Animation is a genre that seems to get better with each passing year, as technologies used to create these films improve and catch up with filmmakers’ ambitious visions. This year saw no shortage of incredible groundbreaking animated movies that continue to highlight that the genre has something to offer viewers of all ages.
The best animated movies of the year pushed the envelope in numerous ways through their complex plots, compelling characters, and, of course, innovative visuals. These top animated films are a fantastic mix of family-friendly picks and more provocative movies made for adults. From a long-awaited Studio Ghibli film to a surprisingly gorgeous superhero flick, there’s no denying that 2023 has produced some animated hits that will be remembered as genre classics.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a nostalgic treat set just a few years after the events of 2000’s Chicken Run. The sequel follows Ginger, Rocky, and the rest of the group as they live peacefully on an island. They’re completely safe from the villainous Mrs. Tweedy and other outside dangers there, but when Ginger and Rocky’s daughter, Molly, starts to ask questions about what’s outside of their little island, things take a dangerous turn.
Dawn of the Nugget is a joint effort by renowned studio Aardman Animations and the comparatively newer Netflix Animation. Audiences and critics who expected Aardman to exceed its acclaimed classics like Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep will be disappointed to learn that this 2023 movie is just good, not great. The jokes don’t always land and the voice performances fall flat at times, but it’s definitely entertaining enough to watch with friends or family. The Chicken Run sequel isn’t bad by any means and is worth checking out for fans of the original or for anyone looking for a family-friendly stop-motion movie to watch during the holidays.
A Netflix original movie based on the eponymous 2015 graphic novel by ND Stevenson, Nimona depicts a sci-fantasy reality infused with elements from the Middle Ages. Here, the titular character is a shape-shifter, frowned upon and feared in society and hunted by knights. One such knight happens to need Nimona’s help when he’s framed for a major crime, and together, they set aside their differences in search of the truth.
Nimona is a delightful, subversive, and enjoyable from start to finish that dazzles with its innovative animation and quirky characters. The film’s inspired setting is wholly original and subverts fairy tale tropes in fun ways. Nimona embraces irreverent humor while never losing sight of its more touching and surprisingly philosophical themes. For parents looking for an extraordinary viewing experience, the 2023 film is the perfect PG flick.
Suzume, the latest film from Makoto Shinkai, the director of the acclaimed anime movie Your Name, follows the titular character, a 17-year-old high school student who can see supernatural elements. This ability becomes useful when Japan faces a catastrophic threat, with the solution to the disaster only visible to Suzume and the stranger Souta Munakata. The two of them venture across the country and seal doors that appear wherever an otherworldly earth-shattering worm passes through.
Anyone who is a fan of Shinkai’s works will undoubtedly see the director’s trademarks in Suzume, from its moving plot to its beautiful visuals. Its striking animation emphasizes the contrast between light and dark elements, resulting in a dreamy, fantastical world. While its story may be predictable for those familiar with the director’s films, it’s still a magical adventure worth seeing at least once.
Hayao Miyazaki’s highly anticipated and supposed last film, The Boy and the Heron, finally made it to the big screen after seven long years. The Studio Ghibli movie is set during World War II’s Pacific War when 12-year-old Mahito Maki grapples with his mother’s sudden death and the ensuing move to a new town. There, he meets a talking grey heron, who convinces him that his mother is still alive.
Miyazaki’s latest, and potentially last, movie is certainly different from his previous works, lacking the solid storyline of Princess Mononoke and the intensity of Howl’s Moving Castle. It is instead a meditative mix of a coming-of-age experience and an exploration of grief, with Mahito’s path inextricably linked with his heartache. In this way, The Boy and the Heron manages to be both understated and deeply emotional, with each gorgeous and vividly detailed frame bringing with it a sea of sentiment.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse had the tough job of meeting the high expectations set by its predecessor, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which was a triumph for both the superhero and animation genres. Thankfully, the 2023 film not only met, but exceeded those expectations, expanding Miles’ story into a fascinating multiverse full of other Spider-People. He soon learns his special place in the chaos of these new realities, and it’s not exactly what he expects.
Across the Spider-Verse impressed audiences with bolder, more experimental, and more spectacular visuals. Different art styles collide and complement the various multiverses and Spider-People that Miles encounters, making each moment look like a work of art. Of course, the superhero movie’s narrative is incredibly exciting, too, and there are likely countless fans out there eagerly waiting to see where Miles’ transformative arc will take him in what is shaping up to be the best trilogy about Spider-Man.
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