The 20 greatest animated films of all time!

You know, for kids! Well, not anymore. Animated pictures are no longer simply the realm of the young and young at heart. There are plenty of legitimate adult cartoons being made, as well as animated pictures that appeal to people of all ages.

With the action comedy Monsters vs. Aliens hitting cinemas last week; the upcoming Aussie claymation drama Mary and Max heading to cinemas and the very adult Watchmen addendum Tales of the Black Freighter coming to DVD, there is no better time to look at the 20 greatest animated films of all time.

If you thought The Dark Knight was depressing, wait until you check out Mask of the Phantasm, which is as close to psychological drama the Batman series has ever gotten. Plus it has Mark Hamill as The Joker, which you would never, ever see in a live-action film.

Robert Zemecki’s manages to apply his creepy motion capture technology to a film that actually benefits from it, unlike The Polar Express, which turned the North Pole into a mutated-Hanksian hellscape.

Just a lovely film about some animals on a farm who think they’re people! Awww, look at those little piggies, walking upright, sleeping in beds, purging comrades for their self-confessed crimes and rewriting manifestos and commandments with their spilled blood. Wait, what?

Shockingly, DreamWorks Animation managed to create a cartoon that wasn’t tedious and full of fart jokes! Kung Fu Panda is a beautifully animated Kung Fu film, artfully disguised as an Jack Black comedy. Hi-yah!

The only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and the first animated film to gross $100 million in the U.S. Sure it’s a little sappy, but this is trademark Disney parable, and it works big time.

Remember when a Robin Williams voice-over didn’t make you want to kill yourself? Well, apart from Aladdin, I can’t think of any other examples. P.S – If you’ve got a VHS of this at home, check out the scene where Aladdin tells Rahjah not to attack him. Listen closely to what he says. Cheeky!

14. Dumbo

When I was younger, my big ears attracted the nickname ‘Dumbo’ from my cruel schoolmates. Nowadays I grow my hair into a ‘fro to minimise my aural features. I guess that’s why I like Dumbo so much. That, and the fact that the film is riddled with explicit drug references, tragic circus disasters and an elephant locked away in a mental institution.

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis is equally hilarious and heartbreaking. It also features the greatest ever musical sequence set to Eye of the Tiger as performed by an animated Iranian woman in French. Hands down.

Pixar doing what they do best: turning children’s fantasies into viable realities. Do toys really come to life when you leave the room? Are there monsters living in our closets? Monster’s Inc is a touching tale of responsibility, with more than a few dollops of social commentary.

OK, so we’re cheating a little. Rotoscoping (tracing over footage to layer the characters and backgrounds) isn’t exactly animation, but A Scanner Darkly is so good we’re including it anyway. Richard Linklater’s mind-bending psycho-drama is based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. See also Waking Life, a prior Linklater film that used the same technique.

Yep, another Pixar film – and there will be plenty more to come! Finding Nemo might be one of the most beautiful looking films ever made. It also holds a soft spot in my heart, just because there are so many Aussie accents! Go us!

Not so much a spoof of classic Disney musicals as a sincere and intensely obscene tribute. I could take the high road and argue to its critics that “it’s smarter than you think!” Instead, I’d much rather take the low road, and cackle wildly at songs like Uncle F*****.

One of the greatest action films of all time, and possibly the best superhero movie to deal with the real world implications of being so powerful. One day, director Brad Bird will be a legend of Spielbergian proportions. Don’t believe me – check out the other two Bird flicks higher up on the list.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscar ceremony, Ari Folman’s startling docu-mation Waltz with Bashir is a haunting exploration of memory, denial and tragedy in human kind. And it is also the only Academy Award nominated film to feature Ron Jeremy engaging in freaky, live-action sex.

Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is the greatest display of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s boundless imagination. A young girl gets lost in a (supposedly) abandoned theme park, and crosses a whole bunch of … well, I won’t ruin the surprise. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Theoretically, no children’s film should deal with the tireless and unstoppable march towards death. Certainly not a film about toy cowboys and spacemen. Then again, Pixar can do whatever the hell they like, and in doing so, gave us one of the most touching animated films ever.

Discuss: Remy the Rat believes he is different from the rest of his rodent family, and is eventually exiled for his life choices. To what extent do the events of Brad Bird’s Ratatouille act as a parallel to a young homosexual man coming to terms with his identity and his place in the world. (20 marks)

If Shakespeare were alive today, I think even he would agree that the only way to make Hamlet better would be to tell the story with lions. A powerful film with all the gravitas of a Greek tragedy, and one hell of a catchy soundtrack. Maybe if someone had sung “Hakuna Matata” to Ofelia, she wouldn’t have gone crazy and killed herself.

WALL-E might just be the most adorable character in the history of film. To Pixar’s credit, instead of placing him in the center of a saccharine robot comedy, he is the hero of a post-apocalyptic commentary on society and humanity. I’d be lying if I said the tears didn’t start flowing every time I watch it. But, WALL-E is still new and time will tell if it holds up as well as the CURRENT greatest animated film of all time. Which is …?

No film based on an original idea by The Who guitarist Pete Townshend AND features the vocal talents of Vin Diesel should be considered anything remotely close to ‘classic’. However, The Iron Giant is such a beautiful tribute to classic animation, such a hilarious mockery of the Cold War era, and such a touching examination of friendship, love and humanity, any title less gushing than Best Animated Film ever is an insult. Brad Bird’s first feature – like I said … he’s the next Spielberg.

Over to you! What are your favourite animated films? Which ones do your kid’s watch over and over again? What about animated films you adored when you were a kid? Or hell, even one’s you love as an adult? Anyone daring enough to debate the merits of Shrek?

11 Responses to “The 20 greatest animated films of all time!”

  1. “greatest” is such a broad heading, by which criteria do we define great?In any case, only one studio Ghibli makes the list? You could argue the case of two or three. Grave of the fireflies was probably the most impacting I’ve watched. It may not be the greatest title, but ambiguous titles do lend themselves to some interesting comment wars!

  2. Criteria for “Greatest” – whatever Simon likes best.Haha, sorry. But don’t you think a sweeping statement like “greatest” encourages more discussion/arguing/backlash!And that’s what makes discussing movies so fun.

  3. This is a mixed list, it has adults and kids animation. A Scanner Darkly is definitely not a kids film. But most of the others are.I’d also include Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Tekkon Kinkreet, Paprika, Nausicaa Valley of the Wind. Actually, anything Japanese.It’s not that I don’t like the American kids stuff, but it’s the difference between a cartoon, and a movie. Japanese animations are movies for adults, but done as a cartoon. And so are much more watchable. Even the kids ones have a stronger message.

  4. You’re right, there’s quite a varied range of animated film, not all of which is represented here. If you consider a definition of ‘wonderful experience and recommended to anyone’, I’d add in The Girl Who Lept Through Time and Happy Feet. Otherwise I’m a big fan of the mecha and violence in most post apocalyptic manga 🙂 Also a fan of the animated DBZ, but will wait for the live action one to come out at the video store on $1 Tuesdays..

  5. hmm .. i have to say .. reading through the comments on this story, i’ve come to a realisation. people who watch cartoons are a lot more intelligent than those who are into real movies. without being consumed by competition, and without distinguishing between kids and adults, these are good animated films:peter panthe rescuersthe sword in the stonethe dark cauldrontreasure planet (for the sheer interpretation)the triplets of Bellevillerobin hood (disney)

  6. Some good stuff here, but very Hollywood-centric. As other posters have noted, animation for adults is a big deal in Japan. Besides those already mentioned, check out Millennium Actress, Wings Of Honneamise and Innocence. And even though it’s not a movie per se, east meets west to great effect in Animatrix.

  7. Um, lame? Sorry mate, but there are a few blinding errors in this list. I suppose it depends on how you define “greatest”. But leaving Shrek out is a crime. Even if you personally hated it, you should be able to admit that for what it is, it was done well. Better than Kung Fu Panda (which I’m sorry to say, is just a copy of Shrek with new storyline… hands up who else thought a certain character reminded them of Donkey?)Spirited Away was indeed fantastic but I dare say the vast majority of under-15s would have no clue what it is.And dude, where was the Simpsons movie? I can’t say it was my fave, but it was hugely popular.

  8. Simpsons movie? Nothing more than a slightly extended regular episode and therefore shouldn’t be considered a movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut? Hilarious and obscene certainly but not really of the calibre to be included on such a list. Same goes for most post-apocalyptic anime, yes there have been some that have made huge breakthroughs in animation and they’re usually mindblowing but there are far too many that are too similar in too many ways, much like all the woeful teen-rom-coms Hollywood churns out (though nowhere NEAR as embarrassing to admit to enjoying if you DO). On the other hand, anything Pixar or Studio Ghibli is a surefire winner everytime and I agree that Shreak really should have made the list, and I certainly agree with Iron Giant being THE greatest animated film I’ve ever seen. I’ve forced countless friends to sit and watch it with me and every single one of them has wept/cheered for Hogarth and Giant AND hurled abuse at Mansley, then promptly hunted down a DVD copy for themselves. To me, it’s easily the most moving comment on the nature of what it means to be human and to love others.

  9. What's so great about Iron Giant is that it's not formulatic. There ain't a happy ending unless you think of the ending as the humans surviving the nuclear blast. What about Beavis and Butthead Do America though?

  10. Finding Nemo should've been the number 1.

  11. What about Christmas Carol? Robert Zemeckis is really the Miyzaki of Motion Capture.

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