I occasionally do fun personal projects that are just for me. For the past couple of weeks, I have been occupied with a personal project to pull large swaths of content down from the Internet and ingesting them into a multi-gigabyte database for the singular purpose of finding "good" movies that I haven't seen before. It took a while to decide what "good" would be qualified as. I'm not a fan of most PG-13 and R-rated films because they tend to just be gross for a wide variety of reasons but plenty of PG and even G-rated films have issues too. Very few films make it above the garbage heap and manage to be actually good (e.g. acting, CG/VFX, musical score, singing). However, sifting through hundreds of thousands of movies manually to find the good stuff is not how software developers do things. Let's just say that there was some mischief with web scraping involved using the Ultimate Web Scraper Toolkit. I ended up combining three different databases into a single SQLite database and writing some software to generate the results found in this post.
Since me blabbing about details on how to read the list is not what you are actually here for, I'll save that until AFTER the list. Without further ado, here are, according to statistics and math, the top 250 family-friendly* movies of all time (as of February 2020):
247. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005; PG; age 9+; tt0363771; 67; 350,383 votes; 0.3.1.0.1; Adventure, Family, Fantasy)
The structure of each entry in the list is as follows:
[ ] Rank. Title of film (Release year; MPAA/CARA rating; [recommended age]; IMDB ID; year-adjusted score (older movies lose some strength over decades); number of votes; various family-friendly ratings (see below); genres)
* "Family-friendly" is defined as meeting all of the following criteria:
- G or PG rating. No PG-13/R/NC-17/X rated films in the list. Sorry Batman (DC) and MCU fans, but your movies don't qualify as family-friendly!
- A maximum recommended age rating of 12+.
- A maximum rating of 2 out of 5 for sex/nudity.
- A maximum rating of 3 out of 5 for violence/gore.
- A maximum rating of 2 out of 5 for foul language.
- A maximum rating of 4 out of 5 (G rating only) or 3 out of 5 (other ratings) for consumerism.
- A maximum rating of 2 out of 5 for drugs, alcohol, and/or smoking.
- No movies in the "Horror" genre.
These values are obviously subjective and not every movie in the list has all of the above information available. However, the rules appeared to produce the best, most consistent results of what I might expect to see as a strong critic and connoisseur of films. The real oddball in the list is the consumerism bit. Without that rule the way it is, animated films like Toy Story and The Little Mermaid are excluded from the list and would cause rabid fans to become, well, rabid fans. I'm personally not a fan of Toy Story or its sequels (or The Little Mermaid), but that's not what this list is about. Lots of people like those movies and I noticed that the only reason for exclusion was the consumerism ranking and the reason for the particular rating seemed silly, "Because there is merchandise for the film that you can buy!" Consumerism is arbitrary and not anywhere near the same class as the other classifications/ratings so I bumped the limit a tiny bit so certain films would not be excluded for silly reasons.
The last item in the list might appear odd but there are PG movies that are in the Horror genre. We can unanimously agree that the Horror genre is not family-friendly, should never receive a PG rating, and move on. I have no idea what anyone was thinking. I also thought about removing Documentary films from the list too because they all have low numbers of votes but ultimately decided against it.
Speaking of votes, one less-subjective requirement was also added: In order for a film to be considered for the list, the minimum number of votes in the IMDB database was set to 10,000 votes. IMDB has a problem with bots voting on movies. The 10,000 threshold seemed to remove most of the dross while the other rules dealt with the rest.
Some people are going to point out that movies like Shrek 2 and Galaxy Quest are in the list and are arguably NOT family-friendly (especially Galaxy Quest). Yup. They're in there. The list was generated by a computer based on multiple rating systems. You still have to use your God-given brain and read a few reviews and/or watch it yourself before letting the kids watch it. And maybe write letters to various organizations about their bad rating decisions. This list is the end result of a series of good and bad decisions made by lots other people. And since humans are involved, we know they are fallible and the resulting list isn't going to be perfect...but it is better than nothing! The computer, on the other hand, is a cold, unfeeling, calculating machine that does precisely what it is told to do and doesn't deviate. There is some very minor filtering where it could be done without other issues cropping up (e.g. excluding the Horror genre) but there isn't an easy way to automatically remove certain movies using a broad rule without negatively impacting the entire list.
Most of the first 25 films in the list are not any particular surprises to me. However, I was surprised to see Spirited Away top the list. But it also turns out that IMDB ranks it #28 on its Top 250 list that's filled with many PG-13 and R-rated films that aren't actually particularly wholesome. Spirited Away is a pretty good film but kind of spooky/scary for kids and has plenty of Eastern mysticism/witchcraft to warrant an older audience. I gave it a 4 out of 5 on Netflix (i.e. "would watch again, possibly own the DVD/BluRay"). I didn't think of it as particularly special to warrant the #1 spot but, hey, the computer proved me wrong. I'm an exceptionally harsh critic of films because I want quality over quantity. CinemaSins and Honest Trailers (despite the fact they both cuss a lot) frequently make very valid points. Filmmakers would do well to learn how to make wholesome movies that everyone can enjoy and would really like filmmakers to always go back and correct obvious mistakes found by the critics as standard policy.
I found a few movies I've never heard of and therefore consider this project to be a resounding success. The checkboxes next to each item make it easy to print the list and then check off the movies. I do not have plans to do the same thing for TV shows, video games, or other forms of entertainment.