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

5. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

The movie: Having perfected the integration of human interest into his fantasy worlds, Hayao Miyazaki reversed the equation: a neo-realist charmer with added woodland sprites. Even so, it's still got everything you could want in a Miyazaki film. There's that edge of the esoteric, a perfect blend of fantasy and reality, and a massive heart. It's one of the late Roger Ebert's favourite movies.  

Only in animation: The Catbus, public transport it's worth waiting in the rain for.  

4. The Lion King (1994)

The movie: Could Disney do Hamlet with jungle animals? Of course it could. The tale of young lion Simba, as he heeds the advice of his father Mufasa in making his way in the world, is a true epic. Thanks to its stellar animation it managed to capture the world's attention and make everyone think Jeremy Irons was the devil incarnate. Hakuna Matata, indeed. Still king of the box-office after its recent 3D revival.  

Only in animation: The wildebeest stampede. Still terrifying. Still tragic. 

3. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

The movie: A resurgent Disney took on a classic art-house movie - Jean Cocteau's La Belle Et La Bete - and upturned the usual tropes (the villain is handsome, the hero a monster) to create its most critically acclaimed film in decades. And it was the first animated movie to score a Best Picture nomination. Might be an idea to reacquaint yourself with this little gem before the live-action beast (ahem) opens this year.  

Only in animation: Angela Lansbury - aka Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote fame - voicing singing teapot Mrs Potts.  

2. Spirited Away (2001)

The movie: The first film to earn $200 million at the box-office before opening in America, this has become Studio Ghibli's most famous film, and the perfection of Hayao Miyazaki's storytelling. Combining many of his go-to elements - a blend of fantasy and reality - it's a staggering work of ambition and pure joy for the story. In a nutshell: a young girl moves to a new neighborhood to find herself 'spirited away' to a bizarre dimension where her parents are turned into animals. She has to work to earn their freedom.  

Only in animation: As Chihiro's parents are turned into pigs, reality gives way to a spirit world teeming with monsters.  

1. Toy Story trilogy (1995-2010)

The movies: John Lasseter knew that Pixar's feature-length debut would gain attention for its groundbreaking computer-generated animation. How to ensure it wasn't a flash in the pan? Make a film of flawless storytelling, timeless characters, belly laughs and huge heart. And then make two sequels that are just as good. Still funny and observant - and an absolute blast - the first follow-up marks the series' first foray into tear-jerking territory. And Toy Story 3? That's arguably the best of all three.

Only in animation: For all the escalating scale of the trilogy's set-pieces, the Toy Story films never lost sight of the childlike thrill of seeing toys come to life. One of the most impressive things you'll notice watching the trilogy is how the animation slowly becomes more life-like over at Pixar.  

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