10 Best Animated Sci-Fi Movies

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When we think of science fiction movies, we generally picture post-apocalyptic stories, time travel tales, space operas, and other similar sci-fi tropes. However, it’s far rarer that one immediately thinks of animation, which is ironic considering how many wonderfully-crafted animated sci-fi features are right at our fingertips in this age of streaming services and nigh-unlimited on-demand content.

Thankfully, we here at Epicstream were able to curate a list of such films, so if you haven’t seen any of our picks yet, the ball is truly in your court. Here are the 10 best animated sci-fi movies:

  1. Transformers: The Movie

    Director: Nelson Shin

    Cast: Orson Welles, Robert Stack, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Idle, Greg Berger, Judd Nelson

    While Michael Bay’s bombastic live-action Transformers films have begun to overstay their welcome, nostalgic fans of the franchise still tend to clamor for the beloved 1986 animated feature that pits the Autobots against both the Decepticons and a colossal, planet-consuming robot who goes after the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. The animation is more or less what you would expect from something made in the mid-‘80s, but the fun, action-packed story and the star-studded voice cast make Transformers: The Movie far more than the glorified toy commercial critics hailed it as upon its release.

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  2. 9

    Director: Shane Acker

    Cast: Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Christopher Plummer

    This often-overlooked gem is the story of a post-apocalyptic future in which the world's machines have turned on mankind and sparked social unrest, decimating the human population. Enter 9: the eponymous ragdoll who holds the key to humanity’s salvation and inspires others to fight back against their oppressors. While the story is admittedly not all that complex, the film remains more than compelling with its creepy atmosphere, menacing villains, stellar action sequences, and Shane Acker's outstanding direction. Like many unsung heroes of cinema, the beauty of 9 lies in its simplicity.

  3. The Animatrix

    Director: Peter Chung, Andy Jones, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Mahiro Maeda, Kôji Morimoto, Shinichirô Watanabe

    Cast: Kevin Michael Richardson, Pamela Adlon, John DiMaggio, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss

    Less than a month after The Matrix Reloaded hit theaters, fans were treated to this direct-to-video collection of nine animated short films, which expand upon the backstory of the Matrix universe and shed more light on the war between man and machines that led to the creation of the Matrix in the first place. The world that the Wachowskis created in the original Matrix had so much potential, and while the big-screen counterparts, unfortunately, took a nosedive, The Animatrix manages to capitalize on all of the most intriguing aspects of the franchise. Like any anthology, some of the chapters certainly shine brighter than others, but all of them contain solid storytelling and moments of pure aesthetic pleasure, which the amazing soundtrack reinforces to no end.

  4. Atlantis: The Lost Empire

    Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

    Cast: Michael J. Fox, Jim Varney, Corey Burton, James Garner

    In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, we follow a young adventurer named Milo Thatch, who joins an intrepid group of explorers to find the mysterious lost continent of Atlantis. The film employs a stunning blend of traditional animation with computer-generated imagery, and some of the plot and dialogue surprisingly transcends the status quo for movies intended for a broad or youthful audience. It's probably the most grown-up animated feature Disney has produced, with unusually complex villains and heroes that are incredibly dynamic and well-developed. Although there are some questions left unanswered in the story, it’s still a visual masterpiece, and it’s sure to have something that everyone will enjoy.

  5. Big Hero 6

    Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams

    Cast: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller

    Big Hero 6 is fast-paced, action-packed, and often touching adventure about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who learns to harness his genius to form a band of high-tech heroes with his friends and his plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax. The film borrows certain thematic elements from other animated sci-fi/superhero features such as The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, but it remains unique in its presentation (though, to no one’s surprise, the cute, huggable Bayamax definitely steals the show). While the story is suitable for all ages, it’s great to see how the underlying theme of loss and grief are portrayed so beautifully, in a way which we can all understand and relate to. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and most importantly, it will keep you thoroughly engaged throughout.

  6. Ghost in the Shell

    Director: Mamoru Oshii

    Cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka

    Moviegoers were disappointed by the 2017 live-action Ghost in the Shell for a number of reasons, the least of which being that the 1995 anime did a far better job adapting the source material than its big-screen counterpart. The film takes place in 2029, where a cyborg policewoman and her partner are on the hunt for a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master, who hacks people’s minds and leaves a trail of victims robbed of their memories. The animation is every bit as stunning as the narrative, resulting in a thoughtful, complex treat for longtime anime fans, as well as a perfect introduction for viewers that are just starting to dip their toes into the medium. In any case, regardless of how you feel about anime, Ghost in the Shell remains an excellent science fiction story with a lot to say about human nature.

  7. WALL-E

    Director: Andrew Stanton

    Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin

    Set in a distant future, WALL-E is the story of a small waste-collecting robot who inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind. The film’s stellar visuals testify once again to Pixar's ingenuity, and while the undeniably charming star will captivate younger viewers, the timely story – rich with thought-provoking subtext – will surely appeal to adults, as well. WALL-E is a heartwarming love story combined with a great sci-fi tale, and it remains a testament to why Pixar is one of the best things to ever happen to cinema.

  8. The Incredibles

    Director: Brad Bird

    Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Holly Hunter

    If you take the core premise of Captain America: Civil War, combine it with everything the Fantastic Four films should have been and render it all in CG animation, then you’re left with Disney/Pixar’s Academy Award-winning film The Incredibles. The story takes place in a world where collateral damage and public resentment has forced superheroes into retirement, but a top-secret mission soon pulls Bob Parr and his family away from their quiet suburban life and back into the fold of full-time heroics. Writer/director Brad Bird proved five years earlier with the aforementioned Iron Giant that he knew how to transcend the genre and craft a well-rounded, beautifully-scripted superhero story that can appeal to all age brackets, and with The Incredibles, lightning struck twice.

  9. The Iron Giant

    Director: Brad Bird

    Cast: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston

    The Iron Giant is a loose adaptation of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man but reimagined as a Cold War-era story of friendship and political paranoia. While it may have been a box-office disappointment at the time, The Iron Giant has since been embraced as one of the best cartoon films of the past few decades thanks to its wondrous animation and gentle tone. Balancing science fiction with believability, the film tells a story for children and adults, alike, about how violence begets violence, and most importantly for an animated film geared towards kids, it respects the audience’s intelligence. On top of that, it’s visually stunning, with a gorgeous blend of computer animation and hand-drawn imagery that draws your eye to the beauty of its color and motion, rather than distracting with overly rendered digital set pieces.

  10. Akira

    Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

    Cast: Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Mitsuo Iwata, Tesshô Genda

    This cyberpunk adventure takes place in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo, where a secret military project gives a young boy telekinetic powers that place him at the center of a conflict of Earth-shattering proportions. Akira is a landmark achievement that set the standard for modern anime with its kinetic style and top-notch animation, and not only did it pave the way for the medium's growing popularity outside of Japan, but it also remains a significant influence in the sci-fi genre today. The world building and mythology are both immersive and fascinating, allowing each and every visually-stunning scene to transport you directly to the heart of Neo-Tokyo. At times, Akira can be over-shadowed by its excessive, graphic violence, but this is one of the only faults in this brilliant adaptation of director Katsuhiro Otomo's seminal 2,000-page manga.

    What about you? What are your favorite animated sci-fi movies? Let us know in the comments section!