The 100 best animated movies: 10–1

World-famous animators pick the best animated movies ever, including Disney and Pixar movies, cult movies, kids movies, stop-motion, anime and more

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The Iron Giant (1999)

The Ted Hughes novel came to Hollywood in a studio movie that broke technical and storytelling boundaries—if not box-office records.

Director: Brad Bird

Best quote: “I am not a gun.”

Defining moment: The giant carries Hogarth in his hand, high above the treetops below.

Before directing The Incredibles and Rataouille, animator Brad Bird made his feature debut with this charming, intelligent adaptation of the late 1960s Ted Hughes children’s story The Iron Man. Best known at the time for his work on The Simpsons, Bird moved the tale from Britain to 1950s Maine, lending it distinct Cold War flavor. A young boy, Hogarth (given the surname Hughes in honor of the poet, who died in 1998, a year before the film’s release), discovers a metallic giant in his hometown and fights to protect it from being pulverized by the military—while simultaneously teaching it how to live in peace on earth. The widescreen film has a streak of smart humor as well as a winning, harmonious worldview, and mixes computer animation and more traditional techniques: The CGI was mostly invested in rendering the giant as convincingly as possible, while traditional hand-drawn techniques were reserved for the humans. Visually, the film offers stunning moments without sacrificing a pleasingly old-fashioned air. It wasn’t a success at the box office, although it was hailed as a rare example of a family movie with heart and brains. Thankfully, Pixar gave Bird a chance to fly again.—Dave Calhoun



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35 comments
UptownRoxi
UptownRoxi

List is horse shit, any list that puts pixar films above old school Disney classics or Fantastic Planet or Watership Down is stupid, also no Fritz the Cat 2, Felidae, Heavy Metal or you know the list is completely wrong when an unbelievable film such as The Plague Dogs did not even make top 100

AManCalledDa-da
AManCalledDa-da

Frederic Back's "The Man Who Planted Trees" should be on here, somewhere, though it might not be long enough. Might also move, "Fantastic Mister Fox into the top 6 and drop "ParaNorman" from the list entirely. Sure would be nice to have a Blu-ray "Spirited Away," hint hint Studio Ghibli.

WhyNot Z
WhyNot Z

top 10 should only be studio ghibli films. pixar or disney look like  saturday morning cartoons in comparison

Kenneth P
Kenneth P

no Lilo and Stitch......sad.

Acadamnica
Acadamnica

Some of the distant edges of greatness will always be overlooked or forgotten.  For myself, it is surprising to find no mention of Will Vinton's The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985).  As far as I know it's the first feature-length claymation film clocking in at 80+ mins.  It's retelling of Adam and Eve is the most heart-warming and bittersweet to be found.  And the Mysterious Stranger remains a serenely frightening segment in the mind.


Best quote: "Life itself is only a vision, a dream.  Nothing exists save empty space and you.  And you are but a thought."

Jennifer G
Jennifer G

would have liked shrek but princess Mononke is not for children some movies were missing tags like Bambie and politics

Lacey L
Lacey L

No love for The Magic Pony (The Magic Horse, The Humpbacked Horse)?? Gorgeously animated Russian folk tale from 1977.

Vinny C
Vinny C

Oh great list, except, what happened to all the dog movies? Seriously? I mean, half of all animated Disney films are about dogs so the complete lack of canines in this list is quite conspicuous.


Where's Bolt? (Super underrated). Where's All Dogs Go To Heaven? Where's 101 Dalmatians and Oliver and Company?


This list is so discriminating. Damn disgrace.

What about The secret of Kells and Angel´s Egg

Bear T
Bear T

Meh this list is OK.  The many of the rankings are WAY off for me.  And it does feel like they are picking obvious choices from Japanese cinema for example Mind Games, I thought was much better than say Castle In The Sky.  And sleeping beauty was TERRIBLE, just TERRIBLE it had great art direction but other than that it blew hard.

But the glaring omissions in my books are

The Muppet Movie should be in the top 5 for sure.  I'd bump The Incredibles
Sita SIngs Blues (top 20 at least for me)

Secret Of The Kells (Certainly in the top 20 for me as well)
Scanner Darkly Better than most of the top thirty
Rango (one of the best animated film of the past ten years that still holds up after repeated viewing)
Peter and the Wolf

Ghost In The Shell
Heavy Metal
Achii And Ssipak
My Girl Mari
Mind Games
No Bill Plymton (i.e. The Tune)

No Quay Brothers


Even Shrek was better than a lot of these films, the sequels not so much.
And really wasn't LOTR largely animated? If you include Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Jason and the Argonauts...

Olivier S
Olivier S

And Batman Phantom Mask ? Patlabor Movie2 ?

Simon B
Simon B

I was disappointed not see Frankenweenie on the list, that was Tim Burton at his finest

This list is a lot stronger than the majority of 'greatest animation' lists and I'm very glad to see some lesser known films get the recognition they deserve, and very happy also to see Shrek isn't stinking up this list like a lot of the others. This does suffer from the same problem as most of the existing lists though, which is a real lack of diversity and representation. I'd mostly put this down to the voting structure used to compile the list combined with how the history of animation has been recorded. Although a lot of the voters are within the industry and have the credentials it doesn't mean they have a far-reaching knowledge in regards to the history of feature length animation (most animation buffs I know tend to have a far better knowledge of the shorts). Unless you're specifically looking at the animation history of a certain country, most available publications on the history of animation tend to omit large sections of film history (most often those from countries with differing political views to the USA and UK). I am saddened to see countries with rich histories of animation mostly snubbed within this list (Hungary has one film in the list, Russia has none), whilst Bakshi's racist rotoscoped messes, Disneys dullest and mostly live action films with smidgeons of animation have all found a place. 
 
Firstly the list certainly favors more recent films. There are more films within this list from 1990-2014 than there are films from 1926-1989. Over half of the list are films from the USA, and nearly a third where released by Walt Disney. Japanese films take up just over a fifth of the list, half of these by studio Ghibli, and the remainder of the list are mostly French and British films. Three Czech films made the list, but it should be noted they are all by the same director (Jan Svankmajer). I'm not trying to say most of these films don't deserve to be in the list (apart from Ralph Bakshi's, I'm happy to say that), I'm just trying to draw attention to how much is missed from these lists simply because of a film not receiving a western release, or through them being forgotten from the animation history books, and how through a voting format more well-publicized films have the immediate advantage. 

tinyorc
tinyorc

Movies I am surprised not see here include: The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, Anastasia and The Land Before Time. Granted, I think the 60 movies I have seen out of the list all deserve to be here, so maybe there just simply was not room to recognize everything.

Bat F
Bat F

Did I miss MARY POPPINS on the list? Great songs, academy award winning, in fact. Didn't Julie Andrews win best actress? Pretty rare for a musical, much less one filled with animation. Remember Dick Van Dyke dancing with the animated penguins? Carousel horses flying off the carousel and then interacting with a fox hunt and then a derby race. This movie was a hard one for Disney to make. Watch the movie Saving Mr Banks and you'll see what he went through. I can't believe such a landmark film wasn't there. I'm just hoping I wasn't paying close attention and missed  it.

Nastja J
Nastja J

There are some good suggestions on this list but all in all still a bad list. Americans just shouldn't make those lists, they are way too close minded and blind for a true beauty.

It's insulting that Shrek isn't on this list. Whether you liked the sequels or not (although even Shrek 2 should have been towards the top), there's no denying that it's one of the most original and influential animated films of the past several years. 

And its still yet to be matched in terms of very real, very fleshed out characters.

John W
John W

No howls moving castle? Sad..

Woodsy
Woodsy

...and where is The Wind Rises?  Wolf Children easily deserves a spot as well.

Sorry, but you have Wreck-It Ralph listed above the Lion King...

And neither Dumbo nor The Incredibles should be listed in the top 10.

A great 100 films nonetheless.

I am sure we all will have a favorite not on this list.  I, for one, love HEAVY METAL, but what I don't understand is why there are live action films like KING KONG, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, AND WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT on a list intended to celebrate the artful beauty of animation.  Live action films do not cross over into the realm of animation because they incorporate animation or stop motion into their visual effects.  If we did that practically every modern film that utilizes excessive amounts of CGI would be considered animated.

I have a hard time understanding how Wizards, arguably Bakshi's finest work, didnt make the list..

Francis Y
Francis Y

A nice list, although I think it would've been better if it was unranked. Ranking such a wide range of films leaves it open to heavy recency and exposure bias. A good example is Spirited away at 2. No doubt this is thanks its theatrical release and exposure in the West, but within the realm of Ghibli productions, Spirited Away doesn't even figure into the top 5.

The one egregious omission from this list, however, is Mamoru Hosoa (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children Ame and Yuki). Genuinely surprised not a single one of his movies made it here.

Ahmed Z
Ahmed Z

@AManCalledDa-da If you want to watch spirited away in hd just go on kissanime.com. Search it and set it to 1080p. 

DraconisGhost
DraconisGhost

@WhyNot Z This list isn't just best by how it looks, but by message, impact on other animated movies, and other reasons. 

Mario_Thang
Mario_Thang

 I couldn't agree more. What struck me after seeing the list are 1) the list is really English-eccentric, which little recognition to Russian and Hungarian or Czech animation. I remember reading somewhere about the Big Four animation studios in the classic era that are Disney (USA), Soyuzmultfilm (USSR, which released many masterpieces like Tale of Tales (1979), The Old Man and the Sea (1999), Pannonia Film Studio (Hungaria, which released some of classic gems like Cat City (1986); Little Fox (1981)) and Toei Studio (which responsible for early-anime). 


There is no recognition towards Osamu Tezuka (the godfather of anime), many of early anime (like Hakujaden), or the works of Jiri Trnka. 


I think if any foreign countries released the poll like this, Disney would be half as popular as it featured here


Still kudos for the recognition of many American indie animation like Consuming Spirits, Let the Wind Blows or It's Such a Beautiful Day. Any list that ranks It's Such a Beautiful Day high on their list is a winner for me.


2) It still favours many recent films (like you said). I'm actually quite happy that I know most of the titles on the list, but at the same time quite sad that it didn't actually surprise me (which it should, considers many other great animated titles out there)


On the side note, I feel sad that Satoshi Kon's (my favorite director, period) works just appeared in the bottom half of the list. I think his films will grow though.

michael a
michael a

@tinyorc  exactly! especially prince of egypt and anastasia stood out when you mentioned them

@Nastja J  I wouldn't go as far as to say Americans are closed minded or blind to beauty but i see your frustration. I think it's largely to do with a patriotic focus within american books on animation and how animation is reported on. The only foreign films that tend to get attention given to them in these lists are those that made it to America for the fesitvals and managed a release. Ideas that animation is for kids rather than an artform seems to be reinforced in America more than other countries also. Far more adult oriented animation has come from Europe and Asia. Not everyone who voted on the list was American, but it's fairly obvious by the selection how bias would exist. A whole section of voters from disney and pixar... jeeeez.

@Nastja J  Not all americans think that way... I personally love Japanese animation and without a doubt would pick it over most of the American animation any day! Some of them do belong on the top 100 and that being said i just looked at the top 10 just to get an idea.. Just dont bunch all Americans up together! :)

I'm insulted you're insulted. Shrek is pretty poor. Give it 30 years, you'll see how relevant and well-loved it still is then. Pop culture gags don't tend to hold up that long (especially bad ones based on the matrix).

John H
John H

@Woodsy The Wind Rises is good, but a) it's too new for most to have seen, and b) it's not Miyazaki's best anyway (though it probably does deserve to be on the list, not near the top). Wolf Children probably does deserve to be on the list as well. Grave of the Fireflies is the best animated film ever made and they put it at 15th, so it's a bit biased to what Americans probably haven't seen (i.e. they might have seen a Miyazaki film, but not less well known Japanese animated films).

I'd have to agree with you here. I am fine with live action in my animated films, but I consider it a different thing to animation in a live action film. For example I have no issues with James and the giant peach being in the list, but I do with king kong. 5 minutes of animation does not consitute an animated feature. I'd say at least 75% of the feature would need to be animated.

 All those films were ground breaking for their time in terms of technical side of animation. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was a training ground for many of the animators that went on to make other films on this list such as ALADDIN, LION KING etc.

As for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS & KING KONG, although not personal favourites of mine many stop motion animators were inspired to go into the profession from watching those films so they rightfully have a place on the list imo.

Mari5HK
Mari5HK

 @Nastja J Ar, 100% agree. Animation can be both leisure for kids and artforms for adults.

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