It has always been a dream of mine to talk to my toys while playing with them, even as an adult. The dream stems from the magnificent work of John Lasseter who created an enthralling narrative and world in his animated feature film, ‘Toy Story’. ‘Toy Story’ is one of the defining films in the genre of animation. Directed by John Lasseter and co-written by Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, the film is set in a world where toys come to life when humans are not present.
The movie tells the story of Woody, an old-fashioned pull-string cowboy doll, whose position as Andy’s favourite toy comes into peril when a modern astronaut action figure, Buzz Light year, charms Andy with his evolved functions. It follows the journey of the two who, from being arch rivals gradually become good friends after some mishap leads the two being knocked off the house and get separated from Andy. ‘Toy Story’ boasts of legends Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voicing the characters of Woody and Buzz. The two actors use their voice to artistic brilliance which makes their vocal persona completely merge with the character.
The animated adventure comedy took birth from Pixar’s short film ‘Tin Toy’, which was also directed by John Lasseter. ‘Toy Story’ premiered at the El Capitan Theatre on November 19, 1995, and received a theatrical release three days later. The film received immensely positive reviews and was nominated for a couple of awards. At the Academy Awards, it bagged four nominations, winning the “Special Achievement” award. It swept the Annie Awards, winning eight of them. Through the years, ‘Toy Story’ has grown to be considered as one of the greatest animated films ever made. In 2005, it was selected for induction in the National Film Registry, which surmounted its legacy. The commercial success earned the film two sequels which were equally appreciated by critics and audiences, and a fourth one is up for release.
For this article, I have taken into account films that share similar tone and narrative structure as this animated classic. So, without further ado, here is the list of best movies similar to ‘Toy Story’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘Toy Story’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
A prequel to the cultural phenomenon ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ saw Peter Jackson back at the directorial chair. Set in Middle Earth, around seventy-seven years before the events of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, the film follows Bilbo Baggins, a reluctant Hobbit, who sets out on an epic adventure to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of dwarves to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. An epic high fantasy adventure film, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ stars Martin Freeman as the titular Hobbit and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, who are the main characters. Although the movie is not even close to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, it certainly is quite an entertaining watch, which also provides a microscopic view of the iconic character as a young man.
9. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
A sequel to ‘Zathura: A Space Adventure’ (2005) and the third instalment of the ‘Jumanji’ franchise, ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ follows four teenagers, who, after being stuck in detention, discover the “Jumanji” video game. Like the magical board game, they get sucked into it and slowly realize that the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game. In addition, the four are transformed into video game characters which contain a special power of their own. The movie was quite a surprise as it delivered on the magic of ‘Jumanji’ (1995), but also managed to recreate the concept in accordance with the new age. Directed by Jake Kasdan and co-written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner, the soul of the film is laminated with comedic brilliance by the lead actors. Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan, who essay the video game characters, share the screen with hilarious chemistry.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Brought onto the big screen from C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, published in 1950, this 2005 film follows Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, four British children who find a new world in their wardroom and travel through it to the land of Narnia. While everything seems to be merry at first, they learn that it is ruled by eternal winter by the power of The White Witch and it is their responsibility to free it to establish prosperity under the guidance of a mystical lion. The high fantasy film takes visual and narrative cues from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy to create its own beautiful world. Directed by Andrew Adamson and written by Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Adamson, the flick received positive reviews and was a commercial success. Since its release, the makers have expanded the world to two sequels, titled ‘Prince Caspian’ (2008) and ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ (2010).
7. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The film which redeemed the character of Thor follows the titular god of thunder who somehow lands in the planet of Sakaar, which is ruled by a comedic megalomaniac ruler named Grandmaster. Enslaved as a warrior, he must escape the planet to rescue his people on Asgard and stop Ragnarök, which is the destruction of his world at the hands of his powerful but villainous sister Hela.
Directed by Taika Waititi and co-written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost, the film stars Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba, who reprise their characters, and Cate Blanchett, who essays the role of Hela, Jeff Goldblum, who essays the role of the Grandmaster and Tessa Thompson, who is cast as Valkyrie. What makes this Marvel instalment such a great watch is its departure from classic Marvel narrative archetypes to keep the stakes within limits. In addition, the film is particularly a director’s mode of expression which most Marvel films do not have due to the pressure of aligning their style and tone to the MCU.
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
A spin-off and sequel to the ‘Harry Potter’ universe, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ finds its roots from J.K Rowling’s book of the same name which also appears as a textbook in the Potter films. The spin-off follows the author of the book, Newt Scamander, essayed by Eddie Redmayne, as he goes on an epic journey with fantastic beasts in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards, whose events lead to his book being published in Hogwarts. What essentially makes the piece of art so distinctive from the sequel franchise is the atmospherics which finds inspiration from Jazz Age New York. Directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling, the film received positive reviews and was also nominated in the category of “Best British” film at the BAFTAs. The commercial success has earned it a sequel, titled ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ (2018) and a line of upcoming three films which would make the “Fantastic Beasts” universe.
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ is set in the 1930s in the deep south, and follows three escaped convicts who are in search for a hidden treasure while an unremitting lawman pursues them. Written and directed by the Coen brothers, the narrative of the film stems from Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey’ and uses the elements of satire and social commentary to observe the societies of the 30s. Although ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ does not rank as a high as the directorial duo’s other works, it is certainly an entertaining and engaging watch. In addition to the historical and satirical elements, the filmmakers also blend folk music within the narrative which makes the movie a unique experience. ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the main competition, and after the theatrical release, went on to receive a couple of Academy Awards and Golden Globe Award nominations.
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4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Directed by Pete Docter and co-written by Andrew Stanton and Dan Gerson, ‘Monsters, Inc.’ is set in the world of monsters, where in order to power the city, monsters have to scare children so that they scream, as they believe that children are toxic. However, when one child gets through and enters the world, two benevolent monsters try to save the child and take her back to her human world. With John Goodman and Billy Crystal leading the line-up, ‘Monsters, Inc.’ is a lovely watch. The film is produced by Pixar Studios and premiered at the El Capitan Theatre on October 28, 2001. The narrative of the movie combines the hilarity of the voice cast with an innovate screenplay that helped it become a critically praised and commercially successful film. It holds a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed a massive $577.4 million against a budget of $115 million, and spawned a prequel titled ‘Monsters University’ which was released in 2013.
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3. Life of Pi (2012)
Adapted from the fantasy adventure novel ‘Life of Pi’, written by Canadian author Yann Martel and published in 2001, this Ang Lee directed feature follows the titular “Pi” Patel, a young man who somehow survives a disaster at sea. He loses his family and finds himself completely abandoned in the midst of the vast Pacific Ocean until he finds an orangutan, a spotted hyena, a zebra and a Royal Bengal tiger on his lifeboat. With the ocean as his environment and animals as his companions, Pi starts to form his own view and perspective of life. The film, in addition to Ang Lee’s nifty direction, has the magnificent cinematography by Claudio Miranda and resonating music by Mychael Danna. With themes of hope, nature and survival weaving the narrative, ‘Life of Pi’ is a glorious piece of art.
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2. Back to the Future (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and co-written by Bob Gale and Zemeckis, ‘Back to the Future’ is a science fiction film about Marty McFly, essayed by Michael J. Fox, a 17-year-old high school student who is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean which has been invented by his close friend, who is an eccentric scientist Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd. The film uses the bizarre time travel concepts to create an epic adventure. With themes of love, compassion and friendship infused in the story, ‘Back to the Future’ is an extremely enjoyable watch. Among its many awards, the movie was the highest grossing film of 1985, was inducted in American Film Institute’s “science fiction” category of “10 Top 10” and in 2007, was selected for preservation in the National Film Register by the Library of Congress.
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1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ is co-directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones and written by the team of Monty Python. The film stems from the legend of King Arthur and chronicles the journey of the iconic King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on a surreal search for the Holy Grail while encountering the ridiculous and silly obstacles. The narrative develops from the comedy series of the same name and employs the tools of satire and slapstick comedy to comment and critique upon the contemporary times ridden with radical religious groups. Though it received some flak from critics at the time, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ has, over the years, gone on to become an iconic film. The movie spawned an equally critically acclaimed and commercially successful sequel titled ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’ (1979).
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