a guide to the best educational film for kids of all ages

140 Educational TV Shows + Films For Kids

Trying to educate your children, work from home, look after a home and have some semblance of a life is very, very difficult.

We’re all about making it easier on ourselves while we’re all indoors, so we’ve compiled a list of over 100 of the best educational films for kids of various ages.

You can plonk the kids in front of the TV/laptop and let them entertain and educate themselves for 90 or so minutes while you drink a warm beverage and try to get on with some semblance of a normal life.

Our list of the best educational films for kids isn’t definitive; new films and TV shows come out all the time so in the spirit of ‘it takes a village’, let us know in the comments if we’ve omitted an educational film or TV show and we’ll add it in.

As this list covers films and TV shows for nursey children right up to teenagers, have a think about the film’s ratings, themes, language and the maturity level of your child.

We’re put the ratings of films next to each title to give you an idea but you know your children the best and what they can and can’t handle entertainment wise.

Stay strong parents and carers!

140+ of the best educational TV shows and films for kids, tweens and teens:

1917 – Rated 15

A heart-wrenching look at the violence and brutality of war. The rating is a good indicator of the language and violence involved.

1917 educational movie

Use as the basis of a history lesson.

2012 – Rated 12 (available on Netflix)       

A surprising number of characters die in this film and it’s a little depressing but it’s a look at the worst case scenario of global warming. Could be used in a geography lesson.

1492: Conquest Of Paradise – Rated 15        

A fictional look at Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

A Beautiful Mind – Rated 12  

a beatiful mind is a good educational film for kids

The story of mathematician John Nash who had schizophrenia and won the Nobel prize. Features scenes of shock therapy and some rude language.

Dolphin Tale – Rated U           

A wholesome family movie discussing how humans treat animals and nature.

A Man For All Seasons – Rated PG     

A 1989 film based on Sir Thomas More’s refusal to accept Henry VIII’s split from the Roman Catholic Church.

A Time To Kill – Rated 15        

A John Grisham adaptation about civil rights in southern America.

African Cats – Rated U

African Cats Educational documentary for kids

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the documentary tells the tale of a family of lions on the African savanna.

Akeelah And The Bee – Rated 12       

Akeelah and the Bee

An inspiring story of a black girl standing up for herself, being smart and facing her fears. Plus lots and lots of spelling.

Ali – Rated 15 

Will Smith does a great job portraying Mohammad Ali’s journey from Cassius Clay to global superstar. Discusses racial tension in America and standing up for what you believe in.

Alien Autopsy – Rated 12       

Familiar faces Ant and Dec star in a silly take on what may or may not have happened in Roswell, New Mexico.

Alive – Rated 15          

A retelling of the true story of a rugby team stranded in the Andes mountains after a plane crash. How far would and should you go to stay alive?

Amadeus – Rated PG  

Not the most historically accurate film but an entertaining look at the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Could your kids try and compose their own piece of music afterwards?

Amazing Grace – Rated PG     

The story of William Wilberforce and the parliamentary fight to bring slavery to an end. Use to discuss Wilberforce’s struggles with faith and politics.

Amistad – Rated 15    

The violence is intense and graphic but it’s an honest look at the inhumanity of slavery. Definitely stick to the age recommendation on this one.

An American Tail – Rated U   

An American Tail

An animated and gentle look at racism and immigration in 1800s America.

Any Roald Dahl Film  

Choose your favourite Roald Dahl book and watch its corresponding film. The Roald Dahl website also has a list of activities to do related to the books.

Apollo 11 – Rated U (Available on Netflix)

A documentary about the first Moon landing, in July 1969, featuring those who went.

Apollo 13 – Rated PG 

Apollo-13-movie

A fun way to teach your kids about space and the benefits of working together.

Bee Movie – Rated U  

Nice way for very young children to learn a few facts about bees.

Behind Enemy Lines  – Rated 15        

A graphic and violent look at the Bosnian war.

Ben Hur (1959) – Rated PG    

Almost three hours long, you could use Ben Hur as part of a RE lesson on Christianity.

Big Hero 6 – Rated PG

Big hero 6

A nice story about working together and brotherhood. A gentle look at grief.

Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Rated PG          

A 1989 tale of time travel where kids will get to meet figures from the past.

Charlotte’s Web – Rated U (Available on Netflix)

Read the book together then watch the film and discuss the importance of friendship.

Contact – Rated PG    

The film can be used as a good basis for starting a discussion on extraterrestrial life.

Cool Runnings – Rated PG       

Cool Runnings

A slightly silly portrayal of Jamaican people and culture, but the film can be used to talk about sportsmanship and teamwork.

Cry Freedom – Rated PG        

A good vehicle for secondary school age kids (year 9 and above) to discuss the horrors of apartheid.

Dante’s Peak – Rated 12         

Use the film in a geography lesson to discuss natural disasters.

Darkest Hour – Rated PG (Available on Netflix)   

Use as a history lesson on Churchill.

Dunkirk – Rated 12     

dunkirk

A historical look at one day in the battle of Dunkirk.

Emma – Rated U         

Emma Movie 2020

Use in an English lesson on Jane Austen.

Empire Of The Sun – Rated PG           

Don’t be fooled by the low rating, this film is best suited to secondary school kids due to the violence. Use in a history lesson on WW2.

FernGully – Rated U   

A cartoon where kids can learn about the environment with magical creatures and catchy songs.

Finding Neverland – Rated PG

Finding Neverland

One for older kids to discuss the joys of writing and how using your imagination can improve your work.

Flight – Rated 15

The story of an aeroplane malfunction where the pilot tries to save the passengers by flying upside down. In the movie, he saves most of them but there were no survivors in the true story.

Freedom Writers – Rated 12

A look at the civil rights movement in the USA.

Gandhi – Rated PG     

The Oscar-winning film does have some violence in it but can be used with older kids as a vehicle to discuss restraint, tolerance and history.

Hairspray – Rated PG

A singing and dancing romp through 1960s America. Can be used to discuss race relations and the portrayal of women in film.

Harriet – Rated 12      

Harriet movie

A realistic look at Harriet Tubman’s life during the slave trade. The N word is used so be prepared for discussions about race, slavery and history. Better suited to mature teens.

Hidden Figures – Rated PG

Hidden Figures

An inspiring look at the role black women played in getting men on the moon.

I Am Sam – Rated 12

An interesting look at the treatment of a mentally ill father and his battle for custody of his daughter.

Inside Out – Rated U

inside out is a good way to discuss emotions with children

A great way to discuss emotions with young children.

Invictus – Rated 12     

An inspiring tale of Mandela and rugby.

Joan Of Arc – Rated 12           

A historical drama based on the life and death of Joan of Arc.

JoJo Rabbit – Rated 12

JoJo-Rabbit

If your child is doing History at secondary school, this film could be a nice supplement to what they’re learning.

Life Is Beautiful – Rated 12

Controversial when it was released, the film is a bittersweet comedy set during the Holocaust.

Lincoln – Rated 12      

A multiple award-winning film about the life and politics of American president Abraham Lincoln. A great film to base an American history lesson on.

Lion – Rated PG  (Available on Netflix)        

Don’t let the low rating make you think this is child friendly; it’s emotional (and excellent) but better suited to teens ready to discuss mature themes like child abuse/trafficking.

Little Women – Rated U         

Little Women

The book is a classic and the film is just as good, clean and wholesome.

Lord Of The Flies (1963) – Rated PG  

We prefer the old black and white version (less violence) and we suggest getting the kids to read the book then watch the film.

Memphis Belle – Rated 12

A story based on the last mission of an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, the Memphis Belle, based in England during World War II.

Midway – Rated 12     

An action heavy drama based on a WW2 battle.

Noah – Rated 12         

A biblically inaccurate and slightly violent retelling of the story of Noah and his ark.

Of Mice And Men – Rated PG

A brilliant adaptation of the famous book your child is bound to study at some point during secondary school.

Oliver Twist – Rated PG

It’s a classic, but young children might be disturbed by the slightly violent scenes.

Operation Dumbo Drop – Rated PG

An American war film that also looks at politics and animal welfare.

Osmosis Jones – Rated PG

Osmosis Jones

An animated film looking at what happens when a virus enters the human body.

Mr Peabody And Sherman – Rated PG

Animated and usually accurate time travel adventures.

Pride And Prejudice – Rated U

Bring the GCSE text to life.

The Pursuit Of Happyness – Rated 12 (Available on Netflix)

pursuit-of-happyness

Will Smith is on fine form in this sometimes sad tale of perseverance, family, love and loss.

Elizabeth – Rated 15   

A gruesome yet accurate look at Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne.

Rabbit Proof Fence – Rated PG

rabbit-proof-fence

A heart breaking look at the treatment of Aboriginal Australians.

Remember The Titans – Rated PG     

A historically accurate look at sport and racism in 1970s America.

Ride Like A Girl – Rated PG     

The true story of the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.

Romeo And Juliet – Rated 12 

Romeo and Juliet 1996

Baz Luhrmann’s sparkly remake of the Bard’s classic tale.

Schindler’s List – Rated 15

Pay attention to the rating; this film is a masterpiece but it’s incredibly sad.

Selma – Rated 12

A masterpiece of a film looking at Martin Luther King’s fight for civil right.

Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero – Rated PG

An animated film about the true story of a stray dog that joins the U.S. Army during World War 1.

Soul Surfer – Rated PG

The true story of a young surfer’s battles after being attacked by a shark.

Temple Grandin – Rated PG

A true story retelling the life of an autistic young woman. Better for tweens and up.

The Aeronauts – Rated PG

The Aeronauts

Historic drama set in Victorian London where Eddie Redmayne tries to predict weather in his hot air balloon.

The Big Short – Rated 15 – Available on Netflix

A look at economics (for older teens) and the financial crisis of 2008.

The Book Thief – Rated 12

Based on the best-selling novel, the film is a historical drama set in Germany during World War 2.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – Rated 12

the boy in the striped pyjamas

Heartbreaking, excellent film about the Holocaust told through the eyes of an 8 year old boy. Your kids may read this in school.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind – Rated PG (Available on Netflix)

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

An outstanding film telling the true story of an African boy who creates a device to help his community. A must-see.

The Dish – Rated 12

A funny look at NASA’s attempt to get hold of the world’s biggest satellite dish sitting in a sheep paddock in Australia.

The Help – Rated 12   

Oscar winning  movie telling the story of two black maids in 1960s America.

The Imitation Game – Rated 12

the imitation game

Historical drama looking at the role of cryptologists and mathematicians in World War 2. Good to show kids how maths applies in the real world.

The Killing Fields – Rated 15

A heart-breaking and violent look at the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia.

The King – Rated 15 (Available on Netflix)

netflix The King

Violent story about the reign of Henry V.

The King’s Speech – Rated 12

An excellent story about King George VI and his speech ailments.

The Madness Of King George – Rated PG      

A historical drama based on the mental health struggles of King George III.

The Social Network – Rated 12 (Available on Netflix)          

the-social-network-netflix

Older kids might enjoy a look at the origins of Facebook.

The Sound Of Music – Rated U          

Glorious songs and a non-scary look into war. Plus, Julie Andrews.

The Story Of 1

BBC documentary about the history of numbers.

The Theory Of Everything – Rated 12 (Available on Netflix)

The Theory Of Everything

A riveting Stephen Hawking biopic.

They Shall Not Grow Old – Rated 15

Documentary from Peter Jackson about World War I as told by the men who were there.

Titanic – Rated 12

Titanic

A 3 hour film about the Titanic’s final journey.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Rated PG

An absolute classic based on Harper Lee’s excellent book.

Troy – Rated 15 (Available on Netflix)         

Brad Pitt stars in this Iliad based, battle scene movie.

Twister – Rated PG     

Meteorology, tornadoes and storm chasing. A loose and free geography lesson?

Valiant – Rated U        

Animated story about a WW2 pigeon.

Wall E – Rated U         

Wall E

Learn about saving the planet

War Horse – Rated 12

Based on the brilliant Michael Morpurgo book, younger children may be frightened by the scenes of death and animal cruelty.

Wonder – Rated PG    

Wonder

A sweet film about  kindness, friendship, and acceptance.

Zoo – Rated PG           

Fact based drama focusing on events that took place in Northern Ireland during World War 2.

Zootroplis – Rated PG

Animated film teaching tolerance and teamwork.

The Best Educational TV Shows For Kids

Educational TV shows for kids

Absolute Genius With Dick & Dom    

Learn about the geniuses whose ideas, creations and discoveries have shaped the modern world.

Absurd Animals         

A humorous look at Mother Nature and some of the planet’s most silly animals.

Alphablocks    

Alphablocks

An excellent way to learn essential phonics skills.

Andy’s Adventures     

CBeebies favourite Andy takes you on a series of adventures covering prehistoric times, dinosaurs, safari, sounds and more.

Any David Attenborough Series        

Pretty much any and everything Sir David produces will teach your kids about, and how to respect, the natural world.

Art Ninja        

Art lessons with a fun and engaging host.

Blackfish        

Blackfish

A powerful documentary about the treatment – and death – of orcas in captivity. One for tweens/teens.

Blaze And The Monster Machines     

A cartoon where the two main characters solve problems using science and maths.

Brainchild       

Science show presenting easy to understand facts for kids.

Chernobyl       

One for older kids, use it as a history lesson on Chernobyl.

Deadly Dinosaurs       

deadly dinosaurs

Steve Backshall talks dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Train

Kids can learn about natural science, natural history and palaeontology.

Maddie’s Do You Know          

Maddie's Do You Know

A fab show where kids get to find out how things are made or how they work.

Dora The Explorer      

A great theme song and a way to learn teamwork and a little bit of Spanish.

Down On The Farm   

An informative look at life on a farm for small children.

Drain The Oceans      

Drain The Oceans

Disney+ show exploring the treasures at the bottom of the sea.

Expedition Unknown  

A series looking into the truth of various myths and legends.

Go Jetters      

Early geography lessons for very young children.

Grace’s Amazing Machines   

Grace's Amazing Machines

A look at the biggest and fastest machines in the world

Horrible Histories      

Horrible Histories

A brilliant and hilarious look at History; the songs are catchy and we reckon you as the parent will learn a thing or two also!

If I Were An Animal   

Nature series looking at the life and habits of various animals.

Kevin Hart’s Guide To Black History  

Kevin Hart's Guide To Black History

A wonderful series showing black people accomplished so much more than history gives them credit for.

Little Einsteins

A wonderful theme song and a wonderful show all about science.

Mallory Towers          

Mallory Towers

A brilliant BBC adaptation based on the Enid Blyton books.

Messy Goes To Okido

Young children can learn more about the world around them.

Noughts And Crosses 

An excellent BBC adaption of the excellent Malorie Blackman book.

Numberblocks

Preschool children can learn to count and add.

Octonauts      

Octonauts

Learn about life under the sea.

Odd Squad     

A group of kids use maths to solve problems.

Operation Ouch         

Operation Ouch

An outstanding show featuring Doctors the kids will love as they explain all there is to know about the human body. Lots of humour and gross bits.

Scorpion         

Tech-savvy teens should enjoy this series.

Sesame Street

Sesame Street

An absolute gem of a show. All kids should watch it!

Spy In The Wild          

Brilliant nature doc from the BBC.

Team Umizoomi        

Team Umizoomi

Kids can learn about counting, measurement, shapes and patterns.

Storybots        

Kids can learn  about topics including outer space, dinosaurs and shapes.

The Deep        

Action and adventure cartoon about life under the sea.

The Universe  

Science documentary about the secrets of the universe.

The Who Was Show  

The Who Was Show

Funny and educational show for kids on Netflix looking at famous characters from the past.

Tumble Leaf   

Learn how things work.

Walking With Dinosaurs        

A must see for dinosaur fans.

What’s The Big Idea?   

What’s The Big Idea

All about discovery and learning.

Where In The World  

Geography for the very young.

Wild Kratts     

Wild Kratts

Learn about wild animals.

Elmo’s World 

Elmo's World educational TV show for kids

In each five-minute episode, lessons are taught through the lens of fun and familiar pre-school relevant topics, live action films, and interactive thinking games such as matching, sorting, and counting.

You can watch Elmo’s World on Tiny Pop – Freeview 207, Virgin 737, Freesat 605 and Sky 617.

Even if a film isn’t particularly educational, you can always turn it into a learning opportunity.

For example, here’s how to have a Marvel-inspired home school session:

  • Create your own comic with original characters.
  • Do a research project on the spider that bit Peter Parker
  • History – how does Marvel’s Thor relate to actual Norse mythology?
  • Physics – build a robot, based on Iron Man.
  • Bake cookies and decorate them like Captain America’s shield.
  • Make green Rice Krispy treats inspired by Hulk.
  • Make pizza dough and cut/form into I am Groot – use olives as eyes.
  • Make a Marvel menu: chicken shawarma (Avengers), tacos (Avengers Endgame) etc
  • There is an official marvel cookbook being released in July called Marvel Eat The Universe.
  • Do some work around alliteration as a lot of the names are examples of alliteration such as Peter Parker and Bruce Banner.
  • Use stop motion animation to create a scene from one of the movies or make a flipbook movie.
  • Search YouTube for superhero-themed workouts.
  • Download free printables from Disney and ask your child to spend 30-60 minutes (depending on their age) working through the booklet WITHOUT bothering you!
Marvel eat the universe cookbook

What do you think are the best educational films and TV shows for kids?

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