12 Underrated Animated Films Every Adult Should See
'Animation is for kids' is the thing of the past.
1. The Secret of Kells (2009)
A brilliant feat of traditional animation by the Irish studio Cartoon Saloon, The Secret of Kells may not be as well-known as its mainstream counterparts, but it is certainly a sight to behold. Delving into Irish history and mythology, the story is centered around a young boy named Brendan who resides in the fortified abbey of Kells. As Viking invaders threaten his home, Brendan embarks on a magical adventure to complete a sacred, unfinished book of wisdom known as the Book of Kells.
The film's intricate design, inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, makes every frame a work of art. The film scored a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for the Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards.
2. The Illusionist (2010)
From the French animation studio behind "The Triplets of Belleville", Sylvain Chomet, came another beautifully hand-drawn film, The Illusionist. The movie is based on a screenplay by the legendary French comedian Jacques Tati, which he wrote as a love letter to his estranged daughter.
This touching tale explores the life of an out-of-luck magician who forms a father-daughter bond with a young fan as they navigate through a rapidly changing world where magic is becoming obsolete. The film boasts a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% and was a box office success, grossing over $6 million worldwide.
3. Mary and Max (2009)
This Australian stop-motion film is a mix of dark humor and touching emotional drama. The plot revolves around two pen pals: Mary, a lonely eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year-old Jewish man with Asperger's Syndrome from New York.
Their unlikely friendship spanning over two decades forms the crux of the story. While it might sound heavy, it is delivered with such humor and warmth that it resonates deeply. With an impressive 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it won the Annecy Cristal at the 2009 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, the highest award given.
4. Persepolis (2007)
An adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis, takes us on a journey through her life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It beautifully captures the horrors of war and the resilience of the human spirit through the eyes of a young, rebellious girl. The simple yet powerful black-and-white animation style and the gripping narrative make it an unforgettable watch. The film won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and received a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
5. The Girl Without Hands (2016)
This French animated film takes a unique and artistic approach to the Brothers Grimm's dark fairy tale. It tells the story of a young girl whose father, in a desperate act of greed, sells her to the devil. When she remains pure despite the devil's attempts to corrupt her, he takes her hands as punishment. As she navigates through the world unarmed, she finds kindness, love, and ultimately, redemption.
The raw, sketch-like animation and minimalistic color scheme create a mesmerizing aesthetic, complimenting the film's haunting plot. It has an 86% Rotten Tomatoes rating and won the Jury Prize at the 2016 Annecy International Animated Film Festival.
6. Chico & Rita (2010)
This Spanish film combines romance, music, and the tumultuous history of the 20th century, tracing the lives of a talented piano player, Chico, and a gifted singer, Rita. From the streets of Havana to the stages of New York, the film delves into their passionate love story, tainted by heartache, ambition, and the socio-political events of the era.
The film's rich color palette and the fantastic soundtrack, filled with Latin jazz, provide an immersive cinematic experience. Chico & Rita received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature and enjoys an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Tales of the Night (2011)
From French director Michel Ocelot, known for his silhouette animation style, comes Tales of the Night. This film is a compilation of six fairy tales set in various historical eras and cultures, from the Aztec empire to the Tibetan mountains. Each story is woven around themes of love, courage, and the triumph of the underdog.
The film's distinctive animation style, where colorful background settings contrast with black silhouettes of characters, lends a timeless feel to the narratives. It was nominated for the César Award for Best Animated Film and holds a respectable 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. The Rabbi's Cat (2011)
Adapted from Joann Sfar's comic book series, The Rabbi's Cat is a French film that presents a witty, philosophical journey through 1920s Algeria. The story is narrated by the Rabbi's pet cat, who gains the ability to speak after swallowing a parrot, leading to philosophical debates about religion and the nature of God.
The film delves into themes of friendship, tolerance, and the clash of traditions and modernity. Its unique, hand-drawn style and humorous yet profound storytelling make it a delightful watch. The film won the César Award for Best Animated Film in 2012.
9. Ernest & Celestine (2012)
This French-Belgian film reimagines a world where bears live above ground in their cities and mice live below in their subterranean towns. The plot revolves around the unusual friendship between Ernest, a big bear, and Celestine, a tiny mouse. Their bond defies societal norms and expectations, leading to a whimsical and heartwarming narrative.
The beautiful watercolor animation and the compelling tale of friendship and understanding earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature and a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
10. Waltz with Bashir (2008)
This Israeli film pushes the boundaries of what we typically expect from animation, presenting a deeply personal and harrowing account of the 1982 Lebanon War. Directed by Ari Folman, the film is a documentary-style narration of his struggle to recall his experiences as an Israeli soldier during the conflict. The film uses a unique animation style to depict the surreal and often terrifying nature of war. It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
11. The Red Turtle (2016)
A joint venture between Studio Ghibli and Dutch-British animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is a dialogue-free film that speaks volumes through its visuals. The plot follows a man shipwrecked on a deserted island whose attempts to escape are thwarted by a mysterious red turtle. The story delves into themes of survival, solitude, and the cycle of human life. The film's stunning animation and moving narrative earned it an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature and a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
12. When Marnie Was There (2014)
This Japanese film, produced by Studio Ghibli, is an emotional coming-of-age story infused with a hint of mystery. The plot revolves around Anna, a lonely girl who forms a unique bond with Marnie, a mysterious girl living in an old mansion. As their friendship deepens, Anna uncovers truths about herself and her past. The film's detailed animation and emotional depth make it a touching watch. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and holds a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.