With HBO Max nabbing the exclusive rights to stream Studio Ghibli films and the existence of Disney+, Netflix is facing an increasingly competitive landscape for animation. But don’t let the absence of Ponyo or WALL-E turn you off from its animated film offerings. For now, there are still some Disney classics, modern surrealist flicks from France, and existential shorts to suit every taste. Here are your best animated movie options currently streaming.
Bee Movie (2007)
Oh, man. This unbelievable Jerry Seinfeld vehicle, in which a talking bee sues the human race for stealing HONEY, registers high on the ridiculous scale. Renée Zellweger voices a woman who kind of falls for said bee, they land an airplane together at one point, and, well, you just have to go along for the ride, because people STILL LOVE IT. Maybe it’s because of the all-star cast (Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, and Kathy Bates), maybe it’s because people like the justice-for-bees message, or maybe-just maybe-it’s because it is highly, highly memeable. Not saying you necessarily have to love what everyone else does, but aren’t you just a tad curious about this 21st-century chunk of Seinfeld gold?
Chicken Little (2005)
Everyone knows the story of Chicken Little: a chick feels an acorn fall on his head and proceeds to blab to his animal friends that “the sky was falling.” In the midst of Disney’s strange ’00s entries, they turned the tale into a full feature film-flipping a bit so that the sky actually is falling because aliens are invading earth. Really, what’s happening is that the aliens lost one of their own, which only Chicken Little knows and takes upon himself to see that the baby from outer space is returned to safety. It’s definitely a bonkers, albeit apt, action-adventure spin, but with Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, and Amy Sedaris among the lead voice cast, the animal characters are quirky enough to make the movie so cute its utter weirdness works.
Children of the Sea (2020)
This feature film from Studio 4C and director Ayumu Watable is a lush dive into the fauna of the ocean itself. Adapted from Daisuke Igarashi’s manga of the same name, the film follows Ruka, a young girl whose father works at an aquarium. There, she meets Umi and Sora, two boys who were raised by dugongs and feel just as drawn to the sea as she does. However, it’s only the children who hear the call as adults like Ruka’s father are caught up in the mystery of the world’s fish disappearing. Featuring music from frequent Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi, this one’s certainly an emotional journey.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
It might seem like a dream come true if, say, burgers started falling from the sky whenever you’re really hungry-or any time, really. This, plus other snack-based precipitation, is in the forecast of this animated feature loosely inspired by the picture book of the same name. In the movie, Bill Hader voices an awkward, unaccomplished scientist who tries to invent a machine that turns water into food when his town hits an economic crisis. But things go awry when his invention is accidentally launched into space, which is where the meatballs come in, as well as a whole lot of silliness. In other words, it’s exactly what you want out of a solid animated movie.
The Croods (2013)
The Croods are your stereotypical, nuclear family of five, including a set of overprotective parents constantly at odds with their rebellious teenaged daughter. They’re also cave people from a prehistoric era who strictly live according to their father’s age-old lifestyle, which is totally thrown off when their daughter encounters another, more inventive caveman who warns her that her family must relocate caves before an impending disaster. DreamWorks has an affinity for adventure tales-some hits and some misses-and this is one of their exceptionally fun must-sees. Voice talents from A-listers like Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds make the predictable plot watchable and the jokes aplenty, and against the “Croodaceous” period backdrop, the classic family journey tale is made even more vibrant.
End of Evangelion (1997)
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the best and most popular anime series of all time, but its final episodes remain more contentious than the entirety of the series-so much so that fan demand has prompted multiple alternative endings to be released after the original was through. End of Evangelion has been hailed by devotees as the most satisfying (albeit emotionally draining) ending to the epic. Retelling the final 25th and 26th episodes of the series, this was series creator Hideaki Anno’s “fuck you” to those originally dissatisfied with the end of the show, and watching it for the first time, End of Evangelion absolutely feels made out of spite, purposefully mind-melting, massive, and very fucked up. Still, you’ll find it’s absolutely glorious in its own right and unlike anything you’ve ever seen as Shinji and co. see the truth to NERV’s shadowy Human Instrumentality Project.
Flavors of Youth (2018)
This Chinese-Japnese co-production feels like a set of loosely connected beautiful, animated tone poems. Told as a three-part anthology, which may seem like an alternative format for animated storytelling but is quite common overseas, Flavors of Youth explores different anecdotes of youth, each set somewhere in China. As it reminisces on its characters’ pasts, it’s equal parts sentimental and wistful-leaving you to conjure up your own memories left in a bowl of noodles or the one that got away.
The Garden of Words (2013)
Primarily documenting the conversation between two people in the confines of one garden, The Garden of Words seems like a very humble, even limited film. It’s actually anything but. The film from Makoto Shinkai (Your Name.) is painfully beautiful with lush animation and a story about loneliness at the heart of it: A 15-year-old boy who’d rather spend his days designing shoes than at school connects with a coy 27-year-old woman and they continually meet, without intending to, at the same garden on rainy days. It’s absolutely worth viewing for the breathtaking art and the way it captures Tokyo’s Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden alone, and you’ll be left thinking about the potency of longing and companionship well after its brief runtime.
I Lost My Body (2019)
A loose adaptation of Academy Award nominee Guillaume Laurant’s (Amelie) 2006 novel, Happy Hand, I Lost My Body is truly an unodorothox and surreal animated feature. In short, this French film is about a severed hand attempting to reunite with the rest of its body, but it’s more a meditation on humanity and wholeness than it is a gross-out horror film. Netflix acquired the movie after it premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim and was nominated for a 2020 Oscar in the Animated Feature category-all signs that the streaming giant’s creative ambition is pushing it into exciting new territory.
In This Corner of the World (2016)
Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World is an exquisite wartime epic, but it’s less about what’s happening on the battlefront and more about life having to carry on elsewhere. The hand-drawn film adapted from Fumiyo Kōno’s manga is set in a small town outside of Hiroshima over the course of World War II, following an adventurous 18 year old named Suzu who is torn away from her family when she receives a marriage proposal that forces her into a life of domesticity. It’s tragic not only because the threat of war is so close by, but because of how intimately it document’s Suzu’s personal battle of finding the will to preserve a semblance of life as she knows it. It’s a period piece that will make your heart swell.
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus (2019)
Invader Zim has always been weird as hell. And Enter the Florpus, a feature film that arrived almost 20 years after the series debut,is pure Invader Zim shenanigans in the most endearing way possible. Zim and Dib are still locked in their everlasting rivalry, Dib is still trying to get through to his father, Gaz still likes video games, and GIR is… well, GIR is GIR. The film brings all of Invader Zim‘s trademark weirdness back into play and finally gives us some closure through what very well may be Zim’s most apocalyptic scheme yet. For fans of the original series, Enter the Florpus is a must-watch spectacle that’ll send you straight back.
By returning to 2D, hand-drawn animation, writer/director Sergio Pablos (Despicable Me, Smallfoot) created a contemporary holiday marvel (and Oscar-nominated feature) in Klaus. The gorgeous film gives an origin story to Santa and the tradition of children writing him letters by following a postal service worker named Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) sent to work on a desolate, wintery isle where he eventually meets a reclusive toy maker named Klaus (J.K. Simmons). Rashida Jones and Joan Cusack join an A+ cast that brings their charm, but it’s the detailed backdrop of the endearing Nordic-inspired art that gives this movie all the whimsical joy needed to warm your heart around the holidays, or anytime, we guess! We wouldn’t be surprised if this goes on to become a new Christmas classic.
The Little Prince (2015)
Netflix rescued this animated adaptation of the popular French sci-fi novel after a major Hollywood studio dumped it. Watching The Little Prince, you can see why; following a girl who tests her overbearing mother’s life plan by dreaming big and adventuring into space, the movie is a little too melancholy, a little too freeform, and a little too poetic-at least side-by-side with the Ice Age movies. For Netflix, the result is a huge win.
The Lorax (2012)
The Lorax may not be Dr. Seuss’ most frequently revisited work, with the holiday-themed The Grinch having stake in seasonal rewatches, or Green Eggs and Ham being many kids’ first reads, but it might just be his most thoughtful. This adaptation certainly expands upon the children’s author’s original-like by including a teen love story voiced by none other than Zac Efron and Taylor Swift-but it brings Seuss’s whimsical illustrations to screen and maintains its environmentalist spirit, as the titular character aims to protect his home from encroaching destruction. It shouldn’t take a furry, little orange guy voiced by Danny DeVito to get you caring about the environment, but regardless, this kid’s flick will have you devoted to the sanctity of the trees after one watch.
Lu Over the Wall (2017)
Lu over the Wall, directed by the singular Masaaki Yuasa (Devilman Crybaby), is fantastical, but even more imaginative than its story is Yuasa’s signature bright, inspired animation. Following the friendship between a young boy and a mermaid with a mesmerizing voice who he meets when he joins a band upon moving to a new seaside village, it’s a dazzling, modern fairy tale that will capture your heart. Accompanied by infectious original songs and art that is characteristically more perspective-bending than your average anime, the already cute movie becomes outright darling.
Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa (2008)
2005’s Madagascar was a pretty big deal among families at the time. The animated comedy featuring Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith as animals from the Central Park Zoo accidentally shipped to Madagascar was an outrageous romp quoted by kids everywhere, and eventually spawned a franchise. Standing apart from many cartoons, the sequel actually did the movie justice, catching up with Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, Marty the Zebra, and Melman the Giraffe as their plan to return home reversed course and crash-landed them on the mainland of Africa. Introducing each zoo animal to their own tribe out in the wild, the follow-up introduces a whole new cast of characters and even more laughs. It’s a rare family sequel that truly delivers (and leaves “I Like To Move It” stuck in your head for days).
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Created by former Studio Ghibli illustrators, this Japanese film features similar-looking beautiful, fantastical imagery to tell a mystical story. Inspired by the classic children’s book The Little Broomstick, Mary and the Witch’s Flower follows the magical journey of a young girl sent to live in the country who stumbles upon a charmed broomstick and a flower in the forest that send her away to a secret school for magic. There, a wildly fantastical adventure told through powerful animation unfolds like a storybook.
Mirai is Mamoru Hosoda’s (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children) film most geared at younger audiences, but the Oscar-nominated family movie still contains multitudes. When a little boy feels neglected with the arrival of his baby sister, he encounters an enchanted garden that allows him to travel through time and meet his ancestors, and sister from the future. The concept is magical and warm, and ends up creating a colorful world in a feature truly about children coming to terms with their emotions.
Monster House (2006)
Anyone who’s grown up in the suburbs knows there’s often that one house at the end of the lane that’s a bit creepier than the rest of the neighborhood, the one rumored to be haunted. The spooky, yet hilarious, Monster House makes that fear really something to worry about, telling the story of a haunted house and a group of friends who get trapped in it. But as the title suggests, it’s not about who lurks inside the decrepit home-the building itself is trying to gobble up whoever crosses it. What could be a full-blown horror movie is instead a humorous children’s flick with scares to accompany the devilishly fun animation.
Ne Zha (2019)
American audiences may not be totally familiar with this movie or the mythology it’s based on, but this Chinese film broke all kinds of box offices records overseas. It’s even been hailed as one of the best Chinese animated movies in recent history, bringing to life the nation’s classic fable about a boy warrior sent from the heavens to save the world, but is accidentally reincarnated as a demon. Set in the world of almighty gods and villainous demons, this foreign feature is full of spectacle and action sequences-the kind that can get just about anyone revved up and feel empowered.
Coming off the release of Coraline, fans of the innovative animation studio Laika (Kubo and the Two Strings) were nervous their next creepy kids movie would be too similar to their last release to stand on its own. They managed to conjure up another hit, though, and ParaNorman is a ghastly good animated movie about a boy who can talk to ghosts. It’s not just that he can to talk to the dead, though-it’s like if the kid from The Sixth Sense was actually destined to use his powers to serve the greater good, as it’s up to him to protect his Massachusetts town from a centuries-old curse cast by a witch that makes those who wronged her rise from the dead as zombies. The gothic stop-motion imagery is enchanting as it is haunting. When many movies make us want to run from the supernatural, this is a paranormal journey you want to take.
The Polar Express (2009)
Director Robert Zemeckis rendered Chris Van Allsburg’s illustrated children’s classic, a dazzling mix of surrealism and 20th-century Romantic art, for a three-dimensional canvas in The Polar Express. Through the magic of motion-capture, Tom Hanks stars as The Boy, the Train Conductor, and Santa Claus, who all suffer from the Uncanny Valley mistiness, but beam with excitement and cheer. The Polar Express is basically a tech display for Zemeckis’s new toys, but since when is Christmas not about the decorations?
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
The Princess and the Frog is a return to form for the Disney: It’s one of the House of Mouse’s last hand-drawn films, it reimagines an existing fairytale, and helped move Disney forward by (finally) being the first animated feature with a black princess. The film transports a familiar story down to the New Orleans bayou, where a witch doctor turns a prince into a frog, and inadvertently gets an ambitious young waitress named Tiana caught up in the voodoo mysticism. The spirited animation and music will call back Disney’s Golden Age, but based on its Jazz Age and Creole references, this has its own flare, too.
Puss in Boots (2011)
Shrek was a mega success, so much so that it spawned three follow-ups. The real winner of the Shrek franchise, though? The actually wonderful spin-off featuring your favorite furry character: Puss in Boots. Antonio Banderas reprises his fan favorite role which first appeared in Shrek 2, voicing the little but stealthy kitty on an adventure (pre-Shrek) with the equally sneaky Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) to try to clear his name of his fugitive status. As you might’ve expected, this is no average Mother Goose nursery rhyme: It’s all the chaos of Shrek and more.
Rango is a Quentin Tarantino-esque satirical Western directed by Gore Verbinski (The Pirates of the Caribbean). Although, the titular Rango is a chameleon, and the gore has been toned down quite a bit. Borrowing heavily from classic Western comedies, doggonit, this animated feature is a hell of a good time. With Rango being a housepet who ends up in a desert Wild West community desperate for a new sherif, and him willing to take on the role, it’s opportune for a whole cast of fun critters and good ole Hollywood gunslinging.
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (2019)
It’s been a hot, hot minute since Rocko’s Modern Life was on air. A beloved ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon, it was known for its earnest charm, slapstick comedy, and social satire. Static Cling brings all of that same charm with a bit of a twist: the special takes place in the present. After Rocko and his friends Heffer and Filburt spend 20 years careening around space, they return to a present day O-Town full of smartphones, coffee shops, and other 21st century technological marvels. Much to Rocko’s dismay, his favorite TV show The Fatheads has also gone off the air. Rocko sets out to find Rachel Bighead, the creator of The Fatheads, who was previously known as Ralph in the original series and has transitioned in Rocko’s absence. Rachel is reluctant to leave her life selling Fatheads-inspired ice cream, and Rocko must convince her to come back to O-Town and help reboot the series. Perfectly nostalgic and genuinely warm as ever, Static Cling is a fitting addition to the series.
A Silent Voice (2016)
Based off of Yoshitoki Ōima’s manga of the same name, A Silent Voice follows teenager Shōya Ishida, who spent his elementary school days bullying deaf classmate Shōko Nishimiya. As a result, he ended up being ostracized by his classmates throughout the rest of his school years. Now in his last year of high school, Shōya attempts to reconnect with Shoko and some of their other elementary school classmates in the hopes of mending what has been broken and finding personal redemption. Beautifully animated by acclaimed studio Kyoto Animation (K-On!, Violet Evergarden), A Silent Voice is a moving coming-of-age story.
Yeah, sure, Disney launched a successful, beloved franchise about race cars with the Cars movies, but those were just about cars (obviously). Imagine if there had also been a racing animal in the mix, like, say, a snail? DreamWorks actually did imagine that with their movie Turbo, about a tiny snail whose greatest dream to race in the Indy 500 might actually come true after he miraculously gets the power of super-speed. It’s definitely a silly concept, but the animation is a joy and its wholesomeness is enough to excel this one into the winner’s circuit.
A Whisker Away (2020)
As signs of good luck in Japanese culture (and just being generally cute), cats often show up in anime films, including Studio Ghibli hits like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, and The Cat Returns. These are clear inspirations for this recent Netflix original, and the sweet feline imagery is what will draw you in. About a teenage girl who acquires the ability to transform into a cat, doing so in order to get closer to the boy she’s pining over from school, it’s the story of first love and embracing identity that will leaving you purring. For a movie about cats, it’s enchantingly human.
Follow the Thrillist Entertainment staff on Twitter @ThrillistEnt.
Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.
What is special about the year of the Rabbit?
As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.
What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?
There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.
New South Wales
Darling Harbour Fireworks When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.
Dragon Boat Races When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.
Lion Dances When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.
Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.
Auntie Philter When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.
Lunar New Year Festival When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.
BriAsia Festival When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.
Chinatown Adelaide Street Party When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.
Crown Perth When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.