The animated film as we know it has existed for nearly a century – an art form that, like live-action film, grew from shorts to become a major means. If 1937’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs marked the beginning of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ feature-length output, the animated film flourished and evolved from there, spawning brand spanking new furthering, new narrative opportunities, new studios, and unique graphic styles.
You can never be too old to watch cartoons, but the window of opportunity for your children to snuggle up next to you on the couch to watch one with you is much shorter than you might think. Make sure to add such best-animated movies to your watch list before they keep moving on to bigger and louder blockbusters.
Here is the list of the 14 best animated movies that you must watch with your friends.
14) Your Name (2016)
Your Name is a 2016 Japanese animated love fantasy film distributed by Toho and produced by CoMix Wave Films. It features a Tokyo high school boy and a Japanese rural high school girl who start swapping bodies for no apparent reason.
Mitsuha Miyamizu is a high school student in the Japanese town of Itomori 2013. She wants to be a Tokyo lad in her next life because she is bored with the town. She begins to switch bodies with Taki Tachibana, a high school male in Tokyo, for no apparent reason one day.
As a result, on some mornings when they wake up as each other, they must live through the activity and group interactions of the other. They learn to communicate with one another by writing notes on paper, cellphones, and even on their skin. Mitsuha arranges for Taki to date colleague Miki Okudera, while Taki makes Mitsuha popular at school.
13) Ratatouille (2007)
Ratatouille’s beauty isn’t just that Pixar developed a picture about a rat chef that doesn’t make you want to throw up — it’s also the sensual perfection of it. The most astounding trick of director Brad Bird is turning odours into views — components become abstract colour wafts that complement each other as sub-par dishes become works of culinary beauty, all accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s exquisite score. Remy, a rat with a flair for cooking, links up with hapless human Linguni to bring his meals out into the world, is voiced by Patton Oswalt.
The discovery of the genuine little chef, however, would mean doom for Remy’s future, given his rodent status. Even by Pixar’s high standards, this underappreciated picture is brimming with charm and beauty — just look at the sequence where snobbish critic Anton Ego takes a spoonful of the titular dish and is brought back to the joy and love of his own mother’s cooking. Not bad for a movie with a simple pun title.
12) Up (2009)
Everyone talks about Up’s first ten minutes. And rightfully so: it’s a mini-masterpiece in and of itself, as charming couple Carl and Ellie experience the highs (marriage, picnics, dancing) and lows (miscarriage, grief) of life in a single montage guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.
But what follows is equally miraculous: a wild, strange adventure film in which Carl, an older man, and Russell, an active boy scout, unintentionally float away to South America on a flurry of colourful balloons, encountering a big bird named Kevin, a group of talking dogs, and a wicked adventurer. It’s a complex mix, but director Pete Docter pulls it all together brilliantly – the genuine pain and exotic escapism exist in perfect harmony. That’s a Pixar supernatural event right there.
11) Madagascar (2005)
Marty the zebra celebrates his 10th birthday at the Central Park Zoo, but he is tired of his daily routine and longs to see the wild. Alex the lion, Marty’s best friend, enjoys flaunting his celebrity position as “the king of New York” in front of the public.
Alex tries to cheer Marty up, but Marty remains unsatisfied and discovers that the zoo’s penguins—Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, & Private—are attempting to flee. Marty is pursued by Alex, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippopotamus, who try to persuade him to return. The four, together with the penguins and two chimps named Mason and Phil, assemble at Grand Central Station, where they are tranquillized using tranquillizer guns by police.
10) The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King, released during Disney’s renaissance in the 1990s, saw the studio at the pinnacle of its powers – and its anthropomorphized animal take on Hamlet is a marvel. As lion cub Simba grows up in the grandeur of Pride Rock, suffers an existence parental death, and finally takes his father’s place as the monarch of the animal kingdom, it’s a coming-of-age narrative laced with murder and treachery.
When Simba walks away from home, Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) emerge as gemstone sidekicks, the Elton John-penned songs are magnificent, and none other than James Earl Jones gives his thunderous voice to patriarch Mufasa. Even after all these years, it’s evident that The Lion King isn’t a fad.
9) Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 is a computer-animated film directed by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1999. It is the second episode in the Toy Story franchise and the sequel to Toy Story, directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich (1995). Woody gets kidnapped by a toy collector in the film, leading Buzz Lightyear, and his companions to save him, but Woody is subsequently enticed by the prospect of immortality in a museum.
Toy Story 2 was originally planned as a direct-to-video sequel by Disney. Because most of the main Pixar personnel were busy working on A Bug’s Life, the film started production at a building separate from Pixar on a limited scale (1998). Disney advanced the film to a theatrical release after story reels proved promising, but Pixar was dissatisfied with the film’s quality. In one weekend, Lasseter and the story team rewrote the entire plot.
8) The Incredibles (2004)
Brad Bird came up with the winning combination of superheroic action and witty humour a few years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s developers did. His debut Pixar feature, The Incredibles, catapulted him into the company’s ‘Brain Trust,’ a group of directors who aid in supervising other filmmakers’ work and proved itself to be a sprightly, loving take on the kinds of familial relationships at play in teams like The Fantastic Four. It follows Bob and Helen Parr, who have given up the hero game to raise their family, as Bob yearns to return to combat despite government pressure to remain out of the way.
7) It’s Such a Beautiful Day
It’s Such a Beautiful Day is a film as a flicker book, not a U2 song. It accompanies the stick-and-circle figure Bill – round skull, oval body, dots for pupils, cool hat – through his existence in small vignettes, all filtered through a blurry-framed iris, in a movie version of indie artist Don Hertzfeldt’s short film trilogy. Bill has a remarkably deep inner life for such a thin character.
Disney delivered another modern classic, replete with earworm tunes from a fresh-out-of-Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda, riding high on the popularity of new-wave Princess films like Tangled and Frozen. If Moana comes from a long history of Disney Princesses, she fits the ‘Disney Princess 2.0’ mould perfectly: the daughter of a chief, a fierce maritime warrior seeking a better future for her people, and no love interest in sight.
From beginning to end, the picture shines with its endearing characters and bright Pacific Island backdrop – all shining blue waters and lush foliage – it takes a Ghibli-esque approach to good and evil, valuing balance and harmony over traditional battle-won victory.
5) Monsters Inc. (2001)
Monsters, Inc. would rank towards the top of both lists of Pixar’s most lovable characters and the most wonderfully inventive settings they’ve built. With a beautiful, humorous, and heartfelt buddy comedy about creatures who are secretly scared of the youngsters they spook every night, the studio demonstrated it had the goods to become one of the greats after two Toy Story pictures and A Bug’s Life.
Time spent in the streets of Monstropolis, which are crammed with eye-catching animals, sight gags galore, and Harryhausen in-jokes, is a total joy, as is hanging out with James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski – a hairy blue top-scarer and his cynical green ball of a coworker. If the fish-out-of-water setup is used for laughs, it also serves as a powerful emotional punch as they realize, she’s not a threat at all — just try not to cry at the end.
4) Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
If Toy Story was the most significant advancement in mainstream film cartoons since Snow White, it took another 23 years for the needle to move so much. Then there’s the Spider-Verse, which boasts a jaw-droppingly ambitious visual identity that feels unique – blending 2D and 3D fabrics with comic book paper flourishes, altering the frame rates of different characters in the same scene, simply throwing in blasts of acid-flash colour, and leaning into the cartoony, overstated qualities that animation allows you to have the best experience you could have.
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3) Wall – E
The first act of Wall-E is nothing short of amazing: a largely dialogue-free crawl through the charred remains of modern civilization, as the titular robot sweeper crushes Earthly rubbish into neat cubes while aching for some form of company. The lovely swivel-eyed Wall-E contrasted against the horrible mess we’ve left behind is scary and amusing.
Wall-E becomes enamoured, and a warped sci-fi rom-com finally gives way to a cosmic chase movie, and then in swoops fellow Robo Eve, flipping the entire narrative on its head. Wall-E is frequently breathtaking, from the fire extinguisher-assisted space dance to Wall-E dancing along to Hello Dolly to a quest to protect the last piece of surviving plant life.
2) Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Grave Of The Fireflies is the kind of masterwork that most people will only see once. Isao Takahata’s first film, along with co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, is a harrowing, heart-wrenching World War II story – both a tribute to the lives lost as a result of the conflict’s ripple effects and an accusation of the societal failings that led to the tragic deaths of so many families away from the frontlines. Seita, a teen, and his younger sister Setsuko are displaced after bombs demolish their hometown of Kobe.
1) Toy Story
The technical significance of Pixar’s first feature film cannot be overstated. It’s every bit as momentous a step forward for the medium as the release of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs nearly 60 years ago, which ushered in a new age of completely 3-D computer-generated animation. Toy Story was a phenomenon in and of itself, but it also transformed the visual style and filming method of practically every major studio animation for decades to come, thanks to technology developed by the company.
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