One of the best Netflix animated movies is available to watch for free right now

Nimona stares into the camera with a mischievous grin on her face in her self-titled movie
Nimona was one of our 36 picks for the best movies of 2023. (Image credit: Netflix)

One of 2023's best animated movies – Netflix's Nimona – is now free to watch, and you don't need to sign up to the streaming giant to enjoy it.

Yesterday (February 19), Netflix surprisingly released the multi-award-winning film on its YouTube channel without explanation. Not that it needs to explain anything, mind you – it's just a rare occurrence to see a Netflix Original released in full on a rival streaming platform.

Still, considering that Nimona is one of the best Netflix movies to debut in the past 12 months, it's nonetheless pleasing to see that it's been made available to a wider audience.

For the uninitiated, Nimona stars Riz Ahmed (Star Wars: A Rogue One Story, The Sound of Metal) as Ballister Boldheart, a knight who's forced to go on the run when he's suspected of murdering his realm's queen. The only hope he has of clearing his name is reluctantly teaming up with the shapeshifting titular character – voiced by The Peripheral and Kick-Ass' Chloë Grace Moretz – to track down the real perpetrator.

Released on Netflix in June 2023, Nimona rose quickly through Netflix's Top 10 movies chart and established itself as an unmissable family-friendly flick. Indeed, it debuted at number three on its first week on the world's best streaming service, and spent three weeks among heavy hitters such as Extraction 2 and fellow animated feature Puss in Boots: The Last Wish before falling out of favor.

Despite not sticking around for longer on Netflix's in-house popular films chart, Nimona shouldn't be easily dismissed. It currently holds 93% critics and 91% audience grades on Rotten Tomatoes – scores that make it one of the best-rated Netflix Originals of all time. Per Rotten Tomatoes' 100 best Netflix movies list, only 10 first-party Netflix titles are rated better than Nimona – not bad for a film that continues to fly under many peoples' radars.

What sets Nimona apart from its contemporaries is the fact that it's far from your typical PG-rated child-friendly film. Sure, it's beautifully animated and filled with funny (and occasionally corny) moments, which you'd expect from such a film. But it's Nimona's eschewing of familiar fairy tales and monster-centric stories tropes, plus its clear and poignant emphasis on LGBTQ-plus themes, occasionally dark but sincere narrative, and natural rapport between Moretz and Ahmed that elevates it above the masses. Now that it's on YouTube, there's no excuse not to watch one of the 36 best movies of 2023.

A growing YouTube trend

Ringo and Mizu stand in a dark alleyway in Blue Eye Samurai

Episode 1 of Netflix's Blue Eye Samurai was also made available for free on YouTube in late 2023 (Image credit: Netflix)

It's more akin to a tap dripping than an unrelenting cascade, but it's a curious development that the world's biggest streamers have started to release certain movies and shows on YouTube.

In November 2023 we saw the first episode of gorgeous adult animated offering Blue Eye Samurai – one of the best Netflix shows – released for free on YouTube. Prime Video did likewise with its devilish new R-rated animated show Hazbin Hotel last month, while HBO released the first entry for True Detective: Night Country, which recently ended its eight-episode run on Max, on the video-based social media platform.

Of course, it's easy to view these releases through a cynical lens. Uploading episodic premieres or full-length films on YouTube is a way for the globe's streaming titans to reach more viewers who might not have signed up to use their services yet. Entice them with a free product – one which audience members are likely to enjoy – and there's a chance that, after being entertained by Nimona they may subscribe to Netflix to see what other movies are on offer.

Sure, there's no guarantee that people will be convinced to join millions of other users on Netflix and company, but it's nonetheless an increasingly important market strategy that must be paying dividends – otherwise, what's the point of Netflix uploading Nimona to YouTube, where people can watch it for free? After all, it's got to add to its industry-leading 260 million-plus subscriber base somehow – and what better way to lure in new customers than with free content?

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Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.