The 14 Best Animated Movies (That Aren't Made By Disney Or Pixar)

Pixar and Disney have dominated the animation landscape for quite some time. Since the first Academy Award was given for Best Animated Feature in 2002, 14 of the winners in that category have been from one of those two studios. But there's so much more to the world of animation than just the mouse and a hopping lamp. 

While Pixar and Disney tend to take home the lion's share of acclaim, fame, and box office returns, there are a number of animation studios around the world that produce films that are just as good — if not better. These companies may not be synonymous with animated films in the same way that the Disney juggernaut is, but they're nonetheless developing truly remarkable, creatively inspired work. With engaging storylines, fantastically detailed artistic style, and often deep emotional resonance, there is a richness and variety to the animated features available today that would likely surprise even the most ardent filmgoers.

Tito and the Birds

"Tito and the Birds," a Brazilian movie directed by Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, and Gustavo Steinberg, presents fear and anxiety as an actual virus. Thanks to constant fear-mongering and catastrophization in the news media, a fear epidemic overtakes the people of Brazil, transforming them into helpless blobs. The allegory is a little on the nose, but it's entirely effective. 

The greatest selling point of "Tito and the Birds," however, is its unique art style, which combines elegant and detailed painted backgrounds with cruder, more simplistic characters, aided by some digital animation. This has the effect of clearly juxtaposing the effortless beauty of the world around us with the movie's more complicated, flawed vision of humanity. There are many animated filmsthat employ similar, if not identical, art styles. "Tito and the Birds," on the other hand, doesn't look like anything else out there. Its art is breathtaking.

The Iron Giant

Vin Diesel does his most impressive work when he plays characters with very little dialogue, and "The Iron Giant" represents his very best. The movie tells the story of a small American town during the Cold War, where a young boy has befriended a mysterious robot, immediately attracting the attention of paranoid government officials who seek to destroy it. "The Iron Giant" owes a great debt to "ET: The Extraterrestrial." Although "The Iron Giant" is based on the 1968 novel "The Iron Man" by Ted Hughes, so much of its emotional impact comes from the moments and relationships that mirror that of the 1981 Spielberg hit. 

The bond between the boy and his robot is undeniably moving, and if you were to take a poll of people, especially men, who grew up in the '90s, "The Iron Giant" would probably be cited as one of the movies that affected them the most emotionally. Notably, "The Iron Giant" also marked the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who would go on to make some of Pixar's best films of the past few decades.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson fills every frame of his films with odd little details, leading to the cinematic equivalent of bric-a-brac. It's not just a quirk. It's what Anderson has become famous for. With "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Anderson pushed his particular and distinct style even further, adapting Roald Dahl's book about a family of foxes who steal from three loathsome farmers using peculiar, but charming, stop-motion animation. 

Each one of the animal puppets in "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is incredibly expressive, their slight movements bizarre but at the same time unique and somehow human. The way they all have a slightly different hand gesture to describe how Mr. Fox's son Ash is "different" and how their fur moves ever-so-gently in the breeze are just some of the many visual cues that show how much work and care went into the production. This type of attention to detail is emblematic of Wes Anderson's work.


Yes, "Shrek" has some sins to atone for. It prolonged the half-life of Smash Mouth's "All Star." It led to the trend of animated films ending on an incongruous musical number. These are serious faults, indeed. 

And yet, it's hard to stay too mad at "Shrek," given that it does so many other things well. As a parody of classic fairy tales, it is constantly on target, and it's crammed full of so many references and sight gags that you'll still be finding new ones on your fourth or fifth watch. What's interesting, though, is that as much as it pokes fun at fairy tales, "Shrek" isn't half bad at telling one in earnest. 

When Shrek gets roped into rescuing a princess while trying to convince a nobleman to save his swamp, he meets Fiona, a beautiful woman with a shameful curse: Every night, she turns into an ogre. Their romance is legitimately sweet, a surprising number of the jokes land, and Eddie Murphy proves his mettle as a top-class voice actor. Audiences agreed; "Shrek" ultimately spawned an entire franchise, and its charms earned it the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.


Based on a graphic novel, "Persepolis" tells the story of a young woman coming of age amidst the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which saw the country reject Western influence and commit to becoming a strict Islamic republic. So, it probably doesn't need to be said that this isn't a Disney film. Marjane chafes against the new restrictions in her life, secretly listening to American punk rock and wearing unorthodox clothing. Eventually, her parents begin to fear for her safety, and send her to a school in France, but this just creates a new set of problems. 

When Marjane returns to Iran, she doesn't fit in anymore. In Europe, she is easily identifiable as a non-European; people see her as Iranian even when she starts to feel more French. In Iran, Marjane's family see her as foreign and dangerously Western. She's too European for Iran, too Iranian for Europe. As a story of rebellion, identity, and cultural loss, "Persepolis" creates space for a new, utterly compelling voice in film.

The Secret of Kells

"The Secret of Kells" kicked off a series of films that put Irish animation on the map — and with good reason. Every single frame of this film is gorgeous. Drawing inspiration from the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the 800s, the stylized nature of the movie's characters and their surroundings make it feel as though it's pulled from the best ecclesiastical art from the early Middle Ages. 

"The Secret of Kells" combines themes from early Catholicism with Celtic mythology to tell the tale of a young boy training in an Irish monastery who encounters a fairy named Aisling in the forest. It's as clever as it is achingly beautiful, and it made its filmmakers, who have since gone on to create two other animated hits (2014's "Song of the Sea" and 202's "Wolfwalkers") as important to Irish culture as Hayao Miyazaki is to Japan.


"Megamind" is the supervillain redemption story we deserve to see, and for that reason alone, it deserves a place on this list. Megamind (Will Ferrell) is the life-long adversary of Metro Man (Brad Pitt), the savior of Metrocity. Ever since they were sent to Earth from their home planets as infants, Metro Man has been the golden boy who has everything handed to him, while Megamind is the screw-up who was literally raised to be a criminal mastermind. Now an adult, Megamind defines himself through his conflict with Metro Man. 

But then he gets his wish. When Megamind defeats Metro Man, he finds himself bereft of purpose. He begins training a new superhero to do battle with and accidentally creates a supervillain, leading Megamind to do the unthinkable: save Metro City himself. "Megamind" is an obvious send-up of "Superman," but it does a remarkable job examining the psyche of a stereotypical comic book villain, finding a believable path from bad guy to hero. Funny, clever, and containing hidden depth, "Megamind" is much better than it has any right to be.

Your Name

"Your Name" is an anime drama about two total strangers who occasionally wake up in one another's body. Strange? Oh, yes. Unsettling, even. What begins as sort of a gender-bending teen comedy takes on new dimensions as the two spend more and more time in each other's world, developing a romantic bond while they attempt to figure out what is happening to them. 

Mysteriously, the boy and the girl are unable to contact each other, and as "Your Name" goes on, it becomes clear that there's more than just body-swapping at play. "Your Name" manages to delicately balance both the lighter and more dramatic elements of its plot, being silly when the occasion calls for it, and utterly heartbreaking at other times. It's intricately plotted, superbly animated, and deploys its complex narrative effortlessly. There's a lot going on in "Your Name," but it's never a chore. If anything, it only gets more rewarding upon rewatching.

How to Train Your Dragon

"How to Train Your Dragon" bravely tackles the question we've all been asking: What if Vikings fought dragons? Taking place in a version of Scandinavia, "How to Train Your Dragon" centers on an simple island village that is besieged by dragons, who steal livestock, burn homes, and make general nuisances of themselves. Because of this, the village's culture revolves around fighting dragons, and there is great social cache associated with being strong warriors. 

This is unfortunate for Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who is what you might describe as "indoorsy." But when he forges an unlikely relationship with a wounded dragon, Hiccup discovers that the creatures may have been misunderstood all along, changing the dynamic between man and dragon forever. "How to Train Your Dragon" features creative world-building and top-notch voice acting from its eclectic cast, all of whom fully commit to the eccentric humor that makes the movie uncommonly endearing.

The Breadwinner

An animated film about life as a young girl in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban seems like it would be a hard sell. But that's only if you underestimate the team behind "The Breadwinner." Parvana is a plucky young girl living with her family in Kabul, watching her world getting smaller due to Taliban's restrictive mandates just when it should be expanding. When Parvana's father is arrested and taken away, her family loses its only source of income. The girl decides to cut her hair and pose as a boy so that she will have more access to the streets of Kabul, where she can provide for her mother and siblings. 

Escaping the near-total control the Taliban exerts over women and girls in public spaces, Parvana finds an intoxicating freedom in her new life as a boy. However, she also faces dangers beyond her reckoning as she sets out to rescue her father from prison. Quietly devastating, "The Breadwinner" tells a moving story of perseverance in the face of grief, hardship, and oppression.


Neil Gaiman is known for darkly imaginative fantasy stories, and his children's novel "Coraline" highlights his strengths particularly well. So does its film adaptation, which puts Gaiman's tale in the hands of Henry Selick, who brings his Tim Burton-like sensibilities to the source material, leading to a wildly unsettling animated film

Coraline is a young, rambunctious girl who moves into a new house with her parents, both of whom never seem to have any time for her. While exploring her new home, Coraline she finds a secret tunnel that leads to a sort of bizarro world, complete with a set of parents who seem to have nothing to do but dote on her. While Coraline initially relishes the attention, she begins to realize that there's something off-putting about her Other World parents (it might have something to do with the fact that they want to steal Coraline's eyes — y'know, just a theory). A fiercely creative adventure with seriously creepy undertones, "Coraline" is a godsend for weird little kids (and the adults they grow into) everywhere.


Back before Disney purchased Fox's catalog, "Anastasia" was one of the biggest animated movies of the '90s that wasn't attached to the Mouse in any way. "Anastasia" follows the story of an orphan named Anya who is trained by con men to pass herself off as the Grand Duchess Anastasia, only to discover (surprise!) that she is in fact the real deal. 

This movie is single-handedly responsible for introducing and fostering a life-long fascination of Russian royalist history in a generation of young '90s girls. Meg Ryan and John Cusack both bring lots of personality to their roles (also, the chemistry between them is electric), and Christopher Lloyd as Rasputin gets a banger of a villain song with "In the Dark of the Night." While we're talking about Rasputin, "Anastasia" is not afraid to get a little gruesome, either: the famous Russian mystic is literally falling to pieces on screen.

Spirited Away

One of Hayao Miyazaki's most acclaimed works, "Spirited Away" is a magical adventure overflowing with creativity. When a young girl and her parents accidentally end up wandering into the realm of spirits, the adults are turned into hogs, and the child is tasked with rescuing them. Alone in a strange and unfamiliar world, she finds hidden reserves of strength and ingenuity — and a whole lot of bizarre creatures.

The sheer volume of imagination on display is staggering As the young protagonist of "Spirited Away" explores the spirit's complex society, it's overwhelming to think that one person dreamed this all up. Miyazaki combines elements of the Shinto religion with modern and traditional Japanese culture, as well as critiques of capitalist greed and environmental neglect. If you were thinking that animated films for children tend towards simplicity, "Spirited Away" will set you straight. It's packed with metaphors and deeper meanings, and feels like it's about to burst with all the love and thoughtfulness that Miyazaki poured into it.