When you look at most movies adapted from literature, they are almost always subpar compared to the source material. Take Dr. Seuss for instance. I haven’t liked a single feature film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book.

The closest I’ve ever come to liking one is Blue Sky’s adaptation of Horton Hears a Who! from Jimmy Hayward (Free Birds) and Steve Martino (The Peanuts Movie), but the only elements of that movie I liked were the ones that stayed true to the book, which highlights the main problem with all of the Dr. Seuss feature film adaptations: the strength of the book can only help a film adaptation so much when all new writers are brought in to change the story while adding nothing noteworthy.

The first feature film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book was Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 2000. Not even Jim Carrey could save that train wreck. The next film, The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers was even worse and that killed the chances of anymore live-action adaptations.

Blue Sky’s Horton Hears a Who! and Illumination’s The Lorax and The Grinch are better because Dr. Seuss books translate better in animation (hopefully the upcoming adaptation of The Cat in the Hat by Warner Animation Group will repeat this pattern) but all I can think when I watch any new Dr. Seuss film is how poorly they compare to the animated Dr. Seuss films from the previous millennium.

Those older animated films were often clever, creative and some of the most entertaining animated television of the latter half of the 20th century before the golden age of television animation in the nineties.

The reasons for this were simple.

First of all, Dr. Seuss wrote all the TV specials featuring his characters, with shared credit only on How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Second, a half hour was a better length of time to adapt a Dr. Seuss book than 90 minutes.

Third, all the best Dr. Seuss films from the ’40s to the ’80s were made by some of the best filmmakers from animation’s golden age, including Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert Cannon and Ralph Bakshi.

Here are my favorites of those films.

Horton Hatches the Egg (1942)

Directed by Bob Clampett

This was the first time one of Dr. Seuss’s books were adapted into animation, and it was actually released by Warner Bros. as a Merrie Melodies cartoon and was adapted by one of their best writers, Michael Maltese. Complete with the studio’s trademark sense of humor added to Seuss’s writing, including having the bird who asks Horton to watch her egg frequently channel Katherine Hepburn in the way she speaks.

Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950)

Directed by Robert Cannon

One of the early works of animation studio UPA. This short was not based on a book, but it was written by Seuss and it was brilliant. The story of a boy who couldn’t speak but instead made loud and cartoonish noises was one of UPA’s greatest shorts and one of my favorite animated films of all time.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Directed by Chuck Jones

The book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was always one of Seuss’s best, and Chuck Jones and his team of artists improved upon it in every way with this 1966 TV special. Humor was added in between the scenes from the book and made a totally heartwarming story even more entertaining. This is my favorite TV special of all time.

Horton Hears a Who! (1970)

Directed by Chuck Jones

The second Dr. Seuss film to be directed by Chuck Jones was not as memorable as Grinch but is not bad at all. Again, like I said with the Blue Sky version, the best elements of this film were the scenes they maintained from the excellent book. But Chuck Jones is one of those directors whose worst films are more entertaining than some directors’ best films, so it was still very watchable throughout, similar to Chuck Jones’ adaptation of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.

The Cat in the Hat (1971)

Directed by Hawley Pratt

The first of what I like to call the Hawley Pratt trilogy. The Cat in the Hat, directed by Looney Tunes alum Hawley Pratt and produced by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng for CBS, was hugely entertaining, imaginative and often hilarious, adding significantly to the book with good acting and catchy music.

The Lorax (1972)

Directed by Hawley Pratt

Pratt’s second Dr. Seuss adaptation was one of the best. The environmental message still holds up and the story maintains a colorful and amusing tone despite its heavy themes and bleak (but hopeful) ending. As was becoming usual, the soundtrack was also excellent.

Dr. Seuss on the Loose (1973)

Directed by Hawley Pratt

An adaptation of three Dr. Seuss books, each one introduced by The Cat in the Hat in mini-segments. The three stories are The Sneetches, The Zax and Green Eggs and Ham, and all are great. Even the Green Eggs and Ham segment was highly entertaining, despite the fact that The Sneetches (an allegory about racism) and The Zax sound much more interesting on paper.

The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982)

Directed by Bill Perez

This ABC musical special about The Grinch wreaking havoc against The Cat in the Hat with a device that alters reality was not adapted from a book, but Dr. Seuss still wrote it. It may be below average compared to his best work, but it features some wild animation and is just plain fun from start to finish.

The Butter Battle Book (1989)

Directed by Ralph Bakshi

Dr. Seuss called this special one of the most faithful adaptations of his work. Neither this nor the book on which it’s based are particularly gripping. The whole story basically centers on the conflict between the Zooks (who eat their bread butter-side up) and the Yooks (who eat their bread butter-side down) and how they are constantly trying and failing to one-up each other with various weapons, but the ending makes up for this by being maybe the most interesting and cryptic of any Dr. Seuss ending.