The Best Kids' Films to Watch with Your Class

Kids Films

The Best Kids’ Films to Watch with Your Class

As we wind down towards the end of the school year, we get more opportunities to relax with our pupils after the stress of exams and end-of-year tests. Whilst watching a kids’ film in class has become a staple of UK schools in the final weeks of term, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this can’t give you a learning opportunity.

Many children’s films have an educational or moral message, and by discussing the films that you watch in these terms, you can transform sitting in front of the TV into a learning experience.

We’ve created a list of our favourite kids’ films and documentaries that we think will provide more than entertainment for your class.

1. Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo gives you an opportunity to explore an underwater world, and the huge variety of life that can be found under the sea. Whilst fundamentally being a story about bravery, persistence and family devotion, the film also looks at perceptions of disability (Nemo’s weak fin doesn’t hold him back) and grief, with Marlin struggling to let go of his son after the loss of Nemo’s mother and siblings.

2. Charlie and the Chocolate factory (1971)

The lessons from this classic kids’ film are clear. Poor, but honest, Charlie Bucket becomes the heir of the chocolate factory by being trustworthy and honest. He is contrasted against the other golden-ticket winning children, who all receive their comeuppance as a result of their bad faults, which include greed, being spoiled, not listening to adult warnings and watching too much TV.

3. Imba Means Sing (2015)

This inspiring documentary film, currently available on Netflix, follows three children as they travel the world with the African Children’s Choir. Many of the children in the choir have lost one or both parents to AIDS and other poverty-related diseases, and all of them are victims of extreme poverty. The choir uses performances to raise money to fund the children’s education and they spread joy wherever they perform.

4. Babe (1995)

Babe teaches children that they can achieve anything if they set their mind to it and try their hardest, even becoming a sheep-herding pig! As Babe eventually wins over all of the farm animals, even the sheep, this fantastic kids’ film also shows that if you treat people respectfully you will earn respect in return.

5. Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

Perfect for pupils who have been studying the environment and conservation, Ferngully is set in an Australian rainforest where loggers and pollution are destroying the habitat. After watching the film, you could discuss the modern destruction of rainforests in Indonesia as a result of the world-wide demand for palm-oil, which is leading to the loss of habitats for many endangered animals and homes for indigenous peoples.

6. Wadjda (2012)

For older pupils, Wadjda tells the story of a young girl living in Saudi Arabia and her struggles to be treated the same as her male counterparts. Through showing the lives of Wadjda, her mother and her grandmother, the film explores the limitations and issues faced by women in the country.

7. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Widely considered to be one of the best films of all time, The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy and her band of friends as they each travel to find the wizard so that he can help them to fix their problems. At the end of the film they each discover that they had what they needed to fix the problem themselves all along.

8. The Lion King (1994)

Exploring grief, friendship and destiny, The Lion King explores the impact of losing a parent and facing up to your mistakes. Our favourite kids’ film here at PTS, and loosely based on Hamlet, The Lion King could provide an introduction to the bard’s work, or act as a contrast to the play for older pupils.

9. Wings of Life (2011)

Narrated by Meryl Streep, this beautiful Disneynature documentary, explains the importance of flowers and pollinators: birds, bats and butterflies. The documentary follows the journey of these pollinators, some of whom travel amazing distances to pollinate a very specific flower. A third of the world’s food supply depends on these incredible – and increasingly threatened – creatures. Teachers can use the Disney-created educator guide as a learning support resource.

10. Matilda (1996)

The second Roald Dahl adaptation on our list, Matilda tells the story of a little girl who is cleverer than the majority of adults around her and loves nothing more than reading books. Your pupils will love the tricks that Matilda plays on the adults, but the film has a more serious message too and celebrates unconventional family dynamics. Matilda struggles to fit into her own family and often feels trapped and bullied by her parents, but eventually she finds happiness when she is adopted by her favourite teacher.

11. March of the Penguins (2005)

If you’re struggling in your classroom due to the summer sun, take your mind off the heatwave by watching March of the Penguins. Set in frozen Antarctica, this feature-length documentary depicts the yearly journey of emperor penguins. Children will love these lovely creatures, especially the cute chicks, but they will also learn a lot about life in Antarctica and the importance of endurance for a successful life.

12. Wall-E (2008)

This beautiful film, with fantastic characters, is a huge hit with children of all ages. The film has a strong environmental theme, showing the impact of humanity’s disregard for the natural world which has been left with not visible signs of life. The humans themselves have become obese and feeble as a result of their sedentary lifestyle. It serves as a great warning that we must look after our planet but is also a wonderfully engaging film.

13. Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out is a brilliant kids’ film to help you to introduce discussions of mental health into the classroom. It is set inside the mind of a young girl, as her five key emotions, Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust (who are personified), try to navigate her through a difficult transition to a new home and school. It’s a great film for helping pupils to recognize how personalities and emotions develop as they get older.

14. Born to be Wild (2011)

Born to be Wild is a 40-minute documentary which follows the rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild of orphaned orangutans and elephants. Narrated by Morgan Freeman and with stunning cinematography, this fantastic film is both heart-warming and eye-opening. It focuses on the impact of poaching, over-farming, industrialization and population growth on our ecosystems and wildlife.

15. The Book Thief (2013)

Perfect for watching with older pupils who have been studying the second world war; this fantastic film follows a young girl living with her adoptive German family during the Nazi era. After being taught to read, Leisel starts to ‘borrow’ books and share them with the Jewish refugee who is being sheltered in her home. This is a wonderful historical film about the Nazi occupation and the persecution of the Jews seen through the eyes of a child. As this is a PG film, you may need to gain parental consent to watch this film with your class.

16. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Whilst fundamentally a caper about a giant rabbit eating all of the town’s prize vegetables, this Wallace and Gromit film also comments on society’s obsession with staying slim, the dangers of animal/human experimentation (echoing Frankenstein’s monster) and vegetarianism.

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