If your kid is interested in space and science-fiction themes, trying to find good movies to show them can be a difficult task as the number of options is low. Special effects for space movies are expensive to make so studios try to stay away from them unless they think they have a hit in their hands.

For this reason, we have compiled a list of the best space movies for children. We have included the ratings for each film so you know when it is a good time to introduce kids to each of them and when it might be more appropriate to wait a couple years to do so.

Movies can be a great source of inspiration to get kids interested in astronomy and all things space. The themes, animations, and challenges featured in these movies can spark their curiosity, wake up their imagination and drive them to study and research more about our Universe.

How we selected the movies on this list

For our selection we went mostly with modern movies (2000s and up) as kids will be more likely to stay interested when the special effects and animation quality are better. Believe us, we know some classic movies are way better than some of our selections, but these days it is hard to get children to watch a movie that has worse CGI than the games on their phones.

We also focused on films that take place mostly in outer space. While some movies that happen mostly on earth could be classified as “space movies”, we chose to left them out.

Finally, some great films like Interstellar or Gravity have been left out as they feature more complex subjects and are not necessarily made for kids.

Finally, the list isn’t sorted in any specific order. We believe all of them are worth a try.

Zathura: A Space Adventure

Zathura; A Space Adventure

If there is one common thread that jumps out between all the movies on this list is a good percentage of them are unfairly underrated.

Zathura is a spiritual sequel to Jumanji that happened when trilogies weren’t that popular and studios looked at other ways to keep a franchise going. The premise is very similar; two brothers find an old, mysterious board game that teleports them, along with the entire house and their older sister to outer space. The three siblings then start their adventure and try to finish the game and return home safely.

The cast for this movie would make Zathura an instant box office success today. You have a young Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games, Polar Express), Kristen Stewart (Twilight saga, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Dax Shepard. On top of that, the movie is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book).

Zathura is a charming, smart film full of life lessons about family and growing up. Parents will also enjoy it as the humor isn’t dumbed down.

While Jumanji is a great movie, Zathura is still my favorite out of the two and I think many science-oriented kids will have a similar experience and quickly add it to their favorites list.

The good: Great acting and directing. Special effects are simple but have stood the test of time.
The bad: Story could have more depth. If you have seen Jumanji, it can be predictable.

Recommended age: 7+

Treasure Planet

Treasure Planet

Before Disney bought Pixar to fix it, their animation studio was going through a rough patch where they released some pretty bad movies (I’m looking at you, Valiant). During this era, some of the good work they did went unnoticed as people weren’t rushing to the cinemas for every new release. On top of that, Disney ended up having a feud with the directors of this film over some creative choices and decided to basically let it fail by not marketing it enough. Treasure Planet suffered from circumstances around it that had nothing to do with its quality and even if it’s not the best animated movie ever made, it did a lot of things right it and didn’t deserve all the hate it got.

Treasure Planet is a space version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. It follows the adventures of Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a fifteen-year-old who receives a map from a pirate and embarks upon a quest to find Treasure Planet, the mysterious place where the legendary Captain Nathaniel Flint hid all his loot. Hawkins joins a crew formed by unique characters, including the cyborg John Silver with whom he develops a bit of a father-son relationship.

The movie is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) and you could tell it was a passion project for them. The world-building is one of the richest and most detailed things you will ever see in a Disney movie. The original material helps a lot in this regard as the places and character are really fleshed out in the book.

Treasure planet is full of emotional moments and has a lot of lessons about paternal figures. If you missed it when it came out, it is a good time to give it an opportunity and watch it with your kids.

The good: Emotional story, beautiful art, rich world-building.
The bad: The 2d-3d combination can make it look a bit dated.

Recommended age: 6+

Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets

This is the only movie produced outside the U.S. in this list, but you probably wouldn’t have found out if I hadn’t told you because it looks like a Hollywood movie. Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets has a budget of $180 million and currently holds the record for the highest budget for a foreign independent film. The story is loosely based on a series of French comics named Valérian and Laureline that feature the adventures of the two young agents traveling through space-time finding trouble along the way.

Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets is set in the 28th century. Humanity has moved into space aboard a traveling city named Alpha, co-inhabited by many other alien species. In this city, Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline are part of a peace-keeping force.

During a dream, Valerian receives a message coming from the princes of a planet named Mül and is telepathically linked to her. The adventure starts when he and Laureline set out to find something a Mül Converter, a being that is said to replicate anything it eats to try to find out what the message meant. From that point forward, Valerian turns into a movie that tries to serve as a warning of the unseen consequences of war.

The movie is visually stunning and the special effects are on par with anything that Hollywood could produce. The artwork and world development are great, especially when it comes to the planet Mül and its people. The movie does suffer a bit in terms of writing and lack of rhythm, but if you are tired of the classic Hollywood formula, it might be right for you.

The good: Visually impressive, peaceful message.
The bad: Slow plot, less action than what you would expect from a space movie.

Recommended age: 10+

Escape From Planet Earth

From all the movies listed in this article, this might be the one that is less entertaining for parents and older crowds, but kids will find it super funny.

As the name suggests, Escape From Planet Earth is about a group of aliens from the planet Baab that are captured by an evil military general who is looking to get rid of all aliens. The group, led by Baab’s hero named Scorch and his brother Gary then try to escape “The Dark Planet”, as they call earth.

The voice cast might be one of the better things about this movie, with names like William Shatner, Jessica Alba, Brendan Fraser, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The movie is fun, well animated and the character designs are well done. Older viewers, however, might not find much here as the film doesn’t try to do anything new.

The good: Funny, great voice-overs.
The bad: Predictable plot.

Recommended age: 5+

Titan A.E.

How about a space movie co-written by Joss Whedon, directed by Don Bluth and Gary Oldman starring the voices of Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore that no one remembers?

Like a lot of commercially failed sci-fi movies, Titan A.E. suffered from being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The story is great but I believe the premise might have been too heavy for an animated movie at the time and it could have done better if it was a live action film instead. It simply didn’t have the type of humor and silliness moviegoers were accustomed to with animated movies. It never breaks into a musical number and instead features a rock soundtrack. Proof of this theory that is would have been a better live action movie is the Battlestar Galactica series that came out a few years after and was a success while having basically the same premise.

Titan A.E. starts with earth being destroyed by a race of blue aliens made of energy named Drej. Professor Sam Tucker sends his son Cale on an evacuation ship while he escapes piloting the Titan, a spacecraft that could be the last hope for humanity. Surviving humans wander in space for several years, homeless, until fifteen years later Cale is contacted by Captain Joseph Korso, who tells him he has an encoded map with the location of the Titan on a ring his father gave him. The Drej attack again but Cale, Korso and his crew manage to escape and so their search for the Titan begins.

Titan A.E. is targetted towards a different audience than the rest of the animated movies in this list. It is for an audience a bit more mature. It is best watched once you have a bit of experience with other sci-fi works so while we definitely recommend it, don’t start with it.

The good: Interesting premise, great production, and cast.
The bad: The 3D parts look dated, not for everyone.

Recommended age: 9+

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I know, I know. Episode I is arguably the worst movie out of the main Star Wars saga, so why are we recommending it? Simple: because it is actually the best one to introduce kids to Star Wars.

Think about it, Phantom Menace is the only movie that stars a kid in one of the main roles, so you immediately get a character they can relate to. It also has a story every child dreams about: Anakin is chosen by a group of cool space knights to leave his boring life and train to save the universe and travel having adventures. I know that was a common fantasy for eight-year-old me. Finally, you have the fatherly, wise, “cool uncle” in Qui-Gon Jin, the pretty princess Padme and cool pod races and space battles. It is understandable that seasoned fans don’t like Episode I, but when you put yourself in the shoes of a kid that has no other context, it is just space fantasy.

Starting with Episode I and eventually finishing the prequel trilogy will also allow you to quickly introduce them to the animated series Clone Wars (after Episode II) and Star Wars: Rebels (after episode III), both of which are great shows even for adult Star Wars fans.

The good: Relatable stories, cool battles
The bad: The other Star Wars movies are better, Jar Jar…

Follow up movies: Star Wars: Attack of The Clones, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Original Trilogy, Modern trilogy.

Recommended age: 7+

Planet 51

What happens when humans are the alien species? Planet 51 is a movie that tries to explore this subject and reverse the human-alien roles by having humans be the strange species on a planet.

Captain Chuck Baker is the first astronaut to land on Planet 51, a planet humans thought to be empty until Baker finds it is actually populated by an intelligent civilization of green beings whose society coincidentally resembles 1950’s America.

Planet 51 is a fun, good looking movie for kids but adults will find it a lot less entertaining as the premise is too familiar and a bit cliche (it’s basically E.T. in reverse).

The good: Sharp animation, The Rock’s voice fits Chuck Baker perfectly.
The bad: Adults have seen this story before, the humor might not be for everyone.

Recommended Age: 5+

Green Lantern: First Flight

Green Lantern: First Flight

For many years, DC animation studio has done way more justice to their characters than the Warner Brothers movies. From their animated works have come some of the best superhero movies ever made and they have learned the formula to make them good.

Green Lantern: First Flight is a good example of this as it is a way better movie than the disaster that starred Ryan Reynolds. First Flight is also an origin story telling the tale of how Hal Jordan, a fearless Air Force pilot is given a powerful ring that materializes any object he can think about and goes on to join the greatest space cops force in the universe.

The movie is produced by legendary director Bruce Timm, who you might remember from the amazing DC Batman and Superman animated series from the 90s.

If you or your children enjoy this movie, you can follow it up by watching Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, which might be an even better movie but it does require some context on the Green Lantern Corps that you get from First Flight.

Just be aware some of the themes in the movie might be a bit dark for younger kids and it contains language that some might consider strong.

The good: Great animation, direction, heroic actions.
The bad: It’s the same origin story you might have seen multiple times.

Recommended Age: 10+

Wall-e

Wall-e

This list couldn’t be complete without one of Pixar’s masterpieces. In 2008 Wall-e conquered our hearts and impressed us by being so human and emotional despite the fact the main characters were robots.

If for some reason you have lived under a rock the past 10 years and haven’t watched it, here’s a short synopsis. Wall-e is a trash-compacting robot whose task is to clean Earth after it has been abandoned by humans after it became inhabitable due to extreme pollution. Humanity escapes aboard a ship called the Axiom and every once in a while they send probes to Earth to check if the pollution levels have lowered and the planet can sustain life again. On one of these trips, one of the robots tasked with finding life on Earth called EVE finds a small plant that managed to survive on Earth and meets Wall-e. Their adventure begins as EVE tries to notify the captain of the Axiom about her finding and Wall-e follows her.

Wall-e has been voted one of the best 100 films of the 21st century and has won a huge amount of awards, including the golden globe to Best Animated Film. The movie is beautiful, well directed, fun, emotional and leaves you thinking with its eco-positive message. If there’s one movie in the list that you and your kids can’t miss is this one. It’s a wonderful film.

The good: All of it.
The bad: The ecological message might be too much for some people.

Recommended age: 4+

Spark: A Space Tail

Spark: A SpaceTail

Here’s one for the younger crowd. Spark: A Space Tail is a 2017 animated movie from a new-ish company named Global Road Entertainment starring the voices of Jessica Biel, Patrick Stewart and Hillary Swank amongst others.

In the story, Spark’s planet has been destroyed by the evil general Zhong, whose goal is to take over the universe. When Zhong tries to use the weapon he used to destroy the planet again, it is up to Spark and his friends to stop him and discover the secrets of his past along the way.

Spark: A Space Tail doesn’t try to be a sophisticated story nor it bothers to try new things, but that’s exactly why it is a solid kids movie and a great introduction for them to some themes.

The good: Character design, colorful art.
The bad: Simple, cliched story.

Recommended age: 4+

Ender’s Game

Ender's Game

Ender’s game is the movie adaptation of the first book of the classic sci-fi series by Orson Scott Card with the same name.

The story takes place in the distant future and centers around a kid named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a space cadet of Earth’s International Fleet, a force created in the future to train commanders from a young age in preparation of a possible war against a race called The Formics. These aliens had attacked Earth decades prior and killed millions. Ender is considered a prodigy in his class and calls the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff, played by Harrison Ford, who promotes him to a more advanced group of cadets.

The film touches on many themes around war and militarization but manages to focus enough on the characters to be more of a “coming of age” story. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t do well enough commercially to merit adapting some of the other books of the series where you can actually see Ender’s growth.

If you haven’t watched Ender’s Game previously and you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and do not watch the trailer as it spoils a major plot twist and steals away one of the most emotional moments in the movie.

The good: Deep story, will get you thinking.
The bad: The book is better.

Recommended age: 10+

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy took everyone by surprise when they took some c-list Marvel characters and with the right cast and director, released one of the most fun and entertaining space adventures.

Guardians is the story of a ragtag group of mercenaries, assassins and lost souls that become accidental heroes of the universe when they set out to stop Ronan the Accuser from getting his hands on a powerful stone that would grant him incredible destructive power. The movie balances the seriousness of the situation by using well-timed jokes and music.

Even though it is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy can be enjoyed as a stand-alone film. The sequel, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is also great and keeps the same humor and style.

The good: Funny, fast, full of action.
The bad: The villain isn’t developed enough.

Recommended age: 8+

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