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40 Greatest Animated Movies Ever

From Pixar landmarks to cyberpunk anime and stop-motion indies — our top non-live-action films and toons of all time

Greatest Animated Movies Wallace gromit Nightmare Christmas Fantasia

Everett Collection (4)

It's crazy to think that, in the century-plus since Winsor McCay and the French Fantasmagorie first made moving drawings on a screen a form of popular entertainment, animation has given us everything from steamboat-steering mice and sly stop-motion foxes to, well, you name it: a septet of singing dwarves, psychic Japanese teens, counterculturally hip cats, crooning French triplets, classical-gassed satyrs and demons, humanity-saving robots, superhero families, the young-female brain's emotional terrain and a lovable, unclassifiable creature known as a Totoro. What was once considered a cinematic distraction for children has blossomed into a medium that's as creatively fertile and emotionally resonant as any live-action films aimed at the 18-and-over crowd (or, in the case of a stunner like Anomalisa, an incredible substitute for "adult" movies featuring actual adults).

So we're counting down our picks for the 40 greatest animated movies of all time — the features (and a handful of key shorts too good not to include) that have pushed the boundaries of what drawn lines, computerized pixels or manipulated puppets could accomplish for filmgoers. These are the ones that scare us, move us, crack us up and remind us of how fun and moving it is to watch cartoons, etc. with a crowd. 

Greatest Animated Movies Wallace gromit Nightmare Christmas Fantasia

23. ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1968)

Few animated movies are more synonymous with "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream" vibe than this psychedelic late-Sixties Beatles odyssey, in which John, Paul, Ringo and George must rescue an underwater utopia from the fun-killing Blue Meanies. Sure, the Fab Four might not have actually provided their own speaking voices, but George Dunning's hallucinatory animation paired with some of their trippiest music makes for a memorable Pop-Art ride all the same. Yellow Submarine's popular success demonstrated to the mainstream that there were more ways than the Disney mode to pull off feature-length cartoons. JS