With the recent release of The Pirates! Band of Misfits my mind has been wandering back to days spent watching Wallace and Gromit and classic Disney movies. Despite being a genre that gets overlooked and not taken seriously due to their tendency to be family oriented stories, animated movies make up some of my favorites of all time. Here is a list of my top ten favorites, many exhibiting the fact that they all aren’t geared solely at kids and if they are it is in no way a bad thing.
10. A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (1989)
Every time I find my self eating cheese and crackers I can’t stop myself from thinking about Wallace and Gromit and how I wouldn’t ever have to worry about running out of cheese again if I were able to get to the moon. Wallace and Gromit have always been one of my favorite duos so forgive me if this entry in the list is particularly subjective. This cheese loving team provides some incredibly witty and original stories and fantastically well done clay-animation. All of Wallace and Gromit’s early movies are fantastic (The Wrong Trousers just barely missed the list) but A Grand Day Out is too classic and too fantastic not to be on here.
9. Monster’s Inc. (2001)
This is another childhood favorite of mine. I remember seeing it in theaters and being amazed by the creative and heartfelt story and after watching it again recently still finding myself equally amazed. Pixar has always impressed me when it has come to telling original stories in a world of constantly regurgitated tales. Following and explaining the monsters that lurk in your closet and under your bed, Monster’s Inc. tells the story of two monsters, Mike and Sulley, as they go about their business and as they deal with the true monsters: humans. Every time I watch this movie I find my lip quivering when Sulley puts that last piece of wood in the door, no matter how hard I fight it. With the prequel, Monster’s University set for release sometime next year you can be sure to be seeing Mike and Sully’s face on the silver screen once again.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Miyazaki is one of the masters of animation. The worlds he creates are always so spectacular and magical, and the setting for Howl’s Moving Castle is no different. Miyazaki isn’t just fantastic at creating worlds but his characters are always deep and strongly developed and he is well-known for writing strong female protagonists. Howl’s Moving Castle follows my all time favorite Miyazaki lead lady, Sofi, as she becomes cursed by a witch and how she seeks out Howl, a wizard powerful enough to set her free. While all of Miyazaki’s film are phenomenal, Howl’s Moving Castle has the perfect balance of action and magic and rich characters and story to satisfy all audiences while not disappointing a single one.
7. Up (2009)
So Pixar is notorious for it’s heart wrenching endings and Up is notorious for instead starting on such a terrible note. In those first ten minutes of the movie, Up tells one of the best love stories of our time, better than most love stories told over the course 2 hours or more. While telling such a beautiful short story it quickly comes to a heart breaking end, leading to the movie starting on a down note, perfectly setting the mood for the next scene. You really understand Carl as a character at this early point and why he is a such a grumpy old man making you feel attached to this character you normally wouldn’t. But from there it only goes up (no pun intended) and continues on to tell the story of an amazing adventure while also building some of best and richest characters Pixar has ever made.
6. The Animatrix (2003)
As I have written about before, The Matrix is one of the favorites of all time and The Animatrix is my favorite addition to the series. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, The Animatrix is a collection of nine short stories pertaining to the Matrix. All of these stories build on the already brilliant Matrix universe, expanding it by exploring the corners of the world that the trilogy doesn’t shed light on. Each short has a different artist which gives the collection a really eclectic style making it feel kind of unreal working perfectly with several of the stories underlying themes of existentialism. Regardless of your feelings towards the later 2 films in the series if you enjoyed the first movie you will definitely love The Animatrix.
5. Akira (1988)
This is a movie I only recently discovered while searching for the best sci-fi movies. While only recently discovered, it is one I immediately fell in love with. The story takes place in Neo-Tokyo and follows a bike gang as one of the members encounters a strange boy and soon discovers he has great power. This is one of those movies that the plot is hard to describe without making it sound weird or without giving away too much of the plot. All in all it is not only one of the best animated movies I have ever seen but also one of the better sci-fi ones as well. The movie is almost 25 years old now so some of the animation is a little cheesy but the story more than enough makes up for that.
4. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Everyone knew this was going to be on here somewhere. The Toy Story series is obviously a fantastic one but it has always held a special place in my generation’s heart. We watched Andy open Buzz as a kid at the same age and then heading off to college as he did the same. This emotional connection to the story only heightens the already phenomenal conclusion to a phenomenal series. I know there was so much doubt about this movie prior to its release, retreading on such a beloved series but after watching it all doubts immediately vanished. The fear that Toy Story 3 was simply an attempt for Pixar to make some more money was abolished after seeing the absolutely perfect conclusion to one of my all time favorite series. Many movies and series will have great endings but few have that absolutely perfect one that Toy Story 3 has.
3. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Hayao Miyazaki has an interesting approach to character design and the allotment of negative and positive qualities. He never tries to write a purely evil character or force but always tries to write characters with both positive and negative qualities. He makes the motivation of every antagonist clear leading to more believable and relatable characters, heroes and villains alike. This duality approach to design while apparent in all of his films is most clear in Princess Mononoke. This fantasy adventure story follows Ashitaka as he investigates the origins of a demon who attacked his village and alleviate the curse it laid upon him while it was at it. The film proceeds into a thought-provoking battle between the preservation of nature versus progress and industrialization with gods, demons, samurai and action in between. While all of Miyazaki’s films are amazing Princess Mononoke sits above the others and is hands down my favorite from the director.
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Yes I am from Portland and yes I love Wes Andersen. No I am not a hipster. Andersen is just a fantastic director who makes great movies and his first delve into animation is no exception. Fantastic Mr. Fox is Andersen’s take on the Roald Dahl original and is absolutely fantastic (pun intended). Andersen takes the already brilliant story and combines it with his quirky style, an amazing cast, and a stunning soundtrack into a cinematically stunning, feel good film. This charming, heartwarming and clever story is delivered perfectly by George Clooney, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and Michael Gambon. While being a clay-mation movie it is still able to capture some shots that the cinematographer in me gets excited about such as the scene where Mr. Fox and his wife are talking with the water gushing past them in the background – gives me shivers every time. If there is one thing Wes Andersen does well, it’s style and style is definitely not lacking from this fantastically quirky film.
1. The Incredibles (2004)
I absolutely love this movie. So it’s clear that Pixar does animated movies well but with The Incredibles it showed the world hat it could also make an awesome and original super hero movie. Pixar created its own universe of super heroes and came out with its own movie that rivals most other super hero movies out there. The thing they do incredibly well is tell a sweet super hero story while at the same time presenting and telling a great family story. They blend the two together so well that neither side is weakened by the other producing an amazing super hero movie which just so happens to also be a great family film. While not being nearly as dark or gritty as the Watchmen, the story I have always felt was an inspiration to The Incredibles, it still has all of the action, super heroes, gadgets, and powers which makes the former and the rest of the genre so exciting, as well as being heart warming on top of it all. When asked about my favorite super hero movie a handful always come to mind that I have to decide between and The Incredibles is always among them. Not only is The Incredible a great animated movie, and not only is it a great super hero movie, it is just a straight up great movie. One of my all time favorites. With a sequel currently in the works I couldn’t be more excited.
So that is my list of my top 10 personal favorites. Sorry for the lack of variety but Pixar and Miyazaki are just the kings of the genre. Also I would like to apologize for the lack of any DreamWorks or Disney movies showing up on the list. Both are some of the top dogs as far as animated movies go but neither of them were able to compete with Studio Ghibli and Pixar and the others on the list, but admittedly How to Train Your Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland were all very close to making the list and just barely missed it.
So what are some of your guys’ favorites? Tell me about them as well as your own personal lists in the comments below or email ‘em to us at email@example.com!
How to Train Your Dragon
Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
A Scanner Darkly