The Best Anime Movies Of All Time

Fantasy, rom-coms, nei-noir cyberpunk and more...

Best Anime Movies Of All Time

With so many anime movies, it’s tough to know which to watch first. We’ve compiled a list of the best of the best to help you out. For this, we’ve looked at the best animation style and art, the best scripting and storylines, and the best casts and acting. Everything on this list is standout in at least one of these areas (usually more than one!).

Whether you’re a hard-core anime fan or new to the genre, here are our top picks for the best anime movie of all time.

Looking for popular anime to watch? Check out what’s hot in Japan right now.

1. Akira

Where to Watch: Netflix

Akira

One anime movie that’s definitely not to be missed is 1988’s Akira. This outing from director Katsuhiro Otomo is an action-packed cyberpunk epic based on Otomo’s 1982 manga by the same name. The tale of a biker gang who find their friend, Tetsuo Shima, is developing amazing telekinetic abilities following a motorcycle accident their antics lead to a full scale rebellion. The film that inspired Elfen Lied and Stranger things, Akira set the bar for modern anime with simply beautiful animation coupled with stark violence and bloody mayhem.

2. Josee, The Tiger And The Fish

Where to Watch: Funimation, Netflix

The enigmatically titled Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is a romantic comedy released in 2020 and based on Seiko Tanabe’s short story by the same name. Directed by Kotaro Tamura, the screenplay was created by Sayaka Kuwamura, while original character designs were done by Nao Emoto, who created a tie-in manga to accompany the film.

Best Anime Movies Josee The Tiger And The Fish 1

Highly rated by critics and fans alike, this is the light-hearted tale of marine biology student Tsuneo Suzukawa falling in love with a girl named Kumiko, although she prefers to go by the name Josee. After a chance encounter with her following a fateful accident, Tsuneo is convinced by her grandmother to become her caretaker, as Josee is in a wheelchair and needs assistance.

While Josee initially comes across as rude and bossy, Tsuneo takes the opportunity as a means of saving money to support his academic dreams and marine biology career and eventually discovers she longs to experience a life free from the crippling condition that keeps her bound to a chair.

Having a change of heart, Tsuneo decides to help Josee fulfill her dreams while furthering his own. As the two spend more time together, they find there’s a lot more to life than either of them imagined.

3. Princess Mononoke

Where To Watch: Netflix, JustWatch

One of the most beautiful, timeless, and compelling anime movies ever made, Princess Mononoke is a magic unto itself. A classic from the wizards over at Studio Ghibli, this is one anime film that hasn’t just stood the test of time; it bears up under repeated viewings.

Best Anime Films Ever Made

The story follows Ashitaka, a young warrior who defends his village from attack by a fearsome demon, only to become infected by the same demonic evil that had transformed a former god into something unspeakable. Banished from his village with a warning that the evil now infecting him will kill him, Ashitaka sets out on a quest to determine what drove the giant boar god to madness and evil. His only clue, an iron bullet that had pierced the boar’s flesh.

Ashitaka’s journeys lead him to far away realms where he encounters two injured men, workers from a nearby town who were left for dead after a local wolf god attacked their convoy. As helps the men return to their home by journeying through a mystical forest. There he catches sight of a young girl who appears to be with the wolves.

At Iron Town, he is greeted by Lady Iboshi and thanked for his aid. He learns she and her riflemen were responsible for shooting the boar, as their efforts to mine iron continue to enrage the forest creatures.

Standing against Iboshi are the old gods and animals of the forest, including Princess Mononoke, a girl raised by the wolves who is part wolf herself. With the emperor sending men to destroy the Spirit of the Forest and war coming to Iron Town on two fronts, Ashitaa must decide where his loyalties lie while trying to protect the enigmatic young princess, who is perfectly fine without his help, thank you very much.

A compelling narrative and stunning animation make this a standout in the ranks of the best anime movies ever made.

4. Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel is actually three of the best anime movies of all time. A trilogy comprised of Presage Flower (2017), Lost Butterfly (2019), and Spring Song (2020), Heaven’s Feel was written by Akira Hiyama and directed by Tomonori Sudō, with beautiful music by Yuki Kajiura.

Fate/Stay Night Heavens Feel

As the name suggests, the trilogy follows The Fate/Stay Night manga’s third and final route. Focusing on Shirou Emiya and Sakura Matou a they’re caught in the middle of the Holy Grail War – a battle between two conflicting mages.

An enigmatic premise, an exceptionally built world, and stunning, slightly ethereal animation make this trilogy a must-watch for all anime fans.

5. Ghost In The Shell

Where to Watch: Netflix

The 1995 anime movie Ghost in the Shell (not to be confused with the 2017 Scarlett Johansen remake) is an epic, neo-noir cyberpunk thriller that is not to be missed. Directed by Mamoru Oshii the film is based on Masamune Shirow’s manga by the same name.

Best Anime Movies Ghost In The Shell

Set in Japan in the year 2029, the film follows Motoko Kusanagi, a public-security agent who also happens to be a cyborg. Motoko is hunting for The Puppet Mster – an elusive hacker. Woven through the noir-style mystery are philosophical musings on the nature of the self in a world dominated by technology.

A combination of CGI and traditional animation creates a really unique and delightful style. While it was considered a failure at the box office, the movie rapidly gained a cult following and remains a firm fan favorite. Add to this a hauntingly beautiful musical score incorporating Japanese lyrics, and it’s easy to see why the film has inspired so many that followed.

6. In This Corner Of The World

Where to Watch: Netflix, Crunchyroll

A wartime drama released in 2016, In This Corner of the World was co-written and directed by Sunao Katabuchi, and produced by MAPPA. Based on Fumiyo Kōno’s manga by the same name. Set in Japan’s Hiroshima and Kune between the 1930s and 1940s, the movie focuses on 1944 to 1945 but spans the decade preceding and following the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima.

In This Corner Of The World

While it’s a somewhat harrowing film given the nature of the subject, it beautifully depicts Japanese culture and contrasts the traditions and nature of the Japanese people with the chaos, cruelty, and unforgivable suffering caused by the bomb.

It’s a fictionalized account of events, but the film’s official guidebook cites factual accounts and research into real events informed the narrative, along with historical information on the pre-war townscape of Hiroshima and the damage that was caused by the bomb.

The film was greeted with critical acclaim for its ground-level portrayal of an event that’s often highly dramatized. Visually it’s a work of art, while the music – provided by Kotringo – adds depth and atmosphere.

7. Howl’s Moving Castle

Where to Watch: Netflix, Crunchyroll

One of Studio Ghibli’s fan-favorite movies, Howl’s Moving Castle, is a visual masterpiece with highly relatable and deeply flawed characters. Based on Diane Wyn Jones’ book by the same name, this 2005 jaunt through a world in which witches, wizards and magic exist alongside regular people was directed by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki.

Best Anime Movies Hows Moving Castle

The movie follows shop girl Sophie, a timid and self-conscious young women who lives in shadow of her beautiful older sister and believes she’s too plain to be destined for anything greater than working in her father’s hat shop. After a seemingly chance encounter with the infamous wizard Howl leaves Sophie besotted with the handsome magician, she discovers she’s not the first to have fallen for his charms when a jealous witch curses her.

The curse transforms Sophie into an old lady and prevents her from telling anyone about her predicament. Determined to free herself of the curse, Sophie tracks down Howl and discovers he, too, is suffering from a curse.

Can she free him and save herself in the process? A surprisingly poignant and humorous outing that’s a must-watch.

The Most Popular Anime Movies Of All Time

Sometimes the best movies aren’t the most popular. And occasionally, the most popular movies turn out to be badly made. We know which anime movies are the best, but which are the most popular? For this list, we’ve looked at cult classics with huge fan followings and popular mainstream anime movies.

Spirited Away

Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Arguably the most commercially successful of Studio Ghibli’s movies, Spirited Away didn’t just prove to be hugely popular; it broke anime movies into mainstream awareness in a way never achieved before. For many fans, it’s the only anime movie they’d ever seen when it was first released, but they loved it so much they’ve since become die-hard fans. For others, it ranks in their top favorite movies despite not liking or watching any other anime.

Most Popular Anime Of All Time - Spirited Away

Spirited Away is the magical tale of a girl named Chihiro, who becomes trapped in a strange realm where spirits and demons are real, and her parents are transformed into pigs. To free them, Chihiro must become Sin and master this peculiar world. It’s a beautiful tale of self-discovery, friendship, and perseverance. The animation is stunning, the music perfect. Unsurprisingly, Spirited Away ranks as one of the most popular movies ever made.

Pokémon: The First Movie

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Released in 1998, when the worldwide obsession with Pokémon was at its peak, Pokémon: The First Movie inspired a generation of children to catch ‘em all. A spin-off from one of the most popular and iconic anime series of the 90s, it was inevitable that this one would join the ranks of the most popular anime movies ever made.

Most Popular Anime Of All Time - Pokémon: The First Movie

Pokémania was rife; children and adults alike were obsessed with becoming a master of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Many of them had reached the end of the game, defeated the elite trainers who awaited them there, and encountered (and captured) the mysterious Mewtwo. Pokémon: The First Movie acted as a bit of an origin story for Mewtwo, in which we discover he was cloned in an attempt to create a super-weapon and came to hate humans as a result.

It’s a powerful film, not least because it includes the now-iconic moment Ash is turned to stone; a scene that causes even the most macho fan to tear up!

Can’t get enough of these anime movies? Check out the top 90s anime that defined the decade.

Hazel Butler
Hazel Butler

During daylight hours, Hazel is a freelance copywriter and editor crafting copy and offering marketing training for businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. After dark, she morphs into an Urban Fantasy and Dark Fantasy author with a penchant for all things dark, twisted and geeky.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Get the best of WebGeekStuff delivered right to your inbox!