5 of the Best Sci-Fi Movies for Kids

E.T. Is Terrifying
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial | Universal Pictures

While many science fiction films are full of things that most children would appreciate — such as bizarre aliens, futuristic spaceships, and sentient robots — the genre is generally not considered family-friendly. After all, this is a genre that includes everything from the chest-bursting critters in Alien, to the city-destroying mutant monsters of Godzilla. While most kids would probably love to meet a robot, a murderous android with an inexplicable Austrian accent from The Terminator should probably not be their first introduction to robots in movies. Fortunately, there are some family-friendly sci-fi films out there that are still entertaining to watch, but won’t psychologically scar your children.

Here are five great sci-fi films that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

When it comes to family-friendly sci-fi, it’s hard to top Steven Spielberg’s classic movie about a lovable alien creature that is stranded on earth and befriends a young boy. While the film contains some intense scenes of E.T. fleeing government agents trying to capture him, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is an overall great film with which to introduce children to science fiction. Despite being over thirty years old, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has remained popular with audiences and critics alike and currently has a 98 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

For families that are sensitive about the appearance of firearms onscreen, a twentieth anniversary edition of the film digitally replaced rifles held by some federal agents with walkie-talkies. Besides being notable for starring a wrinkled brown space alien, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is also notable for starring a young Drew Barrymore in what would become her breakout role.

4. Back to the Future (1985)

Time-travelling DeLorean. Does anything else really need to be said? This wildly popular film spawned two sequels and Michael J. Fox’s portrayal of Marty McFly cemented his status as a movie star. Although Marty McFly’s encounter with his young mother may spark some awkward dinner table discussions about the Oedipus complex, Back to the Future has withstood the test of time as a great family-friendly sci-fi flick. Back to the Future currently has a 96 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

3. WALL-E (2008)

Set in a dystopian future when an over-polluted earth has been abandoned by humans, WALL-E tells the story of a sentient robot who has been left behind to clean up the planet. After falling in love with another robot, WALL-E accidentally boards one of spaceships where morbidly obese humans have been living for generations. Despite its somewhat dark themes, WALL-E is an uplifting story about a robot helping to save mankind while finding true love. WALL-E has a 96 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

2. Flight of the Navigator (1986)

This film tells the story of a young boy who disappears for eight years after being knocked out near the crash site of a highly advanced alien spacecraft. After being kidnapped by NASA officials, the boy escapes in the spaceship and tries to find his way back to his own time. While the special effects in Flight of the Navigator wouldn’t win any awards today, the effects were surprisingly advanced at the time of its release and still hold up today. Besides its heartwarming story and impressive effects, Flight of the Navigator is also notable for featuring the voice talents of Paul Reubens of Pee-wee Herman fame. Flight of the Navigator has an 81 percent approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

1. The Iron Giant (1999)

Although The Iron Giant was a box office flop at the time of its release, this critically-acclaimed animated sci-fi film has since gained a loyal fan base. Set in the Cold War era of the 1950s, The Iron Giant tells the story of a young boy who discovers a fifty-foot tall alien robot with amnesia. As noted by IMDb, the film has won multiple awards, including the BAFTA Children’s Award for Best Feature Film. The Iron Giant features the voice talents of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Vin Diesel. The Iron Giant currently has a 97 percent ““Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

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