Last Updated: February 16th
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.
Run Time: 9 min | IMDb: 6.6/10
Just because it’s run time is brief doesn’t mean this animated short from Netflix packs any less of an emotional gut punch. The story follows an aging artist who suffers a terrible loss. In his grief, he decides to quit painting, only to pick up a brush again years later after encouragement from his granddaughter.
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 7/10
This Japanese anime flick was nominated for an Oscar just a couple years ago, and it’s one of the few animated adventure movies that doesn’t hail from famed animation house Studio Ghibli. With a voice cast that includes Rebecca Hall and Daniel Dae Kim, the movie follows the story of a young boy who discovers a magical garden that allows him to travel back in time to visit his ancestors in different eras, guided by his younger sister from the future.
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.
Run Time: 94 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
This wildly-imaginative sci-fi film is based on a comic of the same name and set in a place called Dark Meat City (DMC). It follows the story of a young man named Angelino who meets a beautiful girl, gets hit by a truck, and begins seeing weird sh*t all around the city. Eventually, he becomes the target of some mysterious government agents and gets roped into an alien conspiracy ring trying to take over the planet but if the plot gets too convoluted, just marvel at the stunning visuals of this film instead because, yeah, it’s a work of art.
Ne Zha (2019)
Run Time: 110 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
This Chinese action-packed adventure tells the story of a young boy named Ne Zha who is born from the energy of a Demon Orb and cursed to die by a lightning strike. As he learns more about his origins he begins to hone his powers, hunting his own kind until he befriends the reincarnated son of a Dragon King and finally faces his true destiny.
All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)
Run Time: 84 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
Okay, if we’re being upfront, this animated fantasy film starts off a bit dark. Like a dog gets murdered by his best friend, dark. But things pick up when that same dog, now a canine angel, returns to Earth to help his old pals get revenge, he befriends a human girl who can speak to animals and, well, there’s still the threat of Hell and kidnappings and Ponzi schemes but there’s also a lot of heart and humor to lighten the mood.
If Anything Happens, I Love You (2020)
Run Time: 12 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
Another short that will absolutely crush your soul is this beautifully illustrated short film that’s been making the rounds on Tik Tok because of its heartbreaking ending. Its plot focuses on two parents struggling to move on after the loss of their child, but we won’t say anything more than that.
The Willoughbys (2020)
Run Time: 90 min | IMDb: 6.4/10
This Netflix animated adventure sports a ridiculously-talented voice cast — think Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short — and a surprisingly heartwarming story about the meaning of family. The film follows the unruly Willoughby siblings who, convinced they’d be better off raising themselves, arrange for their parents to take a permanent vacation. Of course, things don’t work out the way they planned, which is where the fun starts.
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.
The Polar Express (2004)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 6.6/10
Everyone knows that Tom Hanks is America’s sweetheart (sorry Julia Roberts), so seeing him voice nearly every character in one of the most visually-stunning Christmas movies in cinema’s history is a real treat. His work as the conductor of the Polar Express, a magical train ferrying lucky boys and girls to the North Pole on Christmas Eve, normally receives most of the praise here but the artwork and animation in this beautifully-crafted story deserve an equal amount of respect.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
This Studio Ponoc adaptation of Mary Stewart’s 1971 novel The Little Broomstick reimagines the story of a young girl named Mary Smith a mysterious flower that can give her the power to become a witch for only one night. The plant grants her supernatural abilities, but it also gets her into trouble with a school of real witches, who covet the flower and the power it holds.
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.
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Johnny Depp leads an impressive voice cast in this animated film about an eccentric chameleon who finds himself in the Wild West after his terrarium accidentally falls off a truck on a lonely highway. Depp’s Rango makes his way to the town of Dirt which is filled with anthropomorphic animals who’ve suffered similar mishaps. When he accidentally kills a villainous hawk who’s been terrorizing the town’s amphibians, he’s named its new sheriff. But a scheming mayor, a murderous bandit, and a mysterious drought mean he’s got his work cut out for him.
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.