There is an animated movie for everyone, and hopefully you find yours here!
Animation is a classic and versatile way to tell stories. From media by Disney to Dreamworks, Pixar to Ghibli, Laika to Rocketsheep, animation has evolved and diversified, ensuring at least one animated media makes it to people’s lists of favorites.
These movies below include cult classics, local productions, and less-popular works created with plenty of heart. Regardless of their commercial and critical status, these films are not The Incredibles or Shrek or even The Emperor’s New Groove. Yet, they are movies that are still deserving of a watch as they tackle and feature a diverse range of narratives, stories, tales, characters and more. Get that watchlist ready for these animated movies that you shouldn’t sleep on.
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998)
This stunning animated film based on the story of Moses and the Book of Exodus is widely acclaimed, but it’s surprising how many people haven’t seen it. Released in 1998, the film’s animation, storyline, and gorgeous music hold up incredibly well over the decades.
TREASURE PLANET (2002)
Another cult classic, Treasure Planet is an inventive, anachronistic tale that puts a sci-fi twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. Following the journey of young Jim Hawkins and the suspicious crew of the RLS Legacy looking for the fabled planet on which space pirate Captain Flint hid his treasure, Treasure Planet is a fun, sweeping adventure wrapped in genius creative decisions.
THE IRON GIANT (1999)
The Iron Giant is a 1950s-set film about an alien Giant robot who crash-lands on Earth and is found by brave and intelligent 9-year-old Hogarth. Hogarth attempts to hide the Giant from the US government and eventually befriends the kind and curious robot. An emotional tale of self-determination and humanity, The Iron Giant cannot be watched without tissues nearby.
HAYOP KA! THE NIMFA DIMAANO STORY (2020)
Hayop Ka! takes classic Filipino teleserye tropes and brings them to life in an adult, animated, anthropomorphic way. This film, set in a Philippines where everyone is an animal, follows saleslady Nimfa Dimaano who grapples with her feelings for two men: her janitor boyfriend Roger, and rich entrepreneur Iñigo. Bold, mature, and comical, Hayop Ka! found success as the first locally-produced animated film to be distributed by Netflix.
MEET THE ROBINSONS (2007)
A childhood favorite, Meet the Robinsons follows genius inventor and orphan Lewis as he’s brought back in time by a teenager named Wilbur who asks him to fix a time machine. It’s a charming story of time travel, family, dreams, and the value of letting go of (and learning from) the past and moving forward to shape your own future.
SAVING SALLY (2016)
Saving Sally is a unique mix of live-action and animation, as well as romance, drama, and comedy. Marty, an amateur comic artist who sees the world in exaggerated comic pictures, is in love with his best friend Sally, a genius inventor with problems in her personal life and a boyfriend that Marty hates. Saving Sally is classic love story told in an extraordinary way.
ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (2001)
We can bet you’ve seen more people in costumes inspired by the characters in this movie than people you know who actually watched it. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is based on the many stories of the sunken city, and follows linguist and cartographer Milo Thatch as he embarks on an expedition to find it. Joined by a ragtag crew, he meets Kida, princess of Atlantis who wants the city to regain its former glory.
WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (2014)
This magnificent fantasy drama piece is heart-wrenching, mildly perplexing, and beautiful in all the ways a Studio Ghibli film is. Anna, a young orphan girl, is sent by her foster parents to live in a rural town for the summer and finds a connection with a mysterious young girl named Marnie. In a tale about loneliness, forgiveness, and love through time, Anna discovers the truth about herself and her family.
DAYO: SA MUNDO NG ELEMENTALIA (2008)
One of the Philippines’ first all-digital animated full-length feature films, Dayo takes from our rich repertoire of folklore to tell the story of Bubuy, a young boy who embarks on a journey to the magical land of Elementalia to save his grandparents. He encounters creatures from Philippine legends such as a young manananggal who accompanies him on his journey, a tikbalang, and pair of tiyanak.
OCEAN WAVES (1993)
In slice-of-life Ocean Waves, the lives and relationship of best friends Taku and Yutaka changes when they meet a smart but seemingly troubled girl Rikako. Nostalgic, dramatic, and with an air of days-gone-by, this Studio Ghibli movie is about love, friendship, the past, and growing up.
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO (2000)
Conmen Miguel and Tulio try to find the legendary City of Gold and get tangled up in a slew of shenanigans in this adventure comedy. Imprisoned, mistaken for gods, discovered as con artists, among other things, the two friends end up reexamining their goals and relying on each other to try and find their place in El Dorado.
A fictionalized retelling of the legend of Anastasia Romanov, this animated fantasy-musical drama film is dazzling and magical. Anastasia boasts a formidable lead, charming performances, and emotional payoffs. Its story, relationships, and animation of glittering jewels and opulence stick to you, as well as a lingering curiosity about the fate of the real Anastasia.
Another of the early animated Filipino films, Urduja also draws on local legend. Our own tale of Princess Urduja of the Tawilisi tribe (based on local Pangasinan legend) chronicles the warrior-princess’s struggle with love and duty to her tribe. When she meets a charming Chinese pirate and falls in love, to the distaste of her chieftain father and betrothed fiancé, she must face the adversities that come her way.
MONSTER HOUSE (2006)
Perfect for Halloween or a random Thursday afternoon, Monster House is a comedic but also terrifying animated horror film. It’s about a creepy house across the street from 12-year-old DJ, owned by the irascible, elderly Horace Nebbercracker. DJ is on a mission to find out what’s truly going on in that house and finds himself in a lot more trouble than he expected.
I WANT TO EAT YOUR PANCREAS (2018)
The “falling in love with someone who’s dying” trope has been done to, well, death. But that doesn’t mean it no longer works. This Japanese coming-of-age drama about a boy who meets a girl with a terminal illness is equal parts beautiful and scarring as well as charming and heartbreaking.
Whether you want a good laugh or cry, a feel-good movie or an emotional drama, animation has got your back. Gone are the days where it’s construed as a form of comedic media for children, and the wide array of stories told through this art form proves exactly that.