This has been a robust and diverse decade for animation, although it might not seem like it. While the decade has largely been dominated by mainstream powerhouses like DreamWorks, Pixar and Disney (whose current “Frozen 2” and 2013’s “Frozen” dominated the conversation), some of which are represented here because some of it legitimately good, there have still been a number of powerful independent features and movies that don’t just utilize the slickest, most cutting-edge computer-generated imagery. The fact that there are several stop-motion animated features (and a few traditionally hand-drawn movies) on this list is a testament to how many animated films were released this decade and how different those films were to one another.
So, it’s in this spirit of celebration that we run down the list of the twenty-five best-animated features of the past decade. These films run the gamut – computer-generated, stop-motion, hand-drawn, LEGO-ized, black-and-white, watercolor and whatever the hell dark alchemy produced “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” The difference in subject matter and format speaks to the ceaseless creativity of animation and the willingness of creators to push the boundaries whenever they can.
More best of year and decade content is here too, the 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2020, The 100 Best Films Of The Decade, the 25 Best Films Of 2019, the Best Performances Of The Decade, Best Cinematography of the Decade, Best Soundtracks of the Decade, Best TV of the Decade, Best Documentaries Of The Decade, Best Animated Films Of The Decade, Best TV of 2019, Best Posters of 2019, and Trailers of 2019 and more to come.
25. “Teen Titans! Go To The Movies” (2018)
On one hand, it’s a little bit of a trifle of a movie, an extension of the ongoing “Teen Titans Go!” animated series on Cartoon Network that is impossibly silly. On the other, it’s a rather subversive, hilariously ridiculous and meta riff on the nature of superhero movies, their dominance, ubiquitousness, and cultural pervasiveness. It’s a clever and sly riff on identity too that examines the inadequacy inherent in the superhero sidekick and his cast off buddies. Craftily using a narrative about the childishness of the Teen Titans as the reason the teams doesn’t have a feature-length movie made about, ‘Go To The Movies’ explores the infantile nature of superhero movies and their clichés, while also embracing the idea of the underdog heroic spirit, overcoming-obstacles and self-doubt. It’s also funny as hell with a lot of dumb potty jokes that are puerile, but admittedly LOL-worthy. It’s also kind of a terrific musical—entertaining bangers and earworms, stupid and gut-busting—and hell, Nicholas Cage finally gets to be Superman. It’s irresistibly goofy and a hell of a good time at the movies. – Rodrigo Perez
24. “Winnie the Pooh” (2011)
It’s unbelievable that Disney only released a single traditionally animated feature in the entire decade, and it’s even more astounding so few people saw that film. This is what happens when you release your new animated feature on the same weekend that the last “Harry Potter” was coming out. But the gentle and sweet “Winnie the Pooh” is worth seeking out (it’s currently on Disney+); it’s charming and funny and expertly told, harkening back to the featurettes that began with 1966’s “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree” but also playfully indulging in new ideas and animation styles. Also, the songs, by the team of Bobby and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who would go on to write the earworms of “Frozen,” are totally irresistible. With most of the hand-drawn animators either leaving the studio or working on different projects, it left “Winnie the Pooh” with a murderer’s row of animation legends. And the results are undeniably incredible.– Drew Taylor
23. “Incredibles 2” (2018)
Brad Bird released only one animated feature this decade: Pixar‘s “Incredibles 2,” a sequel 14-years-in-the-making. While it’s easy to commend the spectacularness of its storytelling, from the opening sequence that takes place right where the first movie left off, to the bombastic climax aboard a careening luxury yacht, the film’s greatest, most meaningful accomplishment is its depiction of a family struggling to keep it together while the modern world ceaselessly tugs upon them. The reversal of Holly Hunter‘s stretchy Helen being the one coerced into super-heroism is a brilliant touch, emphasizing the first film’s subtle feminism and making for a much different tone. (Bob becoming a stay-at-home dad and dealing with things like “new math” is heartwarming and hilarious.) With a bigger canvas and more technological tools, Bird isn’t quite able to seamlessly replicate the charm and surprise of the original, but that doesn’t mean “Incredibles 2” isn’t still a terrific look a superheroism as it applies to the struggle of modern family dynamics, staying together and surviving through it all. – DT
22. “The Secret World of Arrietty” (2010)
Although widely considered one of the decade’s lesser Studio Ghibli entries, this energetic adaptation of Mary Norton‘s “The Borrowers,” co-written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (who also directed the Oscar-nominated “When Marnie Was There” a few years later), is still a lovely work that features a wonderful lead character in Arrietty (voiced by Saoirse Ronan in the surprisingly good English dub) and an ingenious design that really allows you to feel like you’ve been shrunken down to the size of a tiny creature. In many ways, the film, about a four-inch-tall family that lives clandestinely in another family’s residence, shares DNA with Miyazaki’s own “My Neighbor Totoro,” and its charming sense of place, allowing for moments to fully breathe (in a way the best Ghibli films bring to mind Terrence Malick and his unhurried storytelling). While many would label this picture forgettable, the ways that the wizards at Studio Ghibli play with scale and the series of inventive set pieces utilizing this playfulness, and still manage to find a quiet soulful depth, hasn’t left our memory all these years later. – DT
21. “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (2013)
Made by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (who sadly died last year at the age of 83), “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is strikingly beautiful, so much so that it looks unlike anything else released this decade (animated or otherwise). Done in a painterly, watercolor style that evokes not only some of the historical illustrations based on the same 10th century Japanese folktale—about mysterious girl discovered as a baby inside the stalk of a glowing bamboo plant—the splendorous visual style also reminds of the watercolor backgrounds of classic Disney animated features (including those done by Chinese artist Tyrus Wong for “Bambi“). Thankfully its stylistic synthesis never gets in the way of its storytelling, which is vibrant and full of heart, emphasizing empowerment and self-actualization over traditional “princess” roles. If you’ve never seen this film and consider yourself a Studio Ghibli fan, consider it a must see. – DT