Anime movies are one of the most popular and well-recognized genres of movies that are a great mix of drama, action, romance, comedy, and science fiction. They are released every year and some of the movies explore some deep themes and give out social messages that spectacle the audience all across the globe. Some of the anime movies have stayed favorite to the viewers for years now. They have left a mark for being on the list of best anime movies of all time.
Top 20 best anime movies of all times:
1. Your Name
Directed by Makoto Shinkai in 2016, Your Name is one of the best Anime movies which has been recognized both domestically and worldwide. The genre is fantasy. It was aired on the big screen across 120 countries between 2016 and 2018. It is the perfect blend of fantasy, romance, and drama that keeps one tied to the story. The story revolves around two main characters namely, Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu who get drawn towards each other and stay connected in a mysterious way. The story is based on two real-life places in Central Japan called Tokyo and Takayama. The movie has shown the real spots of these places and has encouraged many fans to visit those spots which were shown in the movie. It is the fourth-highest-rated film and one of the highest-grossing anime movies in Japan which have grossed over $355 million. It is the 9th highest-grossing non-English film worldwide.
This film was adapted from the famous Manga series of Katsuhiro Otomo. Its first anime movie adaption was released in the year 1988 and this film became a hot topic in 2019 as the film had predicted Tokyo’s Olympics hosting in the year 2020. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, this best anime movie of all time belongs to the Science fiction or cyberpunk genre. The film is rooted in the history of post-war Japan from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It showcases the protests by the students at that time and the economic boom of Japan and the counter culture of the Bosozoku racing. The movie is set during the outbreak of WWII in Tokyo where the country is engulfed by a massive explosion. This anime movie has a lot of messages in it. The story starts unfolding when Tetsuo gains supernatural and psychic powers after a motorcycle accident. ‘Akira’ refers to the power which encircles an ominous secret of the city’s past. This film singlehandedly led to the boom of anime movies in the West in the 1990s. Its aesthetic motion had inspired a lot of artists and musicians worldwide.
3. Wolf Children
This beautiful anime movie was directed by Mamoru Hosoda and was released in the year 2012. It was produced by Studio Chizu founded by the director. It is a beautiful blend of fantasy and drama that is extremely touching. Wolf Children’s story revolves around the central character Hana who is a single mother to her half-wolf and half-human children. The drama starts building when her lover (who could transform himself into a wolf) whom she had met in the university dies to get some food for the family. It highlights the mother’s struggle as a single parent in bringing them up and providing for her children. It also showcases the difficulty and dilemma she faces while hiding the true nature of her wolf children. The heart touching characters and the thoughtful story makes this one of the best anime movies of all times.
4. Ninja Scroll
Ninja Scroll revolves around the story of Jubei Kibagami a warrior by the government agent to defeat the Eight Devils of Kimon, a demonic ninja to overthrow the Tokugawa regime for Japanese destruction. It is a common tale of a common mercenary who had to save Japan. This movie depicted sensuality and destroyed the notion that anime movies were only for kids. Unflinching violence, creative sword-fight sequences made it a classic to date. Ninja Scroll was one of the first movies released by Manga Entertainment
5. Summer Wars
It is a Science fiction movie that was directed by Mamoru Hosoda and released in the year 2009. This one of the best anime movies had earned him the highest reputation. The story centers on Kenji and Natsuki who visit Natsuki’s family home. Rich Japanese culture and tradition in the rural side are showcased in the movie. Kenji is a Maths prodigy who works as an admin assistant for OZ, a digital network. The story unfolds when there arises a problem in this virtual reality world OZ when Kenji is overpowered by Love Machine, a computer virus that has the motive to throw the entire planet into chaos and destruction. It is an engrossing and dramatic anime movie.
6. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Released in 2006, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is considered to be the director Mamoru Hosoda’s masterpiece. The movie was based on the novel written by the bestselling Japanese author of sci-fi, Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1967. It is a fantasy film with a beautiful love story. However, it shows a different story to the novel. The plot is set after 20 years from the novel’s date. It is a time travel movie where the teenager Mokoto a schoolgirl comes across a time-traveling device on her way back from school. With the help of this device, she travels through time without being aware of its consequences on others. She uses it to fix her mundane daily problems in life. It keeps us emotionally tied throughout and leaves us with an amazing lesson in the end.
7. Princess Mononoke
It is one of the best anime movies which was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and was released in the year 1997. The director had spent around 2o years to build the plot of the movie. It is a historical fantasy anime movie that centres on the Muromachi period (1336-1573) with two main characters. The first character is the prince of the tribe named Ashitaka and the second character is a young woman named San who was raised in the forest by wolves. The movie showcases the conflict and struggle between humans and nature. Ashitaka tries to figure out ways for both to co-exist.
8. A Silent Voice
This movie was directed by Naoko Yamada and released in the year 2016. It was produced by Kyoto Animation and was based on the 7 volume manga published in the years 2013-2014. It belongs to the genre of drama. This is one of the best anime movies which revolves around sensitive social themes like suicide, teen bullying and disabilities, and parental divorce. The story has two main characters, a deaf girl Shoko Nishimiya and Shoya Ishida who bullied her. Shoya seeks redemption throughout the movie and was on the verge of committing suicide for being a victim of a bully himself. He traces back to reflect and sees how he too had bullied someone in the past. It has an emotional depth that keeps you hooked on to it till the end. The film had beautiful color, animation, and a fascinating soundtrack. It throws a great impact on the audience.
Directed by Satoshi Kon and released in the year 2006, Paprika is another one of the best anime movies. The story of the movie is based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel. The story revolves around Atsuko Chiba who is a psychiatrist in the daytime and a dream detective under the name ‘Paprika’ in the night. She is working around a psychotherapy treatment that involves a device named DC Mini which has been developed to help psychiatric patients. However, when the device goes to the wrong hands it can affect people’s minds and destroy them. The story gets thrilling when a prototype of the DC Mini gets stolen and Atsuko gets into action to prevent any damage. Good story, excellent animation, and the use of psychedelic colors in the film have made it stand out among other anime movies.
10. Perfect Blue
Directed by Satoshi Kon and released in the year is a rare genre of contemporary anime movies. It is one of the best anime movies which is a psychological thriller and very different from the usual fantasy anime films. The story revolves around Mima Kirigoe who is stalked by an obsessive fan. Later it is revealed that there is a twist and things are not that obvious as it seems like. The fan was a ghost of her past and she slowly begins to lose her touch with reality. She loses her mind and the boundaries between her public life and private life begin to blur. It explores the hardcore truth of what cost it takes to be in fame. Dreamy visuals, unpredictable twists and beautiful animation makes it one of the best anime movies to date. It indeed keeps the viewer on the edge till the end.
11. Ghost In The Shell
Directed by one of the finest directors of anime movies, Mamoru Oshii, this movie is among the best anime movie. Released in the year 1995, it belongs to the Science fiction or Cyberpunk genre. The story is based on the manga written by Masamune Shiro. The plot revolves around the time of 2030 when the world is highly advanced in technology. It tells the story of Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg police officer, and Batou who tracks down a mysterious hacker called ‘The Puppet Master’. The movie shows how Motoko works to prevent all crimes from happening. It has won many awards and garnered a lot of glorious reviews too.
12. Spirited Away
Winning worldwide recognition as one of the best of best anime movies so far it has been recognized as the director, Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece. Released in the year 2001, it is a fantasy drama. The story revolves around a 10-year-old girl Chihiro who steps into a strange world with her parents where her parents are transformed into pigs due to the curse of a witch. She starts working hard and endures every hardship under the rue of the witch, Yubaba to help her parents. This movie led to Studio Ghibli’s huge commercial success as it has been the highest-grossing movie ever made in Japan. It was recognized in the Best Animated Feature in the 75th Academy Awards.
13. My Neighbor Totoro
Released in the year 1988, this anime movie most popular fantasy movie produced by Studio Ghibli. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the story revolves around two sisters who are coping up with every challenge to keep up their childhood going with a bedridden mother in the hospital. The family shifts to an old country home which is inhabited by dust spirits or mystic creatures names Totoro who give the girls company. Meanwhile, adults face long term consequences like illness and fear. This is one of the best anime movies so far that it is a beautiful blend of drama and emotion.
Released in the year 2001, Metropolis is a Science fiction movie that is based on Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga. Directed by Rintaro and produced by Madhouse, the plot revolves around the futuristic city of Metropolis where humans and robots coexist. The robots are discriminated against and pushed to a lower level of society. Despite that, the humans blame the robots for taking away their jobs and other things. Nice plot and rich visuals accompanied by Western music, make Metropolis one of the best anime movies of all time.
15. 5 Centimeter Per Second
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, this anime movie was released in the year 2007. His anime work regarding this film is divided into three parts: Cherry Blossom, Cosmonaut, and 5 Centimeter Per Second. It is a romantic drama where the story revolves around the love story of Takaki and Akari who fell in love in elementary school. It is a simple realistic story that has no battle scenes or supernatural power plot. This movie won the Asia Pacific Screen Awards’ Best Animated Feature Film Award. Its simplicity and heart touching emotions make it one of the best anime movies ever.
16. Whisper Of The Heart
Directed by Yoshifumi Kondo and released in the year 1995 this anime movie was based on the 1989 manga written by Aoi Hiiragi. It was animated by Studio Ghibli. The story is about two people Shizuku, a girl who loves to read books, and the boy Seiji who stole her heart. One evening she looked at the checkout cards where she saw that Seiji had checked her out.
17. The Secret World of Arrietty
This anime movie is based on the children’s fantasy novel, The Borrowers, and was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The story is centred on the Clock family where the members of the family are only four inches tall. They borrow small items to furnish their house. The family’s daughter Arrietty gets discovered by a human named Sho and she interacts and pursues a friendship with Sho. She was always warned of her discovery by humans but that doesn’t stop her. It’s a very touching story on friendship, existence, and life. The nuances of daily life are beautifully captured and portrayed through amazing animation. It is indeed one of the best anime movies that occupy a place on the list.
18. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri is an action-adventure anime movie written by Hideyuki Kikuchi. The story revolves around a future in which a half-human, half-vampire hybrid hunts down the vampires. The theme and perfect animation make it one of the best anime movies. It has a mix of western Dracula, D to hunt the daughter of a wealthy man who gets abducted by a vampire.
19. Tokyo Godfather
Directed by Satoshi Kon based on Peter B Kyne’s novel Three Godfathers. It was released in the year 2003 which revolves around the story of three homeless people on Christmas Eve who come across a baby named Kiyoko and look for its parents. The three men give away the very little they have in that quest to find out the baby’s mother. The characters are beautiful and it is very touching. No wonder it is one of the best anime movies that received the Excellence Prize in the year 2003 at the Japan Media Arts Festival. It also received the Best Animation Film award at the 58th Mainichi Film Awards.
20. Grave Of The Fireflies
Directed by Isao Takahata and released in the year 1988 this is one of the best anime movies of all time which was produced by Studio Ghibli. It revolves around the story of a brother and sister Seito and Setsuko who try their best to survive during and after WWII. It is extremely emotional and showcases the story beautifully. Both of them go through harsh situations like bombing, death of their mother, shortage of food, and every other aftermath of war. It highlights the sibling bond which is filled with love, care, and concern for each other.
Anime movies have been a great source of entertainment for years now. Visual effects, soundtracks, unique themes, and great animation makes anime movies stand out. The above-mentioned anime movies are a must-watch for both, first-timers and anime movie lovers.