This is my list of the top 100 animated movies. Choosing the top 100 was really tough, and since my opinions of movies seem to change on a daily basis, it was hard to put these in a particular order.
I know plenty of people will disagree with the arrangement and I’ve probably left some favorites off, but whether you like family-friendly animated movies or adult animated movies that push the envelope, you’re sure to find some you’ll enjoy on this list of 100 of the best:
1. Ratatouille – This is one of the animated movies here that just moved me. It was fresh, funny, and I absolutely loved the ending, finding myself very surprised that I fell so much in love with a film about a rat that can cook (it made me tear up in a good way).
2. How to Train Your Dragon – It was nice to see an animated movie starring dragons that weren’t fearsome foes for princes to slay in order to get to the damsel in distress, and it’s the creative storyline and amazing animation (the action sequences are fantastic) that help this one snag a spot on top of my 100 best animated movies.
3. Grave of the Fireflies – Talk about a tear jerker! You’ll never see a better animated movie about the bitter reality of war and its aftermath. Just keep a box of tissues handy while watching this anti-war tale of a boy and his young sister trying to survive at the end of World War II.
4. My Neighbor Totoro – And if you need something to cheer you up, I highly recommend this cheerful film. It’s one of the most imaginative animated movies in the top 100, as two young girls discover a magical world in the woods near their new house. Here they meet the friendly giant forest spirit Totoro, who has since become quite the pop culture icon (he even has a cameo in another movie on this list).
5. Barefoot Gen – This is another of the best animated movies when it comes to dealing with war, but some of the images are extremely disturbing in this tale of a family struggling to survive after the bombing of Hiroshima. It’s the powerful way that this movie will move you that lands it so high on this list of the top 100 best animated movies (it makes a great companion movie with “Grave of the Fireflies”).
6. Princess Mononoke – Of course many of Miyazaki’s masterpieces have snagged spots on the top 100, and he continues to prove that he’s one of the best animators of all time in this movie that blends a magical forest world with a message about man’s effect on the environment.
7. Fantasia – One of Disney’s most imaginative animated movies beats out all of the princess flicks to secure a place in the top ten. Since I was a child I’ve loved seeing the many different worlds brought to life in “Fantasia”, magical places inhabited by fairies, dinosaurs, mountain-sized monsters, centaurs, and even dancing hippos. Plus the movie is a great way to introduce kids to classical music.
8. The Iron Giant – This movie didn’t get much love when it was released, but it’s now become a cult classic. There’s just something fun about the thought of befriending a giant robot from another world with the capability to destroy entire cities, and the movie also sends a great message about not judging a book by its cover.
9. WALL-E – Another of the best robots of animated movies lands high in the top 100. I love the silent-movie feel of the beginning of “WALL-E”, but it also makes a great statement about the dangerous direction our society is headed in (curse you, Facebook!).
10. Toy Story – And of course I can’t leave the movie that started our love affair with Pixar out of the top ten. We have a cowboy doll and an astronaut action figure to thank for helping to usher in a new era of animated movies that appeal to both kids and adults, but this one is also up high in the top 100 for being the first to take our breath away with slick CGI animation.
11. Castle in the Sky – But of course Miyazaki doesn’t need CGI to wow us with his animated movies. I absolutely love this tale of a floating world in ruins, and, as in all of Miyazaki’s masterpieces, you’ll also find a message about why man shouldn’t be allowed to have nice things.
12. Spirited Away – And this Miyazaki movie is like a more interesting version of “Alice in Wonderland” as a girl gets whisked away to a magical spirit world.
13. Up – This is one of Pixar’s biggest tearjerkers. Sure the physics of the house being carried by so few balloons is baloney, but so is a collar that allows a dog to talk (and this movie just wouldn’t be the same without Dug).
14. Akira – I’m not big on anime (as you’ll see by the rest of my top 100 best), but this futuristic thriller is definitely a lot of fun to watch.
15. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut – Turning this hilarious series into a full-length movie could have been a huge fluke, but instead the musical movie was a major success and a great companion piece to the show (the song “Blame Canada” was even nominated for an Academy Award!).
16. The Nightmare Before Christmas – Jack Skellington is definitely one of the most creative animated characters ever created, and this story about turning holiday cheer into holiday fear is ingenious.
17. The Plague Dogs – There has probably been no better depiction of animal cruelty in animated form, and the fact that this movie can make you hate humanity is proof of just how powerful and moving it is.
18. Bambi – As an animal lover, I’m glad that the hunters are the bad guys here. And its Disney’s surprising move in portraying man as evil that has earned this movie a spot so high up on my list of the top 100 animated movies (plus Thumper and Flower are just so adorable).
19. Howl’s Moving Castle – The love story in this movie featuring air pirates and a walking house is much better than any you’ll see in a Disney princess movie.
20. Alice – This bizarre stop motion animation version of “Alice in Wonderland” is extremely trippy but intriguing (just beware: the White Rabbit here is extremely creepy).
21. The Incredibles – I love this movie’s different take on superheroes, as the super family here has to live in a world where their powers are seen as a liability.
22. Beauty and the Beast – This “tale as old as time” is spruced up with fun music numbers and that unforgettable ballroom scene.
23. The King and the Mockingbird – This unusual fairy tale features a pompous king who is in love with a painting of a shepherdess. However, the shepherdess is in love with a chimney sweep in another painting, and the two spring to life when no one is around as they try to escape from a painting of the king. It might sound a bit odd, but that’s why it’s so grand (plus the fantastic somewhat-futuristic kingdom is something to behold).
24. Ninja Scroll – Why is this movie on the list? One word: ninjas!
25. Metropolis – And here’s another anime that makes the list in part for its stunning portrayal of a futuristic society, one where robots are discriminated against (sorry, WALL-E!).
26. Ghost in the Shell – Well, I didn’t mean to group so much anime together, but this sleek and stylish tale of a futuristic form of hacking definitely deserves a spot here.
27. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – And here’s the animated movie that could be called responsible for starting it all. The combination of princess, prince, evil witch, and loveable sidekick characters would be a successful formula for Disney for many years to come, and, while not quite as popular, princess movies are still going strong today.
28. The Adventure of Prince Achmed – This is an even earlier example of exemplary animation. It’s a stop-motion film featuring a stunning silhouette animation technique, making this 1926 “Arabian Nights” tale a must-see for animation fans.
29. Waltz with Bashir – Here’s yet another of the most innovative animated movies to make the top 100 as an animated documentary about the Lebanon war.
30. Persepolis – This is another of the best animated movies of the 2000’s. It focuses on a young girl who comes of age during the Iranian Revolution, expressing her individuality through her outspokenness and love of Iron Maiden.
31. Mary and Max – I love stop-motion animation, and it’s nice to see that movies like this one are keeping the art form going strong in the 2000’s. I also love quirky and odd stories, and it’s hard to beat this witty tale of very unlikely pen pals: an 8-year-old girl and a 44-year-old man with Asperger’s.
32. The Triplets of Belleville – And here’s another of the weird and wonderful animated movies that makes the top 100 thanks to its unique style and strangeness. From the Anita Baker caricature at the beginning and a bike-obsessed boy to the frog-slurping triplets and the movie’s Tati-like world, this fun film is something to behold. Chomet definitely does a wonderful job proving that classic animation isn’t dead.
33. Toy Story 3 – This is the movie where Totoro makes a cameo. It’s extremely hard to make a good sequel, but this one is almost as good as the first (you’re sure to find something in your eye while watching it).
34. The Lion King – Like in “Bambi”, a character dies here, which is a big deal for Disney. But Timon and Pumbaa are great comic relief.
35. Heavy Metal – It’s one of the best animated movies for nerds ever, featuring far-out fantastic planets, heavy metal music, and, of course, a very bodacious animated babe (the “South Park” spoof of this movie is almost as equally awesome).
36. Chicken Run – The creator of Wallace and Gromit takes on the world of chickens by putting a rooster in the hen house. But the hens here aren’t looking to make eggs; they’re trying to hatch an elaborate escape plan. The result? Yolk on the faces of the chicken farmers looking to turn their egg-producers into pies (and plenty of hilarity, of course).
37. Yellow Submarine – It’s a psychedelic animated movie featuring Bealtles music. What more needs to be said?
38. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – And this wacky movie gets a spot on this list for the innovative way it combines live-action and animation (plus it’s the only time Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny appear onscreen together, and you’ve got to love Jessica Rabbit).
39. Mad Monster Party – Rankin-Bass goes to the monsters in this wild and wacky flick.
40. Pinchcliffe Grand Prix – This movie about an inventor and his animal friends that enter a race with their crazy car is like a combination of “Wallace and Gromit” and Rankin-Bass.
41. 101 Dalmatians – I loved this movie as a kid, but still haven’t fulfilled my dream of opening my own Dalmatian plantation.
42. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Wallace and Gromit’s first full-length film about a monstrous bunny turned out to be everything I hoped it would be.
43. Kiki’s Delivery Service – It’s not Miyazaki’s best, but it’s still impossible not to fall in love with this film about a witch-in-training (poor Kiki wasn’t as lucky to get the same witchcraft education as Harry Potter and his pals).
44. Finding Nemo – For its amazing look at an undersea world (and a father’s touching love for his son), another of Pixar’s best swims into this top 100 list.
45. Shrek – I’m burned out on Shrek now, but absolutely loved the twisted take on fairytales when it was fresh.
46. Toy Story 2 – It’s not as good as the other two, but many animated movies dream of being as great as this one is.
47. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – And here’s another of Miyazaki’s amazing movies that’s a cautionary tale of man’s effect on the environment (maybe we’ll learn our lesson by the time the Earth is covered with a toxic forest inhabited by giant insects).
48. Whisper of the Heart – In this cute love story about a couple of dreamers, a young girl gets inspired to write a book after meeting a boy who checks out the same library books as she does.
49. Asterix and Cleopatra – Asterix and Obelix help Cleopatra quickly build a palace in this musical full of mirth and mayhem.
50. Allegro Non Troppo – This “Fantasia” spoof is almost as fun as the original.
51. Waking Life – Richard Linklater’s movie earns a spot on this list of the top 100 animated movies not just for its exploration of dreams, consciousness, and the meaning of life, but for its innovative, surreal animation style.
52. Monsters, Inc. – It’s nice to finally put faces to the monsters hiding in our closets.
53. A Bug’s Life – The “Seven Samurai” story never gets old, even when it’s starring CGI insects.
54. The Jungle Book – Mowgli can get along with dangerous critters like a bear and a black panther, but he just can’t tame that tiger. (This movie had me and my brother and sister doing the “I don’t know, what you wanna do?” routine for weeks.)
55. Cinderella – If only finding Prince Charming was as easy as having small feet…
56. Lady and the Tramp – This adorable tale of puppy love proves that you don’t have to be from the same side of the tracks to be happy together.
57. Watership Down – This movie combats the stereotype that rabbits just multiply by showcasing their complex society.
58. Animal Farm – “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
59. The Fantastic Planet – In the future, we’ll all be pets for giant aliens. This sci-fi flick is fantastic, indeed, with its imaginative alien world and message about the importance of learning to live in peace with those that are different from us.
60. Heavy Traffic – One of Ralph Bakshi’s best is about a cartoonist and his crazy fantasies. In this dirty pinball-machine of a movie, there’s a pile of garbage worshiped as a religious figure; a money-making scheme that involves killing potential prostitute customers; and lots of sex, nudity, and violence (all the things that make Bakshi animated movies so great).
61. Dumbo – But if you’re looking for something a little less dirty, let this adorable elephant and his floppy ears fly away with your heart.
62. Pinocchio – And the wooden boy with the nose that grows can still steal hearts with his little white lies.
63. Aladdin – The genie steals the show in this fun take on an “Arabian Nights” tale.
64. Coraline – The button eyes on the “other people” in this stop-motion animation tale are incredibly creepy (but this movie’s creepiness is what earns it a spot in the top 100).
65. Tangled – This swashbuckling retelling of “Rapunzel” is a fun and fresh take on princess movies.
66. The Secret of Kells – You’ll enjoy being let in on the secret behind the creation of the treasured Book of Kells.
67. Paprika – This movie beat “Inception” to the idea of being able to enter other people’s dreams.
68. Charlotte’s Web – It’s tough to eat bacon after watching this.
69. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – This animated movie is almost just as good as “The Dark Knight”.
70. Fritz the Cat – Another of Bakshi’s films sees Fritz the Cat shock with his crass behavior.
71. The Secret of NIMH – But mice make good movies, too; this one is about a mysterious group of smart rats (some too smart for their own good).
72. Cat City – The cat vs. mice battle has never been shown on such a large scale.
73. The Last Unicorn – Unicorns have never made me so sad.
74. The Fox and the Hound – Friendship between hunter and hunted has never been so adorable.
75. The Polar Express – This is one of the best animated movies for parents trying to keep their kids believing in Santa Claus as long as possible.
76. Heaven and Earth Magic – If you’re a fan of the Monty Python animation, you should enjoy this avant garde film.
77. Lilo & Stitch – You won’t find a more adorable alien than surfer dude Stitch.
78. The Little Mermaid – This one makes the top 100 because I can still remember the words to a lot of the songs, and Ursula is definitely one of the best Disney villains.
79. Peter Pan – Mermaids, a fairy, pirates, and a ticking crocodile. What more could you ask for in a kid’s movie?
80. Corpse Bride – This creepy film doesn’t get a lot of love, but it’s the weirdness of its disturbing love story that lands it on this list.
81. The Great Mouse Detective – I love Sherlock Holmes stories, and this movie is what helped get me hooked as a kid.
82. Ice Age – It’s such a shame that so many species so willing to help humans are now extinct.
83. Sleeping Beauty – Malevolent Maleficent and her ability to morph into a dragon is what makes this movie great.
84. The Princess and the Frog – It took Disney long enough to give us our first black princess.
85. The Brave Little Toaster – It’s such an odd premise that it just belongs on this list.
86. The Transformers: The Movie – I know people who’ve told me that this movie makes them cry (beat that, Michael Bay).
87. Alice in Wonderland – It’s hard to capture the magic of Carroll’s book, but Disney did a decent job.
88. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron – I just haven’t grown out of loving horses.
89. Mulan – It’s nice to see Disney take on a strong female character that’s not in the traditional damsel-in-distress role.
90. Robin Hood – A fox was definitely the right choice for the crafty character of Robin Hood.
91. Beavis and Butt-head Do America – I miss the days when these two were the only boneheads on MTV.
92. James and the Giant Peach – Here’s another stop-motion animation great, and another strange story featuring giant bugs inside a giant fruit that functions as both food and a rolling roof over their head.
93. The Land Before Time – Before the “Ice Age”, these prehistoric pals stole our hearts.
94. The Emperor’s New Groove – Instead of losing his clothes, this emperor has to deal with the drama of being turned into a llama.
95. The Little Fox – This is one of many great animated movies about these crafty critters, with a cute love story and a good dose of revenge.
96. Tarzan – The animated version of Tarzan’s tale is much more tolerable than the original.
97. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – It’s nice to see a hero that isn’t handsome every once and while.
98. Coonskin – In lieu of the racist “Song of the South”, I’ve included Bakshi’s satire of racist stereotypes, featuring none other than Scat Man Crothers.
99. Team America: World Police – The best movie ever made starring marionettes.
100. Wizards – And I’ll end this list fittingly with one more Bakshi flick. This one blends sci-fi and fantasy with a war between wizards representing technology and magic.
So I know many will disagree with my top 100 animated movies here, but if you haven’t seen all them, I highly recommend giving those that are new to you a chance.