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From ‘Spirited Away’ to ‘Akira’: These are the 10 best anime movies

From breathtaking spectacles and unique plotlines to incredible characterisation and cinematography, anime movies instil a feeling like no other genre. Anime’s popularity has grown since it landed on OTT giants like Netflix and Amazon. According to Grand View Research, its market reached a whopping USD 28.61 billion in 2022. Some of the most popular anime movies, including Spirited AwayAkira, and Princess Mononoke, have raked millions of dollars for their unique approach to storytelling.

Japan has over 500 anime production studios, with the most talented creative individuals churning countless stories. From being a niche genre for hardcore fans to becoming a worldwide popular juggernaut, anime has transcended boundaries. The meticulous attention to detail, relatable characters, and topics infused with Japanese history add to anime’s popularity. So, whether it’s the sci-fi action masterpiece Akira or the psychological thriller Perfect Blue, each anime offers something we’ve never-seen-before. Did you know that the first-ever anime movie, Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka, came out about 90 years ago, in 1933? Since that fateful year, we have been treated with many magical anime films.

We have listed down the ten best anime movies of all time to watch in your upcoming movie marathon sessions. They are also the highest-rated anime movies according to IMDb. What’s more, they all have unique storylines, beautiful animation, and an exciting set of characters you’ll instantly fall in love with.

(Hero and feature image credits: IMDb)

1 /10

Spirited Away
Spirited Away

Director:  Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Miyu Irino, Rumi Hiiragi

Release year: 2001

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

Synopsis: The movie narrates the story of a 10-year-old girl Chihiro and her parents, who wander into a paranormal world ruled by mythical creatures and spirits. Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs by a witch named Yubaba, following which the protagonist undertakes a job at the latter’s bathhouse to redeem herself and her family into the human world. The drama touches upon religious, ethical, and psychological issues, and it’s safe to call it a true anime masterpiece.

(Image credit: IMDb)

 

2 /10

Akira
Akira

Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

Cast:  Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Tesshô Genda

Release year: 1988

IMDb rating: 8/10

Synopsis: The sci-fi action film presents a dystopian version of Tokyo in 2019, where the city is in shambles following a world war. The plot revolves around Shōtarō Kaneda, a biker gang leader whose childhood pal Tetsuo Shima acquires supernatural power after a motorcycle accident. His telekinetic abilities draw the attention of colonel Shikishima and his government-backed secret organisation, setting the stage for a series of drastic events.

The movie was widely appreciated by western audiences, further paving the way for anime’s global reigns.

(Image credit: IMDb)

3 /10

Your Name
Your Name

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryo Narita

Release year: 2016

IMDb rating: 8.4/10

Synopsis: The highest-grossing anime film of all time, Your Name, has two main characters: Taki Tachibana of Tokyo and Mitsuha Miyamizu (who lives in the countryside). The duo finds their bodies switched with each other, and they further navigate the complexities of having to be someone else. The movie becomes more complicated when they decide to meet in person. The film beautifully weaves together drama, fantasy and romance and is undoubtedly the best work of Makoto Shinkai.

(Image credit: IMDb)

4 /10

My Neighbour Totoro
My Neighbour Totoro

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Hitoshi Takagi, Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto

Release year: 1988

IMDd rating: 8.1/10

Synopsis: It’s one of the most adorable kids’ films presented by Studio Ghibli, having no fight scenes, dreaded villains, or monsters. The movie narrates the tale of two sisters who move to the countryside with their father to be closer to their ailing mother. The girls get drawn into the world of forest spirits and encounter a friendly mystical creature named Totoro.

Totoro becomes a means of escape for the siblings amid the harsh reality of their mother’s sickness and their family’s situation.

(Image credit: IMDb)

 

5 /10

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka

Release year: 1997

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Synopsis: Another epic creation of Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke follows a young prince named Ashitaka, who gets inflicted by a deadly curse and leaves his home in search of a cure. He ventures into a forest inhabited by animal gods, only to be caught in a conflict between forest spirits and an evil mining company. In his quest, Ashitaka finally meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

The movie speaks volumes about the constant tussle between humans and nature, stressing how one must find a way for both to co-exist.

(Image credit: IMDb)

6 /10

Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies

Director: Isao Takahata

Cast: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Akemi Yamaguchi

Release year: 1988

IMDb rating: 8.5/10

Synopsis: Set in the city of Kobe, the war tragedy film chronicles the tale of two siblings,  Seita and Setsuko, who have been orphaned following the Second World War. The heartbreaking tale showcases the siblings desperately struggling to survive the final months of the war. It’s one of the most painful yet greatest anime of all time, focusing on the personal tragedies that war gives rise to.

(Image credit: IMDb)

7 /10

Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura, Tatsuya Gashûin

Release year: 2004

IMDb rating: 8.2/10

Synopsis: Revolving around the body-swapping phenomenon, the film follows a young girl Sophie, who falls head over heels for a handsome, yet mystifying wizard named Howl. Jealous of their growing affection, the Witch of the Waste puts a curse on the girl and turns her into a 90-year-old hag.

Sophie must find her way to a castle owned by Howl to revive herself back to youth. This leads to a series of revelations as she gets entrapped in a dangerous war of sorcery. Howl’s Moving Castle became one of the most commercially successful films in the history of Japanese entertainment.

(Image credit: IMDb)

8 /10

Wolf Children
Wolf Children

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Cast: Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Haru Kuroki

Release year: 2012

IMDb rating: 8.1/10

Synopsis: The movie spans 13 years in the life of a woman named Hana, who falls head over heels for a werewolf and conceives two half-wolf half-human children with him. Following her partner’s death in a tragic encounter, Hana must raise them while also concealing their identities from the prying world. The film garnered favourable reviews from critics and went on to become the second-highest grossing film in Japan on its debut weekend.

(Image credit: IMDb)

9 /10

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Director:  Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Sumi Shimamoto, Mahito Tsujimura, Hisako Kyôda, Gorô Naya

Release year: 1984

IMDb rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is another incredible work of Miyazaki, marking his second full-length anime film. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world with a destroyed human civilization and dismantled ecosystem. The film follows Nausicaä, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, who takes the baton to safeguard a jungle of insects from a kingdom trying to eradicate it.

Anti-war and environmental themes are dominant throughout the film. The director’s attention to each detail, and strong message about being mindful of one’s actions that plague the natural world, are incredible.

(Image credit: IMDb)

10 /10

Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue

Director: Satoshi Kon

Cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji

Release year: 1997

IMDb rating: 8/10

Synopsis: The psychological thriller comes with a set of spine-chilling scenes that are sure to pique your interest. Perfect Blue chronicles the tale of retired pop singer-turned-actress, Mima, whose life goes for a toss with the entry of an obsessive stalker. Her close friends and associates fall prey to gruesome murders and the artist’s world comes crashing down. The film deals with the blurry lines between fantasy and reality, a theme which is also found in Kon’s other works including Millennium Actress and Paprika. 

(Image credit: IMDb)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: Which is the best anime movie of all time?

Answer: 'Spirited Away' is considered to be the best anime film of all time.

Question: Which are the three best anime films?

Answer: 'Spirited Away', 'Akira' and 'Howl's Moving Castle' are the three best anime films of all time, as per IMDb.

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