Best Animated Feature Oscar Winners Ranked

4. WALL-E (2008)

An inquisitive and lonely trash disposal robot on a lifeless Planet Earth is besotted by a sleek and advanced scanning probe arriving on his world, and both are transported to a corporate-run star cruiser where the remainder of humanity live a slothful existence in front of screens and served by machines.

Finding Nemo‘s Andrew Stanton returned to the director’s chair for this absolute delight of a movie. From its beautiful first third which is equally influenced by silent comedy movies and the golden age of musicals to the dark and ever-more-relevant satire of our present and near future that it becomes, Wall-E delivers on multiple levels. It’s witty, it’s poignant and it’s genuinely romantic: a real achievement. 

Harrowing animated documentary Waltz with Bashir was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film but not in the Best Animation or Best Documentary categories, bizarrely. 

3. Spirited Away (2002)

‘Spirited Away’ at 20 – Review

Chihiro moves to the country with her parents but soon finds herself trapped in another world and forced to work in a bathhouse for spirits in order to free her mum and dad who have been transformed into pigs by a witch.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Lewis Carroll-esque masterpiece launched Studio Ghibli on the world stage and presented audiences with an equally beautiful and disturbing fantasy fever dream. The images are magical and indelible: the arrival of the many and varied spirit bath house’s guests, Chihiro and No-Face on the train, the first appearance of Haku in his dragon form; the list goes on. It’s a completely compelling and surreal coming-of-age film that lingers on in the memory. 

Recommended for you: 10 Best Studio Ghibli Films

2. Coco (2017)

Aspiring musician Miguel, forbidden by his family from pursuing his passion, is transported to the afterlife where he meets his ancestors and helps one forgotten soul re-connect with his family in the living realm.

Few films, animated or otherwise, have tackled grief and remembrance so delicately and with such verve. Music has the power to make an emotional connection beyond anything we truly understand, and within Coco’s story Miguel’s family gave up their passion for the art form because a musician hurt them, so it’s no wonder “Remember Me” is as powerful and bittersweet as it is when we realise exactly how all the characters relate to each other. 

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review

Awkward Puerto Rican-American teenager Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider and strange powers begin to manifest just as his world’s Spider-Man is put out of action and Spider-People from other dimensions start appearing all around him.

Animated feature films have been a thing since the late 1930s and over nine decades only a handful have been true game-changers to the form. Spider-Verse is one of those rarities. It is arguably the most revolutionary animated blockbuster in recent memory, creating an entirely new look for an animated film to make its story appear like a living, breathing comic book complete with print imperfections, motion lines and graphic representation of sound effects. 

It’s not all show of course, still being an old-fashioned big-hearted story of a lonely kid trying to find his way in the world(s) and being endearingly awkward in his efforts to be cool, spider-powers or no spider-powers. The lesson “anyone can be Spider-Man” (even if you’re a cartoon pig or a black-and-white P.I. voiced by Nicolas Cage) is a universal and inspirational one to carry through life, and Miles’ adventure with his new Spider-friends makes for one of the most dynamic and original comic book movies in ages. 

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What do you think of our ranking of the Best Animated Feature Oscar winners? What’s the best animated movie released in the 21st century? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for more insightful movie lists.

Updated to include Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio 1st February 2024, originally published 4th March 2023.

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