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10 underrated animated films to add to your watchlist

Animation has gone undervalued by many while having a dedicated base of admirers. Here are 10 underrated animated movies to add to your watch list:

Secret of the Kells

The first of Cartoon Saloon’s masterworks of feature-length films, “The Secret of Kells,” is a 2009 animated fantasy drama film about the making of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the ninth century. The film premiered on Feb. 8, 2009, at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature but lost to Pixar's “Up.”

Despite its love from critics, many people have never heard of this movie. Cartoon Saloon’s stylistic animation is beautiful and is paired with haunting yet majestic music and sound design; this heart-wrenching story is sure to change your life.

Revolting Rhymes

“Revolting Rhymes” (2016) is a two-part British computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama television film written and directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer. The film is adapted from the 1982 book of the same name written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake.

“Revolting Rhymes” retells six classic fairy tales, intertwining Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Three Little Pigs and Snow White in a distinct and surprising way. A dark, fresh look at these classic fairy tales told through a unique animation style, this film will have you on the edge of your seat. 

Ernest and Celestine

“Ernest & Celestine” is a 2012 animated comedy-drama film directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner. The film is based on a series of children's books of the same name published by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent.

The film received widespread acclaim and became the first animated film to win the Magritte Award for Best Film. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 86th Academy Awards, but it lost to Walt Disney Animation Studios' animated musical “Frozen.” Yet again, the film is not well known among general moviegoers despite its many adoring fans.

This touching story of the unlikely friendship and found family between two misfits, a mouse and a bear, is a beautiful, heartfelt story with amazing watercolor visuals to boot. 

Mune: Guardian of the Moon

“Mune: Guardian of the Moon” (2014) is a French animated fantasy film directed by Benoît Philippon and Alexandre Heboyan and written by Jérôme Fansten and Benoît Philippon. The film premiered at Forum des images on Dec. 6, 2014, and was theatrically released in France on Oct. 14, 2015. It received various nominations and eventually won the Young People's Jury Award at the TIFF Kids International Film Festival and the Best Film Award at the Tokyo Anime Awards.

The criminally under-watched movie tells the story of the Moon's newly elected guardian, Mune, who must recover the stolen sun. The unique character designs, mix of animation styles, imaginative story and universe design make this film a worthwhile watch. 

Song of the Sea

“Song of the Sea” is another Cartoon Saloon movie, but it still deserves a spot on this list. “Song of the Sea” is a 2014 animated fantasy film directed and co-produced by Tomm Moore and written by Will Collins from Moore's story. The film follows the story of a 10-year-old Irish boy named Ben who discovers his mute sister, Saoirse, is a selkie. Saoirse has to free faerie creatures from the Celtic goddess Macha in an extremely touching story as beautiful as the rest of Cartoon Saloon’s works. “Song of the Sea” also deserves a watch.

Doukyusei -Classmates-

This film will be a familiar title for those in the anime community. “Classmates,” also known as “Doukyusei,” is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Asumiko Nakamura. The series follows the relationship between students Rihito Sajō and Hikaru Kusakabe, who meet while attending an all-boys high school.

First published in the manga magazine Opera in July 2006, “Classmates” has spawned multiple sequels, spinoffs and an anime film adaption of the first volume of the series, “Doukyusei: Classmates,” which was produced by A-1 Pictures and released in February 2016. Beautiful animation paired with a passionate love story makes “Doukyusei” a worthwhile watch even for the average American audience. 

The Sea Beast

“The Sea Beast” is the most recent of the movies on this list, but very few are discussing this film. A 2022 animated adventure film directed by Chris Williams, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nell Benjamin, “The Sea Beast” tells the story of a sea monster hunter and a young orphan girl who joins his crew on their search for an elusive sea-monster known as the Red Bluster. It, too, was lauded by critics and became the most successful Netflix original animated film, earning several nominations, including Best Animated Feature at the 95th Academy Awards, but lost to another Netflix animation, “Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.”

The animation in this film is crisp with a variety of diverse and unique character designs; these endearing characters will enthrall you in their story in no time.

Kubo and the Two Strings

LAIKA is another animation studio that has gone largely ignored by the general public while having a dedicated fanbase due to its spectacular movies. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one of its best works, but is lesser known.

The film is directed by Travis Knight with a screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler from a story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes. “Kubo and the Two Strings” revolves around Kubo, a young boy who wields a magical shamisen (a Japanese stringed instrument) and whose left eye was stolen during infancy.

Accompanied by an anthropomorphic snow monkey and stag beetle, he must embark on a quest to defeat his mother's evil twin sisters, Washi and Karasu, and his power-hungry grandfather, the Moon King, who is responsible for stealing his left eye. The stop motion in this film is phenomenal, and the music is masterful. This film is a must-watch for movie-goers everywhere. 

Sinbad: Legend of Seven Seas

“Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” (also known as simply “Sinbad”) is a 2003 American animated adventure film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. Directed by Tim Johnson and Patrick Gilmore and written by John Logan, the film tells the story of Sinbad, a pirate who travels the sea with his dog and his loyal crew, alongside Marina, the fiancée of his childhood friend Prince Proteus, to recover the stolen Book of Peace from Eris to save Proteus from approving Sinbad's death sentence. The animation in this film is spectacular, and although it’s a childhood classic for many it is underappreciated.


“9” is a 2009 animated science fiction film directed by Shane Acker, written by Pamela Pettler and produced by Jim Lemley, Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov and Dana Ginsburg. Set in an alternate version of the 1940s, the film follows a rag doll labeled "9" who awakens shortly after the end of mankind following the uprising of machines. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but the incredibly unique characters and storyline make this movie a worthwhile watch for any film fan. 

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