I'm a film buff, and as I graduated as an Animator with a real passion for well-made films (technical and story-wise), it pains me to see a lot of people unaware of the other wonderful movies that aren't exactly mainstream. This list was born out of the many times I've talked with people and none of them had heard any of those listed here.

Hopefully, you'll find time to watch these beautifully done animated films. From someone who's experienced the struggles and the amount of effort needed to finish an animated piece, I urge you to watch more and learn to appreciate the effort the creators and the whole team have done to deliver you entertainment.

1. Mary and Max (2009)

This film is easily one of my favorites from this list. The story centers on a young girl from Australia who finds a pen-pal through an old Yellow Pages at a store on one of her trips with her mom. Questions such as "Where do babies come from?" are also humorously answered.

"There was nothing nicer, Mary thought to herself, than the smell of a wet rooster, the sound of rain on the roof, and the taste od sweetened condensed milk straight from the can while watching your favorite cartoon." - Narrator

Once they start exchanging letters (yes kids, they had no emails then), the story turns into a rich take on life, ideals, and expectations from the perspective of two different characters.

Let's just say a little girl's curiosity and an old man's boredom with life can make for a great story. I could write on and on about why this film has captured me, but I'll let you discover that on your own.

2. The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists! (2012)

I watched Pirates for the first time last 2015, and the way it was done and presented really attracted me to it. It's about the Pirate Captain and his gang's quest to become the most feared troupe in the whole British sea - something that's quite impossible once you get to know them.

They're really such a loveable gang whose idea of torture can be nothing more than a tickle or a prank. Very "un-pirate-y", wouldn't you say? Their enemy? Queen Victoria. She hates pirates. Turns out the graceful Queen has more sinister plans under her gown.

I actually watched a documentary on how the film was created, and I am just so blown away - as I am with most stop-motion films. There's so much care and effort put into this! I'm sure you and the whole family will love Pirates as much as I have come to do.

3. Persepolis (2007)

If you aren't a fan of a foreign country's history (or history in general), this film might just change your mind. Persepolis follows a young girl, Marji, growing up in Iran during the 1970s, the period of the Iranian Revolution in which the hated Shah was defeated. 

As Marji grows up, she sees how the new Iran - being ruled by Islam fundamentalists - have become their own brand of tyranny. Her family, knowing she wouldn't sit idly by the sides, send her off to Vienna to keep her away and have her studies continue there. 

Disappointments follow her left and right, and when she returns home, Marji realizes Iran has changed as much as she has, and her struggle to find her place plagues her on.

4. La Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet - 1973)

Oh, I love this one. This is creative journalism right here. The story revolves around the world of Ygam, a place where blue aliens (Draags) rule and where humans (Oms) are treated as slaves or pets. Set within the lifespan of Terr (an Om taken in by one of the blues when his mother was murdered during an escape), the story challenges its viewers to think and make their own moral decisions. 

Using the learning tool, Terr gains more knowledge, and passes these on to his fellow rogue Oms. The Draags realize the Oms are becoming more dangerous as time goes on and decides to eradicate their whole race. 

The Oms revolt against the Draag masters, and their worlds are never the same. This film is truly gold for the compassionate, thinking viewer. Don't mistake its child-like appeal for shallowness - the message gives you much to think about. 

5. The Congress (2013)

This is one of those films that stay in your mind for a while because of its graphics. The Congress is about an old, out-of-work actress who accepts one final job - one that will affect her life in ways she never thought it would.

One of the great things about this film is that it marries cartoons -light, entertaining, pleasing to the eyes - with issues that are heavier than the colors used in it. It's a metaphor in a way for the issues that are popular in this world. Beliefs that you have to be a certain way to be relevant and sacrifice your integrity for fame.

It's hard to explain, but once you finish the movie, it gives more questions than answers. It leaves you with a sense of being afloat. It keeps your mind ripe and active trying to make sense of what you just watched.

It's gotten mixed reviews from a variety of critics, but it has a lot going for it to stay between the lines of those that love it and those that don't care much at all.

6. Le Magasin de Suicides (The Suicide Shop - 2012)

Another favorite of mine, the French film The Suicide Shop is delightful to watch as it merges two of my favorite things: grim topics and cartoons. It is exactly what the title says it is - most of the setting is inside a suicide shop which sells items to help you go to 'the beyond'. Their tagline says you're guaranteed to die, and if it slips, you're free to come back and return the defective item. 

It's a family business, and everyone in it is gloomy and depressed - until the baby comes along. With their happy kid growing up, the business owners start finding their business difficult to maintain when their little angel gives off pure happiness.

The animated film is based on a comic, and could be labeled as one of those black comedy gems everyone publicly dislikes - but secretly indulge in. With a sales pitch of making everyone in the world feel depressed and hopeless, their business could be booming for years. 

If you love black comedies, I recommend watching this one. It might be about a grim topic (taboo, even), but you'll be surprised how this film will make you want to keep living. 

7. A Town Called Panic (Panique au Village - 2009)

Ending our list on a light, humorous note, we have A Town Called Panic, a film that centers on Cowboy and Indian's quest to give Mr. Horse the best birthday ever. Things go haywire however, and they must travel to the far end of the earth and back to make things right.

Panic is a given feature of the town, and Mr. Horse only wants to be left alone with his girlfriend. When his two friends mess things up however, they embark on a journey together, and makes the plot of the whole story come to life.

While it may not be the best animated film in this list, the simple comicality of the whole story and the plastic figures planning for a friend's birthday just takes the stress away from a day's work. This one's meant for kids (and kids at heart) with its crude animation and simple storyline. Having to explain the whole story will take the fun out of seeing the scenes unfold yourself.

It's light, hilarious, and entertaining. The normal ingredients for a comedy is effectively thrown out the window in this one, but it rests easy on the eyes and heart.

So end our list. Animated films will always have their charms no matter what age you decide to watch them. As for me, as long as there are films being made out there, I'll be keeping an eye out.

How about you? Seen any really nice animated films this year?