10 “Must-See” Animated Films from 2010s

This list was published on 12 September 2016, so only includes those animated films that were released before September 2016.

  1. Inside Out [2015] – ★★★★★

The winner of the Academy Award in the category of “Best Animated Picture”, Inside Out is a film about a little girl who moves with her parents from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. This animation is a little masterpiece, and it is a great injustice it was not nominated by the Academy Award in the general category. Its main brilliance is its originality and intelligence – it teaches young children about psychology: the story is divided into the “real world” and the “world inside the mind” of a person. There are different emotions that govern the decision-making processes: joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust, each represented by an “entity”, as well as other processes such as short-term and long-term memories, personality-building, dream processes, etc. The movie is laugh-out-aloud funny, extremely entertaining, and flawless in its execution and content – an instant classic, even though very young children may fail to grasp the meaning of everything that is going on.

  1. April and the Extraordinary World [2016] – ★★★★1/2

April and the Extraordinary World is a French-Belgian-Canadian animated film co-directed by Christian Desmares (animator behind Corto Maltese in Siberia (2002) and Persepolis (2007)) and Franck Ekinci. It tells of a teenage girl, April (voiced by Marion Cotillard in a French version), who, together with her talking cat Darwin and her grandfather Pops, is looking for her long-lost scientist parents. The year is 1941, and it is an alternate reality: there are no scientists left who could have made the “progress”, such as electricity, possible. The world is “stuck” in a steam age, and the city’s scientists have been “witch-hunted” for decades. However, the final act of the film may be too brutal and “over-the top”, and the relationship between April and her love interest is reminding too much of that found in Anastasia (1997). Sometimes reminding in its setting and ideas of Schuiten & Peeters’s comic Brüsel, sometimes reminiscing of some Tintin adventure, the film is still a great one overall: clever and imaginative, full of that exciting adventurous spirit.


3. Zootopia [2016] – ★★★★1/2

Zootopia or Zootropolis is an animated film by Byron Howard (director of Tangled (2010)) about a rabbit Judy who leaves her small village to travel and work as a policewoman in Zootopia, a utopian city where all the mammals, both herbivorous and carnivorous animals, live in peace and harmony side by side. However, Judy, being the first rabbit on the job, finds it difficult to fit into her new job, and her encounter with Nick, a sly fox, makes her first assignment even harder as she sets to solve the mystery of disappearing mammals in the city. Playing on familiar stereotypes and sending a strong message of “do not judge a book by its cover”, Zootopia delivers a real family fun: they are many funny moments, nice music (some of it delivered by Shakira), stunning visuals, memorable, instantly lovable characters (including, of course, Flash, a sloth), and an engaging plot.


4. The Illusionist [2010] – ★★★★★

The Illusionist is an animated film directed by Sylvain Chomet, the genius behind The Triplets of Belleville (2003). Set in 1959, The Illusionist’s main character is Mr. Tatischeff, a magician, who realises that the demand for his trade has died out in major cities, and who is forced to move to small villages to scrape a living. However, the magician then meets a young girl, whom he adopts and for whom he is forced to rethink his old ways of gaining money. This virtually silent animation is so full of warmth and affection it becomes one of the most touching animations one could hope to see. Nearly every scene is a moving portrayal of the goodness of a human heart as we see Mr. Tatischeff caring for an orphaned young girl Alice. There is a cultural, as well as a historic, interest to the story as well: through the streets of London, Paris and Edinburgh, we move further to encounter the forgotten corners of Scotland, while at the same time following the ups-and-downs that are usually involved in a magician’s trade. In sum, The Illusionist is a little gem in the sea of animation; it is an emotionally moving, beautifully hand-drawn and a simply unforgettable film.


5. The Little Prince [2015] – ★★★★1/2

Directed by Mark Osborne, and based on an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry book The Little Prince, this animated film tells of a young girl who distracts herself from arduous studies by striking a friendship with her older neighbour. He, in turn, introduces her to the story of the Little Prince. Originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie has a few unclear moments, but, overall, it is a touching and faithful-to-the-book animation, whose voice cast includes such names as Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Benicio del Toro, Marion Cotillard, Albert Brooks and James Franco. The film’s wonderfully-crafted animation, which includes both a stop-motion and computer graphics, adds to the general beauty of the cinematography, making The Little Prince a “must-see” one.


6. Song of the Sea [2014] – ★★★★★

Directed by Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells (2009)), Song of the Sea is about a brother and sister (Ben and Saoirse) who sets out on an adventure to save the world of spirits. Saoirse inherits from her mother the ability to transform into a seal, and Ben is having difficulties connecting with his sister due to one past traumatic event. There is so much more to this animated film than first meets the eye: there is an exploration of a brother-sister relationship, but also a lot of knowledge imparted on the Irish and Scottish folklore. For example, Ben tells his little sister of Mac Lir, a giant turned into a stone by his mother Macha. There is a lot of parallel to be drawn here with Miyazaki’s work, especially with My Neighbour Totoro (1989) and Spirited Away (2001), but Song of the Sea still stands on its own: its imaginative elements are unique and its narrative structure, although as calm, feels different. Overall, deeply rooted in mythology, the film is a visually beautiful one, with a solid, engaging narrative and magical elements.


7. From Up on Poppy Hill [2012] – ★★★★1/2

Coming from the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, From Up on Poppy Hill is set in Yokohama, Japan in 1963, and tells of a growing attraction between Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) and Shun (voiced by the late Anton Yelchin), two high school students, who see their town being transformed in the preparation for the Olympics 1964. Nostalgia for the past and the apprehension of the future is at the very core of the film. As one reviewer put it: “at its heart, [the movie is about] the battle between old and new, traditional ways and what stands for progress” (Steven Rea). The movie is surely not on par with other Studio Ghibli classics, and may lack the depth of character portrayal and interaction of the previous Studio Ghibli films, but it is still a very sweet, atmospheric and nostalgic one, boasting a very beautifully drawn animation and a strong message.


8. Toy Story 3 [2010] – ★★★★★

Toy Story 3 is the third instalment in the Toy Story franchise, the previous two animated films came out in 1995 and 1999 respectively. Toy Story 3, which bagged an Academy Award in the category of the Best Animated Picture of the year, takes place when Andy is already much older and prepares to depart for college. At that time, his toys are mistakenly delivered to a day centre where their adventure begins, and we are introduced to a whole lot new and interesting characters, such as Lotso, Ken, Chuckles, and Mr. Pricklepants. The movie is a delight to watch, amusing with a well thought-out plot and an unforgettable finale. It is a great animation: adventurous and exciting, a perfect sequel “come-back”.


9. The Secret World of Arrietty [2012] – ★★★★1/2

Another animation from the Studio Ghibli, The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the novel The Borrowers written by Mary Norton, and is about a four-inch tall family Clock who lives in a house of humans. The Clock family lives by borrowing certain items in the house from the “big” people. However, when the young human boy discovers the young girl of the Clock family, and the secret bond is developed between the two, the Clock family’s quiet and predictable life routine changes for good. The Secret World of Arrietty is a kind of a film, which will be enjoyed by the whole family, and though it lack some exciting adult themes or thought-provoking and complicated elements, its sweetness and beauty will not leave its audience unmoved or uninvolved.


10. Le Magasin des Suicides [2012] – ★★★★

Life is like a plate of diarrhoea, served with a good Bordeaux.

Le Magasin des Suicides is the most controversial entry on my list. This is an animation from Patrice Leconte, French director behind such films as The Widow of Saint-Pierre (2000) and The Hairdresser’s Husband (1990). Based on a graphic comic by Jean Teulé, Le Magasin des Suicides tells of a gloomy family of four, Tuvache, living in a depressing metropolis. The odd and unhappy family runs a thriving business: a suicide shop, where one can buy all sorts of equipment to commit their suicide with success (or their money back!), and things run well for the family until the time another family member is born – a cheerful and always happy boy. This animation is basically all about dark humour and sarcasm. Although the plot is unexciting and without good linear development with average musical numbers, there are great things about this film: its “off-the-wall” bleak premise and animation are refreshingly different, humour is very dark, but morbidly funny, and the ending is memorable and upbeat. The movie is not for everyone, but it is worth your time, since some people will undoubtedly find true delight in its shockingly brave punchlines.

These films are in no particular order. I am yet to see Kubo & the Two Strings (2016) and Sausage Party (2016), and other honorable mentions include Winnie the Pooh (2011) & When Marnie Was There (2015).


23 Comments Add yours

  1. Diego says:

    A lot of obscure stuff. I’ll add them to the list!


  2. smilingldsgirl says:

    This is an amazing list! I haven’t seen Le Magasin des Suicides and I’m not that in love with The Little Prince but rest are amazing picks. I love that you have a mixture of mainstream and indie picks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you! Le Magasin des Suicides is a “dark horse” on my list. I guess I just wanted to draw people’s attention to different kinds of animated movies out there, also deserving credit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. smilingldsgirl says:

        I love that! I need to add it to my obscure animation series on my youtube channel

        Liked by 1 person

  3. R Hayward says:

    Top selections, I’d certainly agree with some of those, and thanks for the reminder that The Suicide Shop and Song of the Sea are out there and ready to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Samya says:

    A very good list comprising great films. I specially love Inside Out.. Among those which didn’t make your list I love The Wind Rises ,How to Train Your Dragon and When Marnie Was There.
    Also there’s an Argentinian film Historias de Cronopios y de Famas, which I love immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you! Well, I put When Marnie Was There in my honourable mentions list, was unimpressed with the Wind Rises and am yet to see How to Train Your Dragon. Inside Out was indeed ingenious, wasn’t? When I watched it the first time around, I honestly thought it might have been the most “perfect” animation film out there.
      Since I love Spanish-language productions, I will definitely check out Historias de Cronopios y de Famas, thanks!


  5. Samya says:

    Ya you must see those two.. especially Cronopios And Famas.. It’s not a regular animated feature but one with deeper insights of life… It’s very difficult to get though…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To relay what others have said, this is indeed a great list and I agree w/most of these! I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet nor have I heard of the Le Magsin film. I’m a bit surprised that From Up on Poppy Hill is on this list and I disagree w/Arrietty as I find the film more boring than anything else. But overall, this list is great! I’d maybe just add The LEGO Movie on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks, and the LEGO movie is a good suggestion! Yes, this list is not totally objective, obviously, and I tried to strike some balance between Disney/Pixar and foreign films. I think you will like the Illusionist. It is a very moving animation. Le Magasin de Suicides is a wild card on my list. It is not as good as other films on the list, but there are people out there who will enjoy it immensely. I’d still recommend watching it. It is something totally different.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ospreyshire says:

    Major props for mentioning From Up On Poppy Hill and Song of the Sea. Those were good movies, especially the latter. If I had to think about great animated movies from the 2010s, I could also think of the following…

    The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
    When Marnie Was There
    My Life as a Zucchini
    Ernest & Celestine
    The Breadwinner
    I guess you could put Your Name even though I think it’s good, yet overrated (this is coming from someone who likes Shinkai’s work).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      All great recommendations, thank you! I was not that impressed with The Tale of Princess Kaguya and I am still to watch Ernest & Celestine (I think). I would like to point out that this article of mine dates to 2016, and all the other animations you mentioned came in that year or before, so they probably had not been out yet when I made the list. And that goes for Your Name, I think, since I first saw it and reviewed it in December 2016, and this article is September 2016.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ospreyshire says:

        No problem! That’s okay about Princess Kaguya. Okay, I didn’t pay too much attention to the day it was posted. Sorry about that. Good to know.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. dbmoviesblog says:

          No problem, and *sorry – I meant – in that year or after (not before) 🙂


        2. dbmoviesblog says:

          That also probably means that I need to do another list such as this one because, you are right, there are great animations out there that more people should see.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. ospreyshire says:

            Sure thing! Maybe you can do an update or sequel post now that the 10s are over. There are certainly great animated features that need more attention.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. ospreyshire says:

    Definitely check out Song of the Sea. That’s a wonderful film and it certainly helped the Irish animation scene. I would check out their works like The Breadwinner for example.

    I used to like The Lion King, but seeing Kimba really tainted it as that Disney movie literally wouldn’t exist without that anime series. By the way, that scene with Mufasa’s spirit talking to Simba is shot-for-shot from a scene where Caesar (Kimba’s dead father) does the same to his son. Shame how Disney has never owned up to it, and people would riot if Kimba came out after The Lion King. Don’t even get me started how that film franchise also stole music, trademarked “Hakuna Matata”, or disrespected African cultures.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.