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Look, I love princesses who belt ballads with talking snowmen as much as the next guy. The studio run by a rodent with unnaturally round ears is part of everyone’s childhood. But, with all due respect to Disney, sometimes animated movies produced by other companies blow audiences away just as much, if not more so, than Disney’s finest work. So, I present the top ten non-Disney animated movies.
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First, a couple of quick ground rules: 1. One movie per franchise. As much as we all love ‘Despicable Me 5: Minions Gone Wild’, unfortunately, we need to put it to the side for this list. 2. Don’t get too hung up on my personal picks. Just because a grown woman whose shirt is dusted with Cheeto powder more often than she cares to admit likes one movie more than another, doesn’t mean it’s objectively a better movie. I mean, I think ‘Citizen Kane’ is better than the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’, but other than that, my opinions are not the rule of law. 3.
I will only be considering American movies for this list because anime movies deserve a list of their own.
Top 10 Non-Disney Animated Movies:
#10 ‘Anastasia’ (1997)
‘Anastasia’ is inspired by the true story of the lost princess of the Romanov royal family. It tells the fascinating tale of a princess who escapes her family’s execution with her grandmother, but then hits her head and forgets who she is. This story is one of familial and romantic love conquering all and triumphing over darkness. Plus, the movie has a puppy named Pookah who puts Flounder and Mushu to shame when it comes to adorable animal sidekicks. The music in the movie is incredibly beautiful and ‘Anastasia’ is far from your typical fairytale princess. It’s a beautifully and uniquely animated movie and one that’s perfect for a family movie night!
#9 ‘Team America: World Police’ (2004)
Ever wonder what would happen if someone who majored in poli-sci and had the maturity level of a middle schooler wrote a movie? People tend to think animated movies are for kids but, conservative parents, you’re going to want to keep your kids away from this one with a ten-foot pole. Made by the brains behind ‘South Park’, ‘Team America’ is about a Broadway actor who is recruited to fight terrorism. This movie is the furthest thing from PC and no group is left unscathed. Whether your a p*ssy Frenchman, a bleeding heart actor or an American with a head the size of a supersized big mac, no one in the world is safe from this movie’s satire.
#8 ‘Rio’ (2011)
If you’ve been kept up at night wondering what a love story between two members of an endangered species of blue macaw looks like, you are very weird, but this movie will give you your answer. ‘Rio’ is visually spectacular and the music will be stuck in your head for weeks on end. The last male and female blue macaw go on an epic adventure through the forests and streets of Rio de Janeiro. The use of color in this movie is absolutely breathtaking and the visual style is so unique. The movie is also hilarious and gives a powerful message about human impact on the environment.
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#7- ‘Coraline’ (2009)
‘Coraline’ is so fantastically creepy and it’s a true feat of stop motion animation. Coraline feels isolated when she and her family move to a new town until she discovers a door to another world where everyone seems to worship her. But all is not what it seems and the ancient creature Beldam tries to trap Coraline in the Other world forever. The movie is a psychological horror with a PG rating. The animation is so artful and creepy, reminiscent of the work of Tim Burton while also being so uniquely ‘Coraline’. The story is a brilliant meditation on growing up and learning that a world revolving around you is hardly a world at all.
#6- ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut’ (1999)
The moral of this movie is–whenever there’s a problem in your life, blame Canada. This is the second entry on our list from the minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In this movie, all the parents of South Park gang up on Canada after the ‘Terrence and Phillip’ movie causes their kids to start cursing and behaving badly. In typical ‘South Park’ fashion, there are no punches held back as Stone and Parker rip into modern parenting, youth culture, and somehow also Sadam Hussein. Yeah, it gets weird. The evil dictator literally gets into bed with Satan and that’s one of the tamer parts of the movie. The movie is everything you’ve wanted to see in a ‘South Park’ episode and more.
#5- ‘Despicable Me’ (2010)
If you put together a plot to steal the moon, a weird mash-up of a German and Russian accent, some weird oval-shaped, hyper loyal minions, and three adorable little girls, you get ‘Despicable Me’. Gru recruits three little girls to help him in his mission to steal the moon, but he ends up forming a bond with the girls, which causes him to change for the better. It’s a movie about redemption, family, and one little girl’s quest to find the fluffiest unicorn plushie.
What’s not to love? The voice talent in this movie is top-notch with Steve Carell in the lead role and all-stars like Jason Segel, Miranda Cosgrove, and Russell Brand rounding out the cast. The movie is utterly hilarious and yet heartfelt in all the right places. So, if you can deal with a bit of Minion Mania (a condition in which you spontaneously begin singing The Beach Boys’ Barbara Anne in Minionese) you should definitely check out ‘Despicable Me’.
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#4- ‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie’ (2004)
As a kid, waiting for this movie to come out was a struggle. Along with everyone else in my generation, I grew up a ‘Spongebob’ kid. The reason everyone in their early to mid-20s right now can quote a random ‘Spongebob’ line at any given moment is because the show was so well written and widely appealing, and the movie was essentially a 90-minute version of that. In the movie, Patrick and Spongebob go on a mission to find out who stole King Neptune’s crown. The movie is hilarious and I swear, the scene in which Patrick and Spongebob are drying out under a hot lamp is every bit as emotional as the incinerator scene from ‘Toy Story 3’.
#3- ‘The Simpsons Movie’ (2007)
You know this movie will be hilarious from the moment Ralph Wiggum comes on-screen singing along to the 20th Century Fox theme. Homer dooms the whole town when he dumps a silo full of, how to put this politely, pig excrement into Lake Springfield. To stop the toxicity of the lake from spreading to the rest of the country, the EPA puts a giant dome around Springfield to isolate the town. I suppose that’s one way to quarantine. It’s impossible to go five minutes in this movie without laughing hysterically. It is truly ‘The Simpsons’ at their finest. From the completely unnecessary Tom Hanks cameo to the bar patrons and churchgoers switching places when they first see the dome being dropped on the town and realize they’re doomed, every second of this movie is utter comedy gold.
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#2- ‘Shrek’ (2001)
This movie is a masterpiece from start to finish as it scathingly mocks tropes we recognize as Disney staples while also being incredibly heartfelt and touching. ‘Shrek’ goes on a journey to save a princess with his loyal companion, Donkey. Where to start with this movie? It turns everything Disney has drilled into our brains since we were old enough to sing “Let it Go” out on its head. The dashing prince is the villain and a big ugly ogre with swamp breath is the hero.
The most adorable characters are also the most irritating to Shrek. And the princess is a bonafide badass who has a black belt in kicking butt and taking names. On top of that, the dialogue is hilarious and the voice casting couldn’t be more perfect. So, if you’re willing to put some of those Disney fantasies to the side for a movie that’s a bit more down-to-earth and honest, definitely give ‘Shrek’ a try.
#1- ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ (2018)
If I had to use only one word to describe this movie, it would be breathtaking. This movie is not only one of the most unique visual feats we’ve seen on screen, but it has an amazing story and unforgettable characters. This movie will have you both laughing hysterically and reaching for the tissue box within its two-hour run-time. Miles Morales goes from normal kid to Spider-Man and teams up with five different Spider-Men from other universes to take down a threat to the multiverse.
This movie is unlike any other movie in existence. It combines multiple different styles of animation, giving it an incredibly unique visual look, and no other animated movie can compare. Miles is an incredibly relatable protagonist which gives such an over-the-top story a breath of humanity. And on top of all that, the movie’s also hilariously funny. Definitely put it at the top of your must-watch list.
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Carrie Fishbane is obsessed with all things comedy and loves to reflect on the impact of comedy on the world. Having spent thousands of hours studying literature, she also writes about the political impact of entertainment and the power movies and TV have to create social change. Hollywood Insider promotes ethics and substance in entertainment, which is exactly in line with Carrie’s perspective. Carrie’s favorite movies include Jojo Rabbit, Deadpool, and Inception and her favorite shows are Rick and Morty, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and The Office.