The 25 Best Animated Movies on Netflix

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The 25 Best Animated Movies on Netflix

Netflix has doubled down on animated movies. Even while the overall movies section on the streaming giant has shrunk and Disney and Pixar have pulled their films for their own service, Netflix has grown ambitious in its own animated offerings. The streamer has quite a selection for children and adults alike. The anime section, in particular, has never been stronger. Since there’s no “Animated Movies” section on Netflix, finding them on the site can be a chore, but we’ve gone through all the kids and grown-up sections to select 25 animated movies streaming on Netflix that are worth your time. If you just want to find movies for the little ones to watch, you can also check out our guide to The 20 Best Kids Movies Streaming on Netflix.

Here are the 25 best animated movies streaming on Netflix:

1. Blame!

blame.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Hiroyuki Seshita
Stars: Sora Amamiya, Kana Hanazawa, Takahiro Sakurai
Genre: Anime, Sci-Fi, Action
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 105 minutes

Watch on Netflix

When it comes to dark industrial sci-fi, Tsutomu Nihei is a visionary. Trained as an architect before pursuing a career as a manga author, Nihei’s art is simultaneously sparse and labyrinthine, his body of work defined by a unifying obsession with invented spaces. Byzantine factories with gothic accents spanning across impossible chasms, populated by bow-legged synthoids and ghoulish predators touting serrated bone-swords and pulsating gristle-guns. His first and most famous series, Blame!, is considered the key text in Nihei’s aesthetic legacy, going so far as to inspire everything from videogames, to music, and even art and fashion. Past attempts have been made to adapt the series into an anime, though none have been able to materialize successfully. That is, until now. With the support of Netflix, Hiroyuki Seshita of Polygon Pictures has delivered that long-awaited Blame! film. Set on a far-future Earth consumed by a massive, self-replicating superstructure known as ‘The City’, Blame! follows Killy, a taciturn loner, wandering the layers of the planet in search of a human possessing the ‘net terminal gene,’ an elusive trait thought to be the only means of halting the city’s perpetual hostile expansion. Boasting a screenplay penned by Sadayuki Murai, famed for his writing on such series as Cowboy Bebop and Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, and supervised by Nihei himself, Seshita’s film abbreviates much of the manga’s early chapters and streamlines the story into an altogether more narrative and action-driven affair. Art director Hiroshi Takiguchi deftly replicates Nihei’s distinctive aesthetic, achieving in color what was before only monochromatic, while Yuki Moriyama capably improves on the uniform character designs of the original, imparting its casts with distinct, easily identifiable traits and silhouettes that greatly improve the story’s parsability. Blame! is as faithful an adaptation as is possible and as fitting an introduction to the series as the manga itself. Blame! builds a strong case for being not only one of the most conceptually entertaining anime films of late, but also for being one of, if not the best original anime film to grace Netflix in a long time. —Toussaint Egan


2. Mirai

mirai.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Stars: Haru Kuroki, Moka Kamishiraishi, Gen Hoshino
Genre: Anime
Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Most, if not all, of Mamoru Hosoda’s original films produced in the past decade function, to some degree or another, as exercises in autobiography. Summer War, apart from a premise more or less recycled from Hosoda’s 2000 directorial debut Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!, was the many-times-removed story of Hosoda meeting his wife’s family for the first time. 2012’s Wolf Children was inspired by the passing of Hosoda’s mother, animated in part by the anxieties and aspirations at the prospect of his own impending parenthood. 2015’s The Boy and the Beast was completed just after the birth of Hosoda’s first child, the product of his own questions as to what role a father should play in the life of his son. Mirai, the director’s seventh film, is not from Hosoda’s own experience, but filtered through the experiences of his first-born son meeting his baby sibling for the first time. Told care of the perspective of Kun (Moka Kamishiraishi), a toddler who feels displaced and insecure in the wake of his sister Mirai’s birth, Mirai is a beautiful adventure fantasy drama that whisks the viewer on a dazzling odyssey across Kun’s entire family tree, culminating in a poignant conclusion that emphasizes the beauty of what it means to love and to be loved. Mirai is Hosoda’s most accomplished film, the recipient of the first Academy Award nomination for an anime film not produced by Studio Ghibli, and an experience as edifying as it is a joy to behold. —Toussaint Egan


3. A Silent Voice

a-silent-voice-poster.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Naoko Yamada
Stars: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki, Kensho Ono, Yuki Kaneko, Yui Ishikawa, Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Mayu Matsuoka
Genre: Anime, Drama
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 129 minutes

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In a medium that too often feels at times constricted by the primacy of masculine aesthetic sensibilities and saturated with hyper-sexualized portrayals of women colloquially coded as “fan service,” Naoko Yamada’s presence is a welcome breath of fresh air, to say nothing of the inimitable quality of her films themselves. Inspired by the likes of Yasujiro Ozu, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sergei Parajanov, Sofia Coppola, and Lucile Hadžihalilovic, Yamada is a director par excellence, capable of arresting attention and evoking melancholy and bittersweet catharsis through delicate compositions of deft sound, swift editing, ephemeral color palettes, and characters with rich inner lives rife with knotty, relatable struggles. A Silent Voice, adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, is a prime example of all these sensibilities at play. When Shoya Ishida meets Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf transfer student, in elementary school, he bullies her relentlessly to the amusement of his classmates. One day when Shoya goes too far, forcing Shoko to transfer again for fear of her own safety, he is branded a pariah by his peers and retreats into a state of self-imposed isolation and self-hatred. Years later, Shoya meets Shoko once again, now as teenagers, and attempts to make amends for the harm he inflicted on her, all while wrestling to understand his own motivations for doing so. A Silent Voice is a film of tremendous emotional depth—an affecting portrait of adolescent abuse, reconciliation and forgiveness for the harm perpetrated by others and ourselves. —Toussaint Egan


4. ParaNorman

paranorman.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Stars: Kodi Smt-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin
Genre: Animation, Fantasy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 96 minutes

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The beautifully crafted stop-motion film ParaNorman opens with two important pieces of information. First, we observe our young hero as he watches a B-zombie flick, complete with choppy edits and a boom mic that creeps its way into the frame. This lets us know that the filmmakers approach the upcoming story with tongues firmly planted in cheeks. Second, Norman carries on a conversation with his grandmother. This part of the scene is only significant once we learn that grandma is quite dead. The tale that follows is part Something Wicked This Way Comes, part The Goonies. The town of Blithe Hollow, once a colonial village, now a struggling tourist trap, has lived under the threat of a witch’s curse for 300 years—long enough for fear to transmogrify into camp. Norman can see and talk with ghosts, an ability that might make him quite popular with the dead set, but one that does little to improve his social standing with his living schoolmates… or his immediate family. At school, Norman is subject to bullying from students and teachers alike, and we quickly come to care for this small, tough, sweet boy as he patiently cleans the word “freak” from his locker. Another social outcast, the rotund Neil latches onto Norman, becoming his new best friend (whether Norman wants one or not). The arrival of Neil also indicates the arrival of the true heart of this endearing film, which is its humor. ParaNorman took two years to animate, and it shows in the exquisite craftsmanship of its design and execution. The artistic direction illustrates such a love for detail and texture that every bit of scenic design, from the town hall to a plastic bag caught in a fence, creates a perfect world for this story. Lead Animator Travis Knight and his sprawling team of animators, designers, and fabricators execute the vision with great flair. The result is a clear-headed and touching film about finding your own purpose, accepting others as they are and, most importantly, forgiveness. —Clay Steakley


5. I Lost My Body

i-lost-my-body.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Jérémy Clapin
Stars: Hakim Faris Hamza, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 81 minutes

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While we’re on board, at least passively, for however many sequels Pixar wants to give Toy Story, patient for however long another one takes, I Lost My Body is a singular animated film, increasingly of the kind that, frankly, don’t get made anymore. Partly because hand-drawn features made by small studios are rarer than ever, but mostly because it’s a defiantly adult animated film, wreathed in oblique storytelling and steeped in grief. Ostensibly about an anthropomorphic hand climbing and skittering its way across the city to find the person to whom it was once attached—the story of its severing slowly coming to light—the beauty of director Jérémy Clapin’s images, often limned in filth and decay, is in how revelatory they can be when tied so irrevocably to the perspective of a small hand navigating both its nascent life in the treacherous urban underground and the traumatic memories of its host body’s past. I Lost My Body is an unassuming, quietly heartbreaking achievement, one the Academy needs to prioritize now more than ever over expectedly competent big studio fare. —Dom Sinacola


6. Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack

mobile-suit-gundam-chars-counterattack-poster.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Stars: Toru Furuya, Shuichi Ikeda, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Maria Kawamura, Nozomu Sasaki, Koichi Yamadera
Genre: Anime, Sci-Fi, Action
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 119 minutes

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The first Gundam theatrical film and final chapter in the original saga begun in 1979 with the “Universal Century Timeline” of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series, Char’s Counterattack has the weight of three seasons of TV behind it. Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of the Gundam series, directed and wrote the film, adapting it faithfully from his novel, Hi-Streamer. Widely considered the best film in the Gundam franchise, Char’s Counterattack is most successful at wrapping up the 14-year rivalry between the “hero” of the Earth Federation, Amuro Ray, and the leader of Neo-Zeon, Char Aznable. The story involves a classic Gundam dilemma: Char’s Neo-Zeon force attempts to drop an asteroid filled with nuclear weapons onto Earth, which would free the colonies from the yoke of oppression by their rivals, the Earth Federation, and kill everyone on Earth in the process. As with all of the best Gundam tales, Tomino approaches the story from a hard sci-fi point of view, clearly laying out the science behind things like giant mobile suits and “newtypes” (humans that have evolved to acquire psychic abilities). Tomino carefully lays out the reasoning behind Char and Amuro’s passions and hatreds, not allowing the viewer to choose a clear side. Gundam series have always been willing to take on discussions about the horrors of war and how mankind, for all its advancements, never seems to be able to free itself from humanity’s baser instincts. Char’s Counterattack attempts this as well, yet it’s mostly concerned with wrapping up the rivalry between Amuro and Char—and on that note, it succeeds wildly. Featuring gorgeous, tense fight sequences set in space, an excellent soundtrack by Shigeaki Saegusa, and some of the most lauded Gundam designs in the history of the franchise, the film is inarguably one of the high points of the Gundam Universe. One downside: If you don’t have the investment of spending hundreds of episodes of television with these characters, the plot can be confusing, and Char/Amuro’s ending will likely not resonate as strongly. Regardless, Char’s Counterattack remains a key moment in the Gundam universe, one still worth checking out almost 30 years later. Hail Zeon!—Jason DeMarco


7. The Mitchells vs. the Machines

mitchells-vs-machines-poster.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe (co-director)
Stars: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Olivia Colman
Genre: Comedy/Sci-Fi

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Animated generational divides have never been more like a sci-fi carnival than in The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Writer/director Mike Rianda’s feature debut (he and co-writer/director Jeff Rowe made their bones on the excellently spooky, silly show Gravity Falls) is equal parts absurd, endearing and terrifying. It’s easy to feel as lost or overwhelmed by the flashing lights and exhilarating sights as the central family fighting on one side of the title’s grudge match, but it’s equally easy to come away with the exhausted glee of a long, weary theme park outing’s aftermath. Its genre-embedded family bursts through every messy, jam-packed frame like they’re trying to escape (they often are), and in the process create the most energetic, endearing animated comedy so far this year. And its premise begins so humbly. Filmmaker and animator Katie (Abbi Jacobson) is leaving home for college and, to get there, has to go on a road trip with her family: Rick (Danny McBride), her Luddite outdoorsy dad; Linda (Maya Rudolph), her peacemaking mom; and Aaron (Rianda), her dino-freak little brother. You might be able to guess that Katie and her dad don’t always see eye-to-eye, even when Katie’s eyes aren’t glued to her phone or laptop. That technocriticism, where “screen time” is a dirty phrase and the stick-shifting, cabin-building father figure wants his family to experience the real world, could be as hacky as the twelfth season of a Tim Allen sitcom. The Mitchells vs. the Machines escapes that danger not only through some intentional nuance in its writing, but also some big ol’ anti-nuance: Partway through the trip, the evil tech companies screw up and phone-grown robots decide to shoot all the humans into space. This movie needed something this narratively large to support its gloriously kitchen-sink visuals. The Sony film uses some of the same tech that made Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse look so crisp and unique, adding comicky shading to its expressive CG. In fact, once some of the more freaky setpieces take off, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Miles Morales swing in to save the day. The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ spin on the Spidey aesthetic comes from meme and movie-obsessed Katie, whose imagination often breaks through into the real world and whose bizarre, neon and filter-ridden sketchbook doodles ornament the film’s already exciting palette with explosive oddity. This unique and savvy style meshes well with The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ wonderfully timed slapstick, crashing and smashing with an unexpected violence, balanced out with one truly dorky pug and plenty of visual asides poking fun at whatever happens to be going on.—Jacob Oller


8. Lu Over the Wall

lu-over-wall-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Stars: Kanon Tani, Shota Shimoda, Christine Marie Cabanos, Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh
Genre: Animated, Comedy, Kids & Family, Fantasy
Rating: G
Runtime: 107 minutes

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Distributor GKids sells Lu Over the Wall as “family friendly,” which it is, an innocuous, offbeat alternative to the conventional computer animated joints typically found in modern multiplexes. But there’s “whimsical” and there’s “weird,” and Lu Over the Wall ventures well past the former and into the latter before director Masaaki Yuasa gets through the opening credits. Barely a moment goes by where we come close to touching base with reality: Even its most human beats, those precious hints of relatable qualities that encourage our empathy, are elongated, distorted, rendered nigh unrecognizable by exaggeration. Lu Over the Wall isn’t a movie that takes itself seriously, and for the average moviegoer, that’s very much a trait worth embracing. The plot is both simple and not: Teenager Kai (voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas in the English dub), recently relocated from Tokyo to the quiet fishing village of Hinashi, spends his days doing what most teenage boys do, sullenly hunkering down in his room and shutting out the world. As Kai struggles with his self-imposed isolation, he befriends Lu (Christine Marie Cabanos), a manic pixie dream mermaid wrought in miniature. What’s a solitary emo boy to do in a literal and figurative fish-out-of-water plot that’s buttressed by xenophobic overtones? Lu Over the Wall blends joy with political allegory with vibrant color palettes with storytelling magic, plus some actual magic, plus too many upbeat musical interludes to count. Describing the film merely as “creative” feels like an insult to its inspired madness. —Andy Crump


9. The End of Evangelion

the-end-of-evangelion-poster.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Stars: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, Yuko Miyamura, Kotono Mitsuishi, Fumihiko Tachiki, Yuriko Yamaguchi
Genre: Anime, Sci-Fi, Action
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 87 minutes

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The final two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion are notorious among fans of the series. Titled “Do you love me?” and “Take care of yourself,” the two-part finale infamously sidelined the climactic finale to the series’ central conflict, instead opting to take place entirely away from the action within the subconscious of the show’s protagonist, Shinji Ikari, as he wrestled to resolve the self-loathing and hatred which plagued him throughout the story’s duration. The unconventionality and unsatisfying nature of this conclusion prompted disgruntled fans to issue death threats on Anno’s life and Gainax’s building to be defaced with graffiti. In response, Anno set to work on an alternative ending to the series to be produced in two parts and aired in theaters. If you were looking for a light, campy and celebratory conclusion, End of Evangelion is not that movie. Instead, what fans were treated to was perhaps one of the most fatalistic, avant garde and, oddly enough, life-affirming endings to an anime series ever produced. In short, it is the best and worst of everything that is Evangelion combined to create a film that is unlike anything that had come before it. Despite its unrelenting darkness, End of Evangelion remains true to the ethos of its subtitle, that the joy of death is in the act of rebirth.—Toussaint Egan


10. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf

witcher-nightmare.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Kwang II Han
Stars: Theo James, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 83 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Netflix series The Witcher was a rather massive hit for the streaming platform in 2019, introducing mainstream audiences everywhere to the dangerous world of Geralt of Rivia, a magically enhanced professional monster hunter known as a Witcher. Like a lot of prequels, the animated film Nightmare of the Wolf can often feel more interested in table setting for the next season of the live-action series than in telling a standalone story of its own. Your mileage will likely vary on whether you think that’s a good idea or not—hardcore fans will be delighted by the frequent namedropping and amped-up violence in the lead-up to the series’ return, while casual viewers may wonder what the big deal about any of this is. But Nightmare of the Wolf works because it unabashedly doubles down on much of what makes the original series so appealing, namely the rich lore that surrounds the existence of Witchers in general. And in doing so, it makes the original series feel like something much larger than one man’s story, expanding its world in a way that makes almost every aspect of it seem more complex and interesting than it did before. The film is technically a Vesemir origin story, but it’s also a crash course in how Witchers came to be, from the harsh conditions in which they are created to the uncomfortable position they occupy in the politics and cultural consciousness of the Continent. But most of all, Nightmare of the Wolf continues to muddy the moral waters of the Witcher universe, crafting complex characters in every shade of grey imaginable. Nightmare of the Wolf’s broader message about how we often create the monsters we fear the most certainly isn’t new. But those familiar beats ultimately help us see the world of the live-action series—and Geralt’s place in it—in a different way than we did before, one which both justifies the Continent’s distrust of Witchers and deepens our understanding of why these remaining men have chosen to keep on fighting anyway. —Lacy Baugher Milas.


11. Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

cagliostro.jpg Year: 1979
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Stars: Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue, Goro Naya
Genre: Animation, Acton & Adventure
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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The nature of Miyazaki’s oeuvre is such that it brims with an embarrassment of riches, each film in its own part situated indelibly into the continuum that is the anime canon. His films garner so much acclaim for their visual storytelling and emotional virtuosity that even those few that could be considered his “worst” movies still rank leagues above those animators who only aspire to his status. Case in point: Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Miyazaki’s take on Kazuhiko Kato’s notorious master criminal is at once a rip-roaring heist film with heart and what might arguably be Miyazaki’s lesser films. Chalk it up to Miyazaki’s nascent efforts as a director; Castle of Cagliostro suffers from a plodding middle half and a disappointingly simplistic antagonist while still somehow managing to sparkle with his signature charm peeking through the baggage of a preexisting work. Fans of the series passionately criticized the film for relieving Lupin of his anarchic predilections and instead casting him in the mold of a true gentleman thief, stealing only when his nebulous sense of honor permits it. In any case, The Castle of Cagliostro remains an important and essential artifact of Miyazaki’s proto-Ghibli work. A flawed Miyazaki film is a triumph all the same. —Toussaint Egan


12. How To Train Your Dragon 2

dragon-2.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Dean DeBlois
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill
Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating: PG
Runtime: 112 minutes

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How to Train Your Dragon was the definition of a pleasant surprise, so its sequel had big shoes to fill. It’s to the creative team’s credit then that, rather than rehash the themes of the first film all over again, they chose to instead expand the world out into new and interesting directions. It’s been five years since the events of the last film. Everyone in the Viking village of Berk now lives in harmony with the dragons and even participates in fun-filled games. Though our protagonist, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), has grown since we last saw him, he remains as lovably goofy and sarcastic as ever. Yet, not all is well in paradise. Hiccup’s father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), wants to start grooming his son to succeed him as village chieftain. It’s a position Hiccup feels woefully ill-equipped for, despite encouraging words from now-girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera). Our hero’s personal squabbles, however, are interrupted when he and Astrid stumble upon a group of men attempting to capture dragons. They are led by dragon trapper Eret (Kit Harington), who claims to be on a mission from Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a ruthless conqueror hellbent on raising a dragon army and taking over the land. Whereas the first film benefited from a simpler, concise narrative involving the classic boy-and-his-dog/cat/dragon arc, this latest entry bites off a little more story than it can chew. But it has more than enough great moments to pick up the slack. From a technical standpoint, it’s a marvel to behold. As great as the flying sequences were in the original film, this entry effectively one-ups them. Also, the sheer detail of the animation is, at times, baffling. How to Train Your Dragon 2 may not be Toy Story 2 (or The Empire Strikes Back, for that matter), but it’s a more than worthy successor to the first film. Even when it falls short of its lofty ambitions, you can’t help but appreciate how thoroughly it commits to achieving them. —Mark Rozeman


13. Over the Moon

over-the-moon.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Glen Keane
Stars: Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeung
Genre: Adventure, Family
Rating: PG
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Over the Moon was Netflix’s first bold step into the realm of producing animated films to rival those of Disney. Directed by former Disney animator Glen Keane, who was responsible for bringing films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Tangled to life, and containing a collection of catchy and heartwarming songs, explosively colorful animation and a story immersed in Chinese culture, the film seems to have all the pieces of another animation classic. The film follows a 14-year-old Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) living with her now-single father four years after the passing of her mother. Still grieving her loss, Fei Fei clings to her mother’s traditional stories of the goddess Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) living on the moon, awaiting her departed lover, and believes that if she can prove to her father that Chang’e exists, he will follow her example and stop trying to start a new family. Even if poorly contextualized, the beautiful animation sequences of Over the Moon can’t be ignored, and there are times when the colorful display is mesmerizing enough to distract from the plot confusion. There’s a good chance that very young kids will love the movie for its bright colors and cute animals alone, and its songs are catchy enough to not likely drive their parents up the wall upon the millionth time being played. —Joseph Stanichar


14. The Lorax

lorax.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Chris Renaud
Stars: Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, Betty White
Genre: Adventure
Rating: PG
Runtime: 87 minutes

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The creators of Despicable Me adapted the favorite tale of the beloved children’s author for the big screen, rendering his whimsical 2-D illustrations in shiny, computer-generated 3-D. The moral of the story, published more than 40 years ago, couldn’t be more topical: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot [about trees specifically or the environment generally], nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Unfortunately, in their bid to expand the good doctor’s rhymes to feature length, the filmmakers bookend the fable about the Lorax with a new storyline that distracts and detracts from the core message of the original book. The boy featured at the start and end of The Lorax now has a name: Ted, presumably in homage to his creator. Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) is smitten with Audrey, named after Geisel’s wife, whose greatest wish in life is to see a real, live tree. You see, Ted and Audrey (Taylor Swift) live in Thneed-Ville, an entirely plastic city with inflatable bushes, mechanical flowers and battery-operated trees sealed off from the outside world. As described in the film’s opening anthem, though, the people of Thneedville, all smooth surfaces and no sharp edges, are happy with the way things are, especially since O’Hare Air bottles and delivers fresh, clean O2 right to your door. In many ways, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is a stunning visual achievement. Hair and fur have always proved a tremendous challenge for CGI artists, but here the Lorax’s feathery mustache, the critters’ fuzzy fur, and the trees’ wispy tufts have been so finely crafted that one can practically feel how soft they are to the touch. But for better or worse, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax wears its heart on its sleeve. —Annlee Ellingson


15. Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll & The Movie

violet-evergarden.jpg Year: 2019, 2020
Directors: Haruka Fujita, Taichi Ishidate
Stars: Yui Ishikawa, Minako Kotobuki, Aoi Yuki, Daisuke Namikawa
Genre: Anime, Drama, Fantasy
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 90 minutes, 140 minutes

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The key to Violet Evergarden is that it’s about the future. Violet, a former child soldier who survived a war and lost both her arms, has to face that future, and she can’t help but look backward. Her day job has her ghostwriting clients’ thoughts and memories. She endures PTSD-fueled echoes of her own past constantly. She yearns for her beloved superior officer who (we think?) died. And throughout, she struggles both physically, with her prosthetic hands, and socially, with everyone she meets. So much anime, including many titles on this list, focuses on conflicts during wartime; it’s rare to see one go all in on the conflicts that come with peace. Violet Evergarden’s argument—that those aftereffects are surmountable—is a compelling, important one. —Eric Vilas-Boas


16. Vivo

vivo.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Kirk DeMicco, Brandon Jeffords
Stars: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ynairaly Simo, Zoe Saldaña, Juan de Marcos González, Brian Tyree Henry, Gloria Estefan, Nicole Byer, Michael Rooker, Leslie David Baker, Katie Lowes, Olivia Trujillo, Lidya Jewett
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rating: PG

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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s gift with music is unparalleled. He has the unique ability to pair a rapid and clever turn of phrase with an infectious musical hook. The cadence of his voice conveys a longing and hopefulness which, it turns out, works if you are playing one of the founding fathers or an adorable animated animal. Miranda is the perfect choice to voice the title character in the new Netflix movie Vivo. Vivo is a kinkajou, also known as “honey bear,” a rainforest animal in the raccoon family (although Vivo, with his jaunty hat and stylish scarf, is a lot cuter than a raccoon). Vivo spends his days performing with his owner Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) in Havana, Cuba. Vivo thinks his life and its comfortable predictability is perfect. (Viewers can understand Vivo, but to Andrés and everyone else in the movie, Vivo speaks in adorable coos and gibberish.) One day Andrés gets a letter from his old love Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan) asking if he will perform with her one last time at her farewell performance in Miami. Andrés finds the love song he wrote for her years ago and decides he must get the song to her. Alas, a tragedy prevents Andrés from making this journey and Vivo decides he must leave the security of the world he knows to get this song to Marta. Vivo’s travels take him from Havana to Key West to the Everglades to Miami. Along the way he meets Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), a confident, purple-haired 10-year-old who is not in the mood to be like all the other girls. Vivo serves as a vibrant love letter to Cuba, Florida and the people who inhabit them. The more diversity shown in movies aimed at children, the better. Even if this version of Florida is nothing like what we are seeing in the news these days, I’m all for this aspirational Florida. Part adventure, part wistful romance—alongside some nice lessons imparted about friendship, family and taking risks—Vivo is enjoyable and familiar. It probably isn’t a children’s movie we will still be talking about years from now, but I will at least be singing “My Own Drum” for days. —Amy Amatangelo


17. Mr. Peabody & Sherman

peabody.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Rob Minkoff
Stars: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Ariel Winter, Patrick Warburton
Genre: Animation, Family, Adventure, Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a reminder that Hollywood’s obsession with reboots/revivals/re-imaginings can be done right. The characters originated on the beloved ’60s cartoon series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and the track record for bringing segments from that show to the big screen is pretty dreadful. Peabody director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) makes the wise choice of keeping the new film strictly animated, no live action needed. That decision both respects the original material and frees up the possibilities for a story that begins with a wacky premise—a dog, Mr. Peabody, who happens to be a certified genius adopts a human boy, Sherman, as his son—and gets crazier from there as the duo travel through time in Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine (that’s pronounced “way-back”). He’s a sort of doggie Doctor Who, although his travels are confined to Earth. The original Peabody shorts are known for their smart, pun-driven humor and amusing riffs on history and culture, all of which is retained here. —Geoff Berkshire


18. Wish Dragonwish-dragon-poster.jpg

Year: 2021
Director: Chris Appelhans
Stars: Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rating:
Runtime: minutes

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Produced by Sony, Tencent and more, Wish Dragon is Netflix’s newest animated film and the feature debut of Chinese studio Base Animation. It’s also the directorial debut of children’s book author and illustrator Chris Appelhans, who also wrote the movie’s script. There’s a lot to love in Wish Dragon. It’s got cute characters, a sweet—if oversimplified—message and a pleasant animation style, all of which are hard to hate. Set in modern China, the movie follows sweet but naïve college kid Din (Jimmy Wong), who is obsessed with reconnecting with his childhood friend and love interest, Li Na (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). Fortunately for him, he comes across a magical teapot that contains the titular “Wish Dragon” Long (John Cho), who can—say it with me here—grant him three wishes. Killing people and making others fall in love with you are still no-gos, but apparently bringing them back from the dead is fine. Just no time travel. The genie-in-a-bottle story is one that’s been done ad nauseum, and it feels like Wish Dragon copies 90% of Aladdin. We have a magical being who provides much of the movie’s comedy through his theatrical movements, a boy who uses his wishes to impress a girl from a much richer family who yearns for life outside of her highly controlled environment, and an evil group who chases after the hero in order to use the teapot for their own schemes. The different environment and time period helps shake things up, but it still feels unavoidably derivative. —Joseph Stanichar


19. Modest Heroes

modest-heroes-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Yoshiyuki Momose, Akihiko Yamashita, Takuya Okada
Stars: Fumino Kimura, Rio Suzuki, Masaki Terasoma, Machiko Ono
Genre: Anime, Fantasy, Drama
Rating: PG
Runtime: 53 minutes

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Short film anthologies are some of the most impressive showcases of boundary-pushing visual storytelling in animation, let alone Japanese animation. A cursory glance of anime anthologies produced within just the last 30 years is enough: From Masao Maruyama and Rintaro’s 1987 film Labyrinth Tales (known in the West as Neo Tokyo), to Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1995 film Memories, to even the 2003 American-Japanese co-production Animatrix, anthologies stand the test of time not only as landmarks of anime history, but as a vital venue through which to facilitate the introduction of new and exciting talent into the animation industry. With this mind, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, along with former Ghibli animators Yoshiyuki Momose (The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) and Akihiko Yamashita (Howl’s Moving Castle), have pooled their significant creativity to create a new installment in the storied lineage of prestige anime anthologies: Modest Heroes, the first volume in Studio Ponoc’s series of animated short films. “Kanini & Kanino,” directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, is the first and most explicitly “Ghibli-esque” of the anthology’s three shorts. Following the story of a pair of anthropomorphic crab children living at the bottom of a riverbed, the short could be interpreted as something of a reprise of Yonebayashi’s directorial debut, the 2010 film The Secret World of Arrietty, although this time conceived and written entirely by himself. The anthology’s second short, directed by Yoshiyuki Momose, is the volume’s most poignant installment and, arguably, the true namesake of Modest Heroes. “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose” tells of a young mother and her son Shun, a happy and otherwise unassuming little boy born with a debilitating food allergy to eggs. “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose” sets a high bar for the film going forward, but the anthology’s final short, “Invisible,” manages to meet and yet even surpass those expectations. Directed by Akihiko Yamashita, known not only for his prior work on Howl’s Moving Castle, but also as a character designer on Yasuhiro Imagawa’s Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, “Invisible” follows the story of a man who struggles with a condition that seemingly renders him completely unnoticeable to every person he comes across. Modest Heroes is a satisfying sophomore effort from Studio Ponoc, a collection of shorts that, together, resonate with the sentiment of that most joyous and courageous of adages made famous by the likes of Rod Serling: “...there’s nothing mightier than the meek.”—Toussaint Egan


20. Puss in Boots

puss-in-boots.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Chris Miller
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: PG
Runtime: 90 minutes

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This swashbuckling kitty is both suave (since he’s voiced by Antonio Banderas) and impossibly cute. He can bend anyone to his will with his big kitten eyes and even out-cutes a trio of kittens in this Shrek spinoff that takes Puss up the beanstalk into the Land of Giants to get the Golden Goose. —Sharon Knolle


21. Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling

rocko-static-cling.jpg Year: 2019
Directors: Joe Murray, Cosmo Segurson
Stars: Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler, Jill Talley
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rating: TV-Y7
Runtime: 45 minutes

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It’s been 23 years since Rocko’s Modern Life went off the air. A progenitor of SpongeBob SquarePants, with much of the cast and creative team moving on from one show to the next, the satire was Nickelodeon’s in-house answer to its more troublesome The Ren & Stimpy Show. And it was sharp. Deranged. Relatable. Ripped from the daily lives of its writers and unlike any other cartoon airing on TV. So now, with the 45-minute special Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling coming to Netflix, how does the original spirit of the show persist? Like any good revival, it makes a point of being familiar but different. Original creator Joe Murray is back on writing and directing duties, alongside all the voice actors (Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny, and Mr. Lawrence) returning to play Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt. The companions, who would feel right at home in either Office Space or a zoo, have been canonically lost in space for two decades since the series finale and finally figure out a way back to Earth. These cartoonish Rips Van Winkle didn’t miss the American Revolution, but they certainly missed enough. With a meta plotline about the cancellation and subsequent rebooting of a beloved cartoon, Static Cling isn’t afraid to be self-effacing about the revival process—or poke a little fun at the fanatical cult audience that got it a second run at Netflix in the first place. Much of what made the show a fan-favorite is still here. Its color-packed, neo-Fleischer Brothers animation (with surreal, askew Chuck Jones backgrounds and images that are just funny enough not to be disturbing, like Rocko’s visible optic nerves when his eyes flying out of his head) and expansive vocabulary balance its fart gags and butt jokes. It’s warm and nostalgic, but only in the sense that its aesthetic maintains a dedication to strangeness. Static Cling is mostly Murray and his team building to their end. It’s them deciding that when Netflix gives you a pulpit, well dammit, you scream your lungs out about what matters. Then you tip your hat and thank everyone for their time. It’s a wish for the future—the special even redistributes the wealth by the finale—masquerading as a return to the past. And it, in the immortal words of Heffer, was a hoot. —Jacob Oller


22. The Willoughbys

the-willoughbys-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Kris Pearn, co-directors Cory Evans and Rob Lodermeier
Stars: Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Seán Cullen, Ricky Gervais
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Netflix’s oddball Lois Lowry adaptation from director Kris Pearn and co-directors Cory Evans and Rob Lodermeier, The Willoughbys delights in subverting expectations for your traditional family-based animated movie. A plot based around children looking to “orphan” themselves by sending their terrible, abusive, overly lovey-dovey (to each other) parents on a series of increasingly dangerous vacations certainly doesn’t have that slick Disney sheen. For those looking for something a little different, or those with kids a little darker and weirder than those obsessed with cleaned and pressed fairy tale fare, it’s hard to go wrong with the funny and often beautiful Willoughbys. Smart writing, with sharp jokes and intriguingly silly characters (voiced by emphatic all-stars like Will Forte and Maya Rudolph) give the rounded, yarny designs plenty of energy and unending entertainment value—even as the film meanders through detour after detour. A jazzy score from Mark Mothersbaugh pushes further pep, though all that sugar-rush energy would be wasted without its fun, original messaging and story beats. With a few heartwarmers woven in, the film maintains its A Series of Unfortunate Events-esque meanness with a deadpanned straight face all the way to its tonally apt ending. —Jacob Oller


23. A Whisker Away

a-whisker-away-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama
Stars: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi, Koichi Yamadera,Minako Kotobuki
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

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There have been creepier things done in movies than magically turning into a cat in order to get closer to your crush, but those are few and far between. It’s not exactly standing outside a window with a boombox. But in directors Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama’s A Whisker Away, even this bonkers premise yields beauty and touching romance. Mari Okada’s script deftly leaps the anime through some emotional loops, running it through crinkly toy tunnels, ultimately landing its silly premise—replete with a troupe of angsty, depressed middle schoolers—in emotional honesty. A dash of otherworldly magic from the canon of Miyazaki (a corpulent face-dealing cat and an entire invisible cat-world) mixes well with some honest dives into the mental health issues of its characters (not quite as deeply and darkly as Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with a similarly stylish flair). While the characters are a little annoying when you meet them—they’re middle schoolers, after all—the truth behind the writing manages to shine through, all the while impressing us with its realistic animal animation and stunning depictions of smaller-town Tokoname life. —Jacob Oller


24. The Nut Job

nut-job.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Stars: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 85 minutes

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Who knew that in the city parks across America, all the furry vermin who skitter, forage and burrow exist in a grand interlocked society built around the process of collecting a communal horde for hibernation season? As nutty as that might sound (or not), it’s the crux of Peter Lepeniotis’s richly animated misadventure that evokes The Wind and the Willows (if funneled through a rigorous round of urban planning). Much salt and season is added to the archetypal recipe and as a result, The Nut Job is an energetic, yet mixed bag. The impressive 3-D effect adds subtle enriching depth, but the parallel human story about a bunch of no-neck thugs and their pet pug trying to pull off a bank heist is done with an odd noir-ish flare. And Surly the squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) is a self-centered outlier who tries to spin everything to his advantage without contributing to the bigger social good. He’s got a few supporters in Andie (Katherine Heigl), the fox-colored squirrel with a fiery temperament and love interest potential, and Buddy, the tacit but sweet rat, proving again that the detested carrier of the plague can in fact endear on screen. Throw in Precious (Maya Rudolph) the tail-twerking pug assigned to rid the robbers of their fur-ball nemeses (yet instantaneously subservient to the holder of a shiny high-pitched dog whistle) and Raccoon (Liam Neeson), the gruff leader of Liberty Park with many agendas in play and an Angry Bird (big head, little body and a nasty peck) on his shoulder, and much circumvolution ensues. The result yields some sprite comedic darts and just enough kibbles for both sides of the family viewing equation. —Tom Meek


25. Berserk: the Golden Age Arc I, II & III

berserk.jpg Years: 2012-13
Directors: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Stars: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi, Koichi Yamadera,Minako Kotobuki
Genre: Anime, Action
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 274 minutes

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The first adaptation of Kentaro Miura’s brutally visceral and viscera-laden manga Berserk, a TV series from 1997, is considered a classic. And while the first two films in this triptych from 15 years later receive a rather scornful treatment from most anime experts, its final offering is as riveting a watch as the form has to offer—and as violent, too. This grimdark fantasy, set in a feudal world clearly modeled on medieval Europe, follows a sellsword named Guts, who is forced to join the mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk once its leader defeats him in single combat twice in a row. From there on out, it’s all blood and Guts as an absolutely vicious cycle of battles, assassinations, sieges, duels, and the like pulls humans, bears, and demons alike into its vortex, with all parties vying to rip each other to shreds in the names of sex, power, and greed. And by Descent, the third entry, it’s as riveting and depressing as Game of Thrones at its best. —John Maher