List of the greatest anime movies you must watch (Top 30)
Anime is now one of the most famous genres of movies, and lots of new anime movies are released every year all over the world. Welcoming the 2020s, it is about time we concluded the exceptional anime film of all time although it must be being updated as time goes by.
It is common that an anime is broadcasted on TV these days, however, you can watch anime solely on massive displays at the theater at first. An anime movie in Japan originated in the early 1900s. Speaking of the famous Japanese anime films, the Studio Ghibli’s was discovered in 1985 and released Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ) in 1986.
In the United States, the first coloration full-length animation movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs used to be released through the American film studio Walt Disney Productions (Walt Disney Animation Studios) in 1937. There are numerous followers of Walt Disney Studios and its subsidiary Pixar Animation Studios around the globe today.
Here, the fantastic anime movie list focuses on Japanese anime movies apart from the anime series aired on TV (Check the satisfactory anime sequence here!). The film adaptions from the TV sequence are intended, of course. Check the 30 nice anime films of all time masking the world-famous Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai anime and the modern-day films famous specifically among Japanese. Unlike the TV anime collection with many episodes, an anime film is achieved with a single story that takes only 2-3 hours at most to watch.
Let’s experience the countdown for the pinnacle anime movie of all time.
Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城), one of the top-grossing anime movies in Japan, was once launched in 2004. It is based on the British novel Howl’s Moving Castle written by Diana Wynne Jones, which is tailored into an anime film through Studio Ghibli. The heroine Sophie is converted into a ninety-year-old woman via the witch’s curse. Her adventure proceeds with the ttpersonality Howl and the shifting castle.
Tamako Market (たまこラブストーリー) is a popular modern slice-of-life anime movie, produced by Kyoto Animation. The first part of the story with 12 episodes was aired on TV in 2013, and the movie adaption was released as its sequel in 2o14. The love story between a high school boy Mochizo and his childhood friend Tamako is beautifully depicted.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (映画：カウボーイビバップ天国の扉), released in 2001, is the movie adaption of the globally popular anime Cowboy Bebop, which was aired on TV in 1999. The setting of the movie is Mars on the days before Halloween in 2071, where the Bebop crews follow a terrorist incident that kills about 400 people.
In 2015, The Anthem of the Heart (心が叫びたがってるんだ。) was produced by the staff who had worked on the popular anime series Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. With the shocking past (the experience of parental divorce), a young girl named Jun Naruse gets less able to speak but able to sing. For the school festival, she is designated as a heroine of the musical as her class’s performance.
The Japanese young animation studio Studio Colorido made Penguin Highway (ペンギン・ハイウェイ) in 2018, based on the sci-fi novel written by Tomihiko Morimi. The story focuses on the extraordinary daily life of a fourth-grade boy named Aoyama and a mysterious woman he calls “Lady”. One day, penguins emerge suddenly at their town.
Her Blue Sky (空の青さを知る人よ), the new animated film released in 2019, is directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai who is the same director of The Anthem of the Heart and Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. The setting is the same place as the two his previous movies: Chichibu City in Saitama City. Before the main character Aoi and her older sister Akane without parents, Akane’s ex-boyfriend Shinno shows up from 13 years ago.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai (長井龍雪)
24. Sound! Euphonium The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day
As one of the recent masterpieces of Kyoto Animation, Sound! Euphonium The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day (劇場版響け！ユーフォニアム～誓いのフィナーレ～) was released in 2019. It was preceded by the TV anime series’s first season in 2015 and the second season in 2016. The brand new story focuses on the main characters in the high school concert band clubs including Kumiko Oumae who go on to the second grade.
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (劇場版ソードアート・オンラインオーディナル・スケール) is one of the best titles of the popular anime franchise Sword Art Online, which is abbreviated to SAO. It hit the big screen in movies in 2017, following the first season aired in 2012-2013 and the second season in 2015. The story is set in 2026 when the AR machine Augma and the Augma’s latest ARMMORPG named Ordinal Scale are invented. Kirito and Asuna starts playing the game…
The classic anime series Digimon Adventure was adapted into a movie named Digimon Adventure Children’s War Game! (デジモンアドベンチャーぼくらのウォーゲーム!), which is known as the great early anime movie directed by Mamoru Hosoda. The main characters such as Taichi and Yamato are transported into the Digital World where new kinds of evil Digimon emerge.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie (劇場版魔法少女まどか☆マギカ) is the movie adaption of the popular anime series produced by the great animation studio Shaft. The anime movie is divided into three parts: Beginnings and Eternal in 2012 and Rebellion in 2013. The first and second part consists of the episodes summarizing the TV anime series, and a new story is depicted in the final one. A middle school girl Madoka Shikame meets a cat or dog shaped creature named Kyubey. It gives her an offer to become a magical girl to save the world.
Doraemon is one of the most famous and popular anime worldwide, and the first 3D computer anime of the series was released as Stand by Me Doraemon (STAND BY ME ドラえもん) in 2014. Only 7 episodes are picked for the anime movie, and the beginning and the end of Doraemon are presented. Both adults and children can enjoy the story laughing and crying.
In this Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に), one of the most grossing anime movies all over the world in 2016, is based on the manga serialized during 2007-2009. The theme of the anime movie is Hiroshima during WWII, and the main character Suzu survives the war experiencing the dropped atomic bomb. Another version of the anime was released in 2019 with new scenes for another 40 mins added to the original one, titled as In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World (この世界の（さらにいくつもの）片隅に).
A Silent Voice (聲の形) was produced by Kyoto Animation as the anime movie adaption of the 7-volume manga published in 2013-2014. The moving anime has sensitive social themes such as teens bullying, suicide, disabilities, parental divorce and so on. This anime movie focuses on two main characters: a deaf girl Shoko Nishimiya and Shoya Ishida who bullied her in elementary school.
As one of the best Studio Shaft anime movies, Kizumonogatari (傷物語) is listed here. Kizumonogatari, which means “scar story” in Japanese, is the earliest story of the popular anime and light novels franchise Monogatari Series. There are three parts in the anime movie, which present how the main character Koyomi Araragi is partly transferred into a vampire and when he meets the heroine Tsubasa Hanekawa.
Dragon Ball Z is one of the most popular Japanese anime which has been loved by anime fans and kids around the world for a long time, and there are lots of anime movie titles. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (ドラゴンボールZ 復活の「F」), released in 2015, is a newer title but one of the top-rated parts of the action anime. Its story is written by Akira Toriyama, which starts with the resurrection of Frieza. You can see the powerful battle scenes between the evolved Frieza and Goku and Vegeta with the Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan forms.
The Castle of Cagliostro (ルパン三世カリオストロの城), hit the big screen as the 2nd Lupin the Third anime movie in 1979, is also known as the first anime movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The master thief Arsène Lupin III and his fellow Daisuke Jigen steal vast amounts of money for a casino but recognize that the money is counterfeit bills. Then, they head to the country named Cagliostro which seems to be the source of the counterfeit bills and see the heroine Clarisse.
Pokémon is now one of the most popular anime and video game series among both adults and kids all over the world, and the first anime movie is Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back (劇場版ポケットモンスターミュウツーの逆襲) released in 1998. In this movie, Satoshi (Ash Ketchum) and Pikachu meets Mewtwo which is artificially produced and asks itself why he exists. Its remake Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution (ミュウツーの逆襲 EVOLUTION) was released as the 22nd Pokemon anime movie with the latest technology in 2019.
Summer Wars (サマーウォーズ) is one of the Mamoru Hosoda anime movies that have the highest reputation, released in 2009. A high schooler Kenji and his Senpai named Natsuki who is a year ahead of him visit her family home. There is the clear contrast in Summer Wars. Japanese traditional culture and customs with rural rich nature are depicted there. At the same time, the story proceeds with problems in the virtual reality world named OZ.
Wolf Children (おおかみこどもの雨と雪), known as one of the masterpieces of Mamoru Hosoda, was produced in 2012 by Studio Chizu which is the animation studio founded by the director. The main character Hana meets a man in the university in Tokyo, who can transform into a wolf. Then, they have two kids Yuki and Ame who can also change their forms into wolf and get back into human. As they grow up, their inner conflicts are increasing: they should live as a human or a wolf.
Ghost in the Shell is a classic anime franchise, based on the manga written by Masamune Shiro. The popular anime series started with the first anime film Ghost in the Shell (GHOST IN THE SHELL / 攻殻機動隊) in 1995.
It was directed by one of the most famous Japanese anime directors Mamoru Oshii. The setting of this anime film is around 2030 when the science technology is highly developed. Public Security Section 9 including the main member Major Motoko Kusanagi works to prevent crimes.
When you talk about Hayao Miyazaki, you should not miss Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ), which is his 2nd full-length anime movie. Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind was originally published as manga from 1982, and it was made into an anime movie in 1984 with the stories of 2 volumes of the manga. The anime is known as the early film by Studio Ghibli. Precisely, it was produced by its predecessor animation studio Topcraft.
After the disastrous war, industrial civilization is destroyed, which lead to the formation of the enormous Toxic Jungle where large mutant insects live. The protagonist Nausicaä, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, seeks a way for both people and nature to co-exist harmoniously.
Weathering with You (天気の子) is the latest anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai and one of the most viewed films in 2019. It is distributed to theaters in about 140 countries and regions by 2020. Two young characters are featured in the anime movie.
A high school boy Hodaka gets away from home in a remote island to Tokyo. A young girl Hina survives without parents in the busy city. They meet each other and come to help many people who hope good weather for their important days such as wedding and festivals, using her supernatural ability to change the weather. Weathering with You includes a lot of themes you need to consider such as unusual meteorological phenomena, child rearing, poverty and so on.
For fans of the new leader of the anime industry Mokoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters per Second (秒速5センチメートル) is a must-watch anime film. It is looked on as the best anime in his early career, released in 2007. The anime work is divided into three short parts: Cherry Blossom, Cosmonaut and 5 Centimeters per Second.
The main character Takaki’s first love with the heroine Akari in elementary school is depicted at first, and his life after that is focused on. In the final part, the two grow up and the story mark the climax of the moving anime. There is neither supernatural power nor action battle scenes, but just the beautiful reality.
My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) is one of the most popular Studio Ghibli movies among families around the globe. The fantasy anime, directed by Hayao Miyazaki was released at the theater in 1988 as a part of the double feature with Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓), directed by another Studio Ghibli’s leader Isao Takahata.
The setting of My Neighbor Totoro is Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture in 1950s. A family moves to a rural village, consisting of an elementary schooler Satsuki, her young sister Mei and their father Tatsuo. Her mother stays in the hospital located near the village. One day, the kids meet mystic creatures names Totoro. If you have not watched any Studio Ghibli films, it’s recommended to start with this.
Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), released in 1997, was the number one movie at the domestic box office at that time. It is also regarded worldwide as one of top Japanese films. It is said that its director Hayao Miyazaki spent about two decades building the plot and making it into this anime movie.
The fantasy film focuses on the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) with the two main characters a tribe’s prince Ashitaka and a young woman San raised by wolves in the forest. The conflict between humans and nature is featured there, and Ashitaka seeks a way for both to coexist.
The worldly renowned Akira (アキラ) was originally made as a manga written by Katsuhiro Otomo and its anime movie adaption was released in 1988. The manga series had not completed yet at that time, so the anime movie was based on the 3 volumes that had been published by 1988 with the climax story exactly different from that of the manga.
The setting is Neo Tokyo in 2019, where Tokyo is destroyed due to the outbreak of WWIII. There are two main characters in Akira: a leader of the Bosozoku group (Japanese biker gang) named Shotaro Kaneda and his childhood friend Tetsuo Shima. The story unfolds first when Tetsuo gains a supernatural power after a motorcycle accident.
This anime film became a hot topic again in 2019 since it had predicted Tokyo’s hosting the 2020 Olympics.
Genre: Cyberpunk, Science Fiction
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo (大友克洋)
3. Your Name
Your Name (君の名は。), the greatest anime directed by Makoto Shinkai in 2016, has won recognition domestically and internationally. The popular anime movie was aired on the big screen in over 120 countries and regions between 2016 and 2018, and it made the most at the foreign box office in Japanese anime movies.
The story proceeds with two main characters: Taki Tachibana living in the metropolitan Tokyo and Mitsuha Miyamizu living in the countryside. One day, they notice that their bodies are switched with each other, and that is intermittently repeated. Taki and Mitsuha are getting more and more about each other while being puzzled under the strange condition.
Your Name is mainly based on the two real life places Tokyo and Takayama in Central Japan. Makoto Shinkai beautifully represents the real world, which encourages the fans to travel the spots pictured in the movie.
In 2006, one of the Japanese animation leaders Mamoru Hosoda released his masterpiece titled The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女). The fantasy anime film was based on the novel written by the best-selling sci-fi Japanese author Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1967, but it tells the different story from the novel’s one.
The setting of the anime is 20 years after the world in the novel. There are three main characters who are high schoolers in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Makoto, Kosuke and Chiaki. They live in the ordinary high school life, where there are general adolescent interests such as love, study and career choice in this anime. However, Makoto notices she becomes able to transport herself to the past.
Time travel is a popular plot of anime these days, but it was new and unique when the anime was released, which is partly because it is top rated by anime fans.
What is best of the best anime movie of all time? Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), the masterpiece of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli released in 2001, deserves it. It has gained the highest recognition all over the world including Best Animated Feature in the 75th Academy Awards and has been the highest grossing movie ever made in Japan while about two decades passed since it was released.
A 10-year-old girl Chihiro wanders into a weird and strange world with her parents, and her parents are transformed into pigs due to the witchy curse. She decides to work hard in the bathhouse under the rule of the witch named Yubaba to help them, losing her real name and changed to Sen.
There are various unique characters such as a key person Haku, twin witches Yubaba and Zeniba and a mystic creature Kaonashi (No-Face) in addition to Chihiro (Sen). What is attractive in Spirited Away is that you can watch it from a variety of perspectives depending on how you view it.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)
Japanese anime has been developed in a unique way with its long history and its sense of presence has been increased in the entertainment industry all over the world. A new wonderful anime movie will be made and released in the future and this list will be updated. Not only anime fans but beginners should try those best anime movies above!
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