Animation is often associated with childhood. Some cartoon films cross the barriers between children and adults. Animated films express emotion, story, and theme in ways live-action films can’t. Color, drawing styles, Claymation techniques, and other unique animation elements build worlds outside of the one we live in. Here are 10 ageless animated films that even adults love.
Watership Down (1978)
In the English countryside, a group of rabbits led by Fiver (Richard Briers) and Hazel (John Hurt) flee their warren. Fiver, gifted with precognition, foresaw the destruction before it happened. Facing numerous perils, from predatory threats to rival rabbit communities, they embark on a perilous journey to find a haven. They eventually aim to establish a new warren on the idyllic hill of Watership Down. Watership Down (1978) is a rich allegory, explores themes of survival, leadership, and the challenges of building and maintaining a community
The Last Unicorn (1982)
A gentle unicorn (Mia Farrow) sets out on a quest to find her lost kin, only to discover she is the last of her kind. Aided by a hapless magician named Schmendrick (Alan Arkin), she ventures to a castle by the sea to learn the truth about her lost kin. There, the unicorn is transformed into a woman and learns of the red bull, who has been driving unicorns into the sea. Pursued by the bull and an evil king, she confronts dark forces in a bid to free the unicorns and reclaim her immortality. The Last Unicorn (1982) is a beloved animated fantasy film, based on the novel of the same name by Peter S. Beagle.
In 20th-century Russia, a young woman named Anya (Meg Ryan), suffering from amnesia, leaves the orphanage where she lives. Anya teams up with con men, Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer), who believe she could be the long-lost Grand Duchess Anastasia. As they journey to Paris to reunite with Anastasia’s grandmother, they are pursued by a vengeful sorcerer, Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), and his minion, Bartok (Frank Azaria). While Anya unravels the mystery of her past, even the conmen start to believe the con. This animated classic is packed with nostalgia, magic, and music.
Spirited Away (2001)
Spirited Away (2001) is a Studio Ghibli film about 10-year-old Chihiro (Daveigh Chase). Chihiro and her family stumble upon an abandoned amusement park while driving to their new home. When her parents are turned into pigs for eating enchanted food, Chihiro stumbles into a world of spirits. She must work in a spirit bathhouse owned by the witch, Yubaba (Suzanne Pleshette). As she searches for a way out, she encounters a range of enigmatic characters and learns valuable life lessons about identity, love, and sacrifice.
Young Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), leaves her life in Michigan behind when her parents have to move for work. Feeling neglected by her busy parents, she discovers a hidden door in the new house leading to an alternate universe. There, she meets the Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and Other Father (John Hodgman), who looks just like her own parents except for their button eyes. As the allure of this parallel world grows, she realizes its sinister secrets and must summon her courage to save herself and her real family. Coraline (2009) is based on a 2002 Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a cunning thief, plans his greatest heist against three local farmers. His actions put his family and community at risk, leading to a whimsical tale of redemption, identity, and the wild side within us all. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) was created with stop motion and directed by Wes Anderson (Asteroid City). Anderson co-write the script, which is based on Roald Dahl’s 1970 novel of the same name. The film stars the voice talents of Jason Schwartzman (Slackers) and Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada).
From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)
From Up On Poppy Hill (2011) is set in 1963 in Yokohama, Japan. The Studio Ghibli film follows Umi (Sarah Bolger) and Shun (Anton Yelchin), two high school students. The pair become unlikely friends while trying to save a school clubhouse from being demolished in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. As their bond deepens, they discover a connection from their pasts. As the pair try to unravel an old secret, new feelings threaten their discovery.
When Marnie Was There (2014)
A lonely and emotionally distant girl named Anna (Hailee Steinfeld) is sent to the countryside for health reasons. While exploring, she meets a mysterious girl named Marnie (Kiernan Shipka). Marnie lives in an old mansion by the marsh and seems to appear at strange times. As Anna gets closer to Marnie, she begins to unravel long-hidden family secrets and discovers profound connections between them. When Marnie Was There (2014) is a touching animated drama by Studio Ghibli, based on the novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) gains spider-like abilities. After the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) dies, Morales discovers the existence of multiple Spider-People from different dimensions. As they team up to stop the villainous Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from destroying all realities, Miles learns the ropes of heroism and finds his voice.
A shape-shifting girl named Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) teams up with Lord Ballister Blackheart (Riz Ahmed). Blackheart is a knight wrongly accused of killing the queen. The pair set out to expose the corruption of the kingdom’s institutions and its new leader, the Director (Frances Conroy). As their chaotic schemes unfold, the lines between good and evil blur, revealing deeper complexities of heroism and friendship. Nimona (2023) is based on the graphic novel of the same name by N.D. Stevenson.