15 Must-See Non-Disney Animated Films That Still Hold Up in 2023
Here are some animated wonders worth revisiting, or experiencing for the first time, in 2023.
The classic spin on fairy tales, no prince charming, and damsels who might be in distress but don't stay that way. Our ogre hero, Shrek, likes his swamp, alright? Yet, when the fairy tale riffraff sets up camp, thanks to Lord Farquaad, he ain't pleased. Quest time! Off he goes to reclaim his land, saving Princess Fiona in the process. The catch? She's got her own layers, only revealing her true self when the moon shines. A donkey for a sidekick, a fire-breathing dragon for drama.
2. Spirited Away
Chihiro, a girl of mere ten years, finds herself in a mysterious world inhabited by spirits and gods. And guess what? Her parents have turned into pigs. Yep, pigs! At the core of it all stands the Bathhouse, ruled by Yubaba, the witch. Work she must to save her parents, encountering everything from faceless spirits to river gods. The whole world flows, ebbs, and evolves like an enchanting piece of art. It's not just about fantastical creatures, it's about life, where every small thing matters.
3. Kung Fu Panda
Po, a chubby Panda, has always aspired to be something more than a noodle-maker. He gets catapulted into greatness, stumbling, quite literally, into the sacred martial arts tournament. The Furious Five, legends in their own right, aren't amused. The villain? Tai Lung, a snow leopard with a bone to pick. Po goes from being a zero to a hero, not by losing weight, mind you, but by redefining what it means to be a true warrior.
4. The Iron Giant
Elegance in simplicity, that's what The Iron Giant is. A colossal metal man lands in a small American town during the peak of the Cold War. A boy named Hogarth finds him. Don't they always? This metallic behemoth could flatten cities, but no, he likes art and even attempts the word 'Superman.' The government's involved, led by a gumshoe named Mansley who thinks the giant's a commie machine. The plot's a 1950s comic book come to life, and let me tell you, it packs a punch in its message.
5. How to Train Your Dragon
Vikings and dragons—sounds like an odd couple, but boy, does it work! Hiccup, a Viking teen, is about as warrior-like as a soggy marshmallow. Then comes Toothless, a Night Fury dragon. What's a Night Fury? Let's just say, they're the stealth bombers of the dragon world. The duo forms an alliance against all Viking traditions and social norms. People find out, uproar ensues, but it turns out dragons aren't the problem; it's the giant, angry dragon boss causing all the fuss.
Zoo animals go wild, but not in the way you'd expect. Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippo are city slickers. They call the New York Zoo home. When Marty wishes to go back to the wild, or what he thinks is the wild, things go sideways. They find themselves on the shores of Madagascar. Feral lemurs, predators turned herbivores, and a lot of island misadventures ensue.
Creepy yet captivating, Coraline dabbles in the macabre, but in a kid-friendly way. Coraline finds a parallel universe, much like Alice and her Wonderland. Except this place has button-eyed versions of her family who seem, well, nicer. But, lo and behold, it's a trap! The Other Mother wants to sew buttons onto Coraline's eyes. Coraline has to use her smarts to outwit her and rescue her real parents.
8. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
A Wallace and his dog, Gromit, run a humane pest control service. There's a giant vegetable competition in the neighborhood, see? But there's also a were-rabbit on the loose, a creature that combines the qualities of both Wallace and a rabbit, thanks to a botched experiment. Will they catch the monstrous bunny before it devours all the prized veggies?
9. The Prince of Egypt
Biblical stories take many shapes, and in The Prince of Egypt, it's awe-inspiring animation. Moses and Ramses, raised as brothers in Egyptian luxury, find their lives torn asunder when Moses learns of his Hebrew heritage. The plot unfolds at some crazy speed: plagues, exoduses, and, of course, the parting of the Red Sea.
This movie spins a romantic yarn of historical what-ifs. Anastasia survives the downfall of the Romanovs but grows up without her memories. Enter Dmitry and Vlad, con men planning to find a girl to pose as Anastasia for the reward. Joke's on them—she's the real deal! But Rasputin, that bony sorcerer, isn't having it.
11. The Land Before Time
Dinosaurs are a kid's best friend, no? Littlefoot, a young Brontosaurus, is separated from his family after a devastating earthquake. Joined by other young dinos, they embark on a perilous journey to find the Great Valley, a place still lush and untouched by the cataclysm.
12. The Road to El Dorado
Swashbucklers, con men, and a city of gold—what's not to love? Tulio and Miguel find a map to El Dorado and stumble upon the city. The natives think they're gods and treat them like royalty. It's all hunky-dory until the duo realize their deception could bring ruin to the people of El Dorado.
13. Despicable Me
Enter Gru, your neighborhood villain with a heart of...well, not exactly gold, but definitely not lead either. His grand plan: to steal the moon! To pull it off, he adopts three little girls to help him nab a shrink ray from a rival villain. If it sounds like the setup for a comedy skit, you're not far off.
14. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
An old man finds a princess inside a bamboo stalk, and she grows into a beautiful woman overnight. Not your usual 'girl-next-door' tale. She's named Princess Kaguya and is sought after by suitors far and wide. The film unfolds like a living painting, capturing the essence of this ancient Japanese fable in every frame.
15. The Lego Movie
Bricks assemble! It's a regular Lego world until Emmet, an ordinary construction worker Lego figure, is mistaken for the "Special", a master builder who can save the Lego universe. A sprawling adventure that skewers and celebrates popular culture while crisscrossing through various Lego realms.