Kids’ movies aren’t the most diverse group in the world, to say the least. While there’s usually a token person of color here or there, at least these days, it’s still rare to find an awesome children’s film that actually features a non-white person as the main character.
That sucks. It’s important for children of color, as well as for white children, to see people of color starring in their own adventures, telling their own stories, being heroes and heroines. So, here are thirteen examples of awesome kids’ movies with non-white leads. A few of them you definitely already know about, but I bet there’s a few you can add to your family’s Netflix queue.
Mulan: Not only does Mulan feature an Asian female protagonist, she’s also an Asian female protagonist who gets shit done. She goes after what she wants, fights for what’s right and happens to have a love affair in the process.
The Princess And The Frog: You probably already know about this one, but it’s worth mentioning because we finally got a black Disney princess!
The Karate Kid (2010): Jaden Smith stars in this remake, which updates the setting to Beijing and is pretty charming, so I hear.
The Golden Blaze: A movie about two rival African-American boys whose dads turn into superheroes (and become pawns in their schoolyard war). It’s also stylized like a comic book, which is pretty cool.
Lilo And Stitch: Lilo and her family are Pacific Islanders in this cute little movie. I also love that the female lead is drawn like a little girl, not like a beautiful, willowy grown-up woman.
Spy Kids: This is a fun romp starring two Latino/a kids. I don’t remember much about it, but I know that a lot of children I used to babysit for liked it. So there’s your ringing endorsement!
Polly: This all-black remake of Pollyanna stars Keisha Knight-Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad. Yes, from The Cosby Show! It was a made for TV movie in 1989, so I’m not sure how hard it is to get your hands on, but it’s a great adaptation.
Cinderella (1997): With a black woman as Cinderella (Brandy), a black woman as the fairy godmother (Whitney Houston), a black woman as the queen (Whoopi Goldberg) and a Filipino prince (Paolo Montalban) this is one of the most diverse movies ever made for kids. Plus, it’s good. Like, really good. Like one of my favorite movies ever good.
Kiki’s Delivery Service: This is a Japanese movie about a little Japanese witch. Good news: It’s apparently being remade into a live-action film this year!
Dr. Doolittle 3: The 3rd installment of Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Doolittle series doesn’t actually feature Eddie Murphy, but it does feature Kyla Pratt as his smart teenage daughter.
For Slightly Older Kids
If your kids are a little bit older, they might like one of these movies with more mature themes (but still including child protagonists).
Wadjda: A Saudi-German film that’s won about a billion film festival awards (and will be submitted for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar consideration this year), Wadja is about a girl who enters her school’s Koran recitation competition in order to earn money to buy the green bicycle she covets. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds awesome.
Whale Rider: I actually saw this movie in the theatre when I was a teenager. It’s about a young Maori girl who yearns to be chief of her tribe, even though she’s a girl. Beautiful shots of New Zealand + intense family drama + a brave feminist heroine = a darn good movie.
Akeelah And The Bee: This heart-warming tale is about a little African-American girl and her adventures with friends, family and the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
All photos via IMDB unless otherwise specified