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The 15 Most Visually Stunning Animated Movies Ever Made

13 October 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Joshua Price

Visually stunning animated movies

The technology involved in animation has come a long way since its inception. From the use of silhouettes and hand drawings to the recent computer generated revolution, they have all crafted images of astonishing beauty and magnificence.

Animation has been used to create some truly exceptional images and the freedom it allows means that these images are crafted purely without limit of imagination. Sometimes they do not get the recognition they deserve, being dismissed as children’s films, but the style and brilliance of the spectacle they offer is still an essential part of cinema today and few could argue when presented with the imagery that these films offer.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so of course no list can be definitive for everyone, but regardless here are the 15 most visually stunning animated films of all time.

 

15. Paprika

paprika

Satushi Kon’s final film is arguably his best, but undoubtedly his most beautiful. This dream based anime is manic and  hyper with its visual style as the dazzling visuals vary as layers of consciousness are peeled back as a psychologist delves into the dreams of her own patients.

The deeply textured and rich colors of the subconscious world is only highlighted by the muted nature of reality and as the story gets more complex as the film progresses, so does its imagery resulting in a movie that is experiences rather than understood.

 

14. Grave of the Fireflies

grave of the fireflies

Any argument that animation is only for children is usually silenced by Isao Takahata’s World War 2 based drama. Though beauty is usually associated with pleasant thoughts, there’s an undeniable artistry to tragedy.

The poignant portrait of two children making their way across war torn Japan is heart-braking and horrific, yet retains its splendor with its epic contrast of innocence and destruction that is never personified or represented better than its simple comparison of firebombs and fireflies. Even putting the emotional punch that the film delivers aside, its harsh yet stunning visuals make it undeniably spectacular.

 

13. Prince of Egypt

Prince of Egypt

With a crew totaling of 350 animators from 34 different countries, this biblical epic brings together traditionally hand drawn and computer generated animation to craft landscapes of a grand scale and characters of intimate wonder.

As Dreamworks Animation’s very first feature film it was seen as being visually level with anything Disney had at the time and still is. Not only is the style of the film amazing, so is its duality, from sweeping deserts to thrilling chariot races and almost nightmarish quality of the plagues of Egypt, it is all stunning to behold.

 

12. The Adventures of Prince Achmed

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Animation has a long and proud history and one of its earliest efforts remains to this day one of its most impressive. Cut out silhouettes were used and filmed at the painstaking rate of one frame at a time but the end results speak for themselves.

Instead the jarring and trembling look you might expect the 1926 to have it is actually amazingly textured, gorgeously detailed and impressively intricate. By using color tinting it crafts remarkable foreign backdrops on which the figures play out their story in the oldest surviving animated film ever.

 

11. Wall-E

Wall-E

Well we’ve got this far without mentioning Pixar, but we can hold it off no longer. Though the animation powerhouse has crafted many dazzling movies but it’s their post-apocalyptic-robot-love-story that offers the most amazing visuals with its bleakness.

Pixar hired famed cinematographer Roger Deakins (famous for his work on Skyfall, Prisoners and every Coen Brothers movie) as visual consultant and under his guidance the animators took special time to include a number of features such as barrel distortion, camera depth and lens aberration all to mimic the irregularity’s you would get with a physical camera and the results speak for themselves.

 

10. The Lion King

The Lion King (1994)

What remains to this day the highest grossing traditionally animated movie of all time, The Lion King’s achievement is only made more remarkable when you remember that Disney’s top animators were all working on Pocahontas, predicting that to be the bigger success, leaving their B-Team to work on The Lion King.

But the visuals they created astound due to their epic scope and magnificent complexity. The animation on display is fast yet sweeping, huge yet intricate and for those reasons it most definitely deserves a place here.

 

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas

the-nightmare-before-christmas

Beginning as a poem by Tim Burton in 1982 and ending as a finished stop motion feature film eleven years later in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a gothic fairly-tale unlike anything else before or since. With 227 character models and countless props that are all expressionistic and completely unique, the film is somehow magically dazzling yet eerily frightful.

In the subsequent years Nightmare Before Christmas’ visuals have been compared to everything from Dr Seuss, The Grimm Borhters and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and though there are elements of all of them on display, ultimately it’s utterly unmatched.

 

 

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  • Jimi LaMort

    What a crappy list. To put Fantastic Mr Fox on here and no QUAY BROTHERS, SVANKMAJER, SYLVAIN CHOMET or KAREL ZEMAN? Just off the top of my head, i think The Brother’s Quay’s MASKA (2013), Svankmajer’s ALICE (1988), THE WHITE MARE (1981), Zeman’s THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (1978) and THE SECRET OF THE KELLS (2009) are more visually stunning then anything on this list.

    • Snoopy – Your Friendly Neighbo

      Quay Brothers are incredible! Absolutely love their movies 😀

  • Arsalan Ahmad

    mononoke hime, ghost in the shell, garden of words is a recent one and many more from anime industry have delivered unique and stunning visual style and should be on this list

  • W Alex

    Should have inclouded ‘Son of the White Mare’.

  • Steppenwolf

    Ghost in the Shell
    Corpse Bride
    A Scanner darkly

  • Zapatilla Loca

    Bambi, SnowWhite, Cinderella, Fire and Ice, Wizards , Fantastic Planet..no idea what criteria you used for your list except that you like anime. Cheers.

    • Jo

      Did you actually watch other animated films before putting those Disney films on the list? This is about visual stunning production, not most well-known animated film category.

  • Gines Velazquez

    Animatrix is visually stunning. For a lot of people revels animation is not only disney style. When the wind blows, ghost in the shell… and you can actually put some like The Wall in this category or cool world…

  • dawnofmegiddo

    Waking Life

  • Dennis Calloway

    Pinocchio is Disney’s best.

  • Bre Oo O

    Nice list.
    Nice comments.

    Another sugestion: Taevalaul.

  • François Wolf

    All the Miyzsaki’s deserve to be in this list, Ghost in the shell. les triplettes de belle ville, the illusionist

  • François Wolf

    Woaw Bre Oo O i’ve been looking to Taevalaul 🙂 great sugestion

  • Snoopy – Your Friendly Neighbo

    Well you got some good ones on here that I love, and others I’ve never heard of…But at the expense of some incredible movies that are very worthy of being mentioned. Like someone mentioned, any list without Svankmajer is kind of criminal (Although some of his best work falls into the short film category), but Bill Plympton also deserves a very worthy mention. If your goal is only to include full length features, then my personal favorites are Fantastic Planet, The King and the Mockingbird, Princess Iron Fan (not a favorite, I know)…..and (I just love this movie, I know it’s a polarizing film) Coonskin. Perfect Blue and Ghost in the Shell are worthy adds to this list, goes without saying.

  • Mtro Ramón Agúndez

    5 Centimeters per Second.

  • Veronica Clarke

    Great list! Love many of these.

  • Kevin Ice

    ‘Ghost in the Shell 2’

  • Seth

    I think a Top 50 of this list would have worked better. Still, awesome list! I’m glad you mentioned The Prince of Egypt. Very underrated film

  • Payam Azad

    The Animatrix 2003 is one of the terrific animation i have ever seen

  • David Wachtel

    Chico & Rita (2010) – Absolutely entrancing animation, beautiful story, perfect film. Check out this great little scene…full of nuances and subtleties.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h7nxOkt7L4

  • sCARfiNGer

    Redline.

  • Hatesville

    5 Centimers per Second, then we can start talking.

    • Simone Bionda

      5 Centimers per Second, then we can start spleeping 😛

  • Andreas P.

    Les Triplettes De Belleville.

  • Miguel Valdez-Lopez

    Great list! How come there’s so little love for Disney films? Cinderella has amazing artwork!

  • Jon Kent

    Can’t possibly leave Yuri Nordstein off of a list like this. Doesn’t get more beautiful than Tale of Tales. I’ve read interviews with Miyazaki where he calls Yuri a great artist.

  • maikel

    The Boy and the Beast?

  • Miloš Hrůza

    Alois Nebel, Frankeweenie, Švankmajer’s and Karel Zeman’s films

  • Sam Mantori

    Whom ever wrote this list don’t watch much anime do they!!!!!

  • Sam Mantori
  • Lag00n

    The Illusionist (2010) or The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and Persepolis (2007) should be here too.
    otherwise the list seems fine to me.