How did we choose the 100 best animated movies of all time? We went straight to the experts and asked them to tell us their personal top ten films. From there we calculated the top 100 overall best animated movies. Here you'll find the personal selections of people including Ed Desroches (the current president of the International Association of Animated Film), Steve Alpert (who has held executive positions at both Disney and Studio Ghibli) and the anime specialist Helen McCarthy. Explore their top tens here.
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Animation experts: A-F
“Alice first revealed the creative potential of animation to reinvent the everyday when I saw it as a child, and its uniqueness has stayed with me since. The dark imaginings that legendary Czech artist Jan Švankmajer shares in this, his first feature, are truly outstanding. Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day is heartbreaking in its frank depiction of the bleakness of its everyman character Bill’s daily struggles and his battle with mental illness. Hertzfeldt uses simple hand-drawn animation (which in the third chapter is combined with experimental optical effects) and an indifferent voiceover to produce a deeply moving film. Hertzfeldt is truly one of the best animators producing independent creative work today.”
“One important thing about all the films I chose is that they were made against a backdrop of the filmmakers being told they couldn’t do what they had set out to do. Hayao Miyazaki was told that the story of Nausicaä was too ambitious for an animated film; before Isao Takahata made Grave of the Fireflies, he was told he couldn’t do a film about World War II (Japanese prefer not to think about it); Walt Disney was told Fantasia wouldn’t be commercially successful (it wasn’t); John Lasseter was told no one would want to watch a computer-animated feature whose characters were ordinary toys; Beauty and the Beast set out to be an operetta, and the studio’s businessmen thought it wouldn’t sell; Andrew Stanton was told he couldn’t make a film like Wall-E with no dialogue at all in the first half hour; Pete Docter was told no one would watch Up because the main character was old. Miyazaki always said that adversity during the production process made the films better. Maybe it’s not just a coincidence that many of the films I think are best had to struggle just to get made.”
Jerry Beck is an animation historian and producer. His books include The Animated Movie Guide, Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide and The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
“An additional list of ten runners-up: Fritz the Cat, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Three Caballeros, Ice Age, The Simpsons Movie, Melody Time.”
Professor Giannalberto Bendazzi is the author of several books, including Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation.
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2. Mr. and Mrs. Kabal’s Theatre
3. Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest
“My nominations for the ten best animated feature films are…three.”
Joe Curzon runs Otaku News, a website for fans of Japanese culture with a focus on anime and manga.
1. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Kiki’s Delivery Service
4. Tokyo Godfathers
5. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
6. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
7. Mai Mai Miracle
9. Evangelion: 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone
10. Ghost in the Shell
Animation experts: G-L
Rolf Giesen is a German screenwriter, curator and author, whose books include Animation Under the Swastika and Chinese Animation.
John Grant has written many books, including Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters, Masters of Animation and The Young Person’s Guide to Bullshit.
“I know that’s only 70 percent of ten, but I ran out of gas.”
Justin Johnson works with the BFI Film Fund on animation films. He also programs films at the BFI, including this year’s Studio Ghibli retrospective.
2. When the Wind Blows
3. Toy Story 3
4. Grave of the Fireflies
5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
6. The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear
7. 5 Centimeters Per Second
8. Jason and the Argonauts
9. Spirited Away
Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell
Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell are authors and critics whose books include works on Studio Ghibli and anime.
“There have been cinema adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a century, some of them animated, but none of them match the surreal and occasionally deeply macabre Jan Svankmajer filmAlice, which seamlessly segues from live action to the animated world as we follow Alice on a nightmare journey. Wonderful and shocking. The Iron Giant takes a children’s book by poet laureate Ted Hughes as its source but sets its story in Cold War America. Brad Bird’s feature debut makes for a delightful and intelligent cel-animated story, where robots, politics and childhood friendship combine in a film that is exciting and genuinely moving. Whisper of the Heart is Yoshifumi Kondô’s story of burgeoning love between two teens—a young violin maker and his friend who aspires to be a writer. With the exception of some fantasy background sequences, this is an anime that could just as easily have been filmed as a live-action piece, and is a lovely coming-of-age drama.”
Kevin B. Lee
Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker, critic, video essayist and the cofounder of dGenerate Films. He was supervising producer for Ebert Presents: At the Movies.
“I absolutely love these movies, but I’m not satisfied with my list. I know this list is embarrassingly top-heavy with titles from the past decade, but animation features have simply exploded in number, depth and variety just within that brief period. On the other hand, I have to point out that narrowing the parameters to just feature-length animation privileges U.S. and Japanese productions, which I think distorts the full picture of great movie animation. If this exercise could include shorts, this list would be very, very different in makeup—in terms of time periods, nations and styles, we’d have a much richer selection to draw from, so to speak.”
Nathan Loofbourrow is president of the Animation Guild. He previously worked as a technical director at DreamWorks on films such as Kung Fu Panda.
1. Watership Down
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
3. Grave of the Fireflies
4. How to Train Your Dragon
5. It’s Such a Beautiful Day
7. Toy Story
8. Allegro Non Troppo
9. Heavy Traffic
10. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Animation experts: M-R
Daniel Thomas MacInnes
Daniel Thomas MacInnes is the publisher and writer of Ghibli Blog, a webzine dedicated to Studio Ghibli, animation and the movies.
1. Only Yesterday
2. Whisper of the Heart
5. The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun
6. Princess Mononoke
7. Gauche the Cellist
8. Night on the Galactic Railroad
9. Yellow Submarine
10. Waking Life
“Isao Takahata’s emotionally overpowering tone poem Only Yesterday is a work of genius, Ozu painted with watercolors. It is a masterwork of a style that literally does not exist in the West, but should: a naturalist animation that blends documentary neorealism, surreal pop art and every director’s trick in the book. The scene of a sunrise peaking over a mountain range, illuminating fields of safflowers, may be the single most beautiful moment in all of cinema. Whisper of the Heart is a stunningly beautiful coming-of-age story, one that treats its characters (and its audience) with respect and honesty. Hayao Miyazaki’s personal touches abound: the value of hard work, the awareness of loss, his romanticism. But director Yoshifumi Kondo is the real star, whose quiet pacing perfectly pairs Miyazaki’s dynamism with Takahata’s realism. His 1998 death remains a tragic loss.’
“I don’t know how anybody ever picks the ‘all-time top ten’—we haven’t seen all time yet, so how do we know? But favorites—that’s something else. I may not know much, but I know what I like. Mostly. Totorohas been my number-one movie since I first saw it in 1989; it’s the greatest film ever made. My father took me to see Sleeping Beauty as a little girl, and Eyvind Earle’s artistry blew me away. Pom Poko is funny, thought-provoking, beautifully animated and very honest; Isao Takahata is in many ways a more interesting and challenging filmmaker than his colleague Hayao Miyazaki. Testicle sight gags aren’t normally part of family animation.”
Chris Robinson is artistic director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He also wrote the screenplay for the animated documentary “Lipsett Diaries.”
“In truth, if you really want to find the depth, diversity and all that good stuff about animation, you’re best bet is to look toward short films. There you will find the essence. But since we’re restricted to animation features (none of which have reached the heights of short-form animation), here are nine you should find, watch and breathe.”
Animation experts: S-Z
“If I’d been allowed an 11th choice, it would’ve been Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”
Jasper Sharp is a writer and curator whose books include The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema. He is currently making a documentary, The Creeping Garden.
Brian Sibley is a British author, radio personality and scholar who has written countless books, including Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3D Animation.
2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
3. The Jungle Book
5. Toy Story 2
6. The Adventures of Prince Achmed
7. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
8. Monsters, Inc.
9. The Triplets of Belleville
10. Animal Farm
Niels Viveen is chairman of the J-Pop Foundation, and the organizer of one of the Netherlands’ biggest animation festivals, Anime Festival.
Nag Vladermersky is director of the London International Animation Festival. He’s starting a new monthly event in London, the Animation Spot.
“I chose Yellow Submarine and Snow White after I saw them with fresh eyes alongside my children, and for the joy they have given countless generations of kids. Mary and Max and It’s Such a Beautiful Day for how the most simplistic stick figures and puppets can draw such an emotional response. Fantastic Mr. Fox for its attention to detail and cracking humor. Pom Poko, Persepolis and Grave of the Fireflies for their humanism. Alice and The Pain and the Pity for their anarchy.”