Last Updated: March 3rd
Now that Disney+ has more animated films than we know what to do with, it’s easy for animation buffs to get discouraged flipping through Netflix’s 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. The range of techniques and narrative approaches on display here highlights what makes the animation medium so exciting and fruitful. So here are the best animated movies on Netflix right now.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Run Time: 97 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Anika Noni Rose and Oprah Winfrey voice this imaginative Disney flick about a waitress in New Orleans with dreams of leaving her small-town life behind. Rose plays Tiana, a young woman who hopes to one day open up her own restaurant who gets entangled in a magical adventure when she makes the mistake of kissing a frog — who’s really a prince named Naveen that’s been cursed by a Voodoo doctor. When Tiana also turns into a frog after the smooch, the two are sent on a journey through the bayou, outrunning demons and hunters in order to find a real princess for Naveen to kiss before midnight.
The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Run Time: 118 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
Our favorite superhero family is back with a new mission that requires a reversal of roles for its patriarch. Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is forced to stay home and look after the kids — including Baby Jack Jack whose powers continue to grow — while his wife Helen (Elastigirl) saves the world, becoming the new face of the superhero presence. While Elastigirl goes on covert missions aimed at restoring her family’s good name, Mr. Incredible struggles to raise the kids. There’s plenty of humor to be mined from his parental woes, especially when it comes to Jack, who eventually requires a special suit to control his abilities. Unfortunately, Elastigirl’s new employer plans to wreck the reputation of superheroes once and for all, using her family to do it, which means it’s up to the kids to save the day (again).
The Breadwinner (2017)
Run Time: 94 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Based off a best-selling book by Deborah Ellis, this Angelina Jolie-produced animated drama follows the story of a young girl named Parvana, who’s forced to disguise herself as a man in order to provide for her family when her father is sent to prison by the Taliban. The film is set in war-torn Afghanistan, in a village under Taliban rule where women aren’t permitted to hold jobs or even buy food without the presence of a male relative. When Parvana’s father angers a member of the Taliban, he’s thrown in prison, and she pretends to be a man in order to earn money and food for her mother and sisters. The film is a gripping, honest look at some difficult-to-swallow issues, and it’s done in the most visually-stunning of ways.
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Run Time: 107 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, and Jamie Bell lend their talents to this animated adventure about an intrepid reporter named Tintin, who teams up with a rarely-sober sea captain named Archibald Haddock to find some sunken treasure. Tintin and Haddock must battle against other greedy hunters, including the film’s villain (voiced by Craig) to uncover Haddock’s ancestral connection to a sunken ship and the cases of gold still inside it.
April And The Extraordinary World (2015)
Run Time: 105 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
In an alternate version of 1941 where France has been led by a line of Napoleons and leading scientists mysteriously disappear, young April, her talking cat Darwin, and the shady Julius go searching for April’s missing parents. It’s an interesting take on a history where technological advancement isn’t a thing, where “steampunk” is reality and TVs and cars don’t exist. April’s journey starts in the dreary, stuck-out-of-time France but leads her to fantastical advancements that still make sense in the world we’re presented with. The heart of the film lies in the love that plucky, stubborn April has for those she cares about, and the film’s driven by charming animation and a genuinely interesting concept. It’s a fun trip that’s just out-there enough for adults while being accessible for the young and young at heart.
Space Jam (1996)
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 6.4/10
We’re not here to defend the merits of this 90s sports flick. Some consider it good cinema, others not so much. But the fact remains it’s a fun watch, one that defined many a childhood. It’s also got a weird as hell premise — the Looney Tunes must win a basketball match to earn their freedom and to do that, they need Michael Jordan — a guest cameo by Bill Murray, and some great, nostalgia-inducing animation.
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 8.4/10
Normally, Christmas movies trademarked by Netflix come with sappy romances, mistaken princesses, and Vanessa Hudgens but this original animated feature is the exception, and the best holiday flick the streaming platform has given us yet. It imagines a different origin story for Saint Nicholas, one that involves an eager-to-please postman voiced by Jason Schwartzman and an isolated, gruff Santa voiced by J.K. Simmons. The two go on a toy-making adventure together that ends up mending old wounds and bringing entire villages together. Oh, and the animation is a visual feast. Prepare yourself.
My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea (2016)
Run Time: 75 min | IMDb: 6.1/10
This animated drama feels like it belongs on Adult Swim, not Netflix, but it’s a refreshing change-up from the rest of the family-centric options on this list. With a voice cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, and Lena Dunham, the film follows a group of students whose seaside high school falls off a cliff, forcing everyone trapped inside to go into survival mode. Think Lord of the Flies but stranded at sea. Schwartzman plays Dash, a young kid forced to reconcile with his ex-best friend to save a group of students, and Susan Sarandon pops up as a lunch lady named Lorraine who displays some heroics of her own. It’s quirky and crudely-drawn, but that’s part of the charm.
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
The most memorable thing about Tarzan is probably the Phil Collins-led soundtrack. That’s not a dig, because every song in this movie is a banger, but the story is fun too. It follows a man named Tarzan who was raised by gorillas in the jungle when his family was killed. As a man, he encounters a new set of colonizers, one of whom he falls in love with, that threaten his family, his home, and his way of life.
The Croods (2013)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Prehistoric times were rough, you guys and this film is proof. Ryan Reynolds, Nic Cage, and Emma Stone lead an impressive voice cast for this Dreamworks movie about a family of cavemen (and women) whose home, errr cave, is destroyed. They’re forced to trek through a fantastical land to find shelter with the help of a strange newcomer. It’s silly, though beautifully animated, but the comedic chops of Reynolds and Stone keep things afloat.
The Little Prince (2015)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
Pulled from its theatrical release mere weeks before it was supposed to hit theaters, this adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved children’s book combines several different types of animation to mixed but ultimately winning results. One’s a charming stop-motion retelling of the original book. The other’s a more familiar Pixar-ish tale of a young girl pushed too hard to succeed who meets an aged Aviator. The film’s not entirely successful, but ambition and lovely visuals go a long way.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
The Oscar-winning animated film quickly made its way to Netflix last year, which means if you didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters, you no longer have to wonder what all the hype is about. The story follows a young kid named Miles, who becomes the web-slinging hero of his reality, only to cross paths with other iterations of Spider-Man across different dimensions who help him defeat a threat posed to all realities. Mahershala Ali, John Mulaney, and Jake Johnson make up the film’s talented voice cast, but it’s the striking visuals and daring story-telling technique that really serves the film well.
I Lost My Body (2019)
Run Time: 81 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
This beautifully animated French fantasy film follows the story of a young man named Naoufel, or rather, his hand which has been severed from his body and spends most of the film escaping labs and trying to get back to its owner. The film flits between the past and present, watching Naoufel’s life unfold from a young orphan to an accidental carpenter’s apprentice — which is how he lost his appendage — all while exploring themes of love, loss, and destiny.