While it’s easy to think of coming of age movies and animated movies as a world apart, the two genres intersect a lot more than you might think. After all, animated movies are often aimed at younger audiences, and therefore focus on younger characters. With this being the case, it makes sense that a lot of them have a heavy focus on growing up and self-discovery.

Though some lean more heavily into their coming of age trappings, others are more subtle, often being tied to a grandiose adventure as a more child-friendly delivery method. Either way, many of the greatest animated films ever made also happen to be coming of age movies – and here are the ten best examples of that.

10 Whisper of the Heart (1995) – 7.9

One of many coming of age films from Studio Ghibli, Whisper of the Heart is one of the few that’s not wrapped up inside a more fantastical narrative, acting as a more grounded slice of life drama instead. Following teenager Shizuku, the movie chronicles her journey of personal and creative self-discovery, while she also crosses paths with a kindred spirit.

Certain to strike a chord with creative types, Whisper of the Heart explores the anxiety of creation and the judgment it brings, with Shizuku eventually learning to focus on honing her craft rather than worrying what others might think. Both charming and uplifting, Whisper of the Heart is easily one of Ghibli’s most underrated movies.

9 The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) – 8.0

Taking inspiration from the similarly titled Japanese folk tale, Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya tells the tale of its titular princess – an otherwordly being who’s discovered growing inside a bamboo shoot as a baby – and subsequently draws the attention of countless admirers as she grows up.

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Capturing the coming of age spirit perfectly despite its central character being from the moon, the story is wonderfully told, with its unique watercolor animation further heightening the emotion of the movie’s most evocative scenes.


8 Persepolis (2007) – 8.0

Losing out to Ratatouille at the 80th Academy Awards, Persepolis is a decidedly more mature take on the animated coming of age film, with its striking art style, honest script and oppressive setting making it all the more powerful.

The movie is based on the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, which chronicles Marjane’s rebellious adolescence during the deadly Iranian Revolution. Unapologetically bold and unflinching, Persepolis is arguably the most underseen movie on this entire list.

7 Inside Out (2015) – 8.0

One of Pixar’s most beloved movies in recent years, Inside Out tells the story of eleven-year-old Riley, who’s forced to come to terms with her anthropomorphized emotions when she moves to a new city.

Despite squandering its full creative potential by forcing its two opposing central characters – Joy and Sadness – on a road trip across Riley’s mind in formulaic Pixar fashion, the movie was a critical darling, winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 88th Academy Awards.

6 How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – 8.1

While it’s the series’ first movie that holds the highest score on IMDb, the entire How to Train Your Dragon franchise deserves credit for telling a sprawling coming of age story, not afraid to make major changes to the status quo by aging its characters between movies.

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The first entry in the series, however, stands as a fantastic coming of age film in its own right, following meek teenage Viking Hiccup as he discovers a new, peaceful way of co-existing with the world’s deadly dragons – much to the dismay of his more traditional family.

5 Your Name (2016) – 8.4

Receiving widespread acclaim when it released in 2016, Your Name tells the story of two teenagers – Taki and Mitsuha – who discover they’re periodically switching bodies, coming to understand one another intimately by living in one another’s shoes – and eventually starting a romance.

While its central premise has admittedly been done before, Your Name boasts a fantastically layered script, a rousing score, and gorgeous animation, standing out as one of the year’s most celebrated movies – animated or otherwise.

4 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – 8.4

With Sony struggling to put out a good non-MCU Spider-Man movie for the better part of a decade, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came as a pleasant surprise in late 2018, quickly earning a reputation as not only the best animated film of the year but one of the best superhero movies ever made.

Offering a fresh, energetic take on the Spider-Man story while respecting the character of Peter Parker, the movie sees fan-favorite character Miles Morales come into his own as the Webslinger – while crossing paths with the various ‘Spider-Men’ of alternate universes.

3 Coco (2017) – 8.4

Having the distinction of being the joint-highest Pixar film on IMDb, Coco tells the beautiful story of Miguel, whose family’s insistence on joining the family business tramples on his dream of being a musician. Soon enough, however, Coco finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where he must find his great-great-grandfather, Ernesto, in order to fulfill his destiny and return to the land of the living.

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Boasting one of the most emotionally resonant, layered stories in all of Pixar – as well as some truly jaw-dropping animation – Coco is easily amongst the best movies the studio has ever released.

2 The Lion King (1994) – 8.5

Arguably the most iconic animated film of the past 50 years, The Lion King is almost universally beloved, with its colorful characters, gorgeous setting, talented voice cast, and incredible soundtrack making the movie as close to perfect as it’s possible to get.

The film chronicles the story of the lion cub Simba, who’s set to inherit his father’s throne before he’s unceremoniously killed by Simba’s duplicitous uncle, Scar. Sure, it may be Hamlet with animals, but it’s so bright and full of life that it’s impossible not to love, becoming one of the most famous – and highest-grossing – animated movies ever made.

1 Spirited Away (2001) – 8.6

Telling a different kind of story than the ones usually found in Western animation, Spirited Away made a huge splash when it released back in 2001, becoming partly responsible for the West’s sudden surge in interest surrounding Studio Ghibli.

Oozing creativity, originality, and heart, the movie sees its young protagonist Chihiro embark on a fantastical odyssey of maturity and self-discovery after her parents are turned into pigs at a magical bathhouse. Showcasing some of the most sumptuous animation ever put to screen, Spirited Away’s bizarre character designs, breath-taking score, and heartfelt story add up to one of the greatest animated films of all time.

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