Since the dawn of Disney, animated films have been far more than just family fare. Take 1940s “Fantasia,” for example, which boldly experiments with both style and narrative against the backdrop of a classical score. Even traditional counterparts such as “Pinnochio” and “Dumbo” are more sophisticated than first meets the eye, exploring grim characters and poignant themes within a kid-friendly paradigm. (On the flip side of that coin, here are the worst animated Disney movies of all time).
To this day, the best animated films deliver lasting value to viewers of all ages. For proof, look no further than the ample slate of masterpieces from Pixar or Studio Ghibli. Not just visually exquisite, films such as “WALL·E” and “Spirited Away” imbue their fantastical adventures with intelligent commentary on humanity, nature, and the interplay between the two.
One can watch these films as a child and then watch them again as an adult, picking up on different but equally impactful details and messages each time. That’s the power of great animation. (Speaking of which, here are all 24 Pixar movies ranked).
Then we have the films aimed primarily or even exclusively at adolescents and adults, which use animation as a gateway to boundless expression. Don Hertzfeldt’s “It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” for example, relays the mental breakdown of its protagonist through unique drawing styles and an offbeat tone. The cyberpunk classic “Akira” is likewise best-suited for an older crowd, as it dispenses with copious amounts of graphic violence. Needless to say, you have your options.
To determine the best animated movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on several measures from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. The index is a composite of the movies’ IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes audience score, and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score. All ratings were weighted equally. Supplemental data on acting and directing credits came from IMDb.