7 Children's Movies You Have to Watch Just for the Visuals

When you think about children’s movies, mostly the conversation centers around whether or not a film is age appropriate – or if it’s going to be mind-numbingly boring for you, as a parent, to watch. These seven children’s movies aren’t just good storytelling, they’re absolutely visually arresting. They’ll draw you in with their gorgeous animation and open your children up to a whole new world of film.

The Thief and the Cobbler

1995, NR

This is the story of a brave cobbler named Tack who embarks on a journey to save the Golden City from destruction. He’s joined on his quest by the brave Princess Yum-Yum and together, they endeavor to stop the plans of the Grand Vizier, Zigzag who is voiced by Vincent Price.

The story may sound pretty close to Aladdin and they share many similarities however, Thief took the Arabian styled art to whole new heights. Every scene is painstakingly hand-drawn and filled with colorful and enchanting geometric designs. The look and feel of the movie is a strange combination of simple lines that form very complex patterns. It is a highly stylized movie with some silly jokes thrown in.

The Secret of Kells

2009, NR

This film is based on the story of the Book of Kells, originally an illuminated manuscript that’s hand drawn and features highly detailed and intricate illustrations worked into the text. And the film stays true to its origins with this illustrative style worked into every inch of the film.

The plot revolves around a young boy named Brendan who, with the help of his friend Aisling, a female forest spirit takes on the evil Crom Cruach in order to complete the manuscript that will “bring darkness to light”.

The film is very bright with scenes within scenes, just like the illuminated manuscripts it’s based on. It’s not very long, so the richness of the animation doesn’t become too overwhelming. And the story is simple so the focus can stay on the beauty of the film.

Wizard of Oz

1939, NR

This classic movie may seem fairly common place for modern viewers…most parents have seen the movie at least a million times. But to a first time viewer, passing through the world of black and white to a colorful one is a magical experience.

Additionally, in a world washed in CGI, the practical effects used to create Oz give a wonderful feel to the film. On closer viewing, there are little details throughout the movie – from the munchkins’ homes to the background dancers in Oz. Dorothy and Toto may seem old hat, but with fresh young eyes, the magic holds up well.


2011, PG

Speaking of old movie magic, Hugo combines modern cinema with silent film aesthetics. It’s a story of an orphaned boy that lives in 1930’s Paris, inside of a train station. On his quest to solve the mystery of an automaton left to him by his father, he helps an old man rediscover his love for cinema.

Everything in this film is highly stylized and immensely detailed. The movie is filled with wonders – with clips of fantasy films and old movies worked in, as well as in the actual storyline. The automaton alone is worth seeing the film, but that’s not the only treat in store.

The Book of Life

2013, PG

This story, based on the Day of the Dead, follows three childhood friends who unwittingly become pawns in a bet between two deities. While the film may at first seem dark, it’s actually bursting with… well, life.

Full of bright colors and a very unique art style, the film is a beauty. If you look closely, you’ll notice that everyone is a puppet – a nice touch in what is already visually arresting film. Even when the characters enter (spoiler alert!) the land of the dead, the world remains bright and cheerful throughout.

As a bonus, this Mexican-inspired fable can add some much needed diversity to your movie line up and the soundtrack is excellent.


1940, G

This classic Disney film saw a follow up in the late 90’s but the original is still the best. If you’re looking for a film that will enchant your children and open their imagination, this is your ticket.

This animated film features classical music set over a variety of different animated shorts. Each short has its own theme and self-contained story. There are magical Pegasus, dancing mushrooms and hippos, and even a brief scary moment.

Though it was animated 75 years ago, the scenes will stay with your child forever.
A word of caution however, earlier versions of the film contained some racist imagery. This has been cut by the company in newer DVDs. Be sure to check yours before showing your children.


1986, PG

This marriage between Jim Henson and David Bowie has really withstood the test of time. In this fantasy film, Sarah wishes for her baby brother to be taken by goblins and, surprise…they do it. What follows is her quest to get him back.

Unlike other films on this list, the actual sets are very simple but what fills them is worth a look. The puppets created for the film are all intricate, with tons of personality. As Sarah travels through the labyrinth, it’s really a-MAZE-ing to see the amount of work that went into creating the characters that she encounters.

What are some of your favorite kiddie films…just for the visuals?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Tags : movies   films   

Afshin Behnia
Don't forget Spirited Away!
Dona Kareno
I can't wait to watch Labyrinth with the kids.