Best contemporary comedies

Written by:
April 14, 2020
Dale Robinette/Summit Entertainment

Best contemporary comedies to lift your spirits

Uplifting movies don’t shy away from heartbreak. In fact, they often immerse their audiences in conflicts with characters who face loss and suffering. Happy endings can be bittersweet, and sometimes they’ll make viewers cry—often with tears of joy. That emotional release is all part of the magic of heartwarming, uplifting movies. These are the films that celebrate the stamina and resilience of the human spirit. They take audiences through universal struggles and universal joys, showing the power of human relationships and the strengths that come from love.

Sentimental movies are sometimes undervalued, but the ones on this list enraptured and impressed viewers. Stacker looked at the highest-rated comedies on IMDb with at least 5,000 votes and ranked the top 50 according to the IMDb user rating, with ties broken by Metascore. For the sake of sticking to comedies that err on the more uplifting side, dark comedies and dramedies that are more drama than comedy, i.e., "In Bruges" and "Parasite," were removed. The list, from late March 2020, features films from the past 20 years, reflecting their contemporary cultural moments, as well as nostalgic and satirical homages to films of the past.

The list has side-splitting parodies and spoofs, as well as the best superhero movies—especially those with a wry, comic style. There are romantic comedies and quirky indie films with relatable characters who inspire. Rankings also feature idiosyncratic dramas with characters that will charm cynics and draw audiences into their worlds from the first frames. While there are films with adult themes and boisterous violence, all of them have an uplifting, escapist energy. They’re sure to bring laughter, often while yanking on the heartstrings.

Comics and cartoons inspire the live-action films on the list, while the animated ones are often dramatic and deeply human. These best uplifting comedies include a fair share of animated movies, many featuring hand-drawn, stop-motion, and computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation techniques known for their brilliant visual design. Animated films aren’t just for kids. The ones here have dual layers that fuse adult themes with childlike wonder for all. Their whimsical, rousing visuals inspire, while their characters evoke strong emotions. Click ahead for movies that are sure to soothe the soul and make you laugh.

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1 / 50
Unison Films

#50. ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (2014)

- Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 76
- Run time: 86 minutes

“What We Do in the Shadows” does for vampire horror what “This is Spinal Tap” does for the rockumentary. It’s a gloriously funny lampoon of “Twilight,” “True Blood,” “Blade,” “Nosferatu,” and other ponderous Dracula dramas. Gruesome mayhem errs on the side of delight, and the film has a surprisingly sweet soul when it comes to friendship and romance within the lives of the undead.

2 / 50
Fox Searchlight Pictures

#49. ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009)

- Director: Marc Webb
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 76
- Run time: 95 minutes

Zooey Deschanel stars as Summer, the quintessential girl-who-got-away, referenced in the title of this love story told through a nonlinear structure across 500 days. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the hipster infatuated with her in this quirky, uplifting take on love and loss.

3 / 50
Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia

#48. ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ (2004)

- Director: Stephen Chow
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 78
- Run time: 99 minutes

An ode to cartoon mayhem and world cinema history, “Kung Fu Hustle” brings a euphoric visual design to its story about gangsters in 1940s China. The film is an homage to martial arts movies with references that span Chinese and American pop culture in an exhilarating action comedy with dancing gangsters and stylized violence.

4 / 50
Mediapro

#47. ‘Midnight in Paris’ (2011)

- Director: Woody Allen
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 81
- Run time: 94 minutes

Nostalgia often moves toward the bittersweet, but in this comedy it has an endearing silliness. A brooding screenwriter, played by Owen Wilson, finds himself transported to Paris in the ʼ20s where he hobnobs with literary greats like Ernest Hemingway, played by Corey Stoll, and Gertrude Stein, portrayed by Kathy Bates. Adrien Brody steals scenes with his turn as the hilariously intense Salvador Dalí.

5 / 50
The Weinstein Company

#46. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (2012)

- Director: David O. Russell
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 81
- Run time: 122 minutes

This uplifting rom-com presents devastating trauma and loss alongside the exhilarating triumph of simply getting out there and doing your best. Bradley Cooper plays a man living with bipolar disorder, and Jennifer Lawrence is the struggling widow who tricks him into joining her for an upcoming dance competition that’s way out of their league. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver bring humor and humanity to their roles as worried parents who’ve seen it all, but still harbor hope.

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6 / 50
Sony Pictures Entertainment

#45. ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (2019)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 83
- Run time: 161 minutes

Quentin Tarantino’s exuberant recreation of late 1960s Hollywood brims with stylized nostalgia. Dipping into the goings-on of a has-been TV cowboy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stunt man, played by Brad Pitt, the film rewrites the true history of the Manson murders, providing feel-good vengeance that disrupts tragic reality.

7 / 50
Paramount Vantage

#44. ‘Nebraska’ (2013)

- Director: Alexander Payne
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 86
- Run time: 115 minutes

Alexander Payne’s funny character study shows warmth and compassion despite the bleak, straightforward style of the black-and-white cinematography. Bruce Dern plays an elderly retiree inspired by a scam to take a road trip to collect fake sweepstake winnings. Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk play his sons in what’s regarded as a searing, yet moving look at a Midwestern family.

8 / 50
Studio Ghibli

#43. ‘Ponyo’ (2008)

- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 86
- Run time: 101 minutes

Hayao Miyazaki’s sublime anime takes on a mermaid fairy tale—a young fish longs to be human—that brims with strange and rapturous whimsy. Miyazaki’s animated tales are known for their vibrant originality. “Ponyo” combines the fantastical with an appreciation for everyday human existence in this moving story about two new friends caught in a harrowing storm.

9 / 50
Murray Close // Universal Pictures

#42. ‘About Time’ (2013)

- Director: Richard Curtis
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 55
- Run time: 123 minutes

“About Time” revels in precious moments of everyday life and the joys of family. Its sci-fi premise gets a sentimental flourish when time travel is used to experience the best parts of normal existence again and again. The sweet love story between Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson makes this an easy romance to watch again and again.

 

10 / 50
Satoshi Kon, Mad House and Tokyo Godfathers Committee

#41. ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ (2003)

- Directors: Satoshi Kon, Shôgo Furuya
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 73
- Run time: 92 minutes

This acclaimed anime movie follows three vagrants who find an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve. Despite harrowing circumstances, the film brings a sense of the miraculous to derelict settings and chance encounters. Holiday films are rarely set amid such rough circumstances, but “Tokyo Godfathers” offers a sense of hope for reconciling with family despite bleak odds.

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11 / 50
Fox Searchlight Pictures

#40. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006)

- Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 80
- Run time: 101 minutes

This feel-good comedy celebrates outsider pluck when a young girl, played by Abigail Breslin, enters a pageant and finds herself way over her head. The ensemble cast includes Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, and Steve Carell as family members who embark on a road trip to get her to the contest. With harsh themes like death and depression, “Little Miss Sunshine” shows the strength of family support.

12 / 50
StudioCanal

#39. ‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007)

- Director: Edgar Wright
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 81
- Run time: 121 minutes

“Hot Fuzz” is a parody of buddy cop action movies for fans who love that genre. The film, with Simon Pegg as a policeman assigned to a pastoral town, offers a funny, lively send-up of police procedurals that’s just as entertaining as the source material it spoofs.

13 / 50
Oscilloscope Pictures

#38. ‘The Second Mother’ (2015)

- Director: Anna Muylaert
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 82
- Run time: 112 minutes

Set in São Paulo, “The Second Mother” examines class differences through the story of a live-in maid who left her daughter behind in order to work in an upper-class household. Once her now-grown daughter comes to stay, demanding the guest room and eschewing servant quarters, the film offers a funny and vibrant take on disrupting the social order. Actress Regina Casé won praise for her expressive performance as Val, the spirited housekeeper.

14 / 50
Warner Bros.

#37. ‘The Lego Movie’ (2014)

- Directors: Christopher Miller, Phil Lord
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 83
- Run time: 100 minutes

This entry in the movies-based-on-toys genre immerses audiences in a world of wit and wonder. The animated Lego set pieces capture the inspiring possibilities of the iconic building blocks and the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and other celebrities give the film’s minifigure characters wisecracking glee.

 

15 / 50
Pixar Animation Studios

#36. ‘Toy Story 4’ (2019)

- Director: Josh Cooley
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 84
- Run time: 100 minutes

In the fourth installment, the famed pals Woody and Buzz Lightyear join up with a new pal, Forky, featuring the voice of Tony Hale, and take on riotous road-tripping adventures. This chapter is considered just as funny, endearing, and visually stunning as the previous entries in the ever-watchable franchise about friendship and being needed.

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16 / 50
Focus Features

#35. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ (2012)

- Director: Wes Anderson
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 84
- Run time: 94 minutes

Wes Anderson’s witty, whimsical ode to young love takes place on a fictional island where two tweens abscond to the woods, defying the hapless adults who try to find them. Anderson’s settings and visual compositions portray his fastidious obsession with details such as Boy Scout paraphernalia and the novels the kids pack for their excursion. The all-star cast includes Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Bob Balaban as the wry, deadpan narrator.

17 / 50
Dreamworks

#34. ‘Shrek’ (2001)

- Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 84
- Run time: 90 minutes

“Shrek” delights audiences with its irreverent retooling of fairy tales and nursery rhymes into a pop culture pastiche filled with one-liners. It’s a hit with kids, but features enough crude gags and humor to keep the adults chuckling too. At heart, it’s a buddy film about the friendship between a donkey and the titular green ogre as they set out to save a princess, and features the voices of Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, and Cameron Diaz.

18 / 50
Rita Productions

#33. ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ (2016)

- Director: Claude Barras
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 85
- Run time: 70 minutes

Whimsical stop-motion animation uses darling puppets that capture the humanity of a group of orphans in this acclaimed French film. A wide-eyed youngster nicknamed Zucchini finds hope after devastating loss in this film with rapturous, charming visuals and a deeply moving story.

19 / 50
The Weinstein Company

#32. ‘Paddington 2’ (2017)

- Director: Paul King
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 88
- Run time: 103 minutes

The stunning visual design, fusing live action with state-of-the-art CGI, brings the beloved storybook character to life in this popular sequel. An ensemble of British actors, including Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, and Jim Broadbent, breathe charm into the story about being wrongfully accused. Ben Whishaw gives voice to the iconic bear in a film loved by both critics and audiences.

20 / 50
Les Armateurs

#31. ‘The Triplets of Belleville’ (2003)

- Director: Sylvain Chomet
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 91
- Run time: 80 minutes

With eccentric, often surreal animation, “The Triplets of Belleville” provides an immersive and unexpected jaunt that’s both funny and moving. A grandmother searches for her grandson, kidnapped by gangsters during the Tour de France, and brings the singing Triplet sisters along for the madcap ride. The film is acclaimed for its unique visual style and original jazz score.

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21 / 50
Lotus Production

#30. ‘Perfect Strangers’ (2016)

- Director: Paolo Genovese
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: Data not available
- Run time: 96 minutes

A dinner party brings much more surprising antics than the usual banter when friends agree to set their cell phones on the table and share anything that buzzes through. “Perfect Strangers” offers unexpected twists and playful takes on the secrets underneath every relationship in a film that’s both hilarious and biting.

22 / 50
Madhouse

#29. ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ (2006)

- Director: Mamoru Hosoda
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: Data not available
- Run time: 98 minutes

In this coming-of-age anime film, a time-leaping high school student grapples with anxieties in the dangerous, everyday world. She finds herself with the power to go back in time in a story about the effects of change. The film is known for its visual beauty that combines with heartwarming themes around first love and destiny.

23 / 50
Cathy Kanavy/Electric City Entertainment

#28. ‘Captain Fantastic’ (2016)

- Director: Matt Ross
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 72
- Run time: 118 minutes

Viggo Mortensen plays a father raising six children off-grid in the woods who ventures back to civilization after a tragedy. Comedy emerges amid heavy themes as the kids interact with the regular world, discovering video games, indoor sleeping, and in-laws. Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn shine as normal in-laws exasperated by the family’s leftist bent.

24 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#27. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)

- Director: Taika Waititi
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 74
- Run time: 130 minutes

Expect rousing sibling rivalry as Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, goes to battle with his sister Hela, played by Cate Blanchett, via fantastical interplanetary warfare. Director Taika Waititi gives the superhero proceedings a wink-wink hilarity that makes fans and critics consider this the best of the Marvel universe franchise.

25 / 50
Rogue Pictures

#26. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)

- Director: Edgar Wright
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 76
- Run time: 99 minutes

This hilarious zombie comedy makes the apocalypse a zany setting to explore Gen X detachment. Simon Pegg plays the titular hero, a bored clerk, who finds himself finally becoming more human once surrounded by the undead.

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26 / 50
Cosmo Films

#25. ‘Sing Street’ (2016)

- Director: John Carney
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 79
- Run time: 106 minutes

“Sing Street” is a coming-of-age story set in a Catholic high school in Dublin that exalts the uplifting power of ʼ80s pop songs. Teenagers form a band that carries the promise of rebellion and busting out of oppression. The dramatic finale captures the brave optimism of love and the hope in a doomed escape.

27 / 50
Téléfilm Canada

#24. ‘C.R.A.Z.Y.’ (2005)

- Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 81
- Run time: 127 minutes

Jean-Marc Vallée wrote and directed this renowned indie drama about coming-of-age and coming out during the 1970s in Quebec. Classic rock hits of the era score the story of a gay teenager growing up in a conservative household. The film movingly explores the conflict between a traditional father and his charismatic, courageous son.

28 / 50
Piki Films

#23. ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ (2016)

- Director: Taika Waititi
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 81
- Run time: 101 minutes

Julian Dennison plays a scrappy, lovable foster child with a dog named Tupac, after his hip-hop hero, who must confront a harsh world well beyond his years. After his adoptive mother dies, he embarks on a bush adventure with a father figure deemed unfit, played by Sam Neill. Director Taika Waititi gives the story a quirky wonder with themes about railing against bureaucracy in favor of life in the wild.

29 / 50
Fox Searchlight Pictures

#22. ‘Isle of Dogs’ (2018)

- Director: Wes Anderson
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 82
- Run time: 101 minutes

A star-studded cast, including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, and others, gives voice to canine heroes in Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated film about dogs exiled to an island after a flu outbreak. Themes of isolation and deportation mesh with sweetness and hope as dogs band together to help a boy and each other. Anderson’s stylistic flair infuses the film with a playful, rebellious spirit.

30 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#21. ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009)

- Director: Wes Anderson
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 83
- Run time: 87 minutes

The stop motion wonder in “Fantastic Mr. Fox”—it looks like storybook illustrations in motion—is known for its technical bravado. Director Wes Anderson employs striking visual compositions and complex set pieces created with elaborate detail. The voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Jason Schwartzman bring the adorable animal figures to life.

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31 / 50
La Parti Productions

#20. ‘Ernest & Celestine’ (2012)

- Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 86
- Run time: 80 minutes

Whimsical hand-drawn illustrations enliven the heartwarming story of unlikely friends who share outsider status. A bear and mouse face a similar plight—the longing to be themselves within an oppressive regime. The animation has a charming, watercolor look that captures both the wit and compassion of a story about breaking free.

32 / 50
The Weinstein Company

#19. ‘The Artist’ (2011)

- Director: Michel Hazanavicius
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 89
- Run time: 100 minutes

The hugely popular and critically acclaimed “The Artist” copies the black-and-white style of silent cinema, using that era’s exaggerated expression and charming movement. Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar for a performance in which he only speaks two words. The film also took Best Picture, celebrated for its inspiring themes of hope after despair.

33 / 50
Columbia Pictures

#18. ‘Almost Famous’ (2000)

- Director: Cameron Crowe
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 90
- Run time: 122 minutes

Cameron Crowe directed this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama about a teenager who goes on tour with a rock band to write a feature for Rolling Stone magazine. “Almost Famous” features groupies, with one played by Kate Hudson, but the movie stands as an ode to rock fandom itself—and the fleeting rapture of getting close to coolness and fame. Frances McDormand gives a memorably funny performance as a mom who doesn’t trust rock stars.

34 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#17. ‘Jojo Rabbit’ (2019)

- Director: Taika Waititi
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 58
- Run time: 108 minutes

Taika Waititi’s rambunctious satire follows a Nazi youth during World War II. Waititi also wrote the screenplay and plays Hitler, who shows up as the imaginary friend of the deeply misguided youngster. Scarlett Johansson stars as his mother, a member of the resistance, in this feel-good comedy that uses dark subject matter to question conformity.

35 / 50
Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox

#16. ‘Deadpool’ (2016)

- Director: Tim Miller
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 65
- Run time: 108 minutes

The vibrant visual style of “Deadpool” turns violence into a cinematic comic book with pop art panache. Ryan Reynolds is the wisecracking Deadpool, an irreverent hero perfect for cynics and those looking for in-your-face fun and over-the-top action spectacle spiked with irreverent wit.

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36 / 50
Marvel Studio

#15. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)

- Director: James Gunn
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 76
- Run time: 121 minutes

Known for its awesome mixtape soundtrack, this Marvel comics adventure follows Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, and his motley band of unlikely heroes as they battle baddies to save the universe. Filled with visually stunning set pieces, wise-cracking humor, and iconic characters, it’s a heartwarming, witty romp about how to deal with evil that updates superhero tropes.

37 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#14. ‘Zootopia’ (2016)

- Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 78
- Run time: 108 minutes

"Zootopia" was acclaimed for infusing contemporary social issues into its story about an animal world where a fox and bunny partner up to solve a local mystery. The state-of-the-art CGI creates a vibrantly splendid backdrop for the film’s upbeat humor and themes about inclusion and acceptance.

38 / 50
Pixar Animation Studios

#13. ‘Monsters, Inc.’ (2001)

- Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 79
- Run time: 92 minutes

The premise of “Monsters, Inc.”—monsters harvest the screams of toxic children—turns into a delightful romp in this animated Disney classic. Billy Crystal and John Goodman give voice to the master scarers who team up to help a little girl, the adorable Boo, who inadvertently goes through a doorway portal and ends up in a scare factory. Crystal quips his way through the proceedings in this feel-good film that still makes kids and adults smile.

 

39 / 50
Lionsgate

#12. ‘Knives Out’ (2019)

- Director: Rian Johnson
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 82
- Run time: 131 minutes

“Knives Out” is a madcap whodunit with an all-star ensemble cast and a twisty hook that keeps the audience guessing until the big reveal. Daniel Craig plays an investigator with an eye for details who speaks with a Southern drawl, while the prime suspect is an endearing nurse pulled into the chaos of a wealthy family. The movie has an absurd playfulness that includes a huge collection of knives on display and at the ready.

40 / 50
Dale Robinette/Summit Entertainment

#11. ‘La La Land’ (2016)

- Director: Damien Chazelle
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 93
- Run time: 128 minutes

Musicals inspire euphoria, and “La La Land,” a redux of golden-era Hollywood classics, transports audiences to a dreamlike romance where they can swoon with joy. One iconic scene features stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, as tinseltown creatives, in a magically celestial waltz at Griffith Observatory.

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41 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#10. ‘Ratatouille’ (2007)

- Directors: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 96
- Run time: 111 minutes

“Ratatouille” rises above regular kid fare with its story about the creative spirit overcoming inner and outer critics. A kitchen boy and a rat team up to create dishes grand enough to capture a top-notch review, but their dreams are threatened along the way.

42 / 50
Omega Project

#9. ‘Love Exposure’ (2008)

- Director: Sion Sono
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 78
- Run time: 237 minutes

As a rollicking epic, at nearly four hours long, Sion Sono’s sweeping coming-of-age story uses a mashup of cinematic influences in its story of a teenager whose Catholic dad demands the confession of sins. A striking emotional core undergirds the madcap chaos of perversion, criminality, and violence. Ambitious, entwining plotlines capture the hysteria of being young and in love.

43 / 50
Fox Searchlight Pictures

#8. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014)

- Director: Wes Anderson
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 88
- Run time: 99 minutes

Eccentric camera movements and elaborate settings carry the audience to Wes Anderson’s singular cinematic world. Ralph Fiennes plays a hotel concierge with Tony Revolori as a lobby boy as the two embark on various high jinks surrounding a stolen painting and the will of a murdered heiress. Pleasures abound in the quirky, often hilarious, star-studded pandemonium.

44 / 50
Buena Vista Pictures

#7. ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003)

- Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 90
- Run time: 100 minutes

“Finding Nemo” jumps into the deep end of fears and anxieties and offers audiences a funny, vibrant story about how to deal when the worst happens. A distressing opening leaves a dad clown fish widowed with a young son. The kiddo gets swept away, and the dad joins up with another fish for heartwarming, funny takes on overcoming danger. Featured voices include Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres.

45 / 50
Melodrama Pictures

#6. ‘Mary and Max’ (2009)

- Director: Adam Elliot
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: Data not available
- Run time: 92 minutes

This animated film creates an elaborate, sepia-toned world, rich with texture and detail. The stop motion figures possess a charming humanity and a strong sense of pathos in this moving story about friendship that views mental illness with compassion. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette provide voices to penpals who correspond across the years, profoundly affecting each other’s lives from a distance.

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46 / 50
The SPA Studio

#5. ‘Klaus’ (2019)

- Directors: Sergio Pablos, Carlos Martínez López
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 65
- Run time: 96 minutes

This critically acclaimed animated film was released on Netflix and offers an alternate origin story for Santa Claus. In this version, he’s a reclusive toymaker, voiced by J.K. Simmons, who’s drawn into toy delivery by a cynical postmaster, voiced by Jason Schwartzman. Christmas themes about how the spark of a good deed always brings another add to the heartwarming charm of the striking hand-drawn imagery.

47 / 50
Disney/Pixar

#4. ‘Up’ (2009)

- Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 88
- Run time: 96 minutes

“Up” is known for its rousing, emotional center as it tells the story of a stubborn old-timer and an 8-year-old scout who find themselves whisked away in a house carried by floating balloons. Though they search for an exotic bird, the film has a deep emotional register in a story that’s ultimately about grief and the literal uplift required to find purpose and joy after loss.

48 / 50
Pixar Animation Studios

#3. ‘Inside Out’ (2015)

- Directors: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 94
- Run time: 95 minutes

“Inside Out” is one of those animated films that entertains both the kids and the kids-at-heart in the audience. Original visuals capture the vibrant nature of the inner terrain with a film that’s set inside the emotional control center within a young girl recently uprooted from a home she adored. Amy Poehler is Joy, while Phyllis Smith of “The Office” gives voice to Sadness, characters who embody those emotions and whose relationship shows their entwined nature.

49 / 50
Claudie Ossard Productions

#2. ‘Amélie’ (2001)

- Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Metascore: 69
- Run time: 122 minutes

The French rom-com “Amélie” captures the magic within the simple norms of everyday life. Using a vivid, hyperkinetic film style, the movie celebrates the charms of lighthearted mischief. Audrey Tautou plays a barista with a trickster spirit who has the kind of paralyzing crush that anyone can relate to in this truly romantic fairy-tale of a film.

50 / 50
Disney/Pixar

#1. ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010)

- Director: Lee Unkrich
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Metascore: 92
- Run time: 103 minutes

From its rousing opening—a Western train robbery interrupted by sci-fi perils—“Toy Story 3” takes its audience through emotional ups and downs that capture the thrills of not only childhood, but also the experience of what it is to be human. “Toy Story 3” is the only film in the franchise to score an Oscar nomination for Best Picture—it won Best Animated Film as well as best original song “We Belong Together.” Highlights include the harrowing garbage incinerator scene that brings both heartbreak and hope.

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