10 Animated Movies That Should Have Been Nominated For Best Picture

Poor Spider-Man got snubbed. Where is the 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture nod for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Sometimes a Best Animated Feature Film nomination by the Academy Awards isn't enough. Spider-Man: Into the Verse broke technological ground, unraveled many multidimensional themes, set a precedence for the quality of superhero films, successfully borrowed the old, injected adrenaline into every combat scene, exploded with kinetic eclecticism, and celebrated the universality of heroism. It's the film that will linger in my mind long after most of the Best Picture nominees.

While the Academy Awards' Best Animated Feature slot gave a platform for animated films to be recognized to the public, some argued it had a side-effect of trapping animated feature solely into one category when said pictures contain multitudes that should transcend a singular category. An animated film can receive acclaim for qualities of artistry, design, story, and character, yet has trouble fighting the "it's just an animated film" mentality.

Before the Best Animated Feature category debuted in 2002, Beauty and the Beast waltzed its way to the Best Picture nomination in 1991. Pixar hits like Up and Toy Story 3 scaled their way up the ladder for Best Picture nods when the category was expanded. However, plenty of animated films were left boxed in Best Animated Feature. Into the Spider-Verse wouldn't be the only animated feature booted out of deserved higher recognition.

The Breadwinner

Directed by Nora Twomey, The Breadwinner is Cartoon Saloon's first foray into historical fiction. Set during the oppressive Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan when women were barred from leaving their homes without a male escort, 11-year-old Parvana dons the clothing of her late brother to circumvent the law and provide for her family. To cope with the trials and tribulations, she retreats to a folktale about perseverance.

Having consulted survivors of the Taliban, The Breadwinner illuminates heavy themes about war but maintains a pinch of whimsy through Parvana's storytelling sequences. The film made only one-tenth of its budget and was recognized for a Best Animation nod in 2018, but it remained in obscurity to mainstream viewers. (Pssss, it's on Netflix.)

The Secret of Kells

A young Irish monk named Brendan sets out to design pages of the magical Book of Kells, a text that will bring hope to humanity. While Brendan's overprotective uncle focuses on the impending Viking raids, the boy decides the book is too important to neglect. With the aid of a pagan fairy, Brendan confronts the mythical Celtic horror beyond his monastery to attain what he needs to make his scripture.

Not unlike its Cartoon Saloon successor The Breadwinner, The Secret of Kells illuminates the power of art. While art cannot build towers, the book that Brendan cherishes represents the preservation of art and culture. Like the pages of original Book of Kells itself, director Tomm Moore of Cartoon Saloon ensures that every frame unfurl multitudes of jeweled details carved in. During a viewing experience, pause the screen to catch every glimmer.

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)

Before Spirited Away in 2001, Studio Ghibli maestro Hayao Miyazaki forged his intended 1997 swan song about an epic struggle between the environment and the a town of iron revolution. A prince goes wayward to undo a curse and becomes entangled in a murky conflict between humanity and the forest deities.  

It shares tropes with environmental epics like James Cameron's Avatar, except the story contains the doses of layers. Miyazaki shows that the industrial growth can have progressive opportunities for humanity while also condemning those who abuse it. Princess Mononoke offers an ending I'm a sucker for: The world is left with scars, some wounds are irreparable, but there are chances to survive.

Finding Nemo

Directed with sensitivity by Andrew Stanton, Pixar's Finding Nemo was dense with the drama through a simple tale of a father clownfish learning to let go of his son. His encounters with obstacles help him process the kind of parent he should be to his son. Colorful characters serve as allies or obstacles to Marlin's journey.

This is a classic Pixar piece for parents when learning to negotiate how to let your child survive in a big scary world. Marlin learns how to let go while Nemo learns how to hold on. Finding Nemo drops many lessons for adults and kids about the obstacles of life. The big blue is the big scary world, but it can also be beautiful.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime no Monogatari)

The final Studio Ghibli film of Isao Takahata might as well have been his swan song in 2013. Based on an ancient Japanese poem, The Tale of Princess Kaguya begins with a woodcutter finding a tiny girl in a bamboo shoot and raising her love. He calls her "Princess," because what father doesn't see his daughter as one? However, his best intentions prove toxic when he accosts his daughter into a regal life. The Princess Kaguya has to navigate the harsh strata of palace life, with suitors seeking to make a prize out of her.

Pity that its box office did not match its budget. Takahata pulled no punches on the tragedy of patriarchal societies. Throughout the tale, Kaguya juggles her feminine empowerment with filial piety toward her flawed father as overreaching poison of patriarchy finally claim her. There is a light at the end: Kaguya does grasp the ephemeral beauty of the earthly life.

Only Yesterday (Omoide Poro Poro)

The late titan Takahata also left us with Only Yesterday, a 1991 Studio Ghibli adult coming-of-age film. A 28-year old Japanese office woman, Taeko, escapes to the countryside, contemplating the stand-out bites of her childhood. As Taeko ruminates over safflower fields, she  confronts the realities of what-could-have-been and what could be. The film veers back-and-forth from the realistic shape of Taeko's adult world to the dream-paletted memory of childhood.

Bounded with Studio Ghibli's signature pastoral beauty, Only Yesterday is a film for adults reflecting on how childhood seeds the doubts haunting adulthood. While a surprise box office success in Japan in 1991, this is one of Ghibli's more obscure works to the America audience and didn't receive an English dub until in 2016.

The Illusionist (L’ Illusionniste)

This 2010 French-British film The Illusionist follows its nameless titular character, based on the French performer Jacques Tati, as his era of performing arts comes to a bittersweet close in Paris. During his wanders, the illusionists finds himself a surrogate parent to a girl, a dreamer who still believes in magic. While the world has no use for his illusions anymore, he performs his tricks for her. How long can he sustain the magic for her?

Contemplative and delicate under the care of director Sylvain Chome, the film is hand-drawn with homeliness as a resurrection of an unproduced script by the late Tati. The delicate conclusion reminds us to appreciate the artists that came before us. Even when magic fades and an era ends, that doesn't mean life stops.

The Iron Giant

The blueprints of this story are simple and grand. Nine-year-old Hogarth examines a mysterious presence in his town and discovers a large robot from outer space. Although the bot is a gentle giant with an appreciation for Earth, the machinations of a paranoid government agent threatens their friendship.  

The Iron Giant deftly marries traditional animation with computer animation. Brad Bird's directorial debut before his beloved Pixar's Incredibles sagas, this 1999 anti-war film unfortunately flopped at the box office but acquired a cult following. What made this film timeless? Perhaps its frank observation of mortality, kindness, and maturity resonated throughout today.

WALL-E

A cube-shaped trash-compactor bots spent his seven centuries on Earth in solitude, compacting waste into skyscrapers and collecting knick-knacks to pass the time. Then a sleek bot lands into his life. Having endured eons of loneliness, he makes it his mission to court her, following her to the end of the stars and helps her fulfill her directive for humanity.

While many remember the side commentary on corporatism and environment, the love story is wholesome anchor to the entire film, which is dialogue-free for much of the first half. Imbued with a Charlie Chaplin charm, WALL-E was named the 2008 Best Picture in many critics circles. However even with its win for Best Animation at the Academy Awards, many cried that it was still underrated by the Academy.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

A minute of a stop-motion film can take eons. Based on a poem by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Jack Skellington's mid-life crisis as the famed Pumpkin King in his town of Halloween. To assuage his disillusionment, he occupies himself in the new world, the land of Christmas. Though his misunderstanding of the Christmas culture leads to Holiday mayhem, he learns to celebrate the best of both holidays.

Danny Elfman's score and lyrics remain a catchy classic. Although the film is associated with Tim Burton's vision, do not forget director Henry Selick and his team. Without the Nightmare before Christmas, we would not have the Laika team that handcrafted Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings. Rich with eye-popping textures, the film became the first animated film to receive an Academy Award nod for Best Visuals Effects in 1993.