Animation is not a genre. It is an artform. Western is a genre. action is a genre. Animation can be anything. It can tell any story and be anything. (Next person to call it a genre gets punched in the face)
Two of the worst camps of people are:
- People that automatically dismiss animation as a children’s medium
- People that argue that film isn’t art because it’s the byproduct of multiple collaborators and not a singular vision
Which is ironic considering the process of making an animated film consists of a rapid succession of hand drawn images in a sequential order. Which is to say, every frame of an animated film is a work of literal art. And it might be the most important artform because as Bird put it, an animated film can be anything.
Not only is every genre available, animation affords artists the canvas in 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.
This is The 100 Greatest Animated Films Of All Time.
“Punk is not ded.”
Not many comic creators get a chance at directing their own work (Google how long MacFarlane has been trying to direct a Spawn film) but Satrapi decided, if anyone was going to bring her story to the screen, it should be the one who lived it. The story follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, Persepolis is one of the most unique autobiographies of the 20th century.
As well made as most American films are, at the end of the day, they’re all told with essentially the same voice. The life experiences might be slightly different but odds are, it’s white men telling stories to entertain other white men. This isn’t a political stance but an artistic one. Persepolis is told by an Iranian woman who had to come of age during, not only political turmoil but a family still clinging to the old ways of life.
It’s a film that reminds us that there’s an entire world out there and even though things are drastically different for most of us, everyone feels things the same way. No matter what your social economic status, race, religion or creed, everyone has the same emotions.
“Dat movie doe.”
I remember reading the original novel this film is based on and thinking it was way darker than I had anticipated. It’s not Watership Down levels of fucked up but it’s far from the happy go lucky adventures of a little deer named Bambi like the film portrays either.
But that’s the power of Disney. They have the ability to take any property, regardless of it’s controversy and turn it into a family friendly product that everyone can enjoy. Now that they own 20th Century Fox, I can’t wait for an adorable animated tale about the littlest face hugger or a prequel to Die Hard but set at a day care. It’s gonna be fun on the bun y’all.
38. A Town Called Panic
“I wonder if a Town Called Panic is close to a Town Called Malice?”
There’s not many films that leave me at a loss for words. I usually have an easily understandable elevator pitch I can use to describe any movie. But there’s no way to adequately pitch this film outside of a carnival barker-esque shouting of the best parts. But I don’t even know where he would know where to begin. This entire film feels like an explosion of lunacy from frame one.
All parents know what it’s like playing make believe with their children and all parents will give up before the child burns themselves out. Because children have an inexhaustible amount of imagination. It may not always be grade A material after the twenty minute mark but they can give a spider a run for its money in terms of spinning webs from nothing.
This film is like being locked in a room with twenty children and they’re all trying to tell you a story and by the end of the last childs story, you’re given enough acid to kill an elephant and are tasked to repeat the children’s story to the best of your ability.
It’s beyond incoherent. It’s panic inducing. A-wink.
37. The Triplets Of Belleville
“This film gave me a craving for frog legs that lasted a decade. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t worth the wait.”
If you distill every film down to its mechanics, you realize there’s only seven different stories that any film could possibly tell. Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch made a list that was greatly revised and expanded by Christopher Booker but both limited their choices down to seven.
2003 saw the release of my favorite example of this rule. Because at first glance, Finding Nemo and The Triplets of Belleville couldn’t be further apart. One is American, the other is French. One is about talking fish and various other Australian animals and the other is about illegal underground bicycling competitions and a trio of retried vaudeville singers. They’re almost polar opposites.
Again, this is at first glance but according to Booker, they’re both classified as Voyage and Return. Because strip away everything else and you’re left with films about a parent trying to save a kidnapped child. That’s the magic of storytelling. That the same exact story could be told as wildly different as humanly possible but both ending up as masterpieces.
Oh and I can’t stress this enough: Frog legs are gross.
36. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
“Bill Murray voices a badger that fancies himself a demolitions expert. Y’all lucky this isn’t number 1.”
Author Roald Dahl famously hated the film version of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Some theorize it was because of the script rewrites or maybe it was due to him being a crotchety old fuck. Nobody knows but I like to think, that of all the adaptations of his work, this would be the one he’d appreciate.
I like referring to Wes Anderson as the “Radiohead of film directors.” The critics love him but everyone else usually shrugs their shoulders in indifference. Without sounding pretentious, he’s definitely a director you either get or you don’t. His style is definitely not for everyone but I can’t think of a more suitable director to tackle this story. He keeps what he wants and throws out the rest. Sometimes the only way to make a faithful adaptation is to stay true to the spirit and not the story.
Which, to some, might be controversial but I agree with Jodorowsky when he said “sometimes you have to rape the source material.” Jodorowsky is crazy man.
35. Waltz With Bashir
“Memory is dynamic, it’s alive. If some details are missing, memory fills the holes with things that never happened.”
You can almost do a perfect double bill with this and Persepolis. One is based on an autobiographical comic that happened to the director, while the other is an animated documentary that’s based on autobiographical real life experiences of the director during the Lebanon war.
Framed around the director interviewing old friends and fellow soldiers to try and piece together his amnesia, the framing the device is just the glue ties all of these testimonials together. Regardless of whether you think the director had amnesia or not is irrelevant. The story is not about him, it’s about the stories that everyone else tells him. Their experiences and the horrors they witness. The film may be animated but don’t think for one minute that means it’s inferior to live action in any way. This is a documentary and the stories are painfully real.
34. Mary And Max
“Unfortunately, in America, babies are not found in cola cans. I asked my mother when I was four, and she said they came from eggs laid by rabbis. If you aren’t Jewish, they’re laid by Catholic nuns. If you’re an atheist, they’re laid by dirty, lonely prostitutes.”
- The Princess and The Frog
- The Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The Secret of Kells
Those are the animated films that were nominated for the 09 Academy Award for best animated feature. That’s an impressive line up let’s be honest here, who the hell still thinks about The Princess and The Frog? I think it does a lot of things right and I’ll never not respect Disney for rolling the dice on hand drawn animation again but truthfully, I don’t remember much about it.
I’m not going to say it was automatically given a nom simply because it’s Disney but I will say that I know for a fact that not the majority of the voters don’t watch every film nominated in every category. It’s also a fact that the academy is predominantly made up of old, white men and I guarantee an old white man isn’t going to watch any foreign animated film unless it’s by Miyazaki or Nick Park.
I’m not going to say Mary and Max was fucking robbed a nomination but it’s a goddamn travesty that this film wasn’t nominated. Waltz With Bashir also wasn’t nominated (even though there was only three films nominated) but was nominated for best foreign film. So there’s that.
33. Your Name
“Like Freaky Friday…but actually good.”
Sweet baby Jesus, is this film delightful.
It may only be slightly familiar to American audiences but in Japan, this is a fucking phenomenon. The newest film on this list, Your Name is the latest film by Makoto Shinkai and was so astronomically successful, it dethroned Spirited Away to become the highest grossing anime film in history. That’s a big deal considering they worship that man like a god.
It’s hard to imagine any film living up to that amount of hype but Your Name far exceeds any expectations. Shinkai has been slowly becoming the best anime director working today and this is the first film nobody can deny is better than anything released in the last five years. He may still be toiling away in obscurity but his films stand toe to toe with the best in the business.
“I don’t hate the sequel.”
It’s easy to forget how monumentally ambitious this film was. Keeping in rhythm with music is hard enough in live action but animating a two hour film that syncs up with music is a tremendous feat. The music was so instrumental to the experience, that it was first released in theatrical roadshow engagements.
They had to create theaters all over the United States that could produce stereophonic sound. He also had plans to re-release it every year but with new segments (most of which were used in the sequel) and he even entertained the idea of introducing various fragrances into the theater at certain points during the movie to heighten the experience. He wisely decided against because besides being impractical, it would smell like the worst drunk uncle in history by the end of the week.
He really wanted this to be his magnum opus, which is hilarious considering it originally tanked at the box office. People weren’t ready for the brilliance. Or maybe people were offended by that infamous controversial moment in the film.
You know the one.
The one with the crocodile dancing with a hippo. I consider myself a pretty tolerate man when it comes to other people’s views on the topic of religion, politics or sexual preference but god never intended this. It’s an abomination and a affront to the Lord.
31. Inside Out
“Way to go San Francisco, you’ve ruined pizza.”
I think this might be the most important film Pixar has ever produced. Eventually, I believe it could be a very effective tool to help children understand their own emotions better, which in turn, could help them deal with their problems easier. It teaches kids that it’s ok to be sad sometimes, that sadness is only temporary.
But apparently a lot of users on IMDB missed the point because my goodness, is there a lot of 1 point reviews. I spent a good half hour reading them all and they’re all adorable.
But I will say, a lot of them pointed out that this is extremely reminiscent of both the show Herman’s Head, and the Japanese manga series Poison Berry in my Head. Again, not accusing anyone of theft. Just throwing that out there.