With animation, anything goes. Filmmakers are not bound by the physical laws of the Earth, so their characters can do incredible things. Actually, they’re not bound by Earth at all, so animated films can take audiences to worlds that can only be imagined. And, as technology catches up to artistic ambition, animated movies are only getting easier to make, and more plentiful. Really, the sky’s the limit.
So, when you’re looking to throw on a movie that you can watch with kids, it makes sense to reach for something animated. But which ones? These are the 50 best animated movies to watch with your family. Some rank up there with the best kids’ movies of all time, animated or not. Some are toddler-friendly movies that can appeal to the littlest viewers, while others have sophisticated jokes aimed squarely at tweens and teens (and maybe even adults). Some are stop-motion, making use of a painstaking medium, some are hand-drawn and others make use of the most up-to-date technology. All of them offer a world of bright colors, cool designs and stories that are super entertaining. (What you won’t find: Animated movies for that are really more adult-only fare, like Waltz With Bashir or A Scanner Darkly.)
Still looking for something to watch? You can also catch up with the best kids’ movies of 2022, or look ahead to the kids’ movies coming out in 2023.
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Some folks just have bad reputations, like wolves, spiders, sharks, carnivorous fish and snakes. But when a group of these “Bad Guys” have to try and walk the straight and narrow, they find it feels pretty good — except when others can’t get over their preconceived notions. Sam Rockwell gives a winning vocal performance as Wolf, the leader of the pack.
A world-famous monster hunter and an orphan of no renown are an unlikely pair in this sea-faring adventure. Maisie Brumble, the orphan, stows away on the ship of the famous Jacob Holland, hoping to help him destroy monsters. Instead, they learn that the world isn’t what they expected. The movie is from the director of Moana, so he’s had plenty of practice directing a story that traverses oceans.
Throw this movie on when you’re just not seeing eye-to-eye with your kids, and you’ll all relate to the story of kids who find their own ways around parental expectations. Only the main character, Mei Ling, does this in an unusual way, since her and her mother have to find a solution to her unusual affliction: She turns into a giant red panda whenever she feels extreme emotions.
For something a little darker, there’s this story, about two demons who try to trick a loner girl named Kat into helping them return to the land of the living. The movie is a team-up of stop-motion animation master Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and horror icon Jordan Peele (Nope), and both of their sensibilities come through in surprising ways.
Most Disney movies feature a princess, or a hero on an epic quest to faraway lands. Encanto turns all those conventions on their head — Mirabel is not only not a princess, she’s just a normal, not-gifted girl, and all the action takes place within walking distance of her house. And yet, she still gets involved in unraveling a mystery and learning truths about her family in unexpectedly exciting and emotionally involving ways. (Plus, this one has “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” an all-time Disney banger.)
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)
When you’re feeling your family is a little too reliant on today’s technology, show them this one, about the perils of being unable to unplug. In the movie, an A.I. uprising puts machine against man, and it’s up to the Mitchells — a totally normal family on a road trip to drop their daughter off at college — to save humanity. It was produced by Phil Lord Christopher Miller and retains some of their zany, Lego Movie energy.
This movie comes from Ireland’s esteemed “Cartoon Saloon,” known for making beautifully animated films with some kind of mystical, folklore-inspired bent. In this one, a girl travels with her father, a hunter whose goal is to eliminate wolf packs. She wants to help her father, but then she makes a friend with a bit of wildness to her, and hears a rumor that her new friend belongs to a tribe that transforms into wolves by night, making her question her father’s quest.
Animated Christmas movies are a dime a dozen, but this one distinguished itself by being nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award when it was first released. In it, a selfish postal worker is re-assigned to the frozen North, where he meets a reclusive toymaker — can you see where this is headed?
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)
Just when superhero movies were starting to feel formulaic, this Spider-Man story comes along and shakes everything up again. Instead of one Spider-Man, this movie features several — thanks to a multi-verse that’s starting to fray — and they all team up in a way that shows that heroism can come from anywhere, even an animated pig. The visuals are also eye-popping and cool, ultimately earning a Best Animated Feature Academy Award.
You’d have to be “un poco loco” not to fall for this Pixar story about a boy who accidentally finds himself in the Land of the Dead and has to find his way out again. The Land of the Dead is so strikingly designed, though, that you might not want him to return.
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
This is another fable from Laika, the studio behind stop-motion movies like Coraline. Kubo is known for spinning tales with origami, but, when he accidentally summons an evil spirit, he finds himself in a real adventure of his own.
Playful animation meets pop songs of every taste in this movie, about a series of plucky animals who want to put on an American Idol-style showcase to save an ailing theater. It was directed by Garth Jennings. who’s half of the acclaimed music-video-directing duo Hammer & Tongs, so he knows how to do a musical sequence.
For older ones, this movie describes the strange connection between a girl named Mitsuha, who lives in a rural town, and a boy named Taki, who lives in the city. When the two start dreaming about each other, they have to figure out if what they’re seeing is happening in real life. This acclaimed film is originally from Japan, this movie is available dubbed or with subtitles.
In the animal-filled world of Zootopia, a bunny wants to be a cop, but everyone assumes she’s too meek. They also think a fox is sly and up to something. But when predator and prey team up to investigate strange goings-on in the city, everyone learns a valuable lesson about prejudice — something we can all be reminded of.
The Little Prince (2015)
Quiet to the point of being almost melancholy, The Little Prince is an adaptation of the beloved children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The movie uses both stop-motion animation and computer animation in innovative ways.
The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Sure the Peanuts gang is mostly known for those short, animated holiday specials from the ’60s, and those are all great (and available on Apple TV+, if you’re looking for them). But Charlie Brown and his friends did make the jump to computer animation in this charming movie, which still is about the struggles of being an average kid.
Gru is great an all, but kudos to Illumination for realizing the Minions were the real stars of the show. This one shows what happens when a trio of Minions light out on their own — and the results are incredibly silly.
The Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
Like the series it’s based on, Shaun the Sheep is mostly wordless, and the humans sound like gibberish to the sheep. That means the whole story is told visually, making it accessible to even the smallest cinephiles. In it, a farmer gets separated from his flock and loses his memory in the big city, so the sheep go on a rescue mission. It’s from the same creators as Wallace and Gromit, and has the same gentle, droll humor.
Sure, the Boxtrolls are hideous looking, they live off garbage and they wear boxes as clothes. But it’s the status-seeking humans who dwell above them who are the real monsters. In this stop-motion animated movie, a young boy is raised by trolls until he meets a girl above ground, and he realizes that some things about the human society need to change.
Is there a more joke-dense movie — animated or not — than The LEGO Movie? You’d be hard-pressed to find one. Whether it nods to ’80s LEGO collectors or one-liners about superheroes, this one is wall-to-wall gags in a blocky, square package.
This is the Disney animated movie that launched 1,000 talent-show renditions of “Let It Go.” But beyond the big, Broadway-style number, there’s a story about the meaning of true True Love — and it isn’t always what you hear about in fairy tales.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez provide the voices of Dracula and his daughter, Mavis, so you know this movie — about how Drac wants to keep Mavis sequestered from humans — is going to have lots of humor to it. But there’s also a lot to enjoy in the designs from animation great Genndy Tartakovsky, who brings a whole castle full of monsters (and one human interloper) to life.
Chinatown but set in the desert with animals like chameleons, iguanas, armadillos and snakes sounds like a strange idea, but in the hands of Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinksi, somehow it works.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
When food starts falling from the sky, it kicks off a lot of mayhem in this movie. It has all the antic energy of an actual food fight.
This spooky, stop-motion flick sympathetically captures a tough part of childhood: Coraline is at an age when she’s old enough to play and explore on her own, but still craves her parents’ attention — and, when they’re too busy for her, she seeks the companionship of an enchanted “other mother” who seems to offer her everything she wants. It’s perfect for those who are tweens and almost-tweens — an age rarely catered to in animated movies.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
In this stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, everything looks like it was handmade with such care, it almost feels like you’re playing with the world’s most intricate dollhouse instead of watching a movie.
The Secret of Kells (2009)
This is the movie that put Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon studio on the map in the States, since it unexpectedly earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. It follows the Abbey-dwelling Brendan as he tries to ward off encroaching Vikings, aided by a book that seems to give him powers.
Po doesn’t seem like your typical Kung Fu master, but when he becomes the unlikely “chosen one” meant to protect the valley, he steps up to the occasion. Jack Black gives a winning vocal performance as Po in a story that shows that heroism isn’t about what you look like, it’s about what you do to help people.
There’s so much to love about Wall-E: Not only is the little Earth-cleaning robot one of the most instantly endearing characters, but his space adventure is also one of the most beautiful Pixar movies (which is saying a lot). The impressive opening sequence is also nearly silent, so even toddlers can grasp what’s going on.
RELATED: 40+ Pixar Easter Eggs That Probably Went Straight Over Your Head
When famed chef Gusteau said “anyone can cook,” he didn’t imagine a rat with a flair for combining flavors. But Remy teams up with Luigi, a newbie hired in Gusteau’s acclaimed restaurant, and together they put his the chef’s words to the test.
The Incredibles (2004)
Not only do the heroes in this movie fight bad guys with cool powers, they learn how to work together as a family. Throw this one on the next time your kids are caught up in sibling squabbles or refuse to do their chores.
Kudos to the kids’ movie that takes place in prehistoric times, but doesn’t center on dinosaurs. In this one, a mammoth, a saber-toothed cat and a slot team up to return a human baby to its tribe (and the poor Scrat just tries to get his acorn).
Lilo and Stitch (2002)
This is the movie that teaches kids that “Ohana means family, and family means no one is left behind.” When an alien dubbed Stitch lands on Hawaii, a girl named Lilo and her sister become their chosen family. Kids will react to the mischief Stitch causes, but it’s the bonds between him, Lilo and sister Nina that really give the movie its punch. Plus, it’s all done with a gorgeous, watercolor animated style and set to an Elvis Presley soundtrack.
When a misanthropic ogre teams up with a motor-mouthed donkey in a world where fairy tales have gone awry, you’d expect a big mess. Instead, Shrek is a surprising story about self-acceptance wrapped in a lot of pop-culture jokes.
Another Best Animated Feature Oscar winner, Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away follows the adventures of a girl named Chihiro. When her parents are accidentally transformed into pigs, she crosses paths with spirits, soot sprites, witches and other magical beings to figure out how to bring them back again.
From their silly-looking faces to the way they flap around in a panic, everything these chickens do is inherently funny. Add in the wry British wit of Peter Lord and Nick Park (famous for creating Wallace and Gromit), and you’ve got the perfect family comedy.
This film, about a boy who befriends a giant robot from outer space, follows the classic kid-meets-misunderstood-outsider formula (think E.T.) — and, like the best of that genre, it gives a powerful tug on the heartstrings, so you might want to keep some tissues on hand. Fun fact: The voice of the robot is a pre-fame Vin Diesel, so you can shock your kids by revealing that the Iron Giant and Groot are really the same person.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Disney royalty is great, but if you’re looking for a princess with a little more oomph, this one was raised by wolves and is on a mission to protect her forest from those who deplete her natural environment. Now that’s #PrincessGoals.
As your family works its way through the whole Toy Story series, your kids will be entertained by the antics of all the toys on screen. You, on the other hand, will have to stifle your tears as you notice their owner, Andy, growing up just offscreen and remember how fast this whole parenting thing is going.
From the opening “Circle of Life” and its parade of animals on the African plain, you can tell that The Lion King is going to be epic — and it delivers. Plus, Scar is one of the scariest villains ever to grace a children’s cartoon.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Whether you put it on at Halloween or Christmas (or both!), this creepy stop-motion tale is one you can keep re-watching together through their teen goth years.
Batman: Mask of The Phantasm (1993)
If you have a superhero fan at home who isn’t ready for the big blockbusters, this PG-rated movie is more tailored to younger viewers, while still being a suspenseful Batman story. It also gets points for the cool, Art Deco-style comics imagery.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This was the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and it’s easy to see why — especially because it has some of Disney’s best songs, courtesy of the powerhouse collaboration of composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman. (Who doesn’t spend the day humming “Be Our Guest” after they hear it?)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
The Japanese film, from beloved director Hayao Miyazaki, follows two sisters as they move into a new house and encounter strange and wonderful creatures there. Since these new friends aren’t menacing or full of peril, this is another good one to watch with the littlest movie fans (though make sure you find a dubbed version instead of a subtitled one if your kids can’t read yet).
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
This adaptation of the beloved book by Norton Juster was animated by the legendary Chuck Jones, best known for his work with the Looney Tunes (and the ’60s How the Grinch Stole Christmas). This film features Jones’ inimitable style and the voice of another Looney Tunes favorite, Mel Blanc.
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
More than 60 years later, Sleeping Beauty is still possibly Disney’s most, well, beautiful. It features designs and art direction by Disney legends like Mary Blair, Kay Nielsen, Eyvind Earle and Clyde Geronimi and is set to lush orchestral music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
There’s a sense of danger in this film — from cruel puppet masters, boys who turn into donkeys, and a monstrous whale — that makes it a thrill from beginning to end. It also has some of the all-time classic Disney songs, like “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
It’s amazing to think that, with all the advances in movie making technology, the first-ever full-length animated film holds up as well as it does. But Snow White still feels magical today, like you’re paging through a storybook of old fairy tales.
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