We are now coming to the point where animation starts overwhelming live-action. Three of the films are Hayao Miyazaki masterpieces. Hopefully, this list is enlightening for you and for me.
20. Anastasia (1997)
This movie came out when I was six or seven years old. I loved it and even had a Barbie doll for Anya. (Not sure what happened to it …) Anyway as I grew older I found new reasons to enjoy it. At first it was the humor and fantastical adventures that appealed to me. Now, it is everything else. Personally, the movie would have worked better if it did not have the villain and dark forces stuff. I think it takes away needed attention from Anya’s journey and final decision.
Though it is flawed, I love this simple story and the romance that blossoms between Dimitri and Ana. The music is also really nice and I know all the songs by heart. Personally, I think this is Don Bluth’s most cohesive film. Most of the characters from his films are … ugly and cartoony. In Anastasia, they look lifelike and could easily slip into the real world. Also, the visuals are really stunning in places and I love how St. Petersburg looks through the animation and backgrounds.
1. Dowager Empress Marie: You were the boy, weren’t you – the servant boy who got us out? You saved her life and mine and you restored her to me. Yet you want no reward.
Dimitri: Not anymore.
Dowager Empress Marie: Why the change of mind?
Dimitri: It was more a change of heart. I must go.
2. [Anya and Dimitri have been arguing on the train – Vlad enters the compartment]
Anastasia: Oh, thank goodness it’s you!
[points to Dimitri]
Anastasia: Will you please remove him from my sight?
Vladimir: [to Dimitri] What have you done to her?
Dimitri: Me? It’s *her*!
Vladimir: Oh! An unspoken attraction!
Dimitri: *Attraction*? To that skinny little brat? Have you lost your mind?
Vladimir: I was only asking a simple question…
Dimitri: Attraction… ridiculous!
3. Vladimir: That’s what I hate about this government. Everything’s in red.
19. The Lion King (1996)
Many childhood days were spent watching and rewatching this glorious movie. The music, especially the background’s done by Hans Zimmer, gives me goosebumps and the story is enchanting. The movie feels BIG, like the whole world is reflecting back at you through the screen.
Lately, not as many are praising the film, which I think is a waste. Besides Beauty and the Beast, this is the best film Disney released during its Renaisannce. Some have issues with its similarity to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (Pst that was done on purpose). Others just do not like it’s musical numbers. Then there are those who hate for the sake of hating. For myself, I love this movie and could watch it repeatedly for the rest of my life. As a side note, Scar is my favorite animated villain.
1. Scar: I’m surrounded by idiots.
2. Rafiki: Look down there.
[Slowly Simba walks to the edge of the watering hole and peers inside. His reflection stares back at him]
Adult Simba: That’s not my father. That’s just my reflection.
Rafiki: No. Look harder.
[Rafiki touches the water which causes waves that change Simba’s reflection into Mufasa]
Rafiki: You see? He lives in you.
Mufasa’s Ghost: [From above] Simba.
Adult Simba: Father?
Mufasa’s Ghost: [He appears in the sky as a group of stars] Simba, you have forgotten me.
Adult Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa’s Ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of life.
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.
Mufasa’s Ghost: [Now fully formed in the sky] Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.
Adult Simba: [Mufasa’s ghost begins to disappear] No! Please! Don’t leave me!
Mufasa’s Ghost: Remember.
Adult Simba: Father!
Mufasa’s Ghost: Remember.
Adult Simba: Don’t leave me.
Mufasa’s Ghost: Remember.
3. Young Simba: Dad?
Young Simba: We’re pals, right?
Young Simba: And we’ll always be together, right?
Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.
Young Simba: Really?
Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.
18. Murder by Decree (1979)
I usually love Sherlock Holmes adaptations and films as a rule. Last December though, I came across this movie. It surprised me how well the clues melded into the story. More often then not, I figure out the mysteries in movies fairly well on my own. Not so here. It centers on the killings of Jack the Ripper and the political implications surrounding the gruesome murders of many women. Christopher Plummer is one of my favorite actors and plays Sherlock as a sophisticated, yet contemplative man.
Beneath the mystery lies a deeper tragedy. Since I hate to spoil a good mystery, I will remain silent. But there are moments, especially the ending where we see a different side of Sherlock lost to us in other adaptations that prefer to portray him as slightly mad or eccentric. There is a sadness and anger there against the injustices of the murders and their aim. I love this movie for that reason, a masterpiece lost in the annals of film.
1. Sherlock Holmes: You create allegiance above your sworn allegiance to protect humanity. You shall not care for them, or acknowledge their pain. There lies the madness.
2. Sherlock Holmes: [to Lestrade] When people are frightened, they turn to God, and when they have no help from him, they look to the Devil.
3. Sherlock Holmes: We’ve unmasked madmen, Watson, wielding scepters. Reason run riot. Justice howling at the moon.
4. Prime Minister Lord Salisbury: You have us at a disadvantage, Mr. Holes. I think it might be better if you tell us your story in your own way and permit me to be the judge of whether it is true or not.
Sherlock Holmes: [Assertively] You may take it to be true, sir!
17. Princess Mononoke (1998)
It is hard to explain the genius of this movie let alone the painstaking care in each of its frames and its story. The director Miyazaki-san redrew at least half of the frames himself, so powerful was his dedication. It is a window into a different time where technology and deep, spiritual culture collided in heart-renching battles and encounters. Each side believes themselves the right but neither is truly the villain.
The genius lies in the main character Ashitaka and his purpose in the story; “To see with eyes unclouded” the hatred eating both sides alive from the inside out. Goodness, I love every aspect of this movie. The visuals are stunning. The character development and story flawless and the romance simple yet beautiful. There is a strange fog over American cinema that insists animation is childish. Not so, not so. This movie is mature, thought provoking and a spectacular watch every time. Also, Joe Hisaishi’s musical score is absolutely brilliant. You really should just see this movie for yourself to understand.
1. San, The Princess Mononoke: Even if all the trees grow back, it won’t be his forest anymore. The Forest Spirit is dead.
Prince Ashitaka: Never. He is life itself. He isn’t dead, San. He is here with us now, telling us, it’s time for both of us to live.
2. Moro: [dying words] Ashitaka… Can you save the girl you love…?
3. Lady Eboshi: [Ashitaka interrupts the fight] What do you think you’re doing, boy?
Prince Ashitaka: Stay your hand. The girl’s life is now mine.
[San viciously bites Ashitaka’s arm]
Lady Eboshi: I’m sure she’ll make a lovely wife for you.
Prince Ashitaka: There’s a demon inside you. It’s inside both of you.
[the curse remanifests as a mass of worm-like tendrils, shocking everyone]
Prince Ashitaka: [to the crowd] Look, everyone! *This* is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon it will kill me!
[San tries to make the curse leave her alone]
Prince Ashitaka: Fear and anger only makeit grow faster!
Lady Eboshi: I’m getting a little bored of this curse of yours, Ashitaka. Let me just cut the damn thing – *off!*
[swings her needle at Ashitaka]
4. San, The Princess Mononoke: Why did you stop me from killing her? Tell me while you’re still alive!
Prince Ashitaka: I didn’t want them to kill you. That’s why.
San, The Princess Mononoke: I’m not afraid to die. I’d do anything to get you humans out of my forest!
Prince Ashitaka: I knew that… from the first moment I saw you.
San, The Princess Mononoke: And I’m not afraid of you! I should *kill* you for saving her!
[San turns Ashitaka around, takes out his sword, and aims it inches over his neck]
San, The Princess Mononoke: That woman is evil, and there’s no one who can stop me from killing her.
Prince Ashitaka: No… Live…
San, The Princess Mononoke: That’s enough! I’m not listening to you anymore!
[presses tip to throat]
Prince Ashitaka: [opening his eyes] You’re… beautiful…
[San gasps, jumps back]
San’s Wolf Brother: What is it, San? Want me to crunch his face off?
[all stare at Ashitaka for a moment… until a rock sails in and breaks the moment]
5. [first lines]
Narrator: In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit. For those were the days of gods and of demons…
16. Spirited Away (2001)
Even though I placed this ahead of Mononoke, they really are tied. Many critics consider this to be Miyazaki’s masterpiece and I would not argue with them. (Personally, I think he has several including this movie) The genius of this movie is its take on human interaction with spiritual creatures. One thing Western religion does not fully understand is the nature of the spirits and gods in Japanese folklore and religion. They are neither bad or good. Their opinion of humans varies and they are not past error. So, what seems to us cruelty when Chihiro’s parents change into pigs and the spirits mistreat Chihiro because she is human is really the perspective of ageless beings misused and forgotten by humans.
This movie has so many colors and dimensions. It’s animation is spectacular and the characters are complex and change very subtly. Also, it takes moments to step away from the intense action of some scenes for quiet reflection. One of the most iconic moments is when Chihiro rides the spirit train with No-face, who had minutes before tried to devour her. I showed this film to my students a few months ago. To my immense surprise, they loved it even more the the other movies I used for projects. I love its complexity and treatment of characters the most and still find new layers to the story and animation each time I watch it. Again, I also admire Joe Hisaishi’s musical score.
1. Lin: What’s going on here?
Kamaji: Something you wouldn’t recognize. It’s called love.
2. [in Japanese]
Kamajii: [wakes up] Oh, Haku, you’re awake.
Haku: Where’s Sen? What happened? Please, tell me.
Kamajii: Don’t you remember anything?
Haku: Just little pieces. Chihiro kept calling my name in the darkness. I followed her voice and woke up lying here.
Kamajii: Chihiro, huh? Her real name’s Chihiro? Can’t beat the power of love.
15. Lady and the Tramp (1954)
Believe it or not, the American Film Insititute put this on their list of top 100 most romantic American movies. I was shocked. It was the only animated movie besides Beauty and the Beast to make the list. I learned to love this movie in my early teens. Something about the romance appealed to me and I even remember a dream I once had about the movie where I tried to fix the mistakes some of the characters from the film made.
It is a sweet film, devoid of any villains or climatic battles. But not all films need that. Much like My Neighbor Totoro, it emphasizes real life and a simple, blossoming relationship. Though the animation does not do anything spectacular, there are moments like the Soagetti Dinner accompanied by “Belle Note” that stay with you.
1. Lady: Oh! Oh, dear!
Tramp: Is something wrong, Pidge?
Lady: It’s morning.
Tramp: Yeah. So it is.
Lady: I should have been home hours ago.
Tramp: Why? Because you still believe in that old “in the faithful old dog tray” routine? Aw, come on, Pidge. Open up your eyes.
Lady: Open my eyes?
Tramp: To what a dog’s life can really be! I’ll show you what I mean. Look down there. Tell me what you see.
Lady: Well, I see nice homes, with yards and fences…
Tramp: Exactly. Life on a leash. Look again, Pige. Look, there’s a great big hunk of world down there, with no fence around it. Where two dogs can find adventure and excitement. And beyond those distant hills, who knows what wonderful experiences? And it’s all ours for the taking, Pige. It’s all ours.
Lady: It sound wonderful.
Lady: But who’d watch over the baby?
Tramp: [shaking his head] You win. Come on. I’ll take you home.
2. Joe: Here’s your bones-a, Tony.
Tony: Okay, bones. Bones? Whassa matta for you, Joe? I break-a your face-e! Tonight, Butch-a, he’s-a get the best in the house!
Joe: Okay, Tony! You the boss.
Tony: [Showing Tramp the menu] Now, tell me, what’s your pleasure? A la carte? Dinner?
Tony: Aha, okay. Hey, Joe! Butch-a he say he wants-a two spaghetti speciale, heavy on the meats-a ball.
Joe: Tony, dogs-a don’t a-talk!
Tony: He’s a-talkin’ to me!
Joe: Okay, he’s a-talkin’ to you! You the boss!
[brings the spaghetti, muttering to himself in Italian; Tony snatches the spaghetti from him and serves it to the dogs]
Tony: Now, here you are-a, the best-a spaghetti in-a town.
3. Tony: Hey, Joe! Look! Butch-a, he’s got a new girlfriend.
Joe: Well, a-son of a gun! He’s a got a cockerel Spanish-a girl.
Tony: Hey, she’s pretty sweet kiddo, Butch. You take-a Tony’s advice and settle down with this-a one, eh? Hehehe.
Lady: “This-a one”?
Tramp: This-a one… this-a… Oh! Tony, you know. He’s-a not-a speak-a English-a pretty good.
14. The Fall (2006)
I am surprised as anyone how far up this film came. But, again, after careful reflection it makes sense. It touches on old films, depression and the imagination and emotionality of a young girl. Shot in 28 different countries in a span of four years, their are NO computer special effects anywhere. That is saying something. Some of the visuals like the towering Burial cloth for the bandit’s brother as well as the maze of stairs in the story hardly seem like they could ever be real.
What intrigued me was how the story the patient Roy Walker told the young girl Alexandria changed through her imagination. The Indian really looked like he came from India rather than the Native American Walker actually talked about. The African looked like he came from an African tribe rather than a newly freed American slave. And so on and so forth. But most interesting of all is the relationship between Alexandria and Walker, a broken hearted man using her to commit suicide. She does not know this of course. Anyway, this is the only rated R film on my list but it was terribly misrated. I would let my younger brother see this when he was ten. (As a treat, here are more images from the movie)
1. Roy Walker: [finishing the story, both he and Alexandria are crying] He can’t win. That’s because our masked bandit is a coward. Yeah. He never took an oath, he’s a fake. He’s a liar and a coward.
Alexandria: You’re lying.
Roy Walker: No. He had his fingers crossed. He has to die.
Alexandria: I don’t believe you.
Roy Walker: He’s dying.
Alexandria: Don’t kill him.
Roy Walker: There’s nothing left for him.
Alexandria: His daughter.
Roy Walker: He wasn’t her father, either.
Alexandria: She loves him.
Roy Walker: She’ll survive, she’s good.
Alexandria: I don’t want you to die. Roy. Don’t kill him. Let him live. Let him live. Don’t kill him. Roy? Promise? And don’t cross your fingers.
Roy Walker: Promise.
Alexandria: Show me your hands.
Roy Walker: [raises his hands] See?
2. Luigi: [reading from Evelyn’s locket] My dearest daughter, never marry for money, fame, power or security. Always follow your heart. Your ever loving father…
Blue Bandit: It says all that on that little locket?
3. Alexandria: You always stop at the same part, when it’s very beautiful. Interesting.
13. Pride and prejudice (2005)
Maybe because I am not an English major, I like this WAY more than the BBC miniseries. Before anyone calls me a heathen, I have legitimate reasons for this. Firstly, the book if adapted entirely for film does not run smoothly. Frankly, it is boring. Secondly, the cinematography suffers under such a low budget production. The visuals are watered down and as such are dull. Lastly, I do not like how they handled the romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
That aside, everything I said does not work in the BBC version plays splendidly in this movie. The visuals are gorgeous, the story easy to follow and the romance palpably believable and moving. Roger Ebert, the only film critic I really take seriously, stated,
But a lot must happen before the happy ending, and I particularly admired a scene in the rain where Darcy and Lizzie have an angry argument. This argument serves two purposes: It clears up misunderstandings, and it allows both characters to see each other as the true and brave people they really are. It is not enough for them to love each other; they must also love the goodness in each other, and that is where the story’s true emotion lies. . .
When Lizzie and Darcy finally accept each other in “Pride & Prejudice,” I felt an almost unreasonable happiness. Why was that? I am impervious to romance in most films, seeing it as a manifestation of box office requirements. Here is it different, because Darcy and Elizabeth are good and decent people who would rather do the right thing than convenience themselves. Anyone who will sacrifice their own happiness for higher considerations deserves to be happy. When they realize that about each other their hearts leap, and, reader, so did mine.
That basically surmises my own feelings for this wonderful romance. The music is enchanting, the acting is phenomenal and I thoroughly care about Darcy and Lizzy’s happiness. That is a rare thing for me, for I also seldom like generated romantic movies.
1. Mr. Darcy: You must know… surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I’d scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.
2. Elizabeth Bennet: And that put pain to it. I wonder who first discovered the power of poetry in driving away love?
Mr. Darcy: I thought that poetry was the food of love.
Elizabeth Bennet: Of a fine stout love, it may. But if it is only a vague inclination I’m convinced one poor sonnet will kill it stone dead
Mr. Darcy: So what do you recommend to encourage affection?
Elizabeth Bennet: Dancing. Even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.
3. [ordered to order Lizzie to accept Mr. Collins’s proposal]
Mr. Bennet: Your mother insists on you marrying Mr. Collins…
Mrs. Bennet: Yes! Or I’ll never see her again!
Mr. Bennet: Well, Lizzy, from this day henceforth it seems you must be a stranger to one of your parents…
Mrs. Bennet: Who will maintain you when your father’s gone?
Mr. Bennet: Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins… and I will never see you again if you do.
Mrs. Bennet: Mr. Bennet!
Elizabeth Bennet: Thank you, Papa.
4. Mr. Bennet: Lizzy, are you out of your senses? I thought you hated the man.
Elizabeth Bennet: No, Papa.
Mr. Bennet: He’s rich, to be sure, and you will have more fine carriages than Jane. But will that make you happy?
Elizabeth Bennet: Have you no objection other than your belief in my indifference?
Mr. Bennet: None at all. We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of fellow… but that would be nothing if you really liked him.
Elizabeth Bennet: I do like him.
Mr. Bennet: Well…
Elizabeth Bennet: I love him.
12. The Thief and the Cobbler (?)
I often feel so torn when I think about this movie. It tragically was never truly finished by its creator Richard Williams ( Think of the mind behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988) one of the most underrated geniuses of hand drawn animation. After 28 painstaking years in development, Warner Bros. took the film away from him and made it into a botched version of Disney’s Aladdin (1992). Here is a statement that will lift some eyebrows. As it was originally intended, this film is far superior to Disney’s film.
The visuals are beautiful, intricate and transport you to Baghdad of old in ways Disney’s did not. Do not get me wrong, I thoroughly admire Disney’s animation for that movie. But it is here with The Thief and the Cobbler that it almost reaches perfection. What I hate most about the botched version released without Williams is that they were scared it was too much like Aladdin so they changed the story. Ironically, by adding in musical numbers and drastically twisting the plot it did copy cat it. I love this movie and hope that someday someone finally truly finishes Willams unfinished masterpiece.
1. [last lines]
Princess Yum-Yum: I love you.
[Tack takes the tacks from his mouth at last]
Tack the Cobbler: And I love you.
(Disclaimer for my family: I still love the thief’s lines from the 1995 version! I promise!)
11. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Recently, a blogger for YouTube reviewed this movie after seeing it for the first time. He stated that if not for children this is one of the most menial animated films he had ever seen. In his mind, because there was no villain, traumatic problems, moral lessons or action it was pointless. You can imagine how surprised I felt, if not a little angry. He horribly misinterpreted this movie. Originally, it was not the success it now is in Japan. The 80’s, especially in Japan, meant crime fighting, explosions and superpowers. Before Totoro, Miyazaki-san released two other spectacular films Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Nausicca: Valley of the Wind which deferred to popular media but had hidden sparks of the more gentle scenes and heroes from his later movies. When he released Totoro into theaters, it did not do well at all. It was not until it was released to home television that it received its deserved attention.
People loved it. Many said it reminded them of their childhood homes and experiences. For myself, this movie was a BIG part of my childhood. I could watch it without fear of monsters or drama. This movie represents the beauty and innocence of childhood: it’s wonder and how close children are to viewing the real world and its magic.
I defer again to Roger Ebert, who (AS AN ADULT VIEWER) placed it on his Great Movies list.
Here is a children’s film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.
. . . ‘My Neighbor Totoro” is based on experience, situation and exploration–not on conflict and threat.
. . . There is none of the kids-against-adults plotting of American films. The family is seen as a safe, comforting haven. The father is reasonable, insightful and tactful, accepts stories of strange creatures, trusts his girls, listens to explanations with an open mind. It lacks those dreary scenes where a parent misinterprets a well-meaning action and punishes it unfairly.
I’m afraid that in praising the virtues of ”My Neighbor Totoro” I have made it sound merely good for you, but it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls (I speak of their personalities, not their appearance). It is awe-inspiring in the scenes involving the totoro, and enchanting in the scenes with the Cat Bus. It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need.
This is the movie of my childhood of course. But as an adult it is a reminder that the world is loving and beautiful. We need more films like this, but alas our culture seems to revel in drama and suspense. Those are not bad, but sometimes we need to sit back, be still and let ourselves enjoy the joy of living.
1. Tatsuo Kusakabe: Trees and people used to be good friends. I saw that tree and decided to buy the house. Hope Mom likes it too. Okay, let’s pay our respects then get home for lunch.
(Most of the scenes I love have little to no dialogue.)