With a few classics from Disney, surrealist feature films, and existential Pixar flicks, we have the best-animated movies to suit every taste!
Another modern Disney film that redefines the traditional Disney Princess. Finally, in 2016. The long-overdue representation aside, the film is sweet. We follow Moana on her quest to find the demigod Maui and save her dying island, a premise that is based on Polynesian myth.
The original music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i makes for a really catchy soundtrack. However, many of the songs feel sort of like replicas of other songs throughout the movie.
From Pixar's beginnings as a testing platform for new computer animation techniques, the animation studio has always preferred technical innovation over simpler methods.
With an odd couple in the form of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, the movie is a stellar comedy that harmonizes well with touching childhood themes.
The Secret of NIMH
Don Bluth became disillusioned with the House of Mouse's meandering stories, so in the late 70s, he left along with a handful of others, and together they made their feature debut that was based on the wildly popular book by the same name.
The story reveals the evils of animal experimentation while honoring the bravery of single moms. The gripping action-adventure become an underappreciated movie for kids in the Eighties, yet it still inspires us to this day.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
This was the very first film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, so it holds a lot of weight and sets the standard for the films that followed. That being said, not everything in this film works. There are some fantastic scenes, but there times where too much time is spent on the dwarfs and their antics.
Also, the romance between her and the prince is practically non-existence. The implied great love between them would have been more believable if we saw them interact at least just once. Not just to kiss her awake.
Henry Selick’s adaptation book by Neil Gaiman is as enchanting as it is unsettling. After growing frustrated with her inattentive parents, Coraline, the protagonist, finds herself in a world where everyone she knows has been replaced by a seemingly happier but more shallow version of themselves.
If it was filmed through another medium, the movie would be ghastly, but Selick’s clever use of 3D along with stop-motion provides the audience with just enough distance to enjoy it without being freaked out.
A joyful, psychedelic blend of colorful animation and Beatles music, Yellow Submarine is a true delight straight out of the sixties! Thus the endlessly inventive picture blends diverse styles such as pop art and Art Deco to create a fantastical world full of bizarre inhabitants.
Yellow Submarine's success showed the mainstream that there were more ways than through a Disney film to pull off feature-length cartoons.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton's specialty comes to life in this rare holiday film that transcends time. Studio execs were initially worried about the movie is too dark for children, but it was tastefully created into a classic, wistful tale.
With a skeleton for a mayor, the spooky Halloween town is in for a surprise as they discover Christmas. The movie comes wrapped in enough holiday charm to be called a masterpiece, perfect for a family Christmas movie.
The Wrong Trousers
The great comedy duo of Wallace, the inventor, and his dog Gromit, gave us this gem that proved just how entertaining stop-motion films could be. Knowing how well every painstaking detail was executed makes this film even more remarkable.
From the cozy British cottage to the precise costume design, this miniature world brought to life is truly a brilliant feat.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
So much detail went into this production. They even created an entire language? (Atlantean was developed specifically for the film by linguist Marc Okrand, who also created the Klingon language for Star Trek.) The dynamic sci-fi adventure is grounded in some very well-developed characters and a strong sentimental core.
In many ways, Atlantis is an old-fashioned adventure story, even a nod to "Indiana Jones" (if Indy were a total dork). You can't really go wrong with that.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki exquisitely blends Eastern and Western feelings in this antiwar tale, broadly adapted from a novel by Brit Diana Wynne Jones.
"Howl's Moving Castle" features a surrealist take on love while also indicting the intense toll war can have. "Howl's Moving Castle" will delight and captivate children and older viewers alike with its fantastical story.
This cyberpunk anime's sense of scope is bewildering; with a nightmarish look into the future, it's easy to see why "Akira" has inspired a cult-like following.
Set in post-apocalyptic Tokyo, the sleek background scenes and visual portrayal make it a classic. With an elaborate map of warring gangs, we'd definitely recommend this one if you're into Japanese culture.
Lady and the Tramp
Ah, "Lady and the Tramp" one of the ultimate Disney classics. The groundwork for this project was immense, and artists brought in several dog breeds as a model for the movements. Beyond the artists' accuracy, the film is praised for having authentic and charming characters.
The simple love story between the elegant Lady and the scrappy Tramp is pretty difficult to dislike. Walt Disney originally felt that it would look silly. We're happy he was wrong.
Street of Crocodiles
This 1986 stop-motion film is a dark and dour piece, filled with disturbing scenes that feature household objects like puppets, watches, and metal screws that come to life.
This movie is not for the faint-hearted! It's not your typical feel-good animated film, but it is a visual feast if you're looking for something more ominous.
Bolt starts out as if it's going to be another sci-fi adventure, but there twist! Bolt the dog actually thinks of himself as a genetically modified superhero. It turns out he's just the star of a popular TV series. It's a cool twist that causes a lot of humor. When Bolt escapes into the real world, he is forced to learn of his own limitations in the toughest way possible.
Ultimately, Bolt is also a moving story about the love between man and dog. Just a real feel-good film.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed
Lotte Reininger's dreamy fable was the first broadcast in 1926, and still, this movie amazes with its intricate cut-outs. Working without a roadmap just demonstrates how masterfully this story was woven to create one of the first feature films in the animated world.
Laying claim to the distinction of the first animated feature, "The Adventures of Prince Achmed," is a classic and has a lot to offer when it comes to film history.
Many of Miyazaki's films are made from a child's perspective and capture a moment of wide-eyed wonder, and this movie is no exception. With adventure, fantasy, and a smidgen of dreams and metaphors, Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece ensues a story of a young girl who finds herself obligated to work for ghosts in a bathhouse after a mysterious spell turns her parents into pigs.
A moment scarcely goes by without some kind of bizarre vision or apparition. The imaginative setting is held together by a thrilling tale of a girl as she discovers how baffling it can be to live in a world that's constantly changing.
"Waking Life" is, without a doubt. one of the more trippy animations on our list; its dreamlike visuals add a noteworthy aesthetic component to a film that could easily have rested on its clever and insightful dialogue with cultured profundities that go way beyond to put you into a trance-like state.
The film casually loops between dreams and reality with some comedic relief to digress from its heavier scenes, taking you into a suggestive odyssey that you won't forget.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
All of Wes Anderson's films serve as tributes to his own design and dry wit, but Fantastic Mr. Fox‘s stop-motion style adds a graceful fragility to the director’s standards, with decidedly grown-up performances. It's a stunning tactile expression of the Fox family as they struggle in a hostile world.
It’s a beloved cult movie, as well as a holiday staple for many families — ones who will no doubt see aspects of themselves reflected back in the movie’s many diverse creatures.
The Little Mermaid
"The Little Mermaid" ushered in an entirely new kind of Disney film: the movie musical. Films before that did incorporate music but were never structured in traditional musical format until this one. It, of course, paved the way for all the films that followed.
Like it or not, Ariel is the typical Disney Princess, curious, a little mischievous, and desperate to take life into her own hands. And then there's Ursula, Disney's greatest villain.
The Lego Movie
Making a movie that's basically a feature-length advertisement for Lego is comparatively simple, but making it this fresh and endlessly inventive is quite a challenge.
Harnessing both inherent innocence and silly humor, the main character finds himself the star of this hero-journey, who must find a way to defeat the villain. Even though it's a cliché narrative, but this movie proves to be self-aware enough to make some hilarious spoofs.
A masterful achievement that was captures the childhood memoir from Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel. The movie version does a superb job with this socially conscious drama, blending it with comedy while taking a look at Iran during the rise of religious fundamentalism.
With its monochrome aesthetic outlining the descriptive Marjane Satrapi's story and her eventual move to Europe, the film is as groundbreaking and gripping as the original book.
The Iron Giant
This endearing adaptation of Ted Hughes' children's book has become a cult favorite. "The Iron Giant" is about a boy who befriends a giant robot from outer space. Its premise was science-fiction, but it's also a childlike statement about heroism.
While children will enjoy the film, its idealism reaches out to adults on a completely different plane.
Starting with an unforgettable introduction, this Pixar movie follows the unexpected friendship between an enthusiastic boy scout and a grumpy old man. The story is every bit mesmerizing while sticking to the lesson of it's never too late for an adventure.
"Up," with its eye-popping animation and surprisingly deep emotional resonance, even made its way to the Cannes festival.
Watching "Snow White" and "Pinocchio" back to back illustrates just how much the Disney Studios grew in those few years. As the second animated feature, "Pinocchio" is impressive. The artists and animators who reached legendary status in their later years were at the very beginning of their careers.
They endlessly experimented with various modes of animation and cutting-edge techniques such as the multi-plane camera, something the resembled the prototypical 3D rig. The touching cautionary tale, while sometimes tough to watch, still offered hope.
An animated work of art in the form of a crazy improvisation. When watched as a child, it's amusing and very funny to see the antagonism between Daffy Duck and his offscreen animator.
But it's terrifying when seen through the eyes of an adult; as Daffy Duck struggles to free himself from his paper confines, we can't help but empathize with this cartoon duck and his inescapable fate.
The Sword in the Stone
Based on "The Once and Future King by T. H. White" (originally based on Arthurian mythology), the film follows the mentorship of the orphan "Wart" (soon to be King Arthur) by the wizard Merlin. The story bids farewell to tradition and introduces a series of little anecdotes such as Merlin turning Arthur into a fish, a squirrel, and finally, a sparrow. All of this (and a few songs, too) results in lessons learned and fun adventures.
The film occasionally loses focus but at least keeps us entertained all the way to the end, where our hero pulls the sword from the stone, thus proving him worthy of ascending the throne.
While it's been a hot minute since "Fantastic Planet" first aired in 1973, this psychedelic story became renowned for its distinct animation in the form of paper cutouts.
While being creative for its aesthetics, the movie took on an eerie tone for its jarring score and violent scenery. While its sinister plot might only be designated for adults, it remains an inventive allegory.
Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 is unquestionably gorgeous and a groundbreaking achievement in animation. The film takes place in the breathtaking backdrop of San Fransokyo, a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo. We follow a young boy Hiro who forms a superhero team with Baymax, the robot his late brother Tadashi left behind.
Aside from the great artwork, Big Hero 6 is a lot of fun and has heaps of heart. Sadly, in true Disney fashion, it features an untimely death of Tadashi. Thankfully, there is a cathartic pay-off.
Years before Mickey Mouse became a corporate logo, he was a mischievous little rascal, rustling up trouble in this film that immortalized our favorite mouse. "Steamboat Willie" is known for debuting Mickey as well as Minnie and for also being Walt Disney's first cartoon that had sound!
Fast-forward to today, it's pretty impressive to witness just how the studio's technicians couple up the characters' antics to the soundtrack while riding down the big river, using sound effects and melodies to emphasize Mickey's adventures.
This beloved children's novel is about Wilbur, the pig, and his unlikely friend, Charlotte. The spider was so popular it became a musical.
Kids will be entertained by the uncomplicated plot and adorable animals, while adults will be charmed by the quiet and humble translation of E.B. White's genteel prose following the tale of enchantment in the unlikeliest of places.
World of Tomorrow
This movie is framed in a frightening yet charming alternate reality in which humanity's future clones make contact to tell them what's in store. A young girl named Emily doesn't comprehend what her clone has come to tell her, and the story ensues from there.
"World of Tomorrow" is only 17 minutes long and is as sweetly innocent as it is morbidly witty. The movie is as dense as any screenplay while, at the same time, is full of simple pleasures.
This is probably one of Pixar's most ambitious films, with an almost silent opening starring a lonely yet lovable robot who stumbles upon a probing robot, and together they journey together to find out what happened to humanity.
Along with a heartwarming message, "WALL-E" is also a touching love story starring two mismatched robots. It's a must-see, family movie that's lovingly presented and ingeniously created.
In order to appreciate "Fantasia," you have to surrender to it. It's simply a visual and symphonic experience. You may not exactly "like" it, but it sure is something to be appreciated. Bear in mind that it was also only the third film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Ultimately, while Fantasia is not about anything, it is still impressive and somehow even more so than its modern counterpart.
"The Incredibles" proved to be a fresh take on superhero stories as this movie made took the road less traveled when it came to animations for the whole family.
Pixar fashioned a comedic take on what it means for this family of caped crusaders who tried their best to blend into a middle-class life by diming down their superpowers. Eventually, they're called to action, and the family finds newfound freedom in being themselves.
Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch, a surprisingly mature film about a troubled little girl and her alien pet. This film has a lot to offer, from the unusual watercolor animation style to the very earnest issues it deals with (Lilo's sister Nani wants to keep her, but the threat of foster care is a looming fear).
Unfortunately, the image conjured up from the film is a blue alien in a hula skirt, which makes it easy to dismiss. Give it a chance; you won't regret it.
"Wreck-It Ralph" is a brilliant concept about an arcade villain who dreams of becoming a hero. It's a smart and funny look at video games. There are plenty of hilarious cameos and constant references to Mario.
The cast is filled with talents like John C. Reilly as Ralph, Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, and Alan Tudyk, who does an uncanny impression of Ed Wynn. While the film is good, it still leaves you the feeling that more could have been explored.
This bittersweet tale is an introspective delicacy for fans of more contemplative cinema, and it does well to exclaim yet another distinguishing movie in Charlie Kaufman's filmography. With some romance, a smidgen of character study, and commentary on modern melancholy, "Anomalisa" would be downright despairing if it wasn't so amusingly witty.
This film will make its viewers think, though the particularly existential quirks may cloud some of its in-depth discernment into human behavior.
What’s Opera, Doc?
Elmer Fudd and animation's most rascally rabbit pursue one another through a delirious daydream, with all the expected slapstick comedy that a Looney Tunes cartoon inspires.
And as most of the refreshingly innovative films emerged from the cartoon's prime, "What's Opera, Doc?" proves to intelligent and amusing and one of Bug Bunny's finest.
The Great Mouse Detective
The Great Mouse Detective sadly is one of the most overlooked Disney films out there. We find ourselves in 19th century London, and Sherlock Holmes-inspired mouse is to track down the missing father of a young mouse named Olivia.
The characters are charming with distinctive personalities and wonderful English accents. The film also had one fantastic villain song, possibly the best one in Disney history, "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind."
Fritz the Cat
Cult legend Ralph Bakshi's animation brought about this a hip kitty-cat with a taste for provoking cops and charming students — served as the ultimate big-screen statement regarding the biting satire of underground comics.
Its reputation for being the first X-rated cartoon eclipses the edgier aspects of its anthropomorphic view of society, one that targets everyone from social fat cats to playful progressives.
"Inside Out" has a quirky storyline that follows a teenage girl and her emotions running the scene; in this movie, emotions are portrayed as characters who run a control center.
As she navigates through life, her main emotions struggle against each other, and this creative pitch turns into a dewy-eyed film with some bittersweet sentiments mixed in.
The Triplets of Belleville
The French creators behind this movie really turned up the dial for this whimsical yet vintage escapade involving gangsters, cyclists, and a trio of weird sisters who set out to uncover a dubious crime ring.
The movie has wry humor to spare and catchy tunes that will have you dancing along, but what's most enthralling is its charming peculiarity.
South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
"South Park" is known for its crude commentary on popular culture and politics, but despite that, it's one to watch if you like bold comedy with a dash of subversive thinking. The movie follows trash-talking kids who get themselves into all sorts of situations.
As a series, "South Park" was first created as a cutout-style animation, but as skillful satirists, this movie is much more than that and, at times, can be hilarious.
Animated spaghetti Westerns are few and far between, and this movie as meticulously detailed as it is inventive while being accompanied by a striking score from Hans Zimmer.
Set in the wild west, the movie tracks Rango, a lizard that's voiced by Johnny Depp, who investigates the mystery of his town’s water crisis. What makes this movie such a classic is the metamorphosis of a man from a coward to a hero.
Waltz With Bashir
"Waltz With Bashir" takes on the sobering subject of repressed memories caused by PTSD, as told through the eyes of those devastated after fighting in the Lebanon War.
As the film is fully animated, the documentary-style scenes jump from interviews to re-enactments that blur the lines between past and present that are almost hallucinatory. This movie is much more intense than you'd expect for animation, and the political protest would be poetic if it wasn't so unnerving.
Grave of the Fireflies
Most movie buffs will know about Studio Ghibli as the inspiring animation studio from Japan, co-founder by the celebrated Hayao Miyazaki. But Isao Takahata, his partner, is also an impressive filmmaker, especially in this devastating piece, where we find a teenage boy and his younger sister struggle to survive after their hometown has been destroyed in World War II.
"Grave of the Fireflies" might just be the crowned unicorn of adults-only animation: while the storyline may focus on children, it's immensely mature; if the latest Pixar movie brought you to tears, then this one will have you gushing.
There's nothing terribly wrong with this movie, but nothing mind-blowingly brilliant about it either. Cute and able to evoke a mild chuckle, the film is loosely based on the original fairytale of the same name.
Like in the original story, Chicken Little thinks the sky is falling after getting hit on the head by an acorn. Of course, Chicken seems to be onto something as we discover an alien attack is underway (even if no one believes him.)
Everyone only seems to remember Bambi's mother dying when she is shot offscreen by a hunter. But while that is heart-wrenching, there is mo much more to this iconic film. The plot is simple yet manages to capture feelings of loss, the excitement of new love, and the joy of rebirth.
For an early Disney film, it is surprisingly well done. The score is also just hauntingly beautiful.
My Neighbor Totoro
With flowing compositions and exquisite landscapes, Hayao Miyazaki's sweet-natured fantasy that connects a world of magical creatures with profound feelings of longing — and is considered by many fans to be the classic film created by Studio Ghibli that's just right for both adults and children. Its adorable woodland spirit remains Miyazaki's most beloved character.
This movie's portrayal of childhood stars two young sisters who find comfort in nature while their Mom is in the hospital makes this story quietly poignant without ever getting sentimental.
Much like "The Princess and the Frog" and "Frozen," "Tangled" takes a traditional fairytale and flips it on its head. She is no longer the passive victim of the original tale but is more of a genuinely cunning action hero, with quirky cuteness, of course.
Her prince stumbles upon her totally accidentally but inevitably ends up falling in love with her. The film has some exceptional songs, including "Mother Knows Best" and "I See the Light."