The 10 best animated movies

Jessica Cullen
The best animated movies: Kung Fu Panda - Po striking a fighting pose against an orange background

With the release of Kung Fu Panda 4 right around the corner, here is our list of the 10 best animated movies of all time to suit every taste, style, and genre.

Although film-making technology is forever advancing, the best animated movies have always found a way to shine. Yes, modern animation techniques might be a little quicker, but even the animations of days gone by still stand strong against the best live-action movies ever made.

Animation can reach beyond the limits of imagination and create worlds audiences have never even dreamed of seeing. And with comedies, dramas, and fantasy epics all falling into the animated realm, there’s truly something for everyone.

With so much choice, it might be hard to pin down what to watch if you’re craving something a little less realistic. Well, we’ve done the work and picked out the best of the best. Without further ado, here are the 10 best animated movies of all time.

10. Shrek (2001)

Best animated movies: Shrek and Donkey stand looking shocked

Seeing Shrek on a ‘best of’ list anywhere might cause a few movie-lovers to click away, but trust us. The fact of the matter is that Shrek, for as ugly as it is, made animation cool again. It also gave us one of the most quotable animated flicks of all time. …Don’t pretend you haven’t recited the “ogres are like onions” speech at least once in your life.

Plus, with a cast overflowing with comedic powers like Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, it’s impossible not to fall in love with these oddball characters. As far as fantasy movies go, no adventure has ever taken the genre to such unexpected places as Shrek. (Hopefully Shrek 5 will actually happen.) You know what they say… Shrek is love, Shrek is life.

Where to watch: Peacock, Amazon Prime Video

9. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Best animated movies: Kung Fu Panda and his friends striking action poses

While audiences may not consider Kung Fu Panda to be a prestige animation, it certainly has all the makings of a classic. It has a stunningly detailed universe, lovable characters voiced by perfect celebrity counterparts, and a dedication to packing in the punches. Literally. Jack Black stars as Po, the lovable and hungry panda who’s life is upended when he finds out he is the prophesied Dragon Warrior.

Fans of retro Kung Fu movies and sports montages will likely love Kung Fu Panda. What’s more, it’s got what is easily one of the best animated villains this side of the 2000s, and an unforgettable Hans Zimmer score to boot. There’s also Kung Fu Panda 4 on the horizon, so there’s no better time to check out the original. At the end of the day, it’s Jack Black voicing a panda. What more could you want?

Where to watch: Peacock, Freevee

8. Finding Nemo (2003)

Best animated movies: Finding Nemo - Nemo and his Dad swim holding hands

One can’t talk about the best animated movies without bringing Pixar into the equation. (And you’ll find two Disney Pixar movies on this list.) Finding Nemo rightfully earns one of the top spots for its truly spellbinding visuals. Bringing an underwater world to life is a challenge at the best of times, but the geniuses at Pixar manage to make the vast ocean both beautiful and dangerous.

A father on the search for his lost son is, at its heart, a story that most parents can connect with on some level. Add in the hilarious range of supporting characters, and that’s a recipe for an animated movie that stands the test of time. Finding Nemo went on to win the Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars, so you know it’s got the status and respect that a lot of movies would kill for.

Where to watch: Disney+

7. Chicken Run (2000)

Best animated movies: Chicken Run - Ginger and the other chickens smile at the camera

Aardman deserves a spot on this list as much as anyone else. While it would have been easy to add Wallace and Gromit to the ranking, Chicken Run is where their stop-motion magic really comes to life. Set on a chicken farm where a malicious farmer is determined to make money off her chickens by any means necessary, Chicken Run is simply The Great Escape for children.

But it’s not just for kids. The emotional twists and turns and genuine terror at the oncoming threat of death makes Chicken Run a high-stakes adventure for any audience. The level of detail is also astounding, as Aardman manages to turn a simple chicken coop into a high-security prison by vibes alone. While Chicken Run 2 isn’t a must-watch, the original certainly is.

Where to watch: Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video

6. Toy Story (1995)

Best animated movies: Toy Story - Woody and Buzz looking at the camera and smiling

Toy Story has become the quintessential animated movie for everyone’s childhood. Technically, the entire film series can be included in this single entry, since each and every Toy Story installment is truly worth the watch. Following a rag-tag group of walking, talking toys, the Toy Story series follows themes of abandonment, envy, and self-understanding.

If you were lucky, you grew up alongside the series (Andy going off to college really hit a little too hard, if you ask us), but younger kids will still be able to find joy in the idea of your toys coming to life when your back is turned. (And yes, we’ll be watching Toy Story 5.) While the first movie might appear a little visually rough around the edges, it’ll always be an essential part of animation history.

Where to watch: Disney+

5. The Iron Giant (1999)

Best animated movies: The Iron Giant - The Giant looks down on Hogarth in the woods

The idea of Vin Diesel voicing a 50 ft robot might not sound like anything particularly noteworthy, but The Iron Giant is an underrated gem that will have you wiping away those tears. Based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man, The Iron Giant is set during the Cold War, following a young boy who makes an unlikely friend amid increasing political tension.

The Iron Giant didn’t have a lot going for it, but it ended up completing production with half the time and budget of other movies of the time, alongside a smaller crew. The result is something truly original and gathered a cult following in the years following its release.

Where to watch: Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video

4. The Little Mermaid (1989)

Best animated movies: The Little Mermaid - Ariel reaches up through the water

The second of fish-based tales on this list, The Little Mermaid is one of the most beloved Disney movies ever made. Although its real fairytale inspiration is much less uplifting, the 1989 film was a celebration of color, life, and music. By today’s standards, it may not be the most admirable storyline, but there’s something pure and simple about Ariel’s journey to find true love.

The 2023 live-action movie brought about new appreciation for The Little Mermaid (for better or worse), but there’s no denying that the original is one of the most beloved animations for little girls around the world.

Where to watch: Disney+

3. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Best animated movies: Grave of the Fireflies - Seita and Setsuko walk through a burned field

If you want an animated movie that’s less about magic and fairytale and more about ripping your heart out of your chest and making you wonder if you can ever stop crying again, then Grave of the Fireflies is the way to go. While animation and war dramas aren’t necessarily associated that deeply, this harrowing and acclaimed tale follows two siblings who make their way across war-torn Japan.

It’s not an easy watch by any standards. It’s haunting, achingly-emotional, and unrelenting in its honest portrayal of two children who are looking for a way to survive. But as tragic as it is, it’s widely considered to be one of the greatest war movies of all time, and should be considered as such on the animation front, too.

Where to watch: Not available on streaming

2. Spirited Away (2001)

Best animated movies: Spirited Away

With so many anime movies (with Studio Ghibli, specifically) to chose from, it’s a tough task to narrow it down to the best one. However, history will most likely side with Spirited Away. And, honestly? It’s a worthy title. Spirited Away held the top spot as the highest-grossing film in Japanese history for just under two decades.

Following a ten-year-old girl as she travels across a world of mythological spirits to save her parents, Spirited Away was imaginative and visceral in a way that most other animated movies can’t even touch. The legacy of the characters is immense, with everyone remembering the horror of that giant baby, or the sight of Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs.

Where to watch: Max, Amazon Prime Video

1. The Lion King (1994)

Best animated movies: The Lion King - Simba and his family stand on top of Pride Rock

There was never any avoiding it: the first place was always going to go to a vintage Disney animation. While the studio covered dragons, flying elephants, and talking dishes, it was never going to top the simple story of a boy who loses his father. The Lion King is perfect, from the glorious depiction of the African wilds to the truly emotionally-captivating themes of grief, guilt, and redemption.

It also blessed us with many of the best Disney songs, without question. From Elton John’s catchy tunes to Hans Zimmer’s epic, sweeping score, this soundtrack is on constant rotation, just as it should be. As of yet, Disney has yet to top The Lion King, and it’ll likely be a long time before anyone else comes close.

Where to watch: Disney+

For more rankings worth your while, check out our lists of the best movies of 2023, the best movies for kids to get into horror, and the best Timothée Chalamet movies.

Sign up to Dexerto for free and receive:
Fewer Ads|Dark Mode|Deals in Gaming, TV and Movies, and Tech