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Animation is not exactly a genre but a medium, so my favorites list here contains movies of varying genres that happened to be made animated. Some are appropriate for all ages but others are not. Some are science fiction epics, others are only slice of life films that happened to be made animated.

Animation allows much greater freedom than live action since in animation anything is possible: you just have to imagine and drawn it. For this reason animation is the ideal medium for fantasy and science fiction and today the big budget hollywood genre movies are a mix between animation and live action (such as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Avengers, Captain Sky, The Star Wars Prequels and, specially, Avatar, which is properly called an animation movie with live action elements), though they call it "special effects".

After I first watched Spirited Away I had an epiphany and really began to watch animation in general and anime in particular. Anyway, here at the 50 best animated films (including three half an hour short films) that I have watched in order of approximate preference.

I have included Russian, French, Italian, Japanese, Canadian, American and British films in this list, I advise for all to try to watch these movies in their original language, even though they are all dubbed the original dubbing preserves the true intentions of the director when the film was made and hence watching it in the original language is always the best way.



"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



Edit: Changed The Animatrix for Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue, which I liked more.

50 - Perfect Blue (2003)



Satoshi Kon's first movie is excellent, it is the only psychological thriller in this list.

49 - Bambi (1942)



One of Disney's greatest films, Bambi features some of the best hand drawn animation ever in terms of fluidity. An obvious classic, though Bambi suffers from a few severe flaws that lowered it's placement in my list.

48 - Allegro non Troppo (1976)



This Italian film is a spoof of Disney's Fantasia is about as good as the original. Featuring an orchestra and a collection of animated short films that work as music clips, exactly like in Fantasia but here with much more humor.

47 - Fantastic Planet (1973)



This fantastic acid trip French film is a must viewing for those that like science fiction. It tells the story of a (implied) future where an advanced alien race of humanoid giants discovered a devastated earth and captured large number of humans and transported then to be used as pets in their home planet. The humans gradually organize themselves and finally incite in a revolt.

It won an special prize in the cannes film festival.

The trailer:


46 - Persepolis (2007)



This black and white French animated autobiography is based on an autobiographical graphic novel just like in the tradition of Japanese manga adapted to film.

The trailer:


45 - Imaginationland (2007)



South Park's best movie wasn't their original movie but in fact their imaginationland three part 70 minute long episode. Indeed, one of the greatest american animated films of all time.

44 - The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)



And the first Ghibli film to show up here is also one of their latest films. Featuring Ghiblig's trademark sensibility and gorgeous beauty but despite these qualities the lack of story development means that in 2010 Arriety wasn't my pick for best animated film of the year.

The original trailer:

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43 - Fantasia (1940)



Like Allegro non Troppo, Fantasia is a collection of animated interpretations of some of the most famous pieces of classical music. It is unforgettable and I think almost everybody here has already watched this movie.

42 - The Triplets of Belleville (2003)



And another French movie makes the list, Chomet's the Triplets of Belleville is a great comedy movie. It really explores all the absurdities one can do in animation.

The trailer:



41 - Watership Down (1978)



This British tearjerker is a very simple tale of a few rabbits that try to find a new home after one of them has premonition that their current home will be destroyed by the encroaching man.



40 - Mind Game (2004)



This Japanese movie features some of the most awesome moments in any film I have watched. The scenes with god and when the main character uses his buttocks to kill a Yakuza gangster are some of the most funny and exciting scenes I my memory.

Another unforgettable experience.



39 - The Incredibles (2004)



And yet the first Pixar movie to show up on my list, truly one of their best films, The Incredibles was a large step forward in 2004 as it was perhaps the most complex big budget full length animated film made in the US up to that point, running at 115 minutes, it is also Pixar's longest film and perhaps the second longest US animated feature after Fantasia (120 minutes).

It features Pixar's near flawless storytelling skills but also suffers from a certain lack of gravitas.

38 - Bonjour Galaxy Express 999 (1979)



Running at 130 minutes, this is the second longest movie in this list. Animated films tend to be short because each second of film costs money to make which is good because it forces the director to not waste any second of the movie and thus tends to increase the average quality.

To make this 130 minutes movie on a small budget the director simply used very, very low quality animation. Another severe flaw is that the movie tried to adapt a very long story into a single movie, resulting into a nonsensical plot. It was horrible for my eyes to watch this movie and the plot didn't make any sense, but, despite these flaws this movie managed to move me greatly, in other words, it was much more flawed than The Incredibles but I liked this even more because of it's abundance of gravitas.

It was also the highest grossing Japanese movie in 1979. The first time an animated film did that (and certainly not the last time).

37 - Tokyo Godfathers (2003)



Satoshi Kon third film, Tokyo Godfathers is a Japanese drama film, and I do not consider it his best film but still was a great enough film watching experience for me to put it into my top 50 favorites in animation. Satoshi Kon was a genius.

The (horrible) US trailer, it looks like a joke trailer:



36 - The Plague Dogs (1982)



Made by the same people who made Watership Down, The Plague Dogs is an even more powerful drama about two dogs who scaped from a research lab and are hunted down by the government because they suspect that the dogs may be carrying diseases.

It is an English language full length animated feature adult film. Though they tried to market it for children and it was a massive flop.

The trailer:



35 - From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)



Ghibli's last movie, directed by Miyazaki's son, Goro, is one of those slice of life drama movies that Ghibli usually makes between their fantasy blockbusters. It is also better than many of these. It is set in 1964 and features a girl who lost her father in the Korean war and is in highschool.

The characters, however, look a bit to smooth for my tastes, as they appear to fall into the uncanny valley. It is also not my pick for best animated film of 2011. Despite this flaw, however, this film is one of the best animations I ever watched.



34 - The Illusionist (2010)



While Arriety is good, my pick for the best animated movie of 2010 was Chomet' The Illusionist. This British-French comedy-drama is significantly better than The Triplets of Belleville as it has much more gravitas.



33 - Wings of Honneamise (1987)



An obvious classic 1980's Japanese movie.

Amazing animation, one of the most impressive hand drawn animation ever combined with a richly detailed world and a rather sophisticated story.

The trailer:



32 - Ratatouille (2007)



This American comedy is one of the best animations of 2007 (but not my favorite 2007 animated film), is one of Pixar's greatest movies.

31 - Memories (1995)



This three part feature length anime film is one of the best movies of the 1990's, written by Otomo and whose first part (which is the best and longest part) was directed by Satoshi Kon.

Trailer:




Mind Game is my favorite animated film of all time.

A shame you don't like Waltz with Bashir much. why?



I have Plague Dogs on my watchlist for ages but I'm really sensitive to the animal stuff.Is it cruel?



Movie Forums: There's Just No Accounting For Taste
I have Plague Dogs on my watchlist for ages but I'm really sensitive to the animal stuff.Is it cruel?
Yes, I had a headache after watching it. Really well done but very depressive. I'll never see it again.



Some honorable mentions:

Ninja Scroll (1993)


Waltz with Bashir (2008)*


How to Train Your Dragon (2009)


Ocean Waves (1993)


Pom Poko (1994) **


* Excellent, but slightly below the level of the film at the bottom of my top 50. I posted this for the fanboys annoying me.

** I didn't like it the first time I watched it because I watched it on the same day as Only Yesterday and the contrast made it appear mediocre. Bot if measured on its own, it is a quite impressive work of art.



A shame you don't like Waltz with Bashir much. why?
I found it quite excellent. The fact is that there are many excellent animated films and a top 50 list must exclude many great movies. I would have included it if the list were a top 60.

Why would you think I don't like it very much? There are more great animated films than you might think.



Also notice the Pixar effect. First post: 0 Pixar movies, 1 rep, Second post: 2 Pixar movies, 4 rep. True, they are the most widely known great animations as there are two producers of global blockbuster animation films: Pixar and Dreamworks and out of those only Pixar reached genuine greatness (even though Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon show some hints of greatness).



30 - Taiyou no ouji Horusu no daibouken (1968)


Takahata's debut film is still one of his best works. A true work of genius that revolutionized animation. A kiddie film on surface but a much more complex work underneath. Watch it with an open mind to fully get it.

The trailer doesn't do justice:


29 - Up (2009)


Another one of Pixar's greatest movies. The first 12 minutes, however, attain a new level of sublimity and if were extended into the rest of the movie could make a film that cracked into the top 10. However, after the beginning the rest of the movie is "only" very good, in fact, below Ratatouille's average level. Still, the whole movie is quite an impressive accomplishment.

28 - Night of the Galactic Railroad (1985)


One of the greatest animated masterpieces and still quite unknown among film buffs. Also represents one of the first films to use CGI, and here CGI is used in several scenes already in 1985.

The trailer, lacks subtitles:


27 - The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)



Miyazaki's worst movie shows up. Indeed, the man is a genius who made each of his films with care and attention to detail, crafting a timeless masterpiece after another.

Trailer (didn't know this movie cost a whopping 500 million yen, corrected for inflation that about 35% of the production cost of Spirited Away!):



26 - The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)


Hosoda's first film where he had full creative control, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an adaptation of a novel which was previously adapted into a live action film in the 1980's:

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (1983)


Anyway, the animated one is much better. The original trailer:




Waltz With Bashir is surely better than The Animatrix.

This list is interesting though. I'm pretty nubtastic when it comes to animated films, so perhaps I'll find myself some things to watch.

I'm especially interested in Night on the Galatic Railroad, seeing that it was made 7000 years into the future.



25 - Ghost in the Shell (1995)



An obvious classic shows up. Ghost in the Shell is one of the most popular adult animated films and a must watch for anyone who likes science fiction. Perhaps Oshii's best work (I haven't watched his earliest movies to be certain).

The trailer, notice how amazing it looks, truly one of the most beautiful animated films ever made:



Interestingly, this movie was made with a budget of only 6 million dollars, compared with 55 million for a Disney film made around the same time (Lion King). I don't know how they managed to spend that much money on Lion King, maybe Disney animators are much better paid plus the cost of celebrity voice acting and other below the line expenses.

24 - The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)



My favorite new animation director makes his first and not last appearance. Makoto Shinkai is another genius who made a half and hour short film with only his laptop, an amazing feat. He and his wife provided the voices and the score was composed by a friend. After the success of his short film they gave him a modest budget which he used to make this powerful, if still quite low budget, movie.

Here is the trailer, with subtitles:



23 - Wall-E (2008)


Pixar's best movie is without a doubt Wall-E. While UP attains sublimity in it's first 12 minutes, Wall-E maintains a slightly lower level of sublimity for a much longer duration.

22 - Akira (1988)


With Ghost in the Shell, one of the two most famous adult animated films. Also excellent and a must watch classic, though it has a somewhat overrated reputation in relation to it's historical importance in the development of Japanese animation. Although it was an important film, it wasn't a landmark film in any way, instead it was one of the many anime films made in the years following the success of Nausicaa in 1984, the true cinematic landmark of modern Japanese animation.

The quality of the animation was, with Wings of Honneamise, among the best at the time (late 1980's). I don't need to post a trailer for the most famous anime film among international film buffs.

21 - Tale of Tales (1979)



One of the short films in this list. Though I only included the long short films (those around 30 minutes), because only these can provide some actual film-like experience.

This is it people, it's status in animation is the same as Citizen Kane in live action ("greatest ever made"). And like Citizen Kane, I was disappointed when I watched this movie. Not that it is bad, but when I watch something expecting it to be the greatest thing of all time in an area, it tends to disappoint me.

Still great though and I was impressed even though I don't particularly like stop motion animation and so this is the only (well, I think Fantastic Planet also uses some stop motion animation) film in this list with stop motion animation.

Overall, this is the animated version of The Mirror and can be watched on youtube, here is the first part:




Waltz With Bashir is surely better than The Animatrix.
I have a weakness for science fiction.

Also, art is subjective, I understand why art house lovers would love Waltz With Bashir, though I am trying to be accurate according to my own tastes here and not with other's.

Anyway, my suggestion for you is Yuri Norstein's Tale of Tales, which some say "did what Tarkovsky's The Mirror failed".



Note: I changed The Animatrix for Perfect Blue in the first post.

20 - Gauche the Cellist (1982)



And Takahata shows up again on the list. This rather short movie is still an impressive work of art.

The trailer:


19 - Ponyo (2008)



The most expensive animated film ever made in Japan, Ponyo cost a whopping 3,400 million yen, three times as much as Akira and it shows. The quality and detail of the animation is impressive. Combining the complexity of Japanese animation with the fluidity of Disney.

As always with Miyazaki, the execution is near flawless but this film lacks the power of his best films so it is ranked lower on this list than most of his films.



18 - The Man Who Planted Trees (1988)



Frederick Back is generally considered to be the greatest animator who ever worked on North America and this is his finest work, a half an hour short about a man who planted trees. A must see for fans of more sophisticated animation. It is my pick for greatest animated short film of all time.

The whole film is on youtube:


17 - Howl's Moving Castle (2004)



And the third Miyazaki film to show up. Not as strong as his earlier output but still an amazing achievement still better than over 95% of all animated films ever made.

It is my pick for one of the three or four most gorgeous animations ever made.

The trailer gives a taste of it's beauty:



16 - Scott Ternoman Must Die



Forget about short films and feature length films, the best North American animation of all time is an episode of a TV series called South Park. Truly the most powerful experience I ever had watching a fully contained TV series episode to this day as well as watching North American animation.

Make Love and Not Warcraft is also another milestone in animated TV series, though I still liked this episode more.



16 - Scott Ternoman Must Die

+1
Best South Park episode by far! I already watched this episode four times or something, just because it's so awesome and ridiculously dark!



Well, number 16 was the last non-Japanese film to show up on this list, the top 15 are all Japanese and in fact the only animations I ever watched which I rated
are the top 13 film on the list.

15 - Paprika (2006)



Nolan's Inception was based on Paprika, a film which I personally found superior. Satoshi Kon best work? No, his best film cracked the top 10.

Trailer:


14 - 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)



And another Shinkai film to the list. This one is considered to be as powerful as Grave of the Fireflies, hence, one of the top 2 most powerful animated films ever made.



13 - Summer Wars (2009)



The cheesiest animation ever but also among the best popcorn movies ever made.



12 - Castle in the Sky (1986)



And yet another Miyazaki movie shows up on the list, the fourth one to show up. Like every other Miyazaki film, this one is a must see.



11 - Porco Rosso (1992)



Miyazaki's only movie targeted at tired middle aged men, Porco Rosso is perhaps his work with greatest psychological depth.

And the fifth one to show up here. Don't worry, there is only five to go now which means that I managed, by watching tons of non-Ghibli anime, to reduce the proportion of Miyazaki films among my top 10 favorite animations to only half.

Though one can easily sense that Miyazaki simply operates on a whole another league when it comes to animation, either compared to other anime, or US or European animation.