There’s a crispness in the air, sweaters are coming out of retirement and pumpkin spice everything has taken over the grocery stores. The “most wonderful time of year” is quickly approaching. With it comes a flurry of exciting new movies and extra downtime with the family—the perfect combination.
But today’s blurred genre lines have created a confusing filmscape that can be difficult to navigate. We’re seeing animated adult movies (we’re talking about you, Sausage Party) and fantasies with a dark side (hello The House With A Clock In Its Walls). Sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out which movies are ok for the kiddos and which are better reserved for those nights when you’ve got a sitter.
That’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up the most popular family-appealing films that are hitting theaters in November and December to give you an idea of what’s actually safe for the kids. Of course, every kid is different and their threshold for processing mature themes, scary images and violent content varies, so keep that in mind. Full disclosure: we haven’t yet screened all these films. This guide is based off a mix of screenings, trailers and our own research.
‘The Nutcracker And The Four Realms’ (November 2)
Rated: PG for some mild peril
Inspired by the iconic Christmas story and ballet, Disney’s The Nutcracker And The Four Realms invites you into a magical world with toy soldiers, sword-wielding mice and a sugar plum fairy played by Keira Knightly. The film’s opulent sets, magnificent costumes and nostalgic ballet sequences make for spectacular visuals that both adults and children will most certainly enjoy. But the ominous Fourth Realm (ruled by a delightfully wicked Helen Mirren) is sure to bring some action sequences and dark undertones. One of the film’s taglines reads “the legend you know has a dark side,” so expect a major conflict between good and evil and some scenes that might be a little scarier for very young children.
‘The Grinch’ (November 9, 2018)
Rated: PG for brief rude humor
The beloved Dr. Seuss story once again gets reimagined for the big screen—this time from the studio behind the animated favorites Despicable Me and Sing. The inimitable voice of Benedict Cumberbatch brings the notorious Grinch to life, one grumpy quip after another. In his scheme to steal Christmas from Whoville, The Grinch gets up to some playful pranks and delivers some deadpan insults, but overall the animated film seems to be on the tame side and it ultimately hammers home positive messages of compassion and community. Most kiddos (and the whole family) should delight in the vibrant visuals and slapstick humor.
‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald’ (November 16)
Rated: PG-13 for some sequences of dark fantasy action
A follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, this film whisks you away to J.K. Rowling’s pre-Harry Potter world of magic, spells and imaginative adventures. The story continues with the tale of magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and gives fans insight into the beloved Albus Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) historic battle against the darkness of Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). That darkness is responsible for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald‘s PG-13 rating. As with other installments in the Potter franchise, the Dark Arts conjure undertones of evil and danger and while scenes of violence and death tend to be only mildly graphic, some younger or more sensitive children may find them frightening.
‘Instant Family’ (November 16)
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references
A comedy that skims beneath surface level, Instant Family stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as a couple who decide to take in three foster children and give them a home. Thrown into the deep end of parenting, they’re forced to navigate the ins and outs of raising kids and what it means to have a family. Leaning on a blend of humorous dialogue and physical comedy, the film boasts a heartfelt message of acceptance while exploring the complicated themes of a truly modern family. Heads up that this one could raise questions from the kids about foster families and adoption. From the trailer, the jokes and language seem fairly tame which would make the film an easy Thanksgiving activity that will get the whole family to LOL.
‘Ralph Breaks The Internet’ (November 21)
Rated: PG for some action and rude humor
The second sequel on the list, Ralph Breaks The Internet is the 2018 follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. In this animated pop-culture Disney tale, unlikely besties Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) go inside the internet in search of a replacement part for one of their arcade games. Expect a surplus of Disney character cameos plus lots of internet-related humor like the floss, cat memes and pop-up ads that will keep you and the kiddos entertained. Visits to the dark web and the gritty Slaughter Race video game depict some violence and might be a little scary for the youngest viewers. But given its Thanksgiving week timing, this one seems like a solid choice for the entire family.
‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ (December 14)
Rated: Not yet rated
This fully animated superhero feature takes place in an alternate Spider-Man dimension where young Brooklyn teen Miles Morales wears the Spidey-suit. He teams up with Spider-people from other dimensions (including the OG Spider-Man, Peter Parker) to battle a threat that transcends all realities. Expect plenty of action scenes in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, including some where characters are in danger, and slightly mature jokes. Other than a little rude language, we’re predicting that profanity is kept to a minimum. While it’s no Saturday morning cartoon, teens and tweens should do just fine with this one.
‘Mary Poppins Returns’ (December 19)
Rated: PG for some mild thematic elements and action
A sequel that’s been decades in the making, the part-animated, part live-action Mary Poppins Returns picks up with the now-grown-up Banks siblings during an emotional time. As they grieve the loss of Michael Banks’ wife, the magical nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) floats down from the sky to help bring joy back into the “children’s” lives (and their children, as well). Themes of financial struggle and grief will likely affect the adults in the audience more than the kids, but the movie may stir up emotions for those who are sensitive to the loss of a family member. The upbeat music, magical antics and heartwarming connections are enough to balance out any somber scenes and make it a family-friendly holiday pick.
‘Bumblebee’ (December 21)
Rated: Not yet rated
As the sixth installment in the Transformers franchise, audiences should have a good idea of what’s in store with Bumblebee. Set in 1987, this film is actually a prequel to the others, and it highlights the famous yellow Autobot’s early days. When Bumblebee seeks refuge on Earth, he’s discovered by 18-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). The two form an emotional bond while Bumblebee has to evade capture and fight the real threat against the planet. Large-scale sci-fi action sequences involving military-style weapons and explosions are par for the course with any Transformers movie, but from the looks of the trailers, director Travis Knight infuses more heart between ‘bot battle scenes. All five Transformers movies received a PG-13 rating, and we’re predicting the same for Bumblebee.
‘Aquaman’ (December 21)
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Since Jason Momoa’s scene-stealing Aquaman debut in 2017’s Justice League, fans have been holding their collective breath for his standalone movie as the King of the Seven Seas. The film tells a complete origin story of Arthur Curry and his journey as the heir to the throne of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. When Aquaman’s half-brother (Patrick Wilson) prepares to wage war against surface dwellers (that’s us), the unwitting hero must step up and protect the people of both worlds. In the golden age of the box office superhero, audiences are familiar with the epic action scenes, wry comic relief and touch of romance that’s typically baked into the movies, and Aquaman will follow the formula. Stunning special effects show an underwater sea army in a conflict of good and evil while surface scenes depict chases, property destruction and destruction. All in all, DC Comics fans of most ages (tweens and up) can look forward to the land-and-sea superhero making a holiday splash.
‘Holmes & Watson’ (December 21)
Rated: Not yet rated
Famed funny men Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly team up once again in a comedy based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The story follows the brilliant detective and his trusted partner as they’re tasked with solving a murder at Buckingham Palace. If they fail to find the killer in four days, The Queen will be the next victim. The laughs are a given, as are some crude jokes and moderate swearing which will likely earn it a PG-13 rating. Fans of previous Ferrell/Reilly films including 2006’s Talladega Nights and 2008’s Step Brothers shouldn’t be surprised at the quotable moments and sheer silliness of it all. Releasing just in time for Christmas, Holmes & Watson is probably best for teens and up due to its suggestive style of humor.
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