Top 25 animated movies of the 21st Century

Animated movies are not really intended for kids. The innovative characterization, the immaculate and detail oriented finishing of the imagery; great technical crafting and the superior sense of entertainment quotient, generally bring viewership from all genres and age groups. We collated a list of such movies which, out of many more, have not just met the above criteria, but have surpassed a few expectations that cannot be derived out of real time movies. Some of the movies in the list have prequels or sequels and we recommend watching all of them too. This top 25 would have comprised of just those 4 or 5 movies and their sequels or prequels. Hence, we have opted to mention only one out of the series.


1. Monsters Inc. - 2001

Monsters, Inc. is a 2001 American computer-animated comedy film directed by Pete Docter, produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film revolves around two monsters employed at the titular Monsters, Inc.; James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), and his one-eyed assistant and best friend, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). Monsters, Inc. employees generate their city's power by scaring targeted children, and are prohibited from getting in direct contact with children for fear of contamination. The story gets interesting when one child enters Monstropolis and must be returned by the two top employees of titular Monsters Inc. The film proved to be a great commercial success and eventually led to the creation of a prequel, Monsters University.

Watch this film for the funny elements, cool characterization, great animation, smooth flow of the story, thorough entertainment and a deserving ending.


2. Shrek - 2001

After years of production, Shrek was finally released in 2001, but Dreamworks would have had no regrets about all the years of effort. This film ended being a master piece prompting Dreamworks to create three sequels (Shrek 2, Shrek the third, Shrek Forever after), two holiday specials and one spin-off (puss in boots). The movie does have enough for all age groups and sets the viewers on a laughter spree in most occasions. Eddie Murphy as the donkey, is at his all time best and entertains most audience.  Loosely based on a fairy tale comic book, Shrek is the story of an ogre, his association with the talking donkey and how he gets to marry the princess of that kingdom.

Watch this film for its brilliant animation, great sense of comic timing, crafted parody scenes throughout the film, funny but realistic voice over by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy & Cameron Diaz, terrific screenplay and colorful set up. We suggest all sequels as a must watch.


 3. Ice Age - 2002

A Blue Sky studios film distributed by 20th Century Fox, this animation film set against the onslaught of the Ice age times is a comedy adventure involving four pre-historic animals comprising of a saber toothed squirrel, a mammoth, a clumsy sloth and a saber toothed tiger playing the prime characters.

Nominated for an academy award as the best animated feature, this movie franchisee ended up being the best reviewed animated series (followed by Ice age: the meltdown, Ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs and Ice age: the continental drift).

All franchisee series gained commercial success and are a recommended must watch for the characterization, great visual effects and even better humor and wit in the dialogues.



4. Lilo & Stitch - 2002

Another film that was nominated for the 2002 academy awards animation category, the Walt Disney animated production is the story of an alien animal that accidental reaches earth and becomes a part of a family. Along with its clean animation, the movie went on to become a successful movie for its visual spectacle along with neat characterization that appeals to all audiences alike. The success of this film led to a film and a television series starting from 2003 and continuing till 2006. A video game was also released in playstation.






5. Finding Nemo - 2003

The super hit Walt Disney pictures release is produced by Pixar Animation Studios and the story is about a clownfish along with a regal tang who search for the clown fish’s abducted son Nemo. The movie appeals to all audiences alike and Nemo has become a hugely sought after character amongst kids post release of this movie.

The film received extreme positive reviews, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was nominated in three more categories including Best Original Screenplay. It was the second highest-grossing film of 2003 and the best-selling DVD of all time, with over 40 million copies sold as of 2006. It is the 23rd highest-grossing film of all time, as well as the 3rd highest-grossing animated film. In 2008, the American Film Institute named it the 10th greatest animated film ever made during their Top 10.

Watch the movie for the great animation, brilliant characterization and the subtle protective fatherly sentiment. It’s a beautiful underwater spectacle and takes you into a journey under the Australian reefs.


6. The Incredibles - 2004

Released by Walt Disney and produced by Pixar animation studios, this action adventure super hero film is the highest income grosser of 2004 in the animation category, bagging two academy awards and an Annie award for best animated film.

The story revolves around a retired super hero who along with his wife retreats to live life like a normal human until the world is threatened by a super villain. The hunt for the protagonist by his family members, who also have super powers, after he gets kidnapped by the super villain, forms the rest of the story. Funny, intelligent and lovable, the characters take the viewers through an exciting action adventure with thrills and adventure that keeps any kind of audience absorbed. The neat picturization, innovative super powers and imaginative characters keep the whole movie lively and entertaining.



7. The Polar Express - 2004

The performance-capture computer-animated fantasy adventure is based on the children’s best seller novel by the same name. Tom Hanks features in six different characters and the performance captures were done by Sony Pictures Image works. The film is listed in the Guinness book of world records for being the first all-digital capture film.

The story revolves around a young boy and his journey to the North Pole in a mysterious train which stops in front of his house on Christmas Eve. His journey to the North Pole, the encounters in the train, the friends he develops, his belief about Santa, the elves, gifts and the beliefs form the rest of the story. A deep hidden message behind the glory and jauntiness of Christmas is shared through this movie and it haunts a concept well absorbed by believers of Santa Claus.

Now nominated into the top ten best animated movies of all time, this movie slowly gained momentum post its mixed response during its release.


8. Madagascar - 2005

The 2005 animated comedy film is produced by DreamWorks Animation and revolves around some captive animals of the central park zoo, a lion, a zebra, a giraffe, a hippo and a group of penguins.

The animals that spent most of their life in captivity at the central park zoo escape unexpectedly and get shipped to Africa. An accidental ship wreck lands them in the island of Madagascar where they meet another group of animals. The events after their landing and their attempts to escape from the island back to their zoo forms the rest of the story. Rib-tickling comedy, great voice over and funny characterization make this film a great watch and not curtailed only for the kids.

The commercial success paved way for another set of Madagascar sequels Escape 2 Africa and Europe’s most wanted and all movies which are a part of the franchisee are worth more than watchable.


9. Cars - 2006

The 2006 animated comedy adventure is produced by Pixar Animation studios and is released by Walt Disney. The concept is run by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles and the second Pixar film with a non-human cast in its animated film. It was nominated for two Academy awards for best animated feature and won the Golden Globe award for best animated feature.

The story is set in an anthropomorphic cars world, where a successful race car “Lightning McQueen” gets lost while travelling to California to participate in the race of his life which he is keen to win. He is stuck in a small village called Radiator Springs which once existed on the map, but was lost due to highway development. Being punished for spoiling the pavements and the road in the night when he was lost, Lightning McQueen is asked to re-pave the road and only then he will be allowed to leave radiator springs. The rest of the story is about the friends he develops and how he gets tips for the final race.

The success of this movie led to a sequel “cars 2” and later a spin-off titled “planes”. The merchandise also became a commercial hit, making Pixar cars one of the highest sold retail merchandise ever. There is lot of humor, fun, exciting races, sentiment and hear felt drama in this movie, which makes it watchable for kids and adults alike. 


10. Happy Feet - 2006

An Australian-American animated film; it is a musical drama carrying an underlying message cascaded by penguins, sensitizing people about global warming. Most of the movie is animated but some scenes involving humans are motion captured. The film is produced at Sydney-based visual effects studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow pictures.

The story revolves around a penguin named Mumble who is incapable of singing, a predominant quality required for penguins to win partners. However, he is blessed with a unique ability to tap-dance. He grows out-casted and aloof unable to mingle with the rest and the adventures he faces in his journey of self-realization, winning his life partner forms the rest of the story. The sensitive underlying message passed through this subtle musical movie is heart wrenching and invites quite a bit of attention.

The film won Academy, BAFTA, Annie and Saturn awards for the best animated feature and critical success gave way to a sequel Happy Feet two. Watch it for the great music, great characterization and smooth sensitive message it carries.


11. Ratatouille - 2007

A 2007 computer animated comedy film produced by Pixar animated studios and released by Walt Disney pictures.

Named after a French dish “ratatouille”, this film revolves around an anthropomorphic rat which has a unique talent to taste and smell and has developed cooking talents inspired by the famous chef, late Gusteau. He accidentally meets a young struggling cook Alfredo and helps him cook better in the same restaurant which was previously owned by Gusteau. With his ability to control Alfredo by pulling his hair, the rat helps him create wonders and cook dishes that make Alfredo famous. Through a series of events the rat helps Alfredo regain the hotel to which he is the rightful heir.

The film was nominated for five Oscars winning the academy award for the best feature film. It won the Best Animated Feature Award from multiple associations including the Chicago Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the Annie Awards, the Broadcast Film Critics, the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) and the Golden Globes. 


12. Kungfu Panda - 2008

This wuxia (martial action hero) action comedy animated film is produced by DreamWorks animation and distributed by Paramount pictures.

Set in the backdrop of ancient china with anthropomorphic talking animals this story is about a panda who dreams of becoming a kung-fu master. He assists his father, a goose and dreams of learning kung-fu idolizing the great furious five – a tigress, monkey, viper, mantis and crane. The interesting twists when Oogway, the tortoise guru accidentally points to the panda as the would-be kung-fu master worthy of receiving the dragon scroll. The rest of the story is about how the panda faces opposition from the furious five, learns kung-fu and faces the escaped evil snow leopard Tai-Lung.

Funny, visually eye-popping and delightful imagery make this movie worth watching for all audiences. It was nominated for the best feature film at both academy awards and at BAFTA.


13. Wall E - 2008









14. Bolt - 2008


15. Up - 2009









16. A Christmas Carol - 2009









17. 9 (Number nine) - 2009









18. Toy Story 3 - 2010









19. Tangled - 2010









20. Despicable Me - 2010









21. How to Train your Dragon - 2010









22. Megamind - 2010









23. Rango - 2011









24. Brave - 2012









25. Legend of the Guardians - 2012









Along with the above 25, there are another few movies which belong to a separate category called the Stop Motion animation category. Stop Motion animation which predominantly uses puppetry is a category which we thought needs to be classified as a separate set. There are five films that fall into this category.


1. Corpse Bride - 2005









2. Wallace & Gromit - The curse of the were rabbit - 2005









3. Fantastic Mr. Fox - 2006









4. Coraline - 2009









5. Frankenweenie - 2012