Growing up, my cousin Ian was a car kid. He was fascinated by anything that had four wheels and a steering wheel—and he knew his stuff. I remember being amazed as I listened to him name every single car we drove past on the freeway.
It’s probably not surprising that his favorite movie was Pixar’s Cars.
My cousin isn’t the only kid who loves cars and car movies. However, many of the biggest car movies, like the Fast & Furious franchise or Ford vs. Ferrari, aren’t appropriate for younger kids. Thankfully, there are a ton of great car movies for kids that are family friendly!
Whether you’re entertaining the kids on a long road trip or are simply on the hunt for a high-quality family flick, check out this list of five of the best car movies for kids.
The Cars Series (2006–2017)
Where to Watch: Disney+
No list of the best car movies for kids would be complete without Pixar’s Cars.
Released in 2006, Cars introduces viewers to Lightning McQueen, a rookie race car looking to win his first Piston Cup. On the way to the race, Lighting gets lost and finds himself stuck in an off-the-map town called Radiator Springs. Eventually, by working off a debt and becoming friends with the townsfolk, Lighting learns some pretty valuable lessons about friendship, family, and what it truly means to win.
Since the success of the first Cars, Pixar released two sequels. Cars 2 follows Lightning McQueen as he zooms around the world in the World Grand Prix race while Cars 3 sees him racing against a younger generation of cars in the Florida 500.
Is your child a Cars superfan? Good news: the fun doesn’t stop with these three movies! Check out Disney+ for a whole bunch of holiday specials and shorts featuring everyone’s favorite cast of quirky cars.
The Herbie Series (1968–2005)
Where to Watch: Disney+
Before Lightning McQueen hit the scene, the most popular car on the silver screen was Herbie.
There are six films in the Herbie franchise. Each movie follows (you guessed it) Herbie, a sentient Volkswagen Beetle, and his human owners as they attempt to win a series of races. The first Herbie movie, The Love Bug, was released in 1968 and became an instant classic. The most recent film, 2005’s Herbie Fully Loaded, stars Lindsay Lohan as a wannabe NASCAR driver who enters Herbie in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The Herbie films have long been considered some of the best car movies for kids, but teens and adults will get a hoot out of them, too. And don’t worry, you don’t need six subscription services to watch: every Herbie movie is available on Disney+.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Where to Watch: HBO Max
The Love Bug wasn’t the only acclaimed car movie for kids to come out in 1968. Cue: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
This musical adventure tells the story of inventor Caractacus Potts and his two children, Jeremy and Jemima. The family fixes up an old car, the titular Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and takes it on an adventure to Vulgaria, a fantasy land ruled by an evil baron and his henchmen. After a series of scenes and songs, the Potts family frees Vulgaria from the baron’s oppressive rule and triumphantly returns to England.
An important note: While Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a family film, it does feature some potentially frightening scenes—specifically those that feature the kidnapping Child Catcher. To help your child manage their fears, I recommend doing some research and watching the scenes yourself before showing them to younger viewers. If you do decide that they’re suitable, watching these scenes together with your kids can be a fantastic way to start a conversation about the realities of stranger danger—both offline and online.
Where to Watch: Netflix
While not exactly a film about cars, Dreamworks’ Turbo is about the next speediest thing: snails. Well, snails who move as fast as race cars, to be specific!
Turbo tells the story of Theo, a slow garden snail dreaming of life as a racer. After a happy accident involving a magic airplane and the inner workings of a Chevy Camaro, Theo develops superspeed and changes his name to Turbo. His racing wish has become a reality. Eventually, Turbo enters the Indy 500 and speeds alongside traditional Indy cars in the competition of the century.
Does Turbo win? Or is the underdog doomed to spend his life slowly scooting around the garden? Check out this car movie for kids on Netflix to find out! Just don’t forget to set up Netflix parental controls first.
Speed Racer (2008)
Where to Watch: HBO Max
This live-action adaptation of the classic anime series Speed Racer follows the titular character Speed Racer, a young driver competing in the thrilling and high-speed world of racing. As a talented racer, Speed receives an offer to join a major racing team. Much to the racing team’s chagrin, he turns it down to race for his family’s independent team. Throughout the course of the movie, Speed must compete against rival drivers to win the championship and uncover a web of corruption that threatens the integrity of the sport.
While Speed Racer wasn’t super successful upon release, the movie’s avant-garde art style, experimental visuals, and exciting energy have cemented its status as a classic for families around the country. Just one quick warning before you watch: This movie is a wild ride!
Car Movies for the Whole Family
These car movies for kids may be geared towards a younger audience, but the whole family will likely enjoy them as well. After all, what could be better than a high speed car caper?
Planning family movie nights is a great way for families to spend quality time together. In fact, there are some surprising benefits to watching TV with your kids. Holding movie nights unites viewers in a common experience, while the accompanying family time helps kids build bonds and make memories with some of the most important people in their lives.
For more family entertainment ideas and parenting tips, be sure to come back to the Troomi blog!