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Not Just Ted: The 10 Best Movies Where Toys Come to Life

Foul-mouthed teddy bears, hard-headed space rangers, killer dolls, and more!

By Josh Weiss

Nearly a decade after Ted 2 hit the big screen, Seth MacFarlane’s uncouth teddy bear is finally back to raise all kinds of plushie hell in his very own television series. Now streaming exclusively on Peacock, the show serves as a prequel to the hit Universal films, shining a light on the misadventures of Ted and a teenage John Bennett (Max Burkholder) in the early ‘90s.

“It very much is a return to the dynamics of the original movie [in that] it all takes place in this town and deals with the give-and-take of adolescence and growing up and the pitfalls and such,” MacFarlane, who occupies the role of co-showrunner alongside Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh, teased during an interview with SYFY WIRE in 2022. “I'm trying not to spoil anything. I think fans of the original movie will be delighted by what we have in store.”

RELATED: Seth MacFarlane teases R-rated 'Ted' series on Peacock: 'You can say whatever you want'

To celebrate the Ted premiere, here is a list of our favorite movies where toys come alive, either to puzzle over the meaning of their existence or murder a bunch of people. There is no in-between.

The 10 best movies where toys come to life

Pinocchio (1940)

The seminal work of Carlo Collodi has been adapted six ways to Sunday, but few book-to-screen translations of Pinocchio have enjoyed as much staying power as the Disney classic (the second animated feature to ever come out of the Mouse House studio). A stunning example of the indescribable magic Hollywood once evoked with hand-drawn animation throughout the medium's Golden Age, this particular take on Geppetto's living puppet who just wants to be a real boy is as beautifully-realized as it is terrifying. That little trip to Pleasure Island? Forever seared into our brains.

Child’s Play (1988)

While creepy, homicidal dolls like Talky Tina (The Twilight Zone) and Fats (Magic) had already graced the pop culture landscape prior to the release of this film, Child's Play is what most horror fans think of when they think about the killer plaything sub-genre. For close to 40 years, the deranged, voodoo-practicing criminal known as Charles Lee Ray — aka "Chucky" — has been around in some form or another, slashing up victims left and right. His critically-acclaimed television series returns to SYFY and USA Network for the latter half of its third season this year (stream the first two-and-a-half seasons on Peacock right here).

RELATED: Jennifer Tilly & Devon Sawa Wrap on Season 3 — And, of Course, Chucky Has Jokes

Puppet Master (1989)

The film that launched Charles Band's low-budget, direct-to-video Full Moon Features empire. As the title implies, Puppet Master (now streaming on Peacock alongside several of its sequels) is all about the puppets. And not just any puppets, mind you. These marionettes — bestowed with such memorable names as Pinhead, Leech Woman, Tunneler, Blade, and Jester — are out for blood. "I think fans love the individual personalities of the puppets," Band told Severed Cinema in 2021. "They can be scary, evil, and even heroic. But they’re always cool."

Toy Story (1995)

The film that put Pixar on the map as a theatrical force to be reckoned with, Toy Story was an absolute game-changer for the world of animation, kicking off an industrywide pivot toward 3D modeling that, for better or worse, made the timely and expensive hand-drawn method obsolete. Hollywood ramifications aside, the movie tapped into a universal question pondered by millions of children the world over since the dawn of time: "What do my toys get up to when I'm not around?" Add in a little dash of existential dread for the adults, and you've got yourself a billion-dollar media franchise. Simple as that!

The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)

Based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Lynne Reid Banks, The Indian in the Cupboard was tailor-made to enthrall young audiences, thanks to a screenplay from the late Melissa Mathison (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and direction from Frank Oz (The Muppets). What kid wouldn't want a magical cabinet that brings miniature figurines to life? That's like the ultimate action figure wish fulfillment scenario. While not a box office success upon release, the film is still considered an all-time classic by those who grew up watching it as children. Also, you kind of have to wonder if Steve Coogan's eventual role as Octavius in Night at the Museum over a decade later was a little tip of the hat to his performance as Tommy Atkins in this movie.

Small Soldiers (1998)

Not too dissimilar from Gremlins, which Joe Dante also directed, Small Soldiers underscores the filmmaker's love of stories in which diminutive beings cause all sorts of chaos in the peaceful atmosphere of suburbia. Rocking a stellar mix of emergent CGI effects and Stan Winston-created puppets, the film centers around a war between two factions of sentient toys: the Commando Elite soldiers (led by Tommy Lee Jones' Major Chip Hazard) and the pacifist Gorgonite beasties (led by Frank Langella's Archer). The designs for the Gorgonite characters are still awesome all these years later, and if you grew up in the late '90s, then you know that the tie-in action figure recreations were a must-have.

Ted (2012)

Essentially a feature-length episode of Family Guy told in a live-action format, the directorial debut of multi-talented entertainer Seth MacFarlane contains all the inappropriate and fourth wall-breaking style of comedy audiences have come to associate with the Griffin family. And, not surprisingly, it works really, really well! Sure, the story could have worked just fine if Ted was just John's deadbeat buddy from childhood, but the fact that he's a walking, talking inanimate object who defies all known laws of the natural universe makes the film infinitely better. The foul-mouthed teddy bear magically brought to life by a child's innocent wish (MacFarlane himself does the honor of voicing the eponymous plushie, imbuing him with a thick Bostonian accent somewhere between Peter and Brian) grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide, spawned a 2015 sequel, as well as the new prequel show (stream it right here).

RELATED: New on Peacock in January 2024: Ted, Mortal Kombat, NFL Playoffs, Traitors & More

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Everything is awesome about Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's animated spin on the ubiquitous building blocks found in toy bins across the globe. Adapting a brand like LEGO is incredibly difficult, especially when most of the company's play-sets are based around other IPs. Rather than shy away from that fact, however, The LEGO Movie leans into the endless possibilities offered up by the colorful bricks, spinning a poignant tale about the unbridled creativity and imagination we must hold on to for dear life as we get older.

M3GAN (2023)

Child's Play meets The Terminator in one of the best horror hits of the last few years. Crafted by producer James Wan and screenwriter Akela Cooper, the titular machine charmed her way into our hearts through a combination of song, dance, and cold-blooded murder. A sequel (appropriately-titled M3GAN 2.0) is currently in the works and slated for a wide theatrical release early next year. Gerard Johnstone is coming back to direct, with Cooper penning the script. Allison Williams and Violet McGraw will reprise the characters of Gemma and Cady, respectively. You can pick up the first movie from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment right here.

Barbie (2023)

The highest-grossing movie of 2023, Barbie peels away the superficial layers of the seemingly-perfect doll with the dream house, endless supply of outfits, and fleet of hot rod convertibles for a deeper rumination on female empowerment and patriarchal structures. When she suddenly begins to experience an existential crisis — thinking about death when she really should be thinking about dancing — Barbie (Margot Robbie) heads to the real world with doting Ken (Ryan Gosling) and learns that life is not always black and white. Or, in the case of this toy line, pink and lighter pink.

All episodes of the Ted event series are now streaming on Peacock.