Undefended: Animation

For this month’s Undefended lists, FilmFisher’s writers picked the best animated films (not quite the same as “best-animated films”) of all time. Chime in with your own selections in the comments!

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Jackson De Vight

  1. Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki (2001) – Whether or not one chooses to watch various anime series is a question of personal taste (you should watch a few). Whether someone should be allowed to discuss the best animated films without having seen a smattering of Miyazaki’s films is a different question (they should not). For stylistic and narrative reasons Spirited Away is my favorite, but most of them deserve your attention.
  2. Ratatouille by Brad Bird (2007) – I have held forth on the genius of this film before, but I challenge anyone to find another animated film which so invites the watcher into the felt mythos of Paris and a suspended experience of what we think it must feel like to be a foodie in Paris. The lighting in the film is incredible, the voice cast is excellent, the premise is creative, and the soundtrack is seriously underrated.
  3. The Lion King by Rob Minkoff & Roger Allers (1994) – The Lion King is the pinnacle of the Disney Renaissance. The film united an incredible soundtrack which drew more heavily on local musical traditions than in Disney’s earlier intercultural efforts with arguably the height of Disney’s 2D animation studios. (The honorable mention for this list is The Lion King‘s direct category competitor, Beauty and the Beast, for similar reasons.)
  4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, & Bob Persichetti (2018) – The creators of Spider-Verse brought to mainstream American audiences lessons that videogame designers, digital artists, and other cultural traditions of animation feature so heavily. For just one glimpse into all the clever moves the (relatively) novice team of directors employed, watch this WIRED video.
  5. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Wes Anderson (2009) – It’s both my personal favorite Wes Anderson film and one of the best stop motion animated films ever made. The film embraces its medium’s limitations and leverages them for narrative and stylistic excellence.

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A.C. Gleason

  1. Beauty and the Beast
  2. Princess Mononoke
  3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
  4. The Iron Giant
  5. The Secret of Kells

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Joel Bourgeois

  1. Fantasia, various (1940)
  2. Toy Story, directed by John Lasseter (1995)
  3. Pom Poko, directed by Isao Takahata (1994)
  4. Song of the Sea, directed by Tomm Moore (2014)
  5. The LEGO Movie, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (2014)

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Timothy Lawrence

  1. Pinocchio (1940)
  2. Wall•E (2008)
  3. Rango (2011)
  4. The Wind Rises (2014)
  5. Toy Story 4 (2019)

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Joshua Gibbs

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  2. Robin Hood (1973)
  3. An American Tail (1986)
  4. The Snowman (1982)
  5. Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein (1982)

Over the Garden Wall poster

Travis Kyker

  1. Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014)
  2. Sleeping Beauty (Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1959)
  3. Over the Garden Wall (Nate Cash, 2014)
  4. Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, 2017)
  5. How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, 2010)

Bonus obligatory Miyazaki pick: Porco Rosso, since my other two favorites have been included already.

William Connor Devlin

  1. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
  2. Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991)
  3. Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1997)
  4. The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth, 1982)
  5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)

Honorable Mentions: WolfwalkersFantastic PlanetCoralineWorld of Tomorrow, The Tale of Princess Kaguya

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Tom Upjohn 

  1. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
  2. The Lion King (Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff, 1994)
  3. Over the Garden Wall (Patrick McHale, 2014)
  4. Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1996)
  5. The Prince of Egypt (Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, & Simon Wells, 1998)

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Robert Brown

Rats-atouille! This is what I get for not creating and sending my list immediately. I will avoid duplicating others’ choices and instead go with close runners-up in five categories.

  1. Classic Disney: Instead of Sleeping Beauty… Bambi (1942, dir. Algar, Armstrong, and Hand)
  2. Contemporary Disney: The only first pick no one beat me to… The Emperor’s New Groove (2000, dir. Dindal)
  3. Pixar: Instead of Ratatouille… Up (2009, dir. Docter and Peterson)
  4. Studio Ghibli: Instead of The Wind Rises… The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013, dir. Takahata)
  5. Wild Card: Instead of Fantastic Mr. Fox… The Lego Batman Movie (2017, dir. McKay)

Honora-Bear Mentions: The Many Adventures of Winnie the PoohBrother Bear, and Kung Fu Panda 2.

Timothy Lawrence

A graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at BIOLA University, Timothy Lawrence teaches great books through Emmaus Classical Academy in Southern California. He writes essays and fiction and counts the Coen Brothers and George Lucas among his personal heroes.

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