14 Animated Masterpieces Beyond the World of Disney

14 Animated Masterpieces Beyond the World of Disney
Image credit: Legion-Media,, Focus Features, Paramount Pictures

Tired of the Disney monopoly and wanna explore some new animated territories?

There's a lot more to animation than Disney princesses and fairy godmothers.

1. "Shrek" (2001)

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A far cry from your typical fairy tale, this DreamWorks hit redefined the genre. Shrek, a grumpy ogre, just wants his swamp back. To get it, he has to rescue Princess Fiona from a dragon-guarded castle. Plot twist: Fiona turns into an ogre at night and actually digs it. With a lovable sidekick donkey and an army of fairy-tale misfits, Shrek takes on Lord Farquaad, the big bad of the tale. But hey, turns out the big bad is only a little guy with big ambitions, eh?

2. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018)

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This one was, undoubtedly, a game-changer. Miles Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider and—voila!—he's Spider-Man. But he's not the only one. Thanks to Kingpin's malfunctioning collider, several Spider-People from different dimensions—including a Noir Spider-Man, Spider- Ham, and Spider-Gwen—find themselves in Miles's world. Together, they fight Kingpin, save the multiverse, and Miles finally accepts his role as Spider-Man. The movie raked in $375 million worldwide, and let's be real, it earned every penny.

3. "The Iron Giant" (1999)

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Hogarth, a kid in 1950s Maine, discovers a massive alien robot. This ain't your typical "E.T." story, though. The Iron Giant doesn't remember where he's from or what he's designed to do (which is, um, destroy civilizations). Hogarth teaches the Giant about humanity, even showing him Superman comics to inspire good deeds. But, the U.S. military catches wind of this and tries to blow him to smithereens. The Giant, in a Superman-like move, sacrifices himself to save the town.

4. "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" (1999)

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From the creators of the boundary-pushing TV show, this movie ain't for the easily offended. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny sneak into an R-rated Canadian movie and end up cursing like sailors. This leads to parents waging war against Canada. Meanwhile, in Hell, Satan and Saddam Hussein (yup, you read that right) plan to conquer Earth. In a massive finale, the boys and a reformed Satan save the day.

5. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009)

Wes Anderson took a Roald Dahl classic and made it, well, fantastic. Mr. Fox, tired of his safe but dull life, returns to his old thieving ways and raids human farmers. The farmers retaliate, forcing the entire animal community underground. Mr. Fox, feeling the weight of his vanity, plans an elaborate heist to make things right. With quirky stop-motion animation and unique characters, this one is a visual and storytelling treat – just as all other Wes Anderson masterpieces.

6. "Kung Fu Panda " (2008)

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Who said a clumsy, overweight panda can't be a kung fu master? DreamWorks' "Kung Fu Panda" tells the story of Po, a noodle shop employee with big dreams. When he's accidentally chosen as the legendary Dragon Warrior, the trained fighters are miffed, especially the dedicated Tigress and her mentor, Master Shifu. After a rocky start, Po wins them over by adapting kung fu techniques to his, well, unique body type. They all band together to defeat the villainous Tai Lung. This flick raked in over $631 million globally, and it's easy to see why.

7. "Coraline" (2009)

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This stop-motion wonder from Laika Studios is all kinds of creepy. Coraline moves into a new home and discovers a parallel universe where everyone has buttons for eyes. It seems better than her real life, until it isn't. Her "Other Mother" wants to sew buttons into Coraline's eyes and trap her forever. With the help of a talking cat and a magical stone, Coraline defeats her and saves her real parents, who'd been kidnapped by the Other Mother. For a "kid's movie," it's pretty dark, pushing the boundaries of its PG rating.

8. "ParaNorman" (2012)

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Another gem from Laika! Norman can see and speak to ghosts, but this just makes him an outcast. When his town is threatened by a zombie uprising, guess who they turn to? Using his wits and his ability to see the unseen, Norman uncovers the tragic story of a witch's curse and manages to put the undead back to rest. It's a classic underdog tale with a side of horror. A sleeper hit at the box office, it's gained a cult following over the years.

9. "Rango" (2011)

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Johnny Depp voicing a chameleon? Yes, please! Rango is a pet chameleon who finds himself in a drought-stricken animal town called Dirt. Posing as a tough gunslinger, he becomes the sheriff and promises to find water. The plot thickens as he uncovers a conspiracy led by the tortoise mayor who's hoarding the water supply.

10. "Anomalisa" (2015)

This one's for the grown-ups, so tuck the kiddos in before you hit play. Directed by Charlie Kaufman, "Anomalisa" is about a lonely self-help author, Michael, who perceives everyone around him as having the same, monotonous voice and face. That is until he meets Lisa, an anomaly in his dull world. They share an intimate night, but by morning, she becomes monotonous to him too, plunging him back into despair.

11. "The Prince of Egypt" (1998)

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DreamWorks' early days. This biblical epic recounts the tale of Moses, from his river escape as a baby to his divine showdown with Pharaoh Ramses. Moses discovers his Hebrew origins and, guided by the burning bush, confronts Ramses to let his people go. Cue the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea to the hauntingly beautiful sound of Hans Zimmer score.

12. "Happy Feet" (2006)

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Ever thought you'd empathize with a tap-dancing penguin? Meet Mumble, a young Emperor Penguin who can't sing to save his life, which is quite the problem in a society that values vocal cords over fancy footwork. Shunned by his community, he goes on an epic journey, meeting diverse characters like Latino Adélie penguins and wise old puffins. Mumble eventually becomes a hero by using his dance moves to appeal to the "aliens" (humans), persuading them to stop overfishing their waters.

13. "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009)

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Flint Lockwood, an aspiring inventor, creates a machine that turns water into food. Initially a hero for solving his town's economic woes, things go south when the machine starts going haywire, causing food storms. Spaghetti twisters and pancake avalanches? Funny but fatal. Flint has to fly up into the "foodmosphere" to disable the machine and save the day.

14. "The Lego Movie" (2014)

Who knew a toy commercial could be this good? Emmet, an ordinary Lego construction worker, is mistakenly believed to be the "Special" capable of stopping an evil tyrant. Alongside iconic characters like Batman and Wonder Woman, he manages to inspire a rebellion among the Lego people against the rigid instructions that limit their creativity.