Skip to main content

The 25 best animated movies that aren't just for kids

15. Aladdin (1992)

 The movie: The Disney renaissance period had already nailed the animation and the emotion. With Aladdin, they weren't content to settle for what had come before. Sure, it'd be simple to do a retread, but here they ramped up with comedy, thanks to an irrepressible Robin Williams as The Genie who delivers some of his finest witticisms.   

Only in animation: The stream-of-consciousness visuals as Williams improvises The Genie's dialogue, including a spot-on genie avatar for Jack Nicholson.  

14. Monsters Inc. (2001)

The movie: The point at which Pixar proved it could take any scenario - monsters using magic doors to scare kids for fuel - and make something funny, sad and wise. It's a terrific twist on an age-old nightmare for kiddies, that lessens the fear of closet doors and the evils lurking beneath the bed. That's in part thanks to the bright and lively vocal work by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. 

Only in animation: The beautiful final close-up of a monster Sulley's face widening with love and happiness.  

13. Zootopia (2016)

The movie: Who doesn't love some anthropomorphic action? Zootopia tells of a city bustling with activity, a veritable metropolis that's inhabited solely by animals. It's a brave and bold attempt by Disney to make a cracking kids movie that's layered with lots of juicy subtext and social commentary. Judy Hopps, a bunny, becomes the first rabbit on the police force. Deciding to overcome all sorts of prejudice she takes on a notoriously tricky case.  

Only in animation: All those glorious animals.... walking, talking, holding down jobs like us.  

12. Princess Mononoke (1997)

The movie: Historical fantasy doesn't get much more magnificent than this tale of a prince who becomes entangled in a war between the forest gods and the humans who continue to destroy nature. A bona-fide blockbuster among animations (the running time is well over two hours), Hayao Miyazaki's epic cost more - and made more - than any previous anime.  

Only in animation: Battle scenes with giant monster-gods that leave The Lord Of The Rings looking thoroughly tame.

11. The Lego Movie (2014)

The movie: Everything is awesome! Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller do the unthinkable and turn a 'product' movie into something surprisingly entertaining. It's mostly thanks to all those cameos (Batman, Wonder Woman et al) and a knowing sense of its own ridiculousness. Chris Pratt leads the star-studded vocal cast as Emmet, a construction worker who realises that not all Lego should follow the instructions.  

Only in animation: The Lego creations in this flick would put any Lego aficionado to shame. Spaceship! Spaceship! 

10. Finding Nemo (2003)

The movie: Ellen Degeneres gives a superb, award-worthy performance as the confused-yet-loveable Dory, a blue reef fish who helps Marlin (Albert Brooks) track down his lost son Nemo. Anchored by a layered screenplay (which, unusually, was finished before production began) this was Pixar's biggest project to date, both in terms of scale and box-office.  

Only in animation: The film was partly conceived as an exercise to see if Pixar's animators could handle water. Answer: yes, they could.  

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The movie: The sensibility of this twisted, what-if-Halloween-took-over-Christmas? fable is pure Tim Burton. Sick of the typical scaremongering at the end of October, the terrifying Jack Pumpkinhead takes a trip to Christmasland for a spot of kidnapping. Yeah, not your usual animated family-friendly affair. It's worth reminding everybody that the gloriously grotesque stop-motion is pure Henry Selick - the film's director.   

Only in animation: Oogie-Boogie. He walks and talks like a humanoid, but he's actually a load of insects in a sack.  

8. Up (2009)

The movie: The title could be a metaphor for Pixar's ambitions, but mainly it's because up is the only direction this heart-breaking study of mortality can go after its tear-spilling opening. Packed with all sorts of life lessons, the tale of Carl Frederickson's desire to see the world is one of those movies that gives you all the feels.  

Only in animation: Does real-life have as many colours as the balloons which lift Carl Frederickson's home? We doubt it.  

7. The Jungle Book (1967)

The movie: "Oh, oobee doo, I wanna be like you-oo-oo." The standard of animation might have slipped since the Golden Age, but the last film produced by Walt himself contains arguably the biggest soul of any Disney movie. Tapping into our universal human love of animals, the story is loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's book that tells of an abandoned boy raised by the jungle-dwellers. Who hasn't seen this film and longed to chuck in the office job and go dance around in the wild? It's fun and carefree.  

Only in animation: Talking animals? A given. Try Kaa's psychedelic hypnotising eyes.  

6. The Incredibles (2004)

The movie: Pixar confirmed its rise by luring established 2D director Brad Bird to make its first film about human characters. Sorry, that should say superhuman characters. Now that we're fully entrenched in the era of the caped do-gooder, it's always fun to revisit this adventurous and fun-loving dig at the genre. The film picks up years after Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are forced into retirement - as a 'normal' family - and their inevitable return to the fold.

Only in animation: Baby superhero Jack-Jack discovers his powers include the ability to morph into a devil, while free-falling thousands of feet in the air.  

Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.