Delving into the world of animation isn’t just for kids anymore. Our perceptions have radically shifted, unshackling the genre from its juvenile confines and leading us toward an unexplored realm of animated movies for adults.
With themes as expansive as the animations themselves, these films offer a unique blend of vivid visuals and mature storytelling, breaking down age-old boundaries.
Our “20 Animated Movies for Adults: Must-Watch Films” list introduces you to a fantastical world where deep metaphors, profound emotions, and provocative humor coexist.
Whether you’re a seasoned cinephile or a newcomer seeking a different cinematic flavor, these animations promise to charm, challenge, and captivate you.
So, prepare to venture beyond the conventional as we dive into this animated spectacle designed for the discerning adult audience.
Animated Movies for Adults
This section highlights animated films crafted explicitly with adults in mind. These masterpieces, layered with nuanced narratives and profound themes, cleverly utilize the medium of animation to delve into subjects that live-action cinema often shies away from.
So buckle up; it’s time to explore this unexpected treasure trove of adult animation.
1. Redline (2009)
Produced by Madhouse and directed by Takeshi Koike, “Redline” is an exhilarating ride into the world of intergalactic racing. This visually stunning masterpiece took seven years to create, and its meticulous craftsmanship is evident in every frame.
The hyper-stylized animation pulsates with energy, filling each scene with vibrancy and movement. The narrative centers around the daredevil racer, JP, competing in the galaxy’s deadliest race against many bizarre yet compelling characters.
The film cleverly merges elements of science fiction, romance, and a thunderous adrenaline-fueled spectacle, making it a must-watch for animation and racing enthusiasts. The high-octane plot and a thumping electronic soundtrack transform this movie into an unforgettable sensory experience.
2. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)
This film, directed by Mike Judge, brings the infamous MTV troublemaking duo to the big screen, escalating their antics to an epic level, on a quest to retrieve their stolen TV, Beavis and Butt-Head become embroiled in a dangerous plot involving deadly weapons and federal agents.
Judge’s biting satire on American society shines through, with the titular characters serving as the hilariously clueless protagonists navigating the chaos they unwittingly instigate.
A blend of absurdist humor, social commentary, and the characteristic simple yet effective animation style make this movie an iconic representation of ’90s pop culture—a must-watch for fans of adult comedy and animation alike.
3. Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie! (2013)
Directed by Steve Stark, based on the characters created by Kevin Smith, this film is a zany ride through a comic book universe.
After winning a massive lottery, Jay and Silent Bob transform into superheroes to combat crime, facing off against absurd villains and strange circumstances. Its referential humor and crude jokes are a love letter to comic books and pop culture, with cameos and nod to iconic characters from both.
The movie’s bold and simple animation style fits perfectly with the chaotic narrative, adding another layer of comedic value. This film promises a light-hearted and cheeky adventure for fans of Jay and Silent Bob or anyone with an appetite for raucous humor.
4. The Incredibles
An evergreen gem from Pixar, “The Incredibles,” is a captivating tale of a superhero family trying to balance everyday life with their extraordinary abilities. Directed by Brad Bird, the film expertly weaves together a visually striking world with a complex narrative, exploring themes of family, identity, and societal expectations.
The Incredibles is set in a mid-century modern aesthetic world, blending action-packed sequences with heartfelt moments that resonate with children and adults.
Its masterfully layered storytelling, coupled with Pixar’s signature animation style, delivers a visually stunning film that’s as intellectually engaging as it is. Despite its family-oriented theme, its mature narrative exploring personal struggles and ethical dilemmas makes it a compelling watch for adults.
5. The Wolf House (2018)
Directed by Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña, “The Wolf House” is a hauntingly beautiful stop-motion film that serves as an allegory for life under a dictatorship. The Chilean film is based on Colonia Dignidad, a German émigré-run colony in post-WWII Chile. This surreal tale is conveyed through the perspective of Maria, a woman hiding from a wolf in a mysterious house.
Its unique animation style, blending sculpture, painting, and puppetry, brings this dark fairytale to life. The film’s relentless transformation of space and characters generates an unsettling atmosphere, mirroring the emotional turmoil of its protagonist. “The Wolf House” is a captivating exploration of oppression and propaganda that deserves a spot on every animation enthusiast’s list.
6. Chicken Run (2000)
Aardman Animations, known for their Wallace and Gromit series, brought us “Chicken Run,” a claymation comedy film that redefines the meaning of ‘cooped up.’
This delightful flick, directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park, tells the story of a group of chickens attempting an escape from a sinister poultry farm. The film brilliantly employs the aesthetics of classic war prison movies, bringing a unique blend of humor and tension to the narrative.
The claymation style provides a charmingly tactile quality to the animation, with every feather and facial expression rendered in loving detail. While “Chicken Run” may appear light-hearted, it subtly touches upon themes of freedom and autonomy that resonate strongly with an adult audience.
7. The Breadwinner (2017)
“The Breadwinner”, directed by Nora Twomey and produced by Cartoon Saloon, is a gripping tale set in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. It tells the story of Parvana, a young girl disguised as a boy to provide for her family after her father’s unjust arrest.
Adapted from Deborah Ellis’s novel, the movie weaves between Parvana’s harsh reality and the captivating stories she narrates, the latter unfolding in beautiful cut-out animation sequences.
The film does not shy away from portraying the harsh realities of war and oppression, offering a poignant exploration of resilience, courage, and the power of storytelling. “The Breadwinner” is an emotional and eye-opening experience, with its thoughtful narrative and exquisite animation.
8. The Iron Giant (1999)
Brad Bird’s “The Iron Giant” is an animated classic beloved by children and adults alike. Set during the Cold War, it follows the tale of a young boy, Hogarth Hughes, who befriends a colossal, amnesiac robot from outer space. The animation blends traditional hand-drawn techniques with computer-generated imagery, creating a visually captivating world.
Beyond the surface, the film explores profound themes of friendship, acceptance, fear, and the destructive nature of weapons. With its warm humor, engaging characters, and heart-tugging plot, “The Iron Giant” is a film that transcends the usual confines of animated movies, making it a must-watch for adults.
9. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
From the esteemed Studio Ghibli, “Grave of the Fireflies”, directed by Isao Takahata, is an emotionally charged film set during World War II. It follows the struggle for the survival of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, in the backdrop of war-torn Japan. The movie’s hand-drawn animation brings a level of realism that accentuates the emotional weight of the narrative.
Unlike many of its contemporaries, this film does not flinch from the stark portrayal of war’s devastating effects on human life. Its powerful storytelling, combined with hauntingly beautiful animation, turns “Grave of the Fireflies” into a profoundly moving cinematic experience, appreciated by adults for its narrative depth and poignant social commentary.
10. Mary and Max (2009)
Adam Elliot’s “Mary and Max” is a heartwarming stop-motion animation that explores the unusual friendship between Mary, a lonely eight-year-old girl from Australia, and Max, a forty-four-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome living in New York.
Narrated by Barry Humphries, this film employs a blend of dark humor and poignant moments, creating a complex narrative that addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, mental health, and the human condition.
The claymation brings a unique charm to the characters, making them both realistic and endearing. The contrast between Mary’s world in sun-soaked hues and Max’s monochromatic New York adds another layer of emotional depth. “Mary and Max” is a compelling tale that invites reflection on the nature of the human connection, making it a profound experience for adult viewers.
11. Isle Of Dogs (2018)
Directed by Wes Anderson, “Isle of Dogs” is a stop-motion animation film that narrates the journey of a boy in search of his dog in a dystopian Japan. The film’s meticulous craftsmanship creates a visually delightful world filled with symmetrical compositions and whimsical details, a signature of Anderson’s style.
Aided by a star-studded voice cast, the film balances its somber themes of loyalty, corruption, and redemption with light-hearted humor and heartwarming moments. Its mature narrative and the intricate beauty of its animation make “Isle of Dogs” an enchanting watch for adults.
12. Perfect Blue (1997)
From the visionary director Satoshi Kon, “Perfect Blue” is a psychological thriller that blurs the line between reality and illusion. This Japanese anime follows Mima Kirigoe, a pop idol who leaves her music career to become an actress, only to be stalked by an obsessive fan.
The film’s use of animation allows it to visually represent Mima’s psychological descent and the disorienting effects of stardom and obsession.
Its mature themes, suspenseful narrative, and visually engaging animation create a haunting cinematic experience that stays with you long after viewing. “Perfect Blue” is an exceptional choice for adults seeking a thought-provoking and intense animated film.
13. Tower (2016)
Directed by Keith Maitland, “Tower” uses rotoscopic animation to recreate the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting. Told through the perspectives of witnesses, heroes, and survivors, the film effectively brings forth that day’s tension, fear, and confusion.
The rotoscoping technique gives a surreal, dreamlike quality to the horrific events, allowing viewers to engage emotionally without being overwhelmed by graphic violence.
The film’s narrative tackles issues of gun violence, bravery, and the ripple effects of such events on individuals and communities. “Tower” is a testament to the power of animation in telling complex, real-life stories and is a must-watch for adult audiences.
14. Persepolis (2007)
“Persepolis,” directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, is a coming-of-age tale based on Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novels. The film provides a poignant view of Iran through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, Marjane, navigating life amidst the Islamic Revolution.
The animation, striking in its black and white visuals, elegantly captures the blend of personal and political upheaval. The film masterfully incorporates humor while dealing with serious themes of identity, rebellion, and cultural dislocation.
Despite the weight of the issues it addresses, “Persepolis” is imbued with warmth and wit, creating a universal story that speaks to the human experience, making it a compelling watch for adults.
15. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Pioneering work in the world of anime, “Ghost in the Shell,” directed by Mamoru Oshii, delves into a futuristic world where cybernetics and artificial intelligence blur the line between humans and machines. The film follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg cop hunting a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master.
Apart from its stunning visuals and action sequences, the film’s philosophical explorations of identity, consciousness, and what it means to be human have made it a classic in adult animation. With its thoughtful narrative and striking animation, this science fiction epic offers an immersive experience for mature audiences.
16. Fantastic Planet (1973)
Directed by René Laloux, “Fantastic Planet” is a surreal French animated film set in the strange world of Ygam, where humans are tiny “Oms” kept as pets by the giant blue alien Draags. The film’s psychedelic visuals and imaginative design elements create a truly alien world, exploring oppression, freedom, and co-existence themes.
Its distinctive cut-out animation and trippy soundtrack create an eerie and intriguing atmosphere. “Fantastic Planet,” with its mature narrative and unique artistic style, is a must-watch for those seeking a thought-provoking and visually distinct animated film.
17. Anomalisa (2015)
Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, “Anomalisa” is a stop-motion film that explores the mundane life of Michael Stone, a customer service guru suffering from an existential crisis.
What sets “Anomalisa” apart is its hyper-realistic animation style and its exploration of complex themes such as loneliness, mental health, and the human desire for connection.
In contrast, the film is a study merging the ordinary with the extraordinary. It utilizes puppetry to express the intricacies of human emotion, resulting in a deeply engaging experience. The film’s mature storytelling and intricate stop-motion animation make “Anomalisa” a fascinating cinematic experience for adults.
18. Sausage Party (2016)
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, “Sausage Party” is an outrageous R-rated animation that satirizes the innocence and optimism of traditional animated films.
The film revolves around a sausage named Frank and his grocery store companions who, after escaping their packaging, embark on a journey to discover the horrifying truth about their existence.
The movie humorously tackles themes of religion, belief, and the meaning of life, packaged in the form of a riotous adventure. The film’s crude humor, mature themes, and vivid animation make it stand out in adult animation. Its audaciousness is reflected in every aspect, from the script to the animation, providing an unforgettable viewing experience for adults.
19. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a stop-motion animation film based on Roald Dahl’s children’s novel. It tells the story of Mr. Fox, who resorts to his old chicken-stealing ways, leading to a war with three aggrieved farmers.
Anderson’s signature style comes alive in this meticulously crafted film, filled with quirky characters, symmetrical frames, and a dry wit that engages children and adults.
The film explores themes of identity, societal norms, and family dynamics sophisticatedly, making it a delight for adult viewers. The voice cast, led by George Clooney and Meryl Streep, brings charm and depth to this enchanting tale.
20. Waking Life (2001)
Directed by Richard Linklater, “Waking Life” is a unique entry in adult animation. The film employs rotoscope animation to present a series of philosophical conversations unfolding like a lucid dream.
The protagonist, played by Wiley Wiggins, wanders through surreal and shifting landscapes, engaging in existential dialogues with a diverse cast of characters.
The film’s philosophical explorations of life, dreams, identity, and the nature of reality are presented visually mesmerizingly, where the fluid animation mirrors the dreamlike quality of the narrative. “Waking Life” is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, offering adults an immersive and intellectual viewing experience.
In conclusion, animated movies aren’t just for kids. These 20 films we’ve explored prove that animation can offer rich, mature storytelling that captivates adult audiences.
From thrilling sci-fi narratives like “Ghost in the Shel” to profound explorations of human experiences in”Persepolis” and “Waking Life,” these films utilize the medium’s unique potential to their fullest.
They tackle complex themes, create visually stunning worlds, and weave tales that resonate deeply with adults. Animation truly transcends age, offering something for everyone, and these must-watch films serve as an excellent gateway into the diverse world of animated cinema for adults.