Anime has been breaking down the gates of the global stage over the past two decades, rightfully earning its place as an entertainment powerhouse and captivating millions of viewers around the world. Anime movies hitting theaters outside of Japan have become the norm, and otaku everywhere couldn’t be happier.
From Studio Ghibli to smash hits shonen modern classics, the anime continues to dominate the box office year after year. The highest-grossing animated films of all time have established themselves as classics and must-have titles for new viewers, while others are fan-favorite hits that satisfy the most dedicated viewers of their series.
10/10 Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is set during the Muromachi period in Japan and features Ashitaka, an Emishi prince caught in the middle of a resource power struggle between forest gods and humans. The 1997 film scored an 8.4 on IMDb due to its gripping historical setting, impressive attention to detail, and beautiful cinematic intricacies that even the best live-action films could hope to recreate.
Packed with inspirational and empowering quotes and set to a soundtrack performed by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, Princess Mononoke is a timeless classic and an animated film that every new viewer should watch at least once.
9/10 Pokemon: The First Movie
Pokemon: The First Movie was released in the summer of 1998. It was many veteran anime fans’ first exposure to the medium and holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. The film made waves when it hit the west and, despite its controversies, was the first Japanese anime film to gain the attention of other films at the time.
The film’s legacy, however, is far from stellar. Pokemon: The First Movie is criticized for its terrible pacing issues and an uncanonical plot that has angered the franchise’s most dedicated fans. However, the numbers don’t lie. Although the film did not make history as the producers hoped, it will always be recognized as one of the first animated films to achieve mainstream status in the West.
8/10 Stay close to me, Doraemon
Doraemon is a Japanese anime mascot, even solidifying himself as one of Japan’s most popular characters in a recent Goo Rankings poll. Stay close to me, Doraemon is a standout hit among 40 other films in the franchise. Doraemon’s time travels to the past and meets Nobita. He’s a child with oddly tragic luck, and Doraemon must save him from a terrible future.
The movie is basically an anthology of all of Doraemon and Nobita’s adventures throughout the series. Released in 2014, the series is a poignant yet lighthearted take on everyone’s favorite earless robotic cat.
7/10 grow old with you
grow old with you is a 2019 romance film directed by the legendary Makoto Shinkai. grow old with you became one of Shinkai’s most iconic films after its release as it encapsulates everything associated with his identity as a director. The film is a masterpiece from start to finish with a simplistic art style, ethereal settings and a dreamlike soundtrack.
grow old with you features Hodaka, a high school freshman who ran away from home and moved to Tokyo. He works tirelessly to make ends meet, eventually getting a job for an occult magazine. His life changes after he meets Hina, a girl who can clean up gloomy rain clouds and make the rain stop.
6/10 Jujutsu Kaisen 0
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is the film adaptation of the prequel manga of the same title. The film takes place a year before the events of Jujutsu Kaisen. Although Yuji, Nobara and Megumi are absent from the film, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 puts the second-year students of Tokyo Jujutsu High in the spotlight.
Yuta Okkotsu is haunted by a vengeful cursed spirit of special quality, Rika. Rika was once human, but died in a tragic car accident and has haunted Yuta ever since. Yuta enrolls in Tokyo Jujutsu High to atone for his past mistakes and unravel Rika’s curse. Hosted by MAPPA, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is an exciting adventure from start to finish.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo is the story of a young boy and his goldfish. All of the Ghibli movies are family-friendly, but Ponyo is a particularly touching tale designed for children. Ponyo doesn’t cover as many complicated themes as other Ghibli movies like Taken away as if by magic Where Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
However, Ponyo is a classic Ghibli film whose every element is synonymous with the identity of the production studio. Miyazaki’s classic art style and poignant coming-of-age tone are on full display here, evoking childlike wonder and admiration in audiences every time they look back. Ponyo.
4/10 Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle
Released in 2004, Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle is another example of Hayao Miyazaki’s talent and brilliance as a director. Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle features Sophie after a witch forces her to age drastically. She meets Howl, a wizard who can free her from the curse.
Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle may seem like a lighthearted romantic comedy, but Miyazaki strategically sprinkled anti-war sentiment throughout the film in reference to the events of the early 2000s. However, it also carries themes of self-acceptance and pushes back on romance of the youth. It encourages viewers to look forward to the joys of adulthood.
3/10 your name
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, your name is a poignant romantic film starring Taki and Mitsuha. They’re two high school kids who lead very different lives but have to put themselves in each other’s shoes after unexpectedly switching bodies.
your name is packed with immersive twists, and it’s a character-driven story that wowed viewers. With dynamic dialogue, stunning visuals, a beautiful soundtrack and a legendary director, your name instantly became a cult classic animated film after its release in late summer 2016.
2/10 Taken away as if by magic
by Hayao Miyazaki Taken away as if by magic is the ultimate Studio Ghibli movie. It even won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Even if someone hasn’t watched the movie, No-Face has become a mascot for the Ghibli characters, so they’ll definitely recognize the yokai.
Released in 2001, Taken away as if by magic follows Chihiro after realizing she can see spirits. Many spirits were terrifying, but Hayao Miyazaki has a knack for painting everything through the prism of childlike innocence and pure curiosity that makes every viewer nostalgic for their childhood.
1/10 Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train is an action-packed masterpiece. Animated by Ufotable, the film stayed true to Koyoharu Gotouge’s source material and ramped it all up to eleven with a booming soundtrack and impressive CGI work. Between Train Mugen‘the sand Jujutsu Kaisen 0it’s clear that fans greatly prefer canon material to be adapted into movies rather than non-canonical filler plots.
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train was hailed as a game-changer for animated films after its 2021 debut in US theaters. The film’s unprecedented success broke records and exceeded fan expectations. The film’s bloody fight scenes and darker tone also dismantled the outdated idea that anime is immature entertainment for children.