The 20 best animated movies to stream, according to filmmakers


Parents have never been more in need of quality distractions that will actually hold a kid’s attention. That’s why The Post called on top directors in the animation field to give us their streaming recommendations. From classic works that motivated these directors to pick up a pencil to modern masterpieces that continue to inspire them today, here are their expert picks.

1. “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984)

“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984)
“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984)©Buena Vista Pictures

The Gist: A princess attempts to prevent conflict in a post-apocalyptic world.

Picked by: Vicky Jenson, director of “Shrek” (2001) and “Shark Tale” (2004)

Why: “This was a completely different kind of heroine from all the Disney princesses I’d seen until then: a fearless, compassionate tomboy who loves animals and nature,” says Jenson, who first watched the film as she was entering the field. “At one point she calms a small creature not with song, but by allowing it to bite her!” It’s no surprise then that Jenson would go on to helm “Shrek,” the ultimate subversion of Disney fairy tales.

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, $16.99 purchase

2. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)©Buena Vista Pictures

The Gist: A skeleton attempts to bring Christmas to Halloween Town.

Picked by: Jorge R. Gutiérrez, director of “The Book of Life” (2014)

Why: “Back in 1993, I was 17, and I remember ditching school to go to a 10 a.m. showing,” recalls Gutiérrez. “I got in big trouble after, but it was completely worth it.” The Henry Selick-directed flick made him want to be an animator, so when, decades later, Selick wrote to Gutiérrez to tell him he’d seen and enjoyed “The Book of Life,” it was one of the happiest days of Gutiérrez’s life. “I wanted to frame that e-mail!” he says.

Stream it on: Disney+ with subscription

3. “Bambi” (1942)

“Bambi” (1942)
“Bambi” (1942)Walt Disney

The Gist: A young deer learns of fragile life in the forest.

Picked by: Aaron Blaise, director of “Brother Bear” (2003)

Why: “On ‘Brother Bear,’ we wanted the viewers to feel like they were there, and that comes from getting in there and doing research — not going on Google, but to actually go there and experience it,” explains Blaise. “This is what the artists did on ‘Bambi.’ They brought deer into the studio, they went into the forest, and for the first time, really sat down and studied the subject matter and were able to create something sort of transcendent.”

Stream it on: Disney+ with subscription

4. “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992)

“FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992)
“FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992)©20thCentFox

The Gist: Fairies fight back against the destruction of the jungle.

Picked by: Bill Kroyer, director of that very movie

Why: Kroyer chose his own film because of topicality. “In a time when nature seems to be a threat,” he says, “this movie’s message of how every person is connected to nature, and each other, can be hopeful and inspiring: We all have the power to help heal the web of life.”

Stream it on: Starz with subscription

5. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)©Buena Vista Pictures

The Gist: A live-action detective works to prove an animated rabbit’s innocence in a murder case.

Picked by: Tom McGrath, director of “Madagascar” (2005) and “The Boss Baby” (2017)

Why: “It is a sample platter of all the classic animated characters from every studio, which could introduce your kids to a whole new library of films from the golden age of animation,” says McGrath. One of the film’s characters, a cigar-smoking baby, shares some DNA with the infant at the center of McGrath’s “Boss Baby.”

Stream it on: Disney+ with subscription

6. “The Iron Giant” (1999)

“The Iron Giant” (1999)
“The Iron Giant” (1999)©Warner Bros

The Gist: A boy and a robot from space become unlikely pals.

Picked by: Nora Twomey, director of “The Breadwinner” (2017) and the forthcoming “My Father’s Dragon”

Why: “[It] makes me feel like I’m part of a friendship bond between a young boy, called Hogarth, and a giant robot,” says Twomey. “I’m with them every step of the way as Hogarth desperately tries to protect his friend from discovery by those whose fear makes them hate.”

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, $3.99 rental

7. “The Jungle Book” (1967)

“The Jungle Book” (1967)
“The Jungle Book” (1967)©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Evere

The Gist: A man cub raised by wolves encounters the dangers of the wild.

Picked by: Sarah Smith, director of “Arthur Christmas” (2011) and creative director of Locksmith Animation

Why: “It’s utterly joyous,” says Smith, “and because of that, when Mowgli walks away to the human village at the end, it pierced my heart with the sadness, the ambiguity, the fascination and the inevitability of growing up and leaving behind your childhood self. I cried as a 6-year-old, and I cry now. That’s what animated films should be about in my book: the emotions of childhood that shape our whole lives, speaking to adults as well as kids.”

Stream it on: Disney+ with subscription

8. “The Secret of NIMH” (1982)

“The Secret of NIMH” (1982)
“The Secret of NIMH” (1982)©United Artists

The Gist: A field mouse enlists mysterious rats to help save her son.

Picked by: Kris Pearn, director of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” (2013) and “The Willoughbys” (now streaming on Netflix)

Why: “This adaptation of a fantastic children’s book always appealed to me because the storytelling was honest about life and death,” says Pearn of his childhood obsession. “It never felt dark . . . just epic and big.” He adds, “Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm, but the world they illustrated still feels like a place I could go to — that maybe we could have a secret colony of hyper-intelligent rats living under our rose bush, too.”

Stream it on: “YouTube Movies” channel, free

9. “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961)

“One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961)
“One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961)©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Evere

The Gist: A nefarious woman kidnaps a whole lot of puppies.

Picked by: Both Jill Culton, director of “Open Season” (2006) and “Abominable” (2019), and Kyle Balda, director of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (coming July 2021)

Why: “After seeing ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ at the movies [as a kid], I immediately went home and made a comic book of the entire movie, so that I could relive the experience,” says Balda. Culton cites the flick’s subtle narration, elegant music and its iconic crook. “The film has one of the most delicious villains of all time, Cruella De Vil!” she says. “What could be more evil than a woman willing to kill puppies in order to have a dog-fur coat?”

Stream it on: Disney+ with subscription

10. “Melody Time” (1948)

“Melody Time” (1948)
“Melody Time” (1948)Courtesy Everett Collection

The Gist: A package of shorts — including tales of Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill — set to music

Picked by: Walt Dohrn, director of “Trolls World Tour” (2020)

Why: “It is a beautifully rendered film that jumps in style and tone in a mere brisk 75 minutes, so the little ones never get bored,” says Dohrn. “It’s an incredible blend of surreal, psychedelic imagery and pop accessibility all at once.” Hmm, sure does sound a lot like the Cyndi Lauper-belting, rainbow-colored trolls of Dohrn’s new movie.

Stream It On: Disney+ with subscription

11. “Ernest & Celestine” (2012)

“Ernest & Celestine” (2012)
“Ernest & Celestine” (2012)Gkids/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Gist: A bear and a mouse form an against-all-odds friendship.

Picked by: Tomm Moore, director of “The Secret of Kells” (2009) and “Wolfwalkers” (coming in 2020)

Why: “With inspiration from the original and beautiful watercolor books, the comedy of Jacques Tati and Warner Bros. classic cartoons, and the warmth of [Charlie] Chaplin’s ‘The Kid’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ are all whisked into a beautiful, whimsical animated feast for the eyes,” says Moore. “It’s one I return to again and again.”

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video with subscription

12. “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989)

“Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989)
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989)©Buena Vista Pictures

The Gist: A witch starts a business delivering items via flying broomstick.

Picked by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of “Kung Fu Panda 2” (2011) and “Kung Fu Panda 3” (2016)

Why: “It had a great main character of a young witch finding her way in the world,” says Yuh Nelson. “She was independent, had a broom and black cat, but still had to get a day job. She was a real person, and I wanted to be as self-possessed as her when I grew up. Plus, the cat was staggeringly adorable.”

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, $16.99 purchase

13. “The Rescuers” (1977)

“The Rescuers” (1977)
“The Rescuers” (1977)©Walt Disney Co.

The Gist: Two mice attempt to save an orphan girl who has been kidnapped.

Picked by: Chris Butler, director of Laika’s “ParaNorman” (2012) and “Missing Link” (2019)

Why: “I think Milt Kahl’s animation of [the] flamboyantly wicked Madame Medusa is perhaps the finest example of hand-drawn animation in Disney’s entire canon,” says Butler. “She is the perfection of caricature in motion. The scene of her removing her makeup had me mesmerized — it still does! — and watching that was probably the earliest memory I have of knowing I wanted to pursue animation as a career.”

Stream it on: Disney+ with subscription

14. “Porco Rosso” (1992)

“Porco Rosso” (1992)
“Porco Rosso” (1992)©Buena Vista Pictures

The Gist: A bounty-hunting pilot has the head of a pig.

Picked by: Sergio Pablos, director of “Klaus” (2019)

Why: “It holds a special place in my heart,” says Pablos, who is a big fan of Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. “As if my passion for animation was not cemented enough around my teenage years through Disney and Warner Bros., this was the one that made me discover a whole other world.”

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, $16.99 purchase

15 and 16. “Cinderella” (1950) and “Lady and the Tramp” (1955)

“Lady and the Tramp” (1955)
“Lady and the Tramp” (1955)Courtesy Everett Collection

The Gists: The original rags-to-riches princess story, and the star-crossed romance of a sophisticated canine and a street dog

Picked by: Brenda Chapman, director of “The Prince of Egypt” (1998) and “Brave” (2012)

Why: “I love them equally,” says Chapman. “They both made me feel that I was stepping into a storybook — a world into which I could escape. I am drawn to period films, which I have no doubt came from these two beautiful examples . . . The heart of the characters, the depth of the stories and the beautiful design of both still inspire me to try and elevate my own work.”

Stream them on: Disney+ with subscription

17. “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)

“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)
“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)Courtesy Everett Collection

The Gist: Two young girls bond with a forest spirit.

Picked By: Glen Keane, director of “Over the Moon” (coming to Netflix this fall)

Why: “It is a great story of warmth, adventure, family love and the power of imagination,” says Keane. “It opened my eyes to how free animation can be.”

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, $16.99 purchase

18 and 19. “Ratatouille” (2007) and “The Incredibles” (2004)

“Ratatouille” (2007)
“Ratatouille” (2007)©Warner Bros

The Gists: A rat is an expert chef, and an entire family has superhero abilities.

Picked by: Peter Ramsey, director of “Rise of the Guardians” (2012) and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)

Why: Ramsey began his career in live action before making animated movies, so he points to the relatively recent works of director Brad Bird (including “The Iron Giant” — see above for more on that one). Bird’s first three films incorporate “a level of story, design and directorial sophistication that draw on the entire history of moviemaking of any kind,” says Ramsey. “Any one of them makes an undeniable case for animation as a powerful and versatile film storytelling medium equal to any other.”

Stream them on: Disney+ with subscription

20. “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)

“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)
“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)©Warner Bros

The Gist: A strange man searches for his stolen bicycle.

Picked by: Thurop Van Orman, director of “The Angry Birds Movie 2” (2019)

Why: The film is live action, but Van Orman chose it on a technicality: It does feature a stop-motion animation sequence. “And although Pee-wee isn’t technically animated, he is one of the greatest cartoony characters of all time,” says Van Orman. “He’s the best example of being your own person and living by your own rules. He completely immerses himself and the audience in his world and that’s something I try to do as a filmmaker, as a person and as a dad.”

Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, $3.99 rental

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