When Inside Out hit theaters in 2015, it earned acclaim from both critics and audiences — much more than you’d expect for an animated film. But Inside Out offered something right on the surface that most animated films just don’t bring to the table (at least not without a deeper look): an exploration of complicated emotions. As a parent, it’s impossible not to get misty-eyed watching the movie with your kids or even when simply thinking about how important an animated film that tackles such complex feelings is for little ones. So, really, we don’t blame you one bit for wanting to track down all the movies like Inside Out to add to your family movie night list.
In case it’s been a minute since you’ve seen this gem, the film follows 11-year-old Riley just after she and her family move across the country. For anyone who has raised a tween or teen, you know their emotions take tumultuous turns — sometimes seemingly by the minute. Add in a big move and struggles at Dad’s work, and you get a kid experiencing deep, confusing emotions for the first time.
Take, for instance, Riley’s initial decision to run away (fueled by anger, mostly), her change of heart (fueled by sadness at the idea of missing her family), and the moment when she reunites with her parents. She’s happy to be with her parents again and feels loved as they embrace her. However, that doesn’t take away the anger and hurt she was feeling before her return. What Inside Out covers in that big moment is how a person can feel more than one thing at a time — and that growing up means learning how to juggle those emotions when they all come barrelling down at you at once.
While no film has taken such a literal look at complicated emotions as Inside Out, a slew of excellent movies continue to deal with those “big feelings.” Here are a few of our favorites.
Movies Like Inside Out That’ll Stir Up Your Emotions
1. Onward (2020)
If you haven’t watch Onward, you’re honestly missing out. Little kids will enjoy the bold colors and fun adventures, but the true depth comes from a family’s attempts to deal with the long-lasting grief of losing a loved one. It’s engrossing and beautiful but, beware, it’s also totally heart-wrenching.
2. Big Hero 6 (2014)
Big Hero 6, at times, barely feels like a Disney movie. It’s set in “San Fransokyo,” a city very much the mix of San Francisco and Tokyo. Add in the robots and major fight scenes, and the anime influence is fantastically undeniable. But action aside, Big Hero 6 is so much more. Similar to Onward, BH6 deals with death and the mourning process that follows. You’ll also watch a young genius learn to harness his anger into great moments and, eventually, learn how to forgive.
3. Finding Dory (2016)
Yes, this is a sequel — and it won’t be the only one on our list. Sequels can often tackle bigger themes and more challenging emotions, thanks to the intro to its history and characters in the first film. Finding Dory is an excellent example of this fact. Finding Nemo was brilliant and indeed contained many emotional moments. But Dory’s overarching themes of memories, loneliness, and creating your own family are much thicker and richer than its predecessor.
4. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Let’s face it: Any of the films within the Toy Story franchise could fit here. They all do such an extraordinary job at tapping into big emotions. However, Toy Story 2 pulls at our heartstrings the hardest. No other moment in movie soundtracking could make us sob like Sarah McLachlan’s “When She Loved Me.” When we hear the song, even as adults, we think of our trusty stuffed animals in boxes and feel a pang of guilt. Most of the humans in Toy Story don’t seem to register such over-the-top emotions. You’re instead left to process them through the eyes of the toys… and that might actually be worse.
5. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
We’re straying from Disney/Pixar for a moment to talk about this Studio Ghibli cult favorite, My Neighbor Totoro. Totoro is a Kami, a Japanese woodland spirit, who two young sisters meet while exploring the woods. Totoro is a giant, fluffy cat-like creature who guides them and, while they’re in his presence, we witness the little girls experience the full joys of youth. My Neighbor Totoro is also a film about loneliness and displacement, essential emotions for kids to understand.
6. Frozen II (2019)
This movie is — fair and square — about accepting who you think you’re supposed to be, even if no one understands. This is such a hard lesson for people of all ages, but Elsa does it with grace and grit. Why? Because she believed following her instinct would save her people. Doing what’s right is never easy, but Elsa still does it.
More Emotionally Complex Animated Movies Like Inside Out
- The Good Dinosaur (2015)
- Up (2009)
- Home (2015)
- Soul (2020)
- Coco (2017)
- Brave (2012)
- Brother Bear (2003)
- Wall-E (2008)
- The Land Before Time (1988)
- The Lorax (2012)
- Over the Moon (2020)
- The Iron Giant (1999)
- The Little Prince (2015)
- The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
- Lilo & Stitch (2002)
- An American Tail (1986)
- Meet the Robinsons (2007)
- The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)
- Christopher Robin (2018)
- Luca (2021)
- All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
- James and the Giant Peach (1996)
- The Fox and the Hound (1981)
- Ponyo (2008)
- Rise of the Guardians (2012)