Disney is one of the biggest names in animation in the world. However, they’re not the only ones. They have to compete with names like DreamWorks and Studio Ghibli, which also draw millions of fans with every new release. So, what are some of the best non-Disney animated movies?

10. The Road to El Dorado

A cult classic produced by Universal Studios and released in 2000. Although critics have bashed this movie, years later, many adore it, and it now has a close following.

This movie deserves a spot on this list. Admittedly, The Road to El Dorado isn’t particularly deep, but it’s fun to watch with entertaining songs, characters, and an engaging plot. The designs are bright and fun, with music by Elton John and genuinely funny dialogue.

9. Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso was released in 1992 to acclaim across the globe, and is truly an underrated Studio Ghibli film. This is the peak of Hayao Miyazaki’s display of his love of planes while being a charming story of romance and adventure.

Porco Rosso is a compelling main character with terrific one-liners and a suave attitude that wins the hearts of both the characters in the film and the audience. The film also has more than a handful of well-written, strong female characters who take control of the story and their own destiny. It deserves not only this spot on a list like this but also more attention from the Ghibli-loving fan base.

8. Castle in the Sky

The first film released by Studio Ghibli in 1986 is a classic. Castle in the Sky was the studio’s first movie, setting a tone for the movies that would follow. Miyazaki and many past colleagues of his were also in charge of this film.

This movie has a charming animation style and environmental themes, and it discusses the dangers of technology. The relationship between the main protagonists is compelling and heartwarming, and you never stop rooting for them for a minute. Even the villains are entertaining and interesting to figure out through their interactions in the film.

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7. Kung Fu Panda 2

DreamWorks produced and released the Kung Fu Panda series. The first film was released in 2008, and the second was came out in 2011. Although these movies are intended for children, it’s genuinely one of the most charming and heartfelt franchises out there. The second movie dives deeper into the character’s backstories and motivations.

It’s a heartwarming tale about working through trauma and letting go of the past as Po confronts his origins. Chen is one of the most compelling villains to hit the animation scene, with an intimidating demeanor and a grudge against the main character. The undeniable ties between Po and Chen are what makes this movie stand out from the rest of the Kung Fu Panda films.

6. Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse

It would be a crime for this film not to make a list like this. Into the Spider-verse was released by Sony in “collaboration” with Marvel. Although Marvel Studios is allowed to use Spiderman, Sony Pictures still owns the character. So, Sony owns the Spider-verse movies and released the first one in 2018.

This movie pushes the boundaries of the animation industry with ambitious formatting and color. The utilization of comic-book themes and stylization made this movie pop and refreshed an industry stuck in its ways. Not to mention the variety of characters, creative designs, and personalities made every moment entertaining.

5. Anastasia

Produced by 20th Century Fox, this musical, released in 1997, finally reaches the list. The story is very loosely inspired by the Russian royal family. Granted, historical inaccuracies have never stopped an animated movie from being popular. The story is full of life and inspired many other adaptations of the Anastasia story, including the popular stage musical of the same name.

The romance and character dynamics are fun and genuine. The songs are catchy and stand the test of time, with dynamic lyrics and animations to back them up. Truly, a classic Disney level of charm and love poured into this movie.

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4. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

A sequel to a Shrek spinoff movie may be a surprising take, but it proved itself to be one of the best modern animated films. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was released by DreamWorks in 2022 and immediately became a huge hit. Since it was released so long after the original Puss in Boots movie in 2011, it’s not necessary to have seen it. Nor is it really required to have seen the Shrek movies he appears in (although they are fun watches in their own right).

The movie perfectly balances the light comedy and banter between characters with serious discussions of anxiety and mortality. Not to mention what was one of the most terrifying villains of any animated movie out there. The haunting whistle tone left an eerie air over the movie theater, on top of memorable fight scenes. All this contrasted with caricatures of fairytales in classic Shrek universe fashion.

3. Spirited Away

This 2001 film, written by Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli, was hugely popular upon release because of its charming story and engaging animation. It was the highest-grossing movie in Japan for nineteen years and is beloved for its whimsy and creativity.

Although it can be a little spooky, the light moments far outweigh the more thrilling points of Spirited Away. Miyazaki perfectly highlights the anti-greed and anti-overconsumption themes underlying the entire movie. The movie has a delicate balance between traditional Japanese culture and Western capitalism and consumption, with many characters being obsessed with gold and money when all the main character wants is her friends and family.

2. The Iron Giant

Set during the Cold War, The Iron Giant was produced by Warner Bros. and released in 1999. It was directed by Brad Bird as his directorial debut. He was in the process of grieving his sister, who had been shot and killed by her husband, setting the foundation of the movie, “what if a gun had a soul, and didn’t want to be a gun?”

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It discusses anti-war and anti-gun violence themes tastefully and the importance of not fearing what we don’t understand. In Cold War era America, the US Government is quick to assume that the robot is inherently dangerous, and it takes a kid being brought up watching duck-and-cover demonstrations to tell them that it’s not. And sure, the Iron Giant may be designed to be a weapon, but all it really wants to do is protect its friends.

1. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a true gem, born from a manga series penned and illustrated by the visionary Hayao Miyazaki. Its journey began in 1982 and continued till 1994, culminating in the release of the movie in 1984. This masterpiece laid the foundation for the beloved Japanese animation studio we know today.

Nausicaa is the pinnacle of Miyazaki’s environmental and anti-war sentiments and his adoration of flight. The princess, Nausicaa, is a curious, brave, and passionate young woman who believes in the sanctity of life in a world infected with fear and greed.  She learns that rage and wrath can be dangerous tools, and life would be better for her people and for people worldwide if they could live in peace. It’s up to her to end the conflict between people and the toxic jungle and live in harmony with nature.

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