A good anime movie can keep its viewers entertained for some time, but the best ones are those that are remembered for many years after their release. Some of them are historically important, while others are highly regarded by general audiences. Everybody’s tastes will be different, so this list will try to consider various different genres and themes for the reader’s convenience.
This list will primarily focus on anime movies that don’t come from popular TV shows. Some manga might be the source of their creation, but this doesn’t apply to every film mentioned below. There is a good chance that one has seen at least one of these films, but it would be extraordinary if somebody saw them all.
The first anime movie worth checking out is Akira. It’s an old cyberpunk film from 1988, yet its legacy is nearly unmatched over three decades later. Akira has it all, ranging from great action to phenomenal music to excellent animation for its time. It might be old, but it’s by no means outdated. Hence, it shouldn’t be surprising that many other anime have been inspired by this film, which can be most blatantly seen with the numerous homages to it via the Akira Slide.
Anybody who cares about the historical precedence established by this landmark film should check it out as soon as possible.
Now for something more recent. A Silent Voice is a 2016 anime movie that focuses on a coming-of-age story featuring a boy who bullied a deaf girl and is seeking to be a better person. It seems overly simple, but the whole movie is interesting from start to finish and does a good job of getting its viewers to wonder what will happen next.
It also touches upon some important topics such as suicide, bullying, and forgiveness without being distasteful or insensitive.
Any Hayao Miyazaki film could be on a list like this one. But Spirited Away is one of his best and most famous works. The movie has won numerous awards and is widely considered one of the best anime movies of all time. It was also the second-highest-grossing film in Japan of all time, only beaten by Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train.
The main location being a Japanese bathhouse can seem random to some viewers, but the film’s supernatural kami makes it a great setting. Spirited Away is another coming-of-age story, but its general topics make it far better for a wider audience than the previous two films, which can be either too violent or have dark themes ill-suited for a kid.
Studio Ghibli is responsible for making some of the greatest anime movies of all time. Grave of the Fireflies is critically acclaimed, having a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s not by Miyazaki — a common point of confusion amongst those who watch it). Isao Takahata actually directed it, and it’s basically about two siblings who try to survive in the last few months of World War II.
It’s a somber story given its status as a war film, yet it’s one that everybody should seriously consider watching at least once. The value of life can sometimes be taken for granted, and this film reminds its viewers how important it is.
Anybody who likes psychological thrillers should enjoy Paprika. This 2006 anime movie is weird and will likely confuse some people watching it because of how absurd some scenes are. However, that strangeness is also what makes the film so appealing. It’s a wild trip coupled with fun animation that vividly explores both what’s real and what’s not.
Paprika is also a beloved science fiction film that focuses more on psychology than giant mechas or extraterrestrial beings, so it can feel fresh in that sense.
Speaking of psychological movies, Perfect Blue is another thought-provoking one that readers should check out. It’s from 1997, and it’s also made by Satoshi Kon, the director of Paprika. Perfect Blue is about a Japanese idol who gets stalked while brutal murders begin happening around her. Much like Paprika, there is a good mix of fantasy and reality here, although it’s more about identity and less about technology.
Romantic anime movies appeal to a wide variety of people. More often than not, they can be a bit generic or uninteresting for the masses, but Your Name subverts these common problems. It has a whopping 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and its audience score of 94% isn’t much lower.
As for why the film is so beloved, many critics tend to praise its artwork and the raw emotion in it. How a boy and girl can understand each other after swapping bodies is an interesting concept that doesn’t pander to the audience as much as one might think. It’s not the most compelling story around, but viewers who place a high emphasis on visuals will likely love it.
Review-wise, Panda and the Magic Serpent isn’t among the best compared to the previous films. However, it’s an underrated and hugely important anime movie in the grand scheme of things. Moreover, it was the first color anime feature film of all time, being released all the way back in 1958.
Second, it inspired great animators such as the aforementioned Miyazaki. This film is also known as The White Snake Enchantress and Hakujaden, and it’s basically based on a Chinese folktale known as Legend of the White Snake. Anybody who loves anime movies should check it out to see how much has changed between then and now.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s personal views.
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Grave of the Fireflies
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