Dude, there are so many great movies, and one could make a pretty good argument that a lot of them are kid flicks. So just to make this thing a little easier, I decided to narrow the options just a little bit. These are my top five kid flicks featuring kids as lead characters.
The most influential children's movie of the past two decades, one would think its effect would’ve been dulled by the onslaught of imitators. But every frame of director John Lasseter's hilarious landmark accomplishment is so infused with the passion and breathless excitement of its creation, whether you were alive at the time or not, when it's playing, it is 1995 all over again. Although calling Andy a main character is a stretch that even Slinky Dog might struggle with, the wonder of exploring a world that is far bigger than you and of finding that you are stronger and more capable than you realized are what the story is all about. That, my friend, is what childhood is all about. It may be obvious, but it's a classic for a reason.
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban
If I were to describe Alfonso Cuarón's 2004 imagining of the third-best selling children's book of all time in one word it would be whimsical. While the earlier Potter movies are sort of blandly literal adaptations, and the later ones get weighed down by all of the borderline-nonsensical series arcs, the third movie in the series isn't content to merely throw some CGI around and call it magic. Instead, the Prisoner of Azkaban uses all the tricks in the movie-making spell book - not the least of which is telling a compelling story - to captivate both kids and adults. There is so much fun to be found in the film's visual detail and sound design: it makes a great introduction for kids to the concept of filmmaking as artistry.
Howl's Moving Castle
Now I have not seen this movie in a while, but come on. It's about a kid named Sophie who meets a magical guy named Howl whose castle runs around the desert with magical doors, each of which leads to a different world. That's the sort of awesome, nay, awe-some-more-please, fuel that is to a kid's imagination what pieces of metal are to the guy who made the Eiffel Tower. Director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli crew have made a business out of these anythig-you-can-dream-and-more, gorgeously-animated feature films that both adults and children enjoy for reasons all their own.
My Life as a Dog
Sweet, sad, and nostalgic, the story of Ingemar, a 12-year old Swedish boy in the 1950s whose mother is terminally ill, is pure cinema. There isn't a false beat in director Lasse Hallström's masterpiece. The wealth of emotion is authentic and rich, and Ingemar and his friends are some of the rawest, most fully-realized kids ever to play across a big screen. They inhabit a changing world that every child will connect to and, if they are anything like me, will never forget: still magical despite its heartbreaking realness. Importantly, no matter what life throws at the young lead, he knows that things could be worse. And if you can internalize that at a young age, you'll be off to a pretty good start.
The Jungle Book
The term "all ages" gets thrown around a lot. But if it applies to any movie, it is the final animated film to bear (lol hahaha jk) the personal fingerprints of Walt Disney. Find me someone whom this movie doesn't turn into a kid again, dancing around the jungle with Mowgli and some of the most memorable characters in animation, and I will find myself judging that person deeply. The jungle - like the world every child faces - is not a safe place, no matter how many people are there to protect and care for her/him, but it is not to be feared. It is jazzy and unpredictable, to be respected, loved, and explored. And whatever Rudyard Kipling would say about East and West meeting, when Baloo and Bagheera dance off into the sunset at the end, all is truly right in the world. It's a classic for a reason.
The 400 Blows; Hugo, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Sword in the Stone