The 50 Best Animated Films of All Time

September 1, 2016
As voted by you, the reader! We put it to you a while back - what's the best animated movie of all time? And you answered in droves. We collated, we speculated, we occasionally raised our eyebrows in surprise. In the end, we put them in a list, and hear they are.

1. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)spirited away

Hayao Miyazaki has long been considered Japan’s leading animator, but it was his 2001 fairy tale about a young girl forced to work in a bath-house for Japanese spirits that really put him on the map for Western audiences. Beautiful designs, a gentle, humane story and a genuine sense of mystical whimsy characterise this masterful film.

2. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, 2003)Finding-Nemo-stillOnly the first of several Pixar films to make the list, Finding Nemo melds a touching, instantly identifiable story about love, loyalty, friendship and independence with truly groundbreaking animation effects that still manage to awe us today. Any single shot of Nemo is jaw-dropping in its complexity and attention to detail.

3. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)toy-story-1-full-movieIf you want to feel old, remember that this movie came out 21 years ago. That’s when CGI animation went from experimental oddity to potent technological force, thanks to Tom Hanks’ good guy cowpoke, Tim Allen’s bombastic spaceman, and a top-notch, Oscar-winning script by Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen and Alex Sokolow.

4. Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013)Frozen-12Our first bonafide Disney entry, and of course it’s this one. Reconfiguring Hans ChristianAndersen’s The Snow Queen for a modern audience, Frozen is a genuine phenomenon,  the biggest smash hit Disney animation has had in years, and the bane of parents everywhere, who are a bit tired of that damn song. It is, mind you, a wonderful film, and one of the true immortal children’s classics of the last decade or so.

5. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)the-iron-giantThe reason why so many of us nodded sagely when Vin Diesel was cast as Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, The Iron Giant was a bomb on release, but the years have seen this tale of an alien robot whose friendship with a young boy makes him capable of choosing to be more than just a weapon. “Soo-per-man…”

6. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)howlsAdapting the book by English novelist Diana Wynne Jones, Miyazaki combines a steampunk aesthetic with traditional Japanese animation style to tell this story of a young girl, transformed into an old woman by a curse, and her adventures with the titular wizard during a time of war.
7. My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)my-neighbor-totoro-blu-ray-screenshot-0047773-I-824If you’re of a certain age, there’s a good chance this was your first Miyazaki, although it took him a while longer to really make his mark in the West (see Spirited Away, above). A leading contender for the title Most Charming Film of All Time, Totoro sees two young sisters getting up to hijinks in a woods populated by friendly nature spirits in mid-20th century Japan.

8. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)Lion-King-LightA key part of Disney animation’s early ’90s renaissance, The Lion King draws on a number of sources, (Hamlet, Kimba the White Lion) to present a simply gorgeous take of inter-generational intrigue, wars of succession, and catchy Elton John songs on the African savanna.

9. Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993) 06-dyk-nightmareThe best Tim Burton film not directed by Tim Burton (and frankly, it’s better than a lot of the stuff he did direct), this stop-motion phantasmagoria sees the lonely king of Halloweentown trying for a sideways promotion to run Christmas, with spooky, funny, catchy results. A big-hearted celebration of the creepy and the soppy, a never-ending supply of freshly-adolescent alienated kids ensures its immortality.

10. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)inside-out“What if feelings had feelings?” Taking the Pixar narrative model to its farthest possible conclusion, Inside Out lets us look inside the head of depressed little girl, anthropomorphising her core emotions and watching them bounce of each other in fascinating ways. Inside Out‘s basic metaphor is ratchet-tight and informs all the action and set-dressing within, and the fact that it does all that while still telling a fun, fast and heartwarming story is just remarkable.

11. Wreck It Ralph (Rich Moore, 2012)Wreck-It-RalphCasting a video game villain as your hero is an interesting twist, and cameos from a bunch of video game icons will lock in the nostalgia market, but Wreck-It Ralph‘s key success is the way it explores coming to terms with your place in the world and not letting your limitations define you. Also: Sarah Silverman.

12. Zootopia (Byron Howard and Rich Moore, 2016)ZootopiaINThe most child-friendly race-relations parable of all time, Zootopia uses a buddy cop movie story model to take us into a city populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals, and then puts some thought into how that might actually work.

13. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)akira_cover2Billed as “a towering neon nightmare to rival Blade Runner“, Katsuhiro Otomo’s adaptation of his own massive graphic novel series sees warring street gangs in near-future Tokyo caught up in a massive goverment conspiracy involving weaponised psychics. A key cyberpunk film, while more technically proficient films have merged (Ghost in the Shell) Akira‘s mood and tone have never been bested.

14. Beauty and the Beast )Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1992) batbFollowing the success of The Little Mermaid, this is the film that really put Disney back on top in the early ’90s – a gorgeous, unabashedly sentimental, rousing romantic take on the old French fairy tale. It was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and even today stands as arguably the best of the Disney Princess films.

15. Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014)baymax-big-hero-6-movie.0The first and – to date – only collaboration between Disney Animation and Marvel, this sees the Marvel Universe’s Japanese super-team re-imagined as a squad of tech-smart STEM students in a weird hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo, doing battle with an evil robotics genius. Extra points for having a hero, the hulking but huggable robot, Beymax, explicitly designed to heal, not harm.

16. Brave (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, 2012)image_b2206e08Pixar’s first princess is a far feistier specimen than her Disney cousins. Roaming medieval Scotland with her bow and arrows, she’d much rather be having adventures than being married off to seal a political alliance. Brave under-performed at the box office but has certainly struck a chord with young girls who would rather be scraping knees than sewing doilies (not that anyone does that any more).

17. Snow White (Walt Disney, 1937)snow-whiteThe biggest surprise here is how far down the list it got. Walt Disney’s first animated feature was a creative and financial gamble that paid off in spades and is still eminently enjoyable today. No Snow White = no Disney = no recognisable animation landscape. It is utterly seminal.

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18. Up (Pete Docter, 2009) upAKA The Heartwrencher. Up is basically a Voight KAmpff test – if someone doesn’t cry in the first ten minutes, you’re legally empowered to shoot them. After that, the film settles into being an utterly charming jungle adventure shared by a crabby old widower and a portly cub scout as they find themselves up against a maddened explorer and his army of intelligent dogs in the depths of primordial South America.

19. Pinocchio (Ben Sharpstein and Hamilton Luske, 1940) Pinocchio-pinocchio-4979498-960-720People forget how downright weird this one is. Adapted from Carlo Collodi’s 19th century children’s book, it’s a much darker and more surreal affair than you might remember: evil puppeteers, monstrous whales, conniving cats and foxes, errants boys being transformed into donkeys – once you get past kindly Geppetto and the Blue Fairy, everything else is nightmare fuel.

20. Fantasia (Walt Disney (prod) 1940)movies-disney-film-feature-2Disney’s third feature is an anthology film, showcasing eight different experimental animations against a sumtuous classical soundtrack. Night on Bald Mountain and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice remain the best known, but we’ll retain a fondness for the dancing hippos and the little mushroom people

21. Fritz the Cat (Ralph Bakshi, 1972)Fritz-the-Cat-2
22. Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995)The-Ghost-in-the-Shell-1024x576
23. Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988) Grave-of-the-Fireflies-thumb-560xauto-24189
24. Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, 2007) persepolis.sm__0
25. The BoxTrolls (Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, 2014)bxoter

26. How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, 2010)
27. Kung Fu Panda (John Stevenson and Mark Osborne, 2008)Kung-Fu-Panda-8

28. Monsters Inc (Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich and David Silverman, 2001) sc-mov-1217-monsters-inc-3d-20121219-001
29. Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Nick Park and Steve Box, 2005)wallace-and-gromit-the-curse-of-the-were-rabbit-lady-totington-captured-review
30. Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001)WakingLife_01_1
31. The Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)articleLarge
32. Rango (Gore Verbinsky, 2011)rango-street-9
33. Sausage Party (Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, 2016)sausage_party
34. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman. 2008)Waltz_with_Bashir


35. Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, 1959)Sleeping-Beauty-Featured
36. Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014)1427684857589_MOYvU61
37. Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, 2014)f61f4ac0-8bc6-0133-9820-0a6c20e5e327

38. South Park: Bigger. Lonher and Uncut( Trey Parker, 1999)screenshot-med-01
39. Fire and Ice (Ralph Bakshi, 1983)fireandice1
40. Tarzan (Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, 1999)

Tarzan stands on a tree limb in a scene from the new animated Walt Disney Co. film " Tarzan" (1999). Tony Goldwyn provides the voice talent for Tarzan.

41. Watership Down (Angela Morley‎ and Malcolm Williamson, 1978)

42. The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)

FILE - In this undated animated still frame released by Pixar, The Incredibles family: speedy 10-year old Dash, left, shy teenager Violet, second from left, the strong and heroic Mr. Incredible, center, and ultra-flexible Elastigirl appear in this scene from "The Incredibles." (AP Photo/Disney, File)

43. World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt, 2015)

45. The Jungle Book (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967)the_jungle_book_movie-5052
46. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)toy_story_3_pixar_movie
47. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)Wall-E_Cubecolors

48. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, 1993)Maskofthephantasm

49. The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2004)triplets-of-belleville

50. Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, Al Brodax)yellowsubmarine070612w



  1. Mitchell Hall

    Very interesting list. Glad to see Mask of Phantasm there! I feel Wreck it Ralph is way too high and would of liked to have seen for the animated Transformers movie.

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