The 16 best family movies of 2015

Fill your nights in 2016 with some of this year’s best family movies.
Fill your nights in 2016 with some of this year’s best family movies. Getty Images/Creatas RF

Featuring everything from animal adventures to space survival, superheroes to speaking up, the best movies of 2015 for kids, teens, and families entertained us, made us think, and gave us plenty to talk about. At the same time, they offered up worthwhile messages, positive role models, and beautiful images that linger long after the credits roll. (And virtually all the films also earned the Common Sense Seal, an extra special honor for movies that offer families an exceptional media experience.)

Many of these films are available on DVD or in your streaming queue - and some are still in theaters.

'The Peanuts Movie,' 4 stars, 4+

Sweet, gentle, and nostalgic in tone, this family-friendly comedy honors the legacy of the beloved comic strip and classic TV specials and offers great messages about being yourself, trying hard, and liking people for who they really are.

'Shaun the Sheep Movie,' 5 stars, 5+

Yes, it has some potty humor and peril, but this British import is a sweet little adventure that's fine for almost all ages, with positive messages about teamwork, friendship, and acknowledging and fixing your mistakes.

'Inside Out,' 5 stars, 6+

Not only is this Pixar masterpiece a heartfelt, engaging, endlessly inventive adventure with strong themes of friendship and acceptance, but it has real potential to help kids and parents navigate the powerful emotions that come with growing up.

'Monkey Kingdom,' 4 stars, 6+

This funny, educational documentary narrated by Tina Fey has its share of heavy moments, but ultimately it's a family-friendly pick with strong positive messages about motherhood and sacrifice.

'Paddington,' 4 stars, 6+

A delightful adaptation of Michael Bond's beloved book, this charming tale takes kids on a fun adventure while also touching on bigger issues. It's a sweet film for young kids, with enough slapstick comedy to entertain older viewers, too.

'Batkid Begins,' 4 stars, 7+

Packed with excellent messages and role models, this tremendously heartwarming documentary has basically zero iffy content and makes a strong case for the positive power of social media.

'The Good Dinosaur,' 5 stars, 7+

This visually beautiful and emotionally authentic _ but frequently intense _ tale about a young dinosaur who experiences loss and struggles to find his way home will entrance kids and parents alike with its stunning visuals and strong messages.

'Zarafa,' 5 stars, 9+

Filled with funny moments, terrific performances, insightful messages, offbeat and interesting characters, and a bounty of exotic global settings, this enchanting animated story also has some very emotional moments.

'McFarland, USA,' 4 stars, 10+

An uplifting real-life tale about a team of underdogs and the coach who expects greatness from them, this feel-good drama has strong positive messages about teamwork, cooperation, and community.

'A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,' 4 stars, 12+

This intense but very meaningful documentary about bullying is an important movie for parents and kids to watch together; hopefully it will encourage everyone who sees it to embrace who they are and stand up for themselves and others.

'He Named Me Malala,' 5 stars, 12+

Both inspiring and humanizing, this documentary about teenage Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has powerful messages about courage, the importance of education, and standing up for your beliefs.

'The Martian,' 4 stars, 12+

Star Matt Damon's charm, humor, and gravitas make this smart, action-packed adaptation of Andy Weir's best-selling novel an all-around perfect film for families with curious, science-loving teens and older tweens.

'Bridge of Spies,' 3 stars, 13+

A refreshing change of pace from many modern spy movies, Steven Spielberg's fact-based Cold War thriller starring Tom Hanks creates tension crisply and carefully, keeping the twists and turns coming.

'Brooklyn,' 5 stars, 14+

This romantic drama about a young Irish woman who moves to New York in the 1950s has great performances and is an ideal film for teens and parents to see together and to use as a way to talk about family, immigration, independence, and what makes a place feel like home.

'Testament of Youth,' 4 stars, 14+

Based on Vera Brittain's World War I memoir, this wonderful - albeit heartbreaking - drama starring Alicia Vikander is beautifully acted and full of poignant moments that convey the painful price of war, no matter how noble.

'Spotlight,' 4 stars, 15+

This fact-based drama about the investigative reporters behind the Boston Globe's trailblazing articles about priests abusing children isn't easy to watch, but - similar to "All the President's Men" before it - it's an extraordinary story about media's power to expose wrongs and call for accountability.

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.