9 Movies That Might Be Better Than Star Wars

If your kid wants more, less, or just something different from Han, Luke, and Leia, check out these sci-fi alternatives. By Betsy Bozdech

Need somewhere to go after you visit that galaxy far, far away? Or is your kid not quite ready for lightsaber duels and blaster battles? We've picked a few of our sci-fi favorites for adventure lovers of all stripes and ages; each has something that makes it a little bit different from the Star Wars saga. Just remember to check out detailed movie reviews to look for potential content issues before you push play.

(And if your kids aren't interested in anything that doesn't have stormtroopers and X-wings in it, be sure to check out our Star Wars Age-by-Age Guide for movies, TV shows, apps, books, and more.)

Less violent: E.T., age 7+
Not only is this '80s favorite a sci-fi adventure with unforgettable images, it's also a touching family drama and a beautiful exploration of a unique friendship. And though there's plenty of suspense and peril, there's not much in the way of heavier violence.

Friendlier aliens: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, age 8+
Steven Spielberg's thrilling, thoughtful first-contact story unfolds with extraordinary power. And the plot is so different from many other alien movies: It says not only is "something" out there but it's something wonderful. Still, watch out for some scary and spooky moments.

For classic movie fans: The Day the Earth Stood Still, age 9+
One of the finest science-fiction movies of the 1950s, this classic about a charismatic alien retains its impact and dignity. Yes, it's old-fashioned, but the message of non-violence could spur good family discussions about the importance of world peace.

More time travel: Back to the Future, age 10+
This fun, fast-paced start to Michael J. Fox's beloved time-travel trilogy brims with lighthearted energy (and might teach today's kids a thing or two about the '80s). Watch out for some strong language and scenes with characters in jeopardy.

​Trekkier: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, age 10+
If your family is more U.S.S. Enterprise than Millennium Falcon, this is widely considered the best of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock's adventures. Both thrilling and philosophical, it has scary and violent moments (and a very sad death) but can still spark meaningful conversations.

More girl power: Arrival, age 11+
This deeply thoughtful drama about trying to communicate with aliens rather than defeat them presents battle and war as last resorts. Plus, it champions education, compassion, and curiosity and has a strong female lead character (played by Amy Adams). 

Spoofier: Spaceballs, age 11+
This sci-fi spoof isn't subtle. But funny? Absolutely, if you like your comedy broad, crass, and silly. Even those who haven't seen the Star Wars movies it pokes fun at will get a kick out of Mel Brooks' popular parody.

Real science: The Martian, age 12+
Lots of sci-fi movies are far more "fiction" than "science" -- but not this one. It's a smart, action-packed, all-around perfect adventure for families with curious, science-loving teens and older tweens.

More off the wall: Men in Black, age 12+
Part comedy, part science-fiction parody, and part action film, this creature feature/buddy flick just keeps throwing elements into the pot. Older kids will love the combination of irreverent humor, great chase sequences, and gross-out special effects.

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About Betsy Bozdech

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Betsy's experiences working in online parenting and entertainment content were the perfect preparation for her role as Common Sense's executive editor of ratings and reviews. After earning bachelor's and master's... Read more

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Comments (4)

Kid, 12 years old

E.T. may be less violent, but may be more of every other topics that will make a parent's head blow up in a second.
Adult written by Virat P.

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Adult written by Fabiola C.

Be aware that the Martian has the use of language (F-word) and brief nudity (from behind). I am actually surprised it is included on this list. Some of the politics/ dilemma might be hard for kids to understand.
Parent of a 9 year old written by dbowker3d

Surprised Interstellar wasn't mentioned. Admittedly for older kids, but it's hard to think of a more compelling and TRULY science based sci-fi movie. However, have you actually watched Close Encounters lately? Don't get me wrong, it is an amazing film, but... Close Encounters is much more about the social and personal implications of our world being contacted by life from another planet, than traditional adventure oriented sci-fi. It's often beautiful but the effects are few and far between; younger kids will be mostly bored and terrified in equal measures. It's also a very long story, and basically nothing is spelled out for the audience. The overall tone of the movie, while eventually hopeful and inspiring, for many of the main characters is one of dread and confusion. You'd be hard pressed to find an adult role model in the whole movie, save for Francois Truffaut's scientist character. It's also got some very serious scenes of mental breakdown, with the main family completely falling apart, and a great deal of very realistic adult type of content. In fact, the main character played by Richard Dreyfuss essentially abandons his family in order to pursue his compulsion to find out what the mystery of these alien ships are about. Again, ALL of which contribute to it being such an excellent movie of course! But it ALSO means it cannot simply be summarized as just a "less violent Star Wars" with friendlier aliens (which are only seen after about 90 minutes.


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