The golden age of animated films is upon us, with box office charts often featuring an animated picture among the highest-earning feature films, especially in the summer months. Animated films have come a long way since the early days of hand-drawn Disney pictures, with most now being made through computer animation. Today’s films feature gorgeous visuals, superb voice acting, and engaging and emotional plotlines that generally appeal to audiences of any age. There have even been several animated films that have surpassed the $1 billion mark in the past few years, all of which are included in our countdown of the 15 highest grossing animated films of all time.
15. Coco (2017)
Worldwide Gross: $805,228,436
Based on the concept of the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos (The Day of The Dead), the 2017 animated film Coco delighted moviegoers with its mix of gorgeous visuals, emotional story, and wonderful musical performances. Created by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Studios, the film follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead. While there, he seeks the help of his deceased great-great-grandfather, who’s an accomplished musician to return him to his family among the living.
The film received universal praise from critics and moviegoers becoming an instant success for Pixar and Disney. The film won two Academy Awards, taking home Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for the beautiful “Remember Me.” Coco would eventually earn over $800 million at the global box office, making it the 15th highest grossing animated film of all time.
14. Inside Out (2015)
Worldwide Gross: $857,611,174
The 2015 film Inside Out is another film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is set inside the mind of a young girl named Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias) where five personified emotions attempt to lead her through her daily life. The emotions are voiced by a star-studded cast and include Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Lewis Black as Anger, Bill Hader as Fear and Mindy Kaling as Disgust. It’s a unique and interesting concept that works well in an animated film.
Inside Out was praised for its strong narrative, animation, screenplay, and vocal performances, which helped catapult the film to a huge opening weekend, grossing over $90 million. Though it fell short of a number of other Pixar productions, Inside Out would earn an impressive $856 million at the global box office, making it a massive financial success for Disney.
13. The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Worldwide Gross: $875,457,937
The first non-Pixar property to make this list, the 2016 film The Secret Life of Pets was produced by Illumination Entertainment and distributed by Universal. The film revolves around Max (Louis C.K.), a spoiled terrier who become accustomed to a comfortable life in a New York high rise until his owner adopts a big unruly canine named Duke. They soon encounter a group of ferocious alley cats during a walk around town and find themselves in the back of a truck that’s bound for the pound.
The film featured a hilarious cast of voice actors including Kevin Hart, Hannibal Buress, and Dana Carvey, among others. The Secret Life of Pets grossed $875 million worldwide on just a $75 million budget, making it the most profitable release of 2016. The film received generally positive reviews, with the critical consensus being that that it was fast-paced, funny, and included some great performances.
12. Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
Worldwide Gross: $877,244,782
Ice Age: Continental Drift is the fourth installment in the Ice Age franchise and was released in July 2012. Produced by Blue Sky Studios, the film sees the return of the usual characters Sid (John Leguizamo), Scrat (Chris Wedge), Manfred (Ray Romano), and Diego (Dennis Leary) as they are set adrift on an iceberg and face off with a gang of pirates led by Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage). By the time the fourth film hit theaters, the storylines had become a bit stale, though the fantastic cast of voice actors helped make Continental Drift at least somewhat tolerable.
Continental Drift has just a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics slamming the film for its recycled ideas and drawn out shtick. Despite poor reviews, the film earned $877 million worldwide on a $95 million budget, making it the highest grossing animated film of 2012.
11. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
Worldwide Gross: $886,686,817
Yup, another Ice Age sequel. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the third installment in the franchise and was released in July 2009. Produced by Blue Sky Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film was the follow-up to the successful 2006 release Ice Age: The Meltdown. The quality voice cast of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, and Queen Latifah reprise their roles from the first two films, with Simon Pegg joining them in the role of a weasel named Buck. Dawn of the Dinosaurs was the first Ice Age film — and the first 20th Century Fox feature — to be released in 3D.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs received mixed reviews from critic,s but that didn’t stop moviegoers from flocking to theaters see this animated adventure. The film made an impressive $886 million at the global box office on an estimated $90 million budget, making it the highest grossing Ice Age film to date.
10. Shrek 2 (2004)
Worldwide Gross: $919,838,758
Shrek 2 was released in 2004 and is the first Dreamworks film to make it on this list. The follow up to 2001’s Shrek, the film sees the return of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz in the roles of Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona, respectively. We also see the addition of Antonia Banderas as Puss in Boots, as well as an ensemble cast that includes Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, and Jennifer Saunders. The story picks up shortly after the first film, as Shrek and Donkey discover that a maleficent Fairy Godmother (voiced by Saunders) has set out to destroy Shrek and Fiona’s marriage in hopes that Fiona will marry her son, Prince Charming, instead.
The film got off to an impressive start at the box office, scoring the second highest three day opening weekend in US history at the time of its release. Shrek 2 was the highest grossing film of 2004 and remains DreamWorks’ most successful film to date. The film would finish its run with $919 million at the global box office, making it the tenth highest grossing animated film of all time.
9. Finding Nemo (2003)
Worldwide Gross: $940,335,536
The 2003 film Finding Nemo was a combined production between Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures and was distributed by Buena Vista. The film featuresthe voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, and Willem Dafoe. The story revolves around an overprotective clown fish named Marlin who ,along with the help of a regal blue tang fish with short-term memory loss named Dory, search Sydney Harbor for Marlin’s abducted son, Nemo.
This charming film received universal acclaim and would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Finding Nemo grossed over $940 million worldwide on a $94 million budget and holds the record as the best-selling DVD of all time. The American Film Institute has named it the 10th greatest film of all time and the sequel, 2016’s Finding Dory, would go on to perform even better commercially.
8. The Lion King (1994)
Worldwide Gross: $968,483,777
This 1994 classic was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and stars an ensemble cast of voices that include Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons, among others. The film features an outstanding soundtrack, with all original songs being written by Elton John and performed by lyricist Tim Rice, as well as a classic score by Hans Zimmer. The Lion King tells the story of a young lion cub named Simba, who is in line to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride. After Simba’s uncle Scar murders Mufasa and takes the throne for himself, Simba is fooled into thinking he was responsible for his death and is convinced to flee in shame.
The Lion King released to positive reviews and was praised for its story, voice acting, and music. The film is the highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time, with a global box earning of $968 million. The film spawned several direct to video follow-ups and there’s a live-action adaptation slated for release in 2019.
7. Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Despicable Me 2 hit theaters on July 3, 2013, as the follow-up to the 2010 animated film Despicable Me. Produced by Illumination Entertainment for Universal Pictures the film sees Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, and Dana Gaier reprising their roles as Gru, Dr. Nefario, Margo, Agnes, and Edith, respectively. Despicable Me 2 follows the story of Gru, who has forsaken a life of crime to raise his adopted daughters Margo, Agnes, and Edith. He attempts to figure out how to provide for his new family legally and as he struggles with his responsibilities as a father, the Anti-Villain League — an organization dedicated to fighting evil — comes calling.
The film received great reviews and was nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (for “Happy”) at the 2013 Academy Awards. Despicable Me 2 was a highly profitable project for Universal, earning over $970 million on an estimated $70 million budget.
6. Zootopia (2016)
Worldwide Gross: $1,023,784,195
2016’s Zootopia marks the 55th(!) Disney animated film released in theatres. The film stars the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, and Shakira. The story follows the unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer and a con artist fox, as they work together to uncover a conspiracy involving the disappearance of savage predator inhabitants of a mammalian metropolis.
Zootopia is the first film on this list to break the $1 billion mark and is the fourth animated film to reach that plateau since Toy Story 3 did it back in 2010. With a worldwide gross of $1.02 billion on a $150 million budget, Zootopia is one of Disney’s most profitable films to date.
5. Finding Dory (2016)
Worldwide Gross: $1,028,570,889
The long-awaited follow-up to the wildly popular Finding Nemo, Finding Dory hit theaters on June 17, 2016 after years of speculation and delays. Finding Dory sees Ellen DeGeneres as the amnesiac fish Dory, who is on a journey to be reunited with her parents. Albert Brooks also reprises his role as Dory’s close friend Marlin and the pair are joined by new characters voiced by the likes of Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy.
Much like the first film, Finding Dory was well received by critics and set numerous box office records, including the record for the biggest opening for an animated film in North America. Finding Dory was the second Pixar film to surpass the $1 billion mark after 2010’s Toy Story 3.
4. Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Worldwide Gross: $1,034,799,409
Despicable Me 3 is the third installment in the main series and fourth overall film in the Despicable Me franchise, following the release of Minions in 2015. This time around Gru combines forces with his long-lost twin brother Dru in order to defeat a new enemy named Balthazar Bratt, a former child star, who grows up to become a villain after having his show canceled following the onset of puberty. The ensemble voice cast includes the return of Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Kristen Wiig and Steve Coogan, as well as the addition of Trey Parker, Jenny Slate, and Nev Scharrel.
The film premiered on June 30, 2017, and received mixed reviews from critics, yet still became the fourth highest grossing film of 2017. Despicable Me 3 was the second Illusion Entertainment picture to gross over $1 billion after Minions surpassed the mark in 2015.
3. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Worldwide Gross: $1,066,969,703
The third film in the Toy Story franchise, Toy Story 3 was produced by Pixar Studios and premiered on June 18, 2010. The plot is centered on Woody and Buzz once again dealing with an uncertain future as their owner Andy prepares to leave for College. The film features an ensemble voice cast of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Jodi Benson, and John Morris reprising their roles from the previous films.
Toy Story 3 is arguably the best film in the franchise and was just the second Pixar film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The film earned over $1 billion worldwide becoming the highest grossing film of 2010. Toy Story 4 is in the works and scheduled for release in 2019.
2. Minions (2015)
Worldwide Gross: $1,159,398,397
The 2015 film is a spin-off prequel to the widely popular Despicable Me franchise that has been well represented on this list. If you’re unfamiliar to the series, Minions are small, yellow creatures who have been around since the beginning of time, evolving from yellow single-celled organisms into beings which exist only to serve history’s most despicable masters. Produced by Illumination Entertainment and distributed by Universal Pictures the film features the voice cast of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, and Jennifer Saunders, with the narration provided by Geoffrey Rush.
Minions was teased during the end credits of Despicable Me 2 and saw Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, three of the film’s main characters, auditioning for the film. Critical response to the film was mixed with praise being given for the vocal performances of Bullock and Hamm. The film became the highest grossing project in the Despicable Me franchise, grossing $1.16 billion at the worldwide box office.
1. Frozen (2013)
Worldwide Gross: $1,290,000,000
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” animated Disney film Frozen took moviegoers by storm becoming the highest grossing film of 2013. Frozen tells the story of a fearless princess who embarks on a journey alongside a rugged iceman, his loyal reindeer, and a naive snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in eternal winter.
Frozen was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences and many consider Frozen to be the best Disney animated feature film since the studio’s renaissance era. The film won two Academy Awards including Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Let It Go.” Frozen grossed over $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office and the financial juggernaut spawned all kinds of toys, apparel, and video games.