The best animated film of each of the last 10 decades (according to Letterboxd)

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Animated movies have improved dramatically since they first appeared over a century ago. The technology used to create them has evolved, as have the visuals that continue to wow audiences every year.

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Letterboxd fans have made it easy to see how the genre has changed over time, as the top-rated anime films on the social media platform are representative of the best from each decade. Since the turn of this century, audiences wanting to see the genre-defining animated films and their contemporary counterparts should consider the top-rated films on the site.

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The 1920s

The Adventures of Prince Ahmed (1926) – 3.9


Two figures on a lake in The Adventures of Prince Ahmed (1926).

Available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

The Adventures of Prince Ahmed is widely regarded as the first animated feature film, lasting three years (according to The criterion channel). Director Lottie Reigener is responsible for the monumental masterpiece, which uses tinted backgrounds and cutouts to represent the silhouettes of its characters.

The actual stories in the fairy tale film are inspired by the collection of folk tales from the book “One Thousand and One Nights” (better known as “Arabian Nights”). Although his characters lack facial expressions, Reigener brilliantly uses color and shifting shapes to accurately capture their on-screen personalities and motivations. The film is an important part of the story that marks the very beginning of a beloved genre.


The 1930s

The Fox’s Tale (1937) – 3.8


Long before Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Foxdirectors Irene and Ladislas Starevich gave viewers The story of the fox. The mythical film rightly mentions in its amusing introduction that it is “a revolution in the history of cinema” and that “ten years of work were necessary for its realization”.

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Set in an animal kingdom, the film portrays an irritating protagonist called Fox, who enjoys playing tricks on characters like Cat, Badger, and Donkey. Eventually, the king, Lion, is forced to discipline him. Its deceptively simple plot is actually more complex than it first appears, as the stop-motion film doesn’t shy away from making bold political and social commentary, dealing with topics like corruption and corruption. religion.


The 1940s

Fantasy (1940) – 3.9


Mickey evokes a spell in Fantasia.

Available to stream on Disney+.

Fancy is an old-school Disney movie that’s still worth watching today. Known for its pioneering contributions to sound technology, the animated anthology includes a number of segments depicting the adventures of hundreds of characters through magical worlds.

Besides its elaborately hand-drawn cutting-edge visuals, it was the perfect timing of great classical music in each of these segments that made the film so appealing to audiences at that time. It was a groundbreaking moment in cinema that opened doors and inspired future animated films.

The 1950s

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959) – 3.7


Two characters hold hands in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959).

Director Jiří Trnka immerses fans in an otherworldly setting through his brilliant Shakespeare film, Dream of a summer night. Described on Letter box As the “world’s first puppet kinescope” and “a milestone in the history” of animation, the film retells the well-known classic in a creative way.


It’s hard to imagine how much work must have gone into designing and building the enchanting wooden puppets, let alone the elaborate sets used for the stop-motion film. It’s worth noting that the film doesn’t stick faithfully to Shakespeare’s original play, which only adds to its resulting magical and mysterious effect.

The 1960s

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1961) – 4.0


A man and a horse entering a fish in The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1961).

It’s hard to fully describe the highly stylized and wild adventure film that is The Fabulous Baron Munchausen. Director Karel Zeman weaves a wacky story with cosmonauts on the moon, a struggling princess and many ships and horses.

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The film combines live actors and sets with animated elements, which only adds to its overall psychedelic vibe. The ever-changing colors and pastel palette complement its surprisingly entertaining story, all of which result in a remarkable film that’s still worth watching for the first time today.

The 1970s

The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975) – 4.1


A character on a bicycle in The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975).

Incredibly popular with Norwegian audiences and well known to international critics, The Pinchcliffe Grand Prize is a famous stop motion film by director Ivo Caprino. Set in the picturesque village of Flåklypa, it follows the story of bicycle repairman Reodor Felgen and his two companions, who create the fastest racing car and attempt to win the world championship.

Its lovable if not slightly quirky characters are instantly recognizable to fans who have spent each Christmas season watching the beloved animated film with their loved ones. It doesn’t bring anything particularly innovative to the genre, but its nostalgic and cultural value is irreplaceable.

The 1980s

Tomb of the Fireflies (1988) – 4.4


Available to rent on Apple TV+.

Director Isao Takahata brings Akiyuko Nosaka’s eponymous short story to life through the Grave of the Fireflies. The beautiful animated film centers on the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko Yokokawa, who struggle to overcome their increasingly difficult situation after their home is attacked.

The animated movie is known for having one of the most emotional endings among the Ghibli movies. Fans will never forget how the heartwarming relationship between the protagonists evolves and keeps them inspired to overcome each difficult situation, until its heartbreaking conclusion.

The 1990s

Perfect Blue (1997) – 4.4


Available to rent on Apple TV+.

perfect blue introduces audiences to the iconic Mima Kirigoe, who decides to leave her Japanese idol group to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Things take a dark turn when a stalker appears and mysterious murders begin to follow her wherever she goes.

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Director Satoshi Kon explores Mima’s state of mind through the film, which shows her slowly losing her grip on reality. Viewers won’t be able to take their eyes off the screen as they wait to find out exactly what happens in this twisted thriller.

The 2000s

Spirited Away (2001) – 4.5


Available to stream on HBO Max.

Taken away as if by magic is a film that needs no introduction, as it is often considered one of the best Ghibli films ever made. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the visually stunning animated film tells the captivating story of 10-year-old Chihiro Ogino who finds himself in the magical and terrifying world of the Kami.

Throughout the critically acclaimed film, she must overcome the impossible challenges thrown at her in this area to save her parents. Viewers are introduced to the strange and creepy No-Face and other strange creatures the protagonist encounters along the way.

The 2010s

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – 4.4


Spider-Man in the Spider-Verse

Available to rent on Apple TV+.

Directors Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti opened up the multiverse with the award-winning animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The superhero film chronicles the experiences of Miles Morales meeting other versions of Spidey and collaborating in an attempt to defeat Kingpin.

The film has been praised for its comic book-inspired animation style, with its striking color palette and quick transitions guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on even the most casual fan. It’s no exaggeration to say that this has revived interest in the franchise and in superhero movies as a whole.


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