
13. Free Willy
Long before Blackfish was released, Free Willy touched on what happens to marine life in captivity in a way that was heart-warming and inspirational.
Moana joins the list of Disney princesses who do not have a love interest whatsoever. That's pretty awesome and long overdue.
As luck would have it a number of these movies are available to stream on Netflix, so what are you waiting for? Let's get this progressive kids' movie marathon started.