When coming up with a list of the underrated the first thing you have to figure out is what do you consider underrated. Are they films that have Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB scores much lower then their actually quality? Are they movies that no one saw but critics loved? Are they underrated because people loved them but the critics hated them?
When I put this list together the my criteria was based on movies I simply felt did not get the praise they deserved, and still don’t to this day. I researched many lists of the greatest animated films of all time including GCRN’s Top 100 and rarely were these films listed. Certain factors automatically disqualified a movie from landing on this list. If the film received a major award nomination like a Golden Globe or Oscar it did not quality. So a movie like The Waltz with Bashir that criminally landed at number 100 on GCRN’s Top 100 Animated Movie list was not eligible because it was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar.
In addition I tried to stay away from movies from major studios like Disney or Warner Bros. Yes I too agree Robin Hood is a criminally underrated Disney film but it is also a Disney film so it is guaranteed to get major attention in some way. Plus that leaves room to craft a Top 10 Undertated Disney Movies list in the future. (Hey, there are a lot of Tuesdays in a year)
So with that in mind here is my list. Feel free to sound off on the comments below on how wrong you think I am!
10. Doctor Strange
I can hear the comments now. You said you would not put any movies from a major studio and the first movie you list is from Marvel! What gives? True, but unlike Disney or DC films Marvel’s direct to home media animated output has gotten very little respect or praise. Mostly due to the fact that the movies have not been very good. The only film that tends to get any love is Hulk Vs., which I agree is probably their best output. However, Doctor Strange has a lot of great things going for it as well. It is the basic retelling of Doctor Strange’s origin, but its done with a level of craftminshp not see on most Marvel animated films. Doctor Strange’s world offers a lot of possibilites for the world of animation and they take full advantage. In addition with the Doctor Strange live action film coming out later this year this is a great introduction into what can be expected with the character.
9. The Rabbi’s Cat
Okay I know you are probably reading the synopsis of what this movie is about and thinking to your self how absolutely ridiculous this sounds. How can a movie about a talking animal tackle important issues like religion? Well, for one this is not the last movie with talking animals tackling complex social issues on this list. Secondly, what better way to approach such sensitive material than through the vice of an animated cat. Religion itself has often used animals to teach moral lessons and the The Rabbi’s Cat continues that tradition. Considering the times we live, having a film that focuses on the importance of tolerance is a vital resource in the world of entrainment. Beyond having a timely message it also has a tremendous story filled with colorful characters. For those worried the films sounds too stuffy or highfalutin do not fret as there is plenty of levity to lighten the mood. The animation style may not be for everyone but I personally find it beautifully drawn.
8. We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story
Okay I will admit this is 100% a personal choice based largely on nostalgia. Looking back 1993 was quite the year for me. I was already at the age when every kid loves dinosaurs and then I get movies like Jurassic Park and We’re Back! in the same year. Man to be a kid again! Despite the bias nostalgia I do feel We’re Back! Is a solid film that has nearly been forgotten about. The voice cast is insane in both variety of talent and quality of performance. You had the likes of Jay Leno and news legend Walter Cronkite lending voices, but the person who owns this movie is John Goodman. His song “Roll back the Rock” is still stuck in my head to this day. This film was also not scared to get dark at times when necessary. Professor Screw Eyes’s ultimate demise is still one of the most haunting ways I have ever seen an animated villain go out. The 90’s was ruled by Disney animation, but at times another studio stepped up to craft a quality product worth your time. We’re Back is certainly that.
7. Fire and Ice
Unlike We’re Back! this is by no means a nostalgia pick. In fact the only reason I watched Fire and Ice for the first time was when I was doing research for the GCRN’s Top 100 Animated Movie countdown. It did not make the list and it is clearly not due to the movies quality. While a movie like Heavy Metal still gets a lot of love from people today Fire and Ice is rarely brought up. Admittedly it is one strange movie that audiences today are not really prepared to handle. It speaks to a specific time and a specific style that simply was not afraid to get weird. The graphic nudity and violence is something rare in today’s world of animation. Not to mention how absent fantasy is as a genre outside of Game of Thrones. Based solely on its uniqueness it deserves to be talk about much more.
6. A Letter to Momo
When people think about animated movies that delve into the relationship between children in their parents typically something like My Neighbor Totoro comes to mind. I would not put A Letter to Momo on that level but it does eloquently cover some truly complex issues on a level that can be appreciated by both adults and children. It’s able to approach the process of grief in a way that doesn’t get overly bogged down in a melancholic tone. The animation is crisps and unique and a reminder of the power of hand drawn designs. Coming from the same people that gave us Ghost in the Shell it is not a surprise. It has been stated this movie took over seven years to make and looking at the final product that time was well spent.
5. Animal Farm
I am surprised by the amount of people that simply do not know this movie exists. Part of the reason is there is a thought that making animated films for an adult audiences is a relatively modern phenomenon. There are countless movies that prove that not to be true and one that is rarely recognized is Animal Farm. It’s animation may not be to the level we expect for today but considering it was made in 1954 it holds up rather well. Story wise it plays it straight. Taking George Orwell’s story and remaining faithful in both structure and spirit. So for those who hate it when the movie changes everything about the source material you will be happy. Hey, I told you there would be another film with talking animals tackling complex social issues didn’t I?
Mortality is one of those themes that is not found very often in the world of animation. Perhaps its due to the fact animation is so often geared toward younger or adolescent audiences that are not able to relate to stories about humans facing their own demise. So the fact that Wrinkles is an animated movie centered on elderly characters automatically makes it unique. It’s development of character relationships and storytelling also makes it the ultimate bitter sweet tale full of deep emotion and hardy laughter. How do you make your last years mean something when you are stuck in a place you can never truly consider home? How do you cope with seeing your last remaining friends devolve into hallow shells of themselves? How do you deal with the fear of becoming one of those shells yourself? All those questions are touched upon with tact and class. For anyone who has had love ones suffer who have suffered Alzheimers Wrinkles gives you so much to relate towards.
3. The Painting
When I first began watching The Painting my concern was this was nothing more than a glorified Romeo and Juliet story line. A simple story about two individuals from opposing societies attempting to overcome their differences to fall in love. While it starts down that direction ii shortly transforms into a much deeper metaphorical search for the true meaning of our existence. An unfinished painting becomes one of the most effective symbols for the way society forms. Considering the fact it is an animated movie called The Painting it is not surprising the animation is top notch. Beyond that is just how original it is in both design in concept. There comes a time where the story shifts from painting to painting and it is in those sequences where the animation hits a level few films ever reach. It is easily one of the most beautiful films I have watched.
2. My Dog Tulip
There is something special about a movie that can take the simplest of stories and execute it to the utmost perfection. My Dog Tulip is just that simple story. One that follows an elderly man and the relationship he forms with a dog. Never does it become bigger than it needs to be, nor does it force in drama where it does not belong. It is the ultimate slice of life tale on how man and animal can form the ultimate bond. A big factor on what makes this movie work so well is the voice performance of Christopher Plummer. His welcoming voice makes you feel like he is speaking directly to you, as if you are sitting down and catching up with one of your closest relatives. Despite all of this it is rarely talked about or mentioned. Being based on a highly regarded novel did nothing for its notoriety. Hopefully the praise it well deserves will still come as more people discover it.
1.Mary and Max
Remember when pen pals use to exist? I speak out of ignorance but I can only assume in today’s social media landscape the idea of a pen pal no longer makes sense. Mary and Max shows how friendship can form in the most unlikely of places through the most unexpected ways. There is a challenge to develop a friendship between a middle aged and a young child. Despite the oddity of its creation you never question its legitimacy. Thanks in large part to an unsurprisingly great performance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. At this point I am unsure why any movie that contains a great performance by Hoffman is not talked about ad nauseam. Great claymation is an art form I am constantly in awe of due to the sheer amount of dedication needed to make it work. Craftsmanship is a word that gets tossed around way too much but it applies here. Styles and design are both utilize to inform us of character and to display the dichotomy between both Mary and Max. From story to voice talent to direction Mary and Max is one of the best animated movies of its day, yet despite how great it is so many are unaware it exists. If you at all consider yourself a fan of animation it is a must see.
- A Cat in Paris
- Robin Hood
- James in the Giant Peach
- All-Star Superman
- The Congress
- The Pirates! Band of Misfits