We can all use some virtual entertainment and diversion these days, but movies often take it too far when it comes to foul language and certain subject matters. Everyone likes a good guffaw, but we don’t need to be grossed out or offended for that to happen. As Lord Polonius said in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “brevity is the soul of wit,” so perhaps a long string of curse words doesn’t always equal laughs.
If you’re looking for a list of family-friendly films to enjoy, and don’t want to cover the eyes and ears of your youngsters, you’re sure to find some great options here below. And even if there are no kids anywhere in sight and you just prefer to steer clear of excess swear words, these movies are virtually guaranteed to get you laughing.
Apologies in advance, but there are a few spoilers, so reader beware.
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1. Inside Out
Obviously, you say. And we agree. Inside Out was a 2015 Walt Disney Pictures release whose all-star cast, brilliant concept, and stellar script helped turn it into comedy gold. A computer-animated comedy, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, it’s visually stimulating and super funny.
When 11-year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents, her emotions are thrown into chaos. Seems straightforward enough, except that these emotions (who are colorful embodiments of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) are pretty much the main characters in the movie, guiding her through life, and creating memories to be stored and cherished. Here’s what happens when Joy and Sadness get lost in an inaccessible part of Riley’s mind, and Anger, Fear, and Disgust are left at the controls of emotional headquarters:
This movie was one of the best comedies that year, and also made you want to cry and hug everyone in your life as well as your long-forgotten childhood teddy bear or imaginary friend.
2. The Kid Who Would Be King
The Kid Who Would Be King is a wonderful new take on the old legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, set in London with 12-year-old Alex leading the way. Brought to us by British writer-director Joe Cornish, this live-action adventure film is (pardon the trite-but-true phrase) fun for the whole family. While not a straight up comedy, it keeps you laughing all along the way as they attempt to save the world.
Before Alex even pulls the sword from the stone (at a construction site where he’s hiding from bullies), he shows himself to be a good friend, defending his BFF Bedders from the aforementioned bullies, Lance and Kaye. Now that Alex has unsheathed the mighty power-wielding sword Excalibur, the meek and reluctant leader is tasked not only with uniting underdogs and tough teens, but saving England and all of humanity from Morgana, the half-sister of King Arthur who has come back from the beyond with a big chip on her shoulder.
A lot of the comic relief comes in the form of Merlin, who alternately takes the form of the young and lanky actor Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart, (both of whom don a ragged Led Zeppelin Shirt) and an owl. He appears as the new kid at school, awkwardly staring at Alex and Bedders for extended periods of time.
When he asks an entire cafeteria full of kids, “who will kneel at his feet and swear allegiance?” he is answered with a barrage of plastic bottles and jeers. There are many amusing lines like when Merlin tells two police officers, “your carriage looks warm and dry. Take me east.” This movie has heart and humor, and is one of the best clean comedy/adventure films out there.
3. Spies in Disguise
Another fun film from 2019, Spies in Disguise, is an animated family comedy release from 20th Century Fox starring the charismatic Will Smith as Lance Sterling, an American spy with celebrity level status and an ego to match. Walter Beckett (voiced by Tom Holland) is a good guy geek who was just fired by Sterling before he had a chance to explain his latest invention, the (still-in-early-testing-phase) invisibility potion.
When Sterling drinks the potion and turns into a pigeon, they are immediately on the run in this odd-couple caper. They must flee their former co-workers, the government agents who think Sterling is committing crimes, as they pursue the villain who’s framing him with high-tech sci-fi face-stealing technology.
The story for the movie script was inspired by the short film “Pigeon:Impossible” and somehow the premise of spy-turned-pigeon pays off. Perhaps it’s because we’re ready to see Sterling knocked off his high horse, or pushed from his perch (to use a more pigeon-appropriate analogy), but when his life gets turned upside down, it’s to hilarious effect.
Even if the jokes push the bounds of bodily humor for a minute, as long as you don’t count cloaca among curse words, you’re in the clear. Kids will love to watch how Walter helps save them with his little inventions and a positive outlook on life, as Sterling gets used to his new body and begins to appreciate help from friends (including an impressive cast that includes Rashida Jones and Reba McEntire).
This may mark the first time that people demand more pigeon, but seeing how it just came out a little over a year ago, we may have to wait another year or so for a sequel.
In addition to being a visually beautiful film, Coco is a truly moving movie that puts family and front and center. Unfortunately for young Miguel, family is what stands in the way of his dream in life.
His entire family has turned their back on their musical past (ever since things went sour with his guitar-playing great great grandfather). Still, Miguel has big plans of becoming a famous musician.
One night, in the process of trying to prove to his family that music is his destiny, Miguel finds himself in a strange new world – the Land of the Dead. He meets another character, Hector, who seems to be in need of a friend and the two continue on together to see if they are able to understand the story of Miguel’s ancestors and return to the land of the living.
Like several other films in this list, it’s not a straight comedy. However, the star-studded cast fills the movie with funny moments and interprets a beautiful story superbly.
Watch writer-director Lee Unkrich and co-director and writer Adrian Molina talk about bringing this great film to life:
5. The Peanuts Movie
Once upon a time there was “an underdog and his dog.” This is how the 20th Century Fox film The Peanuts Movie pitches its 2015 film. Peanuts movies are generally characterized by sweet stories about a cast of relatable kids and adults who sound like trombones and toilet plungers when they talk. While all this holds true for this film, it surprises with even more laughs than before and picks up the pace to hold the attention of modern audiences.
The movie opens on all the kids waking up to the news of a snow day; Schroeder’s alarm clock plays Beethoven and Peppermint Patty smashes her clock with a hockey stick. Charlie Brown declares, “It’s going to be a long winter,” and we’re immediately reacquainted with the whole gang in a funny and completely satisfying way.
And there’s lot of great Snoopy moments as well. In one scene, Snoopy sneaks back into the classroom Mission Impossible style, using suction cups to scale the wall and a yo-yo to belay his way to the desk. He gives his classic yelp when a binder slams closed on his paw.
In Charlie Brown’s attempt to impress The Little Red-Haired Girl, he offers to write their book report. When he hears (by way of Peppermint Patty) that Marcie says the greatest book ever written is “Leo’s Toy Store by Warren Peace” he heads to the library.
That’s when we hear the hilarious line:”He’s going into the grown-up section! Is that legal?” Lessons will be learned, and laughs will be had, whether you’re an eight-year-old or eighty. It did well at the box office because it’s honestly one of the funniest movies for little kids that has humor for more sophisticated viewers, too.
Check out the trailer here:
6. The Decoy Bride
With The Decoy Bride we’re bringing it back to live action, and it’s yet another story that the whole family can appreciate. Well, to be honest, kids in middle or high school are more likely to want to watch this film, as opposed to children of a younger age.
A British release from 2012, The Decoy Bride is a romantic comedy starring David Tennant, Alice Eve and Kelly Macdonald (the voice of princess Merida from Brave). It’s a rom-com without the raunchy content so often present in movies today.
It’s set on the fictional Scottish island of Hegg. An American movie star has sought out a remote island to marry her betrothed (a novelist, played by Tennant). To get rid of the meddling media, they find a decoy bride to deceive Marco, the man determined to snap a shot of the ceremony.
Katie, who has recently returned to the island after a broken engagement is a convenient decoy, though her horrendous attempt at an American accent tips off Marco. The two that you should be together
Though it wasn’t a big hit at the box office, this romantic comedy is certainly worth streaming on a night where you want to watch something funny with a happy ending. The gags, good humor, and sense of romance give you a sense that life is good, love wins, and all’s right with the world – even if it’s only for a brief moment in time.
7. The Christmas Chronicles
After you’ve watched Elf, The Grinch and It’s a Wonderful Life (all great movies!) on repeat each holiday season, it’s always nice to stumble upon a new Christmas movie worth your time. The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russel as Santa Claus, is a funny and heartwarming surprise. It’s one of the best Christmas movies Netflix has to offer.
This film tells the story of a sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, who have lost their dad and direction in life. Teddy’s in high school, but headed for trouble, and Kate has made a Christmas wish to say goodbye to her father in person – a wish she knows only Santa Claus could grant. Their plan to catch Santa on camera leads them on an adventure that is filled with both funny and heartfelt moments they’ll never forget.
The film is fun for any age:
8. The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie, starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman and too many others to list may be one of the most impressive films of the last decade. A Warner Bros. Pictures production, it’s a comedy where Lego Bricks come to life and we learn what it really takes to become a master builder. Spoiler alert, it’s not what you might think.
This comedy is good for the whole family, and children of any age will be able to find something funny. A couple of the best lines are when Emmet asks Wyldstyle her name and she says “Wyldstyle” and he’s like, “Wyldstyle? Are you a DJ?” or when Vitruvius keeps calling Dumbledore “Double-Door” and can’t tell him apart from Gandalf.
If you’re a Lego fan, you may find this “making of the movie” clip an interesting addendum to the film:
You may have thought a new version of Jumanji wasn’t needed, but you’d be mistaken. This is one of the best recent comedies as far as laugh out loud moments and shock and awe guffaws. Is there anything about a cute, vain, teen girl trapped in the body of Jack Black that we would not find funny?
This comedy film is a coming of age story about four high school kids who discover a magical video game and get sucked in through a portal to the game’s world, instantly becoming the avatars that they chose. The big tough guy becomes a short zoologist, the socially insecure girl becomes Ruby Roundhouse, “killer of men,” cute girl is now “map guy” (Jack Black), and the geeky boy becomes Dr. Bravestone, whose strength and smoldering ability are unsurpassed.
In order to return to life in the real world, they have to play (which means survive and beat) the game. Similar to actual video games (and here’s a SPOILER ALERT) they each have three lives, so there are several scenes in which they die and it’s somehow hilarious, because you know they’ll drop from the sky again in a few seconds. Of course, no one knows that at first, and the third time means game over. As they gather information, fight rhinoceri, and solve puzzles, they work together and discover new things about themselves and each other.
Here’s a top ten list of the funniest moments from the film:
10. Paddington 2
You might not think you’d find movies about a bear so amusing, but Paddington 2 may be even better than the original. It’s a heartwarming comedy film that may surprise you with its subtle and smart humor. It’ll tickle your funny bone and make you feel as fuzzy on the inside as Paddington is on the outside.
Paddington 2 has a simple plot but packs a punch, delivering one of the very best family friendly films from the last decade. Paddington has situated himself with the Brown family and become a welcome member of the community. He takes on some odd jobs in order to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday, but then the gift is stolen and he is the one to find himself behind bars, and I won’t spoil this one any further.
The film is fun for any age, and the comedy is sprinkled throughout, which keeps the story engaging. Some scenes harken back to the silent film era, and other lines or situations reflect our current time.
In the end, while it’s a comedy and adventure, this is one of those films that has loving your neighbor and welcoming the stranger at its center. This is a bear that may just sooth your world-weary soul.
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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speaker.