30 Best Animated Movies on Netflix [September 2020]
The best kind of animated feature films are capable of telling stories you wouldn’t be able to tell using traditional live-action animation. Perhaps your world is inhabited with creatures that would be impossible in the real world, or capable of creating without using millions upon millions of dollars. Animation is a broad category that covers a lot of great entertainment. Some is for kids, some is just for adults, and some is legitimately fun for everyone. Films based in animation are excellent ways to experience full-on fantasy worlds, science-fiction battles, and often-impossible events. You’ll find talking animals, dancing teapots, and the classic anvils falling from the sky. Plenty of animation is based in humor, designed to make you laugh until you cry. Sometimes watching animation comes from the need to view the true artistry put into work by teams of animators, both working in 2D classic cel-animation and newer 3D CGI animation.
This list contains the best animated movies and films streaming on Netflix at the moment. From stories about brand-new baby brothers and anthropomorphic animals working together, to adult storytelling, painting a world destroyed by a giant monster or the tale of a teenage girl trying to find her parents in a dystopian, steampunk Paris, there’s something for everyone on this list. We present the 30 best animated films on Netflix for September 2020, in no particular order.
And of course, if you’re looking for more entertainment to watch with the whole family, you might also want to check out our list of the best family-friendly movies on Netflix.
Based on the novella first published in France 1943, The Little Prince is a 3D animated film that uses modern technology and stop-motion animation to recreate the story of the classic bedtime story. When a young girl is forced into a life based on schedules and routines created by her overbearing Mother, she’s thrilled to meet her elderly next-door neighbor, a retired Aviator. The Aviator will tell the Girl the story of the Little Prince, a young boy who lives in space on an asteroid. Critically-acclaimed for its animation style, The Little Prince manages to recreate the world of the original novella in a modern fashion without losing what made the book so amazing to begin with. And since it’s a Netflix Original, you’ll never have to worry about the film being taken off the service.
The winner of the Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Oscars, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is an absolute knock-out on both a technical level and a storytelling one. The film is set outside the traditional Marvel Universe, telling the story of Miles Morales, a teenager who is granted spider powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. After Morales’ universe’s own Peter Parker gets taken out in a battle, Miles will have to team up with Peter B. Parker, a Spider-Man from an alternate reality, along with Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, and Peni Parker and SP//dr to take down Kingpin as he attempts to use a supercollider to cross through reality. The film is funny, heartwarming, and feels fresher than most thought a new Spider-Man movie could be. Meanwhile, the visual style and animated makes Spiderverse one of the prettiest CGI films ever made.
Animated by Cartoon Saloon and executive produced by Angelina Jolie, The Breadwinner is the second directorial feature from Nora Twomey. Released in 2017 and nominated for a Best Animated Feature award at the 2018 Academy Awards, The Breadwinner tells the story of Parvana, a young girl who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan while under the control of the Taliban. She lives with her father Nurullah, a teacher handicapped during the Soviet-Afghan War and turned into a merchant known as a “hawker,” until he is unjustly arrested after a member of the Taliban believes Nurullah insulted him. With Parvana’s family left without a male member, her and her family are left unable to leave the house under Taliban law. Left with few options, Parvana dresses as a boy to pass as Nurullah’s nephew, Aatish, in order to secure means to support her family. The film was critically-acclaimed for both its story and its animation.
There’s a lot to love about 9, from its unique world and visual style to its dark take on the themes of protecting the world around us. Despite being an animated feature, 9 is difficult to recommend for younger children, with its PG-13 rating and frightening science-fiction world. The film, directed by Shane Acker, is based on the Oscar-nominated short film of the same name, expanded to fit a full-length film, though at 79 minutes, the work is rather short. Opening in 1930s Germany, the film follows as a scientist creates nine ragdolls using alchemy and separating a piece of his soul into each doll. The film takes place sometime after in a dystopian world, as the nine dolls must journey across the world to destroy a machine responsible for the downfall of humanity.
One of the few foreign animated films on this list, My Life as a Zucchini (also known as Ma vie de Courgette) is a 2016 Swiss-French stop-motion animated film that works as a coming-of-age story about an orphaned boy named Zucchini, who lives in a foster home. The film has been critically-acclaimed and nominated for dozens of awards, including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2017. The subject matter might not be appropriate for younger children, but it’s a great film for tweens and teens to watch to learn about state care and the real-life situations that can fall on people (alcoholism, suicide, and more). Definitely check this one out.
One of the few films on our list made specifically for adults, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a Netflix Original film produced by Toho Animation. The 32nd film in the Godzilla franchise and the first-ever animated feature, Planet of the Monsters begins in 1999, when large monsters begin appearing all over the planet. When a plan to defeat Godzilla with Mechagodzilla fails, humanity is forced to evacuate Earth, leaving for Tau Ceti e. The film follows the aftermath of this decision, including mutiny, the conflicts of religion, and the mutation of Earth thanks to the existence of Godzilla over many years. The film can be watched in Japanese with English subtitles, or in an English dub. Planet of the Monsters is the first in a planned trilogy of films, with a sequel, Godzilla: Kessen Kidō Zōshoku Toshi, planned for release in Japan in May 2018 and on Netflix sometime after.
Yet another French-animated film, April and the Extraordinary World (also known as Avril et le Monde Truqué) is notable for its unique animation style, its adaptation of steampunk aesthetics, and utilizing the work of French cartoonist Jacques Tardi. The film begins in 1870, on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, as Napoleon III visits the lab of Gustave Franklin to view the creation of his army of supersoldiers. Disgusted and upset by the creations of Franklin, Napoleon tries to kill the creations, instead murdering both himself and Franklin in an explosion. Over the next sixty years, as scientists begin to disappear from around the world, Europe becomes morphed and twisted by the reliance on coal to continue with technological breakthroughs. In this new world, April (Marion Cotillard) leaves on a mission with her talking cat to find her parents.
From the director of The Nut Job comes this brand-new Netflix original animated film, Gnome Alone. Based around a war between Gnomes and Troggs, wacky creatures who live underground and are determined to eat the Earth, the film follows pre-teen Chloe (Becky G), who moves into a new house that is filled with garden gnomes that come to life to fight the Troggs. Though Chloe and her new nerdy friend Liam seem destined to take up arms between the two sides, Chloe is forced between her new life of fighting against the Earth’s enemies or becoming a popular middle school student—a choice that is harder than it seems.
Miss Hokusai is based on the 1980s manga of the same name, adapted into a 90 minute feature film from 2015. The film follows alternating episodes between the lives of O-Ei and her father Tetsuzo in the early 1800s, as painters from around Japan come to visit. The film presents O-Ei as a talented artist who helps Tetsuzo with his artwork, including assisting to fix a painting of a Japanese dragon that was damaged the night before it was to be delivered. The film also follows O-Ei as she visits her blind half-sister, whom her father refuses to visit due to her blindness and his fear of disease. The film is a heart-wrenching look at family, talent, art, and ambition, and is most certainly worth watching on the service. One of the few projects streaming on Netflix based on historical events, Miss Hokusai is well-worth watching; the film holds a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Mune: Guardian of the Moon. Though its title may sound like any number of direct-to-streaming animated films lining the Animation genre in Netflix, Mune is a critically-acclaimed French film that managed to win the Young People’s Jury Awards at the TIFF Kid’s International Film Festival back in 2014. For an independent animated film made on a budget of just $17 million, it’s actually incredibly impressive, and well worth streaming on a night in. The film follows Mune, who must head out on a quest to retrieve the sun after the evil ruler of the underworld steals it.
The first film from Studio Ponoc, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a Studio Ghibli-style film, and the third film by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The film follows a young girl named Mary Smith, who finds a mysterious flower called “fly-by-night.” The flower gives her the power to become a with for a single night, which, following her new boring life living with her Great Aunt Charlotte in England, gives her a new hope for having fun. Combined with an old broomstick, Mary is swept into a new life full of mystery and excitement, where she joins a new magic academy that seems wonderful at first glance. That said, a darkness sits below the school, threatening Mary and causing her to have to make things right after a fatal mistake.
From the director of 2007’s Surf’s Up comes Duck Duck Goose, a Netflix original animated film co-produced between the United States and China. The film follows Peng (Jim Gaffigan), a Chinese goose whose flock is in the middle of migration. Unfortunately for Peng, he’s unliked by his flock and is abandoned while asleep, left alone in the wilderness. When Peng runs into a duo of ducklings separated from their mother, the three begin their trek to rediscover their place in the world, with only the others to rely on. The film also features the voice talent of Zendaya, Greg Proops, Stephen Fry, Carl Reiner, and Reggie Watts. Originally slated for release in theaters, the film’s status as a Netflix original means you can stream it whenever you want.
In Leap! (also known as Ballerina outside the United States), we follow Félicie (Elle Fanning), a poor orphan girl living in 1880s France who dreams of becoming a dancer. Unfortunately, thanks to her familial and financial situation, she lacks formal training to get anywhere near her dream. Dismayed by her life, her and her fellow orphan friend Victor (Nat Wolff in the American version, Dane DeHaan elsewhere), a young inventor, run away from their orphanage in rural Brittany to make a beeline for Paris. Eventually, the two become separated, with Victor working as an office boy in an inventor’s shop, while Félicie meets Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) at the Paris Opera. There, Félicie will try to make an impression on the cruel opera owner, auditioning for a performance of “The Nutcracker.” The film features an original song from Carly Rae Jepsen, “Cut to the Feeling.”
Netflix’s first fully-original animated feature film takes viewers on a journey to the futuristic city of Grainland and follows Mai Su, who lives an ideal life with her parents prior to a divorce and her father leaving her family. Mai’s mother Molly gets through the divorce by buying advanced robots known primarily as Q-Bots, but these robots take up Molly’s time and leaves Mai alone with her thoughts. As she abandons the idea of robots, she finds herself ostracized from society, where robots are quickly replacing everything from the education system to law enforcement. Now a teenager, Mai finds herself in trouble when a rare robot known as 7723 (the voice of John Krasinski) escapes from its captivity and must be watched by Mai’s care. With Marvel-like action and a stellar voice cast, Netflix’s first animated original is a rare treat.
In the hit sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph and Vanellope return to set out on a brand-new adventure. Though Ralph has been having a great time since the events of the last film, things have gotten a bit stale for Vanellope. When the arcade Ralph and his friends find themselves living in gains access to a router, the pair of friends travel from the surge protector to the World Wide Web, making for a journey through memes, YouTube videos, and the world of Disney. A film about staying friends even when you’re becoming new people Ralph Breaks the Internet is funnier and more charming than its early trailers might have led you to believe.
One of two television specials originally produced for Nickelodeon before being picked up by Netflix, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus is a continuation of the original cult classic animated show, set years after the cancellation of Invader Zim. When Zim and GIR appear on their lawn years after their disappearance, Dib Membrane—Zim’s archnemisis in the original series—confronts them head on. Dib, now having become obese and physically unfit to oppose Zim, is informed that this was all part of Zim’s plan to get to Phase 2 of invading Earth. Unfortunately, Zim has completely forgotten what Phase 2 of his plan is supposed to be, and once he comes up with a new plan, The Tallest wants no part of it. Having irritated The Tallest by summoning the Irken Armada, Zim puts himself and all of Earth in danger. Those listening to some of the smaller roles in the film may notice Rick and Morty‘s Justin Roiland, alongside the show’s original cast.
Like Enter the Florpus, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling is a continuation and sequel to the original series from the 1990s. Critically-acclaimed on its release, Static Cling picks up 23 years after the original series, with Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt being sprung back into society after spending time in space. Now in a late-2010s era O-Town, the three friends find themselves surrounded by modern amenities like smartphones, energy drinks, food trucks, and coffee shops. While Heffer and Filburt enjoy the 21st century, Rocko would rather spend his time trying to get his favorite TV show, The Fatheads, back on the air, as it remains the last remnant of his past. To do so, he goes on a quest to find Ralph Bighead, the show’s original creator.
The first of three theatrical films based on one of the most-popular Nicktoons of all time, The Rugrats Movie is perhaps best remembered for introducing Dil Pickles to the show, the baby brother to Tommy Pickles. After the birth of Dil (short for Dylan), Tommy and the other babies quickly grow tired of his constant crying and need for non-stop attention, leading to a major fight between Tommy and baby Dil. Despite Tommy’s disapproval, the other babies decide to take Dil back to the hospital using a Reptar Wagon to journey out of the house. Crashed in the woods outside town, the babies must find Dil and return home. Though not as well-received as the sequel, Rugrats in Paris, The Rugrats Movie is notable for being the first Nickelodeon movie based on a Nicktoon, which later led to films like The Spongebob Squarepants Movie and its sequel, and The Wild Thornberrys Movie.
When you’ve finished Rugrats: The Movie, you’ll want to check out its sequel, Rugrats in Paris. By far the best in the trilogy of Rugrats films, Rugrats in Paris changes the focus from Tommy Pickles to his best friend Chucky as the entire crew heads to a vacation in Paris. When Stu and Chaz are sent to Euro-Reptarland to fix animatronic dinosaurs they had built for the park, the babies find themselves in over their head as they face off against Reptarland manager Coco La Bouche. Meanwhile, Chucky’s dad Chaz finds himself the target of Coco’s love, and the group—plus new addition Kimi Watanabe—do their best to stop Coco from becoming Chucky’s mom.
We’ve seen plenty of original Christmas films come from Netflix—including some that have made it onto this list—but none of them have come close to looking as good as Klaus, a brand new 2D animated film that promises to introduce viewers to the origins of Santa Claus. When Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) distinguishes himself as the postal academy’s worst student, he is stationed on a frozen island above the Arctic Circle, where the feuding locals hardly exchange words let alone letters. Jesper is about to give up when he finds an ally in local teacher Alva (Rashida Jones), and discovers Klaus (J. K. Simmons), a mysterious carpenter who lives alone in a cabin full of handmade toys. These unlikely friendships return laughter to Smeerensburg, forging a new legacy of generous neighbors, magical lore and stockings hung by the chimney with care. The film comes from director Sergio Pablos, who previously worked with Disney during the 90s Renaissance era.
You’ve probably already watched the original Grinch cartoon, and you’ve probably seen the live-action Grinch adaptation starring Jim Carrey. If you’re still hungry for more of the Grinch, though, you’ll want to check out the adaptation helmed by Illumination Studios, the same crew behind Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets. As with all of these adaptations, we follow the Grinch himself, voiced her by Benedict Cumberbatch, who lives in a cave on Mount Crumpet with his dog Max. When the Whos decide to make Christmas bigger and brighter, the disgruntled Grinch realises there is one way to gain peace and quiet. With help from Max, the green grump hatches a scheme to pose as Santa Claus, steal Christmas and silence the Whos’ holiday cheer once and for all.
Though it may seem like one of the biggest children’s franchise was always a massive hit, the Despicable Me franchise has fairly small beginnings. The film follows Gru (Steve Carell), a man who delights in all things evil who hatches a plan to steal the moon. In command of an army of little yellow minions (who, of course, would eventually outgrow the franchise into their own film series), Gru seems ready to destroy any and all who stand in his way. Unfortunately, there is one thing he can’t predict: three adorable orphan girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher) who want to make him their dad. Faced with parenting for the first time, Gru will have to choose between his new family, or his dreams of being a supervillian.
Though it was originally developed as a direct-to-video feature, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ended up being theatrically released in 1993, and while the film failed to develop much of a following at the box office, it did draw the attention of critics and box-office fans alike. The film follows Batman (Kevin Conroy), who is pitted against a mysterious figure known as the Phantasm, who continues to take out Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, and whom many believe is the Caped Crusader himself. Meanwhile, Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne reunites with an old flame, leaving him wondering if it’s time to finally hang up the cape and cowl.
What would have been a forgotten kids movie of the 2000s has seen a bump in popularity over the last two years thanks to a resoundingly-popular meme, one surely embraced by Netflix when they gained the rights to stream Bee Movie. Produced, written, and starring Jerry Seinfeld, Bee Movie is, for what it’s worth, a deeply odd film, avoiding the traditional trappings of a three-act structure made for children and detailing what happens when Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) introduces himself to the human population and sues to stop the world from consuming and selling their honey. Strange plot details aside (including moments where both Sting and Goodfellas star Ray Liotta portray animated versions of themselves on trial), the film is pretty standard fare from Dreamworks, but it’s worth watching just to see how weird 2000s animation could be.
Although not generally considered one of Dreamwork’s strongest efforts, Turbo is a lot better than people give it credit for. Turbo follows Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a snail whose obsession with speed has led to an unusual dream: to become the world’s greatest racer. When his DNA is infused with nitrous oxide after a strange accident, Theo—now sporting the name Turbo—embarks on a quest to race at the Indianapolis 500. Featuring an all-star voice cast including Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Michael Peña, Luis Guzmán, and Ken Jeong. The movie never received a sequel, but it did get a follow-up television series titled Turbo Fast, which ran for three seasons on Netflix.
Illumination Entertainment primarily works in their own universes, creating the likes of Despicable Me or The Secret Life of Pets, but on occasion, they’ve also dived into the world of Dr. Seuss. Years before producing The Grinch, Illumination brought the classic children’s environmental tale The Lorax to the big screen, complete with a new framing device and all new characters. The film follows a twelve year old kid named Ted (voiced, somewhat inexplicably, by Zac Efron), who lives in the artificial world of Thneedville. Wanting to win the heart of Audrey (Taylor Swift), he attempts to hunt down a Truffula tree. While doing so, he meets the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who dives deep into his backstory to explain what happened to the Truffula trees and how the Lorax, the guardian of the trees, failed to stop their destruction.
Although the Shrek franchise burned out with the arrival of Shrek Forever After in 2010, a spin-off released just a year and a half later managed to recapture some of the magic of the earlier moments of the series. This prequel follows the titular cat, played by Antonio Banderas yet again, who is run out of town after being accused of robbing a bank—a crime actually committed by Puss’ friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galigianakis). Despite being blamed for Dumpty’s actions, the two reunite to steal a goose that lays golden eggs. The film also stars Salma Hayek as Kitty Softpaws, a notorious cat burglar, and Billy Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris as Jack and Jill. Though the film’s planned sequel was canceled in 2015, Dreamworks Animation gave the film another greenlight in 2019.