Top 10 Best Animated Films of 21st Century

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Walt Disney Company once famously said, “Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation.” There is no doubt that successful animated films are a triumph of technology and storytelling.   They vary in terms of the technology used, say computer animated or stop motion or by the traditional means of sketching. They also differ in terms of whether it is an original story or a book adaptation. Yet, there are certain animated films of the 21st century that have stolen our hearts with their adorable characters and innovative story lines. Here’s my take on the top ten animated films of the 21st century.

10.  Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Madagascar 3 Europe's most wanted

The last in the Madagascar trilogy, it was released in 2012. It quickly climbed the box office charts to make its place as one of the top ten on a number of polls. But it is the story of four animal friends as they try to find their way back ‘home’ over three films that caught our hearts. And well, of course, the fantastic fireworks+circus+3D act that made up the finale of the third movie.

9.  Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Ice age 3 Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Three seems to be the lucky number on this list. Here again proving that sequels can beat the originals is the third movie of the Ice age franchise, ‘Dawn of the Dinosaurs’, released in 2009. With ‘peaches’ joining the gang through possibly the most action packed delivery, it was the section with the ‘laughter gas’ that had the audiences at the edge of their seats, with tears of laughter in their eyes.  Thus, making itself worthy of the number 9 position on this list.

8. Shrek Forever After

shrek forever after

Unlike other sequels of any franchise, the fourth installment of the Shrek series questions the very foundations of the story that made it famous in the first place. Immensely enjoyed by its audiences since its release in 2010; Shrek Forever After makes its place in this list, for the sheer guts the storytelling displays, by showing how sometimes you may stop appreciating all you have but when it is gone, is when you truly begin to fight for it again.

7.  Up


Like its title, this heart warming tale has been raising everyone’s spirits since its release in 2009. It was the first animated and 3D film to be released at the Cannes Film festival and was widely acclaimed for the ‘humor and heart of the film’. The story of an old man who sets out to meet his dream, in his own unique way, was not only something all connected to; it is the ‘wonder’ of the storytelling, that will not let anyone forget it.

6. Monster’s Inc.


As a child who wasn’t afraid of the ‘monsters’ under the bed or in the closet? This refreshing take on the phenomena has enthralled many children as well as adults. The movie was released in 2001 and still holds its own as one of the top grossing films  in many rankings even till today.  Recently a prequel was released and it too has been steadily gaining acclaim.

5. Despicable Me 2

despicable me 2

The sequel to the hit ‘Despicable me’ released in 2013 has made more of an impact that even the first did. Maybe it is the romantic angle of the film or maybe it is just Gru in a princess costume that has so enthralled the audience. But it’s success is undeniable, specially taking into account its recent release and how money making wise it still is raking in the ‘moolah’ from the theater release itself.

4.  Shrek 2

Shrek 2

This sequel to the first Shrek movie starts off where most movies end: After the honeymoon. It engages the audiences with its humor and largely satirical scenes such as a giant gingerbread man saving the heroes. The Shrek franchise has never gone with the conventional and this movie epitomizes it with the Prince ‘Charming’ being resoundingly defeated and that too with a headbutt from Fiona. Oh, and the King is a frog? Nonetheless, it was the highest grossing animated film since its release in 2004 until it was surpassed by Toy story 3 in 2010, which is next on our list.

3. Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3

Audiences poured their love for the film by making it the highest grossing film worldwide within a month of its release in 2010.  The movie provides one of the best lessons on ‘moving on’ and passing the buck on to the younger generations. It is about saying goodbye to old relationships and welcoming the budding of new ones.  With great characters and animations, this Pixar film, deserves all the box office acclaim it has received.

2. Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo

Released in 2003, Finding Nemo walks the fine line of a comedy-drama adventure with aplomb. A father’s search for his son and the subsequent adventure of crossing the Pacific ocean to reach Sydney is incredibly engaging. But the most important moral from the story is that no matter how protective you are bad things can happen, it is how you deal with them that makes you the person you are. Finding Nemo is therefore, also the story of a father and son finding their true selves.

1.  The Lion King

The Lion King

Even though this film doesn’t fit the ‘21st’ Century categorization as it released in 1994, it is listed in almost every ranking of top animated films, oft among a similar collection of 21st Century films as this one. This is because no matter the century you were born in, everyone starts off their animated film journey with a classic like The Lion King.  The story takes place in a kingdom of lions in Africa, and was influenced by the biblical tales of Joseph and Moses, and the Shakespeare plays Hamlet and Macbeth. No other film has the same power to make one cry as one does when Mufasa dies or laugh as one sings ‘Hakuna Matata’ along with Timon and Pumba. It is the highest grossing hand drawn film in history and its 2011 3D re- release also grossed earnings of over US$951 million worldwide as of 2011.

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