While animated movies are often thought of as only entertainment for kids, the true magic of well-crafted animation is the depth of its storytelling. Sure, they include simple jokes, sight gags, and funny lines intended to make young viewers giggle, but these films can also provide adult audience members with kernels of wisdom that are so acutely true to life that they really make you think.
Below, we’ve assembled some of the great animated movies that not only dazzle with engaging illustration, but with their insights into what it means to be alive in this world.
The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant is a sweet and tender tale about the friendship between a young boy and a gargantuan robot in the midst of the Cold War. Though they obviously couldn’t be more different, the two learn to love one another precisely for these differences, a lesson of which we could all take note. And when it comes time for one of them to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the safety of the other (no spoilers!), the choice practically makes itself.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest
A beautifully animated classic from the early ’90s, FernGully taught a generation of children to cherish the environment. While some could write it off as nothing more than a kid’s flick, this movie dug into serious issues, including conservation and deforestation, topics we’re still discussing today. Plus, who among us didn’t want to live amid all those magical creatures in the rainforest?
How to Train Your Dragon
From the outside looking in, How to Train Your Dragon appears to be a simple tale about a young boy bonding with a dragon. But once you watch this animated movie, you quickly realize there’s a lot more going on here. This is a film about bucking tradition in order to do what’s right, which in this case is befriending a dragon though it goes against Viking law. Ultimately, it’s a story about being brave enough to choose love over fear, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
The Brave Little Toaster
A slightly bizarre film about a ragtag gang of home appliances going on a long odyssey to find their lost owner, The Brave Little Toaster actually packs quite the punch. There are themes of friendship here, of course, but mostly this is a film about courage. In this world, even an old-fashioned toaster can be a hero as long as it listens to its heart and never gives up hope. Equal parts tear-jerker and thrilling action flick, this animated movie is definitely worth a revisit.
An American Tail
A film that feels particularly timely in our current political climate, An American Tail centers on the story of young Jewish mouse Fievel Mousekewitz, who’s fleeing Russia for the United States at the turn of the century. It’s a fast-paced movie, but touches on major themes of immigration, anti-semitism, and the importance of family, all the while providing viewers with some incredible music. Certainly meant for kids, but thought-provoking for us all.
As classic as classic gets, Charlotte’s Web is a family-friendly animated movie about the love between rambunctious pig Wilbur and his guardian spider, Charlotte. Though it’s definitely a funny movie full of jokes and clever wordplay, at its core, it’s about death and how grief can be a lighthouse in the dark. Here, the idea of someone passing away isn’t portrayed as just a sad act, but rather as a natural part of life that shouldn’t be feared.