In case you missed it, cartoons aren’t just for kids. From Disney favorites and blockbuster hits to indie toons and breathtaking anime, there’s something for everyone in our roundup of the best animated movies on Netflix. So grab the popcorn and settle in for a movie night the whole family can get on board with.
The 25 Best Animated Movies on Netflix for All Ages (Including Grown-Ups)
1. ‘a Whisker Away’ (2020)
A sweet and easy-to-watch anime film for adults that can be viewed with tween and teen audiences, too—just with a bit of caution. The visuals are striking and the plot, a coming-of-age romance, is compelling. A Whisker Away revolves around a young girl’s desire to become close with her peer-aged crush, and the means by which she accomplishes this is full-on fantasy...with some questionable messaging. The central female character, Muge, uses the special powers of a mask to transform herself into a cat so she can bond undetected with her male love interest. Spoiler: There’s a happy ending in that the boy does embrace his feelings for Muge when he learns her true identity. But the slightly problematic portrayal of relationship dynamics makes this one a safer choice for a mature audience.
2. ‘mirai’ (2018)
This Japanese animated movie boasts a nuanced narrative about a young boy learning how to accept his new sibling. Mirai is packed with adventure, and the magical imagery, which takes viewers on a trip into the 4-year-old’s mind, is both gorgeous and dark. The subtlety of the primary character’s emotional journey is stirring, but likely to go over the heads of younger kids (though the scary scenes will not). Incisive, powerful and beautiful to watch—we suggest this anime feature for teen and adult audiences.
3. ‘ne Zha’ (2019)
If you’ve got an unruly toddler at home, listen up: This movie, based on a well-known Chinese legend about a demonic child-hero, might be right up your alley. Just be warned—this one isn’t really kid-friendly, nor is it a good pick if you’re hoping to watch something lowkey. The film involves unrelenting action and a lot of violence—all of which is conveyed with striking visuals that are equal parts disturbing and beautiful. Ne Zha is an animated fantasy of quality, but it’s not for the faint of heart. (Then again, neither is being the parent to a threenager.)
4. ‘flavors Of Youth’ (2018)
A poignant glimpse of childhood from a decidedly grown-up perspective, Flavors of Youth combines classic anime style with sentimental (albeit somewhat dark) themes to tell the story of three separate individuals lamenting the loss of their youth as they descend deeper into the depressing circumstances of their adult lives. The trio of stories presented are incredibly effective, conveying—individually and as a whole—a sense of longing for simpler times that will move many an adult viewer.
5. ‘madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ (2008)
In this sequel, we pick up where the original Madagascar left off, with our animal friends on their way back to New York City. When their plane crash lands in Africa, the fab four (Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippo) meet one of their own species and Alex is reunited with his parents. But how will these zoo animals fit in with their own kind? With a little bit of everything (romance, drama, some adult humor), this one will entertain kids of all ages and is a great choice for family night.
6. ‘spiderman: Into The Spiderverse’ (2018)
Marvel’s family-friendly flick is full of laughs and, of course, the kind of comic book thrills that are sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. The impressive live-action animation promises an exciting viewing experience and the narrative is equally compelling. Miles Morales, a brown-skinned teenage Brooklynite, turns into a superhero after being bit by a radioactive spider, and his mission is to save New York from the evil mob boss known as ‘Kingpin’. However, Miles is new to the spidey-scene and can only prevail with a little mentoring from an old pro, Peter Parker (Nicholas Cage). The classic good vs. evil narrative is action-packed, of course, but it’s the talented and refreshingly diverse cast that really make the movie.
7. ‘mary And The Witch’s Flower’ (2017)
An anime fantasy with arresting imagery, Mary and the Witch’s Flower tells the story of an ordinary young girl who is swept away and taken to a magical world after finding a flower that gives her temporary supernatural powers. The storyline—reminiscent of Harry Potter, but based on The Little Broomstick book from the 1970s—is chock full of adventure and peril. In fact, there are several disturbing (and somewhat terrifying) scenes, so watch this one with older kids—or just save it for grown-up movie night instead.
8. ‘the Breadwinner’ (2017)
A heart-wrenching story about a young Afghani girl who must dress up as a boy so she can find work after the Taliban unjustly imprisoned her school teacher father. The content does not shy away from the horrifying realities women and girls face under the Taliban regime and the (stellar) animation captures the violence in a way that is often uncomfortably realistic. Although The Breadwinner is not intended for a young audience, teenagers and adults will be moved and inspired by the strong female character, whose incredible courage ensures her survival.
9. ‘the Princess And The Frog’ (2009)
Family-friendly Disney fare with a (rare) Black female protagonist, this adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale will entertain little kids and adults alike. The film, which is set in 1912 New Orleans portrays a great frog romance that transcends social and racial divisions by way of a plot line that boasts spooky voodoo, squeaky clean comedy and lots of adventure. Bottom line: This animated flick is full of good music and empowering, positive messages—a definite improvement on the outdated Disney princess story.
10. ‘a Silent Voice’ (2016)
A poignant and thought-provoking redemption story that focuses on the emotional journey of a young Japanese boy who finds himself ostracized after bullying a deaf girl at his school. The central character does his best to redeem himself, but he starts out so unlikable that his road to success demands a committed viewer. Mature themes make this film best-suited to teen and adult viewers, but the message is moving and the animation is powerful.
11. ‘ralph Breaks The Internet’ (2018)
This sequel to Wreck It Ralph presents an incisive commentary on modern times through its narrative about two young video-game enthusiasts and their exploration of the internet. Although the movie highlights some dark realities (ruthless social media comments, violent and dangerous online games) and includes some scary imagery that will likely be too intense for little kids, the messages about friendship and identity are wholly positive. Bonus: The hilarious scene in which Disney princesses return, original voice actors and all, to poke fun at the gender norms they represent in their fairytale films.
12. ‘turbo’ (2013)
Little kids will love Turbo, the very silly story of a garden snail who enters the Indy 500 with a desire to race...and win. The film really drives home the uplifting message about following one’s dreams and the content is more kid-friendly than almost any other movie marketed for young audiences—no snark, zero innuendo, and very mild peril that even preschoolers can handle. Best of all, grown-ups are likely to be entertained by this one, too, thanks to its fast pace and funny characters.
13. ‘my Life As A Zucchini’ (2016)
This Oscar-nominated French film about an orphan named Zucchini and his life in foster care features stunning animation and a tearjerker storyline that’s unexpectedly powerful. Ostensibly a children’s movie, the mature content of this film—which touches on alcoholism, abuse, death, and sex—is really best for teen and adult audiences. That said, this movie blends macabre and dark material with humorous and touching scenes to such great effect, it truly is a work of art.
14. ‘the Guardian Brothers’ (2016)
This beautifully animated Chinese story about the growing chasm between the spirit world and the modern human world is witty and easy to watch. Meryl Streep narrates the story, which unfolds in two realms—a single mother (Nicole Kidman) trying to keep her restaurant afloat despite the dirty tricks of a competing business owner (Mel Brooks), while in the spirit world an out-of-work guardian plots to unleash an evil spirit in order to reunite the two worlds over a common cause. The takeaway? The storyline seems like it wasn’t completely fleshed out and is downright confusing at times, but both the visuals and the cast are impressive, so you could do worse.
15. ‘i Lost My Body’ (2019)
Weird, whimsical and a pleasure to watch, I Lost My Body is an award-winning French film about a severed hand that travels around Paris on a quest to reunite with its owner. The dismembered body part’s adventures unfold alongside a series of flashbacks from the perspective of the human owner who experienced the tragic loss. This offbeat film is beautiful, engaging and truly unique.
16. ‘cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’ (2009)
The animation is the major selling point of this movie (loosely based on a book by the same name) about an inventor who creates a device that turns water into food and weather into food, once at work in the sky. This one is mostly innocent entertainment but some of the content—snarky language and the objectification of female characters—is questionable for young viewers.
17. ‘the Croods’ (2013)
This prehistoric adventure, starring Emma Stone, Nicholas Cage and Ryan Reynolds, is absolutely gorgeous and thrilling to watch. The plot revolves around a cave-dwelling family who are forced to face the many perils of the land beyond their hideout as they search for a new place to settle before the end of the world arrives at their doorstep. Their exciting exploration is brought to life with colorful CGI animation and the action-packed storyline promises to keep older kids and adults on the edge of their seats.
18. ‘klaus’ (2019)
This festive and family-friendly film about the origins of Santa Claus is aesthetically pleasing and clever to boot. The film starts off dark and rather heavy, when the Postmaster General teaches his entitled postal worker son (Jesper) a lesson by stationing him in a remote village populated by miserable people. However, Jesper uses ingenuity to turn around the sour dynamics of the town with a plan that ultimately starts the Santa tradition. Overall, Klaus is an uplifting, age-appropriate movie that conveys powerful messages about the importance of compassion, generosity and gratitude.
19. ‘april And The Extraordinary World’ (2015)
A Dickensonian adventure with a happy ending, this French animated film—which takes place in a dreary fictional France, full of pollution and devoid of scientific innovation—focuses on the noble mission of a brilliant young orphan who develops a serum that will save her country. Steampunk visuals, climactic action and a quirky storyline make April and the Extraordinary World a treat to watch for parents and youngsters alike.
20. ‘despicable Me’ (2010)
Steve Carrell lends his voice talent to the main character in this clever and unusual film about a supervillain who isn’t all that bad after all. The storyline is a refreshing twist on the standard good vs. evil trope: The supervillain’s evil plot is to adopt three orphan girls as a means of furthering his mission to steal the moon—but his plans start to unravel when he realizes he feels parental love for his adopted brood. Goofy comedy, compelling characters and valuable lessons are among the factors that make this film a solid movie night pick.
21. ‘the Willoughbys’ (2020)
This dark comedy about young children who emancipate themselves from their cruel and abusive parents is clever and wonderfully animated but far too disturbing for a young audience. The trio of neglected siblings plot to kill their horrible parents and ultimately win their freedom—an inspiring aspect of the film. That said, the storyline is quite upsetting despite some slapstick comedic relief, so only adults with the stomach for it should dive into this one.
22. ‘the Little Prince’ (2015)
Enchanting animation and a poignant storyline come together beautifully in this reinterpretation of the classic book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Fans of the book should know that the movie strays considerably from the original content, but the magic remains, as does the message about living life to its fullest. There’s some heavy stuff, including references to death and suicide, that make this movie better suited to a mature audience, but the dark aspects are understated and the overall viewing experience is enjoyable.
23. ‘invader Zim: Enter The Florpus’ (2019)
Based on the Invader Zim TV series, this film centers around two formidable tween siblings who take on an evil, Machiavellian alien whose self-serving schemes threaten to put planet Earth at risk. The intense, relentless action and grotesque visuals aren’t appropriate for young audiences, but teens and adults will enjoy the excitement and humor this one serves up.
24. ‘in This Corner Of The World’ (2016)
The elegant and artful animation in this anime drama is sure to impress, but viewers should be prepared for the serious storyline. The film follows the life and development of a young girl living in Hiroshima during World War II—specifically the evolution of her marriage to a man she weds without dating at the age of 18. There are realistic and graphic depictions of wartime atrocities, but the historical content is educational and the romance portrayed is nuanced and thoughtful.
25. ‘latte And The Magic Waterstone’ (2020)
This one feels like a rip-off of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, so while this woodland fantasy is entertaining, it leaves something to be desired in terms of originality. On the plus side, the narrative revolves around a strong female role model: A strong-willed, young hedgehog who—after accidentally bringing about a water shortage when her play springs a leak in the well—sets out on a perilous journey to find the mystical waterstone and spare her village from the deadly drought. And although the hedgehog in question faces many perils (some of which are too intense for very little kids), the content is family-friendly and fun enough to watch.