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The 15 Best Non-Hollywood Animated Films Of The 2000s

13 July 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Alexandra Gandra

non-hollywood animated films

These films of the 2000s have left a mark for generations to come, and while being animated, most of them are not for younger audiences. We can take time to appreciate technicalities along with complex storylines: these films encourage spiritual growth and provide a view of the world that otherwise would be lost in translation.

Hollywood, specifically Disney and Pixar, offer us many animated features, often great, but their popularity is usually their most significant feature. These are the other ones, that may fly under the radar for the most part, yet have won the deserved attention of less mainstream cinephiles. We present 15 non-Hollywood animated films of the last 14 years. Certainly there are others worth mentioning, but for now we are paying these films the respect they deserve.


15. Chico & Rita (2010)

Chico & Rita (2010)

Set in the late 1940s and early 1950s, this animated feature is not aimed at kids. Its most impressive aspects are the story and the music, a tragic romance set in Havana, Cuba, between a pianist and a singer. The protagonists are talented artists who fall in love, but whose dreams and bittersweet sense of nostalgia get in the way.

The film portrays not just Havana but also New York, Las Vegas and other cities through impressive colors and backgrounds. The seemingly hand-drawn diverse animation fits the exoticism of the picture, merging with the action and adding poignancy to the characters. The music and the imagery evoke a Spanish atmosphere. The story deals with complex matters such as discrimination, exploitation and the search for fame, making it a truly profound piece. It portrays a love story that is less about love than it is about the obstacles in it.


14. The Illusionist (2010)

The Illusionist

Jacques Tati wrote this film in 1956 but did not produce it. When he died in 1982, the screenplay was kept in his family until more than 50 years later director Sylvain Chomet begged Tati’s daughter to let him adapt it.

Originally, it was meant to be a live action film dedicated to his relationship with his daughter. It ended up as a semi-silent movie with a few minimalist dialogues. The main character is a clear representation of Tati himself: an old man with a hunched back, usually wearing a trench coat and a pipe in his mouth, stirred by an aging career at the end of the 1950s. The character, an old-fashioned conjuror specializing in – among other similarly primitive illusions – rabbits and hats, is forced to move to another country to find a job, where he meets a young girl, possibly the only one who still looks up to him.

It is a portrayal of time passing, people aging and the loss of purpose. This is very neatly represented in old-style animation with a charming simplicity and spectacular backgrounds. Everything is very vivid and the characters are of a whimsical nature, with great timing for particular movements of the main character. It serves as a unique piece of art with an even more interesting backstory – more or less a gentle, innocent addendum to Tati’s life.


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

Wallace & Gromit The Curse of The Were-Rabbit (2005)

This well-known, unconventional human-dog duo fall into a league of their own, jumping from a short film series into a feature-length film directed by original creator and writer Nick Park and Steve Box. Using clay animation to portray Wallace, an inventor, and his dog Gromit (the adult in the story), we follow their disastrous mission to secure the village’s Giant Vegetable Fete and keep gigantic melons and carrots from being ravaged by rabbits. In order to do this, they resort to using Wallace’s terrible inventions, such as a vaccum to suck bunnies and rabbit rehabilitation.

The writing is one of the most witty and enjoyable aspects of the film. The characters and sets are made out of plasticine and the fascinating stop-motion animation gives detail to, for example, Gromit’s outbursts because, despite being the brains of the operation, he doesn’t actually speak – or have a mouth, for that matter. The easy British humor makes it a family movie enhanced by the exceptional voice of actors such as Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes. The story loses direction somewhat in places, but overall it doesn’t fail to entertain.


12. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

the secret world of arrietty (2010)

Scripted by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, this Japanese film animated by Studio Ghibli is based on an English children’s book by Mary Norton about a family of tiny people living in the walls of households, borrowing from humans the various things they need to survive.

In the feature, one of ‘the Borrowers’ is Arrietty, a spirited young girl who fails to live carefully in hiding and is seen by a sick human boy, Shawn, when he is spending a week in the country at his aunt’s place. This unleashes a series of events that eventually result in Arriety’s family having to move but not before they face a range of challenges and have to take a new perspective on their existence.

One of the crucial aspects of this feature is, of course, the animation itself, a true art form that, although not directed by Miyazaki, feels undeniably his. The film is impossible to predict but always fluid and startlingly profound, depicting a growing friendship between Arrietty and Shawn, as well as the fragile lives of each. A traditional yet enchanting story with breathtaking animation and a delightful soundtrack.


11. The Secret of Kells (2010)

The Secret of Kells (2010)

This Irish-French-Belgian film is an homage to the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the bible. It features a young, brave monk named Brendan who lives within the walls of Kells with his uncle, who is terrified of what lies beyond Kells, specifically Vikings. Brendan meets master illuminator Brother Aidan who has escaped from the Vikings and is working on the Book. He takes Brendan under his wing and gets him to sneak into the forest surrounding Kells where he eventually gets lost. This happens in a world where Christianity, Fairies, Viking invaders, dark gods, Saints and wild animals co-exist. It portrays various religious points of view, but more importantly people’s different realities and belief systems are brought into conflict.

The animation is wonderful, with terrific shadows falling on the characters, and displaying various patterns, borders and lines that remind us of religious designs. Definitely a very soulful picture that leaves us thinking about important questions that aren’t often asked in other animated films, or at least not with such subtlety, all the while having great art to look at.


10. Chicken Run (2000)

Chicken Run (2000)

This British-American animated comedy was Aardman Animations’ first feature length production, and was first conceived in 1995 by Aardman co-founder Peter Lord and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park.

Following the same claymation technique, it tells the story of an English egg farm in the 1950s and the chickens who want to escape from it. The fierce and distinctive hen named Ginger who insists on making escape plans and being constantly punished for it remindes us of films like The Great Escape. The other chickens, though, seem perfectly happy with captivity. It’s not until an American rooster lands up at the farm after escaping from a circus that the chickens start considering learning to fly so as to not be turned into chicken pies – the farm owner’s newest idea.

Its memorable lines (one of my all time favorites is “All me life flashed before me eyes – it was really borin’!”), its optimistic characters, the villains, the jokes – full of witty chicken puns, outstanding good humor and plenty of metaphors to relate our own human lives. Although the world of talking farm animals has issues almost as weighty as ours, it is wholly suitable for children and will be enjoyed by many.


9. Paprika (2006)

Paprika (2006)

This is, first off, an odd film. It’s bright, vivid and colorful in every possible way, and one might have mixed feelings when contemplating the confusing animation it presents. Animated and produced by Madhouse and Sony Pictures Entertainment, it’s a Japanese science fiction film about a research psychologist who uses a breakthrough device called DC Mini that allows therapists do dive into their patients’ dreams. The explains the puzzling animation. It’s a mystically visual world where you can push a button in a machine and enter someone’s mind where many dangers will rear their heads.

Co-written by Kon and Seishi Minakami, its main focus isn’t the sometimes overly mind-boggling plot, but the extensive hallucination effects and other visual delights. It’s a mix of 3D and hand-drawn animation, perhaps this way best representing our colorful imagination, a hyper-realism that requests that we don’t waste time over-analyzing plot points but simply surrender ourselves to the visual. Definitely not aimed at children, but remarkable in how it manages to portray an alternative reality.



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  • Dre V. Sanchez

    Meh list, but at least the films are all good.

  • Secret of Kells wasn’t overly good – certainly not better than Arrietty. Not even close. The same goes for Paprika. The Illusionist is better than Belleville Rendezvous. Good to see Mary and Max so high up, though!

  • stuartmay

    I would have found room to add “Porco Rosso” to that list but I’m glad to see that Miyazaki got at least 2 gongs here.

    • Catbird

      Porco Rosso was done in 1992 and this article was about the 2000s.

      • courtney

        even then they should have included spirited away, its one of my favourites and was brought out in 2001

        • jaily

          courtney, spirited away is at number 1 on this list.

  • Thanks for the great article. i really appreciate it. I have been making research on the internet for a very long time and now come up with something useful. it will be a great guide for my thesis here:

  • Guest

    There should be more Satoshi Kon on this list. Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress are wonderful.

  • António Mendes

    There should be more Satoshi Kon on this list. Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress are also wonderful.

    • gustavomda

      Also Perfect Blue

      • António Mendes

        Yeah, but Perfect Blue is not from the 2000s.

        • gustavomda


  • manosteele

    Great list. I do wish Grave of the Fireflies was included, but it’s given me lots of ideas for weekend viewing. Thank you to the author!

    • Karol_b

      “Grave of the Fireflies” – 1988. This list: 2000s.

      Great list (out of recent, “Ernest and Celestine”, what a beautiful film!), although I’d add “Mind Games”, underseen masterpiece, hopefully will gain some attention through years. “The Wind Rises” deserves the spot also, it’s a gem and Miyazaki’s farewell.

  • Arielle Jaranilla Ong

    Grave of the Fireflies, where is it??? 🙁

    • Camilo Ordoñez

      It’s from 1998, this list is of the 2000’s

  • this bear is tops blooby

    something by Makoto Shinkai should be on here.

    • RiSky RahmaLia Sofyan

      I totally agree with you! ‘5cm Per Second’ and ‘Garden of Words’ is simply breathtaking.

      • feast for

        Is Garden of Words eligible? I think it’s newer than 2010, but 5cmxsec should be here no doubt

        • RiSky RahmaLia Sofyan

          Please correct me if I’m wrong, I thought “from 2000’s” means including something from 2010 is okay. So it’s not okay?

  • Jiian Francisco

    I totally agree with Spirited Away at No. 1

  • man

    whats up with the arriety was that character even in the movie

  • Colicub

    Pirates: In An Adventure With Scientists, The Painting, Tekkonkinkreet, A Cat In Paris?

    • Tobias Palma

      The Painting is a forgotten masterpiece

  • Christopher Head

    I have to agree with others on the thread that Graveyard of the Fireflies should have been included. It is quite possibly the greatest and truest anti-war film (animated or live action) in existence. Still this is a good list.

    • giosueinoz

      Well, there’s the pesky problem that it was released a dozen years before the lists’ stated criteria “of the 2000s”…

  • Rea

    I think there’s something missing in this list (still very well written):

  • Lina M Cruz

    “A cat in Paris” and “Coraline” should be included

    • Kendra Smith

      Coraline is American. This is non-American films list.

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  • Oscar Luján

    Really? A Fan-Art for Arriety? Gimme a break!…. you forgot Grave of the Fireflies,,, and Akira….

    • RiSky RahmaLia Sofyan

      Akira is released in 1988. This is animated films of the 2000s list.

      • Oscar Luján

        YEs… I didnpt read the header… shame on me 😛 jjeje

  • ebolaoutkast

    Uhh, Ernest and Celestine committed the crime of stealing a bunch of candy and teeth, not being friends with each other.

  • Zeca Bloise Jr.

    Rebuild of Evangelion deserves a place on this list

    • feast for

      1.0 is from the decade I can’t remember if 2.0 is 2009 or if it’s newer than that and sadly 3.0 is not from the timeline but probably in 4 years it will make the list for this decade

  • jetser

    Only the best is missing: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
    I know it’s not as good as the first one, but still better than a lot (if not all) on this list.

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  • Vinashak

    Actually you should do non-Hollywood non-Anime list… coz if you include the Japanese then 15 is not enough

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  • Sahil Sachdeva

    Could have mentioned Grave of fireflies

  • FlyteBro

    Now this is more like it. Great list

  • Tim

    The Rabbi’s Cat would be a fine addition

  • Ionuţ Panaitescu

    Cheatin’ by Bill Plympton

  • Robert Abecasis Ribó

    song of the sea (there’s a tomm moore movie in the list so i forgive this one), arrugas, the tale of the princess kaguya, mindgame. But very good list anyway.

  • Ryuurei

    You could at least put some diversity with japanese animation, like Takahata, Hosoda, Michael Arrias, Takeshi Koike, or more recently Mizuho Nishikubo’s Giovanni’s Island? It’s almost only Miyazaki. I like the man too, but you just want those Ghibli’s fanaddict hit or what? You don’t even mention the name of Arrietty’s director…

  • Max Decroix

    Good List, As many mentioned, most of Satoshi Kon’s work could fit in there, especially the delightful Tokyo Godfather. Special personal mentions for Mind Game, Metropolis, Wolf Children, and Tekkon Kinkreet.

  • Gargi

    Truly interesting list! I strongly support some of the names here. *high-five*

  • Victor Lovecraft Anderson

    No love for Anomalisa?

    • feast for

      Too new, this ends in 2010 so no Anomalisa and no 3.0

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  • Jed Leland

    The Big Snit!

  • feast for

    Instead of Paprika Millenium Actress should be there, Millenium Actress is for japanese cinema what Hugo or the Artist to their respective moments of western cinema, the most beautiful historic tribute I’ve ever seen with an incredibly moving story, narrative to kill for and fun relatable characters, I admit Paprika is ambitious but it’s just not as good as Millenium actress which deserves a spot near Spidrited Away as it had in it’s original release award season.

  • fcosta

    What’s up with all the people comenting here about Grave of the Fireflys. Don’t you read what the list is before writing?? Come on…

  • Great list! Thanks for sharing!