This is me listing what I think are twelve of the most underrated animated movies most old and a few new. It would be too confusing to rank them since it takes a lot to judge the levels of something being underrated (The reviews it got from critics and audiences, how much money it made, how well known it is, my thoughts on the movie, etc.) so I'll just put down twelve. Enjoy and feel free to say what you think of this list, and any other animated films you find to be underrated.
THE IRON GIANT
A very good sci-fi film. It has a maturity to it, but is still accessible to kids. It had likable characters, with Hogarth and the Giant as great protagonists. It also had a really good plot, and a great climax.
It did poorly in the U.S. but made a pretty good amount of money worldwide, and has been generally given acclaim from critics and audiences but for some reason isn't very well known, something that you'll see is common on this list.
THE SECRET OF NIMH
The film many consider to be Don Bluth's masterpiece. Don and his crew decided to form their own company and make this when they felt Disney had lost its way and was not putting out the quality films that it used to. This is an adaptation of the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
It was extremely well animated, had a good darker atmosphere that you didn't really see in animated films at the time, had good characters, and had a pretty complicated plot.
It did pretty well upon original release and has gotten almost universal praise, but it is still not extremely well known.
I've loved the turtles since childhood, having watched both television shows, and was really excited for this movie. And I thought it delivered exactly what it promised.
It had good animation, voice acting, and a nice story along with some good humor. Exactly as it should be. Luckily the fans in general liked it.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
I've been a huge Star Wars fan since I was a child and love pretty much everything thing that's been put out. I'm a fan who can say they love the prequel trilogy just as much as the original trilogy. A few years ago they released this film as a way to start out the current television series.
Sadly it got generally negative reviews from critics, and fans were very divided on it. I can't really figure out why. I really enjoyed it. The animation was cool, the voice acting was good, and the action was great. I thought it also had a pretty good storyline.
But as I said, it has generally faced a negative reception. But I found it to be very fun.
BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM
Batman: The Animated series is without a doubt the best television show based off of the Batman comics. It was dark and mature, treating its audience like adults. And because of the shows popularity a spin-off movie was made, and it is thus far the best animated Batman movie of any of them.
The animation was the same as the show's, and thus it was great. The voice acting was excellent. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprised their roles as Batman and Joker respectively and were as great as ever, as well as the rest of the returning cast. Dana Delany was good as Andrea Beaumont, and it was because of how good she was in that role that she god casted as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series.
Anyway as said earlier the show and this movie were both mature for cartoons of the time. The story is both dark and tragic, and has a few great plot twists in there.
The score of the movie was off putting, in a good way, and epic.
Overall it is the best animated superhero movie yet, despite the fact that it did poorly at the box office and is still sadly not that well known.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The Ralph Bakshi version of the classic in the modern fantasy genre. Most people think of the Peter Jackson smash hits when they think of a film adaptation of Lord of the Rings. And yes I love those films dearly, but I feel this one doesn't get the credit that it deserves.
It was very well animated, using the method of rotoscoping. It was a very well done version of the story, that sadly wasn't truly completed. Rankin Bass did their own "continuation" but the style was drastically different and there were too many plotholes between the two. It would have been great if Bakshi had gotten to complete his version.
And just as a note it was this version that introduced Peter Jackson to Lord of the Rings.
A movie that I honestly didn't get into until years after its original release, but that doesn't change how much I love it. It is a great sci-fi adventure very much in the spirit of lets say the Star Wars saga.
The storyline was very well thought out. I've heard some complaints against the film being that it was derivative. I can't really say that I saw that much that seemed derivative about it. Cale and Korso kind of reminded me of Luke and Han from Star Wars, The Titan looked kind of like the Death Star, and what the Titan did was similar to what Project Genesis did in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but that was about it. Or at least from what I could tell. The story was very imaginative, and had several great twists in the plot.
Anyway as I said I loved the story and I thought all of the characters were extremely memorable with several of the types of aliens looking unique. One being kangaroo like, another bat like, and so on. The voice actors were strong to. Including the likes of Matt Damon as Cale, Drew Barrymore as Akima, Bill Pullman as Korso, Nathan Lane as Preed, John Leguizamo as Gume, and Ron Perlman as Cale's father Sam. They were all likable, for better or worse reasons. And there is a very heroic instance towards the end of the movie for a thought to be enemy, but I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the movie.
The animation was fantastic. It blended traditional and digital animation superbly, with great sequences. One of the the best being in the ice rings of the Andali Nebula. Roger Ebert put it best saying that it helped show what animation can do and live action films can't.
I've heard a few complaints about it, but I also loved the rock soundtrack that accompanied the film. My favorite definitely being Cosmic Castaway by Electrasy, but the rest was great as well.
A great space epic that you'll definitely want to watch time and again, Titan A.E. is a real treasure that I wish I had discovered earlier.
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO
I can almost guarantee that this will be one of the funniest animated movies that you'll ever watch. It is completely entertaining with loads of memorable humor.
The characters are great. Tulio and Miguel, voiced by the great actors Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh respectively, act as a great comedic duo, and have great and witty exchanges. Chel is an attractive native of El Dorado who is also fun to watch, Chief Tannabok was a cool character, and the villain Tzekel-Kan was great. He was both funny, in a dark way, and threatening. The climax involving him taking direct control over a giant stone jaguar being particularly epic.
The music was very good as well, being from the same team as The Lion King Elton John and Tim Rice. The opening song El Dorado was nice and a well animated sequence, Trail We Blaze was a very fun and riveting number, It's Tough to be a God was fun and entertaining to watch, Without Question was a beautiful part of the movie, and Friends Never Say Goodbye was pretty moving.
A great comedy, and a great adventure. This is definitely a fun movie to watch.
THE BLACK CAULDRON
One of my favorite Disney films, but also one of the most underrated. The reasons being that it was much darker than your usual Disney film. It was also much scarier. It was Disney's attempt at making an animated film for a teenage fantasy fan audience, but sadly it failed. I think the gamble failed because parents thought it would be too scary for kids, and older audiences thought it would be too kiddy.
I liked the darker animation style, and enjoyed the story. Taran was a good hero, your usual young man who wants to be more than he is and when he finally gets to go on an adventure gets a lot more than he had bargained for. The rest of the characters were good as well, such as the Gollumesque Gurgi who was great since he was a coward who in the end was willing to give his life to save his friends and the world. And the Horned King is definitely one of the most popular parts of the movie and with good reason. He has great presence to him, and is very scary.
The story is fun, there are several cool scenes, and similar to Titan AE being in the spirit of Star Wars, this is very much in the spirit of Lord of the Rings.
When most people think of the great underrated movies from Don Bluth they usually mention films like The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail. If you didn't guess earlier another one I rank up there with those is Titan A.E., but another one I also think of along with those is Anastasia. I know what many of you are thinking: But Anastasia was successful and well liked. Yes it was but it didn't do nearly as well as a Disney animated film did at the time, and I'm sure the fact that it wasn't Disney was a reason it didn't make as much money. And not everybody really knows about it in these days like they'd tell you they know something like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. And it does have a decent sized fanbase, but some people write it off as a cheap Disney knock-off. â€œBut we all know that isn't true it was an expensive Disney knock-off,â€ according to the famous Nostalgia Critic. Admittedly it does share several Disney motifs: A strong willed princess, a dark sorcerer as the villain, animal sidekicks, musical numbers, etc. It does feel kind of like a Disney movie, but to me it still has its own feel as well. Sort of like the cousin of a Disney film if that makes any sense to you. And I can't even really describe what it is, it just does.
I thought the story was very well done. Though it does heavily deviate from history it is still very well thought out, and you have to keep in mind that this is a movie. They had guts to do a movie for children involving the turbulent history of Russia, but it paid off. The storyline of Ayna, Anastasia, getting amnesia and searching for her past was pulled off well and the plot of Dimitri trying to use her as a stand in for the grand duchess without knowing she was the real one was very good with a ton of dramatic irony. Or as great film critic Roger Ebert put it the imposter who isn't an imposter.
Another great part was the film's villain. None other than the mad monk himself Grigori Rasputin. I've heard some say that he was unnecessary the overall plot of the film. To me he was like icing on top of the cake. Everything else about the movie was great as well, but this added an extra layer to help it feel complete. Because without him we wouldn't have had any of the action sequences and the whole movie would have been them traveling to France, them training her how to act like royalty, them meeting the Dowager Empress, Dimtri turning down the money and leaving, her deciding to give up the royalty and going off with him. Like I said those were all good elements but needs the Rasputin sub-plot to feel like a complete film.
The voice cast was upper tier. Meg Ryan as Anastasia, John Cusack as Dimitri, Christopher Lloyd as Rasputin, Kelsey Grammer as Vlad, Hank Azaria as Bartok, Angela Lansbury as the Dowager Empress, and Bernadette Peters as Sophie.
The music was excellent. A Rumor in St. Petersburg was fun, Journey to the Past was a very inspirational and spirit lifting song, Once Upon a December had a great chilling beauty, In the Dark of the Night is by far one of the greatest villain songs ever, Learn to Do It was fun, and Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart was good as well and was like the musical numbers from the early 20th century musicals.
One of the best Non-Disney animated films.
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT
An adaptation of the classic Bible story, and in my personal opinion is the best adaptation of the Moses story. This movie was very successful but nobody talks about it anymore.
Let's start with the voice acting. They got a top notch cast. Val Kilmer as Moses and God, Ralph Fiennes as Rameses II, Michelle Pfeiffer as Tzipporah, Patrick Stewart as Seti, Helen Mirren as The Queen (anyone else find that funny), Sandra Bullock as Miriam, Jeff Goldblum as Aaron, Danny Glover as Jethro, Steve Martin as Hotep, and Martin Short as Huy. Now there's a cast any live action film would be extremely proud to have. And all of these voice actors gave great vocal performances. And I have to give credit to the ones who actually also did the singing which were Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiifer, Steve Martin, Martin Short, and a less famous actress named Ofra Haza.
All Chrisitans know the story of Moses, and it is still a great one. There are some noticeable differences, or better said to be called additions, to the story. In my opinion the best addition has to be the expanded relationship between Moses and Rameses. Their relationship wasn't talked about a ton in the book of Exodus but I loved the fact that they were best friends with a brotherly relationship in this movie. That added a ton of drama to the story. Another great thing about this movie is that it made us actually sympathize with Rameses, having his father look down on him and push him into becoming the hard hearted tyrant he became. A great variation on the classic story.
The music was phenomenal and highly memorable. The opening song Deliver Us gave us a good sense of what the Jews were put through and set the stage for the story, All I Ever Wanted was very dramatic and powerful showing well the struggle Moses was having within coming to terms with his true heritage, Through Heaven's Eyes was an extremely powerful and uplifting song teaching a great lesson while raising our spirits at the same time, Playing with the Big Boys was a very cool and creepy song that made the comic relief characters of Huy and Hotep very threatening, The Plagues (sometimes known as Let My People Go) is quite possibly the best song in the movie with great drama and an epic feel, and the very touching and powerful When You Believe. It had some of the best music you'll hear in a an animated movie.
A great movie that I'll always cherish.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
A legitimately great film. It is definitely deserving of being on this list. I think the main reason behind this is all of the mature themes in this movie including religion, bigotry, and most notably lust. Also some of the older audiences felt that the story was toned down too much, and I've read the book and yeah it was. But I don't really care. I do really like the book as well, but I don't look down on the movie for its changes. I did really like the movie's much happier ending.
The characters are fantastic. Quasimodo is a great main protagonist. We really feel for him, and is very relatable to those who feel like outsiders and they don't belong. Esmerelda, despite a very sexualized scene, is a very strong female protagonist with great morals to her. Phoebus is both cool and funny. He started out working for Frollo, but showed the good person he truly was by turning on him, and in the end leading the battle against Frollo's soldiers.
And the last of the four main characters is Frollo. The most underrated Disney villain of all time. I'll even admit I wasn't a huge fan of the character when I watched the movie as a kid, but now that I'm more mature I adore the character as a villain. He is clearly one of the most dark Disney Villains, and is truly the scariest. The reason being somebody like him could, and do, actually exist. Unlike some of the other Disney villains out there like my favorite Disney Villain Jafar, Maleficent, and Ursula he doesn't have the dark arts at his disposal. And he doesn't even find himself to be evil and is actually trying to do the right thing. He is the most complex Disney Villain, being the only one to have an internal struggle. At part of the movie he argues with himself over his lustful feelings for Esmerelda. His voice is also extremely memorable, being done by the great and sadly deceased Tony Jay.
And now lets talk about the music. Most great Disney films are musicals. All of the music here was fantastic. The Bells of Notre Dame was epic and thrilling at points. Out There at first sounding like a depressing song turns into a very inspirational number that is effective, Topsy Turvy is fun, God Help the Outcasts is incredibly powerful and moving reminding us to help those who don't have everything we have, Heaven's Light is a sweet short love song, and Hellfire is by far one of the greatest animated villain songs of all time. To me only beat out by Scar's song Be Prepared from The Lion King. It is undoubtedly Disney's darkest song and has a tragic and dark beauty to it. Then there is the Court of Miracles which is a cool and sort of creepy song, and then we've got the Bells of Notre Dame Reprise which sums up the movie's themes and lessons very well.
The movie did well on original release and has had a huge cult following, but it is not nearly as mainstream as several other Disney films. And it hasn't gotten a special edition release! The movie is powerful and beautiful, and will now and forever be one of my favorite animated, no of any type, movies of all time.