Anime movies have captivated audiences around the world for decades with their unique storytelling, breathtaking animation, and memorable characters. With so many great anime movies out there, it can be tough to know where to start. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the top 15 anime movies, ranked based on their impact, popularity, and critical acclaim. From action-packed adventures to heartwarming tales of love and friendship, there’s something for everyone on this list. Note, I’m only going for the best of the best here. That means – anime movies that are an absolute must-see! So sit back, grab some popcorn, and get ready to explore the best that anime has to offer.
15. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Kicking off my list of top 15 Anime movies, is the Cowboy Bebop movie, aka “Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. Cowboy Bebop is a 2001 Japanese anime film based on the popular Cowboy Bebop television series. The movie is set between episodes 22 and 23 of the series and follows the bounty hunter crew of the spaceship Bebop as they try to stop a terrorist from unleashing a deadly virus on the city of Mars. The movie stands out in its unique blend of action, humor, and drama. It has stunning animation, incredible fight scenes, and a memorable soundtrack that perfectly captures the tone of the series. The characters are also well-developed, with each member of the Bebop crew getting their chance to shine. Additionally, the movie is accessible to both fans of the series and newcomers, as it can be enjoyed as a standalone story. This makes it a great introduction to the Cowboy Bebop universe for those who haven’t watched the series before. The Movie was both a critical and commercial success. It received positive reviews for its animation, storytelling, and music, and it was a box office hit in Japan. It also helped to further popularize the Cowboy Bebop franchise.
14. A Silent Voice
Released in 2016, A Silent Voice follows the story of a young boy named Shoya Ishida, who as a child, bullied a deaf girl named Shoko Nishimiya until she was forced to transfer to another school. Years later, plagued by guilt and social isolation, Shoya seeks to make amends for his past behavior and attempts to reconnect with Shoko. What’s great about A Silent Voice is its realistic and heartfelt portrayal of issues such as bullying, mental health, and social ostracism. The movie is a sensitive and compassionate exploration of these difficult topics, with beautifully animated scenes and a powerful soundtrack. A Silent Voice received critical acclaim, with many praising its visual style, and mature treatment of difficult subject matter. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $20 million at the box office in Japan alone.
13. Castle in the Sky
Castle in the Sky tells the story of a young girl named Sheeta, who possesses a magical crystal that can unlock the secrets of a floating castle called Laputa. She is pursued by a group of pirates and the military but is rescued by a young boy named Pazu, and together they embark on a quest to uncover the mysteries of Laputa and protect it from those who seek to exploit its power. The film is a thrilling adventure that combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, and steampunk. Castle in the Sky was both a critical and commercial success upon its release.
12. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Coming in at number twelve on this list of best anime movies, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity is struggling to survive in a world devastated by environmental catastrophes. The story follows the journey of a young princess named Nausicaä, who possesses a deep understanding of the natural world and its creatures. When a toxic jungle threatens to destroy what remains of human civilization, Nausicaä must embark on a perilous journey to find a way to restore the balance between humanity and nature. The movie has visionary storytelling, beautifully crafted world-building, and highly developed characters. It explores themes of environmentalism, pacifism, and the consequences of human greed and exploitation. It also features stunning animation, memorable music, and a richly layered plot that has captivated audiences for decades. Although Nausicaä was not initially a commercial success, it has since become a beloved classic of the anime genre. So, If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth giving it a chance.
11. Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is a movie based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones and tells the story of a young girl named Sophie who is cursed by a witch and transformed into an old woman. She seeks refuge in a magical moving castle owned by a mysterious wizard named Howl, and together they embark on a journey to break the curse and confront the forces of war and destruction threatening their world. The story is imaginative and enchanting with complex characters and themes. It is a visual masterpiece, with detailed landscapes and a sense of magic and wonder that permeates every frame. Howl’s Moving Castle was a commercial and critical success upon its release. It became one of the highest-grossing Japanese films of all time and won numerous awards. Seriously, this movie can be considered a cornerstone of the anime genre, and you really should watch it!
10. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time focuses on a high school girl named Makoto Konno, who gains the ability to time travel. Makoto initially uses her newfound power to fix small problems in her life, but soon realizes that changing the past has unforeseen consequences. The movie’s exploration of the theme of consequences and the importance of living in the moment is just beautiful. The film is a masterclass in storytelling, featuring engaging characters, clever plot twists, and stunning visuals. The animation style is vibrant and expressive, and the soundtrack perfectly complements the film’s tone. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time received critical acclaim upon its release and has since become a cult classic. It won numerous awards, including the Japanese Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. The movie has been praised for its emotional depth and its ability to balance humor and drama. It has also inspired numerous adaptations, including a live-action film and a stage play.
9. Dragon Ball Super: Broly
Dragon Ball Super: Broly revolves around the backstory of Broly, a powerful Saiyan warrior who is one of the few remaining survivors of the Saiyan race. The movie begins with the destruction of Planet Vegeta, the home planet of the Saiyans, and then follows the journey of Goku and Vegeta as they encounter Broly on a distant planet. The movie is highly praised by fans and critics for its stunning animation, epic fight scenes, and emotional storytelling. The film introduces a new version of Broly, who is reimagined with a more sympathetic backstory and a fleshed-out personality. The movie also features breathtaking visuals, including detailed character designs and explosive battle sequences. The film was a commercial and critical success, grossing over $100 million worldwide and receiving positive reviews. It is widely regarded as one of the best anime movies ever made and has become a fan favorite.
8. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The end of Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion is a 1997 Japanese animated movie that serves as a conclusion to the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion and features an alternate ending to the original series. The story follows Shinji Ikari and the other characters as they try to prevent the end of the world, while also dealing with their personal traumas and existential questions. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion enjoys complex and thought-provoking storytelling, and a deep exploration of themes such as identity, humanity, and spirituality. The film is known for its surreal and visually striking imagery, its intricate plot, and its intense emotional impact. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion was well-received critically and has since gained a cult following. The movie has been praised for its depth, and its willingness to take risks.
7. Ghost in the Shell
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of anime or not, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Ghost in the Shell! The story takes place in a dystopian future where technology has advanced to the point where humans can merge their consciousness with machines, and cybercrime has become a major issue. The main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a cyborg who works for the government agency Section 9, which is tasked with investigating cybercrime and terrorism. When a new type of hacker called the Puppet Master begins infiltrating people’s brains and manipulating their memories, Major and her team must race to stop him before he can cause irreparable damage. The movie is widely considered one of the best anime movies ever made! It explores complex questions about the nature of consciousness and the impact of technology on society. The film also features iconic scenes, such as Major’s dive off a skyscraper, that have become cultural touchstones. The Ghost in the Shell movie was moderately successful in Japan but later became a cult classic. It has since been praised by critics and has inspired numerous adaptations and spin-offs, including a 2017 live-action cyberpunk movie.
6. My Neighbour Totoro
The story of My Neighbour Totoro follows two young sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the countryside with their father to be closer to their hospitalized mother. The girls soon discover a magical creature named Totoro, who lives in a nearby forest, and embark on a series of fantastic adventures with him and other forest spirits. The movie really captures the imagination and wonder of childhood. It has a gentle and whimsical tone that is both nostalgic and universal. The animation is beautifully crafted, and the characters are relatable and endearing. The movie also deals with themes of family, love, and loss in a sensitive and empathetic way. My Neighbor Totoro was not a huge financial success upon its initial release. However, it has since become a beloved classic and a cultural phenomenon. It has received widespread critical acclaim, with many praising its charm, creativity, and emotional resonance. The movie has inspired countless adaptations, merchandise, and even a theme park. It is nowadays widely considered to be one of the greatest animated films of all time.
5. Your Name
Your Name is one of the best anime movies of 2022. It tells the story of two teenagers, Mitsuha and Taki, who mysteriously switch bodies and must navigate each other’s lives while trying to uncover the reason for their strange connection. The movie enjoys unique and captivating storytelling, stunning animation, and universal themes of connection and love. The film is a beautiful exploration of human relationships, as the two main characters come to appreciate each other’s lives despite their differences. Your Name was a massive commercial and critical success upon its release. It became the highest-grossing anime movie of all time and won numerous awards, both in Japan and internationally. The movie has been praised for its emotional depth humor and charm. It has also been credited with revitalizing the anime film industry.
4. Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is a 1997 Ghibli anime film set in medieval Japan. It follows the story of Ashitaka, a young prince who becomes cursed after saving his village from a demon. In search of a cure, he journeys to a forest inhabited by various supernatural beings, including the titular character, Princess Mononoke, who is a human girl raised by wolves. The film explores the conflict between the forest spirits and the humans who seek to exploit their resources for their own gain. The themes of environmentalism, industrialization, and the consequences of human actions are central to the story. As the plot unfolds, Ashitaka must navigate the complex relationships between the different factions and try to find a way to bring peace to the land. What makes Princess Mononoke one of the best anime movies ever is its stunning animation, complex characters, and thought-provoking themes. The movie features some of the most beautiful hand-drawn animation ever created, with breathtaking landscapes and intricate character designs. Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece of animation and storytelling that has stood the test of time. The movie was a critical and commercial success. It was the highest-grossing film in Japan in 1997 and held that record until it was surpassed by “Spirited Away”.
The story of Akira is set in a dystopian, cyberpunk anime environment in 2019 Tokyo, 38 years after a catastrophic event destroyed the city. The movie follows the story of two friends, Kaneda and Tetsuo, who get involved with a secret government project that involves psychokinetic powers and the revival of an enigmatic being called Akira. What makes Akira one of the best anime movies ever is its stunning animation and its influence on the anime genre. The movie pushed the boundaries of animation with its use of detailed, realistic backgrounds and groundbreaking animation techniques. It also explored mature themes, such as power, corruption, and the consequences of unchecked technology. Akira was a critical and commercial success, both in Japan and internationally. Its popularity also helped to introduce anime to a wider international audience. If you still haven’t watched it I strongly recommend you do!
2. Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese anime movie, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka. It tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, who struggle to survive during the aftermath of the firebombing of Kobe during World War II. The movie is a heartbreaking tale of loss, resilience, and the devastating impact of war on civilians. The movie is a masterpiece of emotional power and exhibits an uncompromising portrayal of the harsh realities of war. The film is a stark reminder of the human cost of conflict and a powerful anti-war statement. The animation is beautifully crafted, with attention to detail and realistic depictions of the destruction caused by the bombings. Grave of the Fireflies received critical acclaim upon its release but was not a commercial success at the time. However, it has since become a beloved classic. You should really give it a try!
1. Spirited Away
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away is a true masterpiece! The film tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro, who finds herself trapped in a magical world filled with spirits and supernatural beings. In order to save her parents, who have been turned into pigs, Chihiro must navigate this strange and dangerous world and work for the mysterious bathhouse’s witch-like proprietor, Yubaba. My top spot on this list, Spirited Away is regarded as one of the best anime movies ever made due to its imaginative storytelling, stunning visuals, and complex themes. The movie explores ideas about growing up, the power of the imagination, and the importance of empathy and compassion. The film’s unique and imaginative world, filled with magical creatures and enchanting landscapes, has captivated audiences of all ages. The film was both a critical and commercial success. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. It is also the highest-grossing film in Japanese box office history, surpassing Titanic’s record. Spirited Away has since become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless merchandise, art, and even a theme park. I’m not kidding when I say that Spirited Away is the best anime movie ever!