Animated movies of the 80s include The Last Unicorn, When the Wind Blows, Rock & Rule, Akira, Oliver And Company, and The Land Before Time.
In the 1980s, the quantity of animated films might not have matched the prolific output of the surrounding decades, but what it lacked in volume, it made up for in quality.
Audiences were treated to unparalleled masterpieces that remain inimitable even in contemporary cinema.
These films encapsulated a distinct magic, each telling a unique story and presenting a fresh experience that has stood the test of time, captivating generations with their irreplaceable charm.
80s Animated Movies
Nearly four decades since the 1980s, it’s a perfect time to stroll down memory lane and rediscover some of the era’s treasures. Especially noteworthy are the animated films of that period, which may have been overlooked amidst the surge of modern cinematic marvels.
Our curated 80s animated movie list, presented without hierarchical ranking, highlights these timeless classics.
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
“The Secret of NIMH” showcases powerful drama and originality, standing tall among animated movies from the 80s. Its animation, both excellent and stylish, seamlessly intertwines with the mystical storyline.
This plot challenges the viewer, reaching beyond what a toddler might grasp. Older kids and adults, especially those seeking a unique cinematic experience that deviates from typical animated film conventions, will deeply appreciate it.
Indeed, NIMH was ahead of its time, solidifying its status as a classic. Contrary to what some might expect from animation, it doesn’t pander with childish themes.
You won’t find any musical numbers here – instead, an exhilarating and dynamic score complements the action flawlessly. Cast aside any preconceived notions or stereotypes about animation, and immerse yourself in “The Secret of NIMH.” You’ll find the experience immensely rewarding.
The Last Unicorn – November 19, 1982
When it comes to animated movies of the 80s, I fondly recall watching this film countless times during my younger days and adoring it. The soundtrack resonates with such charming melodies. However, I must admit that Jeff Bridges’ vocal performance could have used a bit more oomph.
Given it’s from the 80s, the animation was surprisingly sophisticated.
There were moments it seemed a tad underwhelming, but by and large, it showcased a stylish, captivating, and whimsical aesthetic. The screenplay stood out too, and I believe it was penned by the original author, adding a layer of authenticity and faithfulness.
I heard that Haggard’s dialogues were drawn directly from the book. As for the voice actors, they were simply exceptional.
Heavy Metal (1981)
When diving into the world of 80s animated movies, “Heavy Metal” (1981) stands out as a unique gem. I recently revisited this film after recording it from Retroplex.
The intriguing narrative revolves around a malicious orb that embodies various forms of evil, pursued by a fierce female warrior who is destined to thwart its malevolent plans. Gerald Potterton, known for “The Rainbow Boys”, directed this masterpiece, and it boasts an impressive voice cast.
Everything from its compelling storyline, atmospheric settings, engaging situations, to its captivating soundtrack is commendable. The animation exudes that classic 70s/80s vibe, making it both distinctive and enjoyable.
When the Wind Blows
When I was around 13, I watched this film, and it left an indelible mark on me. The elements synergize beautifully, resulting in a breathtaking cinematic experience.
The animation stands out, showcasing a spectrum of styles: from gentle, cartoon-like characters to intense and sometimes unsettling visuals, echoing the tones of Gerald Scarfe’s contributions to ‘The Wall’.
The soundtrack, seamlessly woven into the narrative, features instrumental and vocal contributions from legends like David Bowie, Roger Waters, and Genesis.
Throughout the film, viewers are offered a candid glimpse into the lives of an elderly couple as they naively yet hopefully brace themselves for a nuclear explosion. Their pure-hearted anticipation is both touching and inspiring.
The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
The animated movies of the 80s brought us iconic characters and stories, among them the valiant Autobots battling against the nefarious Decepticons on their homeworld, Cybertron. Consumed by their enmity, both factions remain oblivious to an impending, monstrous threat.
While the Transformers cartoon series from the 1980s might appear cheesy and childish in retrospect—a realization many of us only had upon growing up—the 1986 release of “Transformers: The Movie” genuinely frightened me at 11. But then again, so did “Superman” and “Star Wars,” proving that the film achieved its intended impact.
The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
Watching The Brave Little Toaster evolve in my eyes over the years has been quite an experience, especially considering it’s one of the best animated movies from the 80s. As a young boy, I was completely enamored with it. My teenage self dismissed BLT as silly and irrational.
However, now in my twenties, I see this film through a different lens. BLT masterfully weaves a narrative of the inexorable march of time, where the old gets overshadowed and discarded by the new, becoming a relic of the past.
There are layers of hidden meanings that I simply didn’t grasp in my younger years. Upon revisiting BLT, the simplicity of its animation struck me immediately.
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Inspired by the children’s book series “Basil of Baker Street” by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, this film stands as Disney’s 26th animated feature. Marking the directorial debut of John Musker, Dave Michener, Ron Clements, and Burny Mattinson, it remains one of Disney’s most underrated gems, with a richly developed storyline and characters.
Basil brilliantly mirrors Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Many are unaware that the foundation of the story is a book about a mouse, Basil, who emulates his hero, the legendary Sherlock Holmes.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Consider the numerous cartoon characters making brief appearances in this film. Reflect on how their original creators had to set aside years of rivalry just for moments of on-screen humor. Before this movie, merging fully developed animated characters with live-action scenes was deemed unattainable.
When I first watched it, I was astounded by the seamless blend of cartoons and real-life actors. While there were predecessors like “Mary Poppins”, “WFRR” took innovation to a new level.
The film was humorous, imaginative, and had a captivating storyline. I believe my daughter could share this movie with her children three decades from now, and they’d relish it equally.
Rock & Rule (1983)
Rock & Rule, known outside North America as “Ring of Power,” is a 1983 Canadian adult animated musical film set in a science fantasy universe. With voice talents like Don Francks, Greg Salata, and Susan Roman, the movie was the brainchild of Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert, directed by Clive A. Smith and penned by John Halfpenny and Peter Sauder.
This well-crafted animated film has since gained a cult following. For its time, its animation was pioneering.
While it boasts music from Cheap Trick and Blondie, the tracks didn’t strike a particular chord with me. However, the post-apocalyptic theme and the film’s narrative intrigued me, blending well with the humor sprinkled throughout.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
“My Neighbor Totoro,” released in 1988, is a Japanese animated fantasy movie crafted by the renowned Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten.
Featuring the vocal talents of Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, and Hitoshi Takagi, the film follows the adventures of a professor’s young daughters, Satsuki and Mei, as they befriend benevolent forest spirits in postwar countryside Japan.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Occasionally, Disney breaks from its traditional formula to produce something fresh and novel. Atlantis stood out as one such film, lacking the typical musical touch. It was a majestic film with a distinct charm. This movie, however, didn’t achieve the same impact.
While it missed much of the classic Disney vibe we’ve grown accustomed to, its subpar and sometimes shoddy animation was the most noticeable shortfall. The overall atmosphere, story, and execution lacked the expected Disney magic.
All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
I first watched this film as a child, and it stood out as one of the initial non-action, non-comedy movies I genuinely enjoyed. Years later, I revisited it, wondering if my fond memories were fueled by nostalgia or the movie’s true merit.
To my delight, the film met all my expectations. It strikes the right emotional chords, sprinkles in some humor, and features pleasant songs (though not outstanding, which might explain why I didn’t recall it being a musical). Overall, it was time well spent.
The Land Before Time (1988)
Like many who were born in the 80s, you might have grown up watching Don Bluth’s animated films more than Disney’s, especially before the Disney surge of the 90s. This particular film is one of them. For kids like me, it’s a movie you can watch over and over again.
Although it’s on the shorter side, which could be seen as a flaw (given that Bluth didn’t have the final say with Spielberg and Lucas involved), it beautifully captures the epic journey of young dinosaurs braving treacherous paths to find the promised sanctuary of the Great Valley.
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
The Fox and the Hound, released in 1981, is an American animated friendship drama film from Walt Disney Productions. It draws inspiration loosely from Daniel P. Mannix’s 1967 novel bearing the same title.
This film simultaneously brought me joy and sorrow; it portrayed happiness yet underscored injustice. The titular characters, the “Fox and the Hound,” reunite as adults, confronted with the harsh reality that their friendship was destined for challenges.
The Flight of Dragons (1982)
Flight of Dragons, a 1982 animated fantasy movie, was directed and produced by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr.
It creatively blends elements from Peter Dickinson’s 1979 book of the same name with Gordon R. Dickson’s 1976 novel, “The Dragon and the George.” While it had a direct video release in the UK in September 1983, ABC featured it as a “Saturday Night Movie” on August 2, 1986.
Oliver And Company (1988)
Oliver & Company, released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 18, 1988, is an animated musical adventure that oozes an unmistakable 1980s charm. It offers a unique take on Dickens’s “Oliver Twist,” reimagining the classic tale with dogs and their human companions in contemporary New York City.
Billy Joel stands out as the voice of Dodger, a street-smart New York mutt, and shares the screen with notable voices like Cheech Marin, Bette Midler, and Dom DeLuise, who brings to life a downtrodden Fagin.
However, the true star of the movie is New York City itself. The film perfectly encapsulates the city’s essence and showcases its iconic landmarks through stunning animation.
Akira – 80s Anime Movie
Certainly, this was the dose of Manga culture that Western audiences had been waiting for. Putting personal opinions aside, “Akira” reimagines the storytelling and character progression we’ve grown familiar with from Hollywood.
It offers a fairly true adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Manga masterpiece, skillfully trimming superfluous characters and plotlines.
“Akira” is captivating, original, and filled with action. Notably, this anime stands out as one of the first pioneering animation examples where characters’ mouth movements perfectly sync with their dialogue, a remarkable feat for a fictional full-length feature.