If you still think Bambi or Cinderella when you hear “animated movie,” you’ve got some catching up to do. Some of the best filmmakers working today have tried their hand at animation, and a lot of it is decidedly not for kids. It makes sense that some brilliant grown-up movies would be animated: It’s a medium that allows for ultimate creativity, able to be heartbreaking or shocking or complicated or surreal in ways that live-action can’t get close to—no matter how big the budget.
Below, are 10 of the best-animated films for adults—movies that will awaken the kid in you or remind you that it’s okay to grow up”
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
This 2017 Japanese animated film about a college-aged girl who wants to figure out how to be an adult through one mystic long night in Kyoto often borders on the surreal. The fantastical city it shows is gorgeously rendered, the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, and its ultimate message—that we’re all connected somehow—will stay with you long after the credits roll.
I know, I know. You’re thinking this is a weird inclusion. But part of what makes this 2016 movie especially genius is how it has no right being as good as it actually is. What starts out as a vehicle for Seth Rogan and his buddies to make dick jokes and animate a creepy sentient food orgy ends up being a meditation on life, death, and the nature of belief. No, really. It does!
This 2017 movie about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh was entirely created with oil paintings, done in a few styles but most notably in the style of Van Gogh himself. You’ll learn the heartbreaking and beautiful story of a misunderstood genius if you can stop absolutely drooling over the gorgeous visuals long enough to pay attention to it. It’s just not like any other movie you’ve seen.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Anything made by animated film master Hayao Miyazaki (he appears again on this list) and Studio Ghibli is bound to be enchanting, but Howl’s Moving Castle is particularly thought-provoking. A young woman with a boring life gets cursed, but tracks down a brilliant wizard who lives in a moving castle that can help her reverse it.
Based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi circa 2003, Persepolis is a memoir about the author’s childhood in Iran before, during, and after the Islamic Revolution. It’s beautifully animated, strikingly told, and gives an important perspective on a moment in history that often gets glossed over if you live in the United States.
Chico and Rita
This Oscar-nominated love story is as romantic as it is beautiful, telling the story of the titular Chico and Rita, a piano player and singer, respectively, who fall for each other and have a decades-spanning romance with tons of ups and downs.
A Scanner Darkly
Starring the likes of Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., and Winona Ryder, A Scanner Darkly was a huge deal when it came out in 2006, thanks to its incredibly life-like animation technique. The movie was actually shot with live-action footage and later animated (a process which took more than a year). It’s slightly dated when watching with a 2018 eye, but still visually impressive.
As people, we deal with a lot of complicated emotions, and Inside Out helps kids (and us adults!) understand those feelings better. During the film’s development, producers consulted with a number of psychologists to really flesh out the inner workings of the human psyche, and the result was a thoughtful and moving heart-check.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
We were introduced to Miles Morales, a scrappy Afro-Latino kid from Brooklyn who turns into Spider-Man after an incident with a radioactive spider. Miles’s new powers also lead him to the discovery of a multi-verse, where various versions of Spider-Man exist (including one hero voiced by Nicholas Cage). The film took home several notable wins during awards season and is thought by superhero fans to be one of the best Spider-Man films ever.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Whether it’s a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie has been a matter of debate since it debuted in 1993. But no matter which you think it is, Tim Burton’s claymation masterpiece is as macabre and surprising as it’s always been, and the soundtrack is just as poppin’. A must-watch.