The Best of the Decade pt 1: Animation
It’s a new decade, so of course it’s time to look back at the previous decade and rank stuff. So here I am joining in by ranking the top movies that I cover here over the past ten years. And since I’m a big believer that comic book movies aren’t a genre, I’ve split the decade into six different categories and I’ll be sharing two top ten lists each week over the next three weeks. The two lists that I’m sharing today are both animation, but because of their massive output and similar quality across the board, DC Animation is given their own separate category. As for the other list, there is a mix of bigger budget theatrically released animated superhero movies as well as lower budget comic book movies. Enough chit chat, onto the lists!
DC Animation has had a pretty huge decade. Out of all of the categories, either this one or the indie films would have the most total films. They typically come out with at least 3 a year just from their DC Animated Universe series which is the PG thru R rated animation based on different comic book runs. But they also have several other more kid-friendly series which have anywhere between 2-4 releases a year as well, from their LEGO animated movies to the DC Superhero Girls, and the short lived DC Unlimited. There was a total of 60 films this past decade from DC Animation including a few theatrical releases. This also started a connected universe starting with Justice League: War where the animated movies had an actual shared continuity rather than each movie standing alone, although they did still continue the stand-alone trend. But here’s what I consider the ten best out of those 60 films.
10: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
This was part of their connected timeline and followed Teen Titans vs the Justice League where they took on one of the most well known Teen Titans story lines involving Terra. It was effective at introducing a new character and made a nice contrast from the extreme jokey nature of Teen Titans Go! while still having a balance of superheroics alongside non-action character moments that show the Titans being teens.
9: Constantine: City of Demons
This was one of the darkest DC Animated movies and one of the few that were rated R after the Killing Joke. This brought back Matt Ryan after his beloved but unsuccessful live action Constantine series and was initially a webseries on CW Seed before being turned into a full length movie. It felt less episodic than the Vixen movie and it had some great character beats for Constantine as a character, plus plenty of dark and gory moments with some of the demonic battles.
8: Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
This was one of the few theatrical releases from DC Animation aside from a handful done through Fathom Events, but love it or hate it, Teen Titans Go! is a very popular property. It takes superheroes in a very different direction with a high farce that some people find off-putting but I absolutely love. It’s different and it’s hilarious, and both this movie and the next one on the list made me laugh more than just about any other movie I watched this year.
7: Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans
This was the home video release follow up to the theatrical movie even though it didn’t really have anything whatsoever to do with anything that happened in the movie. This is basically a multiverse version of the Teen Titans that takes all the different actual versions of the Teen Titans including the older more serious series, the version from the other DC Animated Universe, as well as original versions that are inspired by things like the Superfriends and actual comic Titans. Like the theatrical release, it’s hilarious and not very serious, but it pulls together so many meta jokes that I fell in love with it.
6: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
This was the first of the two movies that brought back Adam West and Burt Ward to reprise the style of the 60’s Batman TV show. It amped up the comedy that was always a part of the original series and made it feel modern and retro all at the same time. It had several mentions of more modern era Batmen and played around with the overall concept in a great way. It never wasted any time and brought back a lot of the fun elements of the past in a new way. I was also able to watch this in theaters through the Fathom Events program despite the fact that there was only one other couple in the theater at the time, I still had a blast.
5: Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
After watching this movie the first time, it became my favorite DC Animated movie. It was one of several that pushed the limit of what they could do with a PG-13 rating and also did some very interesting things with the multiverse concept. Looking at this list in general, there’s several movies with the multiverse concept and I’m just a sucker for it in nearly every concept. This is the dark universe that must be prevented, and it ends with a surprisingly touching moment with Batman. On top of that, it’s actually a Flash-centric movie in a world where nearly everything has to be Batman.
4: Batman: Under the Red Hood
This was one of the first DC Animated movies that I ever saw and it’s still one of my absolute favorites. It was also one of the first that really started to take them towards a darker path to telling more adult stories rather than just animation for children and families. It took the death of Jason Todd and brought him back in an interesting way. It was also one of the earlier animated movies that really questioned Batman’s code of honor about not killing criminals and how that affects future victims of those criminals versus what’s right and wrong from an ethical point of view.
3: The LEGO Batman Movie
This is the second theatrical feature on this list and it’s one of the more radical choices. Coming off of the success of the LEGO Movie that featured Batman as a minor character, he was given his own spin-off movie that took a similar sense of humor present in Teen Titans Go! and took it into the LEGO dimension. Nothing is serious, everything is meta, and it takes a completely nonsensical look at everything that seemingly makes Batman who he is, from constantly wearing black, to being overly dour, serious, and rich, and even makes some stops along his long and storied past incarnations.
2: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Alongside the Killing Joke, this was one of the quintessential Batman comic book runs that is widely talked about among comic book lists. It was one that was an inspiration to Tim Burton and it became DC Animations first two-part animated movies where they released the first part, then the second part a few months later. Although considering how short most DC Animated movies are at less than an hour and a half, the two parts combined are less than three hours long and should easily be viewed as a single story. The animation and voice work are great and the battle between Batman and Superman is arguably better than the one that takes place in the live action Batman v Superman.
1: The Death of Superman
This was the other DC Animated movie that I saw in theaters as a double feature with Reign of the Supermen. But unlike the Dark Knight Returns parts 1 & 2, these two films felt more like a part one and part two rather than two halves of the same story. They’re connected but still separate, and this is one of several versions of the Death of Superman story after the very first DC Animated movie as well as the more recent live action BvS. This is the best of all three of them and really captured the character moments and the relationship between Lois and Clark better than all three of them.
Of course, DC Animation isn’t the only animation game out there and there have been plenty of other animated movies both theatrical and independent that have come out on home video over the past ten years. This list includes both the superhero releases as well as animated movies based on comic books or graphic novels without any basis in superheroes whatsoever. It’s been a pretty good decade all things considered on this front.
10: Ethel & Ernest
This is probably the most low key movie on this list as a tale that’s basically a slice of life following the lives of a lower middle class couple living through World War II and the years that follow. It came from the author possibly most well known for the children’s book the Snowman and is has a beautiful art style that captures the small town in England and the simple lives of this couple who meet, fall in love, have a child, and grow old together.
9: Captain Underpants: His First Epic Movie
This is another movie that reminds me quite a bit of the Teen Titans Go! sense of humor that’s very meta, but also very childish at times. A couple kids hypnotize their principal into thinking that he’s a superhero wearing a pair of tighty-whiteys until he actually does become a superhero. There’s plenty of references to the fact that it’s a movie and the two kids are basically narrating the story themselves, but the humor makes me laugh more often than not and that’s an important qualifier for me.
This is one of a couple more bizarre entries on this list and the creation of the movie is also rather odd. It’s a French comic that’s made into a film by a Japanese animation studio about aliens living in a Hispanic community inspired by LA. There are several eccentric and weird looking characters living in a generally normal society that doesn’t question the fact that one of them is completely pitch black with a round head and his friend literally has a flaming skull for a head. It starts off as normal as it could be with those two characters and things get weirder with alien hybrids, cockroach pets, Shakespeare quoting gang members, and a secret society of Luchadors promised to protect the world. But somehow, it all manages to work together.
7: Steven Universe: The Movie
Even though I haven’t caught up with the most recent episodes, Steven Universe is a show that I initially started watching just because I had no idea what was going on, and while it took me a couple dozen episodes to start to figure things out, I unknowingly became completely sucked into this world of gem aliens, gender non-conformity, and solving problems with communication and friendship rather than violence. There’s action and humor, but really important messages about acceptance that never feel like they’re being presented as educational messages.
6: Bird Boy: The Forgotten Children
This is a more abstract animated movie that has more bizarre elements than Mutafukas. There are plenty of adult themes and extremely dark imagery centered around simple and childlike animals. There’s even a robotic alarm clock that seems like it’s overly chipper all the way until it gets destroyed. There’s drug and war imagery throughout mixed with other inanimate objects that are alive with no explanations. But the animation throughout is evocative and captivating.
5: Big Hero 6
Oddly enough this was a popular Disney Marvel animated movie that was hugely successful, spawned a Disney Channel animated series, but afterwards seemed to completely disappear without any sequel or anything else. While it was loosely based on a Marvel comic, most of the characters were changed enough to be practically original including everyone’s favorite character Baymax. It was such a great concept for a character to have this robot who just wants to help people, and his programming gets changed to help people by becoming more of a fighting robot but it still goes back to its original settings by the end. It’s cute, it’s funny, and it’s wholesome without being overly sappy.
4: Incredibles II
I can’t believe it took so long for a sequel to the first Incredibles movie. It was such a breath of fresh air when it came out and it still holds up as a great film. The sequel did have its share of problems, especially the fact that in a way, it revisited a lot of the elements of the first movie all over again. But Brad Bird was able to bring the characters back and make them feel like they had never left. There’s great action, some fun new characters, and even with the revisit, it still hits home as long as you let it.
This was another film that reminds me a bit of Big Hero 6 in the way that it came, it was successful, then it completely disappeared off the face of the map in favor of Despicable Me and its Minions. This was a great send up of superhero movies that really turned things on its head in a good way by making fun of the back and forth between stereotypical superheroes and supervillains while still playing around with the idea that you can shape your own destiny. There are some great concepts, great characters, Will Farrell, Tina Fey, and Brad Pitt are all excellent as the voice cast and it’s even a little prescient with the guy who becomes the true villain being what would pretty much be called an incel today.
I absolutely love the distribution company GKIDS, they have not steered me wrong and when I found out that this animated movie was based on a graphic novel and released by GKIDS, I had to watch it. It’s a very poignant movie about an elderly man named Emilio going into a nursing home because he’s in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, the point where he’s forgetting important things enough that it’s affecting his life in a negative way. He makes friends with a jovial elderly con artist and their friendship eventually becomes something extremely heartwarming as they become closer while Emilio’s Alzheimer’s becomes worse.
1: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This film was such a pleasant surprise. Spider-Man has always been great as animation as there are things that Spider-Man is able to do that regular people just can’t. And it’s taken three reboots before finally getting to the Miles Morales Spider-Man and he absolutely deserves his time in front of the screen. And once again, there’s the multiverse concept that I love that also brings out Spider-Gwen and in a way brings back the Spider-Man from the Raimi Spider-Man films with Peter B Parker. The animation style is something that we’ve never seen before, the multiverse concept is done fantastically and hilariously when you have Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Ham, and everything about Miles Morales is just fantastic. I’m so glad that they have a sequel in the works because I wouldn’t want this to become another Big Hero 6 or Megamind.
And there we have it, I imagine my list probably looks much different than yours, and I still have four more lists to go to finish up my look back at the superhero and comic book films of the past decade. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list or any future lists. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.