Note: These movies are arranged in chronological order, not order of greatness. It was hard enough to pick 12 out of all the amazing movies out there, let alone order the ones I finally chose!
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
From director Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli, released in America by Walt Disney ten years later, My Neighbor Totoro is an endearing, whimsical story that will leave the audience smiling. The movie is about a small family in Japan. Tatsuo Kusakabe is a university professor who moves his two young daughters, Satsuki and Mei to a new home in the country while their mother is recovering in the hospital from an unknown long-term illness. While playing outside and exploring one day, little Mei discovers a little creature and follows it to a secret hole in the giant tree outside of their new home. What she finds there is a giant, furry creature with big ears, a soft, furry chest, twitchy black nose and a big grin. She falls asleep on his huge chest, but when she wakes up, she's back in the tunnel and she can't find the creature, who revealed himself to be a Totoro, a spirit of the forest, again. Later, Satsuki and Mei meet up with Totoro again, and he, along with some smaller Totoro-creatures, soot spirits and an ethereal Catbus, begin to feel even more at home in this new place as the spirit world is revealed to them. But when their mother's doctor calls with bad news, little Mei tries to go to the hospital by herself and disappears, leaving her desperate and terrified older sister, Satsuki, searching high and low for Totoro in the hopes that he will help her find her sister again.
This is a truly beautiful movie. Every Miyazaki movie has elements of whimsy in it, but this magnificent work of art is the epitome of what a whimsical adventure is. The artwork is like a painting, the children so well-depicted, the American voice acting wonderfully done, and the music is fun and enthralling. The story line itself is masterfully done, making this movie timeless and one of the best animated movies of all time.
Mulan is the story of a young Chinese woman who is independent, stubborn, and intelligent, and who just doesn't quite fit into the world like the other young women of her time who seem to only exist to find a husband, get married, and have sons for the emperor's army. Based on the ancient Chinese legend, the movie creates a dazzling dual world of not only ancient, empirical China but also the supernatural spirit world in which exist the ancestors and guardians who look over the Fa family. When Mulan's father, who had been wounded in battle years before, is drafted back into the Chinese army following the threat of an invasion of the Huns, the brave woman takes it upon herself to disguise herself as a man and take her father's place in the army. Aided by the hilarious little dragon Mushu, who is trying to regain his place as a family guardian, and a lucky cricket, Mulan joins the army and refuses to let her failures in the camp bring dishonor upon her family, working hard and finally earning a place amongst her fellow soldiers. But when things go wrong and she finds herself alone and unwanted, the threat of the Huns becomes all too real and she must find a way to stop their leader, Shan Yu, from killing the emperor and conquering China, and maybe, along the way, gain her family's honor.
This is a fantastic movie with gorgeous animation, an incredible plot and fun, beautiful music. Mulan is one of the first truly independent Disney "princesses" (she's not really a princess, but she's often counted as one), and her determination to save her father is beautifully chilling. Mushu and the lucky cricket, as well as her horse, are great companions, and the the men she meets and becomes friends with are fun and likable. Even though there is a little bit of romance between Mulan and the camp's commander, Li Shang, the movie isn't about love, at least of the romantic variety. Instead, it is about loyalty, bravery, family and determination. Mulan is a brilliant example of Disney at its best.
The Iron Giant (1999)
Based on the book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, The Iron Giant is a Warner Bros. Animation production about a young boy named Hogarth who stumbles upon something huge - literally HUGE. Hogarth meets an enormous metal robot with gentle tendencies and a childlike innocence. He and the Iron Giant begin to form a bond, but it is in the U.S. in 1957 during the Cold War, and if anyone catches wind of the enormous, deadly-looking robot tromping around Maine with his newest pal, war will surely break out. With the help of a cool new friend, Dean, Hogarth attempts to hide the Iron Giant from the U.S. government, who has sent one of their agents, a man named Kent Mansley, to investigate some of the strange happenings caused by the giant. When things come to a head in Rockwell when the giant is attacked by the military. Hogarth and Dean have to find a way to stop the government from firing a missile on the defenseless town and to save the Iron Giant from destruction.
This movie definitely has a serious, dark side, especially in its dealing with the subject of death, as the Iron Giant does not understand the concept of death at first and when he does, it affects him negatively. Despite these serious moments and the darker undertone, there are many funny, lighthearted moments in this movie that will make viewers laugh out loud. The characters are fun and interesting, the plot exciting and suspenseful. This is a movie that will never grow old.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Disney and Pixar take the age-old story of the monster in the closet and flip it onto its head in this heartwarming, hilarious and not-so-scary animated movie about the real story of the monster hiding under your bed or skulking in your closet. In Monstropolis, a company called Monsters, Inc. is dedicated to powering the city with the strongest power-source known to monster-kind: children's screams. The only problem? The monsters are convinced that the touch of a human child is deadly. But when a toddler finds her way through her closet door and into the monster world, top scarer Sulley and his best friend and assistant Mike Wasowski find themselves harboring the scariest thing known to monsters: a child. As Sulley, and eventually Mike, though the little one-eyed, green butterball takes a bit longer to come around, spend more time with the little human, they begin to learn that not only is "Boo" not deadly, but she's actually playful, lovable and adorable. The three begin to form a bond as they try to return her to her own world, but they are are thwarted at every turn as something darker and much more sinister that is happening inside the company comes to light. Soon, Mike and Sulley must pit themselves against an evil plot and time itself to save Boo - and themselves - from a world of peril.
This is a beautiful story, one of friendship, love, and overcoming one's fears. The big, furry Sulley and his best friend Mike are instantly lovable. The creative cast of colorful monsters invites viewers to enter into a whole new world that is exciting to explore. The concept of monsters only scaring kids because it is their job is unique and fun, and the design and animation is top-notch. This is most definitely a fun movie for the whole family to watch and enjoy!
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Treasure Planet (2002)
A sci-fi rendition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Disney's Treasure Planet is an action-packed adventure following wayward teen Jim Hawkins who has been getting into trouble ever since his father left. When a lizard-like alien crash lands in front of Jim's mother's inn and gives the young man a golden orb, warning him about "the cyborg" before dying of his injuries, Jim and his family have to flee from an unknown enemy that followed Billy Bones to their home and burned it to the ground. When it is revealed that the sphere is actually a treasure map to the legendary Treasure Planet, Jim and his mother's good friend, Dr. Dilbert Doppler, board a ship to sail through the skies to the long-lost planet. While on board, Jim works in the kitchens for a cyborg named John Silver, who Jim distrusts at first but who gradually begins to be a father-figure to him. But the voyage goes sour when the crew mutinies and Jim, Dilbert, and Captain Amelia find themselves crash landed on the surface of the planet with pirates on their tail and no one but a spastic but friendly robot to help them out.
This is an action-packed movie filled with awesome music, creative and incredible animation, strange creatures, unforgettable characters and places, and witty humor that people of all ages will enjoy. I think that this movie is often looked over when it comes to Disney movies, as it doesn't focus on romance, other than a little bit regarding the dog-like Dilbert and the cat-like Amelia as a background plot, and it's so different from the usual Disney movie. However, this is what makes this movie so special, so fun, and so incredible. It certainly deserves to be on this list, because it epitomizes the best of what Disney has to offer.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Finding Nemo is a movie that captured its audience's hearts within moments of screen time. The movie follows the story of Marlin, a paranoid clownfish, and his only son, Nemo, an independent fish with a deformed fin and an inclination for adventure. When Nemo gets taken by a scuba diver and plopped into a fish tank in a dentist's office in Sydney, Marlin, who is terrified of the very ocean he lives in, faces every fear and goes on an epic journey through the sea to find and bring his son back home. Along the way, he meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable characters, including Dory, the ditzy blue fish with short-term memory loss and a smile for every one of Marlin's frowns, a group of sharks who have adopted the policy that "fish are friends, not food," a one-hundred year old surfer-dude sea turtle and a surface population of stingy seagulls and the compassionate pelican Nigel. Meanwhile, in the dentist's office, Nemo and his new friends seek a way to escape from Nemo's impending doom at the hands of the dentist's excitable niece, Darla, to return to the ocean where they know they belong.
The movie paints a stunning picture of the underwater world. From the bottom of the deepest ocean trench to the brightly-colored fish tank in Sydney, Disney and Pixar take viewers on an incredible journey full of incredible creatures, big and small, and simultaneously tell a touching and rib-tickling, as well as occasionally heartbreaking story about family, overcoming your fears, friendship, love, and bravery. Who knew that fish could be so amazing?
Despicable Me (2010)
Gru is a super-villain who is tired of being out-super-villained by other notorious ne'er-do-wells, so he comes up with the idea to go somewhere that no bad guy has ever gone before, and to do something that no bad guy has ever done: He's going to steal the moon, with the help of his assistant, Dr. Nefario and his brood of hilarious, potato-like minions. The only problems are that his stolen shrink ray has been stolen and the evil bank isn't going to fund his project. When he witnesses three little orphan girls selling cookies to the very man who stole his stolen shrink ray being let into the man's otherwise impenetrable lair, Gru comes up with a master plan to get back his shrink ray. He adopts little Agnes, Edith, and Margo with plans to use them and their cute cookie selling abilities to gain access to the lair and get his shrink ray back from Vector, but it turns out that fatherhood is a lot more complicated than that. As he tries to follow through with his plans to steal the moon, the three little girls begin to steal his heart, and when they are threatened by the very bad guy who has stood in Gru's way this whole time, the "superbad superdad" will find out just how far he'll go and how much he'll give up to the three little girls who have changed his life.
Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment bring this hilarious, heart-touching story to life in a fun way with unique, wonderful animation, over-the-top evil schemes, and the lovable, adorable minions. Watching this movie is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of anyone who watches it, and probably to bring a few tears to their eyes as well in some of the more tender and heartfelt moments, and any scene with minions in it will set off your tickle-box in a hurry!
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Dreamworks Animation really hit the ball out of the metaphorical park with this instant success. How to Train Your Dragon is loosely based upon the book series by the same name, written by Cressida Cowell. It follows the story of a young, rather inept Viking from the island of Berk who, as son of the chief, Stoick the Vast, has very big shoes to fill and nothing to fill them with, as killing dragons is what the Vikings do in Berk, and Hiccup seems to mess up everything he touches. When he manages to trap a legendary Night Fury, Hiccup is soon faced with a startling reality: everything that his people have ever thought about dragons is wrong. As Hiccup and his new dragon friend, deemed Toothless because of his retractable teeth, begin to form an irrevocable bond, the young Viking is thrust into a role that he never would have anticipated: an "ambassador" between his people and the dragons, as he tries to show the Vikings that the dragons are not evil but misunderstood, not to mention that he and his new friends, Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout, Roughnut and Toughnut are about to have to go head-to-head with the enormous, monstrous queen bee of the dragons.
This movie is utterly fantastic. Hiccup's story is an incredible coming-of-age tale of heroism, friendship, loyalty and courage. The animation is stunning and the music breathtaking. Toothless is absolutely adorable and all of the characters, from the funny, one-handed, one-legged Gobber, to the colorful array of young Vikings also trying to find their place in the Viking world, to the stoic Stoick the Vast and to the astounding dragons, are unforgettable and fun. And just wait until you watch the sequel. It only gets better from here.
After The Princess and the Frog, I was beginning to despair that the magic of Disney princess movies had faded away, but Disney came back strong soon after with the brilliantly crafted Tangled, the story of Rapunzel told in a whole new light. Rapunzel was born with magic hair that has never been cut, and that has healing properties and that can grant eternal youth and beauty. When she is stolen from her crib by a greedy, selfish old woman, Mother Gothel, and raised in a tower by the woman she thinks is her mother, her kingdom mourns for her by releasing thousands of floating lanterns into the sky on her birthday each year. Eighteen years later, charming thief Flynn Rider stumbles upon her tower in pursuit, and she convinces him to take her on a journey to see the "floating lights" that she has observed from her window on her birthday every year. Along the way, with Flynn's bloodthirsty partners and a desperate Mother Gothel on their tails, they will meet new friends, make new enemies, and maybe even find love while they're at it.
This movie is absolutely charming. Rapunzel's naïve innocence, along with her adorable chameleon friend, Pascal, are classic Disney princess, but Flynn's roguish thievery adds a new, exciting element to the storyline - not to mention, I think pretty much every girl watching Tangled swoons at his "smolder". Maximus the horse is an amazing addition, and the animation is beautiful, the music fun, whimsical and romantic. Despite the new style of animation at the time, this movie became an instant Disney classic, and will entertain children and adults alike for years to come.
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Dreamworks Animation really has a handle on making blockbuster movies. I personally think that Disney had better watch their backs, or there might be a brand new animated-movie giant in the media world! Rise of the Guardians, based on The Guardians of Childhood series by William Joyce, is the epic tale of Jack Frost, who woke up in a frozen lake with powers of ice and wind and with no memory of his past or where he came from. The only guidance he has is from the mysterious Man in the Moon, who appoints the Guardians of the children of earth. Jack, a free spirit who loves to have fun, but who is incredibly lonely because no one other than the Guardians - Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy - with whom he doesn't exactly see eye to eye, can see him, is thrust into a world of adventure and magic after he himself is appointed as the next Guardian. Pitch Black, the Boogeyman, has made his return and he plans to cover the world with darkness. Only Jack and the Guardians can stop him, but how can Jack fight for himself, the world, and the children if he doesn't know anything about himself?
This movie is stunning. Jack is a character than instantly draws in the audience with his surprisingly complex personality - the loneliness and the fun and bravery all mixed into one pasty-skinned, white haired, ages-old teenager, and the other characters, from North to Sandy to Bunny and Sandy and the Tooth Fairy, are colorful and fun. But much like the How to Train Your Dragon movies, this movie, too, has a dark undertone, making it a layered and beautifully mastered story. The music and animation are spectacular, as well as the plot and the script, making this another movie that you wold be amiss to miss!
"Let It Go..." Despite the words of the song that has been on nearly everyone's lips and in everyone's heads for the past several months, it seems that no one really has any intention of letting this fantastic movie go. Sure, there are some people who complain about it being overdone and who want the Frozen Revolution to be over and done with, but many more people are still singing along and watching this movie for the umpteenth time. An instant success, Disney's newest princess movie is centered around two sisters, Princesses Anna and Elsa, who become estranged after Elsa's dangerous ice powers nearly cost her little sister her life. Terrified of herself, Elsa locks herself away in her room and doesn't speak with her sister for years. But after their parents' deaths and Elsa comes of age, the sisters are reunited again. The coronation turns ugly when the desperate Anna indadvertedly learns her sister's secret and reveals it to the kingdom. An eternal winter is accidentally bestowed upon the kingdom and it is up to Anna, her new friends Kristoff, Sven and Olaf, along with the "charming" Prince Hans to bring her back and put and end to the winter.
The music in this movie will completely blow anyone who watches it away. With more music than most animated Disney movies, Frozen paints a gorgeous story with beautiful songs and incredible imagery. The animation is superb, the characters rich, funny, and believable, and the plot superb in this mind-blowing rendition of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
This movie hasn't even been out in theaters for a week yet, and it's already one of the top animated movies ever, in my opinion. The second movie picks up five years after the first movie ended. The characters have grown and dragons are now completely integrated into Berk. Hiccup and Astrid's relationship has flourished, and Stoick is doing his best to get Hiccup ready to become the new chief. The only problem is that Hiccup has no desire to do so. When he and Toothless come across a band of dragon trappers who are capturing dragons for the villainous Drago Bloodfist's dragon army, they are thrust into even more action and adventure than the last movie. Determined to find Drago and change his mind about using dragons to enslave the world, Hiccup and Toothless flee Berk in pursuit of the self-proclaimed "Dragon Master". But along the way, he makes an incredible discovery that will change his life forever - and now he has even more to fight for and protect as his presumed-dead mother makes a startling appearance and Drago takes it upon himself to destroy everything Hiccup loves and cares about.
This movie is even better than the first movie, which I would have thought impossible before. Once again, the animation is stellar and the music is enthralling. This movie is definitely darker than the first, and there are many more action sequences. The characters have developed into strong, independent and hilarious young adults and Hiccup's coming-of-age story continues, and I believe that the audience will continue to grow, laugh, love and mourn with Hiccup and Toothless as the story develops. Oh, and Toothless is even cuter, funnier, and more awesome than ever!
...And Many More...
There are, of course, many other wonderful animated movies that I truly wish I could have included on this list. Many of them will be explored in later Hubs, however, that delve specifically into some of the best Disney movies. This was an insanely difficult list to compile as I wanted to put so many movies on it, but these are 12 of my absolute favorite animated films, and even if you don't agree with them all, it's always great to have variety!
What about you?
AZ on January 23, 2017:
CreedBling on November 27, 2016:
Roadside Romeo. An Indian Bollywood Film from 2008. But get the DVD version, no character except for Romeo himself will speak English. The other characters such as Guru, Laila, Mini, and Hero English (surprisingly), speak Hindu
Joe from north miami FL on June 19, 2014:
Monsters inc is an absolute treasure, so are many of the movies you have listed. You should do a classics article similar to this one with movies like Lady and Tramp or All Dog go to Heaven.
Elizabeth Wilson (author) from Tennessee on June 19, 2014:
Thank you so much! I, too, feel like Treasure Planet is underrated. It's such a good movie but it's so often looked over!
Hunchback of Notre Dame... it's been years (and I mean almost 20 years!) since I've seen that movie... I'm going to have to go watch it again now. I definitely think that's a great movie that shouldn't be missed! Thanks so much! :)
Owl Johnson from Central Florida on June 19, 2014:
Excellent choices, I'm glad Treasure Planet was on the list (I find it incredibly underrated).
I think the one animated movie I would recommend to never miss is Disney's 1996 Hunchback of Notre Dame. Yeah, the gargoyles are annoying but them aside, I find it a well crafted story with beautiful animation, fleshed out characters and sweeping music.
Elizabeth Wilson (author) from Tennessee on June 17, 2014:
Thanks for the reply! I've actually never seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, so also thanks for the movie recommendation! I'll definitely have to check it out now! :) I have to admit, the HTTYD series is my favorite at the moment. That new one absolutely blew my mind. :D Have a wonderful day!
dailytop10 from Davao City on June 17, 2014:
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was a really awesome movie and I think it deserves a spot in this list. Maybe replacing Treasure Planet. hehe...But it's a really cool list. I'm a fan of the Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon Series. I simply love how they mix humor with action, drama, and even on scenes you least expect. Thanks for sharing and have a great day!