‘It’s every kid’s wish to ride that dragon’: readers’ favourite children’s films of all time

Storm Boy

An introduction to Indigenous culture, single parenthood, adventure, attachment to a pet pelican, separation from parents and isolated living. Best ever. Rocky, retired, Brisbane

Danny, the Champion of the World

Robbie Coltrane (left), Jeremy Irons (right) and his son Samuel Irons in Danny the Champion of the World.
‘What’s not to like?’ … Robbie Coltrane (left), Jeremy Irons (right) and his son Samuel Irons in Danny the Champion of the World.
Photograph: Moviestore collection Ltd/Alamy

As a family we have loved so many amazing children’s films but for us, this is at the very top. For entertainment, excitement, a beautiful father-and-son relationship and the goodies beating the baddies, this is one of the best. It is a gentle, slow-moving film – just perfect for a tired mum to sit down with her children and watch. By the end, everyone will feel good inside. I never see it or hear it talked about and I noticed it wasn’t in your Top 50, which made me so sad when I think of the pleasure it gave us. It has just disappeared. And what’s not to like about Robbie Coltrane, Jeremy Irons, his son Samuel, Michael Hordern and many others? Children’s entertainment at its best! Teresa Sheridan, 62, teacher, Bothwell

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The first movie I saw at about age six. The animation is superb and the emotional expression characterised by the dwarves and the way they tolerate and support one another is very important for sensitive kids living in a quite repressed era. Prince Charming formed my ideal man for ever – I married a tall, dark and handsome facsimile. Penny Annand, 83, retired, Canada

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Not just me, but my whole family – adults and children – love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Splendid fun film about teens teasing uptight adults. It pits a clever teenager against the authority figures in his life and Ferris’s contribution to a Chicago city parade singing Twist and Shout is hilarious fun. My wife, not a great film fan, loved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and my younger daughter and my grandson, who wears the Ferrari’s registration number NRVOUS on his forearm, have seen it so often they know every line. Paul Gunnion, retired, Glasgow


As a kid who genuinely hated Spielberg for his sentimental streak (ET was the first film I hated as a seven-year-old), Joe Dante’s films were revelatory – funny, clever, dark, full of a love of cinema that would send me hunting for the films that inspired him. More genuine wonder than Spielberg ever managed to achieve. This is not a perfect film but it’s a perfect film for a certain kind of kid, because you feel you could almost be one of the trio. It’s beautiful and very funny, and I adore it. Chris Browning, 47, medical administrator, Todmorden

The Wizard of Oz

It has everything that a children’s (and adult’s) film needs. Vibrant colour, great heroes and villains, unforgettable songs, and, of course, Judy Garland. Kevin Brown, 71, retired RAF officer, north Wales

Time Bandits

A great alternative children’s comedy and foil to the over-produced films that have emerged in recent years. It introduced me to an omniscient Ralph Richardson god; subverted the machismo of Robin Hood and his merry men; provided five minutes of fun on the Titanic; provided slapstick comedy with Napoleon’s love of little people; and, of course, introduced me to Benson the dog (who I later named my pet hound after). Toby Garner, 50, ergonomist, Bristol

It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s funny, it’s got time travel, huge battles, Napoleon and Agamemnon, plus ogres and the Titanic as well as music from one of the Beatles. Can’t imagine as an 11-year-old anything I would have liked better than to travel through time pilfering shoplifting goodies with Randall and his mates, and ultimately defeating evil. Jon Trew, humanist celebrant, south Wales

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

A no-effort or expense-spared thriller based on the 19th-century novel by Jules Verne. Definitive special effects for the time (a giant squid attack) plus a delightfully OTT performance from harpoonist Kirk Douglas, and a man-of-mystery turn by suave James Mason as captain of the Nautilus submarine. At the age of 10 or so I was both thrilled and terrified, especially by the squid and a tribe of cannibals. The film was beautifully shot, superbly paced, and utterly unforgettable. John Lilley, 77, retired, Presteigne

The Iron Giant

A Hollywood version of a Ted Hughes film that Disney failed to market properly should have been absolute tosh, but from the moment I saw it as a 24-year-old in a near-empty cinema in Wolverhampton, through to a now-worn out DVD and today on streaming, I’m astonished every time. Brad Bird’s retro 50s style is fantastic, the Michael Kamen score matches the beats of the plot perfectly, and the voice cast isn’t stunt casting but actors who can really bring characters to life. But it’s Vin Diesel’s Giant that is the heart of the film as he learns to become something more than the weapon he was created to be, and all in just 53 words (you can hear the beginnings of his Groot here). The final sequences with the Giant and Hogarth are beautifully heartbreaking and I then bawl with happiness again at the very end. When I showed it to my nine-year-old I was able to see every moment that I experienced through her face and reactions, and that’s truly special. Tim Colman, 48, writer, Cheshire


It’s not only a great kids movie but one of the best paced and acted movies of all time. It has multiple character arcs: Moana, Maui, Grandma, Father, and Hei Hei the chicken. The music is sublime, especially the lyrics of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Tamatoa the crab’s solo rivals any live action scene. Watch it if only for the conflict between Maui and his alter ego tattoo. Terry, retired, Nevada

Notably absent from the list but ever present in our house is Moana. Our three-year-old daughter loves it. Moana is a great story of female empowerment, with a subtext about man’s impact on the environment. Its child-friendly humour is clever enough for adults to laugh at, and it creates just the right amount of suspense for young minds. Finally, the soundtrack is superb. Dave, 45, civil servant, Hampshire


The film from the late 80s is one for the ages. Here you have battles, deadly sword fights, throwing daggers, trolls, sorcery, epic journeys, animal shapeshifting, one of the greatest movie soundtracks courtesy of James Horner, and exquisite Welsh and New Zealand scenery. Willow convinces the viewer that a gentle and warm heart can prevail in a world of seemingly insurmountable strife. Strongly recommended for anyone of any age who enjoys a bit of adventure and high fantasy. Trevor Attenberg, 40, writer and access technology specialist, Hanoi

Penguins of Madagascar

A fine list, and I’ve shared so many of these films with my children but may I suggest another addition? Penguins of Madagascar – note, not the original Madagascar films. But when those cheeky penguins are given their own (much deserved) spin-off, comedy gold was created. The film is bonkers, pure chaos. Benedict Cumberbatch trying to wrangle the penguins into line plus John Malkovich as the evil octopus! The continual puns – “Kevin! Bake on!” – have both kids and grownups in stitches. Some of my favourite times with my children have been curled up on the sofa, enjoying so many of the films on your list. Thank you for reminding me of them! Emma Graddon-Sims, 39, wedding celebrant, Arundel

The NeverEnding Story

It is my favourite film of all time. I watched it when I was six years old and being a parent now, I made sure that my children watched it. I remember being completely fascinated with the idea of losing myself in a book and that luck dragon … I mean, it is every child’s wish to ride that dragon. Also, “I will do what I dream! I will do what I dream!” is an absolutely brilliant and fundamental message for every child. Luciana Rosado, 42, visual artist and preschool assistant, Cambridge

It is a beautiful film with a dreamscape world that gives a name to loss and thus challenges the “Nothing” that would otherwise eat away at the imagination. Julia Stone, Brighton


It should definitely be on the list – yes, it’s about death, but in the most joyful, entertaining and thoughtful way. It changed the way I feel about death and remembrance. Sarah, London

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

I loved this 1961 film as a 15-year-old so it’s a film for all ages. Fantastic artwork; a lot of suspense and excitement but very suitable for kids; happy ending, of course, where good triumphs; uncanny relevance for today (midnight bark network, animal rights, the females – apart from Cruella – are the sensible ones, greed comes before a fall); great songs and music but subordinate to the storyline; and lots and lots of humour. Perfect for my generation, my kids and now my grandkids. Jeremy Millard, 76, retired, Ry, Denmark