Animation has been a beloved art form for over a century, continually evolving and captivating audiences of all ages. The blend of storytelling, art, and music offers a unique cinematic experience. Here’s a look at some of the greatest animated films, exploring their creators, voice talents, and what makes each film a timeless classic.

Introduction to Must-Watch Animated Films

A brief overview of the rich history of animated cinema and what makes these 15 films must-watch classics.

The world of animated films is vast and varied, ranging from early hand-drawn cartoons to cutting-edge computer-generated imagery. Animated films have transcended boundaries and age groups, offering something for everyone. What makes these 15 films “must-watch” is not merely their visual appeal but the depth of storytelling, character development, creativity, and cultural relevance. Whether it’s the timeless appeal of Disney classics like “The Lion King” or the profound storytelling in Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away,” these films capture the essence of human emotion through the unique medium of animation. They have become cultural landmarks, shaping generations of viewers and influencing the future of cinema. In exploring these must-watch animated films, one embarks on a journey through creativity, innovation, and the endless possibilities of the animated art form.

The Evolution of Must-Watch Animated Films

A detailed look at how animation has evolved over time and the groundbreaking films that have shaped the industry.

Animation has undergone significant evolution since its inception. Early animation techniques included stop-motion and hand-drawn cartoons, giving life to characters like Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop. The release of Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 marked a new era in full-length animated features. Technological advancements allowed for innovations like computer-generated imagery (CGI), leading to Pixar’s “Toy Story,” the first fully computer-animated feature film. Must-watch animated films like “Shrek” and “Frozen” continued to push the boundaries, incorporating 3D animation and interactive media. Anime films, led by visionary directors like Hayao Miyazaki, have also significantly contributed to the global appeal of animation. The ever-evolving techniques and artistic visions in animation continue to produce must-watch films that defy expectations, break conventions, and redefine the limits of visual storytelling.

1. The Lion King (1994)

Directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, The Lion King is a Disney triumph. With unforgettable songs and a star-studded voice cast, including James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Jeremy Irons as Scar, and Matthew Broderick as Simba, it has remained a family favorite.

2. Spirited Away (2001)

Hayao Miyazaki directed this masterpiece, widely considered one of the finest animated films. The English-dubbed version features voices from Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, and Michael Chiklis. The film’s mystic storytelling and visual beauty resonate universally.
best anime movies

3. Toy Story Series (1995, 1999, 2010, 2019)

Directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich, and Josh Cooley, the Toy Story series is revolutionary. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack lent their voices to these groundbreaking films that explored themes of friendship and identity.
Toy Story 4 | Disney Movies

4. Shrek (2001)

Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, Shrek starred voices like Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz. Its clever writing and unique twist on fairy tale characters made it a worldwide hit.
Shrek | Full Movie | Movies Anywhere

5. Finding Nemo (2003)

Andrew Stanton’s Finding Nemo, featuring Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Alexander Gould, took viewers on an emotional underwater journey, leading to universal acclaim.
Finding Nemo : Movies & TV

6. WALL-E (2008)

A futuristic tale directed by Andrew Stanton, with voices by Ben Burtt and Elissa Knight, WALL-E is a poignant look at environmentalism and loneliness.
WALL·E | Disney Movies

7. Frozen (2013)

With Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Josh Gad, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee created a cultural sensation. Its memorable songs and empowering messages still resonate with audiences today.
Frozen | Official Website | Disney Movies

8. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Another Miyazaki gem, this film stars Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, and Hitoshi Takagi in the Japanese version. It’s a tale of wonder and friendship that transcends cultural barriers.
My Neighbor Totoro - Rotten Tomatoes

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

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, this film’s visual style set a new benchmark. Voices like Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, and Hailee Steinfeld contributed to its success.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse | Full Movie | Movies Anywhere

10. Your Name (2016)

Makoto Shinkai’s touching story, with voices by Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi, captivated audiences with its emotional depth and stunning visuals.
Your name (2016) - Filmaffinity

11. Akira (1988)

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira revolutionized anime. Featuring voices like Mitsuo Iwata and Nozomu Sasaki, it has influenced countless artists and filmmakers.
Akira (1988) - IMDb

12. Coco (2017)

Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina’s Coco, with voices from Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, and Benjamin Bratt, celebrates Mexican culture and explores themes of family and memory.
Coco (2017) - IMDb

13. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise directed this classic, with voices by Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, and Angela Lansbury. It was a groundbreaking film that achieved critical and commercial success.
Mr. Movie: Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) (Movie Review)

14. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Directed by Isao Takahata, this heartbreaking war story features voices by Tsutomu Tatsumi and Ayano Shiraishi. It’s a testament to the emotional power of animation.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - IMDb

15. The Iron Giant (1999)

Directed by Brad Bird, and starring Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Vin Diesel, The Iron Giant is a touching tale of friendship and understanding.
The Iron Giant - Wikipedia

Directors Behind the Must-Watch Animated Films

Exploring the visionary directors who have created these masterpieces and their impact on the world of animated filmmaking.

The directors behind must-watch animated films are visionaries who have shaped the landscape of animation. Walt Disney’s pioneering work laid the foundation for animated storytelling. Hayao Miyazaki’s profound narratives and unique art style have made Studio Ghibli synonymous with excellence. John Lasseter’s leadership at Pixar revolutionized computer animation. Directors like Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant”) and Makoto Shinkai (“Your Name”) have brought distinct voices to the genre, challenging norms and expanding horizons. These directors not only craft beautiful visuals but infuse their films with themes, emotions, and philosophies that resonate across cultures and generations. Their work in must-watch animated films continues to inspire new talent, pushing the envelope of what’s possible in animation. Their artistic integrity, creative vision, and relentless pursuit of excellence ensure that animated films remain not just a form of entertainment but an essential art form that speaks to the human condition.


These animated films represent the pinnacle of the medium. They have advanced the craft, entertained millions, and inspired future generations of filmmakers and artists. Each film stands as a milestone in the constantly evolving art form that is animation. Whether enchanting children or moving adults, these films show that animation is more than a genre; it’s a versatile and profound medium capable of deep emotional resonance and endless creativity.
If you’ve been inspired by the must-watch animated films, particularly those from Japan, you might be wondering where you can view these masterpieces legally online. Anime has become a significant part of the global animation landscape, offering a unique blend of art, storytelling, and culture. Whether you’re new to anime or a seasoned fan, you’ll find our guide on the 10 Best Legal Apps to Watch Anime Online incredibly useful. It provides an overview of the top platforms where you can explore a vast world of anime, from classics to contemporary hits, all within the bounds of the law. Happy watching!