Top 15 Educational Movies for Children

Top 15 Educational Movies for Children

Most parents worry about screen time, and just how much is appropriate for children. But now more than ever, we also need ways to keep them entertained.

Enter educational movies. The best of both worlds, the films on our list not only captivate children, but support a growth mindset, perseverance and learning, too. These stories demonstrate how to build resilience and model overcoming adversities of every kind.

For an added boost, consider watching the below recommendations together with your child. Studies have shown co-viewing supports everything from bonding to the development of early literacy skills and empathy

So the next time you settle onto the couch together, let go of your screen time worries. And watch these 15 must-see films instead — ones that will spark your child’s interests and help them develop the mindset crucial for a full, happy life.

*Reminder: Please preview or read about the suggested movies to ensure they are appropriate for your child.

15 Educational Movies for Children
Bethany Hamilton Unstoppable

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2018)

Born in Hawaii, Bethany gained her first surfing sponsorship at the age of nine. But when she loses her arm in a brutal tiger shark attack, many fear she will give up on her dreams. Unstoppable captures the incredible power of perseverance and continuing to ride the waves even after a storm.

Rating PG

Dream Big

Dream Big (2017)

Narrated by Jeff Bridges, this stunning documentary aims to transform the way we think about engineering. Engineer Menzer Pehlivan travels across the world, from New York City to the Great Wall of China, to learn about building earthquake-resistant structures (and saving lives). When the film ends, have a look at the educational resources, including lesson plans and hands on activities, Dream Big provides.

Documentary

Born to Be Wild

Born to Be Wild (2011)

This is a film about second chances for orphaned animals and the incredible humans dedicated to rescuing them. The work of Dr. Birute with orangutans and Daphne Sheldrick with elephants will inspire children and show how love and kindness can help rehabilitate even the most vulnerable among us. Future preservationists will be motivated to protect animals from poaching and other human incursions that lead to their abandonment.

Rating G

A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean (2016)

On a hunt for the endangered blue whale, director Craig Leeson discovers the harsh truth about plastic waste in our oceans. Leeson travels to 20 locations around the globe to reveal the havoc created by mass-produced plastic. But instead of feeling hopeless, this film highlights the simple choices children can make to be good stewards of the environment.

Rating TV-14

Pick of the Litter

Pick of the Litter (2018)

This heartwarming documentary follows five puppies on their quest to become guide dogs for the blind. The two-year training period is intense and not every puppy will make the cut. But even those who don’t will find a “career change” that still allows them to lead a happy life with their owners.

Rating PG

Wings of Life

Wings of Life (2013)

As the film opens, we’re reminded “life depends on little things we take for granted.” The little things, including hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, are captured with time-lapse and high-speed techniques to beautiful effect. Children will also learn that a third of the world’s food supply depends on these tiny creatures.

Rating G

Girls Rock

Girls Rock! (2007)

If you’re looking for a film to build your child’s confidence, look no further. This girl power documentary follows four pre-teen and teen girls as they choose an new instrument and write a song. When they perform a concert for an audience of 700, your child can only  be inspired by their bravery!

Documentary

The Mitchells VS The Machines

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)

No list of children’s movies would be complete without an animated film and this one doesn’t disappoint. Teenager Katie Mitchell narrates the challenges of battling a machine  apocalypse with her “dysfunctional” family. She soon learns perceived weaknesses can sometimes be our greatest strengths.

Rating PG

Mad Hot Ballroom

Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

Students from several New York City elementary schools prepare for an annual ballroom-dancing competition. Watch as these young dancers show how effort and dedication result in positive outcomes, even in the face of absent parents and dangerous neighborhoods. The awkwardness of dancing with the opposite sex may also feel familiar (and amusing) to children.

Rating PG

Paper Clips

Paper Clips (2004)

In rural Tennessee, a middle school class’s attempt to grasp the enormity of the Holocaust leads to a simple and profound idea. Students decide to collect enough paper clips to represent each of the lives lost in the genocide of European Jews. Compelling interviewees include Holocaust survivors, students, teachers, and even those who sent in paperclips.

Rating G

I Am Eleven

I Am Eleven (2011)

Inspired by her happy memories of being an 11 year old, Australian filmmaker Genevieve Bailey travels through 15 countries to examine the lives of children at this pivotal age. Bailey’s questions about love, war and religion reveal the commonalities shared by adolescents— from a group of girls in an Indian orphanage to a boy in London.

Biography

Jane

Jane (2017)

This film is drawn from never-before-seen footage of one of the world’s most beloved conservationists. Whether or not children know the story of Jane Goodall, her struggles as a student and budding scientist will feel relatable. Initially nervous about going into the wild, Goodall soon gains the trust of the chimpanzees she studies, and  in doing so, is able to connect us to their world.

Rating PG

Spellbound

Spellbound (2002)

A documentary that sparked an entire genre, Spellbound follows eight students from across the country as they compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz travels to Washington, D.C. to capture the grit of finalists like Ashley White, who overcome incredible odds just to compete. The importance of daily practice and hard work is highlighted.

Rating G

Ghost of the Mountains

Ghost of the Mountains (2017)

Searching for a family of snow leopards on the highest plateau on earth, filmmakers endure dangerous terrain, terrible weather and elusive subjects (hence the name ‘ghost’). Inspired by the cats that make this harsh world their home, the Disneynature film crew perseveres. But will they reach their goal of filming a mother snow leopard with her babies?

Rating G

Paper Planes

Paper Planes (2014)

12-year-old Dylan is passionate about flight. Discovering his knack for folding and flying paper airplanes, Dylan is quickly swept up into the World Paper Plane Championships. It is there he meets a rival in the form of Jason, whose behavior only helps motivate Dylan further. But it’s his new friend Kimi who says it best: “Winning and losing doesn’t matter, it’s about making something beautiful and surprising.”

Not Rated

All screen time isn’t created equal. But we’ve made the task of identifying educational movies for children easy. The films on our list will help instill a love of learning, growth mindset and perseverance in your child. Each selection reveals how facing life’s challenges — in the form of nature, others or ourselves — can lead to incredible growth. And remember co-viewing has powerful benefits, so don’t hesitate to snuggle up together to watch!

2 thoughts on “Top 15 Educational Movies for Children

  1. avatar Big Life Journal says:

    So glad you found the post helpful!

  2. avatar Avni says:

    Helpful post.

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