Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE movies, but especially animated movies in particular. Usually, I get teased that some of my favorite films are “for kids” but I just brush it aside and watch what I like. Sadly, I don’t think the general public always realizes just how big an impact these stories can have, from the downright mesmerizing animation, to the unforgettable and iconic characters.
Of course, everyone knows the classic animated movies they grew up with, such as Beauty and the Beast, How to Train Your Dragon, The Incredibles, and so on. And like everyone else, I, too, love all these movies, but recently, I was on a movie binge one weekend and realized I had so many favorites that no one ever talks about!
So as much as I love Disney and Pixar, I think it’s time to shed some light on some animated movies that might have flown under your radar. And don’t worry-these aren’t “just for kids.”
If you like: Big Hero 6, The Incredibles, The Road to El Dorado…. Then Watch:
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Okay, I lied. I’m starting off this list with a Disney movie. But I bet half of you didn’t even realize this was made by Disney. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is considered somewhat of a failure by the company, getting shoved under the rug after the success of its Renaissance Era. In my eyes, it is still a great story about the lost civilization, one that took its viewers on a great adventure with characters that were super unique for their time. When I recently saw it, I found it to still be hilarious, entertaining, and filled with so much heart. Atlantis is worth the watch for the adventure alone, but along the way, you will find mystery and a movie that was ahead of its time.
If you like: The Lion King, Aladdin, How to Train Your Dragon… Then Watch:
Prince of Egypt
In my opinion, this movie might be a forgotten masterpiece. If you are looking for a story to teach yourself about Moses and the Ten Plagues of Egypt, this movie may not be exactly spot-on for historical accuracies, but what you will watch is a film that will tug at your heartstrings. Truth be told, this movie actually scared me when I was little – and it still kind of does – as the themes and visuals can be really grim. But all of that is blown away with the gorgeous animation (the parting of the Red Sea still gives me chills), the beautiful music, and overall message of hope that isn’t overshadowed by just preaching religious themes.
If you like: Rise of the Guardians, Arthur Christmas, Up… Then Watch:
With hand-drawn animation being a dying art form these days, I was beyond excited when Netflix would be releasing a film that pays direct homage to those movies of the past. Klaus is animated like a beautiful storybook, bring the icy world come to life with warm coloring and a heartfelt (and somewhat ingenious?) story. I think it managed to make me cry on three separate occasions, and even though it’s a Christmas film, I sometimes put it on when I’ve had a hard day and need that warm feeling. Klaus is an impressive Netflix original that is one of the best-animated films of the past decade, and we need more people talking about it before it’s lost forever to the company’s vast catalog.
If you like: Tangled, The Little Mermaid, Moana… Then Watch:
Many people might have watched Anastasia growing up and immediately grouped her in with the rest of the Disney princesses, but the movie still represents some of the best animation the 90s had to offer. An oldie but a goodie, this movie gives a fairy-tale spin to a real-life tragedy (so again, maybe not the most historically accurate film), but it makes a tragic tale a little more exciting and romantic. The animation is beautifully hand-drawn, the musical numbers are memorable, and features a well-rounded protagonist and love-interest to rival any Disney film. Maybe I feel a little bit of nostalgia for the film, but there must be a reason I’m still singing “Once Upon a December” after all these years.
If you like: Coco, Finding Nemo, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse… Then Watch:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings may be an engaging adventure story for kids, but it’s also a complex story for film lovers to analyze in detail. Honestly, all of Laika’s films are severely underrated (such as ParaNorman and Coraline), but I feel that Kubo always gets the shorthand of the stick. With the jaw-dropping stop-motion animation, it is so clear to see how much time, effort and love went into this project. Although it follows a “videogame” kind of story (retrieve three items to fight the final boss), the main character remains a positive force despite suffering a tragic loss, as well as featuring animation that just needs to be seen.
If you like: Zootopia, Song of the Sea, Loving Vincent… Then Watch:
The Little Prince
To keep it short, this Netflix original is simply magical. The Little Prince is an adaptation coming from the timeless novel that is translated so well into the visual medium. Utilizing that Pixar recipe of beautiful animation with mature content, it makes a film that goes beyond its original material and delves deep into the meaning of growing up. Telling two parallel stories, the movie uses a blend of computer and stop-motion animation that juxtaposes both worlds so well. It’s truly a fantastic movie that deserves much more attention than it got and definitely had me bawling by the credits.
If you like: Your Name, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle…. Then Watch:
A Silent Voice
After the tragic arson attack that occurred at Kyoto Animation, I think this film takes on an even deeper meaning. Like many other movies on this list, it has a unique and mature story, dwelling on a topic that is often considered taboo in animation. The writers clearly weren’t afraid to dive into the topics of physical disorders, bullying, and even suicide. The soundtrack and art are both superb, but it has so many great elements that come together to create an amazing experience. I think this is a film you should go into as blind as possible, so I won’t say anything else other than it’s available to watch on Netflix right now.
I could probably create a never-ending list of my favorite animated movies, but I’ll stop here so you can start watching these underappreciated gems. Although these movies may be marketed at younger audiences, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we can take away as adults. Animation is a medium, not a genre, and there are so many stories that can be told without the limits of reality. And if anything, hopefully I convinced you that adding a little bit of animated beauty and magic to your watch list isn’t a bad thing, or as the dreaded saying goes: “just for kids.”