Warning: this article contains spoilers for DreamWorks films.
I want to be very clear right off the bat. I like Dreamworks more than Disney, but that does not mean I think Dreamworks Studios has better films. I feel like Disney as a whole has a better baseline for good movies, where DreamWorks has more frequent peaks and valleys.
With that being said, a lot of the people I talk to have never seen their best movies. Take a minute and think of a few animated DreamWorks produced movies. I’m going to guess your mind went straight to “Shrek,” and “Bee Movie” and if you’re a fan, “How to Train Your Dragon.”
In this top ten list, I will go over my favorite animated DreamWorks films. If you disagree with what I have to say or don’t see a movie you thought should have been on here, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
- The Boss Baby
Look, I don’t like this being here either, but honestly, it wasn’t a terrible movie. It’s a childish 80’s movie plot wrapped in a new style animation with Alec Baldwin as the titular Boss Baby. It’s well paced and has several funny moments. Not all laugh out loud funny, but definitely funny to young children and parents.
- Bee Movie
Surprise surprise, “Bee Movie,” starring the jazz-loving Jerry Seinfeld places on this list. I’ve seen it once or twice, and I can not tell you what happens in the last 45 minutes of the film. The only reason it’s not lower is that the bee related jokes are legitimately funny if you’re paying attention and have minimal bee knowledge. Also, the scene where Barry B. is having a fever dream where Renee Zellweger’s character explodes behooves its placement inside top ten at least.
- Joseph: King of Dreams
An adaptation of the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis, “Joseph: King of Dreams” is mediocre in both the movie and musical department. “Joseph: King of Dreams” only really shines in a few songs, and the fact that it’s direct to VHS release is fairly apparent, especially compared to its predecessor, “Prince of Egypt.” Visually, the movie encapsulates the feeling of a biblical story quite well, especially with the Picasso-esque dreams.
- Kung Fu Panda
“Kung Fu Panda,” starring Jack Black as Po the Panda, is a pretty good movie. The animation is great and pairs well with the fight scenes, which are fantastically choreographed. The jokes are fairly lackluster, but the premise mixes prophecy and misunderstanding — which is comical in itself. This is definitely a family-centric movie, meant for kids and their parents, but it’s still worth a watch if you are studying fight scenes in movies.
- How to Train Your Dragon / 5. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Based on the book series of the same name, “How to Train Your Dragon” is often seen as one of the movies that saved DreamWorks in the public’s eye. It quickly became a cult classic, becoming extremely popular, spawning a sequel, a TV show, several short films and a third movie on the way. What I like most about both movies is the quantifiable losses are permanent. It’s not just, “Oh, the bad guy’s dead and everyone’s fine, I wonder if Character A will be okay! OH, THERE HE IS, HE’S FINE, YAY!” That’s great, but it’s refreshing to watch events that have consequences. For example, when the protagonist Hiccup loses his leg, it does not grow back, and the loss even goes full circle when his dragon Toothless helps him at the end. In the second movie, his dad dies, and the movie features a scene with a Viking burial. I definitely recommend these movies, even if they are less available to the emotions of the little ones in a family setting.
I’ve seen this movie several times and in different languages — mainly for the meme value. However, the deeper meanings in this movie are beyond interesting. One of DreamWorks Animation’s founders, Jeffrey Katzenberg, was originally affiliated with Disney, but after a falling out in the early 90’s, Katzenberg went to co-found DreamWorks Animation. Skip ahead to 2001 and “Shrek” wins the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. “Shrek” contains some sneaky jabs at Disney, including the Castle Duloc referring to the squeaky clean, fake nature of Disneyland, and the character Lord Farquaad buying up, capturing and relocating fairy tale creatures, paralleling Disney’s troubled history with copyright law. Overall, this is a great movie.
- Prince of Egypt
Considered by most to be the best DreamWorks animated film, “Prince of Egypt” is a brilliant musical rendition of the biblical story of Moses. The animation in this film is impeccable, especially given that it’s only the company’s second animation, thanks to the work of Katzenberg and his fantastic team of artists. Most of the music is wonderful and fitting. The tone, setting and pacing really draw you in and keep you interested. Please go watch this film, which is now streaming on Netflix.
- The Road to El Dorado
“The Road to El Dorado” is inspired by the 1888 story “The Man Who Would Be King” by Rudyard Kipling. Set in 14th Century Spain, “Road to El Dorado” follows two con artists, Tulio and Miguel. The pair comes into possession of a map of the new world and ride Hernan Cortez’s ship as stowaways. Tulio and Miguel escape capture in the dead of night, floating on a rowboat with Altivo, Cortez’s horse. They eventually land in the new world and follow the map to El Dorado, the city of gold. There, they are treated like gods, continuing to avoid execution. Visuals are spectacular as usual, and the music shifts away from the choral and classical into more modern (as of 2000) music. This movie is now streaming on Netflix.
- Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
I love this movie. Note that the 3D animation is shoddy compared to today’s work, but it’s pretty okay by 2003 standards. This is a mixture between “Hercules” and “Moana” with a sprinkle of “Mulan.” The story follows Sinbad, a prolific pirate captain, voiced by Brad Pitt. Sinbad raids a ship, but he soon discovers his childhood friend Proteus is the captain. Proteus’ mission is to get the Book of Peace to Syracuse, but he is delayed by Sinbad’s attack and a kraken sent by the goddess Eris. She captures Sinbad and strikes a deal with him to take the Book of Peace and bring it to her, leading to a journey across the seven seas to the end of the world. The plot is a little convoluted, though it’s easy to follow the majority of the action. About 70 percent of this movie is an adventure film. It is sadly not streaming on Netflix, but you can purchase it on YouTube for $2.99. I would reccomend this movie to everyone.