Little kids had their moviegoing experiences enlivened in 2014 by some outstanding animated features. For tweens and teens, there were quality sci-fi epics and a few outstanding dramas and documentaries, but too few suitable-for-kids comedies.

This list organizes the Family Filmgoer’s faves (and a few box office hits she just tolerated) by age recommendations, while also taking parents into account. They deserve to be entertained, too!

Films that are in theaters are marked with a *; films available via online streaming are marked with a #.


“The Lego Movie” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

• # The Lego Movie (PG). A Lego man living in a Lego world finally defies conformity — a witty animated fable. Ingenious.

• *The Book of Life (PG). A young hero in old Mexico breaks tradition and braves the mythic afterlife in this celebration of Mexican art and culture. Beautiful.

• # The Boxtrolls (PG). Tiny nonsense-speaking creatures who wear cardboard boxes and live underground are rescued by a couple of kids from human predators. Wildly inventive. Droll.

In this classic musical remake, Oscar-nominated child actress Quvenzhané Wallis plays the part of a happy foster kid named Annie, whose life changes forever after a New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (played by Jamie Foxx) recruits the girl to boost his image. (  / Sony Pictures)

• *Annie (PG). Annie’s a modern-day foster kid in this refreshing update of the stage musical, which works more often than it doesn’t. Fizzy.

• *Big Hero 6 (PG). A teenage tech whiz and an inflatable nurse robot take on a villain, mostly to great hilarity, but also in response to great loss. Big-hearted.

The animated adventure tells the story of four brothers and how they became the Penguins of Madagascar. (  / 20th Century Fox)

• *Penguins of Madagascar (PG). The mischievous birds from the “Madagascar” movies get their own riotous ’toon and fight an evil octopus. A hoot.

• # Earth to Echo (PG). Three boys find a tiny owl-like space alien in the desert and protect it in this nod to “E.T.” A live-action charmer.

Based on a children’s picture book, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) gets his birthday wish fulfilled when he transfers his bad luck to the other members of his family in “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” (Walt Disney Pictures)

• *Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (PG). A silly, high-energy, happy-family live-action farce. Just fun.


Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent.” (Disney)

• # Maleficent (PG). Angelina Jolie swans about as the evil fairy behind the “Sleeping Beauty” tale, sharing her side of the story. A star turn.

• *Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (G). Morgan Freeman narrates a documentary about the endangered lemurs of Madagascar. They sing, they dance. Honest.


• # How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG). Hiccup, the animated Viking kid who tames dragons, is grown now and facing problems of war, peace and parents. High-flying.

Kermit and Ricky Gervais in "Muppets Most Wanted." (Jay Maidment/AP)

• # Muppets Most Wanted (PG). The Muppets get a nefarious new manager, all heck breaks loose and Kermit lands in a Siberian prison camp. Quirky.

• # The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG). A parable about a snooty French restaurateur and a man from India who sets up a competing eatery across the street. Tasty.

From the director of "Chicago," "Into the Woods" is a musical fantasy that intertwines the plots of various classic fairy tales to highlight the consequences of character's wishes and quests (Walt Disney Pictures)

• *Into the Woods (PG). An ebullient adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s stage musical about fairy tales and not-always-happy endings. Oh, those great lyrics.

• # Million Dollar Arm (PG). An easygoing story about a baseball scout who finds new pitchers in India and brings them to America. Low-key fun.

• *The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (PG-13). The magical atmosphere and eccentric characters lighten the ponderous tendencies in “The Hobbit” movies — and this is the last one! Bittersweet.


• # Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13). Sci-fi/comic-book hilarity. A riot.

• # Edge of Tomorrow (PG-13). Tom Cruise caught in a neat time warp in this underappreciated thriller. Exciting.

• *Interstellar (PG-13). Intergalactic time travel with plenty of heart. Fascinating.

"The Imitation Game" follows Alan Turing (pioneer of modern-day computing and credited with cracking the German Enigma code) and his brilliant team during the darkest days of World War II (  / Weinstein Co.)

• *The Imitation Game (PG-13). Benedict Cumberbatch dazzles as British World War II-era codebreaker and early computer maven Alan Turing. Enthralling.

• *The Theory of Everything (PG-13). Another British genius — physicist Stephen Hawking — and his marriage, illness and a dash of science. Engrossing.

• *The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (PG-13). Jennifer Lawrence remains stubbornly heroic and engaging in this overlong preamble to the coming finale. Heavy.

• # Divergent (PG-13). Shailene Woodley as a teen heroine in another dystopian future — it’s different and rather good. Challenging.

• # The Maze Runner (PG-13). Teenage boys trapped in a woodland clearing surrounded by intriguing mazes, monsters and mystery. Somber.

• # X-Men: Days of Future Past (PG-13). The X-Men travel through time and tangle with their younger selves. Handsome.


Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley in “The Fault in Our Stars.” (James Bridges/AP)

• # The Fault in Our Stars (PG-13). Two very ill teenagers fall in love and defy fate. Poignant.

• # If I Stay (PG-13). Chloë Grace Moretz hovers between life and afterlife in the wake of a terrible accident. Spiritual-ish.

Directed by Ava DuVernay, "Selma" tells the story of several months of the American civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. (  / Paramount Pictures)

• *Selma (PG-13). A galvanizing yet intimate drama about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his colleagues as they plan the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Makes you proud.

• # The Good Lie (PG-13). Four Sudanese civil war refugees wait years to come to America and experience a big culture shock. Touching performances. Uplifting.

St. Vincent (PG-13). Bill Murray as an aging, alcoholic curmudgeon, redeemed by the lonely kid next door. Heartwarming but cranky.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in “Belle.” (David Appleby/Fox Searchlight via AP)

• # Belle (PG). A young mixed-race woman — the daughter of a slave and an 18th-century English aristocrat — becomes an anti-slavery activist. Ravishing.

Rosewater (R). A dramatized true story about an Iranian-born journalist arrested and tortured while covering Iran’s 2009 election. Gripping.

Love Is Strange (R). Two older gay men, together for decades, finally marry, but then face life-changing difficulties. Perfect.

• # Boyhood (R). A deeply involving drama, shot over 12 years, shows a boy and his family growing up. Extraordinary.


”Antarctica: A Year on Ice.” (Music Box Films)

Antarctica: A Year on Ice (PG). Who keeps those research bases humming in Antarctica while the scientists do their thing? Amazing.

• # Tim’s Vermeer (PG-13). An inventor tries to replicate the science in the great 17th-century painter’s technique. Fascinating.

• # Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago (Unrated). Ordinary folk hike an ancient path in search of faith, courage and peace. Inspiring.

• *Citizenfour (R). Leaker Edward Snowden in his own words, filmed just as the kerfuffle hits the fan. Stunning.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.