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The Best Animated Movies for Adults

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Dec 21, 2011 | 10:55am EST

There’s no denying that while Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin—out this week—carries a vast appeal to the typical young audience that animated movies tend to reel in (and aim toward). But their parents might be just as intrigued, given the fact that the popular story dates back to the 1930s and the decades that followed; it summons the kid in everyone. A lot of animated movies do that, attract not just the tyke set but also the grownup demographic—be it for deeper-than-meets-the-eye subject matter or groundbreaking animation/effects. In honor of the generation-transcending cartoons, here's a few of the movie history's best:

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

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South Park the TV series isn’t necessarily intended for mature audiences, but it most certainly is in the ratings sense. Ditto for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s too-crude-for-TV, often hilarious, slyly satirical feature-length replication of their Comedy Central show. Kid viewers can certainly appreciate the characters’ voices and perhaps some sound effects – but, well, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to.

Waking Life

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Kids aren’t really into talky, trippy, animated, experimental meditations on the Meaning of Life, but then, director Richard Linklater didn’t make Waking Life for them; this wasn’t his Bad News Bears phase. Linklater made the film for his Slackers/Dazed and Confused followers – if not solely for himself – and those viewers, along with critics, enjoyed Waking Life quite a bit. See also: Linklater’s similarly “animated,” similarly out-there A Scanner Darkly.

Corpse Bride

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Before Tim Burton made live-action gothic movies for young audiences, he made animated gothic movies for grownups – or at least one such movie: Corpse Bride. The painstaking stop-motion animation in this Burton-co-directed Oscar nominee was beyond amazing, but the story wasn’t far behind – and it was one that kids could at least follow but one that adults (even film-geek adults) could fully sink their teeth into. The simple fact that a movie called Corpse Bride nowadays can even secure a PG rating is fascinating.

Waltz with Bashir

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Not suitable for children; not at all. For grownups, though, this Israeli film about the Lebanon War was as good as it gets, and also quite a sight to behold. Director Ari Folman’s decision to animate – and his marvelous execution thereof – what is essentially a war docudrama produced a refreshing take on the potential brutality of man and his war, and the result was appropriately surreal.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

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Incredibly innovative in its day, technologically speaking, Robert Zemeckis’ live-action/animation hybrid (which unsurprisingly swept the technical categories at the Oscars) had plenty for young’ns to fawn over (even a catchphrase from its protagonist: “P-p-p-p-p-lease, Eddie!”), but it’s also an adult-skewing, noirish detective story – albeit a PG-rated version. Although let’s be honest, Jessica Rabbit, who spawned more porn send-ups than Sarah Palin, was a few inches of flesh away from rendering Roger PG-13, at the very least.

Persepolis

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The minimalistic animation of this Oscar-nominated masterpiece from Marjane Satrapi (who adapted her own graphic novel of the same name) isn’t meant to impress or constantly spellbind viewers – which all but eliminates younger movies – but those with patience are greatly rewarded. And educated.

Fritz the Cat

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Just saying “based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb” would be enough for parents to prevent their kids from seeing Fritz the Cat, even if Crumb, in some alternate universe, had somehow produced a tame comic strip. But Fritz is about, quite literally, almost everything untame. It also happens to make for quite an interesting, if not always noble or enlightening, viewing. Oh – and it also happens to be the first X-rated animated film.

Most Pixar Movies

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It’s not so much that most Pixar movies contain deep or subliminal undercurrents of profundity only decipherable by grownups; it’s that they generally appeal to all ages, because of both their technological wizardry and the depth of the stories. Kids and parents can see the films together – namely the Toy Story series, The Incredibles and Up, whose “Lifespan” sequence can reduce anyone of any age to tears – and interpret them completely differently. Pixar makes films that are, in every way, the very antithesis of exclusive.

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