Tiers of Animation

I have a big list of movies to get through while we’re locked down. There are about 50 on there, ranging from huge ones I really should have seen (Gravity), to bonkers ones that have always intimidated me (Holy Motors), to newer ones that I’ve not been able to get to yet (Little Women). Surprisingly for someone pretty young, there were also a large number of kids’ films on my list. When I was compiling said list, I realised there were a lot I hadn’t seen. Tangled, Frozen, Paddington, Onward, Toy Story 4, Finding Dory, Brave, all unseen. I watched Onward a few days ago, and Tangled yesterday and loved them both. When I was younger (until the age of about 10), I’d say five films shaped my life. Those were Ice Age, Toy Story 2, Hoodwinked, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and probably a Harry Potter. What I found interesting though, is that when I revisited lots of the films I watched as a kid, they completely held up. Sometimes, they wouldn’t (Phantom Menace), but by and large, the animated Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar classics did, and I still love them today. Upon finishing Tangled, me and Zaveri engaged in a conversation about where Tangled ranked among other big animated films, so I thought I’d outline the four tiers of animation. Bear in mind, I’m not inlcuding stop-motion or anime, as I feel like they’re their own thing. I haven’t put EVERYTHING on here either, that would take too long, but this is a rough scale.

Tier 1

How to Train Your Dragon (1-3)

Yeah, all of them. These are top tier. I came to them late, as I loved the books but knew that the films were a different story and I didn’t like the idea of that at all. God was I wrong. Dreamworks can be hit and miss, but this trilogy they got so, so right. The animation is stunning, the characters have long arcs across the trilogy, and each film takes a fresh stance and looks at something new – it never gets stale. Also, Hiccup’s first flight scene is one of the best in recent years, and the main musical theme of the trilogy is some of the best musical work in any film of the decade.


I’m going to tentatively call this the best Pixar film ever and then slowly slide out of the room before I’m mobbed. But…it kinda is though. Visually, it’s undeniably the best, the animation is honestly mind-blowing and I wish I’d seen it in the cinema. The musical numbers are fantastic, it explores a heavy concept with both heart and brevity, and it’s a proper tear-jerker. Also, congrats to Pixar on delivering a film about foreign culture that feels informed and authentic.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

One of the best superhero films ever, one of the best animated films ever, and one of the best of the 2010s. I don’t need to justify why it’s here. If you still haven’t seen it because it’s animated then just do yourself a favour and watch it tomorrow.

The Lion King (1994)

We’re all happy this goes here yeah? Cool, moving on…

Kung Fu Panda (1-3)

I think I love this trilogy more than most people do. But it’s just so much fun, and shows how great Dreamworks can be when they get it right. Jack Black is a big plus, but everything about these films is excellent. Visually beautiful, emotional story-telling and a consistent quality across the trilogy. The original is probably still my favourite, but all three are really fantastic. Hans Zimmer’s score is incredible, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that if you made some measurement of character quality per minute of screentime, I think Oogway would be up there as one of the best movie characters of all time.

Inside Out

I did not expect much from this film, but I loved it. I outlined why in my “Best of the Decade” list, and I think it’s pretty accepted that this is top tier stuff. The fact that they took a concept so complicated and made it visual and real and believable is some feat, and I’d welcome a sequel.

Tier 2


This could really be top tier, it didn’t get enough praise. I really hope it gets a sequel, because it’s fantastic.


I liked everything about Tangled a huge amount besides the story. The story sucked really, really badly.


I can’t tell you how underrated this is. Could’ve easily been top tier.

Toy Story 2 & 3

Really super films, but I don’t quite see the huge hype storm around them.

Finding Nemo

Visually, it just doesn’t do as much as the top tier ones, the story and characters are top drawer though.

The Incredibles

I love this film a lot, I even had the video game on my GameBoy Advance SP. It just isn’t as good as the top tier ones.

The Jungle Book

This would be top tier if I’d been cast as Mowgli in my Year 3 school play. Apparently only Year 4s were allowed main roles, so they passed up on the small, floppy haired Indian kid from the choir to cast a white kid. The trauma taints this film for me.

Tier 3


Yeah, I know the start makes you cry, but it’s not as good as you think it is.


It’s got a likeable cast and great musical numbers, but at its core it’s just a montage of covers sung by animals, and it’s kinda boring.

Shrek 2

Yeah, it’s third tier. People fucking love Shrek, and I really don’t get why.

The Lion King (2019)

This could probably be second tier, it was nowhere near as bad as you all thought it was.

Tier 4

Toy Story

It’s not as good as its sequels…

Any Shrek Besides 2

I’m telling you, 2 is fine, the rest just aren’t good.

Cars 2

I liked Cars a lot. I did not like Cars 2 at all.

Monsters University

Honestly, just who asked for this? Who wanted a prequel to Monsters Inc?

4 thoughts on “Tiers of Animation

  1. Great wrap. What do you think we should be aiming for to keep the boys entertained. They love a good laugh. They have also been massively moved (and shocked by Shawshank). We may have pushed the boundaries on that one. They also watched movies like Catch me if you can and some lame American comedies. I’m not sure where to go. Do you think you can do a wrap for kids say 11- 15 (Boys are now 14 &12).
    Thanks Josh


  2. Love seeing animation treated as more than just entertainment for children, but as an actual art form within itself


    1. 100%. Movies like Inside Out, Paddington etc are examples of how you can not only entertain kids with slapstick and colours and jokes, but convey important messages to adults too. Writing is definitely the key to the balance, and when it works it’s just incredible. Not to mention the visuals can be simply stunning

      Liked by 1 person

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