The Best Sci-Fi Anime Movies, Ranked – MovieWeb

When science fiction and anime meet, sparks fly and magic happens. Here are six of the best sci-fi anime movies of all time, ranked.
Anime is a perfect medium for bringing imaginative science fiction to life. The freedom afforded by drawn (as opposed to live-action) visuals means that sci-fi worlds can be created without constructing massive sets or relying on cheap-looking CGI. The limitations posed by live-action simply fall away when working with animation, though it can be equally costly and time-intensive. While there are plenty of movies that blend anime with sci-fi, some of them soar above the rest. These are the films that define the medium, that shatter expectations, and that stand the test of time. Let's look at six of the very best examples of sci-fi anime cinema, ranked.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie takes everything that makes the anime series great and turns it into a feature-length sci-fi romp. With a much higher budget than any one episode of Cowboy Bebop, it's a beautifully animated representation of Mars in the year 2071. The movie follows the pattern of the show's more serious dramatic arcs, only now blown up for the big screen. It's heavy on bombast and light on comedy, but nevertheless fits in perfectly with the mood and thematics of Cowboy Bebop's later episodes. Fans can either view the movie after completing the series or watch it between episodes 22 and 23, since this is where it seems to fit best canonically.
Visionary anime filmmaker Satoshi Kon, known for the psychological thriller Perfect Blue, produced a science fiction masterwork with Paprika. Taking place sometime in the near future, it centers on the DC Mini, a new technology developed to allow for the viewing of dreams. Though the DC Mini can be used to help treat patients who experience recurring nightmares, things go south when a rogue developer begins using the machine to kill. Paprika is visually and conceptually stunning, with colorful dreamworld aesthetics and a story that inspired Christopher Nolan's 2009 film Inception, per Hollywood Insider. This August, it was revealed that Amazon is planning a live action Paprika series, which will hopefully do Kon's vision justice.
Related: How Perfect Blue Brilliantly Gaslights its Viewers
Released as a feature-length followup to the celebrated series Neon Genesis Evangelion, End of Evangelion is a direct sequel that chronicles the cataclysmic Third Impact, an event that aims at the extinction of life on Earth in the hopes of reaching a new stage of evolution. The movie requires an intimate familiarity with the events and subtext of the original series, and can seem deeply confusing if approached without preparation. For those willing to grapple with End of Evangelion's complex symbology (and willing to commit to a second viewing), it stands out as the best piece of media in the franchise and one of the greatest works of sci-fi animation yet produced.
Though more famous for Ghost in the Shell, anime director Mamoru Oshii's earlier film, Angel's Egg, is a masterwork in its own right. Artful and densely allusive, it brings science fiction and religious symbolism together into one mysterious package. Don't expect to land on a satisfying interpretation on your first viewing, as much of the film's meaning lies beneath the surface. At first glance, it seems to be a simple story of a girl living in a desolate sci-landscape who wants only to protect a giant egg she keeps hidden in the folds of her dress. Oshii leaves it to the viewer to determine what's really going on, but that's part of what makes it so alluring. It helps, too, that the film is one of the most beautiful on this list, even if less well known.
Mamoru Oshii's brilliant cyberpunk thriller, Ghost in the Shell, dramatically altered the media landscape when it was released in 1995. Per Vox, later medium-defining films like The Matrix drew inspiration from its philosophical musings and neo-noir aesthetics. It follows Major Makoto Kusanagi, a human woman with a completely cybernetic body, as she attempts to thwart the cyberterrorism of a rogue artificial intelligence known as Puppet Master. From its frenetic action choreography to its gorgeous rendering of 2029 Japan, Ghost in the Shell is a landmark achievement for both science fiction and anime. The 2017 live-action remake tried and failed to recapture the spark of the original, demonstrating that you can't improve on perfection.
Related: Ghost in the Shell Producer Reveals True Cost of the 1995 Anime
Akira is perhaps the most influential anime film ever made. When it released in 1988, its jaw-dropping visuals, complex story, and visionary score took the world by storm. A landmark example of hand-drawn cel animation, it showcased the potential of Japanese animation studios; to date, it is difficult to find a better looking film, anime or otherwise. It is most famous for its iconic motorcycle sequence, which reveals just how much work went into rendering the cyberpunk metropolis of Neo-Tokyo. The film's plot, though confusing at times, is overshadowed by its visuals and sound design. It's no surprise that a live-action remake has been in the works for years now, as the original still looms large in the cultural sphere. An unforgettable piece of film art that transcends its medium, Akira is the best sci-fi anime movie of all time.
Dylan Reber is a writer and editor based in Atlanta.


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