5. Arthur Christmas (2011)
Worldwide Box Office: $147.4million
Starring: James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen, Imelda Staunton, Eva Longoria, Laura Linney, Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane
Arthur Christmas was officially the first co-production between Sony Pictures Animation and British stop-motion icons Aardman, though unlike the 2nd film of the partnership, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, it wasn’t a stop-motion animation.
The project was a relative hit with critics. It was funny, charming and clever, just as Aardman films and TV shows had always reliably been, and it was unapologetically festive.
Unlike a lot of the more maligned Sony Pictures Animation releases, Arthur Christmas offered elements to people of all ages, and was a delight that seems to have been unfairly forgotten amongst the pantheon of Christmas animation movies released over the years.
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4. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Worldwide Box Office: $243million
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, James Caan, Neil Patrick Harris, Benjamin Bratt, Mr. T, Will Forte
The feature screenwriting and directorial debuts of the now reputably hilarious Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street; The Lego Movie), Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs proved to be just as creative of a concept as the pair’s later Sony Pictures Animation release (still to come) and was the proving ground of their now somewhat iconic comedic style, timing and original presentation.
Featuring a voice cast of talents as loveable as Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg and a perfectly used Mr. T, Cloudy was performed with the same innocence and heart as the imaginations that dreamt up ice cream snowballs and spaghetti twisters, creating an overall experience of pure joy that had it ranking at the very top of Sony Pictures Animation’s filmography for close to ten years.
Time may have dimmed the bright spark of genius that once fired from this animated classic, but a classic of the form it remains.
3. The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)
Worldwide Box Office: N/A (Netflix)
Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Olivia Colman, Eric Andre, Alex Hirsch, Blake Griffin, Charlyne Yi, Fred Armisen
As just one of the trifecta of Sony Pictures Animation releases sent directly to Netflix in 2021 (owing to cinema closures and an uncertain box office marketplace), The Mitchells vs. the Machines could have easily been forgotten about. Instead, it was a best-of-the-year offering; not just for streaming or animation, but for the wider film world.
Edge-of-your-seat action, consistent laughs and a deeply emotive core made The Mitchells vs. the Machines a creative success from conception to presentation, another out-and-out contemporary masterpiece from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse writer-producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Its masterful animation acted as a reminder as to why animated films still belong on the big screen in an era capable of creating photo-realistic talking animals with CGI, never failing to reinforce the always important talents and creativity of animation artists, while its central narrative of a dysfunctional modern family attempting to navigate apocalyptic circumstances was (intentionally or not) a tale that 2021 audiences could relate to perhaps more than ever.
Hearty, funny, terrifically animated, creatively constructed, and immensely timely, few animated feature films have been as spectacular or as important as The Mitchells vs. the Machines, one of Sony Pictures Animation’s greatest releases.
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2. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)
Worldwide Box Office: $236.6million (as of 8th June 2023)
Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni, Jake Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Vélez, Issa Rae, Andy Samberg, Greta Lee, Shea Wigham, Rachel Dratch, Amandla Stenberg, Jack Quaid, Jason Schwartzman
Somehow an even more eccentric visual feast than its predecessor, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse knew it had a lot of favour from devout fans and used that to shoot for the stars.
Arguably the best non-Sony animated film of the 2020s, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse set the record for Longest Hollywood Animated Feature of All Time and still didn’t have enough space to tell the entire story, packing each and every minute with an exciting array of character beats, references, cameos, and crowd-pleasing moments, before leaving each of us on a knife’s edge.
Already been discussed among the great pantheon of sequels that Empire Strikes Back and Spider-Man 2 belong to, this Spider-Verse offering is one of a select few films that can claim to have accelerated its entire form, animated film once again propelled into the future courtesy of diverse creative techniques that play with style, influence, and even frame rate, for one of the most eye-popping films in history.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Worldwide Box Office: $375.5million
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Lily Tomlin, Kimiko Glenn, Chris Pine, Zoe Kravitz, Kathryn Hahn, Natalie Morales
Incomparable and monumental, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a game-changing move from Sony’s animation house, their commitment to tastefully animating such a fantastic and fresh narrative from their multi-time collaborators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller elevating the entire studio from B-tier animation and into the very top of the game.
Into the Spider-Verse was simply sensational; easily good enough to compete with the very best of the Spider-Man movie franchise and even pip Disney to the Animated Feature Oscar in 2019 (making it only the 6th film to do so).
This gem of both visual and narrative standards was a simply incomparable release that re-wrote how comic books could be adapted, how animated films could look, and how people perceive Sony Pictures Animation, writing itself into the annals of film history as one of the very best releases of the 2010s in the process.
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What is your opinion on Sony Pictures Animation? Do you think their greatest work can rival the likes of Walt Disney Animation? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on more insightful movie lists.
Updated 8th June 2023 to include Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Originally published 9th November 2019.