Best Animated Feature Oscar Winners Ranked - VRGyani News and Media


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Best Animated Feature Oscar Winners Ranked

Given that animated storytelling has existed for nearly as long as cinema itself, it’s staggering to consider that the Academy Awards, in its nearly 100-year long history, has only dedicated a category to recognizing feature-length achievements in animation since 2001. In the two decades since the Best Animated Feature category was ushered into this show, animated filmmakers have had a regular opportunity to get up on stage and explain the importance of their craft to millions worldwide.

Of course, the category has been far from perfect. In particular, the heavy skewing towards American animation, computer-animated projects, as well as works hailing from Disney, have ensured that the list of winners for Best Animated Feature is not nearly as diverse as the actual efforts produced in this medium of storytelling. Still, plenty of worthy movies have been deemed Oscar-worthy over the years. Ranking the winners of the Best Animated Feature Academy Award from worst to best allows one to appreciate the ups (and, of course, the sharp downs) of this newbie Oscars category.

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20. Happy Feet

It’s great that this movie secured George Miller his first Oscar, but that doesn’t change the fact that Happy Feet is a messy movie. Oscillating between generic cute animal adventure and a more serious-minded tale about global warming, the disparate pieces just don’t fit. It also doesn’t help that Animal Logic’s ultra-realistic computer animation has aged like milk out on the counter. Striving to emulate reality just robbed Happy Feet of a chance to deliver a distinctive visual style of its own.

19. Brave

The elements in Brave that work, like a scene cutting between Merida and her mother griping about the other person, well and truly work. But there’s too much derivative slapstick and potty humor here straining to wring laughs out of the audience. Plus, the mother turning into a bear element just can’t help but feel like reheated leftovers of Brother Bear. Pixar movies, and Best Animated Feature Oscar winners, should be more creative than that.

18. Shrek

Some of the parts of Shrek that resonated as so different and bold back in 2001 still manage to pack a punch decades later, particularly its unique approach to what it means to be “beautiful.” However, time has been far less kind to its snarky attitude and animation while the overall pop culture legacy of Shrek has proven to be far more negative than positive. Shrek still isn’t without its charms, but the first-ever Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature isn’t the ideal victor to kick off this category.

17. Frozen

In hindsight, Frozen is sandwiched in between two stronger Walt Disney Animation Studios fairy tale musicals (Tangled and Moana) that highlight its shortcomings. Chiefly, Frozen’s narrative could use some work and the character designs aren’t unique. That having been said, the parts that do work (like that “Let It Go” musical number) absolutely crackle. However, this beating out Ernest & Celestine for the Best Animated Feature Oscar is like an outright laughable outcome.

16. Toy Story 4

Did we need another Toy Story? Maybe not, but Toy Story 4 still provided a fine epilogue to the saga of Woody the Cowboy. Bonus points for providing delightful new characters like Forky and the surprisingly deep antagonist Abby Gabby. More obligatory sequels could stand to take a few cues, even just in terms of delivering basic entertainment, from Toy Story 4.

15. Zootopia

Contemplate translating Zootopia’s allegory for racism into the real world for just a moment and the movie takes on some unfortunate implications (the film gets messy in the relationships between predators and prey). Still, as a buddy-cop mystery movie, Zootopia is a fun ride, especially regarding its creative approach to utilizing the possibilities of its world based around animals. However, it’s hard not to be bitter about this film winning the Best Animated Feature considering it wasn’t even the best Disney cartoon up for the award that year (that honor goes to Moana).

14. Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 doesn’t rewrite the book when it comes to either superhero stories or animated comic book adaptations. That makes winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar over nominated titles like Song of the Sea or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya undeniably frustrating. However, on its own merits, Big Hero 6 is a super charming endeavor and gets major points for how invested it gets viewers into the plight of a chubby plastic robot named Baymax.

13. The Incredibles

The Incredibles didn’t just change the way moviegoers looked at capes forever; it also broke new ground for the kind of stories major computer-animated kids movies could tell. Discernibly real adult problems like infidelity and midlife crises weren’t as common in this then-nascent subgenre in a pre-Incredibles world. However, writer/director Brad Bird changed that forever with this superhero tale, which had no problem leapfrogging over fellow nominees Shrek 2 and Shark Tale to score a Best Animated Feature Oscar win.

12. Coco

Just on a visual level alone, it’s incredible to process Coco’s vision of the Land of the Dead. Brightly colored with stacked buildings that seem to reach far beyond the heavens, it’s a realm so glorious looking that you could make a satisfying movie just out of static wide shots of this location alone. Coco doesn’t just stop there, though, with all those dazzling sights getting accompanied by a thoughtful tale and songs as catchy as they are poignant.

11. Finding Nemo

In the years since Finding Nemo’s release, it’s been commercialized to death, with a sequel, endless theme park attractions, and even Ellen DeGeneres’ popularity is somewhat owed to this project’s success. But beneath it all, Finding Nemo still resonates as a touching father/son parable, with much of that effectiveness coming from Albert Brooks delivering an impressively human vocal performance as Marlin. True, among the Best Animated Feature nominees that year, The Triplets of Belville was superior, but Finding Nemo is still classic Pixar for all the right reasons.

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10. Inside Out

The third Pixar gem from director Pete Doctor, Inside Out is a sublime feature, particularly in how its storytelling juggled the dueling perspectives of humans in the “real world” and the emotions inside the head of protagonist Riley. The only drawback to such a special film winning Best Animated Feature at the 88th Academy Awards is that it would’ve been undeniably cool to see unorthodox nominees like Anamolisa or When Marnie Was Here take the win instead.

9. Soul

It’ll forever remain a shame that Soul couldn’t join Pete Docter’s other Pixar feature films in garnering a domestic theatrical release. However, at least this production lived up to the levels of quality established by Doctor’s proceeding works. A contemplative rumination on what defines a successful life, what really makes Soul pop is its animation. For starters, it features the best use yet of Pixar’s go-to modern aesthetic juxtaposing cartoony characters with an ultra-realistic backdrop. As a stunningly detailed vision of New York City plays as a great contrast to the ultra-stylized domain The Great Before, it becomes easy to recognize Soul as a worthy Best Animated Feature winner.

8. Rango

Gore Verbinski was already channeling pieces of classic animation with parts of his earlier directorial efforts like Mouse Hunt and even the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The man was tailor-made for the world of animated filmmaking, so it’s no surprise his first foray into this domain was a total delight. Alternating between being trippy, darkly comical, and a send-up of Western storytelling norms, Rango is a true bolt out of the blue among 2010s Western animation. Plus, thanks to the wizardry of animators at Industrial Light & Magic, it’s one of the best examples of ultra-realistic computer animation in a feature-length movie.

7. Toy Story 3

The rule of thumb in Hollywood is that the third entry in a given franchise is when the quality dips exponentially. Leave it to the Toy Story gang to subvert that expectation with Toy Story 3, which used the 11-year gap between itself and Toy Story 2 to deliver a touching tale about growing up. All these years later, that ending won’t fail to get your tear ducts watery. Meanwhile, the movie’s commitment to new characters and locations while eschewing easy fan service is exceedingly admirable.

6. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Countless times in the past, animated characters that thrived in short-form storytelling got upgraded to feature-length movies only to reveal that they were better served in smaller doses. Thankfully, that didn’t happen to the stop-motion duo Wallace & Gromit, whose first movie, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, only reinforced the character’s viability as sources of reliable comedy. Plus, it’s impressive (and more than a tad sad) that this is still the only stop-motion animated winner for Best Animated Feature.

5. Up

Some people say that only the first ten minutes of Up are any good, that the film’s entire reputation lies on that iconic prologue. While it’s true that Up opens with a bang, it’s not all downhill from there. The ensuing film continues to be a thoughtful exercise full of poignant moments expertly balanced with cartoony elements like the antics of Dug the Dog. 2009 was a strong year for animation overall, and even if Up wasn’t quite the greatest animated feature that year, it’s hard to dispute a film this good taking home the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

4. Ratatouille

The modern pop culture fascination with Ratatouille (including a star-studded TikTok musical!) is a testament to just how enduringly good and unabashedly unique this original 2007 film is. Rather than grounding the plot of a rat who wants to be a chef in reality, Ratatouille revels in the kind of stylized scenarios that could only exist in the world of animated filmmaking. The result is possibly Brad Bird’s best work yet as a filmmaker that made the prospect of rodents in a kitchen downright adorable.


From its very first shot of the cosmos accompanied by the opening lyrics of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” WALL-E is going to be something absolutely special. The rest of the production backs up that bold scene by committing to a lovestruck robot. A quietly dark apocalyptic yarn with an endearing romantic heart, WALL-E challenged the perception of what both kid-skewing films and animated storytelling could accomplish.

2. Spirited Away

It’s incredible to think that Hayao Miyazaki has only won one Best Animated Feature trophy given the enormous impact that he’s had on the medium of animated storytelling. Though he didn’t win for his absolute best directorial effort, his major Oscar victory still went to the excellent Spirited Away. A fairy tale in the best sense of the word, Spirited Away throws caution and realism to the wind to conjure up sights, like the design of No Face, that could never exist in live-action features. Powered by a zippy imaginative spirit, Spirited Away demonstrates the kind of creativity and superb filmmaking that Miyazaki has built out a name for.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Who knew the Spider-Man franchise would deliver its best entry nearly two decades into its existence? Translating the world of this web-crawler into animation, as well as shifting the focus onto Miles Morales, proved a boon for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In a Western animation landscape full of same-looking CG humans and Minion knockoffs, Spider-Verse provided endless visual imagination and one great gag after another. Really, all that one would need to justify Spider-Verse topping this list is that iconic “What’s Up Danger” scene. The precise editing, the lines it uses in voice-over, and that unforgettable shot capturing Morales falling upwards! It’s an incredible sequence emblematic of all the dazzling imagery and heart that makes Into the Spider-Verse the greatest Best Animated Feature Oscar winner to date.

KEEP READING: 7 Most Watchable Direct-to-Video Animated Disney Movies

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