While animated movies aimed at teenagers and adults come along occasionally, all of the biggest animation studios – Pixar, Illumination, and Dreamworks, to name a few – direct their films towards children and families. The bulk of PG-13 animated movies are art films and anime, and usually only recognized by Western audiences for their appearance at awards shows, such as the Oscars, or for the acknowledgment they receive from curious Internet reviewers.
But thankfully, review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes rates even the rarest of films, and today we’ve used their Adjusted Score ranking system to count down the top 10 animated films with a slightly more adult-oriented MPAA rating.
10 Tokyo Godfathers (90%)
The 2003 anime comedy Tokyo Godfathers depicts a group of three homeless people who discover a baby hidden in the garbage on Christmas Eve and, armed only with a small packet of evidence, set out in the hopes that they can find its family, encountering several strange characters and facing their own personal problems along the way.
The film received several awards at Japanese film festivals and was met with critical acclaim, being praised as a beautiful reimagining of the “classic” animated Christmas film, but with a more adult feel.
9 The Boy and the Beast (90%)
The Boy and the Beast, a 2016 anime action film, tells the story of Kyuta, a nine-year-old orphan who runs from the home of his legal guardians and into the busy Shibuya municipality. When he discovers the lonely creature Kumatetsu, who needs a disciple in order to become the leader of the Beast Kingdom, they form a father-son bond and go on an incredible adventure together.
The film received praise (and a Japan Academy Film Prize for Animation of the Year) for its eclectic mix of concepts and dazzling visual flair, with various critics commending it as a film that has something in it for everyone, regardless of interests or age group.
8 The Wind Rises (88%)
The anime biopic The Wind Rises, created by acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (of Spirited Away fame) and released by famed animation production company Studio Ghibli, is a fictionalized retelling of the inspiration behind Jiro Horikoshi’s intricate and elaborate designs, honoring the life of the near-sighted engineer and fighter aircraft artisan who wanted to create something beautiful.
The film’s messages and tone were described as honest and bittersweet, with critics praising the more mature storytelling method of the film compared to Miyazaki’s other work. The film also received several accolades, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.
7 The Simpsons Movie (88%)
The first non-anime film on our list, this film adaptation of the popular animated sitcom The Simpsons follows the titular dysfunctional family’s donut-loving patriarch Homer as his laziness leads him to cause a major environmental disaster in his hometown of Springfield, creating a chain reaction of events that comes to a chaotic climax when US President Arnold Schwarzenegger orders the town’s destruction.
The 2007 film is considered by many to be a high point in the history of the television series, boasting a hilariously satirical storyline combined with top-notch 2D animation and an impeccable sense of self-awareness that recaptures the sitcom’s highest points.
6 Princess Mononoke (93%)
Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki makes his second appearance on this list with his wondrously animated fantasy epic Princess Mononoke. Set in the fourteenth century, the film follows exiled prince Ashitaka, cursed to die after an attack from a demon boar, who, while searching for a cure for his strange affliction, gets caught up in a war which he unsuccessfully tries to end and meets San, a wolf-raised warrior-princess who has sworn to protect the forest she lives in from human destruction.
The film’s messages, plot, characters, and visuals have all been the recipients of approbation, with many reviewers praising the film’s complex philosophical themes and well-known critic Roger Ebert calling the film “one of the best films of .”
5 The Triplets of Belleville (94%)
This 2003 French comedy tells its story primarily through pantomime, relying little on dialogue to emphasize its themes. It follows the adventures of Madame Souza, an elderly woman who travels to the fictional metropolis of Belleville and teams up with a trio of singers to rescue her professional cyclist son Champion from the clutches of the French mafia.
The film’s surreal imagery and impressive visual direction earned it international acclaim, and it was the first PG-13 film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, despite losing to Finding Nemo.
4 The Breadwinner (95%)
The 2017 Cartoon Saloon film The Breadwinner, with famed actress Angelina Jolie as executive producer and based on the best-selling novel of the same name, follows Parvana, an eleven-year-old Iranian girl with a big imagination living in Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
After her father is misunderstood by a brash member of the Taliban and wrongfully arrested, Parvana dresses as a male to support her family while putting together a plan to rescue her father from prison. The film’s animation, story, and characters received near-universal praise, and it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, being hailed as a modern animated classic by several outlets.
3 Persepolis (96%)
Based on the autobiographical graphic novel by Iranian-born cartoonist Marjane Satrapi, the 2007 adult animated film Persepolis is a coming-of-age story following Marji, as she gains confidence and begins thinking for herself while going through various hardships in the midst of an uncertain future due to the tense political climate of Iran during the late 70s and early 80s.
The film’s black-and-white scenes, exuberant emotion, and powerful story were all lauded by reviewers, and the film remains a legendary piece of animation to this day.
2 My Life as a Zucchini (98%)
The 2016 Swiss-French stop-motion film My Life as a Zucchini features Icare, a young boy who lives with his alcoholic mother until she is killed in a freak accident. Now an orphan, the boy is sent to a foster home, where he begins to bond with other children who have shared similar experiences.
The film received extremely positive reception from critics, with many praising the film’s visual aesthetic, emotional depth, and sympathetic characters. It also received a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 89th Academy Awards.
1 Isle of Dogs (90%)
The 2018 Wes Anderson stop-motion film Isle of Dogs is set in a dystopian future version of Japan. It follows Atari, a young boy who is separated from his bodyguard-dog Spots after all members of the canine species are banished to a faraway island. He travels to the titular isle to find his furry friend, working to revitalize the dog-human connection in the process.
The clever and charming film received several nominations and won at various award shows, not to mention the astonishingly positive reviews critics gave the film, and rightfully deserves the top spot in this list as an amazing, professionally crafted film that retains animation’s cartoony aspects while still being a delightfully well-executed film for adults.
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