Last Updated: July 18th
It’s easy for animation buffs to get discouraged flipping through Netflix Instant’s animated offerings, which skew heavily toward mass-produced kiddie TV programs and dire-looking CGI direct-to-video sequels. But a little digging turns up quite a few unexpected animated gems — and what Netflix’s animated offerings lack in depth, they make up for in breadth. There’s a surprising amount of variety among the animated features available on the platform, spanning a wide range of studios, techniques, and countries of origin, and films of both the blockbuster and indie variety.
Although Netflix has done away with a lot of its more mature animated offerings, there’s still something here for everyone. The range of techniques and narrative approaches on display here highlights what makes the animation medium so exciting and fruitful: There’s no limit to what can be made to appear on screen, through the judicious application of creativity and craft. So here are the 10 best animated movies on Netflix right now.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Netflix is lousy with second-tier Disney animated features (and third-and-fourth-tier direct-to-video sequels and spinoffs), most of them from the studio’s post-Renaissance period in the early-to-mid 2000s. But while stuff like Brother Bear and Fantasia 2000 are eminently skippable, you shouldn’t sleep on 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove, which is a wonderful little oddity in the Disney Animation canon. Heavy on the slapstick and visual humor, and light on the romance and heroics, The Emperor’s New Groove often plays more like a Looney Tunes project than a Disney one. But Emperor’s New Groove’s lightheartedness and high jokes-per-minute rate are its best features, and the voice performances — particularly Eartha Kitt as beleaguered villain Yzma and Patrick Warburton as her dopy henchman — do a lot to carry across the film’s style of humor.
In this fictional world, predator and prey have learned to live together and even get actuarial jobs. Judy Hopps (a rabbit, unsurprisingly) flees her humble carrot farm upbringing to pursue her dream of becoming a police officer in the fast-paced city of Zootopia. To prove herself, she has to work together with a (also unsurprisingly) sly fox to uncover a beast of a mystery. The 2016 film has received praise due to its complex — albeit somewhat muddled — portrayal of racial tensions and stereotypes, but that’s only one layer of Zootopia‘s appeal. Although the movie originally centered on the fox, the final version rightly shifted its focus to the quick-witted Judy, finding a strong female character to pull this complicated tale together. It gets dark, though, despite it toning it down from older drafts. Push aside all the cultural themes depicted, and you’ve still got a widely entertaining and smart animated film.