150 Must-See Anime Movies To Add To Your List
Looking for something different than the usual Hollywood fare? Anime movies are a great place to start! It’s no secret that the Japanese art of animation is home to some of the most imaginative and innovative films ever made, with a style and sense of humor that’s completely unique.
The anime industry consists of over 430 major production studios, including the most memorable names like Studio Ghibli, Gainax, and Toei Animation. Studio Ghibli has been at the forefront of Japanese animation since it was founded by Miyazaki, Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki in 1985. It pioneered a kind of hand-drawn animation that is instantly recognizable for its sweeping panoramas, evocative watercolor backdrops, and soft pencil lines that give the impression of watching a moving painting.
Are anime movies a rare treat for you? Do you want to watch one but are not sure where to start? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! If you want something that catches your fancy, check out our list of the best anime movies with the highest-rated entries in the genre.
From the touching moments of Your Name to the thrilling adventures of Princess Mononoke, there are plenty of great anime movies to choose from!
2001 | 2h 5m
Hayao Miyazaki’s classic fantasy anime movie about a young girl who gets lost in a world of spirits. Spirited Away has been the highest-grossing film in Japanese history for a long time, having earned over $395 million worldwide. It has been recently surpassed by Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, released in 2020. Spirited Away is also the only Japanese movie to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
2016 | 1h 47m
If you’re an active member of the anime community, there’s a 100% chance that you’ve heard about this movie. It depicts a high school student in Tokyo and a high school girl in the Japanese countryside who suddenly and inexplicably begin to swap bodies and live each other’s lives. This top anime movie has everything you can look for: outstanding graphics, a catchy soundtrack, a breathtaking plot, and of course, the tears.
Howl's Moving Castle
2004 | 1h 59m
This is one of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved films and for a good reason. The story follows Sophie, a teenage girl who spends time at her late father’s hat shop. After meeting Howl, a powerful wizard, she ends up cursed by a witch to look like an old woman. Howl will use all his talent to return Sophie to her former youth and beauty.
My Neighbor Totoro
1988 | 1h 26m
When two young girls move to the country to stay with their sick mother, they meet the magical spirits who live in the nearby forest. The film is partially autobiographical. When Hayao Miyazaki and his brothers were children, his mother suffered from spinal tuberculosis for nine years and spent much of her time hospitalized. He once said the movie would have been too painful for him to make if the two protagonists were boys instead of girls.
1997 | 2h 13m
There are a lot of good anime movies out there, but Princess Mononoke is still a representative work from Ghibli Studio and one of the most acclaimed anime movies. On a journey to find the cure for a curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war. In this quest, he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime. With its epic story and breathtaking visuals, Princess Mononoke is a landmark in the world of animation.
A Silent Voice
2016 | 2h 10m
A Silent Voice follows a former bully turned outcast who decides to reconnect and befriend the deaf girl he had tormented when he was a kid. The movie covers some heavy themes like suicide, disability, bullying, social alienation, and the pursuit of redemption. A Silent Voice is a little gem among the new anime movies and deserves all its recognition.
Kiki's Delivery Service
1989 | 1h 43m
During her mandatory year of independent life, a young witch finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service. When she begins questioning herself and loses her magic abilities, she must overcome her self-doubt to get her powers back. This ’80s anime represents a heartwarming, gorgeously rendered tale of a girl discovering her place in the world.
Castle In The Sky
1986 | 2h 5m
Another one of Hayao Miyazaki’s works of art. Two kids with a magic crystal must race against pirates and foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle. Castle in the Sky thrillingly encapsulates Studio Ghibli’s unique strengths with a storytelling palette as rich and brilliant as its animation.
Grave Of The Fireflies
1988 | 1h 29m
Towards the end of WWII, the American army is terrorizing the local population of Kobe. 14-year-old Seita sees his mother dying in front of his eyes, in agony from the extensive burns on her body. With no parents to take care of him, he’ll have to survive through the end of the war while also becoming a parental figure for his 4-year-old sister. Grave Of The Fireflies is based on the author’s personal experience during the Kobe firebombing in 1945. It was written as a personal apology to Keiko, his little sister, who he failed to save from starvation.
2008 | 1h 41m
Five-year-old Sosuke meets Ponyo, a young goldfish princess who longs to become human after falling in love with him. Hayao Miyazaki drew most of the sea and wave imagery himself, experimenting and making it as expressionistic as possible. The opening twelve seconds, involving vast schools of fish and undersea creatures, required 1,613 pages of conceptual sketches to develop.
2012 | 1h 57m
Best Animation Film at the Japanese Academy Awards of 2013. After her werewolf lover dies in an accident while hunting for food, a young woman is left alone to raise their werewolf children while keeping their real nature hidden from society. A heart-wrenching must watch anime that shows how strong a parent can become for the sake of their own children.
1988 | 2h 4m
A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo by turning a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath. This is one of the first Japanese anime films to have the characters’ voices recorded before they were animated. While this is the typical practice in American animation, the animation is generally produced first in Japan. The movie takes place in 2019 and depicts Neo-Tokyo creating a new Olympic stadium. Coincidentally, Tokyo was scheduled to host the 2020 Summer Olympics before the pandemic delayed them until 2021.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
2006 | 1h 38m
Makoto acquires the power to travel back in time and uses it for her own personal benefits. Little does she know that she is affecting the lives of others just as much as her own. This coming-of-age comedy drama has mad inventiveness to spare! An imaginative and thoughtfully engaging anime film with a highly effective visual design.
The Secret World Of Arrietty
2010 | 1h 34m
The Clock family members are four-inch-tall people who live hidden in another family’s residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their teenage daughter, Arrietty, gets discovered by a human boy. As always, Studio Ghibli never ceases to amaze with the number of small details: in the Borrowers’ home, there are three cups with playing card symbols (heart, diamond, and club). The only symbol they do not have is the spade, which in many cultures is considered to be bad luck.
1997 | 1h 21m
Perfect Blue is one of those anime movies to watch without thinking twice. It follows the story of a pop singer who gives up her career to become an actress, but she slowly goes insane when she starts being stalked by an obsessed fan and what seems to be a ghost of her past. The film was supposed to be a live-action feature but became an anime when several backers abruptly pulled out in pre-production.
Garden Of Words
2013 | 46m
A teenage boy and a woman find an unlikely friendship in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Without arranging the times, the two start to see each other over and over again, but only on rainy days. According to the animator Makoto Shinkai, the movie is a love story about people who feel lonely or incomplete in their social relations but don’t feel that they need to fix this loneliness.
The Boy And The Beast
2015 | 1h 59 m
When an orphan living on the streets of Shibuya stumbles upon a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by the fierce warrior beast Kumametsu, who’s looking for an apprentice. Despite the slow start, The Boy And The Beast is one of the most beautiful stories about the inner journey towards maturity.
Whisper Of The Heart
1995 | 1h 51m
A love story between a girl who loves reading books and a boy who has previously checked out all of the library books she picks. Some of the backgrounds, clouds, and flying islands were painted by the artist Naohisa Inoue. Inoue sent an invitation to Hayao Miyazaki for one of his exhibitions since he was a huge fan. He didn’t expect anything, but Miyazaki showed up, and after buying one of Inoue’s paintings, Miyazaki asked him if he wanted to work for Ghibli’s next movie.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
2001 | 1h 55m
2071. A terrorist explosion releases a deadly virus on the masses, and it’s up to the bounty-hunting Bebop crew to catch the cold-blooded culprit. The full English title of the film is Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. However, supposedly due to copyright disputes over the subtitle Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, same as the famous song by Bob Dylan, the name was shortened to just Cowboy Bebop: The Movie for its release in the United States.
From Up On Poppy Hill
The Cat Returns
2002 | 1h 15m
After helping a cat, a teenage girl is involuntarily engaged to a cat prince in a magical world. This was originally going to be a short straight-to-video project. Still, producer Toshio Suzuki was so impressed with director Hiroyuki Morita’s storyboards, especially the main character Haru, that he encouraged Hayao Miyazaki to give this a cinematic release. So far, this is Studio Ghibli’s only spin-off or sequel feature film.