Through The Lens Of Animation: Unraveling The Top 25 Anime Movies Of All Time

Best Anime Movies Of All Time

Published on April 15th, 2024

Introducing the cream of the crop in anime cinema, curated from Rotten Tomatoes’s prestigious TOMATOMETER list of the 100 Best Anime Movies of All Time.

This post shines a spotlight on the top 25 anime films that have captivated audiences and critics alike, representing the pinnacle of storytelling, animation, and creativity in the realm of Japanese cinema.

From timeless classics to modern masterpieces, these selected movies showcase the breadth and depth of anime’s influence on global culture.

Spanning across decades and genres, each film on this list offers a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience, promising to enchant and inspire audiences of all ages.

Join us as we embark on a journey through the very best that anime has to offer, handpicked from a treasure trove of cinematic gems.

1. The Tale Of Princess Kaguya (2013)

The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

Isao Takahata’s “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” captivates with its visually stunning departure from conventional Ghibli aesthetics, embracing a gestural style reminiscent of traditional Japanese watercolors.

Despite its deliberate pace, the film’s narrative unfolds with profound emotional resonance, exploring themes of identity and societal expectations.

Complemented by Joe Hisaishi’s enchanting orchestral score, the film’s emotional depth is further enhanced, enriching the viewing experience.

While not as widely recognized as other Ghibli classics, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” stands as a testament to Takahata’s unparalleled talent and the studio’s enduring legacy in animation history.

2. Only Yesterday (1991)

“Only Yesterday” from Studio Ghibli and director Isao Takahata is an animated memoir following Taeko’s journey to the countryside, evoking childhood memories.

Despite its 1991 release, the film’s contemporary narrative and hand-drawn animation remain relevant, bridging past and present with nostalgic beauty.

Visual Elegance

Takahata’s animation captures the essence of memory, blending simple character designs with watercolor backgrounds.

Themes of identity and nature resonate, enveloping viewers in a gentle atmosphere reminiscent of a summer breeze.

Through gentle storytelling, “Only Yesterday” invites audiences on a majestic journey of self-discovery and appreciation for life’s beauty.

You May Also Like: How To Watch Crunchyroll Anime On Prime Video

3. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

“Grave of the Fireflies” delves into the harrowing tale of siblings Seita and Setsuko, orphaned during World War II.

Through their eyes, viewers witness the cruelty of war and societal neglect. Despite adversity, their unwavering bond offers a glimmer of hope amidst despair.

Emotional Depth

Director Isao Takahata masterfully portrays the siblings’ journey, balancing tragedy with resilience.

Each scene captures the raw emotion of survival, transcending animation to evoke profound authenticity.

4. The First Slam Dunk (2022)

Set in Japan, “The First Slam Dunk” brings to life characters from the renowned “Slam Dunk” manga series, representing diverse socio-economic backgrounds, from working-class to middle-class.

Personal Struggle And Sporting Ambition

At its core, the film follows the journey of a 17-year-old basketball enthusiast who grapples with the loss of his older brother while striving to lead his high school team to victory in the inter-high basketball championships.

Target Audience

Primarily catering to fans of the manga series and anime enthusiasts, “The First Slam Dunk” offers a compelling narrative with memorable characters, exhilarating action sequences, and poignant emotional depth.

5. Your Name (2016)

Your Name (2016)

“Your Name” ingeniously explores the lives of schoolgirl Mitsuha and Tokyo schoolboy Taki, who swap bodies during sleep.

This premise injects humor and depth, offering a fresh take on adolescent identity and connection.

Director Shinkai deftly transitions from light-hearted comedy to poignant emotion, reminding viewers that the film transcends mere body-swapping antics.

Positioned between kid-friendly adventures and adult themes, “Your Name” appeals to a broad audience with its blend of humor and heartfelt storytelling.

6. Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie (2021)

“Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie” follows a familiar formula seen in similar series like “Naruto,” focusing on a protagonist mastering supernatural abilities.

However, it distinguishes itself with a complex relationship between Yuta and his curse, Rika, adding depth to the narrative.

Unexpected plot twists and Zenin’s storyline enhance the film’s dramatic tension, increasing viewer empathy for the protagonists.

These elements, along with technical excellence, make “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” a standout in its genre.

You May Also Like: Best Anime Series To Stream On Netflix

7. Demon Slayer-Kimetsu No Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train (2020)

“Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train” defies typical anime film conventions by seamlessly continuing the narrative from the series, rather than offering standalone filler content.

Koyoharu Gotouge’s distinctive artwork, showcased beautifully on the big screen, provides a visual feast for audiences.

The animation by Ufotable is exemplary, transforming Gotouge’s intricate designs into breathtaking visual poetry.

Character designs, reminiscent of traditional Japanese tapestries, enhance the immersive experience, while each character, major or minor, boasts unique and memorable aesthetics.

Ufotable’s adaptation truly breathes life into Gotouge’s story, offering a stunning cinematic experience.

8. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Hayao Miyazaki’s “Kiki’s Delivery Service” resonates with his directorial signatures, despite originating from Eiko Kadono’s novel.

The film delicately intertwines themes of feminism and spirituality, revolving around a young girl’s journey of self-discovery without traditional villains.

Kiki, a 13-year-old witch, embarks on a solo adventure to prove her wit and independence.

While the source material spans a year, Miyazaki condenses events into a single, enchanting summer.

The film’s universal appeal transcends age barriers, engaging audiences in Kiki’s quest for maturity and autonomy, showcasing Miyazaki’s ability to create poignant and relatable storytelling for all ages.

9. In This Corner Of The World (2016)

“In This Corner of the World” offers a refreshing perspective on World War II, emphasizing personal relationships amidst devastation with stunning hand-drawn animation.

The film gently underscores the consequences of war, urging reflection on humanity’s capacity for change.

As the world faces similar tensions today, the movie’s timeless message resonates deeply, urging viewers to contemplate our own circumstances.

Its ability to evoke empathy across generations underscores the enduring relevance of its narrative, highlighting the imperative for peace.

10. Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away (2001)

“Spirited Away” is a captivating fairy tale that ignites curiosity and wonder in its viewers.

It highlights the importance of chosen family, particularly evident through the protagonist Chihiro’s journey.

As she navigates a strange world, her growth in confidence and bravery resonates with audiences.

The film beautifully reflects real-life dynamics, portraying Chihiro’s evolution and the profound impact of her new friendships.

Ultimately, “Spirited Away” is a poignant coming-of-age story that resonates with themes of courage, friendship, and self-discovery, offering a timeless narrative for all ages.

11. Suzume (2022)

In “Suzume” (2022), Makoto Shinkai inches shy of his previous masterpieces, yet delivers a visually arresting and emotionally resonant narrative.

Halfway into the film, a clear departure from his renowned works like “Your Name” and “Weathering With You” becomes evident.

Shinkai, often likened to the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, now pays homage to Studio Ghibli’s legacy, evoking sheer delight among Miyazaki enthusiasts.

While “Suzume” embraces Miyazaki’s influence, it remains quintessentially Shinkai, exploring themes reminiscent of his recent works.

Just as “Weathering With You” tackled climate change, “Suzume” references the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, weaving a tale deeply rooted in contemporary Japanese consciousness.

12. The Boy And The Heron (2023)

Based loosely on the 1937 novel “How Do You Live,” “The Boy and the Heron” (2023) channels Miyazaki’s own wartime childhood through protagonist Mahito Maki (voiced by Luca Padovan).

Evacuated from Tokyo after his nurse mother’s tragic death in a hospital bombing, Mahito finds solace in an unlikely friendship with a gray heron (voiced by Pattinson), who promises a reunion with his mother but leads him to a disillusioning revelation instead.

Miyazaki’s collaboration with 60 animators yields breathtaking visuals, seamlessly blending reality with fantastical elements like the Warawara creatures.

Yet, amidst the enchanting imagery, the perils of Mahito’s wartime coming-of-age narrative remain palpable.

While younger audiences may miss the film’s deeper themes, they’ll undoubtedly be captivated by Miyazaki’s spellbinding tale of adolescence, filled with magic and monsters straight from the realms of his imagination.

Read More: Best Anime Romance Movies Everyone Should Watch

13. Belle (2021)

“Belle” (2021) is a visual extravaganza blending classic fairy tale elements with a poignant exploration of cyberbullying.

As the story unfolds, viewers are immersed in a captivating narrative where a girl embarks on a journey into a virtual realm to confront her trauma.

With an impressive soundtrack and a storyline that tugs at the heartstrings, this film is sure to become a staple for anime enthusiasts.

Director Hosoda showcases his unparalleled creativity once again, building upon his previous successes like “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Mirai.”

In “Belle,” he skillfully employs two distinctive visual styles: one vibrant and hyper-real, mirroring the chaotic online world, and the other naturalistic, capturing the beauty of everyday life.

The contrast between these worlds forms the heart of the film, adding depth to its narrative.

14. Ghost In The Shell (1995)

“Ghost in the Shell” (2021) is a seminal masterpiece, defining the pinnacle of anime excellence.

Adapted from Masamune Shirow’s manga, it explores a futuristic world where humanity’s integration with AI blurs the lines between reality and cyberspace.

Amidst technological marvels, the emergence of hackers infiltrating human minds reveals the dark underbelly of progress.

At its core, the film probes the existential quandary of identity in a society teetering on the brink of dehumanization

15. The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010)

The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010)

Adapted from Mary Norton’s 1952 children’s book, “The Secret World of Arrietty” follows a family of tiny people living beneath a country house.

When Arrietty, the 13-year-old daughter, is discovered by a young boy named Shawn, chaos ensues. Dubbed into English, the film maintains Studio Ghibli’s essence.

While the messages are simple—respect for all life—the animation captivates both adults and children.

16. The Red Turtle (2016)

“The Red Turtle” (2016), a departure from Studio Ghibli’s traditional Japanese productions, showcases Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit’s talent.

This Academy Award-nominated film, backed by international financiers, underscores cinema’s boundary-breaking nature.

Set on a tropical island, it follows a man whose encounter with a large turtle transforms his life.

With no dialogue, the film’s luminous animation meditates on humanity’s connection to the natural world, emphasizing themes of tolerance and acceptance.

“The Red Turtle” is a profound exploration of existence and harmony.

17. Princess Mononoke (1997)

In “Princess Mononoke” (1997), Miyazaki seamlessly intertwines mysticism with a profound reverence for nature.

The film portrays our destructive impact on the environment, depicting spirits of the earth as gods or demons opposing human intrusion.

The Great Forest Spirit passively resists Lady Eboshi’s Irontown, a symbol of industrialization stripping the forest for resources.

Yet, Eboshi isn’t portrayed as purely evil; she’s a complex character, showcasing Miyazaki’s knack for nuanced storytelling.

“Princess Mononoke” is a cinematic dream, confronting real-world issues with magical realism.

Read More: Best Horror Anime Movies That Will Haunt Your Dreams

18. Millennium Actress (2001)

“Millennium Actress” (2001) is an extraordinary cinematic journey that captivates with its stunning visuals and unexpected narrative twists.

Following the closure of Ginei Studios, filmmaker Genya Tachibana delves into the enigmatic life of retired actress Chiyoko Fujiwara.

As she recounts her career, Genya and his crew are drawn into her memories, experiencing her relentless pursuit of a mysterious man amidst war, romance, and personal ambition.

Satoshi Kon’s masterful storytelling blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, immersing viewers in Chiyoko’s captivating narrative.

“Millennium Actress” pays homage to life’s pursuit of goals, weaving a surreal tapestry that reflects the complexities of human existence.

Kon’s love for cinema shines through, making this film a truly compelling exploration of storytelling and the human experience.

19. Miss Hokusai (2015)

“Miss Hokusai” (2015), adapted from the manga “Sarusuberi” by Hinako Sugiura, delves into the life of O-Ei, daughter of the renowned artist Hokusai.

Modern for her time, O-Ei assists her father with unconventional paintings and cares tenderly for her blind sister.

Director Keiichi Hara crafts a nonlinear narrative, portraying fictional yet engaging episodes from O-Ei’s life.

Through interconnected events, the film explores the art world of 19th-century Edo, emphasizing the artist’s need for life experiences to enhance creativity.

“Miss Hokusai” delivers a compelling message on artistic growth, blending historical fiction with captivating storytelling.

20. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

In the enchanting realm of “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988), the boundary between reality and fantasy blurs in a timeless rural village.

Sisters Satsuki and Mei navigate the complexities of life, from the absence of their mother to the wonders of childhood imagination.

Amidst their mother’s illness, they find solace in the mystical forest guardian, King Totoro.

Director Hayao Miyazaki crafts a breathtaking landscape, blending modernity with antiquity and infusing every frame with awe-inspiring beauty.

Through Totoro’s whimsical world, Satsuki and Mei discover a realm where joy and sorrow intertwine, creating a poignant tale of resilience and wonder.

21. When Marnie Was There (2014)

“When Marnie Was There” (2014) introduces us to Anna, a lonely schoolgirl in Sapporo, Japan, grappling with the absence of her biological parents and her struggles with asthma.

Sent to live with relatives in a seaside village, Anna’s solitary existence takes a turn when she encounters a mysterious mansion and befriends a girl named Marnie.

Their blossoming friendship forms the heart of the film, exploring themes of belonging and acceptance.

Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi crafts a poignant narrative, blending magical realism with a touching portrayal of adolescent friendship.

22. Weathering With You (2019)

“Weathering with You” (2019) follows 16-year-old Hodaka’s journey from his island home to Tokyo, seeking a better life.

Saved from a storm by Keisuke Suga, he finds work as a reporter investigating “weather maidens” like Hina, who can control the weather.

As their relationship blossoms, they capitalize on Hina’s abilities to bring sunshine to Tokyo’s rainy days. However, they soon realize the uncontrollable power of nature.

Director Makoto Shinkai weaves a tale of love and resilience against the backdrop of a changing climate, delivering a visually stunning and emotionally resonant narrative.

Read More: Heartbreaking Sad Animes To Watch and Cry Your Eyes Out

23. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

“Tokyo Godfathers” (2003), inspired by Peter B. Kyne’s novel, is a heartfelt tale of redemption and camaraderie.

Co-written by Keiko Nobumoto, the film navigates through personal struggles and the power of compassion.

Set against the backdrop of a snowy week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the central trio embarks on a journey of self-discovery while caring for an infant they unexpectedly encounter.

Despite the mismatched timing for its warm Christmas spirit, Satoshi Kon’s film remains a poignant celebration of sacrifice, unity, and the resilience of the human spirit.

24. Ponyo  (2008)

“Ponyo” (2008) is a captivating tale for audiences of all ages, centered around young Sosuke and his encounter with a magical goldfish named Ponyo. Their bond forms as Ponyo learns about human life, sharing tender moments with Sosuke and his mother.

Meanwhile, Ponyo’s wizard father, Fujimoto, seeks to reclaim her and restore order to the undersea world.

As Ponyo harnesses mystical powers, the delicate balance between humanity and nature is tested, leading to breathtaking scenes of tsunamis and flooding.

Director Hayao Miyazaki crafts a poetic and touching narrative, reminding us of the enduring connection between humans and the natural world.

25. Inu-Oh (2021)

Inu-Oh (2021)

“Inu-Oh” (2021) beautifully straddles the line between tradition and innovation.

Director Yuasa’s eclectic art style seamlessly blends various Japanese art forms, while composer Otomo Yoshihide infuses biwa music with modern influences.

The film reimagines noh performances as vibrant rock concerts, brimming with color and energy.

Yet, beneath the spectacle lies a poignant narrative, as Akiko Nogi’s script explores the deep bond between Inu-Oh and Tomona.

Fluid and dynamic, “Inu-Oh” embraces both the past and the present, crafting a cinematic experience that is as captivating as it is unique.


Read More: DC Animated Movies in Order: Exploring 51 Superhero Sagas From Start To Finish