Since another decade has gone by, I decided to look back on my favorite films from the last ten years. I will make several posts listing and talking about films throughout this decade, but for today it is all about my personal preferences. I used to be a hardcore critic, but life has mellowed me out. I don’t care as much as I used to which films are the best or who agrees with me. But I still like to reflect on films and stories that stuck with me.
I’m a little surprised myself, but there are very few Disney or Pixar films that made it onto my list. If anything, the 2010s was a great decade for foreign films. I’m a lot less formal in this post, mostly for the sake of my sanity. I also will include the movie trailers and posters so I won’t have to give away too much of the plot. For a more formal thought out synopsis and analysis of a lot of these movies, I will be doing extensive research the next few months.
Honorable Mention. Weathering With you (Tenki no Ko, 天気の子), 2019 Japan
Expansive and Gleaming
Watching this film in theaters was a real treat for me. It’s director Makoto Shinkai has a real talent for creating beautiful city landscapes and blending them with natural phenomenon like rain, clouds or running water. As I watched it in theaters, I thought a lot about sacrifice. I thought a lot about flying. I wondered if one human life is worth a city. Lots of questions.
Overall, I recommend this film for those who love Shinkai’s previous blockbuster Your Name (2016) or who have a taste for Japanese lore set to more modern times. It is also very romantic, a definite plus.
25. Long Way North (Tout en haut du monde), 2015 France/Denmark
Serene and Charming
I have a soft spot for any films involving Russia. Hence the reason I sought this movie out. However, I barely noticed the connection as I studied this film. That isn’t a bad thing! I found myself drawn into the beautiful Artic landscapes and genuinely interested in what would happen with Sacha by its end. It was less about a place or nationality and more about an individual and her love for her grandfather. I also liked how this relationship between Sacha and her grandfather was the most important aspect of the movie. The animation was very gentle and refreshingly hand drawn.
I would recommend Long Way North for those who love films made by Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon (Aka The Secret of Kells, The Song of the Sea).
24. Arthur Christmas (2011) United Kingdom/United States
Innovative and Sweet
Yes. This is on my list. I watched this movie by accident one Christmas season a few years ago with LOW expectations. I judged it by its title to be honest. But all that changed once I stopped and paid attention. It is very well paced, storyboarded and animated. Aardman Animations, best known for their stop motion animation, and Sony Pictures Animation collaborated for this film. This movie is about the heart of giving rather than some wacky adventure. It may sound cheesy, but I really did rethink the meaning of the Christmas season and the importance of protecting childrens’ world of wonder.
I recommend this film to fans of Christmas movies in general. I also would suggest fans of Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit to give it a try as well.
23. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime no Monogatari, かぐや姫の物語), 2013 Japan
Breathtaking and Achingly Beautiful
This is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. It plays like a Japanese story scroll and takes audiences on a journey through nature’s beauty. This is even evident in the sorrowful moments of grief, frustration and fear. Kaguya is a testament to traditional Japanese art. The soft colors, warm settings and tranquil lighting reminds us to stop and pay attention to how beautiful life is. I’ve grown to respect Isao Takahata’s films over the years and believe this movie might be one of the best he has ever done.
I recommend this movie for fans of Studio Ghibli films and also any interested in 10th Century Japanese History.
22. Megamind, 2010 Unites States
Funny and Cute
This movie is here basically because I think it is hilarious. That is it. Well, I do like Megamind as a character and think the overall idea of reversing the roles of heroes and villains is clever. I also like how the characters had to face consequences. Beyond that, I don’t have much else to say. I just think it is a well rounded, charming comedy.
I recommend this film to anyone who likes animated comedies like Despicable Me.
21. Big Hero 6, 2014 United States
BAYMAX and Heartfelt
Did I just make one of the characters an adjective to describe this movie? Yes. Yes I did. Though the main reason I love this movie is to watch Baymax be cute and naïve, I do like seeing this movie for other reasons. I like Hiro and his brother Takashi, the mixture of Western and Eastern cultures in the setting and characters and the animation in certain parts. As far as story and execution goes, I don’t think this movie is perfect. This is one of those times I don’t mind as much. Sometimes it is good to just enjoy a funny, sweet film for what it is.
I recommend this movie for anyone who loves plush round characters. I also think fans of comic books might be mildly interested in the origins and polish of the story itself.
20. Big fish and Begonia (Dàyú Hǎitáng, 大鱼海棠) 2016 China
Vivid and Otherworldly
How do I describe my experience with this movie? I honestly don’t know how to explain it adequately. The animation and story were unlike anything I had seen before. It was as if someone gave wings to Miyazaki’s Spirited Away so it could break free and morph into the stranger side of Eastern Folklore. I wasn’t as much concerned with following the story as I was about appreciating the captivating imagery.
I would definitely recommend this movie to lovers of Hayao Miyazaki. I also think this is an essential watch for those interested in Chinese fantasy and folklore.
19. The Breadwinner, 2017 Canada/Ireland
Meaningful and Reticent
This is a movie with something very important to say. Sometimes I feel I forget how far women’s rights have come in the United States compared to other parts of the world. I watched Parvana’s story unfold and pondered deeply about my freedoms. This film portrayed very effectively the oppressive world she grew up in under the Taliban in Afghanistan. The best way to understand everything this film addresses would be to watch it.
I recommend this movie to lovers of Cartoon Saloon and the original book The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.
18. In This Corner of the World (Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni, この世界の片隅に), 2016 Japan
Luminescent and Raw
I felt hollowed out after seeing this movie for the first time. The story was achingly beautiful. After watching it, I listened to a podcast about a United States War General who received the medal of honor for his contributions during World War. Through the podcast they described in detail how he and his soldiers infiltrated and bombed a Japanese cargo train. As I listened one very vivid thought penetrated through my mind. The Japanese men who died on that train had families. I realized I had my whole life been seeing people wrong. I am left to wonder how many millions to billions of individuals in this world I have judged simply by their nationalities.
It is best to hate war and give individual men and women the benefit of the doubt. This movie draws me in and helps me see the world and its people in a kinder light. It also helps me understand no life is without suffering but our reactions to life’s difficulties makes all the difference. We are all more blessed than we think.
I recommend this movie to fans of Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Japanese World War II history.
17. The Little Prince, 2015 France
Youthful and Reflective
The first time I watched this movie I was disappointed. I wanted it to be the book. But after seeing it a few more times I think I finally understood the type of movie Mark Osborne and others were trying to make. The film wasn’t about recreating the original book but showing a child’s reaction and application of it. My favorite line from the movie is “Growing up isn’t the problem. Forgetting is.” I think that is one of the most important lessons we can learn. Since seeing it, I myself have been pondering hard what it means to grow up.
I recommend this movie to fans of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s original book. I also think those who love French style animation and stop motion animation will really enjoy the segments which come directly from the book.
16. How To Train Your Dragon, 2010 United States
Witty and Magical
I fell in love with this movie, its main character Hiccup, and his cute dragon the first time I saw it! Hiccup was so sarcastic and his world seemed so magical. Though I take issue with some of the initial designs of the dragons, I do think this is a very special movie. We all understand what it is like to be underestimated or not being able to fully fit in with the ideal. But watching Hiccup, I can’t help but wonder about how true creators need courage to break from the norm. It is then that they truly learn to fly.
Fun side note, the musical score is amazing as well!
I recommend this movie to dragon lovers and anyone who has ever dreamed of flying.
15. Natsume’s Book of Friends The Movie: Ephemeral Bond (Gekijōban Natsume Yūjin-Chō: Utsusemi ni Musubu, 劇場版 夏目友人帳 ～うつせみに結ぶ～), 2018 Japan
Nostalgic and Thoughtful
I love the original manga and anime for Natsume’s Book of Friends so it is a given I would fall in love with this movie as well. It deals a lot with Japanese folklore and spirits but also delves into the nature of relationships and making meaningful connections.
I recommend this movie to lovers of the original story and those interested in a softer take on Japanese folklore.
14. A Silent Voice (Eiga Koe no Katachi, 映画 聲の形), 2016 Japan
Radiant and Kind
I feel this is an important film for middle and high school kids to see. Because it pointedly talks about bullying and suicide, I feel it could have a powerful impact on a lot of young men and women. I also like how it portrays healing and forgiveness. I love the characters and the story is very touching. Also, the animation is gorgeous and the screen play is fascinating to study.
I recommend this movie to those struggling with suicidal thoughts. I also think teachers would find this story very insightful for the kids they teach. But I also think this is a story everyone should experience at least once.
13. Children of the Sea (Kaijū no Kodomo, 海獣の子供), 2016 Japan
Ethereal and Mind-blowing
Wow. This film is incredible. At first I thought it was about the sea, then it was about space, and later it was as though I slipped and viewed firsthand the intricacies of our human experience. The universe is a human being and a human being is the universe. Wow. Truly a masterful film. It was a great experience.
I would recommend this movie for those who likes unique plots. Also, I think this would be a good film for those interested in space and biology.
12. Steins;Gate: The Movie − Load Region of Déjà Vu (Gekijōban Shutainzu Gēto: Fuka Ryōiki no Dejavu, 劇場版 シュタインズ・ゲート 負荷領域のデジャヴ), 2013 Japan
Romantic and Sentimental
Here is another film I watched because I love the original anime. Luckily, this movie is just as good as the show. What I like about this franchise is how it connects people. It is not just about romantic relationships, but also those between family and friends.
I recommend this show to those interested in time travel or the original show. If you haven’t seen the show, then wait to see this movie. So many spoilers!
11. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), United States
Emotional and Bittersweet
I. Loved. The. Ending. The animation was crisp throughout, the music beautiful, and the plot twist at the end very moving. The amount of work the original creators, animators and writers put into this story is very endearing to me. Though the story in and of itself isn’t too different from your average coming of age story, its execution and treatment of its characters is incredible.
I recommend this film to dragon fans and original fans of the first and second movies.
10. Klaus, 2019 Spain
Vibrant and Engaging
This was my unexpected addition to the list. It simply charmed me. I loved the characters, the setting, THE ANIMATION, the music and the warm messages of kindness, family and community. Its a Santa Claus origin story I cared about.
I recommend this film to Christmas lovers! And fans of 2D animation. It really is an incredibly well animated film.
9. Tangled, 2010
Well-balanced and Spunky
I think Glen Keane should direct more films because this movie was so fun! I think this is the only movie where I WANT to watch the animated show for it. For me, it was better than Frozen because it’s flowed more smoothly. But that is just me. The German art influences are fun for me to find, the characters very dynamic, and I still love the song “I See the Light”.
I recommend this movie for romantic saps and fans of Glen Keane character animation.
8. The Peanuts Movie, 2015 United States
Gratifying and Delightful
Sad story, I missed this movie’s release because I left for my mission. So. . . . I watched it as soon as I got home! Again, I don’t think I can’t say confidently this is the greatest movie of this last decade. But it is one of my favorites all the same. The Peanuts comics were the first books in fourth grade I really got into. I might have reread them all at least twenty times. The animation is very respectful to the original look and feel of the 2D comic strip and show. Watching this movie brings back so many wonderful memories for me. It just makes me happy!
I recommend this movie for fans of the comic and those looking for a simple, yet inspiring story.
7. Loving Vincent, 2017 Poland
Transcendental and Gripping
Some movies are simply fun, while others are overflowing with action scenes. The best experiences we can have while watching a film take place on a spiritual level, within us. I have had the privilege a handful of times in my life to experience films in such a manner, those which transcend ordinary limits. When those times come I always feel drained, yet joyful after the film ends. It is because I had, myself, had a transcendental experience. Loving Vincent was such an experience for me. The minute I started watching, it drew me in and had my undivided attention. I felt as though someone gave me a special opportunity to view Vincent Van Gogh as a man and my heart ached for him.
In other words, this film was made for Vincent van Gogh and honored him as a man. It told his story so we could understand his humanity and the merit of the life he lived painting.
I’m grateful I saw this movie and I recommend it wholeheartedly to any interested in experiencing first hand what it is like to see Van Gogh through his art as he wished.
6. Coco, 2017 United States
Musical and Magnetic
This is the best Pixar movie I have seen since Up (2009). At first, I thought it was a movie about a boy overcoming family opposition so he can become a musician. But then I realized by the film’s end it was about FAMILY. His family’s connection to his great great grandfather was more important than music. No one deserves to be forgotten. This film made me cry. I was already emotionally raw when I saw it several years ago because I had just visited my grandma Engler, who I hadn’t seen since I was twelve. She was suffering and loosing her memory just like Miguel’s grandma Coco. Seeing him sing to her, made me realize I need to strengthen my family relationships, especially for those who have died.
I loved the music, the character interactions and its overall conclusion and vision.
I recommend this movie to anyone wondering what the greatest joy is this life is.
5. Hotarubi No Mori e, (Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light, 蛍火の杜へ), 2011 Japan
Heartbreaking and Entrancing
Because I am such an avid fan of Natsume’s Book of Friends, I looked up Yuki Midorikawa‘s other stories. While searching, I came across a music video showcasing scenes from her movie based on a one-volume story of a young girl who develops a deep relationship with a spirit. I’ve loved that movie ever since. It has a bittersweet ending but I watch it often to remind myself of the type of love I aspire to.
I recommend this movie to lovers of Natsume’s Book of Friends and those looking for a sweet love story.
4. Kubo and the Two Strings, 2016 United States
Unanticipated and Harmonious
This is such a wonderful, well-balanced movie! The animation is eye-catching and beautiful (Possibly the most beautiful stop motion animated film I’ve seen to date), the characters well placed and formulated and the music gorgeous throughout! I loved the Miyazaki-esque ending, with no fully identifiable villains and the emphasis on Familial relationships in this life and after death.
I recommend this movie to lovers of Japanese culture, anime and stop motion animation.
3. Spiderman Into the Spiderverse, 2018 United States
Provocative and Blood pumping
I am kicking myself to this day for not having the foresight to see this move in theaters several years ago. I don’t get super excited about superhero movies, so I didn’t think too much about this animated release at the time. But THEN I heard an animation major gush about this movie and decided to give it a go.
Oh. My. Gosh. This movie is not only one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen but one of the best overall films I have ever seen! It brought Spiderman’s origin story to life so well I watched it four times in a row to pick up as much as I could. The visuals just blew me away, the soundtrack has become one of my favorites, and the film’s use of reversals kept me riveted to my seat.
If you haven’t seen this movie and you love superhero movies and action this is definitely the movie for you! I recommend it to everyone honestly. You should seen this movie at least once.
2. Song of the Sea, 2014 Ireland
Captivating and Gentle
This is the most visually beautiful movie I have seen to date. Every frame feels like an elaborate painting. It is a masterpiece of visual storytelling because the most engaging plot points of the movie came through its animation and music. I felt as though it transported me to Ireland and helped me remember the old stories and myths which were once so important. It made me realize the power of remembering and moving forward. There really is too much I could gush about this movie and my experiences watching it.
For to today, I simply recommend it to animation lovers and those looking to understand or catch a glimpse of Irish culture.
1. The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ,Kaze Tachinu), 2013 Japan
“I wanted to create something that is realistic,
at times caricatured,
but as a whole, a beautiful film.” (January 10, 2011 Hayao Miyazaki)
Tender and Lifechanging
Everyone who knows me understands how I feel about this movie. I love all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films but this one holds an especially important place in my heart. I love its protagonist Jiro Hirokoshi and his quest to fulfill his dreams to create beautiful airplanes. I love the movie’s theme, “The wind is Rising, we must live” and how well the story, animation and character development exemplifies it. I love his relationship with Naoko.
The story centers on dreams to be sure, but it also focuses on living: living through a time of tragedy, living for a loved one, and living for a dream doomed to be exploited. I marveled watching Jiro grow from boy to man. His genuine love for others and kind demeanor touched me. At a glance he is no one extraordinary, yet for me, he was one of the most inspiring heroes and men I have ever seen in film.
I recommend this movie for Hayao Miyazaki fans and for anyone who wishes to glimpse a beautiful life and story by one of cinema’s great filmmakers.
This is some fantastic list! I love animation and am a big fan of Makoto Shinkai. I agree with many of your choices. I had no idea about Long Way North, thanks for introducing this one to me! It is also great to see on this list Big Fish & Begonia! I can also recommend April and the Extraordinary World (2016) and The Illusionist (2010). I thought these were also very well-done.
I actually really liked The Illusionist. It was a vividly beautiful film. It reminded me of how silent films used to be made. I do need to watch April and the Extraordinary world. The list goes on and on.
Yes, it is impossible to put everything and there are so many great animations. I am really enjoying your website, very in-depth, fascinating articles and fabulous content!
Thank you much! I’m actually excited to look through more of your website as well.