There are a ton of underappreciated and underrated animated movies that didn’t get enough of a spotlight. Animated movies usually sink or swim rather quickly.
But there are some that float somewhere in the middle, going generally unnoticed by the masses, swimming in a sea of other great animated films made by Disney and Pixar.
Here are the top 20 most underrated animated movies to watch:
See Also: New Animated Movies 2020
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).
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 young woman. It also featured a great soundtrack. It’s on Netflix, too.
Release Date: June 23, 1995
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt, Christian Bale
Rent Pocahontas on Amazon Video
Surprisingly, Pocahontas wasn’t a home run, despite its star-studded cast, beautiful environments and well-written songs. You hardly ever see any Pocahontas merchandise on store shelves, and it’s not one of those long-lasting Disney movies that’s never forgotten, unfortunately. It won tons of awards, did well enough at the box office, but still isn’t considered one of Disney’s best. We disagree. To us, it’s a top 10 Disney movie.
See Also: Why The Pagemaster Didn’t Work
Lilo & Stitch
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.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Release Date: June 15, 2001
IMDB Rating: 6.8 out of 10
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Leonard Nimoy, James Garner
Rent Atlantis: The Lost Empire on Amazon for $3.99
We LOVED Atlantis: The Lost Empire as it was a great tale about a lost civilization. It took viewers on a great adventure, and the characters were unique. It had a miserable opening weekend (just $329k), and only gross $84M on a $90M budget. But Atlantis was worth the watch for the adventure alone, as it was filled with action and mystery.
Monsters vs Aliens
Release Date: March 27, 2009
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert
Rent Monsters vs. Aliens on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99
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.
Release Date: November 27, 2002
IMDB Rating: 7.0 out of 10
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emma Thompson, Martin Short
Rent Treasure Planet on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99
Somehow, Treasure Planet sits at just a 7.0 rating on IMDB, and the movie only grossed $38M on a $140M budget. But Treasure Planet is a GREAT animated movie, regardless of its 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. Treasure Planet is available on Netflix right now.
Over the Hedge
Over the Hedge is another vastly underrated animated film that actually did pretty well at the box office, grossing $155M 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.
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 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.
Of course, Jerry Seinfeld is the second funniest man on the planet (with the first being Louis C.K., who wasn’t the star he is today). 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 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. Brother Bear is on Netflix right now.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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 animation 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.
Meet 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 ideal 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
A Goofy Movie
Release Date: April 7, 1995
IMDB Rating: 6.8 out of 10
Starring: Bill Farmer, Jason Marsden, Jim Cummings
Rent A Goofy Movie for $2.99 here.
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.