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The 25 Best Anime Movies of All Time, Ranked

The wonderful world of animation has treated viewers to a wide range of styles to enjoy. 

Among those styles are the unmistakable visuals that belong to traditional Disney films, the 3D cinematics that Pixar & DreamWorks are known for, and the beloved visual sheen that several anime properties have adopted since the medium’s inception. In the case of the anime genre, it’s hotter than it's ever been. Today’s scene is ruled by longtime greats, such as Dragon Ball and One Piece. And relative newcomers, like My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer, have experienced massive surges in popularity that have solidified their placing among the GOAT’s.

The longer form pieces that have emerged from the anime scene are equally amazing. Studio Ghibli, Toei Animation, and countless other anime studios have crafted some of the most inspired films anyone has ever seen. We’re here to celebrate the very best and make sure you’re aware of the varied content that’s present within the past and present anime spectrum. 

These 25 films are required homework for every type of anime fan and are equally entertaining (and some would even say better) in comparison to live-action motion pictures.

25. ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’

The original reasoning behind Broly’s hate for Goku was uninspired, to say the least. But thanks to this film’s welcome retcon, the massive Legendary Super Saiyan got a grand origin tale befitting of his incredible stature. Dragon Ball Super: Broly features a nice serving of the epic clashes you’ve come to expect from Goku and the rest of the gang. The superpowered battles that take place in this film are eye-popping and full of impact, plus there’s a few moments of hilarity to enjoy. On a visual level, this film can be classified as a tour de force. And thankfully, its watch-ability and replay factors are equally high.

Watch on YouTube Movies

24. ‘Vampire Hunter D’

If the Castlevania Netflix series had you in heavy binge mode, then this 80s classic should definitely whet your appetite. Vampire Hunter D follows a human/vampire hybrid that gets hired to eliminate a vicious vampire. This straightforward premise makes way for a movie full of gothic horror and flashy action sequences that amaze thanks to D’s masterful swordplay. Fun fact - this film’s cultural relevance will forever stay intact due to its appearance in Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream” music video.

Watch on YouTube

23. ‘Promare’

Trigger’s anime productions are known for sporting some of the most intense visuals fans have ever laid eyes on. Kill la Kill and SSSS.Gridman are clear examples of that respected reputation. One of the studio’s finest full-length cinematic works is Promare, which is a film that’s perfect for action anime buffs. When a collective of dangerous mutants called the Mad Burnish rears their ugly heads, the Burning Rescue team sets out to quell the overwhelming threat. The cel-shaded visual stylings of this film do an incredible job of making everything on screen deliver plenty of shock and awe.

Watch on HBO Max

22. ‘Summer Wars’

Summer Wars starts out normal enough, but then it takes a sharp left turn into the realm of science-fiction. A young boy by the name of Kenji steps up to play the role of his lady friend’s fiance during a celebration of her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday. Madness ensues once Kenji accidentally causes an issue that threatens the very well-being of his world. Kenji and his newfound friends are immediately tasked with joining together to overcome a savage A.I. and keep it from destroying the planet itself. The sci-fi trippiness on display in Summer Wars is super engrossing, plus its more heartwarming moments make it an endearing watch for all sorts of anime diehards.

Watch on Vudu

21. ‘Weathering with You’

Weathering with You is one of those romantic anime flicks that mixes in elements of fantasy to great effect. Its story revolves around a runaway boy that abandons his rural life in Tokyo. He eventually comes into contact with an orphan girl, who mysteriously wields the ability to change the weather on a whim. The union between both characters wonderfully drives the story forward and is aided by a combination of amazing tunes, touching moments, and the theme of hope trumping the world’s many ills.

Watch on HBO Max

20. ‘Millennium Actress’

Millennium Actress deftly pulls off an introspective look into the life of an aging film icon that relays her life’s story. What makes this central plot element play out in a unique manner is the ways in which it’s explained via varied cinematic genres. The blending of reality and fantasy is a constant element throughout this emotional journey. Millennium Actress is a wonderful exploration of the movie genre as a whole.

Watch on Amazon Prime Video

19. ‘Paprika’

What would you do if you had the power to enter one’s dreams? Research psychologist Dr. Atsuko Chiba and her colleagues do just that thanks to a device called the DC Mini. But when that device ends up in the wrong hands, Chiba sets out to recover it and prevent catastrophic damage. What follows is an adventure that transports viewers to a wealth of mind-bending dreamscapes. Chiba’s alter-ego as a dream detective named “Paprika” embraces the random sights of one’s deepest thoughts. And her misadventures come across the screen in the boldest ways imaginable.

Watch on Vudu

18. ‘Ninja Scroll’

You can never go wrong with an anime film that’s all about badass ninjas. Ninja Scroll perfectly encapsulates the dangers that come with being a master assassin and remains one of the best action anime of all time. This pick on our list follows Jubei, the last remaining member of a ninja clan that transitions to the life of a feared mercenary. After joining a fellow ninja and spy, Jubei goes to war with a demonic ninja clan. Ninja Scroll’s epic weapons clashes will stick with you long after they’ve concluded due to how hype they are. This action-packed film is a blood-filled, gorefest that’s all about experiencing the heat of battle.

Watch on Hulu

17. ‘Metropolis’

Metropolis takes viewers on an eye-popping trip to a futuristic city-state where humans and robots live together. However, constant turmoil and prejudices disrupt this new societal structure. Amidst all the madness, a detective and his nephew set out to capture a wanted scientist. But once they make their way into the scientist’s lab, the young nephew encounters a mysterious girl that has no memory of her past. This chance meeting puts both the detective and his nephew on a new path that places them in a predicament that will determine them and the rest of humanity’s fate.

Watch on Blu-Ray

16. ‘Wolf Children’

Wolf Children’s fantastical storyline certainly hits right in the feels. It follows a young woman named Hana, who comes to fall in love with a man who just happens to be a werewolf. Following his untimely demise, Hana works hard to raise the two children that came from their beautiful union. Wolf Children is a definite tear jerker - you’ll quickly get caught up in all the single mother hardships Hana deals with and the struggles experienced by her half-human, half-wolf children.

Watch on Apple TV+

15. ‘Perfect Blue’

The life of a pop idol turned actress can be quite stressful. Perfect Blue explores that major career change through the eyes of a young woman named Mima Kirigoe. Her life shockingly takes a turn for the worst once a stalker begins targeting her. Mima’s grip on reality becomes unglued as she deals with the high price of fame and her unwanted suitor. Perfect Blue hits all the right notes as an animated psychological thriller.

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14. ‘Ghost in the Shell’

Never mind the live-action version - you only need to watch the original anime presentation. This cyberpunk-themed film incorporates themes of knowing one’s true self and the impact of advanced technology on society as it follows a cyborg federal agent. The hunt for a man that can hack into the minds of cyborg-human hybrids eventually impacts her views on life and makes her question her very own identity. Ghost in the Shell is a must-watch for anime fans that want to enjoy something along the lines of Blade Runner.

Watch on YouTube Movies

13. ‘A Silent Voice’

A Silent Voice is the sort of film that can force every bully in existence to change their ways after just one viewing. A young student named Shoya Ishida ends up bullying a deaf girl to the point where she transfers to another school. This act earns Shoya the ire of his fellow students and soon pushes him into a state of depression. Later on in his life, Shoya reunites with his old classmate in hopes of making amends for his problematic past.

Watch on Netflix

12. ‘Your Name’

Your Name presents a story that’s all about the strong connection that gradually builds between two strangers. But what makes that newfound friendship a bit more interesting is the fact that those two individuals mysteriously begin switching bodies. This strange phenomenon dramatically impacts their day to day activities and puts them on the path towards analyzing each other’s purpose in life.

Watch on YouTube Movies

11. ‘The End of Evangelion’

Not all shows can bring everything to a close in triumphant fashion. For many of those who sat through the entirety of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series, that sentiment sadly rings true. The End of Evangelion film provides a far more fulfilling ending that gives diehard fans what they truly deserve. The giant mech action that erupts within this film will grab your attention. But it’s definitely worth watching the episodes that come before this alternate ending to appreciate its many complexities.

Watch on Netflix

10. ‘Whisper of the Heart’

Who knew that a bunch of books would be the catalyst for such a whimsical love story? Whisper of the Heart dives into that warm premise as it centers on a young lady bookworm that crosses paths with an aspiring master luthier. Her imagination runs wild and leads to her book writing career getting its start as she discovers her soul mate. This Studio Ghibli classic focuses on young love and the great lengths a couple is willing to go to maintain their foundation.

Watch on HBO Max

9. ‘Grave of the Fireflies’

The ills of war and the long-lasting effects it has on people young and old are explained with great care in Grave of the Fireflies. After an American firebombing during World War II occurs, a brother and sister duo are forced to rely on each other for survival after being separated from their parents. Along the way, they encounter plenty of hardships and do their best to remain vigilant in the midst of a global conflict.

Watch on Hulu

8. ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind shows us that even in the most desperate of times, peace and goodwill can go a long way towards mending a fractured world. The young princess at the heart of this story lives within a post-apocalyptic time period. As a part of the last remaining humans, she has the ability to speak with a race of giant insects that populate a nearby jungle. With her special communication skills and strong will, Nausicaä must utilize them both if she hopes to keep two warring nations from destroying the rest of their homeworld and themselves.

Watch on HBO Max

7. ‘My Neighbor Totoro’

Chances are you’ve spotted the unmistakable image of a little girl with an umbrella standing next to a rotund beast at a bus stop. That iconic pic belongs to the Studio Ghibli Gem, My Neighbor Totoro. Two sisters named Satsuke and Mei move to the countryside to be with their sick mother. Thanks to their new surroundings, they end up befriending a collective of forest spirits and living out their childhood days in the funnest ways imaginable.

Watch on HBO Max

6. ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’

The sight of a walking castle is just one of the many fantastical sights that will amaze you in Howl’s Moving Castle. The main setting of this fantasy-themed adventure incorporates elements of both magic and technology. A young woman named Sophie has her life changed forever after she’s turned into an old woman via a curse from a spiteful witch. After coming into contact with a powerful wizard and his friends, Sophie hopes to reverse her cursed condition while also in the midst of a war between two kingdoms.

Watch on YouTube Movies

5. ‘Spirited Away’

Not everything is as it seems in Spirited Away. Little Chihiro quickly learns that lesson when she and her parents become entrapped within a realm ruled by magic and spirits. With the aid of a mysterious boy named Haku, Chihiro does her best to find a way to free herself from a world she struggles to understand. Spirited Away’s out of this world plotline goes hand in hand with its breathtaking imagery. Everything in this fantasy adventure anime is endearing and you’ll find yourself rooting for Chihiro every step of the way.

Watch on HBO Max

4. ‘Princess Mononoke’

Princess Mononoke stands tall as one of the more popular pieces from Studio Ghibli’s excellent catalog of anime films. A great war is unfolding between humans and the gods that oversee the protection of the forest. A young boy named Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of that grand conflict as he tries to broker a peace treaty between both sides. His mission brings him into contact with a wolf god and a headstrong princess, which leads him into a quest full of strife and hope.

Watch on HBO Max

3. ‘Castle in the Sky’

The race to locate a massive floating castle and gain possession of a magic crystal are the main catalysts for the great adventure in Castle in the Sky. A young orphan ends up escaping the grasp of an evil colonel and eventually links up with a fellow orphan soon after. Both characters soon embark on a grand expedition that puts them in the crosshairs of a gang of vicious pirates. Castle in the Sky is another Studio Ghibli masterwork that embraces the wondrous elements fantasy films are celebrated for.

Watch on HBO Max

2. ‘Akira’

Minds were blown when everyone laid eyes on this bonafide anime classic back in the day. It still holds up as a worthwhile watch and is required viewing for anyone looking to get into anime as a whole. Set in a dystopian version of 2019, Akira encapsulates the utter chaos that ensues within a fictional Neo-Tokyo. Amidst all the ongoing madness is a rescue mission that sees a bike gang leader trying to save his friend from destroying everyone and everything around him. That friend of his wields psychokinetic powers that pop off the screen alongside the rest of Akira’s striking visual sheen. Akira easily earns its position at the top of the cyberpunk anime sub-genre.

Watch on Tubi

1. ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’

The Tale of Princess Kaguya’s visuals are simply gorgeous in motion. This film offers an imaginative take on an old Japanese tale that’s perfect for all ages. After an old man discovers a tiny nymph within a bamboo shoot, he and his wife take the responsibility of raising the mysterious girl. Her perceived divinity determines her upbringing and leads to her growth into a desirable young woman. Fun ensues when she gives her hopeful suitors overwhelming tasks that are meant to prove their undying love for her. Prepare yourself for bouts of extreme happiness and sadness as you watch Kaguya’s childhood and adulthood play out in grand fashion.

Watch on HBO Max
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