Kids' Holiday Movie Guide 2017

The 2017 holiday movie season has "Star Wars," superheroes, true stories, and more. Find out what to see with your kids this year -- and what to skip! By Frannie Ucciferri
Kids' Holiday Movie Guide 2017

The wait is finally over for some of the most exciting and anticipated movies of the year: We're talking Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and more! Maybe your kids already have their lightsabers ready for Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi. Or maybe they're dying to see the movie version of their favorite book, Wonder. Even history buffs can rejoice, since tons of inspiring true stories are hitting the big screen this year, too.

From animation-loving kids to superhero-loving teens, we've got you covered for your family trip to the movies this holiday season. Use our Holiday Movie Guide, and you'll know exactly what to see -- and what to skip. Don't forget to check back throughout November and December for our full, detailed reviews as more movies hit theaters.


NOVEMBER MOVIES

Thor: Ragnorak Movie Poster

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3)
Target age:
Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? Thor: Ragnarok is the third chapter in Marvel's solo-superhero series about the ancient god of thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). And it's the first to be directed by cult favorite Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows). Following the events of Thor: The Dark World, Thor finds himself captured, without his mighty hammer and far away from the forces that want to destroy his home world, including the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett). Before he can stop the destruction, he must survive a battle with his former ally/fellow Avenger, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Like the previous two Thor movies, this will likely be OK for teens, with some strong language and lots of intense action and fighting but little gore. Just know that moviegoers who haven't seen the previous films or The Avengers movies might have trouble following the story.

Daddy's Home 2 Poster Image

Daddy's Home 2 (Nov. 10)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? Daddy's Home 2 is the sequel to the 2015 co-parenting comedy Daddy's Home, which starred Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. This time around, Dusty (Wahlberg) and Brad (Ferrell) have teamed up to make Christmas perfect for their two families as father and stepfather. But things get complicated when they realize that Dusty's tough-love father (Mel Gibson) and Brad's affectionate dad (John Lithgow) will be arriving for the holidays, too. They'll need to set aside their differences or risk ruining Christmas for everyone. The first movie had plenty of swearing, sexual references, and crass humor, so it's safe to expect more of the same from the sequel.

Murder on the Orient Express Poster Image

Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? Murder on the Orient Express is a suspenseful thriller based on the famous novel by acclaimed mystery author Agatha Christie. While traveling across Europe, 13 strangers are stranded on a train with a murderer among them, and everyone's a suspect. But also on the train is renowned detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), who must solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again. Branagh not only stars but also directs a star-studded cast that includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and more. Expect some violence and heavy themes, but it will likely be OK for teens and mystery lovers.

The Breadwinner Poster Image

The Breadwinner (Nov. 17)
Target age:
Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? The Breadwinner is an animated movie based on the best-selling children's novel by Deborah Ellis about a bold girl from Afghanistan. From the creators of the gorgeously animated Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, this film centers on 11-year-old Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), who lives under Taliban rule in 2001. When her father is arrested, she disguises herself as a boy to provide for her family. Along with her friend Shauzia (Soma Bhatia), another girl in disguise, Parvana risks it all to find out whether her father is still alive. This movie looks like it will have powerful messages and strong role models, but it's also a lot edgier than many animated films. Given the setting, viewers can expect violent imagery and intense themes. But for teens and mature tweens, this story of courage and girl power is likely to give a vivid account of what it's like to grow up in a war zone.

Justice League Poster Image

Justice League (Nov. 17)
Target age:
Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? Justice League is the highly anticipated superhero blockbuster that takes place in the DC Comics universe and follows the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman. In order to save the planet from a catastrophic threat, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) recruit a team of warriors with incredible abilities, including Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). The previous DC movies had plenty of superhero violence and some sexuality (although nothing graphic), and you can probably expect the same here. It will likely be best for mature tweens and teens, but superhero fans of all ages have been waiting a long time for this one.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. Poster Image

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Nov. 17)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a legal drama/thriller about an idealistic defense attorney in Los Angeles who gets caught up in the world of crime. Lawyer/activist Roman Israel (Denzel Washington) has always fought for the most vulnerable defendants, led by his strong sense of ethics. But when his partner dies and he's struggling to make ends meet, Israel accepts an offer from a rich, cutthroat lawyer (Colin Farrell) who's not afraid to bend the rules. The money rolls in, but Israel's moral compass is put to the test. Expect violence and strong language, as well as the possibility of drinking, drug use, and sexuality. There doesn't seem to be much for kids here, but it could be an interesting film for mature teens who like legal dramas.

The Star Poster Image

The Star (Nov. 17)
Target age:
Kids
What's the buzz? The Star is an animated holiday comedy with a talented, diverse voice cast. It centers on a group of animals who accidentally end up heroes during the first Christmas. A small donkey named Bo (voiced by Steven Yuen) dreams of a life beyond his small village, and one day he finds the courage to go on an adventure. Along the way he meets a sheep named Ruth (Aidy Bryant), a dove named Dave (Keegan-Michael Key), three wisecracking camels (Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Morgan, and Tyler Perry), and more plucky animals. They follow a bright star that leads them to a couple named Mary and Joseph (Gina Rodriguez and Zachary Levi). When they find out that the couple's child is in danger, the animals do everything they can to save the day. This is an unconventional take on the birth of Jesus, and you can expect more comic pratfalls and potty humor than most stories about the first Christmas. But overall this looks like a family-friendly holiday comedy.

Wonder Poster Image

Wonder (Nov. 17)
Target age:
Tweens
What's the buzz? Wonder is based on R.J. Palacio's award-winning novel of the same name. It tells the uplifting story of Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a facial difference who goes to school for the first time in fifth grade. His parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson) and the director of his new school (Mandy Patinkin) try to ease his transition, but Auggie just wants to convince his new classmates that he's an average kid. With depictions of bullying, some teen romance, and emotional moments involving Auggie's beloved dog, this movie might be too intense for younger kids, but it looks age-appropriate for tweens and teens and might even encourage them to pick up the book.

Coco Poster Image

Coco (Nov. 22)
Target age:
Kids
What's the buzz? Coco is an animated adventure from Pixar inspired by Mexican folklore related to Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy with a passion for music, hopes to unwrap the mystery surrounding his family's hatred of music. He sets out on a quest full of twists and turns to pursue his dream and understand his history. Always accompanied by his loyal dog companion Dante, Miguel finds himself in the vivid and colorful Land of Dead, where he meets many interesting characters. Expect Pixar's latest to continue the studio's tradition of stunning visuals and emotional stories. But there will also likely be intense scenes with ghosts, skeletons, and other supernatural aspects that could be too much for younger/more sensitive viewers.

Darkest Hour Poster Image

Darkest Hour (Nov. 22)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? Darkest Hour is a political biopic about Winston Churchill as he shapes the fate of the United Kingdom -- and the world -- in the events leading up to World War II. Churchill (Gary Oldman) wasn't the most popular candidate for prime minister, but when he's appointed to the job, he's immediately faced with the growing threat of Nazi Germany. He must decide whether to enter peace negotiations with Hitler or rally his nation to stand up for their ideals against a seemingly unstoppable threat. Even though we know the outcome, this looks like a thrilling depiction of a major event in world history. Expect some swearing, wartime bombings, and tense political drama, but it will likely be fine for teens and history buffs.

The Man Who Invented Christmas Poster Image

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Nov. 22)
Target age:
Kids and tweens
What's the buzz? The Man Who Invented Christmas imagines the story of how Charles Dickens came up with the classic holiday story A Christmas Carol. After a series of flops and a dreadful case of writer's block, Dickens (Dan Stevens) finds himself struggling to come up with his next great story idea -- then the character of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) pops into his head (and his house), full of smart-mouthed opinions. Inspired by Dickens' own friends and neighbors and fueled by his vivid imagination, timeless characters like Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Christmas Past begin to fall into place, but Dickens still has no publisher -- and no ending. This movie looks to combine Victorian seriousness with a dash of humor to create a heartfelt holiday film that will hopefully be fine for big kids and up. But you might want to introduce them to A Christmas Carol first.

 

 

DECEMBER MOVIES

Just Getting Started Poster Image

Just Getting Started (Dec. 8)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? Just Getting Started is an action comedy starring Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. When mobsters threaten the resort where they live, two retirees -- an ex-FBI agent named Leo (Jones) and a former mob lawyer in witness protection named Duke (Freeman) -- must set aside their petty feud to protect their home. Action comedies starring veteran actors have become more and more popular in recent years, and they usually come along with swearing, violence, innuendo, and jokes about aging. There likely won't be much for kids here, but teens might be interested, especially those who are familiar with the cast.

Ferdinand Poster Image

Ferdinand (Dec. 15)
Target age:
Kids
What's the buzz? Ferdinand is an animated, modernized take on the classic picture book The Story of Ferdinand. Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) is a gentle bull who prefers sniffing flowers to fighting in an arena. But when villains see how big and scary-looking he is, they kidnap him to make him fight. He must rely on new friends (voiced by Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, David Tennant, and more) to escape and stay true to himself. The bright, colorful animation goes far beyond the book's ink illustrations, and it's safe to expect lots more slapstick and some rude humor. But overall this looks like a sweet, funny movie that kids and families will enjoy.

Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi Poster Image

Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi (Dec. 15)
Target age:
Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi is the widely anticipated next installment in the Star Wars saga. The film picks up immediately following The Force Awakens, after Force-sensitive scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally tracks down powerful Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train and help the Resistance defeat the First Order. Although most of the plot details are being kept very secret to avoid spoilers, many of the heroes and villains return, including escaped Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), dark warrior Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. If The Last Jedi is anything like The Force Awakens or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you can expect a lot of violence that may be too intense for younger kids, but also great role models and an action-packed adventure that tweens and teens will love.

The Greatest Showman Poster Image

The Greatest Showman (Dec. 20)
Target age:
Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? The Greatest Showman is an original musical inspired by the true story of P. T. Barnum, founder of the three-ring circus. Starting with nothing, Barnum (Hugh Jackman) envisions a grand spectacle of theater, acrobatics, and amusement. He brings together acrobat Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), wealthy apprentice Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and a host of other unusual performers to form a traveling show that sweeps the world. Expect romance, fistfights, and likely some derogatory/dated language, as well as singing and dancing. It's unclear whether the movie will touch on any of the problematic parts of Barnum and his circus or aim more to be a feel-good family musical about celebrating people's differences. Either way, it will likely be fine for tweens and up.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Poster Image

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Dec. 22)
Target age:
Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is an action comedy follow-up to the 1997 film about a dangerous magical board game. But in this sequel, the game gets a high-tech update (sort of) in the form of an '80s video game. Four teens come across the old game console, and upon pressing play, they're pulled into a jungle world -- similarly to what happened to Robin Williams' character in the original Jumanji. But this time, the teens are transformed into the avatars from the game: Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), and Professor Oberon (Jack Black). The four players must not only win the game but also survive deadly peril or be lost forever. The original movie had a dark, scary vibe, but this sequel seems to put a bigger emphasis on the action and humor. Still, it's safe to expect some violence, strong language, and rude humor, especially around the scantily clad Ruby Roundhouse and the teen girl stuck inside the avatar of Professor Oberon.

Pitch Perfect 3 Poster Image

Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec. 22)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? Pitch Perfect 3 is the third chapter in the series of heartfelt comedies about an all-female group of a cappella singers that began with Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2. In this installment, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), and the rest of the Barden Bellas have graduated from college and are struggling to find their place in the world. When they get the opportunity to go on a USO tour, they jump at the chance to perform together again. The first two films had plenty of swearing, innuendo, and comic pratfalls, so it's pretty safe to expect the same this time, as well as the addition of some explosions and action violence. But fans will be excited for more fantastic harmonizing to popular pop songs -- and strong sisterhood bonds.

The Post Poster Image

The Post (Dec. 22)
Target age:
Teens
What's the buzz? The Post is a Steven Spielberg-directed drama inspired by the intense legal and political battle surrounding the publication of the Pentagon Papers. In 1971, a classified study revealing a cover-up related to the Vietnam War was leaked. This prompted The Washington Post's larger-than-life editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) to publish a series of articles revealing the papers' true nature. What followed was a landmark Supreme Court case pitting the government versus journalists as the limits and rights of the free press took the spotlight. This could be a compelling film for teens, given the folks involved and society's current interest in politics and journalism.

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About Frannie Ucciferri

As associate managing editor, Frannie Ucciferri makes sure each of Common Sense Media's more than 30,000 reviews and 700 curated lists is as complete and comprehensive as possible. Frannie is a graduate of UC Berkeley,... Read more

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