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Top 10 Animated Movies That Should Be Taught in Film School


Script written by Nick Spake

Pay attention to these animated classics, and you just might learn something. Ghost in the Shell, Toy Story, and Fantasia are just some of the spectacular animated moves every aspiring filmmaker should watch. WatchMojo counts down the top animated movies that should be taught in film school.

Special thanks to our user darkhelmerservo for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Animated+Films+that+Should+Be+Taught+in+Film+School


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Script written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Animated Movies That Should Be Taught in Film School

Lights! Camera! DRAW! Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Animated Films That Should Be Taught in Film School.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most influential, iconic, and important animated features that every aspiring filmmaker should check out. However, we’ve excluded short subjects, like “The Goddess of Spring.” As significant as they might be, that’s a list for another day.

#10: “Ghost in the Shell” (1995)

In the ‘90s, anime experienced a surge of popularity with Western audiences. “Ghost in the Shell” in particular was a launching point for many soon-to-be-proud otaku. Centered on Major Motoko Kusanagi – a cyborg that blurs the lines between AI and intelligence itself – and her pursuit of the mysterious Puppet Master, the stunning Japanese feature delivered rich sci-fi with complex themes, mind-blowing visuals, and a sophisticated tone, proving animation could be so much more than quote unquote “kids stuff.” The movie’s ideas and style not only inspired countless animators, but also had a huge impact on various live-action pictures, most notably “The Matrix.”

#9: “A Scanner Darkly” (2006)

Starring Keanu Reeves as a man torn between what’s real and what’s an illusion, this film’s trippy premise is perfectly complemented by its surreal animation style. While “A Scanner Darkly” was initially shot digitally, animators proceeded to trace over the live-action footage in a technique known as interpolated rotoscope. This supplied the final product with a dreamlike ambiance, reminiscent of a living painting. In addition to being visually interesting, the film is full of fascinating themes that practically invite your analysis. And much like a Rorschach test, there are so many different ways to interpret this picture.

#8: “Inside Out” (2015)

No matter how old you are, “Inside Out” encompasses a life lesson that can speak to anyone, as it explores the importance of sadness. The film shows us the inner-workings of an 11-year-old girl’s mind, as she deals with the inevitability of change in a way a live-action movie has yet to do. Although Joy strives to find the silver lining in a difficult situation, it’s Sadness that shows young Riley the light, teaching children and parents everywhere that it’s alright to cry. Complete with ingenious writing, multi-layered characters, and unparalleled imagination, it’s an emotional coming-of-age journey you’ll never forget.

#7: “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)

Hayao Miyazaki is often described as the Eastern equivalent to Walt Disney. Likewise, Totoro could be seen as Japan’s answer to Mickey Mouse. Eventually becoming the mascot for Studio Ghibli, this iconic character made his debut in the phenomenon that is “My Neighbor Totoro.” The film follows two young girls that discover a roly-poly spirit in the forest, as well as several other delightful creatures. Rather than relying heavily on the written word, Miyazaki allows the expressive artwork to tell an immensely charming story. While the plot may be simple on the surface, what lies underneath is deep, atmospheric, and even magical, embodying the grandeur of nature and the wonder of childhood.

#6: “Persepolis” (2007)

Whether you’re aspiring to become an animator or a comic book artist, “Persepolis” is a film that will connect with anybody that loves to draw. Based on her autobiographical graphic novel, Marjane Satrapi adapted it to the big screen in this full-length animated feature. Set against a bleak backdrop, the movie stays true to the look and feel of its source material, chronicling an Iranian girl’s voyage to womanhood. Although it tackles challenging themes regarding war and religion, “Persepolis” offers a surprising amount of heart and humor. It’s gloomy while being hopeful and subtle while also being lively, showing us that life isn’t as black and white as it appears.

#5: “Waltz with Bashir” (2008)

“Waltz with Bashir” is one of the most unique animated features you’ll ever see, and one of the most distinctive documentaries. The film’s director, Ari Folman, served as a soldier in the Lebanon War when he was a teen. Decades later, Folman met with several of his fellow veterans to discuss their experiences. Making this film proved therapeutic for Folman, who had repressed many of his own military memories. These war stories are brought to life through haunting animation, mixing brutal reality with an otherworldly sentiment. Taking an original approach to the documentary genre, “Waltz with Bashir” encourages artists to view the world from another perspective and think outside the box.

#4: “Fantasia” (1940)

“Fantasia” joins animation and music together in perfect harmony, making for a cinematic triumph unlike any other. The film is virtually devoid of dialog, relying on the orchestra and breathtaking imagery to convey every emotion. Made up of a series of short subjects, some straightforward and others far more abstract, each segment beautifully visualizes an immortal piece of music. From the whimsical “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” to the jaw-dropping “Rite of Spring,” to the poetic “Night on Bald Mountain,” “Fantasia” is a feast for the eyes and ears. While not a success upon release, today it can only be described as revolutionary.

#3: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)

It’s the first full-length animated feature, but aside from being a filmmaking milestone, does “Snow White” truly stand the test of time? Against all the odds, the film still miraculously holds up, not only for its unforgettable characters and story, but for its remarkable craft as well. In the 1930s, producing an animated film was considered the riskiest of gambles. With that in mind, Walt Disney and company threw everything they had into “Snow White,” delivering the most detailed and passionate movie possible. The result was a thrilling, humorous, romantic, tragic, and uplifting tour de force that would forever change the way audiences viewed animation.

#2: “Toy Story” (1995)

“Toy Story” was another dicey endeavor that ultimately broke new ground. Pixar’s debut feature film is still remembered for its pioneering computer-animation, earning director John Lasseter a Special Achievement Academy Award. However, the movie’s technical achievements would’ve been easy to overlook without a compelling narrative. The story of Woody and Buzz went down as one for the ages, highlighted by its well-developed characters, clever interplay, and genuine heart. Putting just as much emphasis on the writing as the visuals, “Toy Story” became the first animated film to score a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination, further solidifying its place in the history books.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Akira” (1988)
- “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (2005)
- “Yellow Submarine” (1968)

#1: “Spirited Away” (2001)

Widely seen as Hayao Miyazaki’s best outing, as well as the first anime film to win an Oscar, “Spirited Away” is simply a spectacle to behold. Every character, every environment, every set piece is a visual marvel, flooding the screen with a plethora of creativity. Of course the film is much more than eye candy, telling a meaningful story about a young girl that must find the courage within to rescue her parents. While the film has echoes of “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and other classics, it still stands out as a completely original feat. Arguably the biggest film in Japanese history, “Spirited Away” will be studied and enjoyed for generations to come.

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