Top 10

Top 10: Non-Disney Animated Films

In 1937, Walt Disney gave the world Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film ever produced. For the next half-century, the Disney company held a near-monopoly on the medium, and to this day, the quality of their animated features generally dominates that of its competition. The last three or four decades, however, have started to show a slight change in the standings with animation coming from other studios continuing to close the gap in an effort to stay on par with their age-old counterpart. Many would even go so far as to say that certain films from other studios have begun to surpass even the best of Disney fare. 

In honor of the wide release of Studio Ghibli's The Red Turtle, this week's top ten list will count down the ten best non-Disney animated films I have seen. I must say that this list was incredibly difficult to create - I had to leave a number of favorites on the cutting room floor - but I will stand by my ten. Be sure to check out the fan choices at the end of the post. If you'd like to contribute your opinions to the fan's top ten choices, be sure to get yourself added to the Facebook group page!

© Sony Pictures Classics

© Sony Pictures Classics

All that being said, let's jump right into the list!


10. The Road to El Dorado

© DreamWorks Distribution

© DreamWorks Distribution

We start this list with a film I for years thought actually belonged to the Disney canon. In my defense, the animation style does prove to be similar, and the soundtrack team of Elton John and Tim Rice certainly hearkens back to the Disney Renaissance period a decade earlier. The Road to El Dorado instead belongs to the earlier days of DreamWorks animation, and while they may taking heavily from the Disney template, it still presents a fun and relatively carefree offering for its audiences. The visuals are arresting, and the original music composed for the film prove stellar. El Dorado is a great but often overlooked gem in the DreamWorks camp. 

9. The Land Before Time

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures

Five years before Spielberg unleashed his adventure sixty-five million years in the making, Universal Pictures gave us an equally memorable foray into prehistoric times. The story centers on Littlefoot, a young sauropod trying to reunite with his family. Aided by his group of friends, the gang attempts to outrun the fearsome Sharptooth on their way to the Great Valley, a beacon of safety and paradise. As much as I love Jurassic Park, much of the credit for my early love of dinosaurs stems from my connection to the characters in The Land Before Time. The film does offer a few dark and frightening moments, but it definitely stands the test of time and holds strong against the music-centric straight-to-video sequels it inspired. 

8. Rango

© Paramount Pictures

© Paramount Pictures

Admittedly, Rango is an acquired taste, but fans of the western genre will certainly be in for quite a treat. After rousing success with the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp teamed up for this smart and visually stunning delight. The film serves as a fantastic homage to the westerns of yesteryear, and the film as a whole works as a movie-lover's paradise, offering reference after callback. The characters prove to be perfect caricatures of the western fixtures we have grown to know, and everything about the universe as a whole feels beautifully-constructed. Again, this movie may not play well to the masses, but if you get a kick out of the old cowboy flicks, Rango is right up your alley. 

7. Surf's Up

© Columbia Pictures

© Columbia Pictures

In the mid-2000s, a penguin craze took cinemas by storm. First came the 2005 documentary March of the Penguins; the following year, the penguins sang and danced their way through Happy Feet. They even became a featured component of the Madagascar series. They reached their peak, however, in 2007 after splashing into theaters in Surf's Up. This mockumentary plays as a pitch-perfect send-up of an ESPN 30-for-30, hitting all the necessary twists and emotional notes. Bolstered by a killer soundtrack, Surf's Up works not only as a great animated film but also as a stellar surf flick as well. 

6. FernGully: The Last Rainforest

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

In 1992, Robin Williams was wowing audiences with his turn as Aladdin's genie, but my earliest recollection of his vocal work stems from his character Batty Koda in FernGully: The Last Rainforest. At the time, I latched onto the goofiness of Batty's persona, but subsequent viewings at points later in my life have given me a deeper appreciation for the social commentary the movie attempts to provide. The visual aspects of the film enhance the overall storyline - about saving the destruction of a beloved rainforest - by presenting a fantastic dichotomy between the beauty of the environment and the bleakness presented by the entrance of humanity. The film also receives an all-star performance from Tim Curry as the central villain Hexxus, who represents the very embodiment of pollution. The fact that FernGully also gave me my earliest appreciation for Wilson Pickett simply proves to be the cherry atop this sundae. 

5. Shrek

© DreamWorks Distribution

© DreamWorks Distribution

Here's a bit of fun trivia: while the Disney and Pixar machine has mostly dominated the Animated Feature category at the Academy Awards, the first-ever win in the category went to a little DreamWorks flick about a brutish ogre and his faithful donkey... er, steed. In a film that works as a stand-alone effort while still managing to satirize the aforementioned animation juggernaut, Shrek presents an elegant and traditional story while toeing the line with the very conventions that set it on its course. This is one of the first animated films in which I was very aware that it was made for both children and adults alike, and I can even recall a grown man running up and down the theater aisle in a fit of laughter during the course of the story. Although the Shrek name has been slightly sullied in subsequent years, the original flick proves to be a strong contender in the world of animation. 

4. Mary and Max

© Icon Film Distribution

© Icon Film Distribution

I have my sister to thank for introducing me to this beautiful little stop-motion picture. First-time feature director Adam Elliot crafts an emotional powerhouse of a film centered around a young Australian girl and a middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger syndrome. What seems like a bizarre scenario soon becomes a thoughtful conversation on loneliness and the necessity of human interaction. Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman provide the vocal work for our titular characters, and their pitch-perfect performances let the audience fall in love with their on-screen personas. Truly a masterful work. 

3. The Iron Giant

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

What kid wouldn't love to have a giant robotic alien from outer space come down and be their new best friend? That's exactly what happens to young Hogarth Hughes in The Iron Giant, a heartfelt tale about friendship that shares similar tones with a film like E.T. The Iron Giant works based on the chemistry of its two stars. With a story set against the backdrop of the early days of the Cold War, its themes still eerily echo in today's society. Yet at its core, this film revolves around the ideas of friendship and acceptance and serves as a wonderful lesson for its key demographic while adding just enough to keep its adult audience invested. 

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

I will admit to being an unapologetic Wes Anderson fan, having seen and enjoyed nearly all of his films. His quirky style lends itself to his overall tone, but his stop-motion foray Fantastic Mr. Fox proves to be the peak of his abilities thus far in his career. By taking a classic children's story - one of my own personal favorites from those days of yore - and crafting it into something even more adult-accessible, we as an audience are given an incredible visual, comedic, and emotional feat. Bolstered by an incredible vocal cast would put most other films on this list to shame, Fantastic Mr. Fox truly is fantastic. 

1. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut

© Paramount Pictures

© Paramount Pictures

Aside from something along the lines of Fritz the Cat, this may be as far from a Disney film as you'll ever seen in animation. And yet, the South Park movie still manages to offer a number of parallels in its method of storytelling and its slew of musical numbers. That, however, is where the similarities end. As with the television program, this movie strove to push the boundaries for what could be considered acceptable from animated fare. It presents itself in meta-theatrical fashion, lending its own backstory and controversies to the hilarity of its plot. Bigger, Longer, & Uncut offers a perfect extension of the show while still managing to be a great stand-alone effort. This may not be the most kid-friendly or most beautifully-animated movie on this list, but it supplants those detractions with a brilliantly satirical screenplay and a mesmerizing soundtrack. This Academy Award-nominated flick definitely stands as an incredible effort. 


Fan Five

Here's a look at the top five films mentioned on the Facebook group page. In total, a whopping fifty-eight movies were mentioned from the Shaun Talks Movies fans, and over twenty of them received multiple votes! Clearly, this is a category that reaps plenty of rewards. If you'd like to join in the discussion for future Top 10 lists, request to be added to the group!

Top 10: Picture Cars

Hello, and welcome to the return of the Top 10 lists through Shaun Talks Movies media! Each week, I'll be trying to bring you a brand new list of film-centric fun based on a movie hitting theaters that week. 

© Paramount Pictures

© Paramount Pictures

To kick things off, I'm taking my inspiration from a little movie called Monster Trucks. I can't quite say I'm excited about the prospects of the film itself, but it definitely jogged my idea for creating a list about picture cars. A "picture car" is any vehicle you see on-screen in a film. I've gone through the list of every movie I've seen and have pulled the ten most iconic in my own mind and have created the following list. A quick reminder: I can only use films I have personally seen for these lists, so if you don't see your favorite choice, there's a chance I haven't seen the film. Let me know in the comments below! 

In the future, I'll do my best to give each list a little write-up here and there, but for time crunches this week, I'm simply bringing you the list. Enjoy!


10. The Dude's Car
The Big Lebowski (1998)

© Gramercy Pictures

© Gramercy Pictures

 

9. Stuntman Mike's Charger
Death Proof (2007)

© Genius Products

© Genius Products

 

8. Benny
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

© Buena Vista Pictures

© Buena Vista Pictures

 

7. Frankenstein's Car
Death Race 2000 (1975)

© New World Pictures

© New World Pictures

 

6. V8 Interceptor
Mad Max (1979)

© American International Pictures

© American International Pictures

 

5. Ecto-1
Ghostbusters (1984)

© Columbia Pictures

© Columbia Pictures

 

4. The Truck
Duel (1971)

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures

 

3. Deathmobile
Animal House (1978)

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures

 

2. Bluesmobile
The Blues Brothers (1980)

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures

 

1. DeLorean
Back to the Future (1985)

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures


I want to round things out with some fan contributions! Over on the Facebook Group page, I asked the members for their opinions on the best picture cars, and here's some of the results. If you'd like to vote on the weekly top ten lists, be sure to get yourself added to that group! But once again, here's a brief glimpse at the eclectic range of films mentioned on that group post. I took the liberty of removing the films already mentioned on my own list. I'll find more interesting ways to present the information should I get more concise responses in the future: 

Batman: The Movie | Batman | Bullitt | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang | Christine | Cruel Intentions
Dumb & Dumber
 | Elvira: Mistress of the Dark | Ferris Bueller's Day Off | Goldfinger
Gone in Sixty Seconds
 | Il Sorprasso | Jurassic Park | Psycho | Smokey and the Bandit
The Muppet Movie
 | Transformers: The Movie | Vanishing Point


Thank you once again to all those who responded, and be sure to keep an eye out next week for another Top 10 list! Again, I'll hopefully be able to do a little more with the list next week, but this will have to suffice for now. 

Be sure to check out all our media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Enjoy!

Top 10: Female Action Characters

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Welcome to the newest incarnation of the Shaun Talks Movies Top 10 lists! My longtime listeners may remember the first iteration of these lists from the early days of the podcast. At that time, the lists were featured as bonus weekly episodes in addition to the already standard Monday releases. These side episodes were solo shows that gave me to chance to count down random film-related lists (i.e., found footage films, young actor performances, etc.) that served to highlight movies that listeners may not know or generally hear about. Ultimately, the production of those mini-sodes proved to be a little too time-consuming, so I had to shelve the idea for the time being. But now, I'm bringing the Top 10 lists back with full force in blog format in the hopes of generating a stronger readership on the website that the podcasts themselves might not necessarily bring. 

I've been kicking around the idea to bring these lists back for quite some time, but I wanted to find a category that could serve as a great starting point. Regrettably, this first topic stems from a place of negativity, but I hope to use this post to spin that into a positive light. As you probably know, the teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film Rogue One dropped last week, and the collective public reaction seemed to be one of excitement. There was, however, a very vocal minority upset that the film depicts a woman (portrayed by Felicity Jones, pictured above) in the leading role. Some of this minority has gone so far as to say they will boycott the film as a result, and I find that absolutely absurd. So, to counter their grievances, I decided to delve into the world of kickass women and the characters they've played. To restart the Shaun Talks Movies Top 10 lists, I'll be counting down my ten favorite action characters portrayed by women. 

A quick note: 

These lists will be compiled from films that I have personally seen. I do a bit of research to give myself clues and insight for creating my own list, but if I haven't seen a given movie, I will not place it on a list even if it's an obvious inclusion. Therefore, if you see a glaring omission to any particular list, there is a possibility I simply do not have it in my personal repertoire. By all means, let me know! But for now, let's get to the list!


10. Rey
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I had some trouble placing one character here at the bottom of the list, and I had to leave off quite a few strong contenders to make room for Daisy Ridley's Rey. She's the newest character to be featured on this list, but she definitely showed she can hold her ground in the previously male-driven Star Wars universe. Like the aforementioned Jyn Erso, The Force Awakens suffered a bit of an outcry when a similar vocal minority realized that Ridley would be the star of the show; I, however, personally thought she did a fantastic job bringing her character to life. Rey has one of the strongest arcs in the film, and I would argue that she presents one of the widest emotional ranges of the characters on this list. But what truly cements her spot here is her ability to hold her own. There's a moment early in the film when Finn (John Boyega) sees her struggling against some common thieves. He instinctually rushes to her aid only to notice that she has dispatched her attackers convincingly on her own. It's a defining character trait that only grows throughout the film, and after the release of Episodes VIII and IX, I wouldn't be surprised to see Rey move further up this list. 

9. The Bride
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

© Miramax

© Miramax

Quentin Tarantino had always intended for Kill Bill to serve as one film, and he's gone so far as to insinuate that it remains one film that was split into two sections for the viewing masses. Because the vasty majority of the public has only seen the film chopped into its two formats, I had the ability to choose whether I wanted to highlight Vol. 1's Bride or Vol. 2's Beatrix Kiddo. Something about the mystique of an unnamed character drew to me, and I feel as though the action-oriented elements of the first film truly accentuate Uma Thurman's action portrayal of the character. While the second segment spends a lot of time delving into the typical Tarantino dialogue, Vol. 1 gives the audience the chance to watch The Bride kick ass. From the early fight against Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) to the absolutely bonkers battle against the Crazy 88, The Bride truly shows her stuff. 

8. Erin
You're Next (2011)

© Lionsgate

© Lionsgate

I know what you're thinking: You're Next is not an action movie. I concede to that point, but Sharni Vinson's character Erin definitely deserves a spot on this list. If you haven't seen You're Next (and you really show because it's great), the story follows a young woman who accompanies her boyfriend to his family's secluded vacation home for a big family dinner. In the midst of their dinner party, unknown attackers start raiding the house, killing everyone they see. Little do these attackers know, however, that Erin was raised in a survivalist camp, making her the perfect foil to their plans. We the audience see a strong and confident character laying the plans for making their escape, and when all that hits the fan, we see Erin take complete charge in resistance. Horror films have a tendency to revolve around female characters that gradually grow into their strength against their terrifying foes, but You're Next lets Sharni Vinson be a badass from the start. 

7. Mulan
Mulan (1998)

© Buena Vista Pictures

© Buena Vista Pictures

I'm following a horror film with an animated one, but this is my list, and y'all can deal with it! Also, Mulan totally deserves a spot of recognition. She's a young woman annoyed with the status quo in feudal China, so she makes the decision to protect her father by secretly taking his place among the ranks in the army. At the outset, we see her struggle with training, but through the course of an amazing musical montage (cue Donny Osmond), Mulan shows that through mental fortitude, any physical obstacle can be overcome. She then becomes the emotional leader of a group of soldiers fighting against a despicable Hun army and one of the most underrated Disney villains in Shan-Yu. The final moments of the film show her literally fighting for the sake of the empire, and it's her gradual growth to this strength that makes her memorable and relatable. In a film that offers quite a bit of comic relief from the male characters, Mulan truly stands above the rest. 

6. Hanna
Hanna (2011)

© Focus Features

© Focus Features

The youngest character on this list, Saoirse Ronan definitely packs a punch as the titular character in Joe Wright's 2011 film. Hanna is raised in the wilderness by a former CIA special agent, and her entire childhood is spent learning different survival skills should she one day be faced with danger stemming from her father's past. She is a trained killer, but she also embodies an intelligence and thoughtfulness rarely seen in action fare. Hanna also has to confront a deliciously evil antagonist in Cate Blanchett, who plays off the girl's tenacity quite well. But Ronan, already an Oscar-nominated actress at the time, brings a fury to the character that's sorely needed. Hanna is definitely a force with which to be reckoned. 

5. Yu Shu Lien
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

© Sony Pictures Classics

© Sony Pictures Classics

Every other film on this list proves to be a rather loud, action-oriented film, but Michelle Yeoh's performance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon mirrors the overall tone of the film itself. It's a quiet portrayal which stands in stark contrast to the big-budget action fare of the Hollywood system, yet it still stands the test of time and clamors to be included here. Yeoh brings a thoughtfulness to the character that generally doesn't find its way into action performances, and she's one of the more redeeming characters in the film itself. We're also seeing a very different style of action in Crouching Tiger: it's graceful in its choreography, and it requires excellence from its entire cast. More than anyone else on this list, Yeoh's action prowess onscreen translates directly to her proficiency offscreen, and that only adds to her mystique and aura in the film. 

4. Rita Vrataski
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

Edge of Tomorrow was a film I was very excited to see, yet it somehow slipped under the radar and passed from theaters much too quickly. Lately, you may have seen it promoted under the title Live. Die. Repeat., but it's the same film featuring the same fantastic performance from Emily Bunt. A year before she would star opposite Benicio Del Toro in Sicario (a close runner-up for this list), Blunt would completely steal the show from Tom Cruise in this action-packed sci-fi adventure. The film centers around a battle against an alien menace, and Blunt's Rita Vrataski has become the face of the human resistance. Nicknamed the "Angel of Verdun" after certain battlefield heroics, her nickname within the ranks - "Full Metal Bitch" - truly cements her character as an all-around badass. She teaches Cruise's character how to do battle against their extra-terrestrial foe, and she holds her own from start to finish. 

3. Furiosa
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

When it was announced that the Mad Max franchise would be returning after a thirty-year hiatus, I'm sure there were plenty of people (myself included) that scoffed at the idea. When it was announced that Tom Hardy would be playing the titular character opposite Charlize Theron, I have to admit that my excitement was mostly directed at Hardy. Anyone who has seen the final film, however, will know that this is a Mad Max film only in title; the real story follows the women of the film led by the furious Furiosa. Let's break it down: as a woman, Furiosa has already become one of the leaders in Immortan Joe's army. As a woman, she has battled her way to the top, much of which seemingly with only one arm. And as a woman, she takes it upon herself to free the multitudes of Joe's wives from the hellish existence in which they live. It might be difficult to lose out on Theron's performance in this film as the visual spectacle does promote awe, but don't sleep on Furiosa. Given time, she very well may make her way closer to the top of this list. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Max sits with a rifle and aims at an enemy in the distance. Furiosa steps behind him and silently beckons for him to relinquish the rifle to her. He does without question, knowing that she is the better marksman, and offers her his shoulder to steady her aim. When a character as iconic and badass as Max Rockatansky can submit to a superior warrior, she definitely deserves your respect. 

2. Ellen Ripley
Aliens (1986)

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

When Sigourney Weaver was cast as the lead in Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece Alien, it sent shockwaves through the sci-fi community. At the time, science fiction had been an incredibly male-dominated genre, so to place Weaver's Ellen Ripley in the middle of the action was a daring feat that ultimately paid off. Seven years later, James Cameron would bring Weaver back to that universe, but he would do so in a film that served more as an action thriller than its straight-horror predecessor. When Ellen Ripley awakes to find more of these Xenomorph menace running rampant on an otherworldly base, she's the only one with true, intimate knowledge of how these creatures function. Despite being surrounded by a group of highly-trained soldiers, she steps up to the plate to serve as the de facto leader of the ragtag group, showing that she has the chops to compete and excel. Aliens serves as a strong entry in a strange franchise, and it works as the only real action film we'll see until 2004's Alien vs. Predator. But there's no denying that Weaver's Ripley is one of the strongest female action stars that Hollywood has ever seen. 

1. Sarah Connor
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

© TriStar Pictures

© TriStar Pictures

Like the aforementioned Ellen Ripley, the Sarah Connor character starts more as a damsel in distress than a true action star. In the 1984 film The Terminator, we see Linda Hamilton work almost as a horror genre "final girl" as she attempts to defeat the slow-moving beast closing in to seal her fate. She's able to overcome, and she learns from the experience in an incredibly profound way. When we see her again in Terminator 2, she's trapped in a psychiatric hospital spouting seeming delusions about a time-traveling exterminator from the future. Once her rants are revealed to be true, however, we see that this is no longer the Sarah Connor of old. This Sarah is ready and prepared for the imminent apocalypse, and she takes the lead in defending her son John (Edward Furlong), the leader of the future resistance against the machines. In a film starring ultra-mega action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would take quite a bit for another character to truly stand tall as an action force, but Linda Hamilton is able to do just that in Terminator 2. Other people have portrayed the character in various iterations and sequels in this franchise, but the Sarah Connor of Judgment Day will always reign as the greatest female action star of all time.