With anime series and movies being popularized again, it can be a bit difficult to figure out which ones to watch and which ones to just let be. If you are a lover of anime or are just curious about the genre and want to know which are the top 20 best anime movies of all time, then you are in the right place.
On this list, we are going to be looking at have garnered recognition worldwide. These are the movies that can be enjoyed by movie lovers outside of the core anime loving communities. They are definitely worth the time spent on your couch looking at the screen. Here is our list of top 20 best anime movies of all time.
1. Your Name (2016)
Runtime: 1hr 46min IMDb Score: 8.4/10
The fact that this is the highest grossing anime of all time makes sure that it lands on our best anime movies list. The plot follows Mitsuha Miyamizu - a high school girl in a rural town and Taki Tachibana, a high school boy in Tokyo. Mitsuha is bored with her rural life and wishes to have romance in her life. The two, who do not know about each other's existence, wake up one morning to find out that they have exchanged bodies. After the initial shock, they figure out ways to communicate with each other (via notes, writing on skin and text messages). They develop a friendship and decide to fix each other's problems whenever they are stuck in the other persons' body and life. However, once they decide to meet in real life, they find out that there are incredible forces that will do anything to make sure that this does not happen.
2. Spirited Away (2001)
Runtime: 2hrs 5min IMDb Score: 8.6/10
Known as the anime that introduces people to the world of anime movies and series, Spirited Away is considered a legend in the anime world and fandom. The beautiful movie that follows ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino through a supernatural populated birth house. The creatures in the movie are just as fascinating as the imagery and the story itself. The incredible storytelling was one so amazing that it is the only anime movie in history to ever win an academy award for the best animated feature.
3. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Runtime: 2hr 14min IMDb Score: 8.4/10
In a village of Emishi people in Muromachi, humans are in a constant battle with demons. On a fateful day, the prince of the village defends his people by killing a demon that attacks his people. His victory, however, is short-lived when he finds out the demon-corrupted his right hand. He leaves his village to find a cure. In his travels, he teams up with a wolf princess by the name of San. The two fight to bring balance to the land as well as find a way to get rid of the demon corruption in the Prince's hand before it corrupts his whole body and eventually kills him. With gorgeous visuals, strongly developed characters and a compelling story it is no wonder that this movie is always among the top on best anime movies.
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4. Millennium Actress (2001)
Runtime: 1hr 27min IMDb Score: 7.9/10
A TV interviewer Genya Tachibana, and his cameraman Kyoji Ida decide to start a new project by filming Chiyoko Fujiwara a famous actress who long disappeared from the spotlight. When they find her, they are thrust into a movie-like experience where they are immersed into her past as she reminisces how she started her acting career, her film roles in the industry, her search for love and all that goes on behind the scenes in the movie star world.
5. Grave of Fireflies (1988)
Runtime: 1hr 29min IMDb Score: 8.5/10
This is probably the saddest entry in this list. Grave of Fireflies has made it into many lists of best anime movies due to the fact that despite the sadness of the story, it shows the audience the stark reality of war and how it affects people, especially children. The story follows brother and sister, Seita and Setsuko who try to survive the harrowing times brought about by the 2nd World war. The story will break your heart and have you crying and hoping that the children make it out of the terrible situation that they find themselves in.
6. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Runtime: 1hr 23min IMDb Score: 8.0/10
Described as the anime that completely redefined the cyber-punk genre, it tackles the possibility of how things would unfold if man ever found a way to integrate himself successfully with machines. How far would humans go to turn themselves into unstoppable machines? And if you integrate with a machine, do you still deserve to call yourself a human being. The anime tries to answer these questions as the cast rushes against time to find a ghost hacker who threatens to destroy civilization as it is using these abilities. This movie is so beloved that it was remade in 2017 with Scarlett Johansson playing the main character lead.
7. Perfect Blue (1997)
Runtime: 1hr 21min IMDb Score: 7.9/10
This psychological horror anime follows Mima -a pop idol - who decides to leave her pop music group to become an actress. Her first movie flops and she is distraught but later receives another bigger role. She accepts the it but the part traumatizes her so much that she is no longer able to differentiate her hallucinations, real life and her acting work. She is relentlessly stalked by and angry fan and then people around her start dying showing her as the main suspect. Mima now has to find out the truth and save herself before its too late. Perfect Blue has stood the test of time and will continue to be named as one of the best anime movies out there.
8. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (1984)
Runtime: 1hr 57min IMDb Score: 8.1/10
Another fan favourite in the best anime movies category, it is based on a manga of the same name. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where industrialization was wiped out 1000 years before. A young girl and the main character in the story, Nausicaa, fights to save a jungle full of insects from a kingdom trying to eradicate it. The movie has incredibly beautiful visuals that showcase this world perfectly. The story, on the other hand, tries to impart the lesson on how growing industrialization can ruin the environment while showing young girls that they too can fight in what they believe in.
9. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
Runtime: 1hr 55min IMDb Score: 7.9/10
While there is an anime series by the same name, the movie version stands up on its own. It does a great job of introducing the characters and giving you a great story in the plot. It is among one of the best Japanese action anime around as its fight scenes are incredibly realistic. If you love guns and explosions then this is definitely for you.
10. The Girl who Leapt through Time (2006)
Runtime: 1hr 38min IMDb Score: 7.8/10
What would you do if you had the ability to leap through time? Most people would probably give moving answers such as getting rid of Hitler before he began his destruction or find answers to lasting world peace or end famine. In this anime, however, the main character Makoto Konno uses her powers for her own good. Eating the same pot of noodles over and over again, relieving the same karaoke session as well as to get out of embarrassing situations. When she finally realizes that the time leaps have consequences for others and that her leaps are numbered, she tries to correct all the wrongs she has caused before the leaps come to a final end.
11. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Runtime: 1hr 32min IMDb Score: 7.9/10
Set on Christmas eve, it follows three homeless people -middle-aged alcoholic named Gin, a trans woman and former drag queen Hana, and a dependent runaway girl Miyuki- who find a baby left by a dumpster and try to return her to her parents. During their adventure, they run into all kinds of trouble and have to get out of it in order to take the child back home safely. It is the best anime to watch on a holiday as it will warm your heart.
12. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Runtime: 1hr 51min IMDb Score: 8.0/10
Falling under the best romantic anime movies, the story follows Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old bookworm. One day when she goes to the library she finds that all her favourite books have been checked out by Seiji Amasawa. Seiji admires Shizuku and confesses this to her before he leaves for Italy for two months. Shizuku who is impressed by Seiji's courage in his confession and his efforts to become a violin maker, decides to take a page from him and pursue her dreams of being a writer. The story is deeply personal and focuses on ambition, creativity and the ups and downs of teenage love. Not only is the story beautiful and compelling, but the imagery throughout is outstanding too.
13. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
Runtime: 1hr 43min IMDb Score: 7.7/10
Not all vampire inspired stories have pretty people who go around falling blindly and madly in-love with each other. Some are downright action-packed, full of gnarly and bloody scenes. If you feel like this would be your type of vampire movie then sit back and enjoy the great action-packed fight scenes and the incredible art of Vampire Hunter. It does not disappoint and that is why it takes a position as one of the best anime movies of all time.
14. Wolf Children (2012)
Runtime: 1hr 57min IMDb Score: 8.1/10
A fairy-tale romance with a dose of reality, this story follows Hana who after falling in-love with an enigmatic enchanting man realizes that he can turn into a wolf. Hana does not run but instead falls for him even more and they later have two children Yuki and Ame. Told mostly without dialogue, the Japanese fantasy showcases real-life topics such as the struggles of raising a family, being different in society and how to find your place within the world.
15. Akira (1988)
Runtime: 2hr 4min IMDb Score: 8.1/10
No list can be complete without mentioning Akira. This is one of those movies that power through time and have an almost cult following.
Described as a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk anime, Akira is set in 2019 where Tokyo was destroyed and has now been rebuilt and renamed as Neo-Tokyo. The new city is plagued by corruption, anti-government protests, terrorism, and gang violence. Best friends Kaneda and Tetsuo are participating in a large protest when an accident occurs and Tetsuo ends up in a hospital. Here it is discovered that Tetsuo possesses psychic abilities. The same abilities that belonged to Akira, the previous person who caused the destruction of Tokyo before. When forces arise that want to kill Tetsuo, Kaneda and his other friends have to save their friend from these outside forces and make sure that he doesn't destroy himself in a bid to learn more about his powers and probably get rid of them.
The incredibly mature storytelling, intense action scenes and very nice music make Akira a Hallmark in the best action anime world.
16. Paprika (2006)
Runtime: 1hr 30min IMDb Score: 7.7/10
If you watched Leonardo Dicaprio's Inception then you have an idea of what this movie is about. It is set in a world where humans have been working to find a way to connect their dreams together in order to explore the depths of the human mind. The machine falls into the wrong hands and everyone's dreams get linked together. This will definitely take you through a crazy ride before you are done with it.
17. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Runtime: 1hr 59min IMDb Score: 8.2/10
Based on a novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, the story follows Sophie who one day as she is returning home from visiting her sister, encounters a wicked witch who places a curse on her. In an effort to reverse the terrible curse, Sophie embarks on a journey that leads her to Howl's moving castle. Here she meets interesting characters and the story unfolds revealing themes of confidence after a life of insecurity, young love and courage. The story has been given a beautiful background that could distract you only if the story was not as captivating as it is.
18. The Garden of Words (2013)
Runtime: 46min IMDb Score: 7.6/10
Romances with significant age gaps have always been a controversial and taboo topic. Not only are they odd in the eyes of the society but bring in the law as well and everything just blows up. The film makers decided to take on the subject matter and they were able to handle it quite beautifully. It follows Takao Akizuki a 15-year-old student and aspiring shoemaker and Yukari Yukino a 27-year-old literature teacher. Their romantic feelings towards each other build during rainydays at the park where the two meet every morning. While the movie is less than an hour, it will leave you with a longing for your loved one or with the feeling of hope to find your perfect person. Definitely a best romantic anime pick.
19. 5 centimeters per Second (2007)
Runtime: 1hr 3min IMDb Score: 7.7/10
Told from Takaki Tōno's point of view, the story is about his friendship with a girl by the name of Akari Shinohara. The story is told in three parts starting from elementary school to adulthood. Takaki moves around a lot due to his parents work lives. Once he moves again, he and Akari become pen-pals and remain so no matter how much life pulls them apart. Even when they grow older and fall in-love with different people, none of them seems to be willing to forget the bond that the once shared when they were younger. Fans of romantic films have placed it among the best romantic anime and you too fall in-love with the characters and the story itself.
20. Into the Forest of Firefly Lights (2011)
Runtime: 45min IMDb Score: 7.9/10
What would you do if you could never touch your boyfriend or girlfriend? You could stay together and do everything together but never touch. This is explored by the anime Into the Forest of Firefly Lights. This romance film follows Hotaru Takegawa a human girl who through a chance encounter meets a mask-wearing, human-like entity named Gin. Once he saves her Gin informs her that hey can never touch because if a human touches him, then he will disappear forever. As Hotaru grows older, their relationship grows from mere friendship to romance and this is made harder and harder by the fact that they can never touch.
There you have it; our top 20 best anime movies of all time. So go ahead and grab some popcorn, get cozy on the couch with a blanket and enjoy some of the best anime movies available today.
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