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.
50. Wreck-It Ralph
“All your favorite 8-bit video game characters all in one movie. Except Mario because nobody cares about that guy.”
2012 became the first year that the films of Disney and Pixar were becoming indistinguishable from one another. They each released a film that year and if you were to only read each films plot synopsis and then had to guess which film belonged to which company ala the Pepsi challenge, odds are you’d get it wrong.
“Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.”
“A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.”
Clearly the cliched princess one is Disney because Disney loves selling dresses to little girls and the second one sounds like Toy Story but with video game characters, so that’s obviously Pixar but guess what newb, you just got egg on your face.
In a twist surprising no one (which makes this entire farce a colossal waste of time), Disney didn’t release the forgettable princess film and actually produced something better than Pixar. It’s a feat so shocking they haven’t been able to pull it off since.
49. The Land Before Time
“A film so good, Pixar ripped it off.”
It’s almost impossible to separate this film from the tragic death of one of its main actors. Like Twilight Zone: The Movie, death hovers above this film like a black cloud. For those of you that are unaware, Judith Barsi was a 10 year old actress that voiced the adorably chatty Ducky in this and the cuter than a button Anne-Marie in All Dogs go to Heaven. She loved voice acting and wanted to continue working with Don Bluth on all his future projects.
Four months before this film came out, she was murdered by her father.
She never got to see the two films that would’ve made her a star. At the time of writing this, there has been 13 sequels made to this film and I guarantee not a single one holds a candle to this one because none of them have Barsi. She was an immense talent and this film will make sure her legacy will live on forever.
“Dug fucking sucks. Stop drinking the Kool Aid.”
Cards on the table. I don’t like Up. I’m not going to say that Pixar stole some story elements from the French short Above Then Beyond that came out in 05 but just like the company that acquired them all those years ago, they have a history of being accused of plagiarism. Almost every film of theirs has either been accused of ripping something off or has actually been sued. I’ll post the short along with the trailer and let you be the judge but that’s not the reason I dislike this film.
Nor is it the worst example of the patented Disney toy character in existence. If you love Dug, congratulations, you just got suckered into loving a toy. you don’t get to bitch about the minions or the porgs if you like Dug. There is no difference between any of them.
No, the reason I dislike Up is the fact that it wastes it’s amazing beginning. The first 15 minutes of this film is the best thing Pixar has ever made and is arguably one of the best animated things in existence. The rest of the film however, is not. They hook you with this powerfully emotional montage that’s so exceptionally well made, it should be taught in film schools. It’s some of the best editing I’ve ever seen but then the rest of the film is dedicated to a talking toy, an annoying kid, a ridiculous villain and a walking McGuffin, all of whom are designed to emotionally manipulate you into liking them. I don’t.
The only reason this film is on this list is because of that beginning.
“If one more fucking person says Nolan ripped this film off for Inception, I’m going to stab someone.”
If Satoshi Kon hadn’t died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, I truly believe he would’ve gone on to become the greatest anime director of all time. He only made four films in his short tragically short career but each one is a masterpiece. Covering diverse topics such as obsession, homelessness, dreams and Alzheimer’s, Kon didn’t cater to the lowest common denominator. He told the stories he wanted to tell, regardless of whether or not they’d appeal to mass audiences.
Based on a novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui, Paprika is a cinematic mind fuck. Not in terms of content but in execution. Every ten minutes you’ll think to yourself “how the fuck did anyone make this film?” I previously mentioned the editing in the montage in Up and while it’s perfectly done, it’s not mind blowing in any way. It’s just a perfectly executed sequence that conveys story with visual cues but the editing in Paprika is on another level. He’s doing shit in this film you can only accomplish in animation. It’s pretty astonishing and that’s only one element to this film.
Paprika is a visual triumph that assaults the viewer with visuals he’s never seen and with a story that will never be told better. It’s a one of a kind masterwork from a genius that left us far too soon.
46. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
“George Clooney is in this. A film where Satan and Saddam Hussein have sex. Clooney.”
I still can’t fathom the fact that South Park exists. Four years before South Park debuted, NYPD Blue got hit by a tidal wave of controversy because the main character showed his ass and there was mild swearing. It was a major thing that there was a shot a man’s bare ass on primetime television. I would literally get carpal tunnel if I even attempted to type out every controversial thing South Park has done. There was a Hobbit themed episode that replaced the Tolkien dwarves with a gerbil and the middle earth adventure with a gay man’s colon. I saw Christopher Reeve suck down baby fetuses like they were Chinese dumplings in another episode. What they’re allowed to get away with is honest to God mind blowing to me. I don’t understand it.
What’s also insane to me, is the fact that the film adaptation of the show was nominated for an Oscar. A film where a child dies and goes to hell and witnesses Satan and Saddam Hussein have sex was nominated for an Oscar.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have an Oscar nom but John Carpenter doesn’t. If only Kurt Russell and Keith David sang about Canadian aliens in the Thing….
“This film would’ve fucked me up if I saw it as a kid.”
This entire section of the list seems to consist solely of people who died too soon or things I don’t particularly love* I know I’m in the extreme minority but I do not connect with Laika at all. Technically, I think they make some of the most impressive animated films ever but almost every one of their films is lacking in the story department. I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in The Boxtrolls and with every passing year, the plots to Kubo and the Two Strings and ParaNorman slip further and further from my memory.
Coraline is the exception to that rule. that’s because it’s adapted by a novel by Neil Gaiman. I’m not going to give Gaiman sole credit for this film working but when your blueprint is created by one of the best writers working today, odds are, your film is going to be fantastic.
And fantastic it is. Combining Alice and Wonderland with elements of Where The Wild Things Are, the story is a dark fairytale that harkens back to when a time where story’s for kids weren’t afraid of being scary as shit. God, I miss those times.
*besides Wreck It-Ralph and South Park.
44. Perfect Blue
“Not for kids, this one.”
Dealing with the themes of duality that exists between the person and the avatar, Perfect Blue is the closest we’ve gotten to an animated Hitchcockian thriller. This film explores the many facets of duality that exist within all of us. The online persona we adopt to converse with strangers, the metaphorical mask we wear while at work or with family members and friends or for a select few of us, the persona that comes with fame. Every celebrity is putting on an act. Everything they do while being in the spotlight, is all a calculated act to get you to buy whatever the hell they’re selling.
There’s no better example of this than popstars. It’s no coincidence that every boy band has that specific type of guy that appeals to every girl in America. They’re all specifically picked to fill a niche and then they’re tasked at maintaining that “character” for as long as they’re in the band. It’s all an act.
But to some, it’s not. They have a hard time distinguishing between the person on stage or screen and the character they’re playing. That’s where the stalker comes in. This film is about duality, it’s about personas and it’s about obsession.
And it’s terrifyingly accurate.
43. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind
“The spiritual prequel to Princess Mononoke.”
It’s already been established that Hayao Miyazaki loves flying but what I didn’t already mention, is the fact that he’s obsessed with the environment. In the majority of his films, there’s at least one mention to the environment and how we’re fucking it up. Nausicaä is an amazing adventure story that, while not beating you over the head with its message, is also not subtle in what it’s trying to say.
If you’re old enough and live in America, you might remember that originally, this was distributed as “Warriors on the Wind” and had 20 minutes edited out. You wanna take a guess what those 20 minutes consisted of? I’ll give you a hint: it had nothing to do with tentacle sex.
For a long time, the only way the United States could see any Japanese film that had any sort of message, was to see a heavily edited version that would appeal to overly sensitive or extremely dumb Americans. Some films would even go as far as directing scenes that would feature American actors. Godzilla is a prime example of this. I’m getting sidetracked.
Nausicaä is amazing and fuck whoever trimmed even a minute from this film.
42. Son Of The White Mare
“One of the best films you’ve never seen.”
When discussing animation, there’s only like five studios that pop into anyone’s mind. Two of which are essentially the same studio now. Disney has such a stranglehold on animation that they’re damn near synonymous with the entire genre. The novel Cloud Atlas took it a step further and just replaced all films with “Disneys.” That’s how immense they are as a studio.
Which means, that every other animated film struggles to escape the enormous shadow that covers everything. Unless you have a character that can easily be turned into a toy or have a song that kids can’t stop singing, your film will eventually get lost in the shuffle.
Son of the White Mare is the definition of getting lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t have any product placement money, no catchy ass pop songs to memorize, no adorable animal character and it’s foreign. It has everything going against it. But what it has that Disney will never possess, is badassitude. This film is crazy (with emphasis on crazy) badass. Picture the greatest episode of Samurai Jack dipped in LSD and you’re halfway there.
41. The Adventures Of Prince Achmed
“I don’t remember Jean Renoir calling any Disney film a masterpiece. Just Saying.”
Released an entire decade before Snow White, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the oldest surviving animated film. Featuring silhouette animation that was a technique the director herself invented. Animating cardboard cutouts frame by frame, it’s extremely similar to Japanese shadow puppets but instead of doing it live, she turned it on its side and filmed it. Her process was far ahead of its time, in fact, she’s the only director to properly do it. She cornered the market for damn near a decade.
Loosely based on One Thousand and One Nights, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is an epic adventure that is sorely forgotten now but is considered a masterpiece amongst animation aficionados and experts.