All Oscar-Winning Animated Movies Ranked from Worst to Best
All Oscar-Winning Animated Films Ranked: Let me begin by saying that it was criminal that the Best Animated Film wasn’t part of the Oscars before 2001. This saw many iconic films, such as The Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin, and Mulan miss out on the golden statuette. While Beauty and the Beast broke into the top 5 for best picture, becoming the first picture to kick down the door; the Animated category not being present took things away.
In retrospect, this award’s creation in the 21st century, in the eyes of many, relegated quality animated content to be able to compete only in the animated feature category. Following the 81st Academy Awards, cinephiles realized that there was no such rule preventing Wall-E from earning its spot among the top films of the year.
When this Award did come in, Disney had cooled off, with Pixar (distributed by Disney) dominating. The studio continued to do so and has claimed 11/20 Oscars for the best feature film.
Many films have, or may have been, the most deserving winner in their respective years. However, there will always be debates regarding the position of any particular Oscar-winning animated film on the list of only Academy Award-winning animated films. On a whole, some films may seem pedestrian, but it is important to note that each film may have been the best representation of the Academy’s response to what the existing narratives in the world were at that time. Or they just decided to go for a crowd pleaser as they did in 2017 and 2019.
While it was tricky to make this list as each film made a case to win in its years; yes some didn’t face serious competition due to the absences of quite a few snubs. Among the films that collected the golden statuette, some are remembered better than others for some minute reason or another.
20. Brave (2012)
Brave is the story of Scottish princess Merida. She is a born adventurer and seeks a life of thrill in the Scottish wilderness. However, all of that is under threat due to her coming of age. To run from her problems, she sets off a chain of events that requires her to repair the damage of her actions and sets up a path of realization for all parties involved.
One unique thing about Brave is that it is a rare film not from North America to take home the prize. There are very few. This Pixar film doesn’t scream for a re-watch and is not something light. Working in its favour is the animation of Merida’s hair, the message of non-conformity, and the shocking idea of Disney distributed film claiming that love should not be forced upon anyone.
These elements may have helped the Scottish film clinch the win over the likes of Wreck-it Ralph or Frankenweenie. Perhaps if some of the films from 2017 or 2019 had been part of this race, things may have been different.
19. Happy Feet (2006)
Happy Feet focuses on the Emperor penguin tribe, primarily on Mumble. He is the odd one out, as he can’t sing like the rest, but becomes an excellent dancer. This leads to him getting solace elsewhere, but being exiled from his tribe and going on a journey that becomes serious in the end. Happy Feet has the ending and the message there provoked voters to pick it.
The seriousness of the environmental message, combined with the vibrant colours of the Arctic and the foot-tapping melodies, helps this George Miller directorial avoid the wooden spoon. This film created history just like Shrek did with its win for 2001. Happy Feet became the inaugural recipient of the BAFTA for Best Animated Film.
18. Coco (2017)
This will be the year that Kubo and The Two Strings and Loving Vincent lost, rather than the year Coco won. Coco, which focused on Miguel’s need to enter the land of the dead, was predictable- you knew Hector had to be someone who was someone close to Miguel. The positioning of Ernesto de la Cruz as the villain also seemed expected, as it was obvious. It was also borrowed from Up, where the greatest idol turns out to be a villain who has a secret to protect- no matter the cost.
However, what helped Lee Unkrich claim the statuette was his ending. The sight of Hector reunited with Coco and Imelda and being able to cross the flower bridge was something that gave a sense of accomplishment to young individuals and managed to bring a tear to the eyes of the older audiences. Individuals across all age groups will have grooved to ‘Remember Me‘ and ‘Poco Loco’. The dazzling colours of the town across the flower bridge will have also helped Coco be remembered at the time of voting.
17. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Toy Story 3 has the perfect ending, right? Well, Pixar and Disney felt that it needed an epilogue. We can’t blame the studio for this epilogue as it is the Toy Story franchise and not Andy Toy Story. To keep viewers intrigued, Toy Story 4 got back a character who was absent in the third instalment.
Unfortunately, plenty of other characters (Rex, Slinky, Jessie) got underused in this film. Woody, being obstinate, began to get annoying after a while, but the Toy Reunion and future into the unknown for the sheriff allowed voters to have a pleasing parting memory.
The first sequel to clinch the award wasn’t the top contender of the year. 2019 was stacked, and Toy Story 4 occupies a lower spot on the list as it shockingly beat out stellar names like Klaus and I Lost My Body.
Will there be an (animated films are not just Pixar/Disney) movement to let other films stand a chance? This could even see the most successful combination raise their game and push the boundaries of animated filmmaking even more.
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16. Shrek (2001)
Shrek 2 may feel like the film that picks off fast, but Shrek is where it all began. This DreamWorks Animation offering introduced us to characters like Fiona, Shrek, Donkey and allowed numerous fairy tale crossovers to grace the screen for a true cartoon fantasy delight.
It focuses on Shrek, who just wants to be alone, but is forced to embark on a journey to reclaim his swamp. En route, he meets Donkey, Dragon, and Fiona and realizes that companionship may not be a bad thing after all.
Shrek, the first animated film to win an award for a non-song and non-technical category, has aged well. The re-watch value of this film is high as the origin story of the trio is something that you may never tire of seeing. The only reason it is this low is that some other films have pushed the boundaries of animation and eclipsed the maiden recipient of the award.
15. The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles focuses on the Parr family who needs to hide their powers as public opinion is against superheroes. Now, which superhero film after 2005 has not copied that? This Brad Bird film featured the superhero team-up, the prospect of misuse and dealing with powers, and having to do the right thing.
It has no in-your-face themes like some of the other entries on this list. Instead, The Incredibles is just a delightful classic superhero film where good takes on evil and presents a bunch of entertaining scenes by taking advantage of the animated format and each character’s unique ability.
P.S. Spot Samuel L.Jackson if you can.
14. Frozen (2013)
Frozen broke barriers such as not marrying the first person you meet and acts of true love not requiring the leads to kiss. Brave had content along similar lines.
The film is light enough for children with a dollop of sinister elements added to proceedings to give it a slight edge. A re-watch (if you can sit through) may be rewarding as you would notice every element that pops up, be it the snowman, the turn, the plot, and the characters; is relevant. But it is the same old Disney.
To be fair to Frozen, even if they had gone ahead with Elsa being the villain, the repetitive nature may have been felt. However, they opted to let ‘Let it Go’ thrive and helped the film remain in voters’ minds.
That let them create a complex villain that many may not have been expecting; Frozen teased the idea of the circumstances being the antagonist but also had a primary antagonist.
It is one of the most visually stunning films with animators using the ice to let the on-screen visuals shimmer. Frozen also has amazing numbers. While one song builds the story and drops innumerable clues, the second song builds on the clues and the third song touches upon elements from them and lets the animation do its bit to keep it firmly entrenched in everyone’s heads.
13. Soul (2020)
Being careless and clumsy is something that can have serious ramifications. Having worked all his life, Joe Gardner finally lands a gig as a jazz player. However, after an accident, he gets sent to limbo, where he has two options. Head to the Great Beyond or help a soul get a pass at the Great Before to head to earth.
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Joe somehow lands on the latter and gets the perfect soul to help/ help him out. While this is an impediment, it is the challenging 22 that got him to take the journey to find his body, help her discover her spark, and save two souls.
The idea of finding a purpose is touched upon here, and it is only when a thing is done, you realize that what you were doing is what the purpose is. Soul also conveys to the audiences that the simplest and mundane things, things that just seem to happen, could be what enhance the beauty of our lives in any small way.
12. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of Were-Rabbit (2005)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of Were-Rabbit brought a beloved British cartoon to the silver screen. Focusing on eccentric inventor Wallace and his canine Gromit, the film shows how one invention goes a bit too far, leading the duo to get things right and save their reputation in Tottington.
Blending in horror and comedy, and rejecting computer as well as traditional animation, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of Were-Rabbit, with its clay-based stop motion format, remains the only stop motion animation to take home the top prize for an animated feature film.
Like most years, there have been arguments about other films deserving the top prize, but Wallace and Gromit is a contender that can arm its supporters with a series of arguments to hold off fans of Corpse Bride and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Going for a light film to recognize stop motion filmmakers and promote the technique may have motivated voters to go for the British film.
11. Zootopia (2016)
Zootopia clinched the award for 2016, and it would not come as any surprise. The situation at the time and the representation of it in the film was perfect timing. Although the Disney happy ending is seen with dreams coming true, some lines about not having them to avoid being disappointed hit home.
In Zootopia (a play on Utopia), we see a variety of animals living in harmony in different zones, all within one city that seems to take inspiration from Asgard. Films such as The Godfather are also referenced to delight classic cinephiles.
Zootopia shows us how we can be different and still live together in harmony. It gives the message that there should be equal opportunity for all. The infusion of a crime/mystery caper adds to the spice of the film that preaches harmony and the idea that sometimes it may be the underdog that is the real foe.
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10. Inside Out (2015)
Riley is a young child who crafts innumerable happy memories in Minnesota. These are the result of emotions Joy, Sadness, Denial, Anger, and Fear combining and controlling her. However, after a move to the west coast, things get problematic, forcing the emotions to come up with solutions and save the memories of the past. Some solutions show that it’s okay to be sad and an excessive feeling of a single emotion can provoke the overwhelming surge of another emotion.
The concept of emotions having emotions helped cater to the adults, without getting it too complex for the young audiences. Also, the idea of the mind depicted as a control room and literal concepts such as the memory train, and memories being an amusement park were nice touches.
The idea of the long-term memory (storage) subconscious (problematic memories) and the dream studio (as dreams are the inspiration of something we have seen) proves to be creative. Stream Inside Out on DisneyPlus Hotstar.
9. Rango (2011)
Rango brings to life the story of a chameleon who is cast into an adventure in the wild west. The sight of Rango in this list may make you wonder what went wrong. It is so different from all the other entries in this article. Well, an explanation could be that no Pixar or Disney film made it to the Dolby Theatre as a nominee in this category.
Rango beat out the likes of Puss in Boots, A Cat in Paris, and Chico and Rita to clinch the top prize. What may have helped it is the fusion of the classic western genre into an animated effort. This one needs to be appreciated way more.
8. Finding Nemo (2002)
Finding Nemo is a take on how over-protectiveness can be harmful. It also is a story about familial bonds and the promises that see no journey too tedious.
Marlin and Dory’s journey across the sea as they just kept swimming, presented audiences with colour, catchy quotes, and an exploration of the sea and sea creatures. The characters are delightful with the bubbly Dory bringing in energy and excitement on the journey to “P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.”
Finding Nemo has a subtle hint to save the oceanic flora and fauna, and who can ever forget Psycho’s murder theme once Darla makes her entrance?
7. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 3 was the third animated film to get the nod for the main prize at the Oscars (83rd Academy Awards). It focuses on the adventures of Buzz, Woody, Jessie, and the gang nearly eleven years after the adventures of Woody nearly getting stocked as a collectable. Nostalgia played a key role in this film as it drew back the audiences who would have aged considerably since Toy Story 2.
These cinemagoers may have resonated with the concept of toys being forgotten and reminisced about the days they played with toys that now just sit on shelves. Perhaps they may have had a sense of Déjà vu at the climax?
This should have been the perfect send-off for the Toy Story franchise. Randy Newman’s song conveyed the film’s message of time passing by nicely. The idea of growing up, acceptance, and handing over were explored. The dash of literal humour involving Rex and the Potato Heads is the icing on the cake for this film.
6. Up (2009)
Up is an adventure comedy that was the second animated feature to be named among the year’s best films. It was more than an animated treat for children as it presented common themes of growing old and stubbornness. However, it waters them down and presents a little bizarreness (after all, Up is an animated film) to keep younger audiences transfixed and eager to see Charles Muntz lose.
The adventure was fun; the scenes featuring Russell, Kevin, and Dug are a delight, but what makes Up thrive is the scene that gives this film its momentum. Confused? Michael Giacchino’s music, accompanied by the touching tale of Carl and Ellie, shows us the old man’s passion to get to keep his “cross your heart” promise.
5. Ratatouille (2007)
Before MasterChef became a thing, Ratatouille was the film that may have served as an inspiration for many chefs. Or, perhaps it may have given humans the idea that “Anyone can cook”. It also presented a beloved French dish to the world.
Focusing on Remy, it blends anthropomorphic usage of animals and converts humans into puppets to put forth the ideology that anyone can cook while overcoming physical obstacles that would impede them.
Elements such as jealousy, regret, and belief make this much more than just a film about a rat that can cook (to do that in itself was quite remarkable). Rather, they come together and convince audiences to savour it, just like how Anton Ego devoured his Ratatouille.
4. Big Hero 6 (2014)
Big Hero 6 focuses on Hiro Hamada, a tech prodigy who wants to push the boundaries of his imagination. However, after he refuses to sell his technology, tragedy strikes and claims his elder brother and his mentor’s life. Depression takes over, but BayMax enters and connects Hiro with his friends as they try to save San Fransokyo from doom.
This film has the entertainment, themes for nature audiences to resonate with, and a cool superhero and supervillain vibe that makes it something both voters and casual audiences would devour.
BayMax is a shining point in this film. His subtle PSA, thanks to his characteristics as a medical robot, proves to be quite useful and hilarious given the situation in which he delivers them. This helps Big Hero 6 get in a few laughs, even while treating audiences to a high-speed edge-of-seat chase scene.
BayMax’s bond with Hiro is what lends weight to the gut-wrenching sequence in the final 15 minutes. His innocence in everyday situations/interactions is also something that leads us to remember him.
3. Wall-E (2008)
A story about human instincts transferred onto robots and a mirror of laziness combined with a glimpse into the impending future due to greed and the need to extract everything possible and destroy the source, Wall-E deserved more than a win in the Best Animated Film category. Had it received the push, it may have even given Slumdog Millionaire a run for its money.
Along with The Dark Knight, Wall-E did its bit in reopening a discussion about animated films supposedly not being allowed to feature in the Best Film category. It set about a debate of even animated films qualifying as films. The effort was so good and so delightful that it opened the floodgates for films such as Toy Story 3 and Up to make it to the Best Picture shortlist.
2. Spirited Away (2002)
Spirited Away is a gem of a film that showcased the idea of elite animation and endearing stories being available in places not called North America. It focuses on Chihiro Ogino and her unfortunate journey to the spirit world. Once there, she must strive to survive and do her best to get out with her parents. Spirited Away is a rare Oscar winner that blends fantasy and beautifully uses exoticism.
The hand-drawn animation helps Spirited Away stand out as the characters don’t look perfect in any way. However, their ways and their behaviour with one another touch the heartstrings of the audience.
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Case in point: the scene where Chihiro remembers her name and learns that she needs to grind hard. The beautiful sequence of Chihiro and Haku in the air combined with Joe Hisaishi’s music after her trials in the bathhouse and journey to free the Spirit of the Kohaku river is what tied a neat bow on this Hayao Miyazaki film.
1. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse (2018)
No prizes for guessing that this would be the best-animated film to win at the Oscar. A gripping story combining superheroes from different universes (six different spider beings), a message about inclusion and sacrifice, and a fusion of different types of animations; Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse is an absolute delight.
Films usually have a cartoon feel, or take the characters from the page and make them extraordinary on the big screen. However, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse takes audiences into the comic book and gives them undoubtedly the best Spider-Man movie of all time.
What’s your favourite Oscar-winning animated film? Where will this year’s winner feature?