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    19 Essential Movies For Parents On HBO Max Right Now

    Settle in for a movie night with a flick the whole family will love.

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    1. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

    A young girl stands at a microphone

    Keke Palmer has been an icon long before she was known for "sorry to this man" and Akeelah and the Bee is proof. Even at 10 years old, she's more than capable of carrying an entire film. A movie about a spelling bee might seem boring, but this flick has all the tension, drama, and spirit of a sports movie. If this movie doesn't make you cheer out loud, you might be made of stone. It's a genuine heart-warmer and a good entry point for family conversations about race, class, and privilege without being heavy-handed.

    2. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

    A still of an animated witch flying over a seaside town

    All of the Studio Ghibli movies are gorgeous, of course, but some of them are decidedly not for kids (I'm still scarred from Princess Mononoke! So much beheading!) But Kiki's Delivery Service falls on the lighter side of things. Thirteen-year-old witch Kiki and her black cat Jiji set out on their own, and their many adventures are by turns sweet, funny, and poignant, but never cloying. You'll find yourself getting lost in the beautiful and fantastically detailed scenery, and you'll definitely be craving bread by the end of the movie.

    3. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

    A group of LEGO characters looks at something offscreen
    Warner Bros.

    The first Lego Movie was surprisingly funny, emotional, and had the earwormiest song of the year. The Lego Movie 2 absolutely lives up to its predecessor. Besides creating all of its scenes out of Lego bricks (animated ones, of course), it has action, suspense, Duplos, nuanced family relationships, and Batman. Plus, grownups will get a kick out of figuring out who voices the cute yellow guys: the star-studded cast includes Chris Pratt, Maya Rudolph, Tiffany Haddish, Nick Offerman, and even Bruce Willis. What more could you ask for? A catchy song? Oh, well it has that too, the fittingly titled "Catchy Song" that more than delivers on its promise to get stuck inside your head. I may still be bopping to it now.

    4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    A pair of ruby slippers

    There's no place like home, and there's no time like an evening at home to introduce your family to this cinematic classic. It might be almost 80 years old (!!), but Dorothy's journey still resonates, and the switch from black and white to color is still eye-poppingly thrilling. I firmly believe you have not had the full human experience until you've been slightly terrified of the flying monkeys, and shed a few tears as Dorothy says goodbye to her friends from Oz.

    5. School of Rock (2003)

    A man sings into a microphone
    Paramount Pictures

    Jack Black is maybe the perfect example of an actor that both kids and adults can enjoy. He has a silly energy that's appealing to kids, and that has just enough of an edge that it doesn't grate on adult sensibilities. School of Rock is one of the better showcases of that talent, pairing him with overachieving private school kids and a quest to form a rock band. The songs are genuinely bops, and it's a pleasant inversion of the typical student-teacher movie formula. Plus, Joan Cusack is perfect in this movie, as she is in all movies.

    6. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

    A man in a tuxedo in front of a neon lit street

    I may be slightly biased because this is my favorite movie of all time, but I truly think everyone will love this movie. Besides featuring Gene Kelly — the handsomest man to ever live — at truly peak handsomeness, he, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, and ballet legend Cyd Charisse do some of the best dancing ever committed to film. The music is beautiful, of course, and the story still feels fresh, but it's really the dancing that's the star of the show. If you have any ~musical skeptics~ in your family, show them "Make 'Em Laugh" and see how they feel afterward. I don't think they'll be so skeptical.

    7. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001–2003)

    Two men in cloaks
    New Line

    It'll take nine hours to do it all, but now is the perfect time to introduce your littles to this saga. The weather is perfect for it, it's just a little bit chilly, so you can all curl up under blankets and get sucked into the epic journey of Frodo and the Fellowship. Extra points if you do it up, and make a whole hobbit feast to snack on while you watch.

    If you're still wanting more Tolkien after you're done, the Hobbit trilogy is also on HBO Max!

    8. Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)

    A man on the phone in a diner, next to a yellow Pikachu drinking coffee
    Warner Bros.

    If you grew up playing with Pokémon cards, you'll absolutely be thrilled by the world of this movie, where Pokémon and humans coexist. If you didn't, you'll be thrilled by Ryan Reynolds' voice coming out of the criminally adorable Detective Pikachu himself. He might not make sense as a caffeine obsessed lightning mouse who solves crimes, but trust me, it works. Pair this one with a walk and some Pokémon Go for a truly themed evening.

    Oh, and if you're still not convinced, after appearing in this movie, certified Serious British Actor Bill Nighy got obsessed with Pokémon. I think that speaks for itself.

    9. Ella Enchanted (2004)

    A man and a woman look at each other

    I'll admit, I didn't give this movie a fair chance when it came out. The book is very close to my heart, and this isn't exactly what we'd call a faithful adaptation. The bones are the same — a take on Cinderella where Ella (Anne Hathaway) literally has to do everything she's told — but the movie is far sillier, in a way I have now learned to appreciate. It's very clear everyone making this movie had such a good time, especially Cary Elwes, who should get to play villains more often. Trust me, you need to see Anne Hathaway do an inexplicable karaoke version of "Somebody To Love" to a room full of giants. You just do.

    10. The Outsiders (1983)

    A group of boys running down a foggy road
    Warner Bros.

    I think it's a rite of passage to read this book in a middle school English class, and it should be equally obligatory to watch the movie. Now it's mostly a fun period piece, especially because it has so many stars before they were famous (Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise, just to name a few) but the story also really packs a punch. It's dark, and doesn't shy away from real issues, but if your kid could handle the book, I think they'll enjoy the movie.

    11. Babe (1995)

    A pig behind a fence
    Universal Pictures

    Look: Not everything has to be a cinematic classic, okay? Sometimes you just want to watch a movie where a pig learns to herd sheep, and that's valid.

    12. Anastasia (1997)

    A woman wearing a large jacket stands in the snow
    20th Century Fox

    Disney isn't the only studio that can make a bona fide princess movie, and Anastasia is proof. It goes a little harder than your traditional fable, and it stands out because of it. Carrie Fisher ghostwrote parts of it, and her trademark spark really comes through. Don't blame me if this gets your kids interested in revolutionary Russia, and they get either very depressed about the actual fate of the Romanovs, or very pedantic about why the hell Rasputin shows up in this movie.

    13. Home Alone (1990)

    A boy in a red sweater
    20th Century Fox

    Transforming every parent's worst nightmare into a holiday classic, Home Alone really manages to hold up. Watching it as an adult, I can empathize a lot more with Kevin's mom (Catherine O'Hara) and her desperation to get home, while also absolutely screaming at the entire family for leaving him in the first place. Kevin's joy in his newfound independence is basically every kid's dream, and for an adult who might feel burdened by everyday responsibilities, it can be fun and nostalgic to remember how exciting being on your own seemed. Be warned, though, the final confrontation with the Wet Bandits is surprisingly sadistic — there's a reason Brooklyn Nine-Nine called this movie "Die Hard for kids."

    14. Wonder Woman (2017)

    A woman on a battlefield
    Warner Bros.

    If you've watched and enjoyed the Avengers movies, but don't feel up for the grim, dark entries into the superhero genre, Wonder Woman is an excellent middle ground. It's set during WWI, so it does have some more realistic violence, but it still has a lighthearted, joyous spirit that the whole family can enjoy. Gal Gadot is lovely as Diana Prince, projecting both childlike innocence and (super)heroic strength, and Chris Pine (the best Chris) is a great foil and love interest. You have the perfect amount of time to watch this one before the sequel (maybe) comes out in December.

    15. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

    An animated panda in a kung fu posture
    Paramount Pictures

    Yes, it's another Jack Black joint! But he deserves it: He truly is appealing to all audiences, and he's especially good in animated form. He brings a lot of humor and surprising depth to Po the panda's journey to become a kung fu master and defeat the villainous snow leopard Tai Lung. The fight scenes are colorful and electric, and the character designs really pop. You may find yourself craving a bowl of secret ingredient soup at the end!

    16. Like Mike (2002)

    A boy holds a basketball and makes a silly face
    20th Century Fox

    Like some of the best movies of the early 2000s, Like Mike has an absolutely bonkers plot: A young boy in foster care (played by Bow Wow, back when he was Lil Bow Wow) finds an old pair of Michael Jordan's shoes at a thrift store. Soon after, he's struck by lightning while trying to retrieve the shoes, and the shock gives him Michael Jordan's basketball ability. In typical movie logic, he's soon playing professional basketball. NBA player cameos abound, as you'd expect, and it has a genuinely great soundtrack. If Shazam and the Air Bud movies had a baby, you'd get Like Mike, and I mean that as a compliment.

    17. The Kid (1921)

    A man smoking a cigarette
    First National

    Most of the Criterion Collection movies on HBO Max aren't exactly kid-friendly fare. Kids might not be ready for Rashomon or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but HBO Max has several Charlie Chaplin films that kids would love. The Kid is a good starting point, since they'll be able to connect to the titular Kid (played by Jackie Coogan). Chaplin appears as his iconic Little Tramp character, and his splay-footed walk, instantly recognizable outfit, and incredibly physical slapstick comedy still really work for modern audiences. This movie is a real-life history lesson, while also being completely hilarious.

    18. Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

    A boy in a monster costume running through the woods
    Warner Bros.

    Despite being based on the classic Maurice Sendak picture book, this is actually probably a movie that might be better suited for after the kids go to bed. That isn't to say kids wouldn't like it, exactly — though some might be scared by the Wild Things — but just that it might not hold their attention. It's slow and introspective, elegiac, almost. Director Spike Jonze has said that he intended to make a movie about the experience of being a child, not a movie for children. Max eventually learns to empathize with his mother, and I think parents watching the movie might find that it opens up a window into empathizing with their children.

    19. The Witches (2020)

    A group of women
    Warner Bros.

    Okay, yes, this movie isn't out yet, but it will be soon (Oct. 22!), and it's gonna be the perfect thing to watch with your family this spooky season. The new adaptation apparently follows the plot of the book even closer than the (TERRIFYING) 1980 adaptation with Anjelica Huston did, and the setting has been changed from England to Atlanta. Anne Hathaway has big shoes to fill here as the Grand High Witch, but the scenery-chewing she does in the trailer looks very promising. With Guillermo del Toro on the production team, you know this is gonna hit just the right notes of whimsical and spine-tingling. In other words: the perfect adaptation of a Roald Dahl book.

    Intrigued? Sign up for HBO Max for $14.99 a month and access countless TV shows and movies.

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