The best movies for children involve stories that capture their imaginations. Any science fiction story demands a stretch of the imagination, asking viewers to visualize great expanses of outer space and technology capable of performing a limitless number of fantastic tasks. As a result, there are many sci-fi movies for kids. Amazing images and action-packed concepts keep young audiences entertained and engaged.
Aliens are probably just as popular as dinosaurs with children, and both can be included in a science fiction plot. Here are some of the most exciting and must see sci-fi movies for kids (that parents will likely love, as well).
The film Zathura: A Space Adventure is loosely based on the illustrated novel Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg, who is also the author of Jumanji. The resemblance between the two stories is clear, as Zathura may be called a space version of Jumanji. In this instance, we have children discovering a mysterious space-themed board game.
Zathura is filled with exciting sci-fi tropes, such as aliens, astronauts, cryogenic sleep, meteors, and robots. The child actors in this film include Josh Hutcherson, who kids may recognize as Peeta from another popular sci-fi movie, The Hunger Games, and Jonah Bobo, as well as a young Kristen Stewart. The great graphics and twists in the adventure make it one of the must see sci-fi movies for kids.
The Iron Giant
Hardly the most popular movie on the list of sci-fi movies for kids, The Iron Giant is a unique underground sci-fi favorite that kids will love. The idea of a robot companion is appealing to adults as well as children, and this endearing story of a little boy who befriends a giant alien robot will likely touch the heart of any viewer. This film was also the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who is known for his popular Pixar movies The Incredibles and Ratatouille. It stands as one of the last great 2D animated films before the boom of 3D computer animation.
The story is set in the Cold War era, and is about a young boy named Hogarth who finds a 50' robot that cannot remember where it came from. The film features the voice acting talents of Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, Vin Diesel, and Harry Connick Jr.
Back to the Future
An oldie but a goodie! For a simple and appropriate story of time travel, Back to the Future is probably one of the best sci-fi movies for kids. The movie tells the story of charming seventeen-year-old Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), who plays guitar and skateboards, and the bug-eyed inventor “Doc” Brown, portrayed by Christopher Lloyd, who serves as his mentor. The concept of a time-traveling car is the perfect way to introduce the complicated idea of time travel to a kid. No crazy machinery and long-winded science—just a DeLorean.
This film was incredibly popular when it first came out—the highest grossing film released in 1985—and its popularity led to two sequels. The entire series has stood the test of time, and the film is still popular today. A new generation of parents is introducing their children to one of the must see sci-fi movies for kids, which will encourage its cultural significance to continue for years to come.
Though ghosts may seem more supernatural than science fiction at first, the contraptions used by the scientists to reign in the slimy ghosts in Ghostbusters are exactly the kind of gadgets expected in sci-fi movies for kids. This film is unique in the way that the characters approach the supernatural concept of ghosts, which might be something that frightens kids, with the cool and reassuring logic of science.
This one of the best sci-fi movies for kids thanks to the comedic aspect. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson are hilarious in their roles in this movie. It would be a mistake not to introduce kids to the ghost-tackling team in this 1984 classic sci-fi flick! After all, they need to be introduced to the source of the catchy Academy Award-winning theme: “Who you gonna call?”
Earth to Echo
Produced by Relativity Media, Earth to Echo is a unique sci-fi movie for kids that follows four young friends. Construction has begun in their neighborhood, which leads them to receive encoded, odd messages on their phones. The kids work hard to decipher the code and upon their success, they are led to an alien robot who is in need of their assistance.
They embark on an adventure in sci-fi fashion that is complete with mystery and the extraterrestrial. The graphics and technology used to make this film make it a must see sci-fi movie for kids.
Flight of the Navigator
Many millennials who grew up in the 1980s will remember this fun sci-fi movie for kids, and now it’s time for them to pass Flight of the Navigator onto their own kids. The story involves a number of cool-looking science fiction elements, such as an alien robot, interactive space ship, and time travel. A young boy accidentally travels eight years into the future and ends up locked up by the government. Considering this film came out in the mid-80s, the graphics are impressive and the robot companion and advanced space ship still hold up over time.
This movie also features the voice talents of Paul Reubens as Max—kids and adults might recognize his voice from The Peewee Herman Show.
Meet the Robinsons
Disney’s Meet the Robinsons is a sci-fi movie for kids that tells the heart-warming adventure story of an orphan named Lewis. The blond and bespectacled Lewis loves to invent fantastic contraptions, and after a series of events, he travels to the future in a time machine. There, he meets a large and strange family named the Robinsons. The comical villain and his inventive attempts to capture Lewis will make kids and adults laugh, and the colorful and beautiful computer animation will keep even small kids’ attentions.
The film’s story is very inspiring and positive. The expansive cast of the movie features the voice acting talents of many stars, such as Tom Selleck, Angela Bassett, Adam West, and Nicole Sullivan. The movie even includes another thing kids love—a dinosaur.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Another fun sci-fi movie for kids brought to us by Disney, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a family film very much in the sense that it follows the exploits of a family. This was the directorial debut of Joe Johnston, who went on to make other popular children’s movies like Jumanji and Pagemaster. The title gives the plot away: an inventor (Rick Moranis, who was also in Ghostbusters) accidentally shrinks his children and discards them in the backyard, and the kids must make it back to the house while being only a quarter of an inch tall.
The film is a fun and innovative family adventure that often gets forgotten, though it was a box office success when it first came out.
Young kids may not be as familiar with Michael Jordan as the previous generations, but that won’t stop them from loving the antics of the Looney Tunes characters that play half of the cast of Space Jam, one of the best sci-fi movies for kids. Also, us older folks might have forgotten that this story is actually technically sci-fi: we have invading aliens in the form of the opposing team that Michael Jordan must defeat in a basketball game to save planet Earth. Of course!
This movie is also a great combination of sports and science fiction adventure. As can be expected, there’s a ton of basketball in this movie. This is a great way for a kid to get their sports and alien fix at the same time.
Disney has quite a lot of movies on this list—apparently they are a great source for sci-fi movies for kids. WALL-E is an adorable Disney addition that even small children will love, thanks to the cute characters and colorful, intricate settings. The story begins with a future Earth dystopia (sci-fis love their dystopias) that has been abandoned by humans. The titular WALL-E is a scrappy little robot left with the enormous task of cleaning up all the garbage left behind on planet Earth. This might not seem like the right setup for an endearing tale of love, but by the end of the movie we end up with a story of true love between robots.
Kids will enjoy the various little robots imagined for Earth’s future. This film also has a whopping 96 percent “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so the entire family is sure to be impressed with the heart-warming storyline and visually stunning setting.
E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial
You can’t really have a complete list of sci-fi movies for kids without mentioning E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It is both a sci-fi and kid’s movie classic that almost everyone has seen, making this a must-watch for any child. This Steven Spielberg film tells the dramatic story of young Elliott, who finds and befriends an alien creature he calls E. T., helping it find its way back home before the government can intervene. The iconic image of Elliott carrying E. T. in his bicycle is pervasive throughout popular culture.
On a survey on Rotten Tomatoes, E. T., which also stars a young Drew Barrymore, was voted one of the best science fiction films ever made. It is also widely included in lists of the greatest films ever made—period. In the year 1983, it won four Academy Awards and was nominated for nine. It would be a shame for kids to miss this must see sci-fi classic.
Galaxy Quest is a completely delightful and funny Star Trek parody that works with both kids and adults. The story of this sci-fi movie for kids involves the aging cast of an old Star Trek-like show called "Galaxy Quest" that accidentally wind up agreeing to help actual benign aliens fight an evil reptilian warlord. The good aliens believe that the TV show is real. This is going to be fun to watch play out, right?
The film has a very talented and impressive cast as well. To begin with, the late Alan Rickman plays a sarcastic and argumentative Worf/Spock-esque science officer, which is a must see. The film also stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub, and Justin Long. There is an overall inspiring sci-fi message to young viewers.