In the dynamic landscape of animated cinema, a constellation of films shines with a unique, yet often overlooked brilliance. These are the unsung masterpieces of animation—films that, despite their artistic triumphs and storytelling prowess, remain underappreciated in the grand tapestry of the genre. As we embark on a journey to rediscover these hidden gems, we uncover the allure of movies like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet. These films, along with others, form a rich mosaic of underrated animated movies, each telling a story as captivating as it is unique.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire offers a riveting blend of adventure and myth, taking us deep into the heart of an ancient, submerged civilization. Its imaginative narrative and distinct artistic style set it apart, yet it often drifts quietly in the wake of more mainstream titles. Similarly, Treasure Planet reimagines a classic tale in a way that is both audacious and visually stunning. Its interstellar escapades and innovative animation techniques paint a world brimming with wonder, yet it remains a treasure too seldom sought by viewers.
In this list of underrated animated movies, we delve into the world of these and other remarkable films. Each one stands as a testament to the diverse potential of animation—a medium that continues to evolve and enchant. From tales woven with intricate details to those bursting with boundless creativity, these movies deserve a spotlight of their own. They remind us that sometimes the most extraordinary stories are found not in the glare of mainstream success, but in the quiet corners of artistic ambition and innovation.
What Are the Most Underrated Animated Movies of All Time?
1Over the Hedge
Release Date: May 19, 2006
IMDB Rating: 6.8 out of 10
Starring: Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell
Over the Hedge is another vastly underrated animated film that actually did pretty well at the box office, grossing $155M domestically on its $80M budget. The movie had a lot of lovable characters, including Steve Carell’s crazy squirrel character, Hammy, Wanda Sykes’ sassy skunk, and Nick Nolte as an angry bear. Bruce Willis’ character wasn’t exactly memorable, unfortunately, but putting him aside, the movie was a fun adventure with a mismatched family.
You can read more about why Over the Hedge was so underrated here.
2A Goofy Movie
Release Date: April 7, 1995
IMDB Rating: 6.8 out of 10
Starring: Bill Farmer, Jason Marsden, Jim Cummings
Stream it on Disney+
A Goofy Movie is a classic Disney animated film released in 1995. The film follows the adventures of Goofy and his teenage son, Max, as they embark on a road trip across America. The story begins with Max struggling to fit in with his classmates and dreaming of impressing a girl named Roxanne.
With the help of his father, Goofy, Max sets out on a wild adventure filled with challenges, mishaps, and unexpected surprises. Along the way, father and son bond and grow closer as they navigate their way across the country and learn valuable life lessons about friendship, family, and the importance of following your heart. It’s a heartwarming and comedic tale that appeals to both children and adults and is a beloved part of Disney’s animated film library.
The story was a continuation of Max’s life after Goof Troop, and although it wasn’t critically well-received, it was a fun movie. A Goofy Movie has some great music, and Max’s songs and performances are all cool…for the 6-10 year old crowd, at least. It’s the typical story of a father being out of touch with what’s “cool” in the eyes of his teenage son, and it’s a theme that stands the test of time.
Release Date: November 15, 1996
IMDB Rating: 6.2 out of 10
Starring: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle
Probably the most surprising entry on this list is our beloved Space Jam. Nothing was more 90s than Space Jam. Somehow, despite its popularity and our fond memories of the movie, Space Jam is sporting an ultra-low 6.2 out of 10 rating on IMDB. Although Space Jam doesn’t hold up well today, back nearly 20 years ago, it was a cool movie. Cool will only get you so far, though. Not only was it a great movie starring one of the greatest athletes of our time, it also spawned one of the greatest movie singles of all time. I won’t start singing it….*lies* I believe I can fllyyyyyyyy….spread my wings and touch the skyyyyyyy…. (Oye, that doesn’t hold up well, either).
Release Date: June 19, 1998
IMDB Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Starring: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, James Hong
Mulan is a 1998 American animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. The film is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, a young woman who disguises herself as a man to take her ailing father’s place in the army and save her family from shame and dishonor.
The film follows Mulan as she trains with the help of the dragon Mushu, voiced by Eddie Murphy, to become a successful warrior. Along the way, she gains the respect of her fellow soldiers and the love of her commanding officer, Captain Li Shang.
The movie features an all-star cast, including Ming-Na Wen as Mulan, BD Wong as Captain Li Shang, and Miguel Ferrer as Shan Yu. The film was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook and features music by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel.
Mulan was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $300 million worldwide. The film was praised for its strong character development, stunning animation, and empowering message. The film remains a beloved classic among Disney fans and continues to inspire and entertain audiences worldwide.
Despite the fact that it’s on the Disney Channel just about every weekend it seems, Mulan didn’t receive as much love as it should have. Sure, it’s rated at a 7.5 out of 10, but it’s not one of those movies that anyone calls their favorite, nor does anyone bring up Mulan in conversation. But Mulan was truly special, and the movie feels more relevant today than it ever has. It was about equality and breaking the old ways, and a coming of age story of a young woman. It also featured a great soundtrack.
Release Date: June 23, 1995
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt, Christian Bale
Rent Pocahontas on Amazon Video
Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg. The film is based on the life of Pocahontas, a Native American woman who lived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The story follows Pocahontas as she falls in love with an Englishman named John Smith and tries to prevent a war between her people and the settlers in Jamestown, Virginia.
The film features an all-star voice cast including Mel Gibson as John Smith, Irene Bedard as Pocahontas, David Ogden Stiers as Governor Ratcliffe, and John Kassir as Meeko. The film’s soundtrack includes the hit song “Colors of the Wind,” which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
‘Pocahontas’ was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $346 million worldwide and becoming one of Disney’s most successful films of all time. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its stunning animation and music while others criticized its historical inaccuracies and oversimplification of the events.
Overall, ‘Pocahontas’ is a classic Disney film that continues to captivate audiences with its beautiful animation, memorable soundtrack, and timeless message of peace and love.
Surprisingly, Pocahontas wasn’t a home run, despite its star-studded cast, beautiful environments, and well-written songs.
See Also: Why The Pagemaster Didn’t Work
6Lilo & Stitch
Release Date: June 21, 2002
IMDB Rating: 7.1 out of 10
Starring: Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere
We think Lilo & Stitch deserves a mention on this list as well, as it was basically animated sci-fi. And no, it didn’t get enough love. If it weren’t for Lilo’s strange and annoying obsession with Elvis, I think this film might have been a little bit better received. The dynamic between Lilo and her big sister is an interesting one we hadn’t seen in a Disney movie yet, and it might have felt like an all-too-real situation.
7Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Release Date: June 15, 2001
IMDB Rating: 6.8 out of 10
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Leonard Nimoy, James Garner
We LOVED Atlantis: The Lost Empire as it was a great tale about a lost civilization. Disney’s Atlantis was supremely underrated. It took viewers on a great adventure, and the characters were wholly unique (at the time). It had a miserable opening weekend (just $329k), and only grossed $84M on a $90M budget.
But Atlantis was worth the watch for the adventure alone, as it was filled with action and mystery, and captured our imaginations with its new animation style that was still just starting to dabble with CGI.
8Monsters vs Aliens
Release Date: March 27, 2009
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert
Monsters vs. Aliens is an overlooked animated film from DreamWorks Animations. It barely made back its initial budget, but it’s a fun and imaginative story (which IS the point of animated movies). The characters are unique and odd, and if you can find it in 3D, Monsters vs. Aliens is even better. Who doesn’t love monsters? The problem was that people had already seen Monsters Inc. and must have thought that Monsters vs. Aliens was DreamWorks’ way of creating a Pixar knock-off. Knockoff or not — and it’s not, FYI — Monsters vs. Aliens is well worth the watch.
See Also: Best Time Travel Movies
Release Date: November 27, 2002
IMDB Rating: 7.0 out of 10
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emma Thompson, Martin Short
Somehow, Treasure Planet sits at just a 7.0 rating on IMDB, but the movie only grossed $38M on a $140M budget. Even though, commercially, Treasure Planet was a failure, it still holds a special spot in our hearts, regardless of its box office numbers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices the likable lead (with singing voice help from Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik), and Martin Short voices B.E.N., a cybernetic navigator with some friend memory boards. Shorts’ portrayal of B.E.N. is funny, and we’re actually surprised he didn’t get his own straight-to-DVD Disney spin-off.
Treasure Planet isn’t just one of the most underrated animated movies of all time, but it is one of our personal favorites for its unique story and cool sci-fi setting. If you want to see exactly what I’m talking about, you can watch Treasure Planet on Disney+ right now.
Release Date: October 1, 2004
IMDB Rating: 6.0 out of 10
Starring: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese
Shark Tale had a lot of star appeal, with Will Smith voicing the main protagonist’s part. It also did well enough in theaters, but the critical reception was very middling. It follows the accidental death of a mobster’s son and the fish who takes credit for it. It doesn’t always hit the mark and at times feels forced, but it’s well worth a look, despite its stereotypes contained within.
Although it was one of the most anticipated animated films of its time, Shark Tale was met with critical and commercial disappointment.
While the animation in Shark Tale was impressive in terms of its technical aspects, many viewers felt that the characters lacked the charm and appeal of other animated films. The film’s characters were designed with exaggerated features, which made them appear unnatural and off-putting. This, combined with the film’s lackluster storyline, made for a lackluster viewing experience.
It is worth mentioning that the film’s marketing campaign was a major factor in its commercial failure. Despite being heavily marketed, the film struggled to attract a large audience, as many viewers felt that the film’s trailer failed to accurately represent the film’s humor and tone. Additionally, the film’s release date coincided with other high-profile films (The Polar Express, The Grudge, Team America: World Police, Ray, etc), which made it difficult for Shark Tale to stand out from the crowd.
Release Date: October 2, 1998
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman
Although Antz made it to the theaters over a month before A Bug’s Life was released, it still lives in A Bug’s Life’s shadow. In our humble opinion, it’s simply because of how ugly the ants in Antz were compared to the bugs in A Bug’s Life. We already know that the two movies were dueling thanks to a feud between Disney and Pixar (and if you don’t know that story, perhaps we’ll delve into it on another day). But, if you put aside the ugliness both aesthetically and behind the scenes, Antz was a well-made movie with a lot of good moments that is certainly worth the watch.
Release Date: November 2, 2007
IMDB Rating: 6.2 out of 10
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Chris Rock, John Goodman
Of course, Jerry Seinfeld is the second funniest man on the planet. So when it was announced that Seinfeld would be in an animated film, Bee Movie, we were excited. Although it had a cringe-worthy name and tagline, Bee Movie turned out to be a hilarious film about a bee who decides to sue humans for eating honey. It’s a unique concept that was generally well executed.
Release Date: November 1, 2003
IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis
Rent Brother Bear for $3.99 via Amazon Prime Video
Brother Bear is a classic example of a film that failed to meet the expectations of its creators and audience. Despite the studio’s high hopes for the movie, it was considered a box office flop and received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike
Brother Bear had a lot of great moments, and it was a unique tale we hadn’t seen before. The story follows Kenai, a bear-hating young man who is turned into a bear after one kills his older brother. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and getting new perspectives, and while you can probably imagine how the ending plays out, Brother Bear is an underrated animated movie worth the watch.
Release Date: September 29, 2006
IMDB Rating: 6.2 out of 10
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Martin Lawrence, Debra Messing
Open Season is one of the funniest animation movies out there, but what else would you expect with Martin Lawrence leading the cast? I think Open Season simply didn’t do well because we had seen so many animated movies about furry friends that most grew tired of them by now. Not us, though. Sony Animation’s first theatrical feature release saw middling reviews, like from The New York Times’ Laura Kern who said, “bursts of cleverness and eye-popping imagery[…] can’t disguise that this is just another movie full of jive-talking computer-generated animals with little new to say.” We’ll have to disagree, and believe Open Season is hilarious from start to finish.
Release Date: November 20, 2009
IMDB Rating: 6.1 out 0f 10
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, John Cleese
Sony’s Planet 51 wasn’t very well received, despite the popularity of its cast. This animation film hardly even made back its initial budget. Planet 51 might be a bit too cutesy, but it’s still worth the watch. The setting has a 1950s sci-fi feel and takes an interesting look from the side of the aliens as opposed to the American side.
It’s generally a fun movie with a few funny moments and some creative ideas, but it was criticized for its predictable and unoriginal plot, which lacked depth and complexity. The characters were also seen as one-dimensional and lacked a compelling storyline that could engage the audience.
The film’s marketing and advertising efforts were seen as lackluster, which resulted in a lack of buzz and excitement around the movie when it was released. This, in turn, resulted in a lack of interest from audiences, leading to low box office numbers.
Still, amusing enough and worth the watch.
16The Rugrats Movie
Release Date: November 20, 1998
IMDB Rating: 5.8 out of 10
Starring: Elizabeth Daily, Christine Cavanaugh, Kath Soucie
Of course, we all know how messed up The Rugrats show really was, with the parents basically not attending to their toddlers for extended periods of time. The movie is just as out there, with Tommy and co. trying to return his new baby brother to the hospital. If you loved the show, The Rugrats Movie continues on that same path, with the same style of comedy. 5.8 is a low rating for the film; we’d place it more closely to a 7.5 or 8.0 out of 10.
Hercules just might be the MOST underrated Disney movie to hit theaters. Of course, any movie that follows Greek mythology or herculean tales is okay by us, so we might be a little bias in our opinion. Still, what’s not to love about 1997’s Hercules? Danny DeVito as a furry little guy that all-too-closely resembles him in real life, a love story, and a tale of heroism all wrapped up into one well-written animated movie with a great soundtrack. It was actually better than both of the Hercules movies that hit theaters in 2014. The film more closely deserves an 8.5 to 9.0 rating. Shame on you, IMDB reviewers.
18The Iron Giant
Release Date: August 6, 1999
IMDB Rating: 8.0 out of 10
Starring: Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston
The Iron Giant is highly rated nowadays, but upon its original release in 1999, there was little to no fanfare for the film. In fact, the film didn’t even hit the $25M gross mark on its $48M budget. The film appeals to youngsters, sure, but it also reaches adults on a new level as well. There are themes within about power and politics vs humanity. It’s filled with wit, and it’s director Brad Bird’s debut feature film, and some consider The Iron Giant to be his magnum opus.
19The Black Cauldron
Release Date: July 24, 1985
IMDB Rating: 6.4 out of 10
Starring: Grant Bardsley, Freddie Jones, Susan Sheridan
The cast was less-than-impressive for The Black Cauldron, which is probably the biggest factor in most determining it to be mediocre. But, The Black Cauldron is a highly underrated animated motion picture and should be watched if you love Disney films. It only grossed $21M in U.S. theaters. It was a technical masterpiece at the time, albeit one that lacked the typical charm of other Disney movies before it. Still, it’s worth the watch, and 6.4 is a little harsh.
20Meet the Robinsons
Release Date: March 30, 2007
IMDB Rating: 6.9 out of 10
Starring: Angela Bassett, Daniel Hansen, Jordan Fry, Tom Selleck
Another animated movie with a less-than-appealing cast, Meet the Robinsons still ended up pretty amusing in our book. Although its funniest moment was spoiled in one of its trailers — “I’ve got a big head and little arms” being said by a T-Rex — the rest of the movie still had some great moments. Of course, it has sci-fi elements that kept us interested. Meet the Robinsons was a hilarious film with great animation and sharp wit.
The film’s futuristic world is one of its biggest strengths. It’s a unique blend of classic sci-fi and steampunk, and it’s visually stunning. The film’s imaginative designs and vivid colors make it a feast for the eyes, and it’s a delight to see the world of the future come to life on the big screen. The world of “Meet the Robinsons” is one that you won’t forget, and it will make you want to revisit it again and again.
Meet the Robinsons carries a positive message about perseverance, hope, and the importance of family. The film teaches children about the power of perseverance and the importance of never giving up on their dreams. It’s a message that will resonate with children and adults alike, making it a great film for families to enjoy together.