The 15 Best Animal Movies with the Best Stories & Animations

A Black and White Striped Kitten Watching Underneath a Brown Blanket

Photo by MIKHAIL VASILYEV on Unsplash

We’re big fans of the animatronics and CGI (computer-generated imagery) that light up the best animal movies. They make you laugh more, cry a little more, and feel the characters’ stories a little bit more. And to say it’s just a little bit more is even an understatement.

The liveliness the technology brings takes the move-watching experience up a notch. Consequently, the experience also brings you closer with whomever you’re watching with. Awesome, right?

Imagine a realistic moving family of penguins like Happy Feet at your kid’s birthday party or an animated growling tiger like Shere Khan from The Jungle Book. It’s an incredible experience that will surely delight anyone watching.

That’s why we’re sharing a list of five categories made of our favorite animated animal movies. So, pop some popcorn in the microwave and settle at your comfiest seat. Here we go!

The Best Animated Animal Movies

Two Couple Wolves

Photo by Cartoonbrew

Don’t just take our word for it, take it from the Oscars these films have won and were nominated for. Check out these animated animal movies that’ll surely get you clapping for their stories and animation techniques.

#1 Finding Nemo - 2003

“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming~”, remember that line getting stuck in your head after watching Finding Nemo? And remember the feeling like you were actually in the Great Barrier Reef as you watched Marlin’s journey to find his son?

This classic film from 2003 is one of the best animal movies because it’s got everything put together from the storyline to its visually-immersive animation. Even the critics at Rotten Tomatoes lauded the animation’s technical excellence.

We couldn’t agree with the critics more and the judges who awarded it two Oscars:

  • Best Animated Feature
  • Best Writing, Original Screenplay

IMDb rating: 8.1

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 99%, Certified Fresh

#2 Finding Dory - 2016

A best animal movies list wouldn’t be complete without Finding Dory. This blockbuster sequel to Finding Nemo is a movie that’s just as visually beautiful and emotionally touching.

Following Dory’s journey of finding her parents, understanding and accepting herself, and taking risks lands the story a place in audiences’ hearts. The story also gives a deeper meaning to Dory’s tagline of “just keep swimming”.

The movie’s won awards like the Best Animated Film from the Empire Awards, UK and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA.

IMDb rating: 7.3

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94%, Certified Fresh

#3 Ratatouille - 2008

Animal movies for kids are just so endearing. Who would’ve thought a rat would find its way into viewers’ hearts and cement itself as one of Disney’s best animated animal movies?

Plus points how Ratatouille’s Remy can cook too! And French cuisine in a fine-dining French restaurant at that! This lovable hero can definitely give Monica from Friends a run for her money as head chef.

Pixar really brought us into the world of an aspiring chef in France who was against all odds through their stunning animation and feel-good plot. Ratatouille won an Oscar in 2008 as Best Animated Feature Film of the Year as a result of their efforts.

IMDb rating: 8.0

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%, Certified Fresh

The Best Animal Movies on Netflix

ome animals stand on the city street

Photo by Bustle

Care to Netflix and chill? The best animal movies on Netflix will make sure they’re worth your time chilling. Grab your favorite snack and take a look at these fun titles of the furry kind.

#4 A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon - 2019

What’s lovable about one of the best animal movies on Netflix is  A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon’s use of stop-motion animation and slapstick humor. There are no lines for the characters. It just uses the funniest sounds at the right moments with the best expressions to deliver the humor.

Richard Trenholm for CNET wrote an interesting piece about how the studio used stop-motion animation to make the movie. Here are two amusing points:

  • Aardman Animations used materials like modeling clay, silicone, and latex to create the characters.
  • These are then photographed several times over make the models look like they’re continuously moving for all scenes.
  • It’s a painstaking process that’s worth the effort because the movie was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Animated Feature Film category. Additionally, it’s the winner of the British Animation Awards’ Best Long Form.

IMDb rating: 6.8

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%, Certified Fresh

#5 Fantastic Mr. Fox - 2009

The best animal movies on Netflix sure have a unique flair to them, don’t they? Fantastic Mr. Fox is on point with Wes Anderson’s beautifully-detailed stop-motion animation that brought the Roald Dahl book to life on the silver screen.

It’s a star-studded film that gathers the voices of George Clooney, Meryll Streep, and Owen Wilson among many who gave the characters their nuances. Additionally, the witty and poignant adaptation of the book’s story hems the movie together.

Fantastic Mr. Fox was so fantastic that it was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Animated Feature Film of the Year. The movie also won an Annie Award for the Best Animated Feature.

IMDb rating: 7.9

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%, Certified Fresh

#6 The Secret Life of Pets - 2016

Have you ever wondered what goes on back at home with your pets after you leave for work? The Secret Life of Pets will give you a glimpse of just that.

It’s one of those animated animal movies that you can just chill to with the kids on a Saturday night. It’s funny enough too that it’ll give you a good laugh.

The Secret Life of Pets is an Annie Award nominee and Golden Trailer Awards’ winner for the Best Animation/Family Poster award.

IMDb rating: 6.5

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 72%, Certified Fresh

The Best Animal Movies on Disney Plus

A TV on Top of a Brown Cabinet with a Small Green Plant in Front

Photo by Marques Kaspbrak on Unsplash

Realistic animatronics, skillful live-action animation, and heartfelt storylines are the ingredients to the best animal movies on Disney Plus. Here are films on the platform that will let you experience those signature Disney ingredients.

#7 The Lion King - 2019

Disney’s The Lion King in 2019 was one of the year’s best animal movies and is a stunning masterpiece of filmmaking, virtual reality, and photorealism. Watching Simba and Mufasa’s iconic scene with the wildebeests makes you wonder how the scene was made possible because it’s uncannily real.

At first glance, you would’ve thought they used a realistic animatronic lion for Simba. But they didn’t, which is why it’s such a wonder to behold. USA Today offers an explanation from their interview with the creative team of The Lion King:

“Everything seen onscreen was created by cutting-edge computer animation in a virtual reality environment, essentially shot in a powerful video-game engine.”

An animatronic lion stands on the ground

It’s mind blowing to know that these were all produced through computers. Disney and Jon Favreau deserve our highest regards on this one.

2019’s The Lion King was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects category. Additionally, it won the Hollywood Post Alliance, US’s award for Outstanding Visual Effects – Feature Film.

IMDb rating: 6.8

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

#8 The Jungle Book - 2016

Another masterpiece from Jon Favreau is his award-winning remake of The Jungle Book. It’s one of the best animated animal movies that gave a refreshing new experience to the classic 1967 movie through photorealism and live-action. It’s more than the “bare necessities” for this Disney hit.

The production’s intensity and emotive storyline make this a movie worth watching. So much so that The Jungle Book even won an Oscar for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

IMDb rating: 7.4

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh

#9 Zootopia - 2016

Zootopia treats audiences to a story where the urban jungle is a city bustling with busy animals going about day to day life like humans. The characters’ expressions and movements are impressively realistic, like you’d make those expressions yourself.

The story’s pretty feel-good too as Zootopia brings on the laughter and the inspiration with its plot. Zootopia’s one of those animated animal movies for kids that adults will enjoy too.

This hit film won an Oscar for the Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.

IMDb rating: 8.0

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%, Certified Fresh

The Best Animal Cartoons Movie

A butterfly rest on the tail of a deer

Photo by IndyStar

The best animal cartoons movie always touches a special place in one’s heart. It’s the way the movie’s animated to emphasize the emotion and the change in the story’s flow that gets a grip on you, agree? Travel down memory lane and check out these old school cartoon films that have remained golden through the years.  

#10 One Hundred and One Dalmatians - 1961

15 lovable pups and loving dog-parents together with their owners are this Disney classic’s protagonists. Mix in an entertaining villain in the form of Cruella De Vil, then you’ve got the best animal cartoons movie for the decade. Its lively feels are thanks to xerography and live-action performances.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians wasn’t only a hit with the public but was also a hit with BAFTA’s judges. It won BAFTA’s Best Animated Film award in 1962.

IMDb rating: 7.3

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%, Certified Fresh

#11 The Lion King - 1994

The best animal movie of the 1990s no doubt became the king over every child’s favorite Disney movies. Who could be more fun than Simba with his spunky personality and Timon and Pumba’s with their playful characters?

This iconic film from Disney is admirable for its best-selling soundtrack, unique characters, and impressive animation. These landed The Lion King a place in Disney’s roster of classics.

The film won an Oscar for the best original song and an Annie Award for the Best Animated Film.

IMDb rating: 8.5

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%, Certified Fresh

#12 The Princess and the Frog - 2009

Have you missed the traditional animation and unique wonder only Disney can bring to movies? No need to shed tears because the best animal movie in the form of The Princess and the Frog will bring back what you missed.

Yes, it’s an animal movie because the princess became one in the film. But it all played well to the movie’s plot as it brought out the main character’s inspiring and relatable personality.

This fairy tale from 2009 was nominated for three Oscars and was an Annie Awards winner for the Best Animated Feature.

IMDb rating: 7.1

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 85%, Certified Fresh

The Best Animal Movies of All Time

A man sits on the leaves and plays with a dog

Photo by British GQ

The best animal movies of all time are the ones that you know would stay in your heart forever. These ones often involve a relatable hero/heroine and a beloved animal counterpart who’s also part of the movie’s main cast.

All the while the movies come alive with the best animal actors and the latest technology of their time, whether it be CGI or animatronics. Check out these heartfelt titles that’ll make you fall in love with animals again just like we did.

#13 Free Willy - 1993

Did you know this beloved movie used a real Orca named Keiko and an animatronic whale to bring Free Willy to life? These are what gave the “naturalism” to Willy’s character. It was so effective that audiences were able to connect with the endearing killer whale and made it one of Warner Bros’ best animal movies.

The famous scene where Willy jumps over the movie’s main protagonist Jesse and into the wild ocean was made possible by CGI. What’s also notable about Free Willy is how it captures the special bond that humans can have with animals. You’ll want to hug your pet right after!

Free Willy won an impressive seven awards from different bodies such as the Genesis Awards, MTV Movie + TV Awards, and the Environmental Media Awards, USA.

IMDb rating: 6.0

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 71%

#14 Beethoven - 1992

While Beethoven doesn’t have high ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, it lands a place on this list because of the lovable dog that Beethoven was. He’s adorable, funny, and stands up for his family.

Plus, he’s a real dog too! The St. Bernard starring in the film was a real dog by the name of Chris.

The film also shows the highs and lows of having a dog. Some days are downright fun while some days are just a struggle especially if there’s an evil vet chasing your pup around like Dr. Varnick. This one of those animal movies for kids that’s light, heartfelt, and perfect for a fun family night.

Beethoven won Genesis Awards’ Feature Film award and was a nominee in four categories of the Young Artist Awards.

IMDb rating: 5.7

Rotten Tomatoes: 30%

#15 Hachi: A Dog's Tale - 2009

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is one of the best animal movies of all time because it’s a true-to-life story of the loyal dog Hachiko. It’s touched many since his story became known in his native country of Japan in 1932 and later on to the world.

This tearjerker shows what it means when an animal shows his love through loyalty. Get the tissues ready because Hachi’s bound to break your heart in all the right ways.

The role of Hachi was played by trained Akitas named Layla, Forrest, and Chico. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale was a nominee in the Russian National Movie Awards for the Best Foreign Drama Movie.

IMDb rating: 8.1

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 64%

The Best Animal Movies' Happy Ending

A man is accompanied by lots of Huskies in the snow

 Photo by Screen Rant

We may have mentioned a lot about animatronics and animation as we talked about the best animal movies. But what’s really worth highlighting are the stories that technology brings to life. The stories that talk about you and me, the stories that resonate with our lives and the ones we love.

Good examples of this are the stories of Free Willy and The Lion King. Another set of good examples are animated films like Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.

Those stories and the values they remind us of are these movies’ happy endings. Why? Because they help us celebrate and value life more, while at the same time showing us how we could grow further. It’s these things that we aim to bring too through our realistic animatronic animals.

So we hope this short list of animated animal movies showed these films and their technology in a new light. And more importantly, your own good things in life. And you can also read the blog 20 Best Dinosaur Cartoon Movies for Kids: The Latest List and the blog 18 Iconic Dinosaur Characters from The Movies, TV, & Games if you are interested in dinosaurs cartoon movies.

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