June 27, 2011

My Top 25 Best Animated Films

Time Magazine just came out with their list of the Top 25 All-TIME Best Animated Films. I have quite a few disagreements with the list. Some films should not be on there at all and some were blatantly ignored. How did Kung Fu Panda end up on there? Really?

So here is the list I wrote up. I think it’s fairly decent. Let me know what you all think.

My List of the Top 25 Best Animated Films

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney Special Platinum Edition)25. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
As the first feature in the Disney Vault, Snow White has to be on the list, so I put it last because while it is clearly an achievement in cinema – from the bright colors, vivid imagery, use of the multi-plane camera, etc.- Snow White’s voice is so freaking annoying, like nails on a chalkboard. And this is coming from a true Disney addict. So while the movie should be on the list, I morally can’t place it any higher.

24. Persepolis (2007)
This fantastic movie, directed by Marjane Satrapi and based on her autobiographical graphic novel is truly amazing to watch. Rather than attempt to reinvent the graphic novel, which is an incredible read, Satrapi brought it to the screen. The animation is great and unique, but what really makes the film is the intimacy with which Satrapi shows us her life as an Iranian expatriate and how she became who she is today.

Bambi (Two-Disc Diamond Edition)23. Bambi (1942)
I had to put Bambi on here. There may only be two sadder moments in animated film than when Bambi’s mother dies at the hand of the greatest villain of them all – Man. Besides the beautiful animation, Bambi became my first true understanding of death, and for that, it will always remain an iconic film.
Yellow Submarine

22. Yellow Submarine (1968)
I love The Beatles. Their music is unbelievable and then they went and put their music along with an animated movie with psychadellic visuals that made the film a smash, bringing animation back into the spotlight after a lull from our friends over at Disney. For reinvigorating the genre and letting me go down to Pepperland, I say thank you, once again, to The Beatles.

The Iron Giant21. The Iron Giant (1999)
The touching story of a boy and his giant. Not only does the film explore the friendship between Hogarth and the robot, but it also sets it against the background of the Cold War, pointing out how destructive people can be. The film is beautifully made and does not hold back, making sure we know to avoid the paranoid.

Akira (Geneon Signature Series)20. Akira (1988)
I like anime, but I saw this film after watching like 7 Miyazaki films and my mind was blown. The futuristic setting combined with the complex friendship between Kaneda and Tetsuo combined with the fact that Akira is psionic makes this film have an amazing plot. Add the stunning visuals and it’s long lasting impact on anime as a genre, the film has to be listed as one of the greats.

The Incredibles (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)19. The Incredibles (2004)
I love this movie. It takes everything that’s great about a superhero movie and makes it better, turning the awesome Mr. Incredible into an ordinary man. Rather than focus on the action, the film strips down the family to its core, revealing the hopes and dreams and fears of each character. And it’s hilarious. While it’s not an achievement in cinema like many on this list, it’s pretty damn close to a perfect film.

18. The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Movie (1979)
It’s Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner. On film. Need I say more?
Looney Tunes - Movie Collection (Bugs Bunny/Road-Runner Movie/1001 Rabbit Tales)

South Park - Bigger, Longer & Uncut17. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Trey Parker (who go the directing cred) and Matt Stone hit the nail on the head with this musical. Yes, a South Park musical. A pure satire of everything that makes the film – from animated films to musicals to the show itself – no film has been more openly tongue in cheek, crass and epically hilarious since. Note: this was made back when South Park was a GREAT show.

Aladdin (Disney Special Platinum Edition)16. Aladdin (1992)
A film of the Disney Renaissance, Aladdin is a great movie, combining comedy with action with the hopes and dreams of a street rat who just wants to live in a freaking palace (don’t we all?). Visually stunning with incredible music (and the talents of Robin Williams as the Genie- best character ever) the film is exquisitely done. One tiny little qualm. The film is pretty racist. All the villains are Arabic while the protagonists have been Anglicized. I thought we had gotten past Song of the South, Disney.
Pinocchio (Two-Disc 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition)15. Pinocchio (1940)
The film that first took children on the adventure of a lifetime, Pinocchio is a film that truly moves the viewer and, arguably, is the first of the Disney greats (once again, see my notes on Snow White). Following Pinocchio on an incredible journey we all wish we could take, the film made us all realize how lucky we are to be real boys (and girls).

The Triplets of Belleville14. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
What an odd little film. I love the opening number which shows a series of old celebrities dancing to Belleville Rendez-vous, the film’s Academy Award Nominated song. Then the film goes into the story of Madame Souza as she goes to find her disturbingly shaped grandson, Champion, enlisting the Triplets of Belleville along the way. The film has an interesting, old-fashioned animation that sets the stage for the time period we’re watching, and, more importantly, reflects the time that the Triplets have been stuck in. Great film.

Grave of the Fireflies (2-Disc Collector's Edition)13. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
It’s a chilling account of World War II that refuses to show the attempts for glory that most war films seem to focus on. Rather, it focuses on the tragedies of war that a brother and sister must endure. Truly a harrowing film, it is not like any other animation I have seen. Still, it is an incredible film that everyone must see, if not for the sole purpose of being exposed to the true nature of war and the effect it has on the innocent.

Shrek (Two-Disc Special Edition)12. Shrek (2001)
Dreamworks’ first (and arguably only) masterpiece, Shrek has become an iconic figure in animation and, even though the spinoffs did not compare, is a masterful piece of storytelling. Twisting everything about the traditional in a fresh modern spin on animation, Shrek literally takes all of Disney’s source material and makes fun of it. The film is funny, witty, perfectly voiced and amazingly animated all while being so different in tone from that of Pixar that it is not overshadowed by Pixar’s perfection.
The Secret of Kells11.The Secret of Kells (2009)
This film is beautiful and a great exposure to Irish animation. It tells the story of a young boy, Brendan, who wishes to become an illuminator, his friendship with a fairy and his relationship with Brother Aidan, the man for whom Brendan is working. As the film progresses, Brendan must fight all odds in order to defeat the Vikings and finish the Book of Kells. The film is a completely different type of animation than any other on this list while simultaneously going back to traditional stories through Irish mythology.

Princess Mononoke10. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Studio Ghibli’s second-most critically acclaimed film draws on the mythology of Japan itself to tell a dark story of struggle between man and nature. In the film, Ashitaka must try to reconcile the people of Iron Town with the spirits of the forest, who are guarded by a mysterious woman named San. The film is amazingly animated and tells a fantastical story that draws you in as mystery and magic take over the world. Combined with a little romance between Ashitaka and San, this film is a critical and commercial darling.

Waltz With Bashir9. Waltz with Bashir (2008)
This film is incredibly strange, from the surreal rotoscoping that makes the film straddle the real and the animated to the story, which follows director Ari Folman as he attempts to rediscover his memories from the night of the Sabra and Shatila massacres through a series of interviews. The film is moving as the struggles that the IDF endured and the horrors inflicted on both Israelis as well as Palesitinian refugees during the Lebanese civil war. Tragic, yet shown in a fashion that is not horrific, but rather a part of the war, so surreal (sorry to use that word again, but it’s all-encompassing) and so detached, yet by the end, so close and so real.

Wall-E (Single-Disc Edition)8. WALL-E (2008)
Never has such beautiful imagery told such a compelling story. The film follows Wall-E, Earth’s only remaining robot, as he lives alone in the desolate wasteland that Earth became after humans ruined it. He’s so adorable, and silly and just does his work each day. Unitl he meets a beautiful? robot named Eve with whom he falls in love and follows back to a spaceship full of people as he and Eve try to save the planet. The lack of sound harkens back to classic silent films, with Eve and Wall-E’s relationship  being defined by their actions and a beautiful dance through space rather than words.

Finding Nemo (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)7. Finding Nemo (2003)
Has there ever been a better character than Dory? No. At least in my opinion. She’s so cute and silly but at the same time so sincere and so crucial to the story of an OCD clownfish named Marlin as he searches the vast ocean for his son, who has been taken by a dentist. The imagery of the ocean is beautiful, but nothing compares to the compelling nature of the story, which has the power to truly touch anyone from any age, time or place.

Fantasia (Special 60th Anniversary Edition)6. Fantasia (1940)
Purely for its imagery, Fantasia deserves to be remembered. It’s a true masterpiece, the film being a canvas with which Disney created worlds to the sound of beautiful symphonies, a feast for the eyes. Even without a story, the film took animation to a new level of prominence in the eyes of the world and defined it as a genre that people should look out for.

Up (Single Disc Widescreen)5. Up (2009)
Pixar did an amazing job with this film, from the visuals to the story. In the film, an old man named Carl, after losing his wife Ellie in the most tragic 15 minutes in film… ever. Still, he gets back on his feet and tries to fight the powers that be from taking his house and taking him away, flying his house deep into the Amazon, accidentally taking a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell with him. The film is touching, beautiful and yet another example of Pixar’s picture perfect storytelling.
Spirited Away4. Spirited Away (2001)
Studio Ghibli’s most acclaimed film, winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and all around awesome, Spirited Away tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro who is whisked away into the spirit world and must save her parents after they are transformed into pigs. The development of this young girl as she befriends a mysterious boy named Haku and serves under the psychotic witch Yubaba is truly a beautiful thing to watch, and while the story is somewhat traditional, the film takes the viewer on twists and turns that keep you enthralled.

Beauty and the Beast (Special Platinum Edition)3. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Until age 9, I was positive that I was going to marry Belle. She was beautiful and kind and smart. Pretty much perfect. Anyway, this film is truly one of the great Disney love stories and the epitome of a fairy tale. The music is beautiful, the characters well-developed, and the plot is well-done. While not as unique as others on this list, it is an example of a masterpiece. And it really had some of the first great digital animating techniques in 2-D, particularly in the ballroom scene.

Toy Story 32. Toy Story 3 (2010)
There are no words to describe how perfect Toy Story 3 was as a film. Except very. Surpassing even the original source material (which is only not on this list because this film is on it, otherwise it would have easily made the top 10), the film shows Woody’s struggles to accept change as Andy prepares for college. He and the other toys end up at a preschool, but the toys are run by a maniacal dictator of a teddy bear and they must try to escape. Focusing on the emotional ties that bind, the film is powerful and beautiful while remaining funny and sweet. It should have won Best Picture.

The Lion King (Disney Special Platinum Edition)1. The Lion King (1994)
This is the first movie I ever saw in theatres and to this day is my favorite movie of all time. The music is perfect (Elton John is a god), the visuals are gorgeous (opening sequence) and the plot is one of the most acclaimed of all time (as it should be when Hamlet is the source material). I honestly love everything about the movie. I still cry when Mufasa (spoiler) dies. There are no words that can convey how much I love this movie. So go watch it. Right now. I probably will.


  1. Good list. Of course, I disagree vehemently in many places. I think you need to see some older animation, primarily. Still, better than Corliss (though how could you put the BUGS BUNNY travesty up there? It's not even a real movie). I wonder if one of the reasons you're not able to get into THE SECRET OF NIMH is that it's (a) not very funny and (b) there are no songs in it.

  2. Thanks Dean. I have seen a bunch of older animation, I just happen to feel that a lot of modern animation simply happens to be better than older, which is merely my preference. Obviously a lot of the old ones are classics. As for Bugs Bunny, Loony Toons defined my childhood and for me the compilation of that was extremely relevant.

    As for The Secret of NIMH, I do like the film. For me, it was just very shy of the novel and I think that tarnished the film for me. I still like it, I just don't find it worthy of the list.

  3. The Lion King!!! <3 Obviously agree as I am the most obsessed with anything and everything TLK. Great list!