The 100 Greatest Animated Films Of All Time (70-61)

“[Animation is] not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film, or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, ‘What’s it like working in the animation genre?’ I’m going to punch that person!” Brad Bird

Two of the worst camps of people are: 1) People that automatically dismiss animation as a children’s medium; and 2) People that argue that film isn’t art because it’s the byproduct of multiple collaborators and not a singular vision. This is ironic considering the process of making an animated film consists of a rapid succession of hand-drawn images in a sequential order. This is to say, every frame of an animated film is a work of literal art. And it might be the most important art form because as Bird put it, an animated film can be anything.

Not only is every genre available, but animation also affords artists the canvas on which to create anything. There’s always a level of suspension of disbelief when it comes to live action that animation never suffers from. Animation taps into the primordial part of our brains that separates the real and the unreal, the logic and the surreal. We subconsciously understand that since real people aren’t involved, the rules are different. There’s no other art form that speaks to every generation and culture. Because imagination is universal. And this list will be a celebration of the makers of imagination.

These are the 100 Greatest Animated Films of All Time.

70. The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Looking back on everything I watched growing up, I’m proud to say that I was one of the many kids thoroughly traumatized by everything Don Bluth released in the ’80s and ’90s. One of the films that affected me the most was The Secret of NIMH. Now that I’m older, I have to wonder what possessed my parents to think it was okay to let me watch this movie at the tender age of five. While The Secret of NIMH is billed as a kids’ movie, it deals with some of the darkest subject matter imaginable, up to and including using animals for lab experiments (the film openly describes it as torture), children in peril, and cold-blooded murder.

And yet, despite all of that, the film remains beloved in my memory. While the story is exceptionally dark, it is also beautifully animated. The animators spent a lot of time and effort putting this film together and it shows in each frame. Plus, there’s a fantastic score from Jerry Goldsmith, his first work on an animated film. The story goes that Goldsmith was so moved by the finale of the film that he spent a few extra weeks polishing the music to make sure it was just right. After all these years, The Secret of NIMH remains a classic, yet terrifying animated film that remains as lovely as the first time I ever sat down to see it. This is one of those films that everyone should see at least once in their lives.

Becky O’Brien

69. Peter Pan (1953)

I can, without a doubt, say that Peter Pan is truly a classic, holding a significant place in the history of Disney animation by showcasing the creativity and innovation for which the studio is renowned. The film introduces us to a colorful cast of characters, each with their own unique personalities and quirks. From the mischievous Tinker Bell to the villainous Captain Hook, these well-rounded characters have become embedded in our collective consciousness.

At the center of it all is Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. Beyond its technical achievements, this classic film also explores themes that are still relevant today. It delves into concepts such as friendship, family bonds, loyalty versus selfishness – topics that resonate with viewers across generations. Peter Pan holds an enduring appeal due to its ability to transport audiences into a whimsical world filled with memorable characters and the captivating story of resisting adulthood.

Romona Comet

68. The End of Evangelion (1997)

Maybe it’s just me, but I always remember the beginning of Neon Genesis Evangelion with fondness. I don’t think much about the ending at all. I remember watching it, and being generally disappointed. The final few episodes were in keeping with the general themes of the show, but were unsatisfying and talky. I was disappointed enough that I don’t think I even have the VHS or the manga collections anymore – I think I gave them away. I feel bad about it now, especially given that series creator Hideaki Anno was so devstated by the reaction to the end of the series that he contemplated suicide.

I always think about that fact, when I think about End of Evangelion, a film that Evangelion fans were desperate to see and yet was just as unsatisfying, in a different way, as the original ending. I think there’s a struggle going on – in the film, and with the filmmakers – about what humanity means. Do we deserve to be something more – to ascend, like the Human Instrumentality Project intends – or are we just slowly committing mass suicide? Shinji rejects the death of the human race, but are he and Asuka any different at the end of the film then they were at the beginning? Am I? Are you? It’s odd to look back and think that the original ending episodes – which I disliked – are much more hopeful than the film.

It’s a sign of the depth of the Evengalion series that I even contemplate those questions, and really we’re using (or I’m using) The End of Evangelion as a stand-in for the entire series. The film is, after all, meaningless without the series (or at least without Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, the companion film that serves as a recap of the first twenty-four episodes). Combining mecha combat, religious iconography, psychology, philosophy and parent/child relations was something never really seen before. Maybe there was just too much going on to ever reach a satisfying conclusion. That being said, I DID enjoy the film – and I’m glad Anno came back to it and tried to finish what he had to say. (And no, I haven’t seen any of the followup revisions.)

Bob Cram

67. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya follows a young princess from her days as a tiny girl to until she is a grown woman with some important decisions to make. The plot is quite a slow burn, but it’s a film that you will find yourself completely engrossed in before you know it. The art style of the animation really stands out and is very different from other Ghibli films. It’s an impressionistic style, reminiscent of watercolor paintings and ink art of ancient Japan. The effect is beautifully expressive. All in all, an epic production.

Lee McCutcheon

66. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

This was one of my favorites as a kid. I watched it over and over (usually while bouncing around on the floor pretending to be a Dalmatian). I loved the idea of Pongo and Perdita setting out on a daring adventure to rescue their kidnapped puppies, with the help of a diverse selection of other British animals. As a Disney villain, surely Cruella de Vil ranks among the best. I think we can all agree that puppy murder, especially to turn those puppies into fur coats, is just about as evil as it gets. But she is so damn delightfully evil that it’s fun to watch (even as you root for her to meet some terrible fate). As an adult, the movie hits a bit different in some ways. I can’t help but wonder how they’re going to manage taking care of all 101 puppies. I’ve only ever had 1 at a time, and it is an overwhelming job. Plus, where were all these puppies going to the bathroom? Yuck. Those things aside, the love between all these characters — the dogs, their puppies and their human pets — tugs at the heartstrings in all the right ways. Also, Roger’s Cruella song is an awesome jam, I could listen to it all day.

R.J. Mathews

65. Song of the Sea (2014)

I can’t believe this movie is nearly 10 years old. It seems like only yesterday I stumbled onto The Book of Kells and thought I had found something secret and special. Well, it was special but Tomm Moore’s work didn’t stay secret for very long. And for good reason. Song of the Sea’s animation is breathtaking and the storytelling is rich and warm and human. The fact that his stories focus on Ireland and Irish myth is just icing on the cake.

Billy Dhalgren

64. Anomalisa (2015)

Like every Charlie Kaufman film before it, Anomalisa delves deep into the human condition with a refreshing blend of dark humor introspection and emotional vulnerability. With its stunning visual style nuanced storytelling and memorable voice performances, Anomalisa is a prime example of the power of animation as a medium for mature storytelling. The film follows Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis a successful self-help author who finds himself trapped in a monotonous and soul-crushing existence. Suffering from a crippling sense of alienation Michael perceives everyone around him as having the same face and monotone voice until he encounters Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) a seemingly ordinary woman who stands out in his otherwise homogeneous world. Their brief encounter forms the heart of the film exploring themes of connection individuality and the search for meaning in a world that often feels indifferent.

Visually, Anomalisa is a work of art. The stop-motion animation is both meticulous and mesmerizing with incredible attention to detail in every frame. The characters’ movements and facial expressions are incredibly lifelike which adds to the emotional depth and authenticity of their performances. The use of puppets instead of traditional animation techniques allows for a tactile and tangible quality to the film further immersing the audience in its world. Kaufman’s screenplay is a perfect blend of wit melancholy and existential musings. The dialogue is sharp and thought-provoking, painting a vivid portrait of the characters’ internal struggles. It’s through the characters’ conversations and interactions that the film examines the broader themes of identity loneliness and the search for connection. Kaufman’s writing is never heavy-handed allowing the layers of meaning to unfold naturally and inviting the audience to reflect on their own experiences. What sets Anomalisa apart from other animated films, is its mature approach to storytelling. It doesn’t shy away from tackling complex emotions or uncomfortable truths. Instead, it embraces the messiness and ambiguity of human existence challenging the audience to confront their own fears, insecurities, and desires. The film’s themes resonate long after the credits roll leaving a lasting impact on the viewer.

Sailor Monsoon

63. Coraline (2009)

Coraline tells the story of a spunky 11-year-old girl who moves with her parents to a new home. Feeling lonely and bored, Coraline discovers a hidden door in her new home that leads to an idealized parallel universe. In this alternate world, she encounters Other Mother and Other Father, who initially appear loving and caring but are obviously hiding some sort of terrible secret. As the story unfolds, Coraline uses her bravery and wit to escape the clutches of the evil Other Mother, save her parents, and find her way home.

The story is based on a Neil Gaiman novella, which explains why the plot weaves fun, darkness, and adventure together so seamlessly. The vivid stop-motion animation is visually stunning — and creepy as hell. You know those dreams you have when you’re really, really sick? Like 102-degree fever dreams? That’s what I feel like I’m having when I watch Coraline. It’s a great movie, but I wouldn’t watch it after dark.

R.J. Mathews

62. Millennium Actress (2001)

Millennium Actress follows the life of Chiyoko Fujiwara, a retired actress who becomes the subject of a documentary about her illustrious career. As the cameras roll Chiyoko reminisces about her past unraveling a captivating tale that intertwines her personal history with the history of Japan. Satoshi Kon, known for his distinct visual style and complex narratives, delivers yet again with Millennium Actress. The animated sequences seamlessly blend Chiyoko’s memories with her film roles blurring the line between reality and fantasy. This technique creates a sense of dreamlike beauty and allows the viewers to immerse themselves in Chiyoko’s journey. One of the film’s greatest strengths lies in its ability to evoke deep emotion. Through Chiyoko’s memories the audience becomes intimately connected with her joys sorrows and desires. The narrative gracefully explores themes of love sacrifice and the relentless pursuit of a dream. The film examines the power of love and its ability to transcend time and space, the magic of cinema and the importance of memories in a way only Kon could. He was a master that is sorely missed.

Sailor Monsoon

61. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

There are a million time travel films. In fact, this is the fifth adaptation of a novel by the same name, so for any film to distance itself from the pack, it has to do something really original. Primer decided to focus heavily on the science, Triangle and Timecrimes added a horror element, and Looper created an entire mythology around the concept. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to telling a time travel film. There’s no ingenious new method of time travel nor any twist to the formula. Instead, it focuses on character and drama. It’s just a really well-written story that just happens to involve one of the oldest tropes.

Sailor Monsoon

80-71 | 60-51

What are some of your favorite animated films? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!