Only once has an animated film every been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars—Beauty and the Beast in 1991—but there’s talk that the Academy might give a nod to Wall-E this year. We thought we’d take a look at where the lonely robot stands among a rich history of animated film. There were tons more that we could have added…Fantasia, Pinnochio, The Secret of Nimh, The Triplets of Belleville, The Nightmare Before Christmas, so many other classic Disney films, most everything Pixar has ever released…but we thought we’d just give you our take on the best of the best.
10. Watership Down
Directed by Martin Rosen, based on the novel by Richard Adams
It’s become common, particularly with the slew of insect movies to come
out in recent years, to portray individual critters suffering under
collectivism. But in 1978, Watership Down
showed a caste system with warrior rabbits on top, a police state in
another warren and the realities of war. These were not happy, fluffy
Co-written and directed
by Andrew Stanton
The first half of the film was mesmerizing, as a lone robot made the
best of his post-apocalyptic world, finding purpose in cleaning up the
mess, companionship in a cockroach, and beauty among the trash. When
he’s whisked away to a traveling cruise ship filled with the sloth-like
human refugees from Earth it starts to feel a little more like a
cartoon than a vision, but the clever plot sustains the final acts.
Co-written and directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
While consistently fun, many of Pixar’s film’s succeed by taking an
obvious universe impossible to really capture with live
action—anthropomorphizing toys, fish, monsters, cars, etc.—and crafting
a solid story around it. But Ratatouille is anything but predictable: a
rat (Patton Oswalt!) who dreams of becoming a chef.
7. The Iron Giant
Warner Bros., 1999
Directed by Brad Bird, based on
The Iron Man
by Ted Hughes
Before he was creating masterpieces for Pixar, Brad Bird was directing
this less-visually interesting film for Warner Bros. But the story
about a boy and his robot is as compelling as any on this list.
Madhouse Studios, 2001
Directed by Rintaro, written by Katsuhiro Otomo
The plot of Metropolis is complex as the world it occupies. Written by
Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, its an Anime masterpiece of futuristic
government intrigue, jealousy, world domination, love and redemption.
Buena Vista, 2001
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, based on Shrek! by William Steig
This wonderful twist on the Beauty and the Beast saga is
possibly the funniest movie on the list with comedic geniuses Mike
Myers and Eddie Murphy given the whole of fairyland to roam. And
Cameron Diaz’s princess as ninja warrior is a fun feminist response to
all of Disney’s delicate flower leads.
4. The Lion King
Walt Disney, 1994
Directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
More than 20 people are credited with writing the story for my favorite
Disney movie, defying my belief that group-thinking scripts leads to
disaster. I’d just returned from my first trip to Africa when I saw
this film and got chills during the opening
wildlife scenes. That animation could so gorgeously capture the African plains just blew me away, and the tale of a
young, betrayed prince felt ripped from the pages of Shakespeare. Plus
Nathan Lane made a great meerkat.
3. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi)
Buena Vista, 2001
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
The creator of Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle
is an artist who dredges the deepest regions of the phsyche to capture
a world of dreams through animation. There’s a strangeness to the
wonder, and there’s beauty in the most nightmarish corners.
2. Toy Story 2
Written and directed by John Lassiter and others
was a revelation of technology. Its sequel was simply
a revelation. When Woody is stolen by Seinfeld’s Newman, it’s Buzz
Lightyear’s turn to save the day. The toy store scene with Tour Guide
Barbie (“I’m a married spud, I’m a married spud”) and legions of Buzz
toys is priceless.
1. The Incredibles
Written and directed by Brad Bird
Brad Bird not only wrote and directed the most perfect animated film of
all time, he also voices the film’s best character, Edna—the world
famous fashion designer who’s bored with making clothes for super
models (“Nothing super about them… spoiled, stupid little stick
poofy lips who think only about themselves”) and jumps at the chance to
outfit Mr. Incredible when he privately comes out of retirement. It
captures suburban ennui as well as American Beauty, while being the best pre-Marc Forster Bond film in years. Brad Bird should be a household name.