I love animated movies of all sorts. You guys had to know that by now if you’ve been reading what I’ve written in the past. I decided now was as good a time as any to share some of the gems that don’t get enough love. Now, as usual, I’m going to add my customary caveat of my lists only including movies I’ve seen that are arbitrarily ranked according to my random standards. You will likely notice a lack of anime on this list. I am really, really behind on my anime. I will take recommendations in the comments.

11. The Secret of the Kells (2009)

Kells

In a word, The Secret of the Kells is gorgeous. It’s like watching a moving illuminated manuscript. Of course, considering that it’s a fictionalized history of the Book of Kells, that makes perfect sense. It’s a lovely story with amazing animation. It’s about this young boy, Brendan (Evan McGuire), his interest in the art of illumination, and his friendship with the mysterious Aisling (Christen Mooney). Of course here’s more to the story than that. You should watch it sometime. It’s just, well, beautiful.

10. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

.Great Mouse Detective

Before Benedict Cumberbatch wrapped that blue scarf around his neck and before Robert Downey Jr. picked up the violin, there was Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham), The Great Mouse Detective. This movie had so many things going for it. Aside from being a brilliant, miniaturized adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and his mysteries, it’s really just a sweet movie about two detectives who help a young girl find her father while saving their nation from the nefarious Ratigan (Vincent Price). It also had some of the earliest CGI animation in the movie with an awesome clock sequence.

9. Balto (1995)

Balto

Okay, who doesn’t love the idea of a movie about a wolfdog hybrid who defies the odds to save a little girl and a town from an influenza outbreak? I mean, come on, this movie. It’s about overcoming prejudices to show people how amazing you can be. Balto is definitely a great movie with a lot of heart. Yeah, it’s about talking animals, but one of those animals, the titular wolfdog hybrid, is voiced by Kevin Bacon. That’s pretty neat.

8. Anastasia (1997)

Anastasia

I got my BA in History and took a semester of Russian History. I’m no expert, but I know that Anastasia is not even remotely historically accurate. Once I made peace with that, I just sat back and enjoyed the musical romp for what it was. It’s about a girl trying to find her family and a boy trying to find meaning. Or something like that. It’s got catchy tunes and a cast that features Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Bernadette Peters, and Angela Lansbury. Not too shabby. During my viewing of this movie the other day, I noticed that so many of the backgrounds in this movie were painted to look like, well, paintings. That’s a cool detail that I never noticed before and adds a certain storybook element to this fairy tale.

7. The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Secret of NIMH

I’ve always loved The Secret of NIMH, even if parts of it used to freak me out when I was a kid. The owl? The first time Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) encounters the rats? Yeah, those moments used to make me jump. While I loved this movie, I didn’t really understand everything about it until I grew older and got the science and political subtext. There are a lot of layers in this movie and a couple of memorable songs. Paul Williams did some great work here. Furthermore, I totally shipped Justin (Peter Strauss) and Mrs. Brisby before I knew what shipping was. Who didn’t?

6. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Emperor's New Groove

I can admit that I’m wrong sometimes. The Emperor’s New Groove and my knee-jerk reaction to it was one of those times. I don’t know why but I think I refused to see this in theaters. I remember catching it once and not thinking much of it then. It wasn’t until this past year that I actually sat down and watched it again. Oh. My. Goodness. This movie is fantastic. I loved the growth of the friendship between Kuzko (David Spade) and Pacha (John Goodman). I loved Pacha’s wife, Chicha (Wendy Malick), and family. I loved Kronk (Patrick Warburton). This movie was so much better than I ever expected and I’m glad I gave it a second chance. If you haven’t, you should too.

5. The Hobbit (1977)/The Return of the King (1980)

HobbitRotK Animated

I grew up watching the Rankin/Bass animated Middle Earth movies, The Hobbit and The Return of the King. I didn’t see the Bakshi. . .thing until much later. I’m glad that I saw these first or I’d never have given Tolkien a chance. These movies with their inconsistent pronunciations and random musical numbers will always hold a special place in my heart. I know I sing some of the tunes from time to time. Whenever I have a marathon of Peter Jackson‘s Middle Earth movies (and I do that on occasion), I make sure to include these too. They have earned that right.

4. An American Tail (1986)

An American Tail

There are a lot of movies about the immigrant experience, but very few of them are animated. Honestly, only An American Tail comes to mind. If you think about it, it’s a fascinating way to educate youngsters in the varying reasons why people fled their native lands for American soil. It’s full of metaphor and allegory and singing. One of the things I loved about this movie is that during the tear-jerking number, “Somewhere Out There,” they didn’t choose professional singers to dub the kids’ singing voices. That made the song feel a little more real to me with all of its imperfections. I need a copy of this on Blu-ray or DVD because it has just occurred to me that I don’t yet have one. Also, let’s not talk about the sequels. Thanks.

3. The Road to El Dorado (2000)

The Road to El Dorado

The love I have for The Road to El Dorado is kind of ridiculous. I’m not going to lie. It’s kind of a ridiculous movie. I believe one of the creative minds behind it described this movie as being about two sidekicks archtypes getting together and doing their own film. Had it been successful, it would have followed in the tradition of the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope “road” movies. I’m always going to be bummed that we only got this one adventure of Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) and Tulio (Kevin Kline), but what a gilded adventure it was.

2. Flight of Dragons (1982)

Dragons

I try really hard not to include movies or characters I’ve already had in lists. I spent a not-small amount of time trying to figure out if Flight of Dragons had already appeared on one of my previous lists. Then, I remembered that I wrote a review of it not too long ago. So, I’m not going to tell you how awesome it is because you can go and refer back to that review. So there.

1. The Iron Giant (1999)

Iron Giant

The Iron Giant is an amazing movie. It’s sweet and full of a heart as big as the titular character. The ending will make you cry. All you really need to know is that it’s about the friendship between a boy (Eli Marienthal) and the giant robot (Vin Diesel) he encounters. If you haven’t seen it yet, you have a giant robot shaped hole in your life that now needs to be filled. Go, fill it. Then come back to me and thank me.



  • mr_teem

    Iron Giant! Iron Giant! <3 <3 <3 I have given away my VHS copy twice to people so they could watch it with their children. (They thanked me, too.) I have, somewhere, the LP of the Hobbit, the full one with all the dialogue. I put it on cassette and it was one of my main long-drive tapes. Um, I think I know where that cassette is–I may even still have a working cassette player. (I could probably recite the whole movie's dialogue back in the day–I still catch myself reciting lines from it.) I haven't seen NIMH in a long time–that was a good flick, wasn't it?

    • NIMH really was a good movie. As for the rest? I quote some of these on a regular basis. I also sing songs from them or get them stuck in my head. This list was a fun, nostalgia-filled adventure to compile.

  • Sherri Lyn

    I’ve only seen 5 of these….hmmm. Maybe I should stop watching the Black Cauldron on repeat and work something new in? 😉

    • It’s always good to try new things. Though, I can’t really criticize repeat watching of things. I do that a lot.

  • mjman

    Great list! I agree with everything, 100%. Only movie I would personally add is Disney’s Treasure Planet (2002). Didn’t get the advertisement and media a Disney film usually got at the time. There were also giant blockbusters that were out at the time so the ticket sales were horrendous at the box office. Great adaptation from the original Treasure Island, with great heart and amazing animation.

    • You are not alone in your love of Treasure Planet. One of my friends immediately pointed out that it was not included on my list and chided me for my oversight. I made it up to her by reviewing it. It’s a great movie.