5. Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1992)
A film nobody was expecting to see in this list, but here it is.
The first film to win renowned animation house Aardman an Academy Award, Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers is peak short film storytelling. It has humour, heartbreak, suspense, a jewel heist, and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, chase scene of all time. Not to mention the most evil villain to never show emotion since Michael Myers in Halloween. All in 30 minutes.
It’s lean, mean, and has everything you could possibly want. Added to that, the incredible time, patience, and craftsmanship to make each individual frame painstakingly from the claymation stop-motion that Aardman have made their own, is unrivalled.
Its sheer skill and talent and ability to thrill shows that animation goes far beyond being ‘for children’, as so many people seem to think it is. Animation is for everyone, short films are for everyone, and The Wrong Trousers is right at the top of both of them.
Recommended for you: Aardman Animation Movies Ranked
4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Admittedly, I am slightly cheating by putting all of the Lord of the Rings films in one entry, but it’s impossible to split them. They’re one big film cut into three parts, just like the book was one tome cut into three volumes.
The most epic of Western fantasy adventures, almost every line quoted or memed in some way, Frodo and Sam’s adventure to destroy the One Ring could have completely failed and been awful. Fantasy films have been made for more money and been a darn sight worse.
The Lord of the Rings combines everything. Every genre imaginable is under its roof, with some of the greatest actors in the world, the best cinematography, art direction, costume, score, direction, stunt choreography, miniatures, the works. And thanks to it being made all in one go, it feels complete, a coherent unit.
An incredible undertaking of almost unfathomable proportion, the sheer scope and scale of it will possibly never be rivalled. Not by Marvel or DC or Star Trek or Star Wars or any ancillary Middle Earth series. Peter Jackson’s trilogy will remain as the true Lord to rule them all.
Recommended for you: The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit Movies Ranked
3. Spirited Away (2002)
Hello there, Miyazaki. We were wondering when you’d pop up. And this might be the cliched choice (there are certainly calls for Howl’s Moving Castle or My Neighbour Totoro), but Spirited Away stands as Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievement.
This film once again proves that animation isn’t just for children, but for everyone. Sure, it’s a family anime adventure with magic and monsters, but here we touch on greek mythology, Japanese capitalism, on internal change and learning through experience. We have some of the most wonderful images ever created, from Yubaba’s bathhouse to the train running across the ocean. We have Joe Hisaishi’s incredible, perfect score, crowned by the main theme, “One Summer’s Day”.
And, above all that, we have proof that you can have ‘entertaining’ cinema, one devoted to story and adventure and amazing visuals, whilst being full of meaning and truth and theme and metaphor and all that good stuff. Spirited Away is everything wrapped up in one perfect bundle of anime genius.
Recommended for you: 10 Best Studio Ghibli Films