This is a guest post by Lori Hutchison.
In the history of animated film, relatively few films have been released for adults (with the exception of the anime industry in Japan). Here are ten ground-breaking films that feature mature adult themes and prove that animation can be just as moving as it was when we were young.
1. Animal Farm (1954) – As the first British animated feature for general release, this film is just as powerful as the acclaimed book by George Orwell. The political allegory received an “X” rating when it was first released, which prohibited anyone under 18 from seeing the film. Although the rating has since been changed to “U” for universal, the violent and political nature of the film is meant for adults.
2. Fantastic Planet (1973) – This film is considered to be a metaphor for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. It tells the tale of a race of brilliant blue giants who keep humans as pets until the humans eventually revolt. It is also the feature debut of French animator René Laloux, for which he won a special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.
3. Watership Down (1978) – Based on the epic fantasy novel by Richard Adams, this film tells the tale of a group of rabbits who must leave their home warren and travel to a new place. Although it has been deemed appropriate for children, the dark and violent sophistication of the film gets to the heart of human struggle.
4. Akira (1988) – The Japanese animation industry is notable for its prolific production of animated films for adults. While there are many notable titles that could be included in this list, Akira was the film that inspired generations of modern animators. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, it takes a dystopian, cyberpunk world where a biker gang befriends a boy with psychic powers. The unprecedented style of animation is much more fluid and detailed than anime styles of the past.
5. Princess Mononoke (1997) – Considered as the most adult of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s films, this film stresses the importance of mankind’s relationship with nature. Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan until Titanic was released later that year. Like many of Miyazaki’s works, it features a strong heroine, environmentalism, and strikingly fluid animation with often made with water colors.
6. Metropolis (2001) – Inspired in part by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film and a manga created in 1949, this film features stunning visual elements and colorful characters, not to mention a jazzy soundtrack. It takes place in a dystopian world where humans and robot co-exist.
7. Waking Life (2001) – This film by the American Richard Linklater was shot in live-action, then rotoscoped through a special process with a team of computer animators. It is very philosophical and dreamlike in nature, shifting between a series of thought-provoking conversations.
8. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) – This modern gem from France features a grandmother trying to rescue her cycling-obsessed grandson from the Mafia with the help of an elderly singing trio. With little dialogue, a retro animation style, and innovative music, you won’t find a film quite like this one.
9. Persepolis (2007) – This film was based on Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel about her childhood in Iran. Although it deals with specific political events, Satrapi’s story contains many universal elements about adolescence, religion, sex, politics, and family ties. The animation is in the idiosyncratic black-and-white style of Satrapi’s artwork.
10. Waltz with Bashir (2008) – This film was the first animated film to be released in Israel since 1962. It is a feature-length animated documentary that chronicles one man’s experiences during the 1982 Lebanon War. It took over four years to complete and received several awards.
This article was posted by Lori Hutchison. She owns the site Masters in History Colleges and is an Art History Professor.