The Top Animated War Movies

You don't see a lot of animated war movies. This may be for the simple reason that cartoons are thought to be for children and war movies are supposed to be for adults. Still, there have been a number of animated war movies made over the years—all with very adult content—each of which, have been pretty exceptional films. The choice to animate these movies, as oppose to film with live actors, is a peculiar one, but one that is also effective. Something about the illustration of combat makes these films seem all the more surreal and nightmarish. Here are the best (and only) animated war movies.

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Victory Through Air Power (1943)

Victory Through Air Power Movie Still

In 1943, Walt Disney released

Victory Through Air Power

, a full-on propaganda cartoon that advertised war bonds for the war effort, using cartoons to animate the war effort, and the Japanese threat of Kamikaze pilots.

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When the Wind Blows (1986)

When the Wind Blows Title Image

This British cartoon depicts an elderly couple in rural Britain attempting to survive a nuclear blast. Produced during the height of the Cold War as a parable to warn against nuclear war, this is one of the most intense and disturbing war films you'll ever see. The elderly couple, guided by a pamphlet distributed by the British government, which suggests such life saving measures as hiding behind mattresses stacked against the wall, slowly succumb to radiation poisoning before they eventually die. How cheerful!

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Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Still from Grave of the Fireflies

In this Japanese film, two young children, both siblings, attempt to flee the American firebombing of their city after the death of their mother. The second World War is in its final throes and Japan is collapsing as a civilization. Without anyone to care for them, the brother and sister bounce around from relatives, to a camp, and finally, to the streets, as they battle starvation and disease. This is about as disturbing a film as you'll ever see, and the end is shattering.

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Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Still from Watz With Bashir

In this film, an Israeli soldier struggles to piece together his memory about a massacre that he may or may not have participated in. By speaking to his comrades, he's able to start to re-collect his memory, which has horrible consequences. It should be noted, like most of the films on this list, the animation used in this film is not your traditional cartoon style of bright colors, instead, the film's animators use shadows and darkness to create a visual palette which would be difficult to re-create in real life. A powerful, and stirring film about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

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300 (2006)

Still from 300

Although not fully a cartoon, the movie was filmed with real actors on soundstage, the filmmakers use such heavy CGI to render each frame of the film, that nothing is life-like, and everything becomes a mix between fantasy and reality. The action on-screen is also over the top and of a cartoon, such that the entire film could be considered a sort of animated war movie.

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The Wind Rises (2013)

Title image from The Wind Rises

This film is certainly not your average subject matter for a cartoon. The film is a fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi A6 Zero fighter which was used by the Japanese in the second World War. It's a love story, and a story of invention, set against the backdrop of the second World War. With smart dialogue and characters and in-depth storytelling, this is currently the highest grossing film in Japanese history!