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The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far

The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far

Surprisingly, of all the many, many names we were called over our ranking of The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far, “anti-animation, hegemonic live-action crypto-fascists” wasn’t one, despite the fact we didn’t feature any animated movies on that list. We were a touch disappointed, to be honest, as we had a snappy comeback at the ready: we were already in the planning stages of an all-animation feature, so we felt justified in separating the live action picks from their hand-drawn, computer generated, stop motion and claymation brethren. So here is that list: the time frame is extended this time to include any animated film in any style (bar rotoscoping, which we excluded because of its reliance on live-action filming first) from 2000 till now.

The last fifteen years have seen the animation industry undergo huge upheavals, from the titanic union of old-school giant Disney with beloved game-changer Pixar, to the rise to international and Oscar-winning glory of the extraordinary Studio Ghibli (and its imminent dissolution), to the massive leap in quality made by the likes of DreamWorks and other up-and-comers. All these factors combine to provide a mainstream and arthouse filmmaking landscape that’s friendlier toward a more diverse range of animation styles and subjects than ever before. The sheer breadth of choice we have, and the extremely subjective nature of the beast (one viewer’s pretty is another viewer’s twee) means that we’re fully confident that this ranking will inspire its fair share of rage/accusations of bias as well. But like many of the films listed below have taught us, we’re going to be brave, follow our dreams and find inner reserves of strength and goodness to face whatever life and the commenters throw at us, as we take you on this trip through our 25 favorite animated features of the 21st century. And if you want more of the best films since 2000, you can check out our feature on the best horror movies of the 21st century here.

25. “Lilo & Stitch” (2002)
The late ’90s and early ’00s were a bleak time for Disney animation: that pre-“Frozen” era paid almost nothing off at the box office, in large part because films like “Brother Bear” and “Home On The Range” were extremely poor. But the major shining light (along with “The Emperor’s New Groove,” which is admirably Chuck Jones-esque) was “Lilo & Stitch.” It’s a riff on “E.T.” on the surface —eccentric young girl befriends intergalactic runaway— but directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (who’d go on to make “How To Train Your Dragon”) make it sing through specificity: the delirious mischief of the adorably psychotic Stitch, the gorgeously realized Hawaiian setting, and the surprising pathos of Lilo and her older sister, who are being investigated by social services. It perhaps doesn’t stand with the early ’90s late golden age of Disney, but it’s a wonderfully weird and enormously satisfying film.

24. “Winnie the Pooh” (2011)
Every generation feels a sense that the children of today are missing out on some vital part of childhood due to the technological advancements of modern life (right back to the first Neolithic Dad who shook his head sadly at his son’s use of those new-fangled bronze tools). But Disney’s hand-animated “Winnie the Pooh” from directors Don Hall and Stephen J Anderson evokes simpler times with charm and wit and even —gasp!— suggests the pleasures of reading, with the characters interacting with text on the page in a continually inventive way. It’s admittedly for very young children, and some adults who grew up with previous Disney Pooh films were apparently disappointed that this wasn’t quite as, well, Disneyfied. But this is a short, calm, gently screwy homage to one of the sweetest and best-loved children’s characters of all time that respects Pooh’s original source material —AA Milne’s wonderful books.

23. “Rango” (2011)
Even when the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies weren’t working, they were still admirably weird. So it’s unsurprising in retrospect than when director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp reteamed for an animated picture, they produced one of the odder animated movies ever made by a studio. Melding “Chinatown” with any one of a number of classic Westerns, but with animals and a slightly deranged high-on-peyote vibe, it sees Depp’s Hunter Thompson-ish chameleon become mistaken for a hero by a town suffering from drought. Rehearsed with the actors in costume (an absolute rarity in the animation world) before being brought to stunning life by Industrial Light & Magic, the VFX company’s sole animated feature to date, it’s a reminder of the oddball vision that Verbinski could bring without blockbuster bloat, and while it barely even qualifies as a kids’ movie, it still proves an enormously entertaining trip.

22. “A Town Called Panic” (2009)
Based on a gently surreal French-language TV show and bearing the distinction of being the first stop-motion animation ever to be shown in Cannes, “A Town Called Panic” from Belgians Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar is the absurd story of Cowboy (a plastic toy cowboy), Indian (a plastic toy Indian) and Horse (a plastic toy you get the idea) who live together in a house in the country and get into inexplicable scrapes. An attempt to celebrate Horse’s birthday goes awry when an internet order for 50 bricks accidentally is mistaken for 50 million bricks, and so they build big walls which are stolen by malicious sea creatures, so they go track them down through a terrains snowy, airborne, subterranean and forested… the plot makes zero sense and the story can feel as jerky as the charmingly crude animation. But it’s also invested with a totally lunatic energy that’s less about grand narrative arcs than the momentary interactions and weirdnesses that cram every single bonkers scene.

21. “Millennium Actress” (2001)
Though he directed only four complete features and sadly passed away in 2010 aged only 46, Satoshi Kon established himself as one of anime’s most important and original filmmakers. We could have easily (and nearly did) include “Tokyo Godfathers” or “Paprika” (the latter said by many to have inspired Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”), but we’d say that his masterpiece was his second feature, 2001’s “Millennium Actress.” Far more mature than most animated features, whether Japanese or American, this film has a fascinating concept, as an elderly retired movie star brings a documentary crew through her memories, switching genres and form as she tells her story through her cinematic roles. Fans of clear-cut narrative are likely to be left disappointed, but there’s a fascinating and rich puzzle box to untangle, grappling successfully with Kon’s favorite themes of the nature of reality and the power of art.

20. “Monster House” (2006)
Easily the best of Robert Zemeckis’ performance-capture films, partly due to only being creepy when it’s trying to be and partly by not being directed by Zemeckis (Gil Kenan had the gig instead), “Monster House” is the rare film to pull off both ‘Burtonesque’ and ‘Amblin-esque’ in a successful manner, and does so with a heap of heart and scares in the process. Co-written by “Community” creator Dan Harmon and his friend Rob Schrab, it’s the tale of three adventurous pre-teens investigating a spooky local home. Working where “The Polar Express” didn’t by stylizing the characters further, it makes its young protagonists believably and likably childlike in a way that few films bother with, leading to both great gags ( “It’s the uvula!”  “So it’s a girl house?”) and pathos more effective than most. There are better looking films here, but few that are as much fun.

19. “How To Train Your Dragon” (2010)
Its films vary in quality from the nearly great (“Kung Fu Panda,” the original “Shrek”) to the surprisingly entertaining (“Madagascar 3” —no, seriously!) to the essentially worthless (later “Shrek” sequels, “Shark Tale”), but whatever the turnout, DreamWorks Animation has almost always been seen as second fiddle to Pixar. The exception being “How To Train Your Dragon,” a thrilling adventure tale that combines a boy-and-his-dog, “E.T”-ish central relationship between a young Viking and his dragon pal with stunning, 3D-enabled flying sequences, world-building and the company’s most painterly visuals (created with aid of cinematography legend Roger Deakins). So often DreamWorks falls back on pop-culture gags or celebrity casting, but this (and to a lesser extent its sequel) is where they let the story lead the way, and the result is an absolute triumph.

18. “Finding Nemo” (2003)
Given Pixar’s mixed track record with sequels, it’s hard not to be apprehensive about next year’s “Finding Dory,” the belated follow-up to one of the studio’s most beloved achievements, 2003’s “Finding Nemo.” After all, the original was something close to a miracle. The story of the over-protective father (Albert Brooks) whose worst nightmare comes true when his son is taken across the ocean is a dizzyingly colorful, enormously funny story full of incredibly memorable characters and arguably Pixar’s best-ever voice cast (Brooks and co-lead Ellen DeGeneres are perfect, but we also get Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush and Eric Bana). But at its heart, it packs as big an emotional punch as anything the studio’s made, gradually shortening the gulf between a loving but destructively neurotic father and his adventurous but vulnerable son. If the sequel’s even half as good as this, it should still be a classic.

17. “Monsters Inc.” (2001)
After two great “Toy Story” movies and the middlingly-received (somewhat unfairly) “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters Inc.” was the film that suggested that Pixar would be far more than the house that Buzz built. Like “Toy Story,” this film takes up an irresistible childhood conceit —the story behind the monsters under every child’s bed or in the closet— and filled it with two of the company’s most lovable characters in Billy Crystal’s eyeball-on-legs Mike Wasowski and John Goodman’s fuzzy blue Sully, who accidentally let a supposedly-deadly child, the utterly adorable Boo, into their monster’s paradise. The film’s not as narratively perfect as some of the later Pixar pics (the Yeti diversion is dead air), but it’s still gorgeously designed, has a giant heart and proves utterly satisfying. Decent-but-unnecessary prequel “Monsters University” paled in comparison, which is a testament to the strength of the original.

16. “Toy Story 3” (2010)
Coming a full decade after the the beloved “Toy Story 2” (and seeming like the final word on ‘Toy Story’ features… until “Toy Story 4“), “Toy Story 3” is one of the best animated films of the century, which demonstrates Pixar’s high bar. Rather than going for a victory lap, the creative team of John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and director Lee Unkrich switched things up the third time out, allowing time to have passed and for Andy to be heading to college. The adventures that ensue are remarkable: there’s genuine peril at times, quite a bit of darkness and some pretty deep soul-searching that makes it even more affecting to adults than its predecessors. Because these films were never really about plastic playthings —they were about childhood, a state you can really only appreciate after it has concluded and someone new is playing with your old toys.

15. “Coraline” (2009)
There’s more quality coming out of more animation houses these days, thanks in part to Portland’s Laika, a stop-motion studio who broke out with the sublime “Coraline.” Based on a book by geek idol Neil Gaiman and directed by “The Nightmare Before Christmas” helmer Henry Selick, the film focuses on the titular girl (Dakota Fanning) who escapes from her neglectful parents into another world that turns out to be more sinister than she planned. The picture is gorgeously designed (with a use of 3D that’s still among the best ever, flat in the ‘real world’ and expansive in the fantasy one, “Wizard of Oz”-style), smart, soulful, atmospheric, rich, funny, exciting and strange, and it’s only aged like a fine wine in the last half-decade. “Paranorman” and “The Boxtrolls” are both worth checking out, but Laika’s first hour remains their finest so far.

14. “The Lego Movie” (2014)
On paper, it seemed to be a nightmarish corporate synergy-fest (it isn’t just based on a toy, but includes toy versions of superheroe!). In practice, “The Lego Movie” is a sly, subversive, giddy joy, with Phil Lord and Chris Miller topping their previous animated pic “Cloudy With Chance Of Meatballs” (which some of us are very grumpy isn’t in this list…). Spoofing ‘chosen one’ narratives as Chris Pratt’s Emmett is picked out as the last great hope against the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), it’s a deeply silly, meta-tastic action-comedy that still finds room for a surprising degree of pathos, not least in its secret late-game live-action gambit. Capturing a childish sense of play in a way that few had done outside of “Toy Story” but filtering it through a millennial mash-up mentality, it must figure as one of the most glorious mainstream surprises in recent memory.

13. “Ratatouille” (2007)
“Ratatouille” is something of an oddity among the Pixar canon, less because of its production history (“The Incredibles” helmer Brad Bird completely retooled the film late in production, which is par for the course at the studio), and more because it plays so much older than many of the rest of their films. Set in the world of fine cuisine, the picture  targets and celebrates critics, is relatively slow paced, and draws from influences as diverse as Lubitsch and Proust. It’s auteurist, borderline-arthouse animation somehow went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. Bird’s tale about a rat (played perfectly by Patton Oswalt) with a refined palate and culinary dreams works as a talking animal picture, a romantic comedy, a love-letter to Paris (those cityscapes!) and to food, and could only have been made by Pixar. Some of their other films might have had a broader appeal, but “Ratatouille” is truly refined.

12. “Chicken Run” (2000)
On the whole, Aardman Animation’s features didn’t quite match up to its Oscar-winning “Wallace & Gromit” shorts (though the feature adventure of the latter is a joy and nearly made this list). We say “on the whole” because “Chicken Run,” the studio’s first full-length effort is tremendous, a more charming and inventive film than most with budgets many times the size. Following a group of hens who enlist the help of cocky rooster Red (a pre-decline Mel Gibson) to escape their farm when they learn they’re destined to be turned into pies, it brilliantly and evocatively channels WW2 POW movies like “The Great Escape” with a very British eccentric charm. Encompassing the immaculate design, classic physical comedy and thrilling action that characterized the Aardman shorts, it’s also more narratively well-rounded, with a finale as rousing as anything else on this list. Fingers crossed Aardman returns to this kind of form soon.

11. “Persepolis” (2007)
The Cannes Jury Prize-winning and Oscar-nominated “Persepolis” predated the also-Cannes-and-Oscar nominated “Waltz with Bashir” by a year, but taken together, both represent the emergence, or maybe just the more mainstream acceptance, of another function of animation: to tell grown-up stories of autobiography so personal and/or painfully political that somehow they almost beg to be drawn rather than filmed. Marjane Satrapi’s film is a poignant, funny, touching and occasionally horrifying account of her childhood growing up in Tehran during the Islamic rebellion, told in simple, stark, black and white images, but it’s her eye for offbeat, humanizing detail (much of which came from her self-penned comic strip) that marked Satrapi out as a filmmaker of promise. And since then she’s made good on as such, becoming one of the liveliest and most playfully eccentric filmmakers on the international scene, though she has yet to match her debut for sheer impact and importance.

10. “Wall-E” (2008)
Perhaps some of the vitriol poured on “Chappie” came because we already have a lovable (and critically approved) robot-with-a-personality in our cinematic lexicon (not talking about Johnny Five). Pixar’s “Wall-E,” a fairly scathing environmental message wrapped up in the tale of a lonely trash robot and the fragments of a neglected civilization that only he cherishes, was an audacious undertaking. With much less dialogue than the wisecrackery of previous outings and a near-mute protagonist, it remains one of the studio’s most formally austere and outright satirical films. And yet Andrew Stanton‘s film is warm and funny, relying on the stunning expressiveness of Wall-E’s design (his playing with the ball and bat is a perfect example of the immaculate physics at work throughout) to tell with glimmering originality a story that ultimately employs every old-school trope in the book: an unlikely hero fights to win the hand of his lady love, and in so doing saves humanity from itself.

9. “The Wind Rises” (2013)
Hayao Miyazaki has retired before (he’d suggested he was done with filmmaking as early as a decade ago), but with Studio Ghibli supposedly winding down, “The Wind Rises” definitely seems like it could be the anime master’s swan song. The film certainly seems like a defining statement: a (mostly) fantasy-free melodrama about real-life airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, it’s a moving portrait of the end of an era in Japan, an examination of way that progress, technology, and even art can be corrupted, a love-letter to the director’s beloved aviation, and more than anything else an autobiographical portrait of the artist as an obsessed young man. Anyone dismissing this as a cartoon doesn’t have their head screwed on properly. As gorgeous as anything the director ever made, it also, despite being relatively realistic, could only ever have worked as animation. If it truly is Miyazaki’s last film, he’ll be painfully missed.

8. “Waltz with Bashir” (2008)
A strong case for just how dexterous animation can be, Ari Folman‘s film masterfully hybridizes personal essay, documentary and hallucinatory imagery, all in service of a bold examination of one soldier’s experience of the 1982 Lebanon War that’s just the right amount of stylized cool to hook you into its harrowing insights. Human rights and issue films are unfortunately a dime a dozen these days, so it’s no small feat that Folman was able to transcend those narrow confines by making ‘Waltz’ utterly cinematic. The animation —a mix of Adobe Flash cutouts with classic animation—adds to the surreal nature of Folman’s manifested memories of a traumatic time in his young life. Max Richter’s haunting score and a mix of era-appropriate songs (PiL’s “This is Not a Love Song” is a highlight) also add to its overall power. It’s effective, educational and emotive because it’s entertaining.

7. “Fantastic Mr Fox” (2009)
Stop motion animation and Wes Anderson proved to be a peanut-butter-and-jelly-like combination in this sweet yet acidic adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s book. We wouldn’t argue it’s the auteur’s best film, but in many ways it’s most representative of his reputation as a capital A “artist.” After all, aren’t all his hyper controlled cinematic dioramas a form of live action animation? Beyond just appreciating its place in Anderson’s legacy, ‘Fox’ is beautiful to look at and one of  his funniest films to date. Adapting a children’s story allows for his more broad, even goofy humor to rise to the surface in pleasing ways (the highlight comes when the antagonistic farmers are introduced in snappy vignette cutaways). The visuals harken back to Rankin/Bass, proving that old fashioned methods can feel new when done well. We love this film most because it’s for everyone, but still has rough edges and consequences.

6. “The Tale Of Princess Kaguya” (2013)
It didn’t get as much attention as “The Wind Rises,” but “The Tale Of Princess Kaguya,” the swansong for Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli co-founder and “Grave Of The Fireflies” director Isao Takahata, is an even more elegiac, beautifully bittersweet goodbye from one of the medium’s masters. A fable based loosely on the traditional tale of the Bamboo Cutter and animated in a stunning, painterly fashion, the film sees the discovery of the title character inside a bamboo shoot by her humble parents. She’s elevated to wealth and courted by endless suitors, but nothing can change the sense that her time on Earth will be brief. Simple in both expression and story but yet still incredibly rich (there are strong feminist and environmental themes at work along with the meditations on mortality), it’s a delicate, pastoral film that serves as both a definitive summing up of Takahata’s career and a deeply poignant goodbye.

5. “The Triplets of Belleville” (2003)
78 minutes of pure French bliss. Sylvain Chomet’s script (with hardly any audible dialogue) is made up of seemingly random left turns that not only keep you guessing but miraculously gel into a magical, unique whole. The labor-intensive, beautifully old school, painterly animation is a marvel to behold, bringing to life this bizarre story of an adorable task-mistress mother whose cyclist son is kidnapped by the mafia and used for nefarious gambling schemes. She joins up with the titular singing triplets who aid her in the rescue, adding to the overall infectious musical joy infused in the entire film. It’s a totally original narrative, directed by Chomet with a perfect grasp on the material. While it’s still a cult item (despite being up for 2 Oscars in 2003), the film is more than accessible for any audience.

4. “It’s Such A Beautiful Day” (2012)
He’s far from a household name (though recently contributing one of the best couch sequences to “The Simpsons  in the show’s 25-year-history has helped), but animation fans have long been singing the praises of Austin’s Don Herzfeldt, particularly after “It’s Such A Beautiful Day.” Combining the 2011, 23-minute short film of the same name with two earlier shorts “Everything Will Be Ok” and “I Am So Proud Of You,” it’s a haunting, ultimately strangely life-affirming trilogy in Herzfeldt’s trademark stick-figure, line-drawing style (though embellished with an increasingly heady collection of effects) that take in satire, ultraviolence, and in the staggering final segment mental illness and identity. Oblique and strangely accessible, bleak and transcendent, simple and endlessly re-watchable, it’s a stone-cold masterpiece that confirms that Herzfeldt is a major filmmaker.

3. “Up” (2009)
So are we giving third place to “Up” in its entirety, or are we granting that spot thanks to that 4-minute montage of Carl & Ellie’s married life that reduces us to emotional rubble? Does it even matter? Taking a helicopter or flying-house view, “Up” is not the most satisfying narrative that Pixar has ever created, but it is the apotheosis of the studio’s alchemical ability with character creation and relationships. With this film, Pete Docter and Bob Petersen gave us simply one of the greatest grief movies ever made hidden within a tale full of whimsy, colored balloons, lisping boy scouts and hilarious talking dogs. So while it has as much to say about the generation gap as the average Ozu film, and the fact that it begins with the most affecting animated death since the demise of Bambi’s mother, by its conclusion “Up” is nothing less than a joyous affirmation of life at any age and at any height above sea level.

2. “The Incredibles” (2004)
Director Brad Bird’s best film to date is a blistering amalgam of imagined comic book mythology, family melodrama and gorgeous computer generated animation. It came at the very end of Pixar’s first great wave of titles, right before the studio misstepped with “Cars” and then got back on track with “Ratatouille” (thanks to Bird again, natch). In fact, this still feels like the animation juggernaut’s finest hour and probably its most complete film, full of legitimately thrilling action set pieces and easily relatable character drama (good for adults and kids), and tapping incisively into the culture’s superhero obsession before it got watered down to its current level of ubiquity. Masterfully designed (check the ’50s-style suburban conformity of the home and office locations), cleverly scripted so that A and B storylines constantly complement and enhance each other, and boasting a valuable anti-cape message that Madonna would have done well to heed, “The Incredibles” is not just an all-time great animated film, but is an all-time great superhero movie, period.

1. “Spirited Away” (2001)
If the great strength of animation is its facility for total immersion in worlds only bounded by the limits of a filmmaker’s imagination, there’s really no other choice for our number one spot than the dazzling “Spirited Away” from Hayao Miyazaki, curator of one of the most comprehensive and beautiful cinematic imaginations in existence. Starting out as a “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tale as a young girl ventures excitedly into a magical realm after her parents are turned into pigs, the film becomes more peculiar, more fanciful and more ambiguous as it goes on, becoming the polar opposite of the kind of patronising simplification and moral black-and-whites that mar the family film genre elsewhere. Grotesque, scary, thrilling, beautiful and very alien to anyone raised on Western animation, “Spirited Away” is, due to its Oscar success and wider U.S. promotion, for many people the first Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli film they saw, and so should occupy a very special place in our hearts as the shining portal into the fantastical, beyond-ken world of Ghibli. Make that multitudes of worlds.

Honorable Mentions: So the longlist for this feature ran to more than 100 titles, and passions ran high about simply too many to list here, but there are a few that it physically pained us to exclude, especially when they happened to be from smaller studios or independent filmmakers who could do with the shine. So the lovely, serene “The Secret of Kells” from Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon; its follow-up, the also Oscar-nominated “Song of the Sea“; the independently funded, witty, melting pot mish-mash of ’20s jazz, Indian mythology and flash animation “Sita Sings the Blues” from director Nina Paley; and “Mary and Max” from Australian director Adam Elliott and featuring the voice of the late lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman are all strongly recommended.

And other higher profile but no less beloved films that hovered very near the top of the list included: “The Pirates!,” “Ernest & Celestine,” “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Brave,” “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence,” “The Illusionist,” “Paranorman,” “The Boxtrolls,” “Tokyo Godfathers,” “Paprika,” “Ponyo,” “Shrek,” “Wolf Children,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “The Girl Who Leapt through Time,” “Evangelion: You Are Not Alone,” “Dead Leaves,” “The Secret World of Arriety,” “Frankenweenie,” “Tangled,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Wreck-it Ralph” —we could go on forever, so we won’t.

As we said, we ummed and aahed about including rotoscoped films before deciding that they didn’t quite qualify, which isn’t to underestimate the artistry of Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” or “A Scanner Darkly.” And in case you’re wondering, no we didn’t forget about “Frozen,” which is a good film, but on aggregate we don’t see quite what all the fuss is about. Express your outrage about its no-show and anything else that’s on your mind in the comments section below. Or, you know, let it go.

— Jessica Kiang, Oliver Lyttelton, Erik McClanahan

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Julian Towers

The short "It’s Such a Beautiful Day" is not 60 minutes long.

Nathan Duke

It was when I got to around numbers 11 or 12, I nearly gave up on this list. "Wall-E" at #10, seriously? I think it’s not only the best animated film of this century so far, but arguably one of the all-time best. Glad to see "Up" up there, but "Ratatouille" and "Persepolis" should be much higher, certainly higher than "The Wind Rises," which was good, but a lesser Miyazaki, and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," a good Wes Anderson movie.

Miguel Valdez-Lopez

Thanks for including the likes of Persepolis and Millenium Actress (they should rank higher than The Wind Rises, which, compared to other Miyazaki’s movies, isn’t a Top 5).
I wish you could have made room for The Secret of the Kells or WolfChildren.


A pretty good ranking this time. I’m not into anime, but The Incredibles and It’s Such a Beautiful Day are high enough. The former is Pixar’s best and the latter, my favorite of the bunch, one of the most original movies I’ve ever seen.


I think its a good list. My problem is that I saw so many bad animated movies while my children were growing up, that I can’t bring myself to see the good ones now that they are teens and go to the movies with their friends. Its not an animated film, but I had to sit through an atrocity called Catch That Kid. That movie was the straw that broke the camel’s back.


Did you really have to leave off Frozen? C’mon, it could’ve just been #25. Critics loved it. Audiences loved it. It’s a big phenomenon, and to ignore it is just saying "it’s too popular to be good." Frozen has had a big impact, and that alone should be respected.

Also, why not The Illusionist or Wallace and Gromit?

    smarter thanyou

    your such a homo only fags and little girls like that crap


I found that my favourite animated films were mostly mentioned in the "Runners Up" section — would’ve really loved to see Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea on this list, considering they’re about 10 billion times more special, beautiful, inventive, creative, and gorgeously animated than ANYTHING from Pixar (seriously, Incredibles at #2? What a lame, lame film). How to Train Your Dragon 2 should’ve been on here, and the first one should’ve been higher. Would’ve loved to see more Miyazaki, Dreamworks (Over the Hedge is hilarious, guys, come on) as well as Mary & Max, which is just about the most heartbreaking animated film this side of Grave of the Fireflies. And I really think Polar Express is incredibly underrated, just a wonderful flick. Overall…I knew this list would tick me off, because all "Best Of Animated" lists seem to be one long masturbation to Pixar. But seeing things like Waltz With Bashir pop up on here, well, that made it more palatable for me. Rant over, now.

Jorge Clooneigh

i must be the only person who didn’t care for UP. i would’ve rated RATATOUILLE much higher. it’s a superb picture.


Oh for crying out loud, no love for CARS 2?!?! Blocked.

Kate H

Over-rating ‘Up’ is soooo 2009 (come on, it’s a great – if emotionally manipulative – short followed by 80 minutes of faff). Oh and ‘The Incredibles’ = ‘Nazi Superman are Our Superiors’.


It’s all subjective of course, but to put the charming but slight Chicken Run and Fantastic Mr Fox (as well as a whole host of other things) ahead of the decimating emotional juggernaut that is Toy Story 3 is frankly shameful. Where are your souls, people? Furthermore, despite its high ranking, it also does The Incredibles a disservice to consign it to being one of the superior superhero films; it’s better than that, even – it’s one of the best films ever made about family, and that puts it way beyond the ranks of Spider-man and Co. and among some true Oscar giants. Still, each to their own, I guess.


I think Spirited Away really desserves that top spot.Nice list full of great choices


I think the most baffling thing about this list is the fact that Drew Taylor wasn’t involved.

Alyssa Metcalfe

Why can’t movies like Treasure Planet and The Princess and the Frog be on this list? I think they’re a lot better than people give them credit for. Instead, you included a lot of Pixar of Ghibli and overrated movies like (especially) Spirited Away. This list is just as predictable and boring as everyone else’s. Why can’t this list be different and original? People like me are getting sick and tired of seeing the same movies in almost the same spots especially number 1 is always Spirted Away! It’s like as if this website is trying to be like and fit in like every overrated website and be popular!


I love Up. I don’t think its overrated.

James Dodgshun

I never would of added Fantastic Mr Fox or Monster House. Exchange those two for Ghost in the Shell, and Interstella 5555 (even though it was a glorified music video, it still had a better story than Monster House)

there are two films directed by Tomm Moore in the honorable mentions. you should mention his name.


NO AKIRA mention? Epic FAIL

paul sabin

i could add a few…..but i’m surprised that the wonderful my neighbor totoro or "wings of honneamise weren’t included….but very glad you did include the wind rises….its one of his best.

Freddie Rosen

Loved Fantastic Mr Fox but a bit too high on this list really. Wes Anderson is great but its simply not better than Toy Story 3 or Ratatouille.


A bigger epic fail is you clearly don’t understand what a century is: Akira came out 1988.


Mary and Max is one of my favorite animated films. I would have put it in the top 5, but that’s me. Good ranking though.


Megamind was a fantastically underrated movie and I’m very dissapointed it wasn’t here. I’m not going to say which ones but there are more than a few movies here that could have been replaced with it.


Madness!!! What about Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo?

Diane Bellora

I think that the Oscars should add acting awards for best vocalization in an animanated film.


IMO, Frozen should’ve been on this list. On a rewatch, you notice all the subtleties and emotional depth the film contains. It’s pretty ambitious for a Disney film and the animation is outstanding.


How to train your dragon is seriously at number 19?? Dude.. HTTYD deserves top 10. At least above the lego movie.


“It’s Such A Beautiful Day” is video torture. ridiculous to see that on here.




How to Train Your Dragon not in the top 10? Shit list. Won’t take your opinion seriously.



Kim Munson

princess mononoke?


You should do best of the 20th century – or have you?

m. smythe

What about Summer Wars? One of the greatest animated films EVER, in my opinion, from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda!


Tale of Princess of Kaguya was good, but not "this" good. Also Curse of the Wererabbit was definitely better than Chicken Run if you’re picking stuff from Aardman.

Diego Graciano

Don’t forget "The Prince of Egypt" and "The Iron Giant"


Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises was perfectly placed. If for nothing else, he managed to make historical revisionism entertaining to watch. That takes some stones.


I dunno, good list but I feel like Coraline was a better film than Fantastic Mr. Fox and deserved to be higher. I adore both films though and am happy to see them on the list. And great number one choice!


I would rank Mary and Max as my number one. I’m quite surprised you guys didn’t include it on your list. It would have been nice to see an Australian movie there.


I would highly recommend interstellar 5555 as a beautiful imaginative mixture of Japanese artistry and a full length feature based to one of daft punks… However, human after all was in stark contrast decidedly more French, which isn’t necessarily bad, but in this case it lacked music and was overall strange with no apparent storyline. I am also a fan of the film epic.


I think this is the best list by far, and you really did a wonderful job not including frozen. I mean compared to the tale of princes kaguya is nothing. Really a good job, from someone that almost saw 5000 movies and counting


Akira: Made in the 80’s.
Princess Mononoke: 90’s.
Iron Giant: 90’s.
Prince of Egypt: 90’s.
My Neighbor Totoro: 80’s.
Wings of Honneamise: 80’s.

Read the title of the article peeps.


Leaving The Illusionist off the list is absolutely criminal. The same goes for Paprika and Wolf Children, honestly.


But Chomet is represented at number 5, so that’s a big co-sign.

Steve Segal

Bill Plympton deserves to be on this list, Cheatin’ or
Idiots and Angels or both. These works are imaginative, different, and fun. Also this should be called the 50 best animated FEATURE films of the 21st century so far.

Tyrone Barnes

Your lack of Frozen and ParaNorman disturbs me…

John Johnson

Where is Shrek????? Where is Iron Giant???? Where is Howl’s Moving Castle????? Toy Story 3 in the rating?? pfff, at least Toy Story 1. Shiet rating


The Iron Giant, the most underrated movie of the century


Disagree completely with the list. UP should not be here because only the first 10 minutes was any good; the rest was juvenile nonsense. And where is The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? Where is Summer Wars? Where is Ponyo? Where is Final Fantasy? Where is Tin Tin? Where is How to Train Your Dragon 2? Where is Frozen? Where is Kung Fu Panda? Where is Wreck it Ralph? Obviously someone here is a Pixar worshipper. And I don’t think that’s fair.


More anime should have been on this list, not just included as honorable mentions. Wolf Children, for example brought me to tears countless times while almost every film on this list left me feeling unfulfilled after viewing them.


Thank you for the list. I loved the deep descriptions for the movies, you managed to present them very nicely (at least the ones I have watched already).


Just a quick suggestion for readers: The Book of Life. Its visually stunning, with amazing settings, beautiful characters and a chance to reflect on death and the afterlife.


too much japcrap!


This list is retarded, how could you not include Akira. Katsuhiro Otomo’s animation work in that movie has never been replicated by anything american or japanese, how did not even get an honourable mention i don’t understand this list has lost its credibility without Akira.


Sad to see "Mary and Max (2009)" is not on the list…such a beautiful and probably one of the most underrated movies. If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourselves a favor…


25. Fantasia 2000
24. ParaNorman
23. Horton Hears a Who
22. Frozen
21. The Wind Rises
20. Happy Feet
19. Monsters Inc.
18. The Croods
17. Coraline
16. The Triplets of Belleville
15. Princess and the Frog
14. Persepolis
13. Shrek
12. Ratatouille
11. Wreck-It Ralph
10. Meet the Robinsons
9. The Lego Movie
7. Waking Life
6. The Incredibles
5. Chicken Run
4. Finding Nemo
3. Up
2. Toy Story 3
1. Waltz with Bashir

    Jodi Darien

    I’ve been looking on these lists to find movies to watch and this is the first i disagree with so much. I don’t see Shrek, Howl’s Moving Castles, Meet the Robinsons or The Iron Giant. I won’t even argue about Frozen or Lion King but I do believe if this stretched to 30 they’d be there. Those are seriously favorites to everyone that watches them. Not even mention to many of those. I don’t think Persepolis, Waltz with whatever or Chicken Run was good enough to be on the list. And The Triplets of Belleville really wasn’t worth the watch. The order of this was off too. I felt like this person just had bad taste in animation and wasn’t thinking about how many people enjoyed some of these movies and how many definitely didn’t


If Waking Life doesn’t count then I’d have either Mary and Max or It’s Such a Beautiful Day in the 25th spot.

love quote

The short "It’s Such a Beautiful Day" is not 60 minutes

love quotes

The short "It’s Such a Beautiful Day" is not 60 minutes


Ouch. Not even an honorable mention for Frozen. Totally whack.


Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo should be much higher on the list. I don’t think that Fantastic Mr. Fox was that good… I do agree with leaving off Frozen. Most overrated film of all time.

Maxwell Bova

I will put my two cents in for Howl’s Moving Castle and The Secret of Kells – wildly different and yet both up to the task. Howl’s is my favorite Miyazaki film, and while I didn’t love Song of the Sea as well, I thought Kells was one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It is lyrical, and moving, and spine-tingling and frankly heart-breaking. That it is based on an actual illuminated book makes it all the more amazing. Both, while missing here, are well worth anyone’s interest.


I would have thought "Frozen" would be on this list! And "Princess Mononoke" might have got an honourable mention too! I have to say "Wall-E" leaves me cold, so ranking it ten is fair enough for me.


Mononoke is 97


Great list….love, love, LOVE Spirited Away.


Spirited Away is defenitly one of my favourite movies, but Finding Nemo should be higher up! Just my opinion…


Grave of the Fireflies and Akira should definitely be on this list


@Halie — It’s films of the 21st century, which is there in the title. Both of those are 1988.


Shame that no one seems to have heard of Mind Game. Completely off-the-wall anime from around 2004. Has some of the most surreal, visually memorable animation I’ve ever seen and has a great story to boot.


Ernest et Celestine should have made it onto the list, especially over The Triplets of Belleville. I don’t quite agree with that top 5, Wall-E should have been moved higher up over Spirited Away and the Incredibles. Disappointed to see Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit only as an honourable mention….


You completely overlooked "5 centimeters per second" and the "Eden of the East" movies!!! And yes, Frozen is annoyingly overrated.

Todd S.

Beautiful List, though I’d find room for The Song of the Sea.


The Incredibles better than Persepolis? Never skip brain day.


Your list sucked.


Hotel Transylvania? Shrek? Puss in Boots? how did you miss out on such great movies

Max S

Nightmare Before Christmas….Iron Giant. Both easily better than Monster House. They’re not even on your Honorable Mentions, that’s messed up. I get it was surely somewhere on the 100, but should have made the list.

Duder NME

I liked LEGO Movie for the most part, but its central tenant runs counter to both the overbranding in the film, as well as the one-sided perspective of its revealed storyteller, as if there’s only one way to play with LEGO. That was rather hypocritical.


IF rotoscopes don’t qualify, then how can mocaps like Tintin?


I thought ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ would be much higher, top 5 maybe. It’s in my top 3 movies of all genres for sure.


I could quibble about whether "The Incredibles" is Bird’s best film or not – but the one of his that i prefer ("The Iron Giant") definitely belonged on this list. (I still regret that Bird never managed to make the animated version of Will Eisner’s "The Spirit" that he worked on for years – if only because if it had happened, we might have been spared Frank Miller’s horrible thing.)


To those who keep saying It’s Such a Beautiful Day isn’t 60 minutes…it’s true that it is the third part of a trilogy and as a standalone third part of said trilogy it isn’t 60 minutes. BUT…It’s Such a Beautiful Day is also the name for the trilogy, which was released as such along with the final part. It’s Such a Beautiful Day is also the title for the complete 60 minute movie. That’s what they’re referring to, the complete movie as assembled in 2012.


A strong list, though direly missing The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. I want to especially thank you for including THE WIND RISES so highly, because I believe it is a vastly underrated masterpiece. The more you look into the history and biography surrounding the film, the more you realize that this is Miyazaki’s final statement on art, war, the role of the artist in society, and his own 50-year animation career. It is filled with references to his other works, carefully placed to lend deeper significance and nuance to his themes, and is moreover the most personal film he has ever made. Miyazaki’s father made parts for the planes Jiro makes in the film (M spent years being angry at his father’s complacence over Japanese war crimes); his earliest memories are of the bombing of Japan; his brilliant career in animation is a close parallel to Jiro’s career in aviation; his obsessive work habits put strains on his marriage just like Jiro’s. There is no doubt about the film’s politics: Japan is closely linked to Germany, and all the Nazi evils show up in Japan. The poem by Paul Valery that keeps getting quoted is actually about standing in a graveyard by the sea, trying to figure out how to get past all the death and destruction of the past. I could go on, but here’s one final thing: Caproni, Jiro’s spirit guide in the film, was the designer of the Italian plane called the "Ghibli"–the inspiration for the name of the studio, and an Italian word for sirocco, a type of wild desert Wind.


For pure indie spirit and mind-warping storytelling, please consider "Tamala 2010"!

James Canon

I can’t agree w some of those like Wind Rises or Princess Kaguya, both good, but should be lower. However, #1 is hands down #1 for a reason. Can’t argue w how great Spirited Away is.


I’m not saying it’s obvious you’re missing some because there a lot of great kid animated movies.
Here’s what are also highly considered : Wolf Children, Song of the Sea, Secret of Kells, Legend of the Guardians : The Owls of Ga’Hoole, When Marnie was There or Wind Rises, 5 Centimeters per Second, Tangled, they’re a lot more.


Song of the Sea or The Secret of Kells should be on the list. Comparable to Hayao Miyazaki’s work.


i personally liked the Madagascar series a lot.. but saw its never raked anywhere,, even in oscars…. why? what wrong with the series… otherwise the ranking is good.. incredibls is great.. and I agree that frozen is perhaps overrated

Danny K

Hey guys, years ago maybe like 10 years ago or more, there was an animation that revolves around a little girl and giant bug like creatures, and their eyes light up at night i think ? And the little girl is with a group of people in the bugs?? The bugs has like multiple eyes..its not "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" Does anyone know? I know my description is pretty vague but thats all I remembered.

Danny Kan

Hey guys, years ago maybe like 10 years ago or more, there was an animation that revolves around a little girl and giant bug like creatures, and their eyes light up at night i think ? And the little girl is with a group of people in the bugs?? The bugs has like multiple eyes..its not "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" Does anyone know? I know my description is pretty vague but thats all I remembered.

    Sheena Blood

    DANNY KAN: Would it be the Glowworms that you are thinking of perhaps?


One of the best animated film is ‘Final fantasy 7 – Advent children’


While the anime present is a good representation of movies well received by a western audience, there are movies from that part of the world that were incredibly influential in huge ways. I understand, and agree, that this is not my list, and that your time and thought was put in to it, but movies like Ghost In The Shell, or Ninja Scroll or, how this is left off of a list of greatest animated movies I don’t know, Akira. While I seriously enjoyed this list, it was a blast to read, it definitely seemed it wasn’t quite representing the true heart of animation 100%. Regardless of my criticism, awesome list! I loved it!


I’m quite satisfied with your list. I have seen almost all of them and the ones which i haven’t I have already downloaded them for a watch(since the list seems genuine
). Comment was specially to point out that "YES! FROZEN had all reviews exaggerated". It has a bleak and quite itinerary content. I didn’t like the movie. The ones this list mentions are all awesome movies to spend your time upon.


A list without Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt through Time and Perfect Blue is just a funny joke


Add your voice to the conversation…


Great movies…i had seen the most but got to know about some of them now…which i am surely going to see….thanks for the list.


One that should definitely be on there is Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. It has the most stunning stop-motion animation that I have ever seen, the music is wonderful and it’s also a hilarious parody of Victorian era England. (P.S. The ending also may leave you in tears).

Andreas Marggraf

Akira should 100% be also on this list.


Very well thought-out list! I couldn’t agree more.

Santanu Ghosh

Seriously wally so far down ? And incredibles at 2 … are you married yet ?


No mention of Totoro. Also whats with the over use of the word painterly? It hardly makes sense in some cases…

Chris DeMarco

Very pleased with the way the pixar selections were ranked (though TS3 was garbage)… EXTREMELY happy that incredibles is number 2 on this list…the soundtrack alone earns it a spot in the top 5!

Rok Starr

This is by far the worst top 25 list ever. Half these movies suck! The Japanese movie style is creepy and visually gross. Whoever made this list has a really strange taste. Must be one of thosee

Bernard von Simson

Where in the world is Shrek? Shrek is one of the best animated films of all time and it is an outrage that discredits the name of this website to have Shrek simply omitted.


The Incredibles at #2? Wall-E/Toy Story that low? I know someone will always have a difference in opinion, but this list could be much better. Love #1 though.

John Mann Dresden

One word, Akira

Emperor Zerg Rush

A list for films released 2001 and beyond, yet an alarming number of people seem to be unaware that most of the films they’re whining about being excluded were excluded based on the lone fact that they were all released PRIOR to 2001. People can’t be this stupid… they just can’t.

Aswin Ash

Incredibles at 2…are you kidding me…its curious why people adore this movie.. for me is mediocre at its best…same for finding nemo….but happy to see waltz with bashir and its such a beautiful day in this list…..


"Dead Leaves" is DEFINITELY NOT a kids movie, is should not be "hovering near the top of the list".


ANON, what does not being a kids’ movie have to do with this list? It’s best animated films, nothing to do with age appropriateness.

Huh... are you serious? Where is FROZEN? It is the best animated movie for 2014 i guess. Or do you excluding movie made in 2014. I think this list doesn't work. Sorry, but i didn't understand. Thanks anyway for making me avoid this blog for the future.

Servus Maximus

My name is not important

No Toy Story?

Rabin Bhandari

I am just amazed by the list. How come Wolf Children did not make the list. One of the best animated movies ever.


who the fuc picked thi lis


Where’s "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Iron Giant"?!


I just realized this was only ranking films from the 21st century. Oops.




No Toy Story? I Like this movie.


    Toy Story was not in this century, it was 1995


I simply do not believe that the highest grossing animated film of all time does not even earn a spot on this biased list. I do not believe Frozen is the best animated film but for fucks’ sake any film that earns a billion dollars means that it appeals to the audience. Can I just say your reason for not including Frozen is so ridiculously pathetic. “Don’t see the fuzz”, REALLY? The people who make this list are just sick of hearing Frozen being all around the world during the time this list was made.
It’s actually quite shocking as this is a decent list covering many good animated films, yet its reason to exclude Frozen is disgusting.
People who are claiming Frozen is overrated, it perhaps is, but in this list, Frozen is massively underrated.
I simply cannot believe such a professional-looking list would blatantly ignore the highest grossing animated film of all time and justify it with reasons that make the writers sound uneducated.


Is this list a joke? No seriously, this has to be a joke right? The top 25 of the 21st century and you don’t include Frozen? Have you even watched it? I mean, I know it’s kind of cool to call it “overrated” now, but I thought that was just a middle school thing.

I like that you didn’t include Home on the Range, since that would have made it too obvious. I’m on to you though. I know this list was meant to be a joke.


This list is wonderful. While I would put Toy Story 3 a bit higher and definitely include Wolf Children, the fact that you have It’s Such a Beautiful Day as high as it is shows that you guy definitely have not only done your research, but have some great taste in animation. Undeniably a masterpiece, as are your #3 and #1 choices. A great list all around.

Also, to everyone going literally insane over Frozen being overlooked, here’s some advice. Get over it. Make your own list, or maybe watch the ones on this one before you make up your mind and insist that it’s immediately better than all other films included, and a disgrace for it to be not included.


Totally agree about Frozen. It’s great but not amazing. I think it’s just come at the right time. It’s the first disney princess film with a strong princess song to come around in a whiiiiiiiiile, and a new generation of kids are jumping onto it because it’s their first taste of this. But, like the the little mermaid did for my generation, Frozen will pave the way for greater things to come (hopefully)


Where is Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius? That’s my favorite animated movie ever, besides The Iron Giant.

çizgi film

Very well thought-out list! I couldn’t agree more.



Buck Reed

Very interesting list share. Read it!

Jack Mort

When the Wind Blows would be a good addition. Fantastic Planet, too. I guess, though, different generations will appreciate different themes and styles.

Jack Mort

Maybe not amazing, but some great films:
Fritz the Cat, Heavy Metal, Rock and Rule, Ferngully, Secret of NIMH (Anything Bluth’d, really), Iron Giant (except you may cry), Grave of Fireflies (I hope you’d cry), Akira, Princess Mononoke, The cheesy first Pokémon movie, The Tune, Angels and Idiots, I Married a Strange person, Adventures of Mark Twain, Brave Little Toaster, Metropolis, aaaaaaand how ’bout the Halloween Tree and Little Nemo’s Adventures in Slumberland.
Not knocking your list, just adding some more flicks to eye-eat.

Jack Mort

Almost Forgot…. American Tale, Fievel goes West, Tekkonkinkreet, Donald in Mathmagic Land (very deep stuff), The Phantom Tollbooth,
The Animated Hobbit (and LOTR – ROTK), Laputa ‘Castle in the Sky’, South Park – Bigger Longer and Uncut, The Pagemaster, The Dark Crystal (not exactly animated), Yellow Submarine, and We’re Back – the Dinosaur story.

Sheriss A Nilson

Not even a mention of Watership Down, The Secret Life of Nhim, Ice Age, or The Good Dinosaur?

Jyothi Mohan

No Grave of the fireflies?? No totoro. No max and me. No song of the sea. I find a lot of good movies excluded. This list totally doesn’t cut for me.


This rundown is superb. While I would put Toy Story 3 somewhat higher and certainly incorporate Wolf Children, the way that you have It’s Such a Beautiful Day as high as it is demonstrates that you fellow unquestionably have done your exploration, as well as have some extraordinary taste in liveliness. Verifiably a perfect work of art, similar to your #3 and #1 decisions. An extraordinary rundown all around.

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