32 Great Animated Movies For Grown-Ups

 Shôtarô Kaneda from Akira.
Credit: Toho

Because so many of the all-time best movies for children are animated, the medium is practically synonymous with family-friendly entertainment. Of course, not every cartoon movie is made for young audiences, and, in fact, there are some that the MPA would strongly recommend never be seen by moviegoers under 13… or even under 18. We compiled some of the most notable and esteemed examples of great animated movies for adults.

Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell
Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell

Ghost In The Shell (1995)

One of the most inventive dystopian stories is Shirow Masamune’s manga, Ghost in the Shell, which follows a robotic police officer hunting an expert hacker using reprogrammed cyborg brains to do his bidding. Mizuho Nishikubo and Mamoru Oshii’s animated, influential, visually stunning adaptation is considered one of the best anime films of its time and even inspired an American, live-action remake which was not as well received.

Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny sit laughing while enjoying snacks at the movies in South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut.
Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny sit laughing while enjoying snacks at the movies in South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Matt Stone and Trey Parker could finally surpass the limitations of basic cable television with the feature-length, theatrically released, R-rated, musical spin-off of their long-running, uproariously crass Comedy Central satire. The Oscar-nominated, ‘90s movie classic South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut sees Colorado youngsters Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny hear a certain curse word for the first time, leading to a parental war against Canada’s “corruption” and the threat of Satan and Saddam Hussein ruling the Earth.

Scene from Mad God
Scene from Mad God

Mad God (2022)

A passion project by special effects legend Phil Tibbit, Mad God is one of the most underrated and underseen horror movies of its time. Then again, this dialogue-free, virtually plotless, stop-motion trek into a post-apocalyptic nightmare is difficult to describe as one single genre.

Scene from Heavy Metal
Scene from Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal (1981)

Surreal science fiction, thrilling fantasy, and the most head-banging tunes of the 1970s and 1980s converge in producer Ivan Reitman’s Heavy Metal. Framed as glimpses of strange worlds transmitted from a glowing green orb, this animated anthology film is a bizarre space odyssey complete with funny characters and a star-studded voice cast that includes Eugene Levy and John Candy.

Elijah Wood in 9
Elijah Wood in 9

9 (2009)

Released on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year 2009, 9 is a dark, inventive, post-apocalyptic tale from producer Tim Burton and director Scott Acker — based on his 2005 short. The likes of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, and more voice a group of sentient ragdolls who became the last living beings on Earth and must protect their future from a dangerous A.I.

The main characters of Anomalisa.
The main characters of Anomalisa.

Anomalisa (2015)

Leave it to an innovator like writer and co-director Charlie Kaufman to craft such a bizarre, yet moving and relatable story about the human experience that does not actually have a single “human” in it. The 2015 stop-motion dramedy follows a customer service expert (voiced by David Thewlis) who sees the same face and hears the same voice (that of Tom Noonan) from every person he meets until he finally meets someone unique to him (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Paprika from Paprika
Paprika from Paprika

Paprika (2006)

Years before Christopher Nolan released Inception in 2010, there was director Satoshi Kon’s classic anime adaptation of Yasutaka Tsutsui's fantasy novel, Paprika. The visually stunning film bears a similar plot, which follows the titular spirit as she joins the search for a stolen machine that allows the user to enter other people’s dreams.

Isle of Dogs of dog and boy
Isle of Dogs of dog and boy

Isle Of Dogs (2018)

If you say the title of Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion feature, Isle of Dogs, fast enough, it sounds like you are saying, “I love dogs.” Indeed, the wondrous story of a Japanese boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) searching for his lost pet on an island of banished canines is heartwarming thrills that animal lovers surely will not be able to resist.

The hot cocoa in The Simpsons Movie.
The hot cocoa in The Simpsons Movie.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

Creator Matt Groening’s The Simpsons had been airing for 18 years by the time Homer, Marge, and their children made it onto the big screen in what is, essentially, a feature-length episode of the record-breaking animated series. However, one hilarious episode of The Simpsons Movie would prove to be, following the titular family’s escape from Springfield after the city is encased in a dome by the EPA.

Shôtarô Kaneda from Akira
Shôtarô Kaneda from Akira

Akira (1988)

One of the most influential films in the history of anime cinema — and one of the all-time best sci-fi movies in general — is Akira. Based on the manga by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, the electrifying, futuristic noir thriller follows a young biker gang who becomes embroiled in an apocalyptic battle in Neo-Tokyo when one of their own is kidnapped and given dangerous psychic powers as part of a secret project.

Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in Batman: The Killing Joke
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Even some of the most harmless and child-appropriate animated Batman movies are held in the same regard as the live-action Batman movies, but Batman: The Killing Joke is admired as a boldly unsettling chapter in the Dark Knight’s epic rivalry with The Joker. What really makes this adaptation of Alan Moore’s beloved 1988 one-shot — which also offers a glimpse at the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin — is the reunion of Kevin Conroy voicing Batman with Mark Hamill as Joker.

Scene from Waking LIfe
Scene from Waking LIfe

Waking Life (2001)

Writer and director Richard Linklater’s Waking Life is already a transfixing exploration of where reality and fantasy converge in the human experience. What also makes the acclaimed drama a visually enthralling experience is the process of adding animation over the live-action footage with digital rotoscoping.

Gary from Team America: World Police
Gary from Team America: World Police

Team America: World Police (2004)

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone would shift their focus to a different kind of animation medium (puppetry) for their second brutally crass, feature-length satire, Team America: World Police. The comedy about a no-holds-barred counter-terrorism organization just might be the greatest action-comedy-musical starring marionettes ever made.

Driving around in Fritz the Cat
Driving around in Fritz the Cat

Fritz The Cat (1972)

One of the most influential and controversial figures in the history of animation is Ralph Bakshi, whose most controversial work might be Fritz the Cat, which is not to be confused with the family-friendly Felix the Cat, and, boy, do we pray that no parents ever made that mistake. The X-rated, animated comedy based on Robert Crumb’s comic follows the titular feline’s adventures starting riots, getting mixed up with domestic terrorists, and more shenanigans in the 1960s.

The titular characters in Wendell & Wild.
The titular characters in Wendell & Wild.

Wendell & Wild (2022)

Most of the work of stop-motion animator Henry Selick — director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline — just barely qualifies as appropriate for children. However, he crosses the line farther than usual with Wendell & Wild, which stars beloved comedy duo Jordan Peele (who also co-writes) and Keegan-Michael Key as the titular demons, who try to get a teen girl (Lyric Ross) to help them get to Earth.

Characters from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Characters from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

An essential example of the rare and underrated Space Western genre is Cowboy Bebop — a futuristic anime following the travels of a crew of intergalactic bounty hunters that aired from 1998 to 1999. The series’ feature-length spin-off covers events set between Episodes 22 and 23 and sees the team heading to Mars in pursuit of a bioterrorist.

Naoufel sleeping in I Lost My Body
Naoufel sleeping in I Lost My Body

I Lost My Body (2019)

Happy Hand is a French novel by Guillaume Laurant about a severed hand that gains sentience and that gains sentience and braves harsh urban terrain to reunite with its person. Director Jérémy Clapin’s adaptation, I Lost My Body (which is also in French), was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2020.

Scene from Loving Vincent
Scene from Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent (2017)

Few people have ever conceived a historical biopic as astonishingly unique as directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent. A team of more than 100 artists produced thousands of canvas paintings, which each served as one frame of this dramatization of events surrounding the death of legendary Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh.

Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz in Sausage Party
Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz in Sausage Party

Sausage Party (2016)

With Sausage Party, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg attempt to answer a question that probably no one else thought to ask: what if food was sentient? The result is an uproariously filthy, often horrifying, and sometimes clever, star-studded romp that most would still praise over the similarly plotted, yet more infamous, family film, Food Fight.

Rabbit from Watership Down
Rabbit from Watership Down

Watership Down (1978)

Author Richard Adams’ classic, harrowing tale of woodland rabbits seeking safety from the human beings who have condemned their home was first adapted for screen by writers and directors Martin Rosen and John Hubley. Featuring the voice talents of John Hurt, Denholm Elliott, and more, Watership Down very likely could have won the Best Animated Feature Oscar, had the category existed at the time.

Scene from Heavy Traffic
Scene from Heavy Traffic

Heavy Traffic (1973)

Ralph Bakshi’s follow-up to Fritz the Cat sees the filmmaker broaden his horizons by combining animation and live-action footage with Heavy Traffic. It offers an eccentric, surreal look at the inner city lifestyle from the perspective of a young, disillusioned cartoonist.

Scene from Waltz with Bashir
Scene from Waltz with Bashir

Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Writer, director, and producer Ari Folman documents his investigation of lost personal memories of the Lebanon War in 1982 and presents his findings as an animated drama in Waltz with Bashir. It would win several awards in categories specializing in animated features and also took home the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009.

Mary from Mary and Max
Mary from Mary and Max

Mary And Max (2009)

Australian stop-motion animator Adam Elliot used his own experiences communicating with his own pen pal as inspiration for the story of Mary and Max. Toni Collette voices Mary — a lonely woman from Melbourne who finds unexpected kinship with a middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger’s named Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) while writing letters back and forth in the 1970s.

Adam Sandler in Eight Crazy Nights
Adam Sandler in Eight Crazy Nights

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

Adam Sandler has lent his voice to a few animated movies that are perfect for children — such as the Hotel Transylvania movies and Leo — but Eight Crazy Nights is certainly not one of them. The musical-comedy, set during Hanukkah, is the tale of a 33-year-old Jewish man forced to be supervised by the elderly Whitey Duvall (also voiced by Sandler) as part of his community service sentence and is only animated so it can resemble cartoon TV specials of yesteryear.

Rowf and Snitter from The Plague Dogs
Rowf and Snitter from The Plague Dogs

The Plague Dogs (1982)

From Watership Down author Richard Adams comes another high-stakes thriller from the point of view of animals in which dogs get to save the day. John Hurt and Christopher Benjamin star in The Plague Dogs as a Labrador-mix and a smooth fox terrier who escape from a science lab and must outwit human hunters who believe they may carry a dangerous disease.

Scene from The Wolf House
Scene from The Wolf House

The Wolf House (2018)

We have seen many great horror movies made with the stop-motion process, but nothing quite like The Wolf House. Directors Cristobal León and Joaquín Cociña take inspiration from the infamous events at Chile’s Colonìa Dignidad and reimagine them in a unique form of stop-motion animation to create a surreal fantasy beyond your wildest nightmares.

Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly
Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Five years after Waking Life, Richard Linklater would use the same digital rotoscoping once again, which would lend wonderfully to the paranoid themes and psychedelic style of his adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novel, A Scanner Darkly. The sometimes comedic sci-fi thriller follows an undercover agent (played by Keanu Reeves) suffering from unsettling visions while investigating the supposed source of an addiction epidemic.

Scene from Perfect Blue
Scene from Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue (1997)

Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, Perfect Blue is the gorgeously animated and deeply disturbing debut of Satoshi Kon. Harsh, real-life topics ranging from voyeurism to assault are seen through the eyes of a young pop music star whose transition into acting is interrupted by the emergence of a dangerously obsessed fan.

Scene from Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters
Scene from Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters (2007)

One of the most popular (and strangest) series on Adult Swim follows the misadventures of a trio of sentient fast food items — namely Flylock (Cary Means), Master Shake (Dana Snyder), and Meatwad (co-creator Dave Willis). The crew would grace the big screen in the appropriately titled Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, in which they find an exercise machine that puts them in a catastrophic situation.

Scene from The House
Scene from The House

The House (2022)

Netflix exclusively released one of the strangest horror anthology movies of its time with the English-produced stop-motion animated film The House. Each segment is set in a different world — such as one in which rats are anthropomorphic and another in which cats are the dominant species — but all revolve around the bizarre experiences of the central characters’ stay at a seemingly idyllic estate.

Scene from Redline
Scene from Redline

Redline (2009)

Early on in the development of Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller intended for it to be an animated feature. The closest thing we have to seeing that become a reality — in terms of its adrenaline-fueled, high-octane pace — for now is the underrated animated, Redline, which takes place during a high-stakes intergalactic car race.

Scene from Cryptozoo
Scene from Cryptozoo

Crypotozoo (2021)

Writer and director Dash Shaw’s Cryptozoo takes place in a world where creatures of legend known as cryptids exist and are hunted to be put on public display. It only makes sense that the world created for the film is one of intoxicatingly surreal, kaleidoscopic imagery.

We recommend that you should show these films to your children, just a little later in life.