The 15 Most Beautiful Animated Movies Ever

10. Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “What is this Zack Snyder owl movie doing on here?” Or maybe “Oh my god, I forgot Owl City was on the soundtrack for this totally forgettable movie.” And you’re right on both counts — except for the fact that this movie is unfairly stunning. Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole may boast a clunky title and an even clunkier plot, but the 2010 American-Australian animated movie has some of the most breathtaking CG-animated shots in existence. Snyder takes his hyperstylized video game sensibilities and obsessive use of slow-mo and applies it to soaring flight sequences and thrilling battles that will forever make you look at owls differently.

9. Fantasia

Disney’s experimental musical film was a feat of animation when it was released in 1940, and remains so today. Pairing several pieces of classical music with animated segments, Fantasia was bold, innovative, and an absolute delight to watch. Over 1,000 artists and technicians were used in the making of Fantasia, who color-keyed segments scene by scene so the colors in a single shot would harmonize between proceeding and following ones. The sequel, Fantasia 2000, is just as beautiful as the original, but credit should be given to this monumental film.


We can’t get through this list without mentioning Pixar. The animation giant practically pioneered CG animation as an art form, delivering classics like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. But Pixar’s most stunning achievement to date is still its post-apocalyptic robotic romance, WALL-E. The sci-fi film stands apart not just for its long stretches of silence, but in its realistic camera movements — Pixar hired the Oscar-winning cinematographer of Blade Runner 2049 and every Coen Brothers movie Roger Deakins as a visual consultant for the film, and his influence is keenly felt. The animators went out of their way to establish a level of visual realism by mimicking the features of a physical camera, including tricks like barrel distortion, camera depth, and lens aberration. And let’s not forget the absolute beauty of the fire extinguisher dance.

7. The Adventures of Prince Achmed

The oldest surviving animated film in history was a pillar of cinematic history and an utterly gorgeous one at that. The 1926 German animated fairy tale by animation legend Lotte Reiniger predates Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by 10 years and pioneered silhouette animation, a technique invented by Reiniger that involves manipulating cardboard cutouts and thin sheets of lead under a camera. Loosely based on stories from One Thousand and One NightsPrince Achmed follows a dashing hero on a flying horse who braves all manner of obstacles to win a princess’ heart. It’s a mesmerizing and seductive fairy tale told through dainty, intricate silhouettes.

6. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Drawn to resemble free-hand scribbles and Japanese woodblock prints, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a pinnacle of animation and one of the most divine films to come out of Studio Ghibli’s impressive catalogue. Director Isao Takahata pays homage to Japanese folkore in a story of a rural couple who find a tiny girl in a bamboo stalk and raise her into a beautiful noblewoman. It’s a powerful and heartbreaking film that is as ephemeral as its wild and fluid animation style that feels like a watercolor painting come to life.

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