While this website primarily exists to offer screen-free ideas for kids and families, we believe family movie night can be as rewarding as family game night! While we love to watch silent film comedies (click here for our favorite classics from Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd), another one of our beloved film categories is movies based on children's books!
Truth be told, I'm up for any excuse to have popcorn for dinner.
But what are some great films based on children's books that families with tweens will enjoy? Besides Harry Potter, that is. Look no further than this list of movies that even parents of 8-12 year olds will find entertaining.
So next time you are planning family movie night, or stuck inside due to the weather or a global pandemic watch a movie based on a children's book!
Note on where to watch: If you plan ahead, rent a DVD from the library. If you prefer streaming services like Netflix or Prime, I've linked to places where the film is available (as of this writing). Online availability can change.
Note: this post contains affiliate links.
Best Movies Based on Children's Books
Anne of Green Gables
Based on the book by L.M. Montgomery
(All ages) Let's start off with an all-time favorite, shall we? This perfect (yes, perfect, I say) version of Anne of Green Gables is everything you can ever hope for in a book-to-film adaptation. It is expensive to stream so head to the library for the DVD. Do not, I repeat, do not watch Anne with an E. (sorry-not-sorry)
And after you watch (and read) L.M. Montgomery's classic, check out this list of books for fans of Anne of Green Gables.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham
Based on the book by Christopher Paul Curtis
(PG) The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 is a book I have recommended countless times as a read aloud. It was also well adapted into this made-for-TV film. The story follows the Watson family as they travel from their home in Michigan to visit relatives in Birmingham during a turbulent time.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Based on the book by Roald Dahl
(PG) Any list of movies based on children's books will include Roald Dahl! Dahl's much loved book got an excellent film treatment by Wes Anderson. Follow up your viewing by watching other excellent Dahl adaptations like Matilda and The BFG.
The Little Prince
Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(PG) This film version of a much-loved classic children's book almost didn't make it to market which would have been a shame. Fortunately, Netflix picked it up and now you can find it streaming exclusively on their service.
The Water Horse
Based on the book by Dick King-Smith
(PG) While the movie is very different from the original children's book, it is worth watching. A boy finds a mysterious egg on the shore, brings it home where it hatches into a mythical creature known as a water horse.
Based on the book by Brian Selznick
(PG) Selznick's brilliant book is turned into a visually magnificent film. In the 1930s, Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station when his secretive life is interrupted by the connections he makes with an unusual girl, an elderly toy vendor, and his late father.
Based on the book by Deborah Ellis
(PG-13) Here's a wonderful film to watch with your older tweens, and even teens. In Kabul, Afghanistan, Parvana's father is arrested for having a "foreign education." Parvana disguises herself as a boy and takes over her father's space in the market to try and earn money for the family.
Based on the book by Brian Selznick
(PG) If you are looking for an unique film filled with curiosities and gorgeous visuals try this one out. Selznick adapted his book into the screenplay. The story alternates between the black and white world of Rose, a deaf girl in the 1920s looking for her actress-mother, and Ben, a deaf boy in the 1970s searching for his father.
Mary and the Witch's Flower
Based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart
(PG) You will be forgiven for thinking this is the latest film from Studio Ghibli (Kiki's Delivery Service, etc.) because the creators, Yonebayashi and Nishimura, previously worked there. Mary finds a mysterious flower that gives her the ability to transform into a witch for one night.
Based on the book by Louis Sachar
(PG) Have your tweens read Holes? They are lucky to have a pretty good film adaptation to watch of this well-loved book about Stanley, a boy sent off to a camp for juvenile delinquents where all they do is dig for holes! Perhaps after viewing, your tweens will want to read some survival-themed novels like the ones on this book list!
What family movies based on children's books are your favorites to watch with kids ages 8-12?
More family fun when you are hanging out at home: