Sunday 16 March 2014

Ranking the Best Animated Feature Winners - From Worst to Best

Another Oscar ceremony has passed and another animated film has been crowned as the best of the year. Frozen was awarded the Best Animated Feature prize, marking the first win for Walt Disney Animation Studios in that category. But, how does it compare to the previous winners? Let's take a look at the films that have won in this category since its inception in 2002.

13. Happy Feet (2006)

Happy Feet is a film that came out at the right time and that - more than its own merits - is why it was awarded the Oscar. Released the same year An Inconvenient Truth and a year after March of the Penguins, the global warming issue was raging all around the world and Happy Feet was a perfect fit for it. The Academy loves films with "serious" messages, and Happy Feet met the requirements. Unfortunately, viewed without all this baggage, Happy Feet is only a serviceable story that stumbles in its third act as it tries to combine the fun and toe-tapping mood with the serious issue of global warming. Compared to another nominee, Cars, the film does not offer as many thrills; in the end it's a mixed bag of catchy music and half baked drama that never quite takes off.

Other nominees:
Monster House

12. Brave (2012)

Pixar won its latest Oscar with this story of an outspoken and strong-willed girl and her problematic relationship with her mother. While it does offer plenty of spectacle and a surprisingly heartfelt story, it's not as good as some of Pixar's previous efforts and winners. Some controversy also started because it was widely held that Disney Animation's Wreck-It Ralph would take the award, and that it was the better film. Even if that is true, Brave's no slouch either. In one of the most competitive years in that field, with many excellent films, Brave is a worthy winner, even if it wasn't the best of them.

Other nominees:
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
Wreck-It Ralph

11. Shrek (2001)

There's still an ongoing debate of whether Shrek or Monsters, Inc. deserved the first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. But, even though I do prefer the latter, I can't say that Shrek didn't deserve it. It's a great film that still feels fresh now, even with some dated pop-culture references. And while its countless sequels have somewhat tarnished its relevancy, it can't be denied the importance that Shrek has, being the film that put DreamWorks Animation on the map.

Other nominees:
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Monsters, Inc.

10. Rango (2011)

A unique film with bizarre characters and a fresh premise, Rango is the odd winner in this field. But, that doesn't matter, as it really provides a unique kind of entertainment that's not very usually seen in mainstream animation. Controversy was again present in this year, as many claimed that the best film was The Adventures of Tintin, which was not even nominated (a result of the Academy's very shoddy rules when it comes to defining animation). However, controversy or no, Rango is a great film with exquisite animation. And, although it might be a little bizarre for some people, it offers a unique experience that is all too rare in animated films.

Other nominees:
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

09. Finding Nemo (2003)

Pixar's first Oscar winner in this category also became one of its biggest hits. A heartfelt story about father and son and an epic quest in the ocean; a classic film imbued with stellar animation and top-notch voice acting. The other nominees didn't stand a chance against it and there's no question that Finding Nemo deserved the Oscar.

Other nominees:
Brother Bear
The Triplets of Belleville

08. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Aardman won their first (and, so far, only) Oscar in this category by taking their most recognizable characters and putting them in an exciting adventure. Wallace & Gromit offers the same charm as the short films, but, by expanding it to feature-length format, it gives ample time to explore more about these characters and their unique dynamic. The three nominees were very strong that year, but Wallace & Gromit was the best.

Other nominees:
Corpse Bride
Howl's Moving Castle

07. Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille was a troubled production, with original director Jan Pinkava being replaced by Brad Bird. But, if you've seen the film, you will hardly notice any troubles, as the finished thing is completely flawless. Taking the unique premise of a rat who wants to be a chef, the film tackles many relevant themes and its story is fresh and timely. Ratatouille once more cemented Pixar's dominance in the category and in the animation industry.

Other Nominees:
Surf's Up

06. Frozen (2013)

The most recent Oscar winner is a superb spectacle with gorgeous animation, amazing songs and endearing characters. The only fairy tale to win the Oscar, Frozen has become a cultural phenomenon and it's Disney Animation's biggest film of all time. In a disappointing year for animation, Frozen easily rose to the top and cemented Disney Animation's spectacular comeback as a leading animation studio.

Other nominees:
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises

05. Wall-E (2008)

Pixar once again wowed audiences around the world, with a unique romantic story about two robots. Andrew Stanton helmed this beautiful tale where the lead character hardly says a word. Beautiful animation compliments the already superb story, which manages to teach timeless messages without becoming preachy or heavy-handed (unlike Happy Feet), all while offering top-notch entertainment for everyone.

Other nominees:
Kung Fu Panda

04. Up (2009)

One of the finest films of all time, Up took everyone by surprise by creating the most heartfelt and heartbreaking beginning to any film. An adventurous story with a 70 year old man doesn't sound very appealing, but just leave it to Pixar to create a magical film from that. Brimming with wonderful supporting characters and colourful animation, Up rose to the top in what I think has been the strongest year of nominees so far.

Other nominees:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

03. Spirited Away (2002)

Miyazaki is considered the best living animator, and with good reason. If you need any proof, just look at what is arguably his best film. The only non-American film to win the award, Spirited Away is a complex and powerful story about a girl on a quest to save her parents and discover who she truly is. Full of bizarre characters, symbolism and wonderful character animation, Spirited Away is one of the best films ever and one of Ghibli's most enduring classics. Even in a very competitive year like 2002, no other film was a match for Miyazaki's unlimited imagination.

Other nominees:
Lilo & Stitch
Treasure Planet
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Ice Age

02. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Sequels are a tricky proposition, but Pixar managed to create not one, but two, great sequels to its debut film. Toy Story 3 is the culmination of a wonderful journey that began in 1995; whereas most sequels feel forced, Toy Story 3 feels like an organic completion to Woody and the rest of the gang's story. Though it's full of humour and action, the story is nonetheless one of the most heartfelt in the history of cinema. The film speaks to audiences on many levels and everyone can relate to its story. Toy Story 3 is not only the culmination of a wonderful trilogy, but also a testament to Pixar's mastery with animation.

Other nominees:
How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist

01. The Incredibles (2004)

My favorite Pixar film and one of my favourite films of all time, The Incredibles is the best film that has won the Oscar in this category. The Incredibles is also the best superhero film ever made, because it's not only about people with extraordinary powers, but also about a dysfunctional family just trying to fit in. The film succeeds because it treat its characters like humans and each one of them has to deal with their particular dramas. They must figure out how to be a family in order to be strong, and that's something that speaks to all audiences. It also helps that it has a witty script and spectacular action sequences, making it an exhilarating experience.

Other nominees:
Shrek 2
Shark Tale (I still can't believe this one got nominated...)

How do you rank the best animated feature winners? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I more or less agree; while I'm much more fond of Happy Feet than it sounds like you are, I agree it's probably the weakest of the bunch. Though, for my money, Toy Story 3 is easily the best.

    Here's my list:

    13. Happy Feet
    12. Rango
    11. Shrek
    10. Brave
    9. Finding Nemo
    8. Ratatouille
    7. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
    6. Frozen
    5. Spirited Away
    4. The Incredibles
    3. WALL-E
    2. Up
    1. Toy Story 3

  2. Isn't Shrek the first fairy tale to win the oscar, I know its unconventional but its still a fairy tale regardless.

  3. Everything Pixar16 March 2014 at 16:22

    No love for Ratatouille or Finding Nemo?!

  4. Oh I do love them, and objectively-speaking they're brilliant, they're just a bit lower down my own personal list.

  5. Renard N. Bansale17 March 2014 at 00:45

    My rankings:

    13.) Happy Feet (I don't care about your opinion on Cars. Cars should have won that Oscar.)
    12.) Shrek (witty but dating fast)
    11.) Wallace & Gromit (mostly weak year)
    10.) Brave (my 2nd to WI-R)
    9.) Rango
    8.) Up
    7.) Frozen
    6.) Finding Nemo
    5.) The Incredibles
    4.) Ratatouille
    3.) Spirited Away (Miyazaki)
    2.) Toy Story 3
    1.) WALL-E (it's my favorite animated film of all time)

  6. Munir Abedrabbo17 March 2014 at 01:51

    You're right but what I meant is that Frozen is the only "traditional" fairy tale. As you said, Shrek is an unconventional take on the genre.

  7. My strange list:

    13 Shrek.
    12 Finding Nemo.
    11 Brave.
    10 Toy Story 3.
    9 WALL-E.
    8 Happy Feet.
    7 Ratatouille.
    6 Rango.
    5 The Incredibles.
    4 Wallace & Gromit.
    3 up.
    2 Spirited Away
    1 frozen.

  8. Hmm I disagree that 2013 was a disappointing year for animation, I would have happily seen any of the other well crafted 2013 nominees win over Frozen for all it's plot holes. Especially since I read most of the oscar voters didn't even watch all the nominees. Frozen has it's fun parts but for me the other films had much stronger plots & character development. Especially Croods or the two foreign entries. But here's my ranking of the winners. >.>
    13. Rango (preferred Tintin)
    12. Wallace & Gromit (preferred Howl's Moving Castle)
    11. Shrek (preferred Monsters Inc.)
    10. Happy Feet
    9. Brave (preferred Ralph)
    8. Frozen (preferred Croods)
    7. The Incredibles
    6. Ratatouille
    5. Up
    4. Finding Nemo
    3. WALL-E
    2. Toy Story 3
    1. Spirited Away

  9. 2013 definitely had some good films in it (really liked The Croods, loved Monsters U and Despicable Me 2, adored Frozen), but, compared to 2012, where we had at least 5 stellar films, it was a bit of a downer...

    P.S. I'm with you on Rango/Tintin and Shrek/Monsters, Inc.!

  10. I really love Monsters University and I like to see that on the #1 best Pixar movie list! I am just a 13 yr old boy but very related to College Movies! I wish MU was the #1 list.. :)

    My Favorite Pixar Movie List:

    1. Monsters University
    2. The Croods
    3. Up
    4. Wall E
    5. Toy Story
    6. Cars 1
    7. Toy Story 2
    8. Frozen
    9. Ratatouille
    10. Brave