15 Animated Films That Adults Love More Than Kids

15 Animated Films That Adults Love More Than Kids
Image credit: Legion-Media,, Alliance Atlantis, Toho

There are some things only adults will understand, after all.

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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Wes Anderson's quirky style wasn't confined to live-action cinema; he took a deep dive into the world of stop-motion animation with "Fantastic Mr. Fox," and the results were absolutely splendid. Based on Roald Dahl's classic book, the film tells the story of a wily fox who dares to outwit three mean and wealthy farmers. Voiced by George Clooney, Mr. Fox is clever, charismatic, and just a touch neurotic, embodying a sophisticated charm that makes him a hit with the grown-ups. And while the box office wasn't overly kind, only making about $46 million worldwide, it garnered two Oscar nominations and remains a cult favorite among adults for its dry wit and visual creativity.

2. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

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French director Sylvain Chomet's surreal masterpiece "The Triplets of Belleville" dances to its own unique beat, and adults can't help but tap along. The plot is delightfully eccentric: a grandmother and her faithful dog embark on a quest to rescue her Tour de France-cycling grandson, kidnapped by the French mafia. In their adventure, they encounter the once-famous 'Triplets of Belleville', music hall singers from the 1930s. The movie is nearly silent but speaks volumes with its distinct animation style and whimsical humor. Its financial success might not have broken records (it only earned around $14.7 million), but with an impressive 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.9 score on Letterboxd, this film is yet another reminder that there's more to animation than just Disney and Pixar.

3. Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Wes Anderson makes his second appearance on this list with "Isle of Dogs", a whimsical stop-motion film set in a dystopian Japan. Following an outbreak of 'dog flu', all dogs are exiled to a desolate island, including Spot, the canine companion of 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi. Determined to find his loyal friend, Atari embarks on a daring journey that resonates with themes of friendship, loyalty, and political manipulation. The unique, meticulously crafted animation style and the intricate plotlines were more appreciated by adults, earning it an 8.0 on Letterboxd. Despite its slightly grim premise, the film has its share of warm, fuzzy moments, often provided by the terrific voice cast which includes Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, and Tilda Swinton.

4. Akira (1988)

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A staple in the realm of animated science fiction, "Akira" is set in Neo-Tokyo, a city rebuilt from the ashes of a mysterious explosion that initiated World War III. The film focuses on a biker gang leader, Kaneda, who must stop his friend Tetsuo, blessed or rather cursed with psychic abilities, from unraveling the mystery of Akira, the entity behind the initial devastation. Its mature themes, intricate plot, and groundbreaking animation appeal more to adults, transforming it into a cult classic that has left an indelible mark on the animation world. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 91%, it has outlasted many contemporary movies in terms of popularity and impact.

5. Persepolis (2007)

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Based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel, "Persepolis" depicts the tumultuous life of a young Iranian girl during and after the Islamic Revolution. The film's monochrome animation brings Satrapi's stark, simple style to life, while the narrative manages to blend personal stories with the socio-political upheavals of the time. Praised for its poignant storytelling and unique animation, "Persepolis" garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. It might not have set the box office alight, earning around $22 million, but its cultural and cinematic significance is undeniable.

6. Spirited Away (2001)

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"Spirited Away," Hayao Miyazaki 's masterpiece, is as beloved by adults as it is by children. The film's narrative follows ten-year-old Chihiro who, upon moving to a new town, inadvertently enters a world of spirits and deities. As she works at a mystical bathhouse, governed by the intriguing and formidable Yubaba, to free herself and her parents from this realm, audiences are treated to a rich exploration of Japanese folklore and mythology. But, make no mistake, this isn't your typical fairy tale. It's a sophisticated coming-of-age story brimming with symbolism and metaphors that resonate strongly with grown-ups. "Spirited Away" is a box-office triumph, grossing over $355 million worldwide.

7. Anomalisa (2015)

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"Anomalisa" is a stop-motion animated film directed by Charlie Kaufman that leans heavily into existential dread, a theme adults are understandably more equipped to grapple with. The movie centers on Michael Stone, a self-help author trapped in the mundanity and monotony of his life. Everything changes when he meets Lisa, an apparently ordinary woman who fascinates him. "Anomalisa" isn't just a film—it's a study of human connection, isolation, and the pursuit of authenticity, elements that might be lost on younger viewers but hit home for adults. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

8. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

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"Ghost in the Shell," directed by Mamoru Oshii, is a landmark film in the genre of cyberpunk. Set in a futuristic world where cybernetic humans are the norm, it tells the story of Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg federal agent in pursuit of a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. As she delves deeper into her investigation, she is forced to question her own humanity. The film's complex themes of identity, consciousness, and the nature of reality are ones that adults can chew on long after the credits roll. "Ghost in the Shell" also had a major influence on several live-action films, including the "Matrix" trilogy, bolstering its reputation among discerning viewers.

9. WALL-E (2008)

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Pixar's "WALL-E" is a charming tale of a small waste-collecting robot left alone on Earth to clean up the mess humans left behind. However, underneath its cute exterior, it's a film with profound commentary on consumerism, environmental responsibility, and the human condition. As Wall-E embarks on a space adventure in search of EVE, the sleek robot he has fallen for, audiences are treated to a visually stunning and surprisingly poignant exploration of love, loneliness, and purpose. The film was a huge hit at the box office, grossing over $530 million worldwide.

10. The Wind Rises (2013)

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Another gem from Hayao Miyazaki's oeuvre, "The Wind Rises" is an elegy to the art of creation and the tragedy of war. It's a fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautical engineer behind many Japanese fighter planes used in World War II. The film's examination of dreams, love, and the grim realities of war appeals to a more mature audience, who can appreciate the nuanced storytelling. Despite the controversial subject matter, "The Wind Rises" was a financial success and is celebrated for its breathtaking animation and emotionally rich narrative.

11. Inside Out ( 2015)

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On the surface, Pixar's "Inside Out" might appear as a colorful, fun romp through a young girl's emotions. But, this film is an innovative and introspective look into the workings of the human mind, which adults viewers find deeply compelling. The plot centers around five personified emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust – inside 11-year-old Riley's mind, navigating through her life's changes. The movie deftly addresses complex topics like mental health, depression, and the value of negative emotions. It was a phenomenal success, not just in terms of box office returns ($857.6 million worldwide), but also in its resonation with viewers and critics alike.

12. Your Name (2016)

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"Your Name" is a Japanese animated film that weaves romance, drama, and fantasy into a stunning visual masterpiece. The story revolves around two teenagers, Mitsuha and Taki, who mysteriously switch bodies and must find each other despite having never met. The film's blend of traditional Japanese culture, emotional depth, and mind-bending plot twists has made it a favorite among adults. It's not just beloved by viewers, it's also the highest-grossing anime film of all time, grossing $380 million worldwide, a clear testament to its universal appeal.

13. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)

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This Studio Ghibli film, based on a 10th-century Japanese folk story, is an exquisitely hand-drawn animation that deals with themes of life, death, and the burdens of beauty. The film tells the story of a tiny girl found inside a glowing bamboo shoot who grows into an enchanting young woman desired by all. It captivates adult viewers with its thought-provoking narrative and poignant reflection on the fleeting nature of life. Despite not being a huge box office success, it garnered a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards and continues to touch the hearts of viewers.

14. Up (2009)

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Another Pixar masterpiece, "Up" captured hearts with its poignant opening sequence that chronicles the lifelong love story of Carl and Ellie. The film, however, is not just about the cantankerous widower Carl who embarks on a grand adventure in his flying house. It's a touching exploration of grief, dreams, and unlikely friendships. This movie was a smashing success, grossing over $735 million worldwide. It's also one of the few animated films to have been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

15. Princess Mononoke (1997)

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"Princess Mononoke" is a bold and brutal take on the clash between nature and industrialization. The story revolves around the young prince Ashitaka who, after being cursed by a demon, ventures west to find a cure and gets embroiled in a conflict between forest gods and the humans devouring the forest. Hayao Miyazaki's film doesn't shy away from portraying the horrific consequences of this conflict, making it a captivating watch for adults. Despite its release over two decades ago, the movie's themes are more relevant today than ever, and it remains one of the most critically and commercially successful films in the world of animation.