BLOG UPDATE: Real Networks is thrilled to announce RealPlayer is now RealTimes. Read all about the exciting new product features of RealTimes.
With spring break just around the corner, we know many of you will be looking for movies to watch with your kids. Whether you plan on taking the kids to the theater or watching movies at home (or in a hotel room), it’s helpful to know a little something about a film first. Thankfully, there are quite a few movie review sites dedicated to just that purpose. Unlike traditional movie review sites, these are focused on providing information that parents care about when deciding if a movie is appropriate for their family.
Just like mainstream movie review sites, you’ll likely find one in this list that you’ll turn to when you need to make decisions for your family. Deciding which one is right for you depends on your needs. Make a list of the things you want to get out of a review. For example, maybe you just want to know about the sex and violence content in a film and don’t really want a critique. Then think about how you want that information provided. Do you want it as a bulleted list or as a play-by-play of how it appears in the movie? Similarly, would you prefer to read a lengthy review or watch a one-minute video from a fellow parent?
Whatever works for you, one of the sites listed below will help you pick movies that are best for your family. In addition to reviews, some sites even include places where you can rent/buy the movie online so you can start watching the movie right away. We should note that Christian organizations sponsor some of the sites listed in this roundup and, as a result, those reviews tend to be heavy on family values. Still they do provide solid details that will help you make an informed decision. When considering these sites, we were mindful that these sites may help you make decisions for your kids, so we wanted you to know the source and what you can expect.
10 Sites for Family Friendly Movie Reviews
We’ve put together a list of the 10 most popular sites for family movie reviews and listed them in alphabetical order. Many of the sites listed here go into great detail about sexual content, bad language, drug use, and violence. It’s easy to tell from reading the review if the movie is suitable for your kids. Some even provide an age rating, to help you decide if your kids will like. Since every child is different, we recommend taking the time to read or in some cases watch the review. As you’ll see, some sites are more conservative than others.
1. BoxOfficeMom.com – Run by a mom of three, who has a genuine love of the movies, this site offers her take on popular flicks. The reviews aren’t long, but do provide a plot overview. There are also categories for sexual content, violent/disturbing content, crude language, as well as drug and alcohol content. These sections contain bullet points alerting parents of what they can expect to see in the movie. Each movie also gets an overall rating depicted by popcorn buckets, which focuses on if the film is appropriate for kids or teens. While the reviews don’t include trailers embedded on the site, there are links to YouTube if you want to watch the preview. Overall, BoxOfficeMom.com may not feature as many films as other sites, it does a good job and providing the info parents care about in a direct matter.
Pros: Reviews are written from a parent’s perspective and provides a quick overview of inappropriate material found in popular movies.
Cons: Doesn’t have as many movie reviews as other sites in this roundup, but the popular flicks are covered.
2. Clubhouse Jr. – As the online site for the Clubhouse magazine for kids, the content is all geared toward kids. In addition to a movie reviews section, it also features games, videos, crafts and other activities. Clubhouse Jr. is part of the Focus on Family network of sites, which includes the PluggedIn (see listing below) family movie review site for parents.
Like everything else on the site, the reviews of the PG movies featured are geared towards kids for PG movies. So you never have to worry that kids will stumble upon a scary movie like The Shining. The reviews on this site tend to be long descriptions of the movies. While they don’t give the entire movie away, they do tell an awful lot about its plot. Reviews will also mention if there’s something in a film to discuss with parents. If you want to get your kids involved in picking movies, this is a safe site where they can read movie reviews.
Pros: Most of the movies listed on the site are PG and reviews are written to appeal to a younger audience.
Cons: The site lacks movie previews and includes a lot of information about a movie’s plot.
3. Common Sense Media – Created by an organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology, this is one of the more comprehensive family movie review sites in this roundup. This site also includes reviews of games, books, TV shows, apps, websites, and music. It’s a useful tool for parents looking for reliable reviews on a plethora of media and technology topics.
Movie reviews include all the information parents needs to quickly decide if it is appropriate for their kids including recommended age groups, previews, an overview, and talking points for the family after they watch the film. The overviews focus on what parents should know about the movie. To get more details on the content, there are “What’s the story?” and “Is it any good?” sections that provide more information. If you like to look at ratings in a glance, you’ll appreciate the comprehensive “What parents need to know” checklist that includes ratings for positive messages, positive role models, violence, sex, language, consumerism, and drinking, drugs & smoking. Once you decide on a movie that’s currently available at an online video store, click the Watch button for a list of places where the movie can be streamed or purchased.
In addition to the written reviews, some of the films feature a Common Sense video review. These are roughly one-minute reports that provide a brief summary of the movie and finish with what age group is appropriate. Speaking of reviews, it also offers user reviews from teens, kids and parents. When kids post their opinions, it includes their age, which should help you decide if it’s a movie that will interest your child. Overall, Common Sense Media is a well thought-out movie review site for families with an intuitive design.
Pros: An easy-to-use, comprehensive movie review site that includes user reviews, where to watch a film online (when available), and at a glance ratings that are concise and useful.
Cons: Not all reviews have previews, and it doesn’t offer a way to view theater showtimes.
4. The Dove Foundation – For over 20 years, this non-profit organization has been dedicated to providing family friendly movie reviews to help parents decide which films are appropriate for their kids. With that in mind, the organization has recently stopped reviewing NC-17 rated movies. There might be a listing for that movie with basic details, but it will simply list it as “Not Recommended for Families.” Movie listings include a synopsis, a family-centric review that doesn’t give too much away, inappropriate content description, and movie details such as actors, director, writers and more.
The Dove Foundation is best known for its scorecard that depicts the severity of sex, language, violence, drugs, nudity, and other inappropriate behavior in a movie. You can find reviews of movies currently in theaters and DVD, as well as TV shows. The site has recently added the ability to purchase family friendly movies for download or streaming directly from the site. As of this writing, there wasn’t a significant selection. Overall, the site is easy to navigate, and it provides a decent selection of family friendly movies though it lacks reviews of movies coming soon (even those due out over the upcoming weekend). There is also a fair share of content available for those looking for faith-based entertainment.
Pros: The site has a history of providing reliable family friendly movie reviews and offers videos for purchase.
Cons: It doesn’t review movies that are NC-17, lacks user reviews, and doesn’t offer reviews of films coming soon.
5. Fandango Family Movies – The popular movie ticket-purchasing site has dedicated a section of its site to family movies. It’s designed only to surface family friendly movies. Although it doesn’t provide information on if a film is age appropriate, it does offer an age filter so it will only surface movies geared toward a particular age group (for example, 3 – 6, 7 – 12, etc.). Each movie has a synopsis, cast and crew information, release date, a trailer, movie times and tickets and additional features. The reviews are from users of the site, and those are combined to give a movie an overall star rating.
On this section of the Fandango site, there are some family friendly video content that should help parents decide if they should see the movie. Parents will appreciate the Mom’s Movie Minute, which is a video of a mom discussing a movie’s plot and how her kids felt about the movie. The videos conclude with her rating on positive themes, violence, sex, and bad language. There’s also a Reel Kids video series featuring kids talking about themes in a movie. While this series is geared toward kids, parents will likely find it charming as well.
We should note that while the family friendly section of Fandango has a lot to offer, it’s easy to end up back on the larger Fandango site that displays all current releases. Additionally, you won’t find reviews of DVDs on this site. Overall, if you’re a fan of Fandango and all the content it has to offer, you’ll appreciate the family friendly version of the site. Just be aware that not all movies have a Mom’s Movie Minute, so you’ll need to scroll through reviews to find more information on things like sex, violence, and bad language.
Pros: It provides an easy way to filter current movies by age group and has some content that will help parents decide if a film is right for their family.
Cons: This is a lite version of family friendly movie reviews, and it’s geared toward new releases and what’s currently in theaters.
6. Kids in Mind – The sister site to Critics.com is designed to help parents decide if a movie is right for their family. Reviews on this site are really focused on providing detailed information about sex & nudity, violence & gore, profanity, and substance abuse. Reviews begin with a quick synopsis of the movie, which doesn’t give away too much of the plot. Each category section has a rating and a comprehensive list of things parents might find unsuitable for kids. The reviews end with suggested talking points for families to discuss.
Kids in Mind has a ton of useful content, but it lacks style. Each review has one image, and there are no trailers. You can, however, view the trailer by clicking the links to the IMBD listing or the official site. It lists new releases and movies available on DVD, so you can easily see what movies are scheduled to come out in a given week. Plus, you can view a list of films alphabetically if it doesn’t appear in the site’s search results. Other than this information there is little else, but parents that just want the facts will appreciate the straightforwardness of Kids in Mind.
Pros: It provides lots of details relating to the sex, violence, substance abuse and profanity found in films.
Cons: The lackluster site doesn’t offer user reviews or trailers.
7. Movie Guide – This basic site includes reviews of current releases, DVD, and TV movies. Although it lacks movie trailers, it does occasionally include sites (for example, Amazon and iTunes) where films are available for download. While the site doesn’t offer ratings about age appropriateness, it does rate the language, violence, sex, and nudity that appear in the film. Each review begins with a Content section that provides details about inappropriate content. The actual movie review section is quite long and includes information about the plot, what it’s like to watch the movie, and the reviewer’s opinion. If you don’t want to read all of that, you can skip to the In Brief section, which is a quick summation of plot and the reviewer’s thoughts on the film.
The site is associated with the Christian Film and TV Commission, so occasionally you’ll find reference to Christianity in the reviews. While it does have an extensive database of mainstream movies, you’ll also find some faith-related titles as well. In short, in addition to offering information to help you decide if a movie is family friendly it also includes critic-style reviews of each film.
Pros: In addition to information to help parents decide if a movie is appropriate for viewing with the family, it also includes an actual critique.
Cons: It lacks trailers and user reviews.
8. Parent Previews – What started out as a newspaper column with a focus on film reviews from a family perspective has become a full-fledged website that’s been running for 10 years. While the site only reviews movies with a rating of G, PG, or PG-13, you’ll still find some R rating movie listings. Those films just lack the full review, but they do include a list of questionable content such as violence, sexual content, language, and alcohol/drug use. Each review includes a grade card for questionable content along with details of the offenses, talking contents, cast and crew, trailers, a synopsis, trailers, talking points, and Canadian movie ratings. Speaking of reviews there are user reviews, however, you need to login to leave them. One unique feature is the option to hear an abbreviated version of the critique. If you like that, you may be interested in subscribing to the site’s Daily 90 Second Podcast.
The site is well designed making it easy to jump to the section of a review that interests you most. It also features reviews of DVDs, movie extras, and news features. While it doesn’t provide information on what age group would appreciate a certain movie the grade card makes it easy for parents to figure out at a glance if a film is appropriate for their family. Overall, Parent Previews is a well thought out family friendly movie review site that provides critiques as well as grades of what’s in theaters now and DVD releases.
Pros: The reviews and movie grade cards are written in a way that it’s easy to glean the information needed.
Cons: There’s no information on showtimes or where to download movies, and it doesn’t provide critiques of R-rated movies.
9. Parental Guide – This family-centric shopping site also offers movie reviews. However, if you see a review you like, you won’t be able to purchase the video. That said, the site does offer some helpful tips on technology and kids. The reviews include a trailer, cast & crew, release date and a detailed summary of the movie (but doesn’t give away the plot). The actual reviews are concise, but well thought out. Within the review, it provides a suggestion for what type of audience the movie is appropriate for. It also goes into detail about why the film received the MPAA rating it did and what parents need to know.
Parental Guide mentions on the site that it has coming soon and new releases, the most recent review we could find was for movies released last year. That said, if you’re trying to decide on a movie released in 2014 or 2013 you’ll likely find a review on this site. Unfortunately, the search seems to be restricted to products sold on the site, so you’ll have to scroll manually through the movie listings to find the film you want. In short, Parental Guide’s family movie reviews are useful, but there aren’t as many titles reviewed as can be found on other sites in the list.
Pros: Reviews offer a good balance of information that parents need as well as what a movie is about.
Cons: It doesn’t have a large library of movie reviews and lacks recent releases and user reviews.
10. PluggedIn – This site is part of the Focus on Family network of sites, which includes the Clubhouse Jr. (see listing above) movie review site for kids. As such reviews are heavy on information that parents want to know such as Positive Elements, Spiritual Content, Sexual Content, Violent Content, Profane Language, Drug and Alcohol Content, and Other Negative Elements. Reviews also include a lengthy overview of the plot, a conclusion that sums up some of the film’s themes a Plugged In rating, credits, and icons depicting appropriate age group. While the site doesn’t offer trailers, many reviews feature an online video component that provide a brief preview, story synopsis, and a mention of questionable content which parents should know about it. If you don’t want to watch the video, you can click the listen icon to hear the review.
Navigating the site is fairly straightforward, you can easily search for movie reviews based on the title, MPAA rating, release date, genre, PluggedIn rating, or alphabetically. In addition, to family-friendly movie reviews of films currently in the theater there’s also a section for recently released on video. However, there’s no mention of where to download the movie online. Overall, PluggedIn provides detailed reviews that parents will appreciate and the option to watch or listen to an abbreviated review is a nice touch.
Pros: For the most part reviews are well balanced, and it’s easy to scan the content to find the information most relevant to you.
Cons: It lacks user reviews or a listing of where to get a movie online.
Snap Shot: Comparison of Family Movie Reviews
Looking for an easy way to compare movie review sites for families? This chart will be able to show you at a glance the main features that each site in the roundup offers.
A Family Movie Review Provides Confidence When Choosing Entertainment for Your Kids
At the top of many parents list for spring break is watching movies with their kids. Instead of guessing what movie your family might like or is it appropriate for them take some time to peruse some reviews. As you do this, make a list of movies that you’d like to see with your kids that you know you’ll all enjoy. It’s a great way to avoid all that time trying to decide which movie to see. That can take longer than the 10 previews typically shown before each film in a theater.
Once you find some movies you like, if they’re still in theaters check out showtimes that will work with your schedule. If you prefer to watch them at home, visit a site like IMDB to find out where you can download them online. Even though the site is geared toward movie buffs, it does have a Parents Guide for each movie, which lets you know all the controversial (aka not so family friendly) stuff that happens. For those who are heading out on vacation and aren’t sure about the Wi-Fi connection at your lodging, opt for downloading a rental of the movie before you leave. Just remember you have a limited time (usually 24 to 48 hours) before the movie expires. If you know you’re going to be at a spot with a high-speed Wi-Fi connection that won’t cost you any extra to use, streaming the movie online will work great. Don’t forget to check out the mobile apps for premium channels that you subscribe to and see if the video is available there. Then add it to your watchlist or saved movie queue. We hope you enjoy your family time at the movies.