5 Most Sublime Animated Movies

When Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, critics were skeptical about the idea of a full-length animated film. They thought audiences wouldn’t buy tickets or sit through a long cartoon. Boy, were they wrong. In the 90+ years since this film hit theaters, animation has become a cultural mainstay. 

Animated films hit all kinds of notes from whimsical to thought-provoking, but they all have art and beauty at their centers. Looking for a film to watch? Then, check out these five absolutely sublime animated films. 

1. Paprika

Based on the 1993 novel Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui, this 2006 animated thriller was directed by Satoshi Kon and features the work of celebrated animator Masashi Ando. The film tells the story of D. Atsuko Chiba a psychiatrist who develops a dream machine to help her patients. 

When the machine is stolen, Dr. Chiba and her dream version Paprika spring into action. The ensuing drama blends dreams and reality, science and fiction, and fear and love against a backdrop of startlingly beautiful animation. 

2. Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir embraces an animation style based on Adobe Flash cutouts. The result — surrealistic imagery that feels like a memory. Written, directed, and starring Ari Folman, the film looks at the aftermath of Folman’s experiences as a 19-year-old infantry soldier in Lebanon. 

Although Folman witnessed massacres, he has no memory of them, and he uses this film to explore that idea. Using animation as a documentary device, Folman interviews soldiers and journalists who witnessed the same massacres, and he also talks with a psychologist about the intersection of memory and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

3. Wall-E

While the first two films on the list may not be ideal for children, Wall-E delights viewers of all ages. Produced by Pixar, the film follows the story of a garbage-collecting robot named Wall-E. When an unmanned probe arrives to look for signs of life on Earth, Wall-E falls in love with the robot inside and ultimately follows her across the galaxy. At the culmination of their journey humans return to earth, and happiness ensues. 

The apocalyptic love story is beautiful, and the robotic characters are enchanting, but this animated film makes the list because of its camera work. To establish a sense of visual realism, the filmmakers mimicked the effect of a camera, a feat not seen on many if any other animated films. 

4. Sleeping Beauty

Made long before a lot of the animation technology that fuels Pixar films, Sleeping Beauty features animation that looks like it should be on display at a museum. The film tells the classic story of a maiden who succumbs to a curse on her 16th birthday and falls into a 100-years sleep that can only be reversed by a prince’s kiss. However, the true beauty of this film isn’t the plot or the characters. Instead, it’s the intricate and sublime backdrops created by Eyvind Earle. 

5. Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki is known for making many anime classics including Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and Ponyo, but Spirited Away is arguably the most visually sublime of his films. This film tells the story of a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned amusement park and ultimately loses her parents and becomes stuck in the spirit world. The plot immerses viewers, while the animation enchants them. The film is tender and contemplative, but also compelling and active. 

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