Princess Mononoke

This folkloric animated epic (1997)—set in the 14th century but with ecological trimmings and occasional anachronisms such as hand grenades—was Japan’s all-time box office champ before Titanic. What’s most fascinating about Hayao Miyazaki’s alternative to American animation is the relative absence of anthropomorphism. Even when animals speak, lip sync is avoided; they seem to be communicating almost telepathically, and one seldom feels that they’re contradicting their animal natures. The animation works special kinds of wonders with clouds and mists (particular signifiers in Asian art) as well as moving water, while the violence—featuring blood, amputations, and beheadings—is quite different from what one would expect from a Disney cartoon. Predictably, Miramax’s English dubbing not only alters the plot but features such regional conceits as Billy Bob Thornton as a wily monk and Claire Danes as a wolf girl who sounds more like a valley girl.