Everyone Thinks These Are The 24 Best Anime Films Ever

Us Westerners are usually all about Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks, but we should never forget that Japanese Anime has gifted us with some of the best animated films ever. Characterized by their dazzling animation and effects, their creative plots, and their strong female characters, many anime films are truly worth a watch. Here’s a list of the 24 best anime films ever made, and make sure you don’t miss #9 and #4!

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#24. Summer Wars

Premiered in 2009 and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, Summer Wars is a coming-of-age action-comedy film that will surely grasp anyone’s attention. It follows the steps of a young student who tries to solve a problem he caused by accident in OZ, a digital world, while at the same time coping with his normal teenage problems in real-life.

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It turns out that the young boy is falsely accused of hacking the virtual world of OZ by an artificial intelligence called Love Machine. Not only does he have to prove his innocence, but he also needs to prevent this computer program from causing greater havoc. For another of Hosoda’s greatest classics, slide to #22!

#23. 5 Centimeters Per Second

Premiered in 2007 and directed by Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters Per Second is a romantic-drama film that follows the life of a young man called Takaki and it is told in three interrelated segments.

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The story depicts the ups and downs of Tataki’s relationship with a young woman named Akari, whose heart he tries to conquer as he deals with his studies and adult obligations. If you wanna check out Shinkai’s greatest classic ever, slide to #6!

#22. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a comedy-adventure film that will surely entertain teens and adults alike, and it’s a refreshing change next to the many psychological thrillers and gruesome dystopias included in this list.

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The film revolves around Makoto, a high-school girl who gains the power to travel back in time. But while she begins to use it for her personal benefit, little is she aware that she is negatively affecting her own life and that of others.

#21. Project Itoh: Genocidal Organ

Project Itoh: Genocidal Organ is a dystopian sci-fi film that depicts a world where a nuclear device destroys Sarajevo. This nuclear fatality triggers chaos and havoc: while some democracies become surveillance states, others perpetrate gruesome genocides to their own people.

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In this context, intelligence agent Clavis Shepherd must find and eliminate John Paul, the person responsible for generating this nuclear war. But will he manage to save the world from nuclear destruction and state-perpetrated genocides? Watch it and find out!

#20. Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is an adventure film that follows the steps of Sophie, a young milliner who is turned into an old lady by a witch who comes into her shop and curses her. She soon learns that to break the spell she must team up with an insecure wizard.

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The story takes some unexpected twists and turns, as the young girl (trapped in the old lady’s body) suddenly finds herself engaged in the wizard’s resistance movement against the castle’s king. Released in 2003 shortly after the American invasion of Iraq – which director Miyasaki himself publicly criticized -, the film tries to convey a clear anti-war statement.

#19. Princess Mononoke

Released in 1997, Princess Mononoke is a thrilling fantasy epic and one of H. Miyasaki’s greatest works of all time. It tells the story of Ashitaka, a young man who finds himself engaged in a war between a human mining colony and the forest gods.

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Set in the late Muromachi period (a 300-year period that began in the 14th century), this film covers one of the most repeated themes in Miyasaki’s work: the environmental impact of human development and destruction. It’s definitely a must-watch!

#18. From Up On Poppy Hill

From Up on Poppy Hill is a 2011 drama film about the lives of a group of teens from Yokohama who try to save their school’s clubhouse from being torn down for the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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The movie was directed by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyasaki. What’s most interesting is that it’s one of the few Miyasaki films in which is based on real-life historical events. It was a massive success, as it earned $61 million worldwide.

#17. Ghost In The Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a 1995 crime thriller that follows the lives of a cyborg policewoman and her partner, who together must hunt a mysterious hacker known by the name “Puppet Master”.

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The film is set in a dystopian and cybernetic future which served as inspiration for famous Hollywood films such as The Matrix as well as Avatar. If you watch it and want more, then don’t miss its sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

#16. Silent Voice

A Silent Voice is a 2016 romantic-drama film directed by Naoko Yamada, one of the greatest female anime directors of this century. It tells the story of a young student who is spurned by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl, to the point in which she is forced to leave the town.

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Several years later, the young man tries to track her down in a journey of personal redemption. Though not as successful as many animes in this list in terms of the box office, it received critical acclaim and it’s definitely worth a watch.

#15. My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is a fantasy film written and directed by H. Miyasaki, and probably Studio Ghibli’s most popular production ever. Even though it’s not the best of Miyasaki’s movies, the character of Totoro has become an icon in popular culture. I guess it’s because of how cute and adorable he looks!

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The film depicts the lives of two young sisters who move to the countryside with their parents, but while her mother recovers from an illness at the hospital, they spend all day wandering through the forest and they encounter magical creatures on their way. It’s a great film for children and adults alike, and its music is indescribably good!

#14. The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is a biographical drama that tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed several Japanese fighter planes during World War II. The film is loosely based on Tatsuo Hori’s novel The Wind Has Risen.

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Released in 2013, it became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, beaten three years later by Your Name (check out slide #6!). What is more, it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Impressive!

#13. Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a coming-of-age fantasy film about a sulky 10-year-old girl named Chihiro, who wanders into a parallel magical world as her family moves into the suburbs. Chihiro suddenly finds herself in a world full of witches, gods, and spirits where humans transform into beasts and where her parents are changed into pigs.

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Trapped in this fantasy world, Chihiro must find a way to free herself and both her parents and go back to her normal life. Directed by Miyasaki and animated by Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, earning over $360 million.

#12. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion

The End of Evangelion is the theatrical ending of the legendary TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion, but don’t be fooled! This apocalyptic sci-fi movie is worth a watch even if you haven’t seen the series.

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The film tells the story of a teenage boy named Shinji Ikari, who pilots Evangelion Unit 01, a giant cyborg created to fight against all sorts of supernatural creatures that pose a threat to world safety. Don’t miss it, you’re up for a thrilling ride!

#11. Pom Poko

Pom Poko is a comedy-drama film released in 1994, written by H. Miyasaki and directed by I. Takahata. The film depicts the life of a community of magical raccoon dogs as they struggle to protect their forest home from being destroyed by human urbanization and development.

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The film clearly addresses the viewer, as it invites them to commit to the protection of other animals and the environment. Just like Totoro, these magical raccoon-dogs became an icon in popular art and culture.

#10. Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue is a mystery-horror film directed by Satoshi Kon and released in 1997. It follows the steps of a retired pop singer who decides to pursue a career in acting until an obsessed fan starts following her.

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The film soon turns into a psychological thriller as the woman starts being haunted by her stalker and horrifying murders mysteriously start taking place. Before you know it, reality and fantasy become intertwined as the woman gradually loses her grip on reality. Don’t miss it!

#9. Porco Rosso

Released in 1992, Porco Rosso is perhaps one of H. Miyasaki’s most original films. The story is about an Italian World War I veteran who lives as a bounty hunter somewhere near the Adriatic Sea. But one day, he is mysteriously cursed and transforms into a pig.

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This happens to be one of the few films written and directed by Miyasaki in which the political context is clearly defined. It was a massive success, earning $59 million worldwide from a $9.2-million budget.

#8. Millennium Actress

Directed by Satoshi Kon, Millennium Actress is a drama-fantasy film that tells the story of a TV interviewer and a cameraman as they investigate the life of a former and aging actress. The story is based on the lives of Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine, two iconic Japanese actresses.

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The film borders the surreal as the events from the actress’s life are intertwined with some of the scenes from the films in which she acted. For another of Kon’s greatest classics, slide to #3!

#7. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind

Written and directed by H. Miyazaki, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is one of Studio Ghibli’s greatest classics. This adventure-fantasy film revolves around the warrior princess Nausicaä, who attempts two neighboring nations from destroying each other and the planet.

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The story is set in a dystopian future in which different autonomous peoples use threatening weapons of mass destruction in their fight for hegemony. Just like Pom Poko, it also deals with the issue of the environmental impact of human development. For another thrilling post-apocalyptic film, slide to #5!

#6. Your Name

Your Name is a 2016 drama-fantasy film about two strangers – a high school boy from Tokyo and a high school girl from a small rural town – who end up linked in a mysterious and bizarre way. For some reason, they begin to swap bodies, and as time passes by they begin to discover the reason why their lives are intertwined.

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Despite being a low-budget film, Your Name became the highest-grossing Japanese movie ever made. Its fantastic animation and its emotional resonance have most likely been the keys to its success.

#5. Akira

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira is a sci-fi drama film that follows the steps of Shōtarō Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang, whose friend Tetsuo Shima turns into a psychic psychopath after suffering a motorbike accident.

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With the help of a group of psychics and a couple of teenagers, Kaneda tries to stop his friend Shima and protect the city from chaos and destruction. Feel like watching it? Stream it on Netflix!

#4. Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea

Without a doubt, Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea is one of Miyasaki’s greatest classics ever made. Released in 2008, this fantasy-adventure film tells the story of a 5-year-old boy who develops a close bond with Ponyo, a young mysterious goldfish princess who wishes to become human after she falls in love with him.

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You’ve probably heard about this film since it was an international success, but did you know that it’s meant to be a spin-off of the Disney classic The Little Mermaid? The film was a whopping success, earning over $200 million worldwide.

#3. Paprika

Released in 2006, Paprika is a sci-fi psychological thriller film based on Y. Tsutsui’s homonymous novel. It tells the story of a psychologist who uses a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients’ dreams. But what happens then?

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When this device gets stolen, many demons break loose and a young therapist called Paprika is the only person who can stop them. This film, which is the seventh highest-grossing anime in U.S. history, inspired Christopher Nolan’s famous classic Inception.

#2. Tokyo Godfathers

Released in 2003, Tokyo Godfathers is one of director Satoshi Kon’s greatest classics. This comedy-adventure film follows the steps of three homeless people – an alcoholic, a trans woman, and a young runaway girl – as they struggle to survive in the streets of Tokyo.

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However, their lives are suddenly changed when they come across a newborn baby among the trash, and the three embark on an unexpected and adventurous journey to find the child’s parents. Both funny and dramatic, this film will trigger a whirlwind of contrasting emotions.

#1. Grave Of The Fireflies

If you’re all about dramas, then this film is definitely for you. Directed by Isao Takahata, Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of a young boy and his little sister as they struggle to survive the unbearable havoc caused by the Second World War in their rural Japanese town.

Photo: Courtesy of The Portland Press Herald

What makes this film even sadder is the fact that it’s based on a true story. In fact, this war film (which is not meant for children) is based on the 1967 auto-biographical short story of the same tame, written by A. Nosaka. Like many of history’s greatest animes, it was also animated by Studio Ghibli. It’s definitely a must-watch, but make sure you keep your tissues near, you’re gonna need them!

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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