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15 Essential Chinese Animated Movies to Watch Now

There’s nothing quite like animated Chinese movies, whether you’re checking out a coming-of-age fantasy film or a grand historical epic.

For one, a lot of them draw from unique Chinese legends and folklore. Even with 3D animation so popular these days, they also sometimes incorporate traditional Chinese art and calligraphy, creating a unique aesthetic. And their storylines can get philosophical and thoughtful too.

I’ve rounded up the best Chinese animated films all around, complete with trailers so you can choose what to watch right away:

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Ne Zha — 2019

Chinese Name: 哪吒之魔童降世 (Nézhā Zhī Mótóng Jiàngshì)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Google Play

Ne Zha is a strange child who’s born through unique, mystical circumstances. A curse gives him demonic powers, but then he’s also fated to bring widespread destruction to the world. Despite this, Ne Zha rebels against his seemingly inescapable fate, striving to forge a different destiny as a hero rather than a demon.

In his quest for identity, Ne Zha encounters and fights with different mythical creatures, gods and immortals who challenge his understanding of good and evil.

Legend of Deification — 2020

Chinese Name: 姜子牙 (Jiāng Zǐyā)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Tubi

Jiang Ziya is a powerful commander in the divine army who manages to conquer the malevolent Nine-Tailed Fox Demon. But after this epic battle, he discovers that the demon’s spirit is connected to that of a young, innocent girl. He ends up choosing to save the girl’s life, putting mercy over duty—which results in him being demoted and exiled.

As he navigates a life steeped in solitude, with visions of a dystopian future, he slowly forms an alliance with other warriors and supernatural creatures who were betrayed or alienated too.

Chang’an — 2023

Chinese Name: 长安三万里 (Cháng’ān Sān Wàn Lǐ)

Where to Watch: Migu Video | Tencent Video

A highly rated film because of its strong character-driven storytelling and fluid animation, “Chang’an” is set in one of the most creative historical periods in China: the Tang Dynasty. It’s centered on the lives and friendship of the famous poets Li Bai and Gao Shi. Both of them are grappling with their dreams and societal expectations, right as China’s transitioning from prosperity to chaos.

In many scenes in the movie, Tang poems are actually read out loud, and you’ll get to learn more about traditional Chinese culture and poetry.

Monkey King: Hero is Back — 2015

Chinese Name: 西游记之大圣归来 (Xīyóu Jì Zhī Dà Shèng Guīlái)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Disney

The mighty Monkey King—a legendary figure in Chinese mythology—has been imprisoned by the Gods for centuries, but then he’s accidentally freed by a child named Liuer. Once proud and vain, the Monkey King finds himself humbled.

As he and Luier journey together, they become friends and encounter several adversities, including monsters and deceitful gods who want to take advantage of his weakened state. Each battle not only tests the Monkey King’s combat skills but also teaches him important lessons of empathy and heroism.

Dahufa — 2017

Chinese Name: 大护法 (Dàhǔfǎ)

Where to Watch: Google Play

DaHuFa follows a guardian who has to find a lost prince in a dystopian kingdom. As he searches for the prince, DaHuFa stumbles on a society that blindly follows a leader who wears an ominous mask to impose control. Citizens of this kingdom are deceived and oppressed, and they’re unaware of how much they’ve lost their freedom.

Because of his efforts to help them, he uncovers a sinister conspiracy. He then has to rely on his martial arts skills and battle wits to face elite guards, court officials and other people who want to protect the regime’s secrets.

Big Fish and Begonia — 2017

Chinese Name: 大鱼海棠 (Dàyú Hǎitáng)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Crunchyroll | Google Play

One of the most well-known Chinese animated movies worldwide, it revolves around Chun, a mystical being from the undersea who becomes a red dolphin to explore the human world. When Chun gets tangled up in a fishing net, a human boy sacrifices himself to save her. She’s deeply moved by this, so she decides to venture into the difficult path of resurrecting him.

This involves plenty of trials, including dealing with a two-headed serpent that both tries to help and deceive her. Ultimately, she’s forced to make sacrifices along the way and understand what love really means.

The Legend of Hei — 2019

Chinese Name: 罗小黑战记 (Luó Xiàohēi Zhàn Jì)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Crunchyroll | Google Play

This adorable animated film narrates the adventures of Xiao Hei, a black cat demon who’s forced out of his home in a serene forest because of urbanization. Since he has nowhere else to go, he transforms into a child so he can live among human beings.

In this new, chaotic world, he somehow gets caught up in conflicts among mystical factions. These have different perspectives about how to treat humans—whether to live in harmony with them or confront them aggressively.

White Snake — 2019

Chinese Name: 白蛇:缘起 (Báishé: Yuánqǐ)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Google Play | Hulu

Based loosely on the famous Chinese legend, White Snake is a love story about a snake demon and a human. Bianca, a white snake demon, loses her memory, and then forms an unlikely bond with a kind-hearted man named Ah Xuan, who ironically happens to be a snake hunter.

Ah Xuan decides to help Bianca discover her lost past. As they discover a scheme that threatens both the mortal and immortal worlds, they realize that Bianca’s lost memory holds the key to stopping this impending disaster.

No. 7 Cherry Lane — 2019

Chinese Name: 继园台七号 (Jìyuántái Qīhào)

Set in Hong Kong in 1967, “No. 7 Cherry Lane” features a passionate love story amidst political turmoil. Ziming is a university student who gets involved in a love triangle as he starts tutoring Meiling, a high school student. He eventually develops feelings for Mei Ling.

This is complicated by how Ziming also becomes attracted to Meiling’s mother, Mrs. Yu—a mysterious, worldly woman in his eyes. To add to the tension, the story is set against the backdrop of a city on the brink of change.

Have a Nice Day — 2017

Chinese Name: 大世界 (Dà Shìjiè)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Tubi

In “Have a Nice Day,” a bag with a million yuan attracts various individuals from different walks of life with financial struggles. All of them are desperate to secure the bag for their own reasons.

A driver first steals the bag, with the goal of fixing his girlfriend’s failed plastic surgery. This sets off a chaotic chain of events, involving a variety of characters like a hitman and a disillusioned artist. With its stark animation style and dark humor, the movie reflects the complexities and absurdities of modern life in China.

Throne of Elves — 2016

Chinese Name: 精灵王座 (Jīnglíng Wángzuò)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

“Throne of Elves” is set in the mythical Elven world of Altera where an epic conflict unfolds between the human race and elves over a powerful artifact known as the Black Dragon.

The film follows the young half-elf Liya who gets entangled in this war. To stop the dark elf Elena from controlling all of Altera with the Black Dragon, Liya teams up with Lambert, a kind-hearted human prince. They then travel through breathtaking landscapes, confronting various enemies and even ancient magic, in a desperate bid to save their world.

Deep Sea — 2023

Chinese Name: 深海 (Shēn Hǎi)

Where to Watch: Blu-ray

This 3D Chinese animated movie attracted a lot of attention because of its stunning visuals, which are inspired by Chinese ink painting. Shenxiu is a young girl who’s struggling with her mother’s abandonment and feeling alienated in her father’s new family.

Her life changes, though, when she’s suddenly transported into an enchanting underwater realm. She meets the quirky chef Nanhe along with his delightful crew of sea animals there. Together, they go on a quest for a magical sea spirit, which is key to saving Nanhe’s struggling business and helping Shenxiu find her mother.

Lotus Lantern — 1999

Chinese Name: 宝莲灯 (Bǎo Lián Dēng)

Where to Watch: YouTube

“Lotus Lantern” is another Chinese animated film that’s based on a folktale. It’s a poignant story of love and sacrifice, focusing on Sanshengmu, a celestial being who falls in love with a mortal. Their union births a son, Chenxiang.

When the romance is discovered, Sanshengmu is punished, and Chenxiang is left in the mortal world. Years later, Chenxiang learns about his heritage and decides to rescue his mother, armed with a magical lotus lantern.

I Am What I Am — 2021

Chinese Name: 雄獅少年 (Xióngshī Shàonián)

Where to Watch: Google Play

Ah-Juan is a village boy who dreams of winning the Guangzhou Lion Dancing Championship. He gets two friends to join him in learning the dance, but they have to endure doubt and ridicule because other people see it as out of reach for them.

Thankfully, they find a mentor in Qiang, a former turned salted fish salesman. However, Ah-Juan realizes that following his dreams isn’t always so simple, especially when he has to become his family’s breadwinner after his father gets hospitalized.

Princess Iron Fan — 1941

Chinese Name: 铁扇公主 (Tiě Shān Gōngzhǔ)

Where to Watch: Internet Archive | YouTube

“Princess Iron Fan” is actually the first ever Chinese animated film! It’s inspired by a segment of the classic novel “Journey to the West.”

The Monkey King is on a pilgrimage to the West, but he has to pass through a mountain range engulfed in a supernatural fire. Because of this, he needs Princess Iron Fan’s magical fan, which can extinguish any flame. However, the princess is unwilling to lend the fan, leading to a series of adventures, battles and lessons for the Monkey King and his companions.

 

These Chinese animated movies can be funny, heartwarming, and even poignant—it’s a diverse list, after all. Check out the trailers, pick your favorite and have a great time watching!

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