It’s time to look at the best animated film of each year! This post is going to have a lot of gaps during the early parts as there are many years where I didn’t see a film, but I wanted to keep it separate from live action so both sides got their time to shine. Naturally if the only film that I’ve seen in a year got under a 5 then I won’t be counting it. I mainly used Wikipedia for researching this list, but you never know if I missed one or not so if I find a better movie for a year then naturally I’ll update it. 2018 is pretty early so far and I’m sure it’ll change, but I’ve still added it. Without further adieu, lets do this.
1937 Snow White
Certainly a classic film and it has the honor of being the very earliest animated film that I’ve ever seen. Considering that this was back in the 1930s the animation is actually quite good. It’s really impressive and just makes me even sadder for some of the current animated stuff that comes out.
Pinocchio is definitely a fun film and one that is certainly more intense than you may remember. The whole scene of the kid getting drunk and then everyone turning into Donkeys was quite unexpected. Definitely a film that you will take a second glance at while watching to make sure that it’s the right film.
How can you not like the concept of Dumbo? It’s about a big elephant who always knew that he had what it takes to be the best. We had some solid supporting characters here and while it would never hit it off the same way that many of the other Disney films did, the important thing is that the film had heart and never gave up without a fight. Yeah, I was having a hard time filling out this paragraph, but I did a good job I’d say.
Cinderella is definitely an intense story and one that has really aged well with the animation. 1950 was a very long time ago, but the story is remembered just as much now as it ever was. Maybe even more so with the recent remake.
1959 Sleeping Beauty
Just from this picture you can see how far Disney has come in 9 years. The animation was solid and we actually got a fight scene here which was really epic. You can’t go wrong with big dragon battles and this movie did a really good job of handling it.
1964 Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph is definitely a classic film. Santa may have been rather mean the whole time, but Rudolph never let it get to him. He’s just a very nice reindeer who always tries to do the right thing. That’s just the kind of guy he is and it’s why this special is always so emotional. The Island of Misfits was always a fun scene as well.
1969 A Boy Named Charlie Brown
The Charlie Brown series is certainly a very large franchise. This was one of the really early ones and it was a good way to get used to the cast. It’s not as if there is a huge plot or anything, but it’s a fun slice of life adventure that will claim your attention.
1970 Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
You may think that Santa was already in town, but it turns out that he had to travel. This wasn’t a great movie or anything, but it was in a relatively weak year. It’s fun enough though and will certainly put you in a Christmas mood.
1973 Charlotte’s Web
I saw Charlotte’s Web when I was really little and it was only recently that I rewatched it. It’s definitely an emotional story with Charlotte. While the parents weren’t very likable, at least the main character was ready to protect the pig. It’s a film about hard decisions for sure.
1976 Rudolph’s Shiny New Year
Who ever thought we would get a Rudolph film with a convoluted plot? Well, that’s exactly what happened with this film and it definitely turned out pretty well. It has good replay value since you’ll likely want to watch it a second time to truly appreciate how meta the plot is. It’s a film that has been forgotten by many though.
1977 Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown
It was finally time for Charlie to get a long sports film. The bullies may have been a little too intense here, but I can always appreciate a good competition. It’s not like you’d expect Charlie to do too well in such circumstances anyway, but I was still hoping that he would come out on top and finally show the world that he was a champ. Maybe next time.
1979 Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July
Who wasn’t excited when this crossover was announced? It makes so much sense and yet this film never got too popular. The plot may not have been amazing or anything, but Rudolph looked really good in the action scenes and the story just writes itself. This is hype confirmed.
1983 Mickey’s Christmas Carol
A classic take on the Christmas Carol and one that really works well. Mickey and Scrooge are perfect for the roles. Scrooge was practically born into it with such a name. It definitely has a happy ending and Scrooge does a good job of resisting the Christmas spirit before getting sucked into it.
1986 Transformers The Movie
Take a look at the picture and can you tell me that this film came out in the 80s? It’s another film where the animation was utterly spectacular and the movie gets better every time you see it. I couldn’t really appreciate it the first 3-4 times, but the final time I saw it the whole thing finally clicked. This is the ultimate Transformers experience and a big reason as to why the franchise is so good.
1987 Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers
I can’t really get behind Shaggy’s red shirt, but this was a fun special. I never really knew the Boo Brothers too well, but who wasn’t familiar with Scooby Doo? I wouldn’t mind if they brought these movies back as the Shaggy and Scooby dynamic works pretty well. Of course, having the whole gang around is probably the better dynamic, but it’s close.
1988 Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf
I saw this film so many times back in the day. It may not be the greatest Scooby Doo Adventure, but the race is solid and it’s certainly nostalgic. With everyone cheating and the actual terrain being pretty suspect, the heroes had to use all of their skills to drive through that mess.
1989 Dragon Ball Z Dead Zone
Dead Zone started DBZ’s long reign of destruction as it kept getting best film of the year awards. Dead Zone had some really good action scenes and while they may not be as high tier as the later films, that didn’t take away from the actual fights. These fights had a lot of heart and you could feel the effort that was put into them. It was a solid start to the movie series.
1990 Dragon Ball Z The Tree of Might
The Tree of Might had the first Goku Black since before Super was even thought up. The film surprisingly didn’t really go into that, but it’s still a really solid DBZ film with a lot of fight scenes. Goku may have been a little outmatched, but it was good for hype. I’m not a big fan of throwing in the apes at the end, but people like them so I guess the film had to do it.
1991 Dragon Ball Z Cooler’s Revenge
Definitely one of the best DBZ films. It was a great way for Super Saiyan to debut and the movie was basically nonstop action. It’s easily the best early DBZ film and was a great transition to the Super Saiyan adventures. Even the soundtrack was 5 star material and this is just a very complete movie.
1992 Dragon Ball Z Super Android 13
Super Android 13 may have been extremely short like a lot of the early DBZ films, but the action starts almost within the 5 minutes and continues to the end. It’s awesome if you came for the fights and naturally I did so this worked quite well. It’s easily one of the best DBZ films and is just incredible in general.
1993 Broly The Legendary Super Saiyan
While Resurrection F may have finally passed this film as the best DBZ title, Broly is still absolutely amazing. The animation was certainly ahead of its time and Broly makes for an incredibly imposing villain. The fights here are some of the best choreographed in all of anime and I really hope Broly returns someday.
1994 Broly-Second Coming
Broly Second Coming may not have been as good as the original since Goku and Adult Trunks weren’t around, but his fight with Gohan was still pretty solid. I was glad he got to appear again at any rate and it’s still a lot better than the third film in the trilogy would be. This one still had a solid plot and a good portrayal for Broly.
1995 Dragon Ball Z Fusion Reborn
Fusion Reborn is a pretty hype DBZ film even if it wasn’t as great as it could have been. Focusing on the Goku and Vegeta plot would have made this film much better. It’s rare to see SSJ3 Goku so overwhelmingly outmatched, but he still tried his best. Janemba has a great design and this film is a must watch for DBZ fans as it effectively ended the initial DBZ adventures. I mean there was one other film, but it didn’t really have any big fights…
1996 Sonic The Hedgehog
I’ve seen this Sonic movie many times. Technically it’s an OVA, but I’ve seen it in movie format each time and it’s the definitive Sonic experience. The fight with Metal Sonic is incredible and it’s what I expect when watching something Sonic related. I doubt the film will ever be surpassed and that’s fine since it sets such a high bar. Still, if you have not seen this movie then you need to change that as soon as possible!
1997 Slayers Great
Slayers has made it into the fray! The movies and OVAs for typically prequels while the TV show focused on the current events. That was actually a pretty smart move and a good way to keep both sets of adventures going. It was a fun movie that had solid animation which were good for the fights. Otherwise, Lina was pestering Naga as much as you can expect and that dynamic is always fun.
1998 Pokemon The First Movie
The first Pokemon movie was incredible and to this day it makes a strong case for being the absolute best one in the series. Mewtwo is really powerful and is probably still the most powerful Pokemon. Ash got to throw a good punch and all of the characters were at their best here. It’s a film that I’ve seen many times and is always as fun as the last.
1999 Pokemon 2000
Pokemon 2000 may have been a lot more low key than the first film, but it’s still a nice adventure. Adventure is the right word to use for this film because the whole film is essentially Ash trekking through the snowy island that he is on. There isn’t a whole lot of action, but it’s an enjoyable film and it’s always nice to see the original cast.
2000 Batman Beyond Return of the Joker
Return of the Joker was definitely a very intense film and a good way to cap off the Batman Beyond series. The animation was definitely really solid and the soundtrack was great as you always expect from the series. Joker and Bruce Wayne finally got some closure and this film is the main reason why we want the Beyond series to return someday.
2001 Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase
Scooby Doo Cyber Chase is probably the best of the Scooby Doo films as I think it even has the slight edge over Zombie Island. It was a really fun video game inspired film with even some crossover elements like meeting the other Scooby Doo gang. It’s a really fun film and for Scooby Doo to take a win in the post 2000 era you know that the film had to be solid.
2002 Pokemon Heroes
Pokemon Heroes was a pretty fun film. It was good to see a more experienced Ash take charge here. The film was rather light on action and Latios looked fairly weak, but I guess not all of the legendaries can be fighters. It was definitely fun watching this film in theaters and the visuals still hold up well.
2003 Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman
While the mystery may be the biggest incentive to watching this film, I was mainly interested in the fight scenes. The film had a lot of them and they were all quite solid. Even Penguin’s two bodyguards were actually able to fight this one as the ladies were even defeating Batwoman quite handily. It’s definitely a very solid Batman film to watch and one that I’ve seen many times.
2004 Yugioh and the Pyramid of Light
You may wonder why Yugi has 2 copies of Ra, but that’s not important right now. This was a very fun Yugioh film with some solid card duels. It may not have gotten the same acclaim as the other 2 newer Yugioh films, but it was a good way to get the ball rolling. Kaiba gets the hype you’d expect from him and the new villain is solid as well. Just a very good all around movie.
2005 Final Fantasy VII Advent Children
This film had a long history of being my all time favorite. It has since been surpassed a few times, but it’s still an incredible film that shows off the potential of CGI. It can look good if applied properly and this film proves it. The soundtrack and plot are also awesome making this a great film that could win almost any year with ease.
2006 Bleach: Memories of Nobody
The first Bleach film was a lot of fun. Ichigo was relentless against the villains here and we got to see all of the Captains get to do something by the end. The villain was a credible threat and the animation was movie level as well. When I think of Bleach, this film captures the essence of the series the best even if Hell Verse is still the best movie. This film got Bleach off to a great start.
2007 Bleach: Diamond Dust Rebellion
A film about Hitsugaya may have been a rather intriguing call, but it’s one that worked reasonably well. You can’t help but think that the movie would have been better with Ichigo as the lead, but we got a good amount of action either way. It also helped prove my theory that Soul Society is actually evil and must be defeated someday.
2008 Bleach: Fade To Black
Dark Rukia was a cool concept even if the film didn’t really go all out with it. The third Bleach film may be the weakest of the Bleach films, but it’s still a very solid movie in its own respect. It was just lacking in action when you expect a lot more from the series. Throw in just one more action scene and this film would probably have a far better rep.
2009 Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Will of Fire
The Will of Fire is the best Naruto film for the simple reason that it had the best fights. All of Naruto’s friends may have betrayed him and I lost respect for all of those guys, but Naruto always held true to his beliefs of making sure to save everyone. This film really shows why Naruto is a very likable main character and I’d highly recommend checking it out to see for yourself.
2010 Yugioh Bonds Beyond Time
The greatest film of all time! I don’t see anything ever possibly topping this movie. I don’t care if it’s the big Goku Ultra Super Saiyan 6 vs Whis Level 5 or if it’s a big budget RWBY series finale movie. This film cannot be stopped as it was the ultimate crossover and still had the best audience I’ve ever seen at a theater. With a super cast and nonstop action, Bonds Beyond Time is the champ for good reason.
2011 Tekken Blood Vengeance
Tekken is definitely a very fun film. The action doesn’t really heat up until the heroes make it to the tower, but we get a few fights before that. Tekken has always been well known because its a fighting game series that also has a good story so it makes sense that the film would be an example of this. It’s also one of the few CGI films that still looks really great. It makes sense since the games use a similar visual style.
2012 Justice League Doom
Justice League Doom is a pretty fun film. It’s certainly a little more low key than Crisis on Two Earths, but still gives us a lot of action scenes and more quality time with the Justice League. It shows why Batman is so feared since he can easily come up with plans to stop anyone. The guy cannot be underestimated.
2013 Dragon Ball Z Battle of Gods
Battle of Gods was huge when it first came out since it meant that we finally got to see the old characters again. Nostalgia initially helped me give it such a generous score, but either way it is still a very solid film. The ending may not be satisfying, but Goku finally getting a new super form was a long time coming. There were some solid action scenes so how could you not like this film?
2014 Naruto The last
Romance aside, it was great to finally see a grown up Naruto who could really cut loose. He wasn’t holding back at all in this movie and the fight scene on the Moon was incredible. The movie is definitely very action packed and feels a lot like DBZ in a good way. It was a very nice way to wrap up Naruto’s story before his son would take over.
2015 Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F
Finally, a new Super Saiyan form! This film got a lot of hype and lived up to all of it. It has the best soundtrack in a DBZ film and while the power levels were wonky it didn’t make the viewing experience any worse. Just sit tight and enjoy the hype combat!
2016 Yugioh Dark Side of Dimensions
Dark Side of Dimensions is definitely a great film. The duels are absolutely top notch and Kaiba really looked great. The writers seemed to look at why people like Yugioh and then incorporate all of the best elements into the film. They did a flawless job and I don’t see how they can possibly top this with another classic film. If this is how the original part of the franchise ends, I would be satisfied.
2017 Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale
I was a little worried when walking into the theater for this film since SAO is a series full of highs and lows, but the movie was firing on all cylinders. The action is intense and the animation is amazing. With tight pacing and a great plot, you couldn’t go wrong with this title.
Scooby Doo has returned to claim the 2018 spot! This was a fun crossover with Batman and definitely was a good way to bring this Batman series back. I doubt it will keep this spot for very long, but we have to give credit where it’s due. The gang really outdid themselves this time.
Congrats on getting to the end! This post was definitely a lot of fun to make so be on the lookout for other sections like Live Action Movies and TV shows at some point. In the meantime I will be sure to keep this list updated.