10 Underrated Animated Movies From the Last 5 Years, Ranked

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10 Underrated Animated Movies From the Last 5 Years, Ranked

Animation continues to prove itself to be one of the most versatile and adaptable forms of feature-length filmmaking, with there being no shortage of original and inventive animated films being created. This continues to be the case even to this day, with films like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, and Nimona proving the continuous capability of the medium.

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However, for every critically acclaimed and box office success story for animation, there are also animated films that are left to the wayside and often forgotten or ignored by the general public. It’s a shame, as more often than not, films that can stand toe to toe with the best of the era are cast aside, never getting the opportunity to shine that they truly deserve. While it may be easier to be pessimistic about recent releases, countless animated hidden gems prove that animation is still as inspiring and beautiful as it has ever been.

10 ‘Wish Dragon’ (2021)

Wish Dragon follows the story of Din, a teen determined to reconnect with his former childhood best friend now that they have both grown apart from one another. Din in his efforts miraculously meets a magical wish-granting dragon, who can use his magic to help him reignite his friendship, as well as many other limitless possibilities.

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While Wish Dragon may have too many similarities with Disney’s Aladdin for some viewers, the film does enough with its character dynamics and expansive setting to set itself apart from the Disney classic. The vocal performances from Jimmy Wong, John Cho, and Constance Wu especially do a great job of elevating the viewing experience, as well as the passionate connection the film holds to its roots.

9 ‘The First Slam Dunk’ (2022)

A still from The First Slam Dunk, featuring all 5 members of the Shohoku Basketball Team

The First Slam Dunk follows the underdog Shohoku High School basketball team as they face their greatest enemies yet, the undefeated Sannoh Kogyo High School Team. The film cuts between the humble beginnings of the five core team members and their high-stakes championship match, as they continue to face insurmountable odds to become champions themselves.

Anime films as a whole have been experimenting more and more with mixing 3D computer animation with the classic 2D animation style Japan is famous for, and The First Slam Dunk is the pinnacle of this evolution. The film is seamlessly able to balance between both animation styles, allowing the high-octane sports action to deliver that much more in a way that hasn’t been seen before in animation.

8 ‘Seal Team’ (2021)

A still from the animated film Seal Team

Seal Team follows the story of Quinn, a lovable kindhearted seal who after losing his best friend in a shark attack, assembles a powerful Seal Team in order to fight back against the sharks taking over his neighborhood. While not initially successful, they enlist the help of experienced fighter Claggart in order to have a fighting chance against the dangerous sharks.

Seal Team‘s greatest strength is its top-notch writing, as the film is brimming with a number of hilarious comedic moments, further amplified by the stellar vocal cast for the film. The likes of J.K. Simmons, Matthew Rhys, Kristen Schaal, and Patrick Warburton help to make Seal Team a consistently hilarious film that is filled with surprises around every corner.

7 ‘Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie’ (2022)

rise-of-the-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-the-movie-cast
Image via Netflix

The feature-length continuation of the animated television series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie has the turtles teaming up in order to save the earth from total destruction. When a mysterious ally arrives from the future warning of the Earth’s destruction, the turtles set out to stop the Foot Clan from unleashing the deadly Krang aliens upon the world.

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Even as a continuation to a series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie works great as a standalone story and doesn’t require any viewing of the original series to get full enjoyment out of it. The film is also filled with beautiful action-packed 2D animation that is so rarely seen in modern-day Western animation, acting as one of the most visually mesmerizing films in recent memory. The film makes for the perfect film to watch before checking out the brand-new turtles movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

6 ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ (2021)

A still from Ron's Gone Wrong featuring Ron sitting next to Barney.

Ron’s Gone Wrong takes place in a world where nearly every while has their own walking talking robot that’s connected to the internet to become their own personal best friend. Young Barney soon figures out that his robot buddy, Ron, is unlike any of the other robots, and as a result, the duo gets into a wide variety of shenanigans and mischief.

While stories between a boy and a robot buddy have been far from new, Ron’s Gone Wrong builds upon the premise with more modern day aspects that help distinguish it as one of the best retellings of the premise. It helps that Zach Galifianakis‘s portrayal of the robot buddy Ron is one of the consistently funniest and most charming characters in recent memory, genuinely rivaling some of the best robots in film.

5 ‘The Willoughbys’ (2020)

A still from Netflix's The Willoughbys featuring the four Willoughby children, Tim, Jane, and the Barnaby Twins.

The Willoughbys follows the story of the four lonesome Willoughby children after they are left to fend for themselves after being abandoned by their selfish parents. The children are forced to adapt the old-fashioned values imbued by their parents if they want to stand a chance in the modern contemporary world. In the process, the children find themselves adapting and transforming into something they never thought they would have, a true family.

The Willoughbys features a great visual style that blends the best parts of modern 3D visuals with a flashy, highly energetic, and full-of-comedy animation style. The film approaches its animation style by finding inspiration from stop-motion and more stylized CGI, creating a distinct and original visual style for the film. The tone of the film is much more in line with the darker and surprisingly mature tales of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton, which combined with the film’s knack for high-octane humor makes for an electric on-screen combination.

4 ‘Suzume’ (2022)

suzume no tojimari
Image via Crunchyroll

Suzume follows the story of Suzume, a lonesome teenage girl who is drifting through life when she crosses paths with a mysterious man on her way to school. Her curiosity gets the better of her, and her investigation of where he ends up results in unleashing a terrible calamity that threatens the entirety of Japan. Suzume and the mysterious man soon team up in traveling across Japan in order to make things right once again.

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Director Makoto Shinkai has made a name for himself in recent years with a number of amazing and emotionally resonating films, such as Weathering With You and Your Name. Suzume is simply the latest masterwork love story to come from the director and is able to reach similar emotional highs as his previous two films, in combination with the beautiful animation style that is custom for his films.

3 ‘Mad God’ (2021)

The Assassin from Mad God
Image via Tippett Studio

Mad God is an experimental stop-motion horror film passion project that was pioneered and created by legendary visual effects artist Phil Tippett, known for his work on the original Star Wars trilogy and Jurassic Park. The film takes a look inside a forbidden and haunted world filled with tortured souls and unthinkable horrors as it follows a single man as he travels further down the depths.

Nearly every frame of Mad God can be described as its own breathtaking and mesmerizing work of art, as the film is filled with jaw-dropping scenery and masterfully built sets, painstakingly animated in a classic stop-motion style. The style and flair are at the forefront of the film, as there is very little actual dialogue within the film, making for an expansive and limitless experience where every audience member can garner their own meaning from the film.

2 ‘Entergalactic’ (2022)

entergalactic-4
Image via Netflix

Entergalactic is an adult romantic comedy released as a visual companion piece to Kid Cudi‘s album of the same name. The film follows artists Jabari and Meadow, who are both dealing with their own individual struggles of balancing work life with love before they connect with one another and are able to find a compromise. The film follows the rise of their relationship and the undeniable emotional weight that comes from finding your perfect match.

Even as a film that’s purpose is that of a 90-minute music video, Entergalactic still proves itself to be a true cinematic experience and worth watching on its own merit, even if you aren’t a fan of Cudi’s music. Romantic comedies are a genre so rarely touched upon in animation, especially ones that are targeted toward adults. Seeing this style of story told within the medium with such beautiful visuals makes for a satisfying and beautiful experience.

1 ‘Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood’ (2022)

Apollo 10 1_2
Image via Netflix

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood follows the recollection of a man’s childhood memories as a 10-year-old in 1969 Houston. The film weaves together the beautiful tales of nostalgia of the era with the unbelievable story of how he was sent to the moon months before Neil Armstrong would take his first steps.

Director Richard Linklater only occasionally takes the plunge into the world of animation, yet each animated film he’s made has made tremendous use of feature-length rotoscoping to create a visual masterpiece. Apollo 10½ is no different, as it is able to use its visual style to further amplify the film’s powerful aura of nostalgia and comfort. Complete with a near-perfect vocal performance from Jack Black as the narrator, Apollo 10½ makes for one of the most unique animated films in recent memory, on top of being one of the best.

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