There is something timeless about a good animated movie. Animation of any kind tend to carry the stigma of tailoring only to children and younger generations. However, it is how much they stay with us throughout our lives that cements them as iconic in the film industry. Family-friendly themes, inspiring adventures, and even deep dives and reflections into real life are all aspects of a fantastic animated movie. Animated movies from the 2000s were next level, to say the least. Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Studio Ghibli, and many other animation studios have had the daunting task of creating films that are meant to shape the childhoods of current generations and generations to come. And, in the 2000s, they had definitely done just that.
From a little chef to alternate universes and aliens, the imagination it takes to create an entirely unique world in an animated movie is something to behold. Animated movies open the door for every child and adult’s wildest dreams to come to life. However, what is so amazing about what these animated movies do revolves around what they teach us about our lives, making it just as if not more impactful than any live-action movie out there. Make sure you check out our list of some of the best animated movies from the 2000s.
12 Finding Nemo
Let’s start off strong with one of many Disney Pixar movies on this list. Disney has contributed immensely to the animated film genre and the 2003 movie Finding Nemo is one for the record books. Finding Nemo follows a clownfish named Marlin who is left to raise his only son Nemo. When Nemo gets taken away, Marlin ends up braving the sea in search of his son. Along the way, he meets some new friends that become vital parts of his journey. Finding Nemo explores themes surrounding life as a single father, found family, adventure, courage, and determination that make this movie one to remember. In fact, this movie created so many beloved characters that the sequel, Finding Dory, was made and came out in 2019.
11 Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda came out in 2008, and it was an instant hit for DreamWorks Animation. The movie follows Po, a young Panda and son of a single father and noodle shop owner. When Po gets chosen as the Dragon Warrior, everyone, even Po himself does not expect much. However, Po goes on a journey of self-discovery that makes him a formidable match against our main antagonist, Tai Lung. Kung Fu Panda went on as an established franchise with 2 more sequels and even a 2015 animated series called Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness that is available now on Amazon Prime Video.
Animated movies are the perfect place for imaginations to run wild. What can be more magical than talking cars? Cars came out in 2006, and it created some of the most recognizable Disney Pixar characters in Lightning McQueen and Mater. The first Cars movie follows Lightning McQueen when he gets stranded in Radiator Springs on his way to California for the Piston Cup Championship. McQueen goes through one of the best character developments throughout this movie and the charm of Mater, Doc, and the rest of the supporting cast only makes this movie more memorable. If you haven’t seen Cars, it is never too late!
Adventure is out there! The 2009 movie Up became a Disney Pixar must-see almost instantly. In Up, the main character Carl Fredricksen is set to make a journey to Paradise Falls when he meets Russell, a bright and overly optimistic young Wilderness Explorer. Together they face the obstacles of the journey, meeting friends and foes along the way while also growing more and more like family themselves. Also, be prepared to grab your tissues because how could we forget one of the most heartbreaking scenes in history: Carl and Ellie’s love story?
8 Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch came out in 2002 and is now seen as a classic Disney film. Little Lilo is an outcast and she doesn’t fit in with the other girls her age. Nani is Lilo’s struggling caretaker and older sister, thereby one of Disney’s most empowering women characters. When Experiment 626 quite literally crash-lands into their life, they end up on a wild Hawaiian roller coaster ride that will change and maybe even save their family. Lilo and Stitch is a beautiful, fun, and hilarious film that also includes a heartbreaking depiction of what a broken family looks like. It also is a consistent reminder that Ohana means family and sometimes, that strength goes beyond a bond of blood and into the connection of a found family.
The 2008 animated film follows a garbage cleaning robot Wall-E as he exists on what is left of the planet Earth. He meets and grows affection for another robot EVE and his journey becomes intergalactic when it is revealed that Wall-E holds the key to saving the planet: a plant. Wall-E successfully points out both the best and worst of the human race in a way that is completely unique. Wall-E is a masterpiece. For a film that lacks so much in dialogue, it makes up for with fantastic cinematography, charm, innocence, fun, and, of course, love.
6 Howl’s Moving Castle
Studio Ghibli has an impeccable reputation for creating beautiful animated films. In 2004, Howl’s Moving Castle was released and to this day, 18 years later, still holds up as an incredible movie for children and adults. The movie follows the friendship between Sophie and Howl, a wizard who helps her with her curse that turns her into an old woman. This animated movie includes all the magic and fantasy you could want and if you haven’t checked this one out, you will not be disappointed when you do.
5 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
Although many people tend to think that cartoon movies and shows are for kids, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie teaches us that they are not just for kids, but they are also for Goofy Goobers. In 2004, Nickelodeon released a live-action/animated movie based on the hit TV show SpongeBob Squarepants. This iconic movie adaptation kept the charm and appeal of our favorite SpongeBob characters while also raising the stakes and extending their adventures throughout the sea and beyond. And come on, David Hasselhoff makes an insane cameo, helping SpongeBob and Patrick make it back to Bikini Bottom from Shell City.
4 Spirited Away
Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is a coming-of-age movie for the record books. The movie follows a young girl, Chihiro and her parents who get turned into pigs after getting cursed for eating the food of the spirits. Chihiro is now left to save her parents. The character Chihiro successfully establishes this story of friendship, bravery, and perseverance to make this movie not only relatable in a thematic sense but to inspire past and future generations to believe in themselves and see the endless possibilities of what they are capable of.
Coraline is a unique entry into this list. The 2009 film from LAIKA is a stop-motion animation mix and creates a much darker and creepier atmosphere than the other movies on this list. The story follows Coraline as she falls into an alternate dimension that mirrors her life but in a parallel universe. She now has to find her way home back to the family she knows. Coraline over the years has become a staple for childhood movies regardless of some of the scarier imagery it creates. The artistic approach as well as the themes of finding and making your way back home help this movie stand out in this list and in the minds of those who watched it.
Ratatouille follows Remi the rat and his insane journey to becoming an acclaimed chef in Paris. Yes, you have definitely read that right. In his adventures after getting separated from his family, Remi ends up at the world-famous restaurant Geusteu’s and establishes a friendship and partnership with a young man named Linguini. This movie’s insistence that “anyone can cook,” inspires people of all ages that they can do quite literally anything they set their mind to. This movie encapsulates all the fun and overly dramatic twists and turns of a rat’s journey in the big city — a must-watch to say the least, and one of Pixar’s most acclaimed projects to date.
1 Shrek 2
In 2004, DreamWorks Animation released one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of all time, and it happened to be a sequel. Shrek 2 picks up after Shrek and Fiona’s honeymoon where they are now set to meet Fiona’s parents. However, they are blissfully unaware that Fiona’s “curse” has left her looking a little green. This then translates to their disapproval of her marriage to Shrek and the introduction of Prince Charming and The Fairy Godmother. With an impeccable soundtrack to go along with a hilarious and adventurous plot, Shrek 2 changed the animated movie game and is cemented in history as one of the best animated movies of our time.
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