15 Movies to See With the Kids Before Summer Ends

Is your child old enough to see this summer's blockbusters? Read our guide to find out!

Summer and movies go together like ice cream and sprinkles. But it can be hard to decide which of the big-budget sequels, superhero adventures, and eye-popping animated flicks you and your kids are most likely to love (and want to spend money on!).

From the sure-to-be-blockbuster Iron Man 3 to a look at Mike and Sulley's college days in Monsters University, here's a cheat sheet from Common Sense Media to help you decide which high-profile summer movies are appropriate for your family.

JULY MOVIES

Despicable Me 2 (July 3)
Target Age: Young Kids
Buzz Factor: Gru and his three adopted daughters -- Margo, Edith, and Agnes -- return with their army of hilarious yellow Minions. In this sequel to 2010's hit animated comedy, Gru (again voiced by Steve Carell) is recruited into the Anti-Villain League to help defeat a new global threat, the nefarious Eduardo (Al Pacino). With a hip soundtrack, those laugh-aloud Minions, and the adorable girls, Despicable Me 2 looks like a no-brainer for families with kids of all ages.

The Lone Ranger
(July 3)
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: Disney introduces another generation to the legendary Western do-gooder and his enigmatic Native American sidekick. As Tonto, Johnny Depp reteams with director Gore Verbinski (Rango and the Pirates of the Caribbean films) and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Armie Hammer, who played the prince in Mirror Mirror, dons the white hat and black mask. Expect plenty of wide open Western vistas disrupted by eardrum-testing explosions.

Turbo
(July 17)
Target Age: Young Kids
Buzz Factor: Ryan Reynolds voices the titular Turbo, a garden snail who dreams of being superfast. When an accident involving nitrous oxide supercharges Turbo, he starts racing other snails and sets his sights even bigger: racing in the legendary Indy 500. Talking animals + fast vehicles x racing sequences = very happy kids.

The Wolverine (July 26)
Target Age: Older Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: X-Men and ninjas. Adamantium, indestructibility, and the promise of death for someone's who's had enough of it all. The latest film in the X-Men universe isn't an origin story or a prequel; it's a close study of the most emotionally complicated member of the X-Men as he deals with the burden of his mutation. Hugh Jackman reprises the lead role, this time battling Japanese assassins and Yakuza underworld thugs. Expect plenty of intense action scenes, fighting, and more.

The Smurfs 2
(July 31)
Target Age: Young Kids and Tweens
Buzz Factor: The happy-go-lucky CGI creatures can't shake the wrath of obsessed wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), who comes up with a new plan to trap the Smurfs in this sequel: the Naughties, a group of mischievous anti-Smurfs that kidnap Smurfette. The remaining Smurfs band together with their human pals Patrick and Grace (Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays) to once again defeat Gargamel. You can count on potty humor, slapstick, and lots of silliness -- just what tweens love.

AUGUST MOVIES
Disney's Planes (Aug. 9)
Target Age: Young Kids
Buzz Factor: Dusty, an impressively fast crop duster (voiced by Dane Cook), wants nothing more than to compete in high-flying air shows, but he's actually afraid of heights. Committed to overcoming his phobia, Dusty enlists the help of a seasoned naval plane. Kids, especially those who like planes, trains, and automobiles, will be ready to soar with this Cars-like adventure.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
(Aug. 16)
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: Rick Riordan's best-selling Percy Jackson series returns to the big screen for a second chance after 2010's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief came up short with both critics and audiences. The sequel, again starring Logan Lerman as Percy, takes the action to the Sea of Monsters (aka the Bermuda Triangle), where Percy and his Camp Half-Blood pals travel in search of the all important Golden Fleece. Riordan's army of myth-loving readers will want to check it out.

One Direction: This Is Us
(Aug. 30)
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: Parents, get ready for the ear-piercing shrieks, because Harry, Niall, Zayn, Liam, and Louis are in the house in 3-D! Academy Award-winning director Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) follows the British boy band in this concert documentary, which is likely to end in a chorus of giddy giggles and shouts for more from 1D fans around the world.

In Theaters Now
Iron Man 3 
Target Age: Older Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: As usual, the summer movie season kicks off with a big-budget action flick; this time it's the much-anticipated third film in the Iron Man franchise. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is back to face his toughest foe to date -- one who has the power to destroy the one thing Tony loves more than himself: his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Expect the usual mix of explosive action and arrogant humor but with a considerably darker tone.

Star Trek Into Darkness
 
Target Age: Older Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: The second installment in director J.J. Abrams' phenomenally successful Star Trek reboot finds Chris Pine's James T. Kirk settling, with a great deal of uncertainty, into his captain's chair. But the real buzz is the guy on the other side of the viewscreen: Benedict Cumberbach's ultrasuave ultravillain has the message boards lit up with rumors that he's playing Khan, the nemesis from 1982's Star Trek II. Expect lots of sci-fi action violence and peril.

Epic
 
Target Age: Young Kids
Buzz Factor: The summer's first big animated adventure is a nature lover's dream, courtesy of the team responsible for Ice Age and Rio. Teen protagonist Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) is the daughter of a kooky professor (Jason Sudeikis) who's convinced there are miniature guardians of the forest. She finds out he's right when she's magically shrunken and encounters the Leafmen and their enchanted world. Mary Katherine could be this year's Merida as she helps the Leafmen defend the woods from evil.

Penguins 3D
 
Target Age: All Ages
Buzz Factor: What is it about the adorable black-and-white birds of Antarctica that we find so irresistible? No matter how many documentaries or animated movies come out about them, everyone still yearns for more about penguins and their lifestyle. David Attenborough's documentary follows a male King penguin as he attempts to keep his baby fledgling alive, and we can guarantee penguin cuteness overload (as well as the strong possibility of some poignant moments).

After Earth
 
Target Age: Older Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith reunite on screen for the first time since The Pursuit of Happyness. They play a stern general and his mischievous son in a post-apocalyptic future where humans have taken up residence on a planet light years away from a ruined Earth. In addition to the Smiths, the big reason to see After Earth is to find out whether director M. Night Shyamalan can redeem his reputation with a commercial or critical success. Expect sci-fi action and some intense moments.

JUNE MOVIES
Man of Steel 
Target Age: Older Tweens and Teens
Buzz Factor: Any reboot of this pillar of the American comic book canon is going to get the fanboys excited. With Zack Snyder (300) directing and Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight trilogy) producing, hopes are high that this latest version of the Superman origin story will relaunch a durable franchise. British import Henry Cavill anchors this version of the Man of Steel story, mentored by Krypton father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and earth father Jonathan (Kevin Costner). It promises to be darker and moodier than previous incarnations.

Monsters University
 
Target Age: Young Kids
Buzz Factor: Monsters, Inc. was one of Pixar's early fan favorites, so we expect everyone -- even teens who pretend they're too old for animated movies -- to line up to see one-eyed Mike Wazowski (again voiced by Billy Crystal) and larger than life Sulley (John Goodman) as college "frenemies" before they became best buddies. The campus pranks and dorm-room jokes should appeal to everyone, from parents to preschoolers.


To find movie reviews for teens and more, visit Common Sense Media.

 

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