Raiders are terrorizing the wasteland, mainly on motorcycles with spikey bits. A hardened and independent Harmony (Deborah Rennard) flees a victimized town and meets Anderson, a reformed raider recovering from a wound. He convinces her they should travel together to find a hidden paradise, but all they find are cannibals, plague victims, and a man with a puppy who speaks like a Ren Fair employee (Orland). The two are captured by the raiders but before the lisping mask-wearing maniac leader can dispatch them, Orland and his flamethrower sew chaos allowing them all to escape. The raiders are defeated but paradise is neither found nor mentioned.
This movie makes me angry. It’s not the acting or the production value, or even the rote direction. This is the kind of movie where the characters act in direct conflict to their interests and statements, and nothing makes sense. Harmony states she doesn’t want a crippled companion slowing her down, then she continues to travel with Anderson despite him slowing her down and his constant leading them into life-threatening situations. She reacts with extreme violence to the slightest innocent touch from a history of assault and rape, then moments later doesn’t blink at being touched. Harmony is cold and bloodthirsty, while Anderson touts empathy and altruism, but when they see a settlers being massacred Anderson stops Harmony from helping. Not to mention they both have range weapons but do all their fighting with knives and fisticuffs.
Tropes: bad guys have spikes; man shoots a snake to save a lady; cannibals, things explode for no reason; bickering during a car (bike) chase; little people in robes (jawas)
1000 years after the Neutron Wars, nomadic ranger guide manly Kas Oshay and sexy blonde Deneer hang out in the wasteland riding horses, until captured by riders on their Death Machines (AKA dirt bikes with spacey-looking consoles) and brought back to the walled city of Helix. Tortured by the mad and dying Lord Zirpolo, and forced to partake in Deathsport (AKA a dirt bike track), they somehow break free and escape back into the wasteland, with former ranger guide and Zirpola lieutenant Ankar Moor in hot pursuit. After a brief encounter with cannibalistic cave mutants Kas and Ankar have a duel with clear plastic swords.
Apparently a sort-of sequel to Death Race 2000, this movie is a lot of riding around on bikes with obnoxious sound effects while explosions happen close by, punctuated with some T&A courtesy of playmate Claudia Jennings. The only cast member with any charisma is Richard Lynch. Oh yeah there’s a kid that is thankfully relegated to the beginning and end of the film.
TROPES: vehicles explode for no reason; futuristic jargon; lights flash when torture is happening; exposition about what’s happening on screen; blowing on a gun; mutants only grunt
“By the end of the century” climate change has destroyed most of civilization and created a “river of wind” call the slipstream. A small time, fast-talking, womanizing crook (Bill Paxton) absconds with the quarry (the well dressed “Byron”) of two bounty hunters (Mark Hamill and Kitty Aldridge). An airplane chase takes the characters to a sect of wind-worshippers who crucify Byron on a kite in a windstorm, until the enemies call a truce to rescue him. We learn Byron is more than he appears. A lady appears and leads the fugitives to her home – a hidden museum – which has the residents worried for their security. Rightly so, because the bounty hunters show up and all hell breaks loose.
Sloppy, confusing outing by Star Wars producer and Tron director. The audience is just as lost as the characters, although they….might…be looking for balloons? The actors do what they can with trite lines that they shoot at eachother. Ben Kingsley and F Murray Abraham are astonishingly confined to very small roles in dark corners where the camera struggles to make them out. The aircraft are barely kept aloft by Elmer “Ghostbusters” Bernstein score as they languidly glide after each other. All in all a waste of talent and resources that could have made something good.
Tropes: opening narration explains apocalypse; asshole who is shitty to woman gets the woman; bounty hunters; poisoned hero requires antidote before critical time passes; hidden enclave of rich aristocrats; robot discovers love; plane crashes don’t hurt anyone.
225 A.B. (after the bomb) a gang of dimwits in leather garb, headbands and spiked gloves roams into a ghost town and investigate a… hotel? bar? where they find a greenhouse, a source of clean water and food, as well as an inscrutable computer. Each howling dumdum is killed in turn by hordes of insatiable “mutant” rats despite being able to walk away at any time.
Rats were absolutely harmed in the making of this film, including set on fire. Beyond that, the motivations and statements of the characters are mercurial and conflicting, and the acting is generally gawdawful. Is it so bad it’s good? I wouldn’t go that far, but one saving grace is the corpse that explodes with rats.
Watch out for the twist ending!
Tropes: opening narration and text crawl; sudden but inevitable betrayal; recording explains everything; woman screams and screams; mystic
Nuclear war has broken out and an old survivalist and his daughter are safe in a valley protected by a warm lake and lead mountains. Various visitors show up and are rebuffed by the man and welcomed by the girl. Unsteady relationships break down quickly while a mutant from outside the valley stalks the home.
Not set in the year 2889. This is a bad TV movie remake of the bad black & white Roger Corman movie The Day the World Ended. The actors did okay but weren’t helped by the terrible editing and blocking, where the camera is on a character’s backside while they give exposition.
Tropes: pretty girls are rivals; water is the monster’s vulnerability; victim of radiation becomes monstrous and craves raw flesh; wino has secret stash of hooch; a man dictates that women should have babies to repopulate species
A research facility discovers time travel but can only safely send young people. It is discovered in the future an ecological catastrophe has cast civilization into ruin so a group of teens are sent to start it anew. When it is revealed the transference procedure renders them sterile, Karen, having already suffered the traumatic loss of her sister in an accident, abandons the group and eventually manages to return to the present, inexpertly adjust the machine, and transfer back to an even scarier future.
A story and concept not without it’s merits, but the casting of street kids with no acting chops limits the potential here. I admired some of the scenes, however clumsily shot, and the fact that the heroine’s cosmetic upkeep degraded as she travelled the wastes. I waited for a shot of bagged corpses that never came, but was described.
Tropes: future humans have devolved; military goons spoil a science project; humans are biofuel; dead child’s toy; time travel can also move you through space;
In the parched desert of the post-apocalypse, with water highly controlled, children are indoctrinated into ‘the system’ by the authoritarian Eco-Protectorate. A young child, the mascot of the ‘skate ball’ team Solarbabies, uncovers an magical alien sphere which cures his deafness, and does vague magical things like showing the kids visions of a water-filled future. The evil E.P. eventually acquires the orb through their goons the E-Police, but the Solarbabies rescue it and release the water back into the world.
They should have called this Waterlessworld! It’s a messy, pointless mash-up of E.T., Maze Runner and Rollerball, but I was impressed with the production value and set pieces, especially Tiretown. Also kind of fun to see a youngish Charles Durning (Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother Where Art Thou) and the wicked Sarah Douglas (Ursa from Superman II) being wicked in oversize shoulderpads.
Tropes: secret green sanctuary, future slang lingo, stoic dude has a pet bird, smashing control panel causes facility to self destruct, robot goes crazy, dobermans, futuristic sport is hybrid of current sports.
In an effort to inspire and educate, I present a list of cartoon movies you may not have heard about, much less seen! Since these are lesser known films, I’m not including any Disney or DC Universe films or Tolkien stuff, and I’m assuming everyone who’s reading this sentence already knows about Heavy Metal and Iron Giant. There will be scant Studio Ghibli entries. Also I will avoid films I deem to be of low caliber, such as Wizards or Rock and Rule. Lastly, these are traditional animation, so no CG or stop-motion. If you have something you think should be added to the list, let me know in the comments or @ me on social media!
The Adventures of Prince Achmed / Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (1926)
I’m starting out with a cheat already because this is kind of puppet animation, but since it’s basically the first ever animated feature film it’s worth checking out. I gave it 7/10
Gulliver’s Travels 1939
From the studio that brought you Popeye, Betty Boop, and the Superman shorts comes this mix of classically drawn Lilliputians and heavily rotoscoped giant. I actually haven’t seen this so can’t give you my rating. Oops!
Mr Bug Goes to Town 1941
Another Fleischer production, While an impending human construction project imperils the insect city, a power struggle develops between an upstanding grasshopper and corrupt business owner. Also known as Mr Hoppity Goes to Town. No Toren rating yet!
Fantastic Planet / La planète sauvage 1973
This is a weird one from France/Czechoslovakia that requires a lot of patience but it’s an experience you won’t forget! It does what animation should do. 6/10 from me.
Belladonna of Sadness / Kanashimi no Beradonna (1973)
Big trigger warning on this one. Super artsy and very 70s. I saw this at a local repertoire theater and it was one to remember! 7/10 from me.
Watership Down 1978
Another movie of cute animals to traumatize children. 7/10
Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro / Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro 1979
Pre-Ghibli and directorial debut of legend Hayao Miyazaki. Amazing work and not to be missed! Go in cold and be delighted. 9/10 from me
The Plague Dogs 1982
Two dogs escape from a research facility and run afoul of sheep herders as they try to survive in the countryside. Great stuff with John Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne, and Patrick Stewart. Easily 8/10 from me. You can watch it on Tubi
The Last Unicorn 1982
Not 100% sure this belongs on the list because probably you have watched it. But if not, get on it. Brilliant performance by Rene Auberjonois as a thirsty skeleton plus Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin. 6/10 from me only because the ending is so limp and the maudlin songs. You can watch it on Tubi
The Flight of Dragons 1982 Rankin/Bass
Weirdly proportioned dragons but they didn’t skimp on the linework. Pairs great with The Last Unicorn, James Earl Jones and Harry Morgan with John Ritter of all people. 7/10 from me.
The Secret of NIMH 1982 Don Bluth
Masterful animation, great story with great villains, and Dom DeLuise really delivers as the comic relief crow. Just thinking about this makes me want to watch it again. 7/10 You can watch it on Tubi
Time Masters / Les maitres du temps 1982
What if Moebius made a movie? Well, it would be kinda weird. But also kinda cool. What a year for animation 1982 was! 6/10 from me.
Unconventional, inscrutable, weird – A young girl wanders a desolate, otherworldly landscape, carrying a large egg. That’s… pretty much it, though there is an ending. Not for everyone but it might be for you, unless you’re prone to falling asleep during films in which everything is grey and there is a monotonous droning while holding on still images for several minutes. It’s a 6.5/10 from me.
When the Wind Blows 1986
When the Wind Blows (1986) stars Peggy Ashcroft and John Mills. Dir: Jimmy Murakami
This is where my fascination with post-apocalyptic movies and love of animation intersect in a traumatizing way. A naive elderly British rural couple survive the initial onslaught of a nuclear war. 6/10 from me.
Light Years / Gandahar 1987
A really involved and interesting story and characters in a fantastical world + boobies. One of my favourites that I still have on VHS. With Glenn Close, Penn & Teller, Christopher Plummer, and Paul Shaffer??? My rating: 8/10
Only Yesterday / Omohide poro poro 1991
A twenty-seven-year-old office worker travels to the countryside while reminiscing about her childhood in Tokyo. This is on my to-watch list so I’ll rate it as soon as I can.
The Thief and the Cobbler 1993
An unfinished film 29 years in the making, you can still watch ‘restored’ cuts on youtube. I hope to watch this very soon and give my take.
Ninja Scroll / Jûbê ninpûchô 1993
It’s about what it sounds like. Trigger warnings abound. 7/10 from me.
Pom Poko / Heisei tanuki gassen ponpoko 1994
Giant balls! You won’t regret watching this. A community of magical shape-shifting raccoon dogs struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development. 7/10
Memories / Memorîzu 1995
3-part film anthology with great visuals and interesting stories, except for the last one was light on story. 7/10 from me. You can watch it on Tubi
Perfect Blue / Pâfekuto burû 1997
The Japanese are on a roll! A pop singer gives up her career to become an actress, but she slowly goes insane when she starts being stalked by an obsessed fan and what seems to be a ghost of her past. 7/10 from me
I Married a Strange Person! 1997 Bill Plympton
A newlywed develops a strange lump on his neck that gives him the ability to transform people or objects at will. Animation doing what it does best! 8/10 from me. You can watch it on Tubi
Titan A.E. 2000 Don Bluth
Ooookayyyyy I’m being very lenient including on this list this only PARTIALLY traditionally animated movie with a run-of-the-mill story. But with Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Jim “Winnie The Pooh/xxx” Cummings, and Ron Perlman, it’s worth checking out. 6/10 from me.
Metropolis / Metoroporisu 2001
Another melding of 2D and 3D. Based on a manga by Osamu “Astro Boy” Tezuka and Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film of the same name. 8/10 from me
The Triplets of Belleville / Les triplettes de Belleville 2003
When her grandson is kidnapped during the Tour de France, Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters–an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire–to rescue him. I have the DVD but haven’t watched it yet. Poor me!
Tekkonkinkreet / Tekkon kinkurito 2006
This isn’t your grandpa’s anime! Two boys defend their territory when Yakuza try to take over and clear it for new development. Striking visuals. 7/10 from me
When a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients’ dreams is stolen, all hell breaks loose. Only a young female therapist, Paprika, can stop it. Gets weird. 7/10
A precocious and outspoken Iranian girl grows up during the Islamic Revolution. Get’s good ratings but to my shame I haven’t watched it yet.
Despite the fact that I know tons of people who worked on this, I haven’t been able to track it down. Shame on me!
A Cat in Paris / Une vie de chat 2010
In Paris, a cat who lives a secret life as a cat burglar’s aide must come to the rescue of Zoe, the little girl he lives with, after she falls into a gangster’s clutches. I haven’t seen this one, if you have tell me if it belongs on the list!
The Illusionist / L’illusionniste 2010
A French illusionist finds himself out of work and travels to Scotland, where he meets a young woman. Their ensuing adventure changes both their lives forever. Follow up to Triplets of Belleville, still on my list!
The Rabbi’s Cat / Le chat du rabbin 2011
One of my favourite comic artists made a movie and I just learned about it! Set in Algeria in the 1920s, a rabbi’s cat who learns how to speak after swallowing the family parrot expresses his desire to convert to Judaism.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices / Hoshi o ou kodomo 2011
A coming of age story involving young love and a mysterious music, coming from a crystal radio left as a memento by an absent father, that leads a young heroine deep into a hidden world. No rating yet
It’s Such A Beautiful Day 2012 Don Hertzfeldt
From the genius who brought you “my spoon is too big.” Get ready for something unusual. 7/10 from me
Ernest and Celestine 2012
Celestine is a mouse trying to avoid a dental career; Ernest is a bear craving an artistic outlet. When Celestine meets Ernest, they overcome their natural enmity by forging a life of crime together. Not yet rated by Toren
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya / Kaguya-hime no monogatari 2013
If there’s one Ghibli film you haven’t seen, it’s probably this one! Delightfully different. 7/10
Boy and the World / O Menino e o Mundo 2013
I haven’t seen this one but it was recommended to me and has good reviews. Have you seen it? Let me know your thoughts!
Bird Boy: the Forgotton Children / Psiconautas, los niños olvidados 2015
Three children decide to leave their homes looking for a better life. Really quite something! Not for kids. 8/10 from me.
April and the Extraordinary World / Avril et le monde truqué 2015
It’s 1941 but France is trapped in the nineteenth century, governed by steam and Napoleon V, where scientists vanish mysteriously. A teenage girl goes in search of her missing scientist parents. I haven’t seen this but it looks great!
Long Way North / Tout en haut du monde 2015
In 1882, a young Russian aristocrat goes on an epic adventure to find out what happened to her grandfather and save her family’s reputation.
Nova Seed 2016
An evil scientist creates a super weapon beneath the surface of a decaying world. Story shortcomings but a stylistic trip, for sure. Harkened me back to the animation style of the 80s. 7/10 from me
The Breadwinner 2017
In 2001, Afghanistan is under the control of the Taliban. When her father is captured, a determined young girl disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family. Powerful stuff. 7/10
Loving Vincent 2017
Animation depicted in oil paintings – worth the price of admission for that alone. Not shabby storytelling either. 6/10 from me.
Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles / Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas 2018
In Paris in 1930, Luis Buñuel is left penniless after a film leads to a falling out with Salvador Dalí. On a whim, a friend buys a lottery ticket and promises to devote his winnings to fund Buñuel’s next film. Not yet seen by me but comes recommended
The Spine of Night 2021
The spiritual successor to Heavy Metal and Fire and Ice. Ultra-violent, epic fantasy set in a land of magic follows heroes from different eras and cultures battling against a malevolent force. 7/10 from me.
Unicorn Wars 2022
‘War-hungry teddy bears journey from bootcamp to the psychedelic terrors of the Magic Forest in this darkly beautiful horror animation’ – imdb. Yup, another home run from the creator of Birdboy. Weird, grotesque, clever. 8/10 from me.