Studios like Pixar and Laika have long since proven that animated movies don't have to just be for kids; they can appeal to wide audiences. But some animated movies have taken things a step further. These movies prove that sometimes animation can be geared specifically to an adult audience. Here are 11 great animated movies definitely not intended for younger viewers.
'Watership Down' (1978)
While ostensibly aimed at children, "Watership Down" is not for the faint of heart regardless of age. Forget cutesy, Disney-fied animals - this film captures the animal kingdom at its most brutal and savage. An entire generation of children was scarred by the terrifying imagery seen here.
"Akira" was among the first anime movies to make a significant impact in the US, and for good reason. It's widely regarded as one of the high points of the medium, as well as one of the most painstakingly detailed animated films ever created. But between the adult subject matter and the downright confusing storyline, this is strictly for older viewers.
'Grave of the Fireflies' (1988)
It's hard to recommend "Grave of the Fireflies" to anyone. The problem isn't quality, as this WWII drama is regarded as another high point for the Japanese animation scene. It's just the the film is so relentlessly bleak and depressing in its examination of two starving children struggling to survive in the waning days of the war. Don't watch unless you don't mind suffering an existential crisis for several days afterward.
'Perfect Blue' (1997)
Another well-regarded classic in the anime world, "Perfect Blue" also marks the feature-length directorial debut of legendary director Satoshi Kon. This film follows an up-and-coming actress who deals with a stalker and (like many of Kon's protagonists) finds the lines between reality and fantasy becoming increasingly blurred. "Perfect Blue" struck a chord with many Western artists, particularly "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky and it was recently released as a deluxe Blu-ray from our friends at Shout Factory.
'South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut' (1999)
"South Park" quickly made a name for itself in the late '90s as a more vulgar and satirical alternative to "The Simpsons." This theatrical spinoff proved that formula could work in longer doses, and that R-rated animated movies could actually be a box office draw. Among other things, "Bigger, Longer & Uncut" is one of the best animated movie musicals of the last several decades.
'Cowboy Bebop: The Movie' (2001)
While technically set toward the tail-end of the wildly popular anime series, "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" works as a standalone adventure featuring futuristic bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and his motley crew. The same unique fusion of science fiction, Western movies and funky jazz is in full effect here, along with an added dose of Middle Eastern flair for good measure.
Rarely has a comic book movie managed to so faithfully recreate the look and spirit of the source material. Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novels are adapted in this film that explores her childhood during the Iranian Revolution (she co-directed the film version). Despite the often lighthearted nature of the animation, however, "Persepolis" is not intended for younger audiences.
'Waltz With Bashir' (2008)
"Waltz With Bashir" is a unique example of director using animation to fuel a personal documentary (sort of). Ari Folman uses this combination as a way of exploring his own search for his lost memories of his experiences in the 1982 Lebanon War. The result is a very haunting and wholly unique anti-war film.
No one would ever mistake the work of Charlie Kaufman for any other director, and that holds true for his first foray into animation, "Anomalisa." Kaufman teamed with stop-motion director Duke Johnson to tell a love story about a misanthropic customer service agent who views everyone in the world as being identical, at least until he meets a woman who stands out.
'Sausage Party' (2016)
"Sausage Party" is only the second American animated film to receive an R-rating after "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," and it's every bit as outrageous and vulgar. Basically a raunchy parody of Pixar movies, "Sausage Party" features a cast of anthropomorphic food doing extremely inappropriate things. Fortunately, there's more going on in this film that just gross-out humor, with sex, religion, and existential dread all on the menu.
'Loving Vincent' (2017)
The sheer effort that went into bringing this Vincent Van Gogh biopic to life is incredible. "Loving Vincent" explores the circumstances surrounding the painter's death, and it does so by becoming the first fully painted animated feature film. A team of 100 artists labored away creating tens of thousands of frames inspired by Van Gogh's distinctive style.