Features and Columns · Movies

The Best 2016 Movies For Families

By  · Published on December 13th, 2016

Dear FSR

You’re home for the holidays – what do you watch?

At some point in your life, you’ve likely been faced with a question that has no solid answer. Some people may take such a puzzle to a trusted confidant, a friendly pastor, or the esteemed annals of Yahoo! Answers. But will they have the expertise needed to solve your most pressing film predicaments?

Think of Dear FSR as an impartial arbiter for all your film concerns. Boyfriend texting while you’re trying to show him your most precious Ozu? What’s the best way to confront the guy who snuck that pungent curry into your cramped theater? This is an advice column for film fans, by a film fan.

Dear FSR,

It’s almost the holidays, which means I’m going to be going home to visit my parents for a few days. Inevitably, once presents are opened and Christmas lunch is done, we all linger awkwardly in the living room until someone suggests renting a movie. What are some movies from this year that won’t make me coil into a fetal position and actually have a beneficial effect on my visit?


Relatively Concerned

Dear Relatively Concerned,

Usually when watching a movie with family members (especially parents) the worst thing that can happen is a sex scene. Nobody likes to be reminded of sex in front of the two people whose bumped uglies produced them. It reminds us of our mortality, our animal biology, and our dad’s sex drive. It’s the worst.

Equally bad, though, are films that cause divides. Schisms over violence, language, or plotline politics can turn a cozy visit into a stay as uncomfortable as a snowed-in presidential debate. We’re after movies that may not be wholesome, but ones that will leave your family whole at the end. What follows are some of the best movies for families to watch from the past year. Bonus points were attributed if they will bring you closer to those you watch it with.

Kung Fu Panda 3

You know what’s better than a fat panda that’s inexplicably great at martial arts? A panda that learns to love his adopted dad and biological dad in the same movie while being inexplicably great at martial arts. It’s also an expertly animated flick with some of the year’s most innovative and colorful style.

Gods of Egypt

This is for a particular type of family – a family that raised its children on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Basically, my family. This movie is stupid, crazy, and so scattered that you won’t have a chance to be bored by it because you’ll constantly be challenged to come up with new jokes about it. The family that mocks bonkers Power Rangers in sandals stays together.

Eddie the Eagle

I think it’s science that all moms have a crush on Hugh Jackman. This is a supremely goofy movie about a supremely goofy person: an Olympic ski jumper that didn’t really ever learn how to ski jump. He was terrible and got by on determination and humanity’s love of pudgy underdogs. I’m not sure if him being coached by the world’s sexiest piece of mom-bait is accurate, but the only people complaining are dads.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

Not all great family movies have to be feel-good. The Ouija prequel is nicely retro in setting and in craftsmanship, giving multigenerational scares that will be sure to inspire nightmares, jumps, and collective sighs of relief among families. Catharsis after a scary movie is an underrated pleasure, especially when shared among people you’re raised specifically to never see scared.

Pete’s Dragon

Dragons, wild kids, and families both created and natural. What’s not to like?


A deliciously emotional movie about a cerebral topic, Arrival will leave you debating in the best fashion. Rather than fighting for who is right, it’s a question of interpretation and ethics, letting you learn more about the people you love.

Manchester by the Sea

This is a movie manufactured in a test tube specifically to make dads cry.

20th Century Women

A would-be dysfunctional family is actually the most functional of the year. They love each other, listen to each other, and help raise a man in a woman’s world (which is encased in a larger, meaner man’s world). It’s delightfully profound and silly all at once, with just enough sexuality in the mix to make you appreciate the damage desexing your elders does. Older people have sex drives too, Cosmo!

La La Land

It’s a musical (and one of the best movies of the year)! The latest market numbers show that Gosling is hot with moms right now while dads are very favorable towards jazz. You just can’t make stats like this up (without a strong critical case for evangelism).

It’s beginning to look a lot like Die Hard season,


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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).