The 40 Best Animated Movies You Can Watch Right Now

From the earliest days of film history, cartoons have not been just for children, and it is important not to confuse the medium with a genre.

Animated movies are captivating, romantic, painful, musical, magical, dystopian, funny... and pretty much every adjective you might use to describe a story within a live-action story. That said, the best animated films tell stories that are uniquely suited to the cartoon canvas. Here are 40 movies you can watch right now, covering a variety of genres and age ranges.

Turn Red (2022)

Whenever 13-year-old Meili gets too excited, she turns into a big red panda, which is the first time this has happened since her overprotective mother embarrassed her in front of the older boy she had a crush on. A bright and lively coming-of-age story about the virtues of embracing change and letting the panda flag fly, this movie is perfect for kids, but the lessons here apply to parents too, who may need a reminder that it's important for their children to grow up and It’s okay to be a little (or a lot) different.

Where to stream: Disney+

Wendell and Wilder (2022)

This is director Henry Selick's first film since 2009's The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Nightmare (don't worry, we'll be back for both). Not one step behind, the director, joined by co-writer Jordan Peele, has produced another stop-motion masterpiece, this time about a pair of demonic brothers (Peele and Keegan-Michael Key) and a troubled young woman (voiced by Lyric Ross) They try to manipulate him into helping them start their own demonic carnival. It turns out she's not such an easy target.

Where to stream: Netflix

Soul (2020)

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a pretty good jazz musician, but the life of this high school music teacher is not what he dreamed of. At least until he falls into a manhole and dies, and discovers the true meaning of having a soul. The Pixar film about finding your purpose won an Oscar for best animated feature, as well as best original score for Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Mitchells vs. the Machine (2021)

Danny McBride voices technophobic Rick Mitchell, who struggles with his movie-obsessed daughter Katie in this smart and heartwarming animated film. Abbey Jacobson) team up to save the world. Aspiring filmmaker Katie is often at odds with her father, whose nature and obsession with tools (as well as general anxiety) leave him out of the loop when it comes to her dreams. Instead of flying Katie to college, Ricks opts for a road trip to help the entire family bond, even before a tech company's artificial intelligence goes haywire and threatens the entire world in hilariously animated fashion. It doesn’t quite work either. A family must learn to respect differences and understand each other in order to defeat the machine.

Where to stream: Netflix

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Peter Parker is a supporting character in the best Spider-Man movies, as Miles Morales reluctantly learns to be a hero with the help of Spider-Men from across the multiverse. Gorgeous, intentionally messy, ultra-stylish animation like nothing you've ever seen.

Live broadcast location: FXNow, Fubo

Nimona (2023)

Adapted from ND Stevenson's graphic novel, Nimona is a heartfelt, joyful and wildly entertaining fantasy novel set in a futuristic world filled with medieval decorations. Ballister Boldheart and his boyfriend Ambrosius Kinlorne are set to be knighted by the Queen, making him the first civilian to receive the honour. All is well until he is framed for the Queen's murder and forced to flee, becoming the criminal the snobs have already deemed him to be. Luckily (or not), he's joined by Nimona, a teen ostracized for her shape-shifting abilities. The two work together to clear Ballister's name, and Nimona has a few things to teach Ballister about staying true to his true self.

Where to stream: Netflix

Spirited Away (2001)

It's no surprise that Hayao Miyazaki's Triumph is also one of the greatest films ever made (live-action or animated). It's an incredibly beautiful piece of work, with every frame carefully crafted. This is the story of the stubborn Chihiro, who embarks on an adventure in the spirit world to rescue her parents from a witch and reclaim her name.

Where to stream: Max

The Iron Giant (1999)

In Cold War-era Maine, a giant alien robot becomes the focus of fear and paranoia for the U.S. military, who can only see his potential as a weapon but also become the best thing for a lonely little boy who believes his mechanical heart friend. In addition to being deeply emotional experiences, the characters here (including the giant robot) are as complex as those in the live-action films. (Director Brad Bird went on to make The Incredibles, which could certainly appear on this list, but I didn't want to include just every Pixar movie.)

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Leviathan (2022)

Animator Chris Williams, who has directed or co-produced some of the best animated films of the past decade ( The Flash , Big Hero 6 , Moana , etc.) We brought a story about a girl who was smuggled onto a boat. The story of a legendary monster hunter (Karl Urban) and embarks on an adventure that gives her new insights into what really makes someone (or something) a monster. It utilizes modern animation techniques without feeling anything fancy.

Where to stream: Netflix

My Father's Dragon (2022)

Based on Ruth Stiles Gannett's 1948 children's novel, My Father's Dragon is more geared toward younger audiences than most of the other all-ages animated films on this list, but it's still full of wit and surprises. Can easily be recommended to almost anyone, while also being more emotional and smarter than many films made for adults. A boy named Elmer (Jacob Tremblay) and his shopkeeper mother Della (Golshelf Farahani) leave their tight-knit small town for a larger city— — although the promise of a better environment did not materialize quickly. However, Elmer's patience is rewarded when a talking cat invites him on a beautiful candy-colored adventure to meet a dragon and save an island.

Where to stream: Netflix

Bubble (2022)

From "Attack on Titan" and "Death Note" director Tetsuo Araki and an all-star creative team, "Bubble" finds Tokyo cut off from the rest of the world when reality-bending bubbles rain down on the city. (Perhaps there are shadows of Stephen King's "Under the Dome "). It's a gorgeous love story with a lot of parkour undertones, but it's worth a watch for anyone who loves animation (or great sci-fi movies in general).

Where to stream: Netflix

Akira (1988)

This beautiful cyberpunk classic is set in the dystopia of 2019, where rider Kaneda is forced to face his friend Tetsuo after an accident gives him telekinesis. This wildly dynamic film and its highly detailed world set a new standard for animation - and we're still living in the animated world created by writer/director Katsuhiro Otomo and company.

Where to stream: Hulu, Crunchyroll

Toy Story (1995)

I'm not sure the first Toy Story is the best of the series, but it's excellent in its own right, not to mention technically groundbreaking, so if you're rewatching it (or watching it for the first time ), it’s still the best and best place to start.

Where to stream: Disney+

Lightyear (2022)

Unpopular opinion alert: this movie deserves another chance. Although its confusing premise (it's a movie about Buzz Lightyear, which inspired the toys in the Toy Story series) led to it finishing last at the box office, at its core, Lightyear is a classic A charming, poignant Pixar film with strong science fiction hooks. While investigating a new world, Buzz (Chris Pine) and his best friend and commander Alyssa Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) get stuck with their team. Buzz promises to test the hyperspace fuel they need to get home, but the resulting time dilation means each brief trip to space takes years away from his friends on the ground. It's exactly the kind of poignant set-up that Pixar excels at, although it understandably left theatergoers scratching their heads.

Where to stream: Disney+

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Adapted from the comics, Ghost in the Shell is a William Gibson version of a cyberpunk blockbuster that easily ranks alongside its psycho-movie siblings like Blade Runner or The Matrix (which it was clearly inspired by). The film from director Mamoru Oshii and screenwriter Kazunori Ito follows cyborg security officer Motoko Kusanagi as she hunts down a seemingly invincible hacker, a case that not only makes her question her own identity, but is essentially a man with... A robot with a human mind, and it also made her question her own identity. The nature of reality itself. Along with Akira , the film served as the gateway to anime for an entire generation of American fans and inspired an animated series, albeit entirely on its own.

Where to play: Tubi, Freevee

Dumbo (1941)

One of Disney's shortest early films, "Dumbo" tells a brisk and sometimes heartbreaking story about an elephant with giant ears. The film's racist Crow is an issue, but otherwise it's a tender, occasionally heartbreaking story about a kid who just wants to belong. "Baby Mine" is one of the most tear-jerking songs in the entire Disney musical.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, capped off his illustrious career with this Academy Award-nominated film based on the 1,000-year-old folk tale "The Tale of the Bamboo Sword." The deceptively simple pencil and watercolor style is endlessly gorgeous. The story itself tells of a woodcutter who discovers a baby in bamboo and ultimately decides that it is his destiny to give her a life like a princess. All this girl wants is the love of her family, but the film plays up the dichotomy between this simple virtue and the need to fulfill the wishes of her family and community.

Where to stream: Max

Mulan (1998)

Yes, this is another example of Disney's Westernization of non-Western cultures, with all the problems and inaccuracies it brings. Still, it's a beautiful and inspiring story about a young Chinese woman who impersonates a man, takes her father's place in the army, and saves her country from the Huns in the process.

Where to stream: Disney+

Shrek (2001)

While Eddie Murphy's choice for the Chinese folktale-style Mulan feels very questionable, he's perfectly at home in the film as Donkey, who teams up with Mike Myers as the titular ogre to save the imprisoned Princess Fiona (played by Cameron Diaz). Blending genuine laughs with genuine feeling, the film ultimately turns the Disney princess formula on its head, making it clear that true beauty is found in the swamp. It was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Where to stream: Netflix

"Ghost Mom " ​​(2009)

From the director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," based on Neil Gaiman's original book, the stop-motion "Coraline" is every bit the dark fantasy you'd expect from this team. In the film, Coraline explores her new home in the absence of her troubled parents and discovers a doorway to a slightly sinister but definitely fascinating parallel universe. Coraline is forced to choose the reality she prefers to live in and fight for that opportunity.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

blame! (2017)

In the future, cities will develop endlessly in all directions like viruses, and humans have long lost control of the automated systems that run things. These systems now view humans as "illegals" to be purged, so flesh-and-blood survivors are caught between the city's murderous defenses and the need to find food. However, there is a group of humans who are searching for a genetically marked individual who they believe has access to the city's control systems - a hunt led by Killy, a synth who may hold the key. The world-building here is neat, and there's solid CGI animation.

Where to stream: Netflix

Chicken Run (2000)

This edgy Aardman Brothers comedy features some very funny stop-motion animation and plenty of chicken. It remains the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time. More than 20 years later, we get an equally great sequel.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

The late, great Kevin Conroy stars alongside Mark Hamill and Dana Delany in this short animated crime thriller that was originally intended to be a straight-to-video release, but somehow became a staple of the entire Batman franchise. The best movies stand together. Even while reconnecting with an old flame, Bruce is forced to reexamine his life choices as a mysterious vigilante is killing criminals in Gotham.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Another of Hayao Miyazaki's triumphs, "Princess Mononoke" is a fantasy story set in medieval Japan. Ashitaka becomes infected during an animal attack and seeks a natural cure, only to discover that human activity has angered the gods and disrupted the balance of nature.

Where to stream: Max

The Little Mermaid (1989)

After a series of flops, Disney's status as a producer of animated films was all but over. The Little Mermaid single-handedly gets the company back on its feet. It became an instant classic, rivaling triumphs from previous decades.

Where to stream: Disney+

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Another fantastic piece of stop-motion animation, this time inspired by origami and Japanese ink painting. Set in feudal Japan, the story follows Kubo and his enchanting shamisen (the stringed instrument in the title) as they embark on a beautiful and dreamlike quest to stop his grandfather, the Moon King, a story that will appeal to young audiences. Not condescending.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Henry Selick and Tim Burton's seasonal gem is so familiar at this point, it's easy to underestimate its impact on pop culture. A completely original dark fantasy and an enduring holiday classic (but is this holiday Halloween or Christmas?).

Where to stream: Disney+

your name (2016)

Never has a body-swapping story been rendered so gorgeously, and with lighting that I've never seen in animation. Mitsuha, a country girl, and Taki, a boy from Tokyo, started a mysterious trading organization. The two gradually learned about each other and their lives. A heartbreaking reveal in the second act takes the story into deeper waters, and the film reveals that its ideas are far more lovely than the metaphysical.

Live broadcast location: The Criterion Channel, Crunchyroll

Weathering With You(2019)

Makoto Shinkai followed up "Your Name" with an equally influential successor, a gorgeous vision of rain-soaked Tokyo and a young woman who can control the weather (the film's treatment of water imagery was as good as "Your Name") The name is the same as the treatment of light). A troubled runaway, Hodaka meets and befriends Hina, whose mood affects the weather. All of this has life- and world-threatening consequences, but ultimately, it's about the triumphs and tragedies of first love.

Where to stream: Max

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

You know the story, but if you've never seen the film itself, you're missing out on one of the iconic artistic achievements of Disney's golden age. The backgrounds (inspired by Gothic art and medieval tapestries) and the gorgeous character designs and animations represent some of the most beautifully hand-drawn work in film history. Released in 1959 after eight years in development, it represented a giant leap forward for Disney and screen animation as a whole. (Audiences weren't quite ready, and it was a financial disappointment. History has certainly redeemed it.)

Where to stream: Disney+

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (2016)

Dutch animator Michael Dudoc de Wit teamed up with Studio Ghibli to create this dialogue-free film about a man stranded on a desert island with only a giant turtle for company. As their relationship deepens, this story of survival begins to resonate on a deeper level. A powerful emotional journey.

Live broadcast location: Starz

Upward (2009)

The tear-jerking opening minutes of "Up" strip away all the silliness in "Up," a wild and sometimes wacky adventure story about an old man who gives up on life until he finally decides Starting a real adventure (with a young stowaway following him), his house floats to South America with the help of thousands of balloons. It's a ridiculous farce, but somehow it never loses its basis in the idea that grief and loss can only be dealt with by building genuine human connections.

Where to stream: Disney+

Escape (2021)

Escape is an animated mockumentary in which director Jonas Bocher Rasmussen tells the story of Amin Nawabi, who prepares to marry his boyfriend but stops to talk about his life at the end of the Soviet occupation A childhood journey escaping Afghanistan. This is a gripping and deeply moving journey of self-discovery.

Where to play: Hulu

Perfect Blue (1998)

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue isn't for everyone, and it's a great reminder of the breadth of animation (and proof that it can do the psychological thriller genre as well as any medium). Its blurring of fantasy and reality has drawn comparisons to the films of Darren Aronofsky—even though the opposite is true, as "Perfect Blue" appeared in "Requiem for a Dream" and "Black Swan" before, while the latter deliberately echoes it. Its story follows a young Japanese singer who is forced to give up her career and work on television, a move that has dire consequences in the best tradition of high-fame stories.

Play location: Shudder

Fantastic Planet (1973)

This French sci-fi film makes no attempt to succinctly describe its plot, other than to say that it takes place in the distant future, in a world where giant blue humanoids treat humans as pets and are not considered wild animals. . It's almost pure allegory, no matter what you want to insert: maybe it's animal rights, maybe it's racism, but it's ultimately a beautiful, profound psychedelic journey into a vivid imaginative world.

Live broadcast location: Max, The Criterion Channel

Frozen (2013)

While many Disney princess stories end with a fairly straightforward dichotomy of good versus evil, "Frozen" does something new in creating a protagonist who is also the film's antagonist, following her on a journey of self-discovery and identity. The journey of acceptance, which is as profound as ever in the film. Disney movies. (This is also a top sister film.)

Where to stream: Disney+

Chili (2006)

Therapists can enter patients' dreams in Satoshi Kon's masterpiece, which apparently inspired Inception . The film is full of emotion and reality without leaving the audience feeling lost or disoriented. Well, maybe a little.

Where to play: Tubi

Coco (2017)

Miguel travels into the land of the dead to search for his grandfather and bring the gift of music back to his family in this Oscar-winner. The stunningly detailed description of the afterlife not only celebrates Mexican culture, but feels deeply universal.

Where to stream: Disney+

Waltzing with Bashir (2008)

There's a documentary style here, but the film deals with Ali Coleman's memories and his time as a young soldier in the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war, acknowledging the fuzziness of memory. It's also a film that illuminates the crimes and costs of war as clearly as any.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

It was a gorgeous and weird fairy tale that gave viewers a then-unheard-of idea: someone would sit quietly and watch a feature-length animated film. It's still both interesting and a work of art in its own right.

Where to stream: Disney+