Movie night can be a difficult situation for some families when you’re trying to find a selection that everyone will have a great time watching. Our family loves action movies, especially if they tick all the right boxes for us all. But, it takes work to find the best action movies for families. That’s why I decided to put together this list.
We’re pretty strict in our household when it comes to movies, music, and everything else. This makes finding great shows and streaming content even harder. However, over the years we’ve been able to find quite a few great movies that we like to go back to over and over.
The perfect action movie for families
As I mentioned, we all love action movies. Marvel films are usually a huge hit for us. But, we also really love that perfect combination of action, adventure, humor, and depth. If we can find one of those movies, it usually goes on repeat for our family.
We like silly, dumb, super smart, and most other types of humor in our house. But, we can be pretty picky too. We like clever humor, no matter how low-brow it is. Make us laugh, but make us think.
Also, since we’re pretty strict about the content our family consumes, a lot of the typical mainstream movies are off-limits for us. Or, if we do end up watching them, it’s after our kids are far past the recommended age rating. Not always, just sometimes. So, when a great action movie comes along with very little swearing and adult content, we tend to jump at them.
We were also really careful with the violence levels while our kids were little. Lots of blood and gore meant those movies were out of the rotation for sure until our kids weren’t “kids” anymore
So, the perfect action movie for us would be something full of adventure and some peril, crammed full of great humor, and very little content that’s not appropriate for kids. That is a VERY hard movie to make.
Here’s a list of the best action movies for families, curated by our actual family, that we think get close to that ideal. Remember to do your own research too. We think we’re pretty strict, but we may be way more lenient than you are. The world is a funny place that way.
Movies for when the kids are under 8 or so
- Night At The Museum
A father dealing with who he is and who he really wants to be while his son is growing up, a bit too fast for his tastes. This is also another movie where the parents are not together.
There are some great moments of excitement and peril here, but nothing too much. Our kids liked this one for a long time.
The humor in this movie is great. Ben Stiller is super funny. Also, there’s some fantastic opportunities to talk to your kids about history as the setting is a museum.
- The Incredibles
This one was on very heavy rotation for our family, for a long time. Another film featuring a father going through an identity crisis while trying to hold it together for his family. This is one where there’s just as much for parents to enjoy as there is for the kids.
Really wonderful animation in this one too!
This one is a legit action movie that is very appropriate for the whole family. The humor fits really well too. It’s not overly silly or dopey, but there are lots of laughs.
- The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie is one of those rare movies where you’re not sure if the writing is primarily for the parents or the kids, but it works either way.
The animation is really clever and entertaining. After a bit, it falls away and you think about the storyline, but there are moments where the technical aspects and the artistry are the stars.
Warning: you will have “Everything is Awesome” stuck in your head for a week.
- City of Ember
This is another great adventure story for the family. If your jam is post-apocalyptic settings and lots of action and peril, this one is for you.
There’s not a lot of humor in this story. However, Bill Murray does add a tiny bit of comic relief as the mayor…sort of.
The setting of City of Ember is actually one of the stars of the movie. The city itself is so wonderfully created that you get sucked in immediately.
Note: Our youngest daughter had a problem with one scene depicting a gigantic mutated mole. So, if your kids are easily frightened, you may want to check this scene on YouTube before watching.
- Kung Fu Panda
Super cool cartoon karate fighting with some surprisingly developed characters and a fun-to-follow story. In the end, it’s about family and personal development.
We watched this one quite a few times over the years too. If you’re a fan of Jack Black, you’ll love his portrayal of Po.
Set in the Scottish highlands, there is a lot of action and peril in this one. Brave is the story of a young woman coming into her own and standing up for what she believes is right. The conflict is how to achieve this and still make your family happy.
If you have any Scottish heritage, it can be fun to watch for that.
Brave can be a bit too scary for really young ones. The scenes with the bears were too much for our youngest for a while.
Mulan is another girl power movie where a tough young woman decides to be awesome. Set in China during an unspecified time (but “old times” we’ll say for argument), Mulan shows how going against the grain, and the system, can be the right thing to do as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.
The songs are great in this one, and you’ll be singing them for quite some time.
- How to Train Your Dragon
This movie ended up being one of my wife’s favorites. It can most definitely appeal to animal lovers as well as anyone obsessed with dragons.
There’s a good combination of fantasy and action in this film. The humor is a bit more low-brow, which is really fitting of this movie and works well. It’s also probably why it was one of my wife’s favorites.
- The Lego Batman Movie
We decided to include this one in addition to the original because they are so different. Even though it is related to the original, it definitely stands on its own.
The humor drives this movie more than anything, and Will Arnett’s portrayal of Batman is hilarious. A lot of the humor in The Lego Batman Movie is pretty complex and layered.
Megamind is a great way to introduce superhero movies to younger kids. The peril is not so intense, and the humor definitely carries this move too.
Megamind features a great cast all the way through. Will Ferrell is fantastic as the lead, but everyone lays down a solid performance that’s enjoyable.
- Polar Express
With the Christmas trains, peril, snow, somewhat strange animation, and oddly convoluted story, you’ll probably either love this one or hate it.
We thought it was fun. Tom Hanks does a good job carrying this one along, but the setting is why we watch.
Warning: the Hot Chocolate song will get stuck in your kids’ heads, and they will sing it constantly.
- Rise of the Guardians
We were surprised by this one. We thought we might enjoy it a bit, but the story was much better than we expected.
The idea of a league of “guardians” like Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and Jack Frost coming together to fight a common enemy sounded interesting. However, it was good enough for us to come back to several times over the years.
Also features another top-notch cast.
- Wreck-it Ralph
Ralph just wants to wreck it…or does he?
This is a really fun, complex story full of action and humor. The idea that we don’t always have to be what other people think we need to be comes across clearly in this movie but isn’t heavy-handed.
Great performances from John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and Jack McBrayer.
- Escape to Witch Mountain
Old-timey fun that’s kind of creepy too.
We recommend trying the original Disney version of this fun adventure. It was also a great way to connect with my daughters since I remember this from when I was a kid.
Some of it does feel outdated, but in a “vintage” way that can be cool.
Animals doing human stuff in funny and adventurous ways.
Zootopia actually deals with some pretty heavy themes that you can then discuss with your kids, such as bullying and racism.
We’ve watched this one quite a few times. Since we already know the story, it’s a great one to put on while we’re doing a puzzle or playing a game.
Movies for families with kids about 8 to 13
- Star Wars
We recommend the first, classic trilogy as released, episodes 4-6. Those original Star Wars movies, including the dated effects, have held up incredibly well over time. The story running through this series is just a little less complicated for kids to follow too.
This original series also gives parents (or grandparents at this point) an opportunity to share something special from their childhoods with their children (or grandchildren).
- Harry Potter
Our kids grew up on Harry Potter books. They loved them and read them voraciously. We were careful about which books and movies to release to them at what ages, but it was always something to look forward to.
We recommend up to number 3 in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for this age range. After this movie, they go up to PG-13 and get a bit scarier and more intense.
We’ve probably watched the first film in this series over a dozen times.
- Princess Bride
An absolute classic of an adventure movie for the family. This is one of our favorites, and it’s been played over and over throughout the years.
This is one of those rare movies that hits that perfect equation that I mentioned above. It’s got great action with swashbuckling sword-fighting scenes, pirates (sort of), a fantastic and smart sense of humor, and a mostly squeaky clean dialogue.
The cast is incredible. A true ensemble film where everyone pulls their own weight, and then some.
Warning: It does have a little bit of language near the end, but it’s not too bad. The term “SOB” is used (the real version), and there’s one other small outburst from Fred Savage’s character as well.
- National Treasure
Nicolas Cage is so much fun to watch in this history-based family-friendly action adventure.
National Treasure features another great cast as well. This is one that we go back to quite often. This is another go-to background movie when we’re doing puzzles or playing games. We like it that much.
Lots of opportunities to talk about American history here too.
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Keeping with the Nicolas Cage movies, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is another fun, action-filled story that will appeal to both boys and girls.
There is a bit of scary imagery, but overall it’s not too bad. Our younger daughter didn’t have a problem with this one. It’s a good one if you want to introduce some light themes of romance without getting awkward or too intense as well.
- The Chronicles of Narnia Series
Our family really liked these movies. This was another series that started with reading the books, and I would recommend that.
The acting is quite good, and the fantasy feels immersive and real for the most part. You do end up caring about the characters quite a bit…both human and non-human.
These movies are a bit longer and more epic feeling, so take that into consideration if your kids (or parents) get bored really easily.
We ended up liking this one a lot more than we expected. It’s a fun romp.
Nothing too heavy here. It’s just an interesting story with a few deeper, more complex feelings thrown in as well mostly near the end. George Clooney and Britt Robertson make a fun adventure pairing here too.
It’s a good introduction to the idea of robot or AI consciousness. That can be fun to talk about with the kids!
- The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Again, we weren’t expecting too much from this, and maybe because of that, we were very pleasantly surprised. This one is a lot of fun.
We love Jack Black, and Cate Blanchett is great here as well. This story addresses family issues and loneliness as well as showing a boy coming into his own and learning a lot in the end.
There is some more intense imagery, so take care with more sensitive younger viewers.
Robin Williams’ classic Peter Pan portrayal that should appeal to the whole family, but especially younger boys and girls.
Lots of family issues here. Robin Williams (Peter) plays a workaholic father who has forgotten everything about his younger life. And, now he’s so intent on success, he neglects the relationships with his own kids.
There’s definitely some cheesiness here, but it’s overall really fun and action filled for the younger ones in the family.
- Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, really snuck up on us. Being such a new movie, even we were surprised that it had made it into such heavy rotation.
This one has lots of action, adventure, and dumb dad jokes. It’s mostly clean as well, which is a great surprise.
Warning: You will probably go around saying “chuhngle” way too often after watching this movie.
Jungle Cruise is one of the best new additions to the Disney+ streaming channel.
Movies for when the kids are over 13
Now that our kids are over 13, we’ve opened up our viewing to a lot more in terms of content. However, we still try to be as careful as we can.
Some of the movies below we will watch only the TV versions because they feature cleaner dialogue without losing much in terms of story or action. For instance, San Andreas is one of these.
- The Day After Tomorrow
This became one of our younger daughter’s favorite movies. She loves a good end-of-the-world movie, and this one is also pretty family-friendly as far as this genre goes.
It features an excellent cast and over-the-top visuals that make for a really fun afternoon.
- Princess Mononoke
When your kids are ready for some more intense anime, this is an amazing film featuring another stellar cast.
We are a Miyazaki family through and through, and if your kids like Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, they’ll love Princess Mononoke when they’re old enough too.
Be aware that Princess Mononoke does have adult language, lots more violence, and some adult situations. It’s not for the young kids in the family.
Most of the Miyazaki catalog is on HBO now. If you don’t have that service, you can always check them out from the library like we do.
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This newer remake of Jumanji has become another go-to movie for our family since our youngest is older now.
The chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart is amazingly funny. Also, Jack Black and Karen Gillan bring something uniquely different and funny to the story as well.
There is some language and adult situations in this one, most of it very bathroom humor and Sex Ed based stuff.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
We are Marvel fans for sure, and Guardians of the Galaxy is one of our absolute favorites in the franchise.
This one is another of those “magic formula” family action movies for us. Great action, awesome humor, mostly clean. Groot alone is worth this movie.
There are some scenes with adult content, so make sure your kids are mature enough to handle that…otherwise they will snicker behind your back.
Everyone in the family has a crush on Paul Rudd. We watch Ant-Man probably way too often.
This is yet another of those magic formula action movies for us. The humor in Ant-Man is one of the main features that pulls it along so well. The whole cast is great, but Michael Pena is a special highlight when it comes to laughs.
Note: Ant-Man and the Wasp features what feels like a lot more adult language, so we don’t watch that as much, and we tend to try to catch the TV version when we can.
- San Andreas
As mentioned, we only watch the TV version of this movie, but it’s a lot of fun. We’ve become quite the Dwayne Johnson fans over the years.
There are loads of explosions, demolished buildings, and endless amounts of peril in San Andreas. There are also some family issues happening in the storyline.
If your family are fans of disaster movies, this is a good one. But, the regular version does have a decent amount of adult language.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
I added this one as a promise to my wife. She’s not always a comic book movie fan (unless it’s a Marvel movie), but for some reason, she really liked this one.
There is a LOT of action in this movie. So, if your goal is to see more action, this is your film. We usually catch this one on TV as well, so take that into consideration.
This one is rated PG-13.
- Avatar (Family version)
If your family is in the mood for a long, colorful, action-filled movie with stunning visuals, this is your movie.
We found the family version of Avatar on Disney+ one afternoon, so we decided to give it a try. We had a blast watching it, but realize that you still do see what the characters are saying, they’ve just dubbed in less offensive language. It worked just fine for us.
You can also discuss issues such as Colonialism and violence with your older kids after the movie’s done.
- Alita: Battle Angel
This is for those families that love sci-fi movies with a gaming edge to them. The animation in Alita is awesome. The mix of real life and animation is even awesomer.
Often, movies that mix animation and real-life acting don’t work well. They either seem cheesy or just lose believability. This one just works.
It’s also a great story with some awesome characters and fighting action.
Warning: This one does feature an F-bomb, unfortunately. It snuck up on us, but now we know where it is, so we can deal with it as we watch it again (and again). It’s worth scouting it out in order to watch with the family if you’re interested.
- Jurassic Park
We actually waited quite a while to watch this with our younger daughter. It has some very intense scenes of peril, and there’s also a good bit of language here and there. But, overall, it’s a classic for a good reason.
The cast is fantastic. The story is really fun. And, the action will keep you on the edge of your seat.
We felt that it was appropriate for our teen. You may want to watch it first if you haven’t seen it to determine if it’s OK for your kids.
Best action movies for families: Final thoughts
Homemade cast-iron skillet pizza, some great beverages, and a good action movie is definitely our idea of a fantastic family night in. While it can be really hard to find good movies that the entire family can enjoy, there are quite a few out there that make for a lot of fun to watch.
Every family is different when it comes to the content that they’re comfortable with watching and listening to. I hope this list can be a starting point for you so you can decide if any of the movies here are good choices for you and your family.
Please let us know in the comments if you have any favorites of your own that I didn’t list here. We’re always on the lookout for more suggestions.