Best Anime Movies
Here is a list of what I consider the Best Anime Movies, or my personal top eight,with a brief rundown on each. I run the local anime club and we very often get together to watch movies, so you could say that I have seen quite a few. Plenty of anime movies sort of just… aren’t memorable. I think that is why when people think of anime movies, they think of Miyazaki films and movies that are part of long shonens that they haven’t seen. Well, I’m here to break that news. While there is a plethora of crap anime movies and movies that won’t matter to you until you watch 500 episodes of a show, there a ton of great ones as well. This list will showcase my personal top eight. These are movies that I would recommend to nearly anyone as they are fantastic art pieces on their own. So, lets start this list of the best anime movies!
I’ll start off with the honorable mentions. Basically just directors that create some astounding work.
Mamoru Hosoda Films
All of Mamoru Hosoda’s movies are absolutely excellent. He doesn’t have a ton under his belt, but everything that he has is incredible in some way. Films like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars are gripping and have a touch of cute romanticism. He also has the incredible Wolf Children which we will detail later on in this list. And his newest film The Boy and the Beast which will be airing in the US on March 4. Mamoru Hosoda is definitely one of the greats in anime movies and will hopefully continue to release them for many years.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is touching movie based on the age old premise of time travel. It features a girl that gains the ability to time travel through short amounts of time, and uses the ability for her own amusement and benefit. Only later does she realize that her time leaps have adverse effects on those around her, and she only has a number of leaps left before she loses the ability. She does what she can to make things right and even falls in love with a man from the future. Though Hosoda didn’t create “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” he did an incredible job directing it. The screenplay is simply fantastic.
Summer Wars is one of Hosoda’s original creations and is very hard to fit into a specific genre. It is a movie about romance, loss, family, and fun. When a high school math genius is asked by his crush to take a short vacation in order to visit her family, he gladly accepts. When she introduces him to her grandmother as her fiance, he wonders about his mistake. Through a series of crazy events, virtual reality, and the involvement of an estranged uncle, the math genius must save the family from imminent doom using an avatar in a virtual world. The help of the family brings everyone together. There is a beautiful romance, and plenty to love in Summer Wars.
Makoto Shinkai Films
If Makoto Shinkai is known for one thing, it’s for creating beauty. I don’t think there is much argument when it comes to who makes the most beautiful artwork in anime. All of Shinkai’s films are breathtaking. 5 Centimeters Per Second and Garden of Words are both astounding to look at and have a profound take on romance. His upcoming film*Your Name*, looks to be another romance hopefully as good as the aforementioned ones. He has directed two other beautiful films: The Place Promised in Our Early Days and Children who Chase Lost Voices, as well as several shorts, commercials, and OVAs. All of these are worth checking out, though not as fantastic as his larger titles.**[Satoshi Kon](http://myanimelist.net/people/4580/Satoshi_Kon?q=satoshi%20kon) Films**
Satoshi Kon was the director of four amazingly influential films: Perfect Blue, Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, and Millennium Actress. All of this directorial work has been seen and used in other anime and even in Hollywood. *Perfect Blue *will come up again later on, so don’t worry, I will cover it. As far as Kon’s influence goes, and a little information about his movies, I think it can best be summed up by this Every Frame a Painting video:
Hayao Miyazaki Films
So, this one is almost self explanatory. Many people are exposed to Miyazaki’s work and tons of people adore it. Most lists are full of Miyazaki’s movies, and while they are literally all good there are other fantastic anime films that are more under the radar. One of his films will make an appearance on the list, so don’t worry about that. That said, all of his movies are some of the best anime movies out there, so they all deserve attention. If you are curious or don’t know much about his work, I’ll take an excerpt from one of our previous articles (Best Starter Anime, excerpt by Krogoth22):
Hayao Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 and since then has directed, written, and produced some of anime’s greatest films. Miyazaki has been called the Walt Disney of the east and his films equal the grandeur, heart, and quality of Disney’s greatest creations. The films created by Studio Ghibli cover anything from heart-warming adventures such as* Kiki’s Delivery Service*, to dark, complicated pieces such as *Princess Mononoke *and everything in between. Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, and their films provide encompassing and brilliantly crafted stories that demonstrate the power of Japanese animation. Each of his films provides a different look into genres of anime while keeping the run time under three hours which allows new individuals to experience anime without having to commit to any single anime season for the long haul. Also none of Miyazaki’s films are bad. Though some are better than others, all of them will provide a wonderful viewing experience full of suspense, action, romance, and both peaceful and chaotic journeys. Miyazaki’s animation is beautiful and his directing is phenomenal. Couple that with the excellent characters, music, and voice acting and his movies create worlds that any anime fan will love to travel to over and over again.
So begins the list of the Best Anime Movies. Please do yourself a favor and look into the directors I’ve mentioned. All of them have movies in the list, with the exception of Shinkai. They all produce some of the best anime movies.
I don’t even know how to describe Redline. Imagine an over-the-top, hand-drawn, beautiful version of the Star Wars Episode 1 pod race crossed with the crazy Gurren Lagann style. Redline is about a race. The race takes about half the movie and there is some important precursor stuff to it. The entire thing is fun as hell to watch. The most impressive part about this movie is that it is hand-drawn and it shows. It is super vivid and beautiful, with loads of detail and great attention to animating people (and aliens) at high speeds. I can’t say that Redline has a stellar story or even that the characters are super unique, but everything just works very well together. No characters or plots are bad, they just aren’t super innovative or anything. An entirely hand-drawn movie isn’t something that we haven’t seen before, but we haven’t seen it in a long time. They kept everything stylistically similar to newer anime, while still giving it the refreshing feel of hand-drawn animation.
Despite a few shortcomings, I’d recommend everyone to watch Redline as it is something very unique. I compared it to *Gurren Lagann *earlier, and while it is a legitimate comparison, that is the one main shortcoming of the film. Where TTGL gets away with over-the-top action, it starts to get pretty ridiculous in Redline and it even drags on a bit. If the storytelling and plot were more polished, I could easily see it getting a much higher ranking, but since it is pure, crazy fun, and it consists of some of the best visuals in any anime movie, it deserves a sure spot on the list.
Colorful is one of those movies that is hard to describe. If there is one thing that Colorful does very well, it’s that it is super fulfilling, at least to me. It is about a boy that died, and is given a second chance at life to find out how he went wrong and ended up dead. He then inhabits the body of another young boy that had committed suicide and lives on in his surviving body. He sees the horrible circumstances surrounding the boy and begins to see the world for what it really is.
Colorful is sort of a harsh reality kind of drama. Everything is super real and relatable and sometimes can be painful to watch (in a good way). It takes a really interesting view on how people interact with each other, with themselves, and how they deal with different types of trauma and stress. Though at some points throughout the film, the focus isn’t necessarily clear, by the time the end rolls around, there is quite a freight train of an ending that will hit you. Everything that the character goes through has a pretty good relation to the ending theme, which is really quite fulfilling, as I said in the beginning. I would absolutely recommend Colorful to pretty much anyone. It has something deeply profound built in, and I think that for each individual person, it will mean something new.
Akira is a classic. It is often given credit for bringing anime to the west as it was one of the first pieces to ever enter the mainstream public eye when it hit theaters in 1988. People loved it, and for good reason too. Akira was pretty different from anything that had been done at the time, since animation in the west was still more or less reserved for children. As soon as the film starts, it is quite obvious that it’s every different. The very first thing you see is a massive nuclear explosion which sets the precedence for the film. Everything is unstable, the government is trying to control everything, the people are pissed that the government is trying to control stuff. The government is covering up a bunch of weird, blue kids that are mutated, and our “hero” Tetsuo is caught up right in the middle of all of it.
Akira is WEIRD. Don’t watch it whilst under any sort of extra influence like alcohol. You will have a bad time. That said, I think that it’s weird, kind of upsetting factors are what make it great and what made it popular back in the 90s. Lots of the film, especially as it progresses, is very disconcerting; if you can’t handle gore and worse, then unfortunately you shouldn’t try to experience Akira. Akira does a lot of stuff right. In fact, it’s pretty hard to pin down what they didn’t get right. For me, the events occurring leading up to the end didn’t really seem to matter until I got to the end. Then it all became much clearer. That said, Akira is principally about two friends and their friendship, with a really fucked up way of telling the story. The other plots are super weird, which is a good thing. Akira is one of the best things to both happen to anime and to come from anime; it will likely remain that way for a while.
Little Witch Academia stole my heart one summer night. Then, nearly a year later, the second part did it all over again. LWA is like a cute, anime version of Harry Potter. I would also call it the outlier on this list, as LWA 1 is only half and hour long and barely counts as a movie, and *LWA 2 *is also only about 50 minutes long. Their length is actually something that I really enjoy and respect about them. Despite time constraints, they manage to super effectively build a great cast with decent backstory, a gripping plot, and a super fulfilling ending. The story itself is about a young girl that, despite not being from witch lineage, wants to become a witch to become like her idol. When she arrives at Witch Academia, she realizes that not only does she have an uphill battle because she isn’t from witch lineage, but that her idol is more or less looked down upon by the entire magical community. Enough happens to create and grow some relationships and it all wraps up nicely in a very heartwarming way.
The second part, Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade is a little different. It is a sequel to the events in the first movie and is a little bit longer. With more time, they are able to explore a slightly deeper plot, which to many wasn’t quite as interesting. I, however, enjoyed the second movie a little bit more than the first one, as it had a larger scope, higher stakes, and an even more heartwarming ending. The characters in these movies are full of, well, character, despite the very little amount of time they get and watching them interact and grow in such a short amount of time is fantastic. LWA has a place for everyone, I think.
It is also worth noting that LWA, is different in another way as well. It was started via Kickstarter and crowdfunded. Studio Trigger picked it up and added their fantastic charm to it, which adds a ton to the character that the movies have.
4. Perfect Blue
Satoshi Kon created a thrilling masterpiece and called it Perfect Blue. I’ll be honest, as soon as I was done watching it, I didn’t like it one bit. But over the next few hours and days, I began to really see Perfect Blue for what it was and I realized its absolute brilliance. Kon was a master of his trade; tons of movies, both anime and live action (even big Hollywood movies), take influences from his films. The same goes for Perfect Blue, as it has a lot of influence in the movie Black Swan. (Be sure to watch the Every Frame a Painting video from Kon’s section in honorable mentions.) Perfect Blue is about a girl that is the lead singer for an idol group that decides to move on to becoming an actress. Some of her fans are displeased, and her life begins to get more and more strange and dangerous. As she begins to figure out what is going on, what she sees as reality begins to degenerate.
It would be very easy to give stuff away about Perfect Blue and I really don’t want to do that. I’d recommend going into it more or less blind. When it ends, just give it some time to sink in as well. It is one of the most enjoyable experiences in an anime movie out there.
Spirited Away should be pretty self explanatory. One of Miyazaki’s greatest works, it is the pinnacle of dark imagination and wonder. It is about a young girl that becomes trapped in the spirit realm and her experiences there. The girl, Chihiro, discovers a lot about the spirit world, the nature of people, and herself. One of my favorite things about Spirited Away is watching Chihiro grow in her situation, despite having many things taken away from her. She is able to relate things in the spirit realm to her past experiences and learn from them.
Spirited Away is basically the definition of fantasy. Everything that Miyazaki thought up to for the film convinces me that he kept his imagination that he had as a child. Despite being mostly innocent, there are parts that show the dirt and the grime of life, which aren’t pleasant to view. There are themes of greed and corruption contrasted greatly with themes of innocence and honor. Spirited Away is stuffed to the brim with symbolism and meaning, so much so that I can’t even begin to touch the surface. If there is one Miyazaki film that everyone should see, it would definitely be Spirited Away.
Sword of the Stranger was so close to being my favorite anime movie. In fact, it is a nearly perfect movie. It is an action, ninja movie with a gripping plot, good relationships and characters, amazing sountrack, striking visuals, and breathtaking developments. It easily beats out any action movie I’ve ever seen and takes the number one spot for the genre hands down. There is one slight issue though. I didn’t realize its perfection until the second time I watched it. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I loved it and I knew it was absolutely incredible after watching it for the first time, but the plot seemed to kind of escape me because there was so much going on, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After watching it the second time, everything fell into perfect place. It’s like a grandfather clock being built out of an explosion. It was astounding. My jaw literally dropped at certain points. Everyone should watch this movie.
Sword of the Stranger is about a young boy in feudal Japan who is being pursued by a force of men from China for an unknown reason. Though he has no parents, he has his faithful dog companion who helps him stay alive. He meets the nameless warrior and hires him for protection as the Chinese forces draw near. They have a bond that grows throughout the movie, which is really nice to watch. The plot, though simple, starts pretty ambiguously. As more questions are answered, things become more clear, then a few twists and turns are thrown in. It is a joy to watch and everything has a wonderfully solid feel to it. Swordfights feel heavy, death feels permanent and gruesome, the characters feel sad about it. Everything feels pressing. The movie is able to accomplish a wonderful tone and set a very realistic feel to everything. Sword of the Stranger does everything that it does extremely well, and it doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. It is a near perfect movie watching experience.
Wolf Children is quite possibly one of the greatest films of all time. That said, it is absolutely not what I would have expected to fall in love with or even really enjoy. It takes place in modern society in Japan, and watches the experiences of what I would consider to be the most wonderful character in any media. Hana, the main character, is the mother of Ame and Yuki, who are both – you guessed it – wolf children. It highlights her experience raising them and their lives as they grow. I don’t think there is any film where the connection between character and viewer is so high. The theme and tone of the show are nothing but pure innocence and storytelling. There is no antagonist and there is no protagonist. It is just the amazing story of Hana raising her children.
Due to them being wolf children, things are obviously very different. Hana goes through a lot. Watching her perseverance is simply inspiring; watching the children grow is an emotional roller-coaster as well. It is an incredibly emotional movie – and not in a bad way at all. I think that it makes people experience something in them that not many other things can. Watching Wolf Children should affect you in a pretty amazingly profound way. Simply put, it is the best anime movie of all time; arguably one of the best movies of all time. Everyone should watch Wolf Children.
Thank you very much for reading, that concludes my list of the best anime movies. I hope you enjoyed it! Of course, this list is subjective, and I apologize if you didn’t see your favorite anime movie on here. Maybe I just haven’t seen it yet! Anyway, take some time and watch all of these and comment to let me know what you think!