10 Animated Movie Hidden Gems on HBO Max


While most may come to HBO Max for their original series and blockbuster movies, the streaming service has a lot to offer fans of animation, too. From Studio Ghibli films to its Looney Tunes library, animation aficionados will feel right at home with HBO Max.

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But what about the animated movies that fell into the cracks? The movies that many would label as “hidden gems?” Not to worry, because HBO Max has plenty of those as well. From anthologies to anime, here are some picks that will please animation fans of all types of animation.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Although the dark knight has had many cinematic outings, 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was his first theatrical film of the animated variety. While the film didn’t fare well at the box office, it soon took on new life thanks to home video. Even today, the film remains a fan favorite, with Robert Pattinson himself singing the film’s praises.

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Set in the world of the phenomenal Batman: The Animated Series, the film tells a story about an all-new villain, the titular Phantasm, as they wage a war against the many crime bosses of Gotham. If that wasn’t enough for the caped crusader, Batman must also deal with the re-emergence of an old love, Andrea Beaumont. Featuring a stunning score and amazing performances from Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker respectively, this movie is a must-watch for any self-respecting bat fan.


Rango (2011)

Animation has covered a variety of different genres, from comedies to fantasy, but one genre that has seldom been explored is that of the western. Thankfully, 2011’s Rango gave us a delightful taste of an animated wild west. You have Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski to thank for that.

After a chameleon named Rango (Johnny Depp) gets lost in the desert, he stumbles upon a town called Dirt. The town is in need of a new sheriff, and who better to fill that spot than Rango? Fans of Verbinski’s Pirates trilogy will feel right at home with this CG-animated film, featuring several alumni from the films and his trademark sense of spectacle. Even over a decade after its release, there really has been no other theatrically animated film quite like it.

Promare (2019)

HBO Max’s animated fare isn’t just all western animation. The streaming service also has a decent amount of anime, too. One of the more recent releases from their anime selection, Studio Trigger’s Promare, is more than worth your time, whether you love anime or not.

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Thirty years ago, groups of humans mutated and gained pyrokinetic powers, becoming known as the Burnish. In the present, a group of firefighters called Burning Rescue work to clean up their messes. However, a new mutant threat soon arises, and Burning Rescue starts to realize there’s more to this story than meets the eye. With an exciting story and amazing animation, there’s plenty to keep both the hardcore anime fans and newcomers engaged. And who doesn’t love mechs?

TMNT (2007)

Like Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t fare so well when their animated movie hit theaters in 2007. However, just like Batman, the film grew to become one of the most underrated entries in their respective franchises.

In a world where the Shredder is no more, the turtles have all gone their separate ways. But when an ancient evil awakens, the turtles are forced to save both the world and their friendship. While the film does have a far different feel than its live-action counterparts, the action set pieces make this a fun watch for any pizza-loving turtles fan. Besides, any film that features Patrick Stewart among its cast is doing something right.

Ponyo (2008)

Studio Ghibli has an insanely impressive catalog of animated films, dating back all the way to 1986. While Ponyo isn’t one of their most discussed features, it may very well be one of their best.

The film follows Ponyo, a fish girl who makes her way into the hands of a boy named Sōsuke. As the two bond, Ponyo becomes more and more human, and her father struggles to bring her back to her home. A heartwarming story focusing on friendship and family, Ponyo is a relaxing watch, and a perfect entrypoint into the world of Hayao Miyazaki.

The Animatrix (2003)

Released in 2003, The Animatrix is unique in that it’s not so much a feature film as it is a collection of short films. Featuring stories from creators like Peter Chung (Æon Flux) and Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), The Animatrix is a film that is just as inventive as the movie series it spawned from.

Shorts range in everything from presentation to content. One story details the fall of humanity before the events of the movies, while another fleshes out the life of Kid, a minor character in the second and third films. For viewers dying to see more of this world after The Matrix Resurrections, this movie will more than scratch that itch.

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

What happens when Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and John Williams come together to make an animated movie? 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin is what happens!

Based on the beloved comic series, the movie follows Tintin and Haddock in search of treasure. During their search, they are also chased by the dastardly Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine. While the cast and story are both tremendous, it’s the animation that really steals the show. Even a decade since its release, the film holds up visually. For anyone jonesing for an Indiana Jones-style animated adventure, Tintin will give you everything you want and more. If only that sequel would come out already!

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

You really can’t go wrong with a Studio Ghibli classic. Another one of Miyazaki’s entries in their canon, Kiki’s Delivery Service absolutely deserves to rank among those titles.

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The movie tells the story of Kiki, a witch girl who has just moved into a new town. She quickly starts to use her powers as a way to make money, but her abilities begin to disappear after she doubts herself, forcing her to confront her issues to gain her powers back. Between the great moral and breathtaking animation (a hallmark of Ghibli movies), Kiki’s Delivery Service remains just as charming today as it was back in 1988.

Steven Universe: The Movie (2019)

Running from 2013 to 2020, Steven Universe has stood as one of the best cartoons to come out of the last decade. Unsurprisingly, the show’s TV movie is just as entertaining as the series itself.

Set after the fifth season, the movie sees Steven finally enjoying his happily ever after. Things take a turn for the worst when a new enemy, an acquaintance from his mother’s past, comes to seek revenge. Filled with great songs and heart, Steven Universe: The Movie is a fun watch for both fans of the series, and those who want to see what all the fuss is about.

The Iron Giant (1999)

Whenever the topic of “underrated animated films” comes up, it seems almost like sacrilege to not bring up 1999’s The Iron Giant. Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), the film met a gruesome fate at the box office. Thankfully, time has been on its side, and it now stands as a hidden gem in the medium of animation.

Set in 1957, the movie explores the bond between a boy named Hogarth and a robot of alien origins. It doesn’t take long for the United States military to learn of the Iron Giant’s existence, leaving young Hogarth as the only thing that can stop the robot from certain doom. A movie that will make you cheer just as much as it will make you cry, The Iron Giant remains essential viewing for fans of animation.

NEXT: Animated Movies That Prove the Art Form Isn’t Just For Kids


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