We Ranked the 51 Best Animated Movies of All Time, From Snow White to Soul

These entertaining animation classics are the best of an enduring, ever-evolving modern art form. To celebrate the release of Disney/Pixar's Soul (now streaming on Disney+), we're bringing you the definitive ranking of the best animated feature films ever. From the hand-drawn masterworks of Walt Disney to modern-day technological wonders from Pixar, Laika and Illumination, we love animated films because, at their best, they present limitless possibilities for storytelling. For this list, we're taking into account each film's overall quality, cultural impact, how well they've aged, and re-watchability.

In ascending order, here are the 51 best animated movies of all time, ranked. 

Best Animated Movies of All Time

51. Despicable Me (2010)

Minions mania began here, with this heartwarming computer-animated family film that's got more irreverence and belly laughs than most pictures of its ilk. The voice of Steve Carell stars as Gru, a supervillain who discovers his soft side after adopting three young daughters. Multiple sequels and prequels followed in this now-mega-franchise. Minions: The Rise of Gru is slated for a summer release.

50. Kung Fu Panda trilogy (2008-2016) 

All three vibrant films in this series are highly recommended—but part two is the best. A sequel that's deeper, darker, more artistic and ambitious than its predecessor, Po (Jack Black) and the Furious Five battle evil white peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), who's attempting to conquer China. Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Kung Fu Panda 2 grossed $665 million. It was the highest-grossing film directed by a woman until Frozen two years later; the highest-grossing film directed solely by a woman until 2017's Wonder Woman. The voice talents of Bryan CranstonKate Hudson and J.K. Simmons helped 2016's part three end the series on a high note.

49. Moana (2016)

Stunning 3D vistas and toe-tapping earworms are highlights of Disney Studios' musical comedy adventure film about Polynesian girl who sets out to save her island from a blight with the help of a demigod. The story is pretty routine, but the audiovisual loveliness is transporting. Nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, losing to the same studio's Zootopia.

48. Your Name (2019)

Thanks to a rich narrative—and superb visuals matched with a memorable score—this animé teen rom-com body-swap fantasy became a critical darling, and the fifth highest-grossing movie in Japanese box-office history. A live-action American remake is in development at Paramount.

47. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) 

Wes Anderson's first animated film and first adaptation is based on Roald Dahl's 1970 book, about a standoff between farmers and a cunning family of foxes. True to the spirit of Dahl, and all-time family film great Willy Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryFantastic Mr. Fox is confidently odd, and frightening in a way few movies of its ilk aspire to be. Anderson's 2017 stop-motion Isle of Dogs had breathtaking artwork—and lots of off-putting racially insensitive stuff.

Related: The 151 Best Horror Movies of All Time, Ranked 

46. The Lego Movie (2014)

Product placement meets multiplex entertainment meets art in a witty, meta surprise critical darling that, along with Guardians of the Galaxy the same year, made Chris Pratt one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Everything was a little less awesome in the so-so, less streamlined and belated sequel.

45. The Jungle Book (1967) 

Released 10 months after the death of Walt Disney (this is the final film he produced), The Jungle Book adapted Rudyard Kipling's 1894 book with memorable characters and catchy songs. Jon Favreau's electrifying 2016 live-action hybrid reimagining remains the high-water mark for Disney remakes, by a margin.

44. Ghost in the Shell (1995) 

Bombing in its first run before rapidly achieving cult status on home video, futuristic animé follows a cyborg agent, pondering themes of identity and technology. Remade as a live-action, lifeless and infamously whitewashed Hollywood action pic in 2017.

43. Mulan (1998) 

Disney goes full wuxia in a winning blend of female empowerment, high-stakes fights and bright, sometimes anachronistic humor. The admittedly photogenic 2020 live-action remake was mostly a missed opportunity, with action that somehow had less weight than the cartoon, and nixing beloved Mushu (Eddie Murphy) for alleged realism—while adding an evil lady who transforms into a bird sometimes. Strange.

42. Zootopia (2016)

Disney's 55th animated feature delivers on uncommonly ambitious designs. Set in a metropolis of anthropomorphic mammals, crime saga/comedy hybrid Zootopia has a lot on its mind: systemic racism, social unrest, even addiction and the illegal drug trade. It's an audacious endeavor, delivering an entertaining picture that families can passively enjoy—and subtext that lingers with mature audiences.

41. Coraline (2009)

Starring the vocal talents of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher, Coraline is based on the fantasy novella of the same name by Neil Gaiman, Laika's dazzling stop-motion animation is used to tell the story of a girl who discovers a parallel universe with dark secrets through a doorway in her new home.

40. Frozen (2013) and Frozen 2 (2019) 

We're going to let go of the urge to make a let it go pun here. Disney's 2013 smash and its slightly superior sequel are both among the highest-grossing films of all time, and it's easy to be enchanted by the subversive, empowering messages for young girls here.

39. Coco (2017) 

Much has been said about the brilliance with which Pixar handles the topic of death and grieving. Case in point: Oscar-winning musical dramedy Coco, centered on an aspiring musician who finds himself in the colorful Land of the Dead.

38. Persepolis (2007) 

Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical drama—based on her own graphic novel—is a bildungsroman set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. It's harrowing, rebellious, at times exhilarating. Tied for Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

37. How to Train Your Dragon trilogy (2010-2019)

The bond of human and animal is explored with heart-tugging effectiveness in DreamWorks' saga of Vikings, dragon fighting—and a boy and his beloved pet. Quality control has been truly remarkable over the series' run. They're all first-rate family entertainment.

36. Chicken Run (2000) 

Aardman's stop-motion family comedy boasts wit, surprising bite, and a crackerjack performance from Mel Gibson. The high-energy yarn about foul attempting to flee the coup was an international hit for the studio that brought us Wallace & Gromit.

35. Monsters Inc. (2001) 

Thanks to funny, bittersweet storytelling, advances in animation—especially the detail of hair and other materials—and the voice talents of Billy Crystal and John Goodman, Pixar's fourth outing was a big win.

Nominated for the inaugural Oscar for Best Animated Feature, losing to Shrek. Lesser—though certainly diverting and fun enough—sequel Monsters University followed in 2013.

34. Princess Mononoke (1997)

A gory, buoyant, fantastical epic about man's relationship with nature from Studio Ghibli, and directed by legendary Hayao Miyazaki himself, Princess Mononoke is also noteworthy for the care that was put into its release stateside. Hollywood produced an English re-dub partially written by fantasy author Neil Gaiman, and featuring A-list voice talent such as Claire DanesBilly Crudup, and Gillian Anderson. The U.S. distributor initially also intended to make some edits to the film for its U.S. release then Miyazaki mailed the Weinstein Company a katana sword with a note attached that simply read, "No Cuts."

33. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) 

Stronger than any of the live-action Batman films of the 90s that followed it, this moody neo-noir sees The Animated Series‘ Bruce Wayne investigate a sinister imitator… and fall in love. There’s a case to be made for Mark Hamill being the all-time best Joker.

32. Wolfwalkers (2020) 

An international co-production, the most spellbinding animated film of 2020  matches dreamy Celtic-inspired fantasy imagery with commanding voice work. Excelling more as a vessel for discovery and enchantment than narrative conflict, Cartoon Saloon’s latest feature calls to mind the work of master Miyazaki.

31. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

In some circles, this one gets flack for softening elements of Victor Hugo‘s 1831 novel. Look, if everything on the page made it to the screen, an entire generation of kids would still be in therapy, and this would have been Disney’s first R-rated cartoon. As it is, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is quite intense, –not to mention touching, funny, rather breathtakingly drawn, and operatic. In a four-star review, Roger Ebert called this a “high point” of the Disney Renaissance that began with The Little Mermaid and ended at the turn of the century.

Bold statement alert: Tony Jay‘s fear-mongering, narcissistic, genocidal Judge Claude Frollo was the most twisted and horrific Disney villain since Snow White’s relentless stepmother. Compare Frollo’s bigotry, mind games and hatred to baddies like Jafar and Captain Hook. Those two look adorable by comparison, don’t they?

30. Wreck-It Ralph (2012) andRalph Breaks the Internet (2018)

These Wreck-It-Ralph movies are so, so good. Better than they get credit for, even. They both tackle uncommonly meaty themes for all-ages audiences. The first one expressed that it’s our unusual, offbeat traits—glitches, if you will—that serve us in the long run. Set within the arcade games of the original, and then thrust into the entire internet, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a sweet, nuanced story about the work it takes to maintain enduring friendships–which, let’s face it, isn’t always easy. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards. A characteristically wonderful Gal Gadot joined returning voice stars John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman.

29. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Stop-motion comedy from Aardman is flat-out hilarious. Crackerjack, good-natured man-and-dog duo Wallace and Gromit are as lovable as any characters in animation We have a soft spot for Gromit, the silent canine who somehow is about as expressive as Meryl Streep with mere eyebrows and body language.

28. Akira (1988)

A stylized, lightning-paced cyberpunk thriller set in dystopian, post-apocalyptic Tokyo, KatsuhiroOtomo's iconic Akira is a touchstone for action, sci-fi and animation. Without AkiraThe Matrix wouldn't be a thing. It's that simple.

27. Alice in Wonderland (1951) 

The 13th Disney animated feature is the essential big-screen take on Lewis Carroll's classic book. The RKO-released follow-up to Cinderella received lukewarm reception in its initial run, eventually becoming a cult classic (thanks to psychedelic 1970s re-releases) and critically re-assessed. Remade as an interminably bloated, highly profitable blockbuster in 2010.

26. Soul (2020) 

Simply put, Pixar has done it again. A meditation of life, death, the metaphysical and jazz, Soul is top-shelf Pixar every step of the way. Soul will likely win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, a Best Picture nod is highly probable— and the innovative music of Trent ReznorAtticus Ross and Jon Batiste is a lock for Best Original Score.

25. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A funny and heartfelt work of dizzying invention, Into the Spider-Verse is Spidey’s first entirely animated theatrical outing. With a texture like a living painting, Spider-Verse is one of the most idiosyncratic, confidently original works of art to hit the multiplexes–from any genre–in years, Spidey’s critically acclaimed spin through the multiverse opened up this character’s already formidable big-screen legacy to limitless possibilities. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Related: The 51 Best Superhero Movies of All Time, Ranked 

24.Aladdin  (1992)

Composer Howard Ashman, who also co-wrote the music of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, passed away while Aladdin was still in production, and he is immortalized in these iconic scores. Also, Aladdin's Genie is one of the most ingenious inventions in animation history, a clown who could morph and mold himself to suit the singular rapid-fire wit and imagination of Robin Williams. This is the funniest movie in the entire Disney canon, and a testament to Williams' genius.

23. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, based on a Japanese short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, is a heavy war drama about two young siblings struggling to survive during the final months of World War II. Likely due to its tragic, uncompromising content, the film was initially a box office failure in Japan and the United States, but over time has become internationally recognized as a masterwork. Softly dreamy, painterly drawings match the narrative's unflinching humanism.

22. Cinderella (1950)   

Walt Disney made a career of risk and bold moves. After expensive productions PinocchioBambi, and Fantasia all bombed at the box office (later to find the success and acclaim they deserved on home video), his studio averted bankruptcy in spectacular fashion with a musical fantasy adaptation of an oft-adapted fairy tale classic. Today, it's clearly not quite on the level of its predecessors in terms of character and plot, but a classic nonetheless. Its staggering financial success ushered Disney into a new era.

21. The Iron Giant (1999) 

A half-decade before The IncrediblesBrad Bird received acclaim for this traditionally animated, Art Deco-accented fable of a lonely boy, a paranoid government and an alien robot. A box-office bomb in 1999, The Iron Giant is now regarded as a modern classic.

20. Dumbo (1941)

Simple and sweet, packing a lot of story into 64 minutes, Disney's Oscar-winning musical about a circus elephant was a relatively modest production, the studio's most profitable film of the '40s. Remade with an abrasively icy touch in 2019, begetting mixed-t0-negative reviews. When the original classic hit Disney+, the infamous "Jim Crows" were edited out.

19. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) 

Like fellow holiday classic Gremlins, this red-blooded Halloween-Christmas mashup is one of the scariest movies ever aimed—ostensibly—at children. The Tim Burton-produced stop-motion musical has grown so iconic and popular that it’s become its own brand, but it’s important to remember just how special the film is on its own merits. The Danny Elfman songs haunt, and the German Expressionism-inspired visuals are breathtaking. Film critic Roger Ebert even compared the picture to Star Wars.

Related: 14 Essential Can’t-Miss Christmas Movies 

18. The Lion King (1994)

With no shortage of catchy tunes, memorable anthropomorphized characters, humor and drama, this Africa-set loose adaptation of Hamlet was one of the most financially successful films of the '90s, for good reason. The "live-action" though not really live-action remake received mixed reviews (Uncanny Valley alert!), and is currently the highest-grossing animated film of all time.

17. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) 

One of Miyazaki's defining works centers on two young sisters, their ailing mother, and magic spirits. Over time, it's become universally hailed as one of the greatest of family films. One of the coolest features of HBO Max is that nearly all Ghibli films, including Totoro, are now at subscribers' fingertips.

16. The Incredibles (2004)

The only good Fantastic Four movie further established Brad Bird as a new master of animation. The Incredibles is stylish, retro and breathlessly dynamic—among other things, it’s a modern action classic with more heart-stopping moments than most R-rated explosion fests. It was followed by a lucrative 2018 sequel that was entertaining but rushed, lacking the uncommonly slow burn, character-driven buildup that made the original so memorable.

15. Ratatouille (2007)

Brad Bird's masterpiece about Remy, a rat who dreams of becoming a chef, is a touching portrait of a struggling artist. There's a wordless moment near the end of Ratatouille, in which ice-cold, seemingly impenetrable food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) takes a bite of of Remy's cooking, and is transported, joyously, to a childhood memory. The power of cinema.

14. WALL-E (2008)

Pixar showed gravitas to release WALL-E, a post-apocalyptic romantic comedy epic about robots that is completely wordless for long stretches. How could a general audience in the twenty-first century relate and empathize with a robot who barely says a word?! Well, big-eyed, kind-hearted, sensitive and romantic WALL-E is one of Pixar's greatest wonders, and his perilous journey through outer space for the woman (female-sounding robot) he loves, is nothing short of riveting. You can expect this movie to age about as well as the great silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and as an added bonus, WALL-E is a genuinely provocative work of science fiction to boot.

13. Up! (2009)

The second animated film in history nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture after Beauty and the Beast, Up! is Pixar at the peak of their powers, and their commitment to creating intelligent cinematic events that appeal to audiences young and old. The iconic, tear duct-depleting opening five minutes of Up! are a revelation for animated kid-friendly fare. The Oscar-nominated screenplay by Pete DocterBob Peterson, and  Tom McCarthy (who later won an Oscar for writing Spotlight), doesn't shy away from a bluntly somber depiction of child neglect. There's also a flying balloon house, and a talking Golden Retriever. Bold, magnificent art and entertainment.

12. The Little Mermaid (1989)

Following Walt Disney's death in December 1966, the studio floundered a bit for over two decades. Several animated films were released, but none were particularly great, nor did any catch fire at the box office. The Little Mermaid was a runaway success— breathed new life into the studio, and kick-started a decade-long era of animated hits now known as the Disney Renaissance. The score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman is spellbinding; the melodies are enormous and indelible, and the lyrics are so intricate and clever, often hilarious. Watching it as an adult, it's hard not to be really moved by the story of father and daughter working to mend a relationship that's drifting apart. There's a lot of depth in the ocean.

Related: The Best Movie Posters of All Time

11. Inside Out (2015)

After stumbling a bit with serviceable but hardly great fare like BraveCars 2, and Monsters University, Pixar came roaring back in top form with Inside Out, a profound and deft exploration of emotional regulation that is somehow both nimbly funny and gut-wrenchingly sad. The Academy Award-nominated screenplay by Pete DocterMeg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley taps into the intricacies of the human condition like nothing you've ever seen.

Top 10 Animated Movies of All Time

10. Shrek (2001)

The third and fourth Shrek movies got pretty bad pretty fast, so it might be hard to remember just how fresh, surprising and invigorating the first one was. The tale of an ogre (Mike Myers) who falls for a fair princess (Cameron Diaz) had a relentless irreverence only matched by the tenderness of its heart. Love is blind. Few films since City Lights have expressed that with such clarity and sincerity.

9. the Toy Story series (1995-2019)

Pixar's mature saga of long-term friendship—and growing up—ushered in a new era of animation. The series maintained massive critical and financial success for a quarter-century.

The best of the bunch is part three. The unexpectedly dark and bittersweet detours taken in its third act are among the greatest creative risks the artists at Pixar have ever taken, and the most rewarding. Perhaps especially for millennial audiences who grew up with Andy, Toy Story 3 is a profoundly moving film. The fourth picture is often brilliant, but more divisive—ending on an uncomfortably mature note.

8. Fantasia (1940) 

Fantasia, Walt Disney’s ambitious collection of eight animated musical vignettes set to a score conducted by Leopold Stokowski and emcee’d by Mickey Mouse, the first movie ever released in stereo, was so expensive that it didn’t start to turn a profit until its 1969 theatrical re-release. The film has been re-released so often that it is one of the highest-grossing films of all time when taking inflation into account. The next time you have an opportunity to experience Fantasia on the big screen, don’t pass it up. A state-of-the-art sound system–or better yet, a live orchestra–turns Fantasia up to 11.

The finale, set to composer Modest Mussorgsky‘s “A Night on Bald Mountain,” depicts Satan and his followers wreaking havoc throughout the night. As dawn breaks, church bells and “Ave Maria” drive the Prince of Darkness into the underworld. Fantasia takes you on a journey; that’s for damn sure.

7. Finding Nemo (2003) 

Films in the top tier of Pixar's canon are so uniformly astonishing—quietly revolutionary—that choosing which is the best is totally daunting. As much in its screenwriting as in its groundbreaking underwater visuals, Finding Nemo is a masterpiece. Laugh-out-loud funny with an abundance of pathos, the underwater adventure is all about the woes of helicopter parenting, the inevitability of risk and even danger.

6. Bambi (1942) 

The movie about a white-tailed deer who becomes the Great Prince of the Forest remains a touchstone for animation. The unforgettable paintings of Tyrus Wong inspire the great creators of modern times. For young audiences, Bambi is gateway horror, with a death scene that's among the most famous, and famously upsetting, in film history.

Related: The 151 Best Horror Movies of All Time, Ranked 

5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

The second film in the Disney Renaissance is an even more refined, dramatically punchy film than The Little Mermaid. Taking a cue from the 1946 French masterwork La Belle et La Bête, benefiting enormously from the songs of Ashman/Menken, this is a landmark.

For some perspective, the film was first shown to an audience in September 1991 at the New York Film Festival, in an unfinished “work print” cut. Only 70 percent of the animation was finished, so the audience saw 30 percent crude pencil drawings paired with the soundtrack, and nevertheless, by all accounts, it received an historically rapturous reception, with cheers throughout, and a 10-minute standing ovation. Beauty and the Beast went on to become the first animated film to gross $100 million in the United States, nominated for six Oscars. The soundtrack album was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. The less said about the campy—financially successful, but featherweight—2017 remake, the better.

4. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

For a generation or more, Disney's most ambitious and expensive (at the time) effort was only seen on VHS, cropped and incomplete. Watch it today on a huge screen, with rich sound. It's a singular experience. Under the art direction of Eyvind EarleSleeping Beauty is a labor-intensive high-point for this medium. Some say Aurora doesn't have as much personality as other Disney leads, and some say the 75-minute film has a thin narrative. Frankly, when the artistry is this jaw-droppingly great, who cares?

This is Disney's first film photographed in an ultra-widescreen format (the Super Technirama 70 frame was over twice as wide as that of early Disney classics like Snow White). To experience the finale where Maleficent (a menacing villain who makes slashers look like punks) casts a spell that covers a castle in acres of thorns, then transform herself into a dragon the size of a skyscraper—all set to the thunderous, swirling, brass-heavy Tchaikovsky-infused orchestral score—is to fully appreciate one of the most spectacularly realized and exciting action-adventure set pieces ever staged. Seriously, it escalates like Die Hard.

3. Spirited Away (2001)

Miyazaki once said Princess Mononoke would be his final film, and let us all be glad that wasn't the case. Meeting the 10-year-old daughter of a friend inspired Miyazaki to create this adventure about a young girl crossing over to the spirit world via an enchanted bathhouse --or is it all just her imagination gone gonzo??-- which eclipsed even Miyazaki's own previous great films, and set the current high-water mark for elegance and inventiveness in traditional animation. Miyazaki incorporated some CGI here—and he famously draws tens of thousands of frames by hand for every feature. Spirited Away is an achingly bittersweet epic about growing up and adjusting to change. To date, this is the only animé to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and as a work of fantasy filmmaking, it is worthy of comparison to The Wizard of Oz.

Realated: The Wizard of Oz Is the World's Favorite Movie. Here's Why. 

2. Pinocchio (1940)

Made with a bigger budget, more time and more resources, Walt Disney‘s second full-length feature is at least as stunning as its predecessor; it’s the only picture that can give Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a run for its money for the title of greatest animated film of all time. The characters are more deeply developed, and the strides in animation (Pinocchio presents strikingly lifelike drawings of natural and mechanical elements) are substantial. It’s also a more frightening watch; everything on Pleasure Island is just plain nightmare fuel. The cursed island turns wayward little boys into donkeys, in seriously grotesque fashion.

Forrest Gump helmer Robert Zemeckis is directing the in-development live-action remake. Disney is rumored to be on the fence about whether to give the update a theatrical launch, or release it on Disney+. Exciting, transporting, moving, 1940’s Pinocchio is essential American cinema; movies just don’t really get any better than this. It doesn’t need to be remade– but if it is, the update should have the top-shelf treatment every step of the way.

'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'
'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'

1.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The one that started it all, the first animated feature in history, is one of the key American artistic triumphs of the 20th century. Walt Disneybet the farm on this musical fantasy, and a lot of people thought he was nuts to believe audiences would connect with hand-drawn creations for 80 minutes. Well, Snow White made grown men weep, and it became the highest-grossing film ever upon release (dethroned two years later by Gone With the Wind, still the all-time adjusted box-office champ).

Snow White, like all great fairy tales, is gateway horror. In addition to Gothic notes and some visuals inspired by German Expressionism, Snow White features a big bad named one of the ten most unforgettable film villains by the American Film Institute: Snow White’s wicked stepmother, a scheming royal witch who will stop at nothing to destroy the lovable princess, purely out of vanity.

Streaming giant Disney+ is getting a lot of attention for its newer content like the awesome Mandalorian series. One of the very best things about this new service is that it will introduce a new generation to timeless, historically significant works like Snow White.

Animated classic honorable mentions: we also recommend the Madagascar films, the Ice Age series, Miyazaki's Ponyo, Western Rango, Disney's Lady and the Tramp, Lilo & StitchTarzanThe Emperor's New GrooveTreasure PlanetThe Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and One Hundred and One Dalmations... and adults-only, totally hilarious musical South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

Next, check out the best comedies of all time.