Last Updated: March 19th
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.
April And The Extraordinary World (2015)
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.
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.