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Best animated films of all time, according to critics

  • Best animated films of all time, according to critics

    Animated films have long outgrown their made-for-kids clothes. In fact, as any true movie-lover can attest, animated films today rub elbows with the greatest live-action movies of all time. What was once primarily relegated to the family genre is a full spectrum of animated styles, subjects, and motifs. They join an already legendary list of classic works from production houses like Studio Ghibli and Pixar.

    Whether tackling mature themes, including everything from genocide and the criminical justice system, or aiming strictly for the family genre, the top animated films deliver far more quality than one might expect. Even films that were marketed as family-friendly are still able to dig deep to offer existential lessons to children, wrapped in subtlety, while still offering entertainment, humor, charm, and depth for adults. And then there are animated films that are decades-long classics and simply delightful, purely for delight’s sake.

    What they all have in common is that they sit next to a range of live-action masterpieces in terms of durability and timelessness. In 2001, Best Animated Feature was a category added to the Academy Awards. Proving as much are the critical reviews, which can be downright gushing when the movie is well-executed.

    But which animated films do critics hail as the best of all time (as of January 2021)? Stacker went to Metacritic for the answer. To qualify for the list, each film needed at least four professional reviews. In the case of a ratings tie, the film with more reviews ranked higher on the list. Live-action films with occasional animated sequences were not considered for inclusion.

    Has your favorite animated film made the cut? Here, read on to check out what the critics had to say.

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  • #100. Zootopia (2016)

    - Directors: Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 108 minutes

    This $1 billion worldwide box office baby from Disney goes down in the city of Zootopia, home to animals from all walks of life. Ready to prove herself as a rookie cop is a bunny named Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), who uncovers a vast and deadly conspiracy. With help from a con artist fox (voiced by Jason Bateman), Judy tries to crack the case before the city itself falls apart at the seams.

  • #99. A Silent Voice (2017)

    - Director: Naoko Yamada
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 130 minutes

    Based on a manga series of the same name, this anime-style teen drama grapples with the theme of bullying. When a young deaf student gets ridiculed by one of her peers, she decides to move away. Years later, the bully who ridiculed her embarks on a quest for redemption.

  • #98. Rocks in My Pockets (2014)

    - Director: Signe Baumane
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 88 minutes

    Using her distinctive animation style, Latvian artist Signe Baumane explores the relationship between genetics and madness in this singular comedy-drama. Set over the course of decades, the film depicts the personal struggles of Baumane and four other women in her family. Many of the story's events occur against a backdrop of political and economic turmoil.

  • #97. Tatsumi (2012)

    - Director: Eric Khoo
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 96 minutes

    The life and work of Japanese mangaka Yoshihiro Tatsumi leapt onto the big screen with this animated drama. The film follows its protagonist as he goes from a young comic book artist to the inventor of a new genre. In addition to depicting Tatsumi's personal exploits, the film includes adaptations of his short stories.

  • #96. Castle in the Sky (1989)

    - Director: Hayao Miyazaki
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 125 minutes

    This heralded fantasy adventure features director Hayao Miyazaki's classic animation style at a time when he was more of a local legend than global icon. In possession of a magic crystal, a young boy and girl must outmaneuver various enemies as they search for a floating castle. This was the first full-length feature animated by Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki's studio.

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  • #95. Another Day of Life (2019)

    - Directors: Damian Nenow, Raúl de la Fuente
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 85 minutes

    Inspired by the works of war correspondent, Ryszard Kapuscinski, comes this animated powerhouse about the Angolan civil war. Strictly designed for adults, according to The New York Times, the movie chronicles Kapuscinski's experience covering the civil war, which centered around Portuguese colonialism, the diamond and oil trade, and Cold War geopolitics.

  • #94. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

    - Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
    - Metascore: 78
    - Runtime: 76 minutes

    Opposites attract in this 1955 classic about the budding romance between a streetwise mutt and an uptown cocker spaniel. As the two canines join lips while eating spaghetti, they share what might very well be the most famous kiss in animation history. It's all brought to life in the kind of visual style that only Disney could execute at the time.

  • #93. Yellow Submarine (1968)

    - Director: George Dunning
    - Metascore: 79
    - Runtime: 90 minutes

    The Beatles bandmates reportedly kept their distance from this animated adventure as it was being developed, and didn't even provide the voices for their caricature-esque counterparts. "Yellow Submarine" follows John, Paul, George, and Ringo as they journey to Pepperland to liberate the locals from the music-hating Blue Meanies. The Fab Four eventually came around when they saw the finished product, which features Beatles music and endures as a seminal work.

  • #92. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020)

    - Directors: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak
    - Metascore: 79
    - Runtime: 85 minutes

    Long-time film buffs will recognize Shaun the Sheep as originally a supporting character in the classic, Wallace and Gromit. Shaun was given his own spinoff in 2007, and he's back at it again for an adventure that blends sci-fi with silly shenanigans. According to, it's akin to E.T. with Shaun the Sheep in the role of Elliott.

  • #91. Tarzan (1999)

    - Directors: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
    - Metascore: 79
    - Runtime: 88 minutes

    Disney was coming down off a huge peak when it delivered this 1999 animated adventure, which some say marked the end of an era. After being raised by gorillas, Tarzan must choose between the animal world and the human one. Phil Collins won an Academy Award for writing the movie's main ballad, “You'll Be in My Heart.”

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