30 Best Anime Movies of All Time

List of the greatest anime movies you must watch (Top 30)

Spirited Away

Anime is now one of the most popular genres of movie, and lots of new anime movies are released every year all over the world. Welcoming the 2020s, it is about time we concluded the best anime movie of all time though it should be being updated as time goes by.

It is common that an anime is broadcasted on TV these days, however, you can watch anime only on big screens at the theater at first. An anime movie in Japan originated with the early 1900s. In terms of the representative history of Japanese anime movies, the globally renowned Studio Ghibli was established in 1985. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, an early Ghibli work, was released in 1984, and Castle in the Sky was released in 1986.

In the United States, the first color full-length animation movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released by the American film studio Walt Disney Productions (Walt Disney Animation Studios) in 1937. There are numerous fans of Walt Disney Studios and its subsidiary Pixar Animation Studios around the globe today.

Here, the best anime movie list focuses on Japanese anime movies excluding the anime series airing on TV (Check the best anime series here!). Regarding film adaptations from TV anime series, I have excluded them from this top 30 anime movie ranking. However, some of these have recorded phenomenal hits, so I’m covering these derivative works from TV anime series towards the end of the article.

Check the 30 best anime movies of all time covering the world-famous Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai anime and the latest films popular especially among Japanese. Unlike the TV anime series with many episodes, an anime film is completed with a single story which takes only 2-3 hours at most to watch.

▽Check these anime film recommendations perfect for you, too!▽

Anime Movies for Beginners

Netflix Anime Movies

Let’s enjoy  the countdown for the top anime movie of all time!

30. Bubble (2022)

Netflix, one of world’s biggest video streaming platforms, distributes more animated series and films exclusively on itself these days. Bubble (バブル) is a latest fantasy drama released in April, 2022 on Netflix, which showed at the theater in the following month. Produced by Wit Studio, it is directed by Tetsuro Araki, who is famous for other outstanding anime series Death Note and Attack on Titan.

Bubble is set in a fictional Tokyo, which has had an abnormality of gravity since bubbles fell in the city. It tells the story of a talented parkour player Hibiki and a mysterious girl named Uta.

Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Romance
Director: Tetsuro Araki (荒木哲郎)

29. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城), one of the top-grossing anime movies in Japan, was released in 2004. It is based on the British novel Howl’s Moving Castle written by Diana Wynne Jones, which is adapted into an anime film by Studio Ghibli.

Howl’s Moving Castle follows Sophie, a young woman cursed by a witch to become an old lady. Fleeing her life, she finds refuge in Howl’s enchanted moving castle. As war rages in the background, Sophie forms bonds with Howl, a powerful but emotionally wounded wizard, and other magical beings. Together, they embark on a journey to break the curse, finding love and self-acceptance amidst the chaos and transformations.

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)

▶︎There are many fans who favor Howl’s Moving Castle among Studio Ghibli’s works. This introduces recommended works for Howl’s fans, including both Ghibli and non-Ghibli films: 5 Best Anime Movies like Howl’s Moving Castle.

28. The Anthem of the Heart (2015)

In 2015, The Anthem of the Heart (心が叫びたがってるんだ。) was produced by A-1 Pictures, helmed by the same notable team behind the famous anime series Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Tatsuyuki Nagai directed the film while Mari Okada handled the script, and Masayoshi Tanaka was in charge of character design. It also received a number of nominations and awards in various film festivals and industry recognitions.

With the shocking past (the experience of parental divorce), a young girl named Jun Naruse gets less able to speak but able to sing. For the school festival, she is designated as a heroine of the musical as her class’s performance.

Genre: Drama
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai (長井龍雪)

27. Penguin Highway (2018)

Penguin Highway (ペンギン・ハイウェイ) debuted in 2018, crafted by Studio Colorido, which also produced A Whisker Away in 2020 and Drifting Home in 2022. The film is an adaptation of the acclaimed sci-fi novel written by Tomihiko Morimi, an author also known for works such as The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl and The Tatami Galaxy. The story’s blend of whimsical mystery and real-world challenges captivates both young and adult audiences, making it a standout in contemporary anime cinema.

The story of Penguin Highway revolves around the intellectually curious fourth-grader, Aoyama, who starts to investigate the sudden appearance of penguins in his suburban town, far from any ocean. These penguins are just the tip of the iceberg, as even more peculiar events begin to unfold. Guided by his scientific curiosity, Aoyama becomes particularly drawn to a mysterious woman known as “Lady”, who seems to be connected to these anomalies.

Genre: Fantasy, Slice of life
Director: Hiroyasu Ishida (石田祐康)

26. Her Blue Sky (2019)

Her Blue Sky (空の青さを知る人よ), a modern animated film released in 2019, is directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai who is the same director of The Anthem of the Heart and Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. The animation production was handled by CloverWorks, a studio that has produced several other acclaimed anime titles. The setting of Her Blue Sky is the same as his two previous movies: Chichibu City in Saitama Prefecture.

Her Blue Sky follows Aoi, a high school girl who aspires to be a musician. She resides in a rural town and is still grappling with the absence of her older sister, Akane, who left for Tokyo with her boyfriend, Shinnosuke, a budding guitarist. However, a mysterious twist of fate brings a younger version of Shinnosuke from the past into Aoi’s life. This encounter intertwines past regrets and future aspirations, exploring themes of love, music, and the passage of time.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai (長井龍雪)

25. Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie (2012-2013)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie (劇場版 魔法少女まどか☆マギカ) is a trilogy of the popular magical-girl anime series produced by the great animation studio Shaft. The anime movies consist of three parts: Beginnings and Eternal in 2012 and Rebellion in 2013. As part of the 10th-anniversary project, the production of a new film titled Walpurgisnacht: Rising has already been confirmed as the official sequel.

The first two parts, Beginnings and Eternal, retell the original TV series, focusing on a group of magical girls who confront despair as they learn the dark truths of their roles. The third part, Rebellion, is a sequel introducing a new arc where Homura faces a mysterious world and fights for Madoka’s sake, culminating in unexpected twists and exploring the themes of sacrifice, friendship, and destiny.

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo (新房 昭之)

24. The First Slam Dunk (2022)

There are several high-quality anime movies released in 2022, and The First Slam Dunk is one of the outstanding works of the year. Slam Dunk has been known as a classic sports manga series, which was serialized on Weekly Shonen Jump between 1990 and 1996 and was made into the 101-episode anime series adaptation between 1993 and 1996. A quarter of a century later, the popular basketball-themed series has been transformed into a new film titled The First Slam Dunk.

Surprisingly, it is directed by Takehiko Inoue himself, the manga artist of Slam Dunk. It has been acclaimed beyond expectations. With 3DCG technology and cool music, it successfully rebuilds Shohoku High’s famous game against the Sannoh High centering on the point guard Ryota Miyagi.

Genre: Sports
Director: Takehiko Inoue (井上雄彦)

23. Memories (1995)

Memories is a renowned anthology released in 1995 containing three short stories based on the manga written by Katsuhiro Otomo, who is also famous for Akira: Magnetic Rose (彼女の想いで) directed by Koji Morimoto, Stink Bomb (最臭兵器) by Tensai Okamura and Cannon Fodder (大砲の街) by Katsuhiro Otomo himself. The impressive works have critical themes of space development, chemical weapon and war.

In Magnetic Rose, several crews in the spaceship called Corona are guided to a large wrecked spaceship by a distress beacon, where the investigators are hallucinated by relics from the past related to the opera singer Eva about a century ago. Stink Bomb follows a 23-year-old research worker at a Japanese pharmaceutical firm, set in Yamanashi Prefecture. He takes an experimental pills under research by mistake, which makes him emit toxic gas and people around him pass out. Cannon Fodder is set in a town fully armed with cannons, telling the story of a family that consists of a kid who dreams to become a gunner; his father, who works as a gunner; his mother who works at a weapon factory.

Genre: Science Fiction
Director: Koji Morimoto (森本晃司)/Tensai Okamura (岡村天斎)/Katsuhiro Otomo (大友克洋)

22. The Boy and the Heron (2023)

The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the Heron © 2023 Studio Ghibli

Entering the 2020s, various hit works have been born along with the development of the latest animation technology. From Studio Ghibli, the director Hayao Miyazaki released a new full-length anime movie for the first time in 10 years. It is called The Boy and the Heron (君たちはどう生きるか) and is inspired by Genzaburo Yoshino’s novel How Do You Live? known by that title in Japanese. Unusually, almost all information was hidden before its release. The genre is a young boy’s adventure fantasy.

The story begins in wartime Japan. A young boy named Mahito loses his mother to a fire during the Pacific War. His father then remarries his mother’s sister, Natsuko, and evacuates with Mahito to her family home. A strange heron, a symbolic presence in this anime, inhabits the grounds of the mansion where Mahito’s new family lives. Unable to wipe away the sorrow of losing his mother, Mahito sets out on an adventure to confront his mother’s death by venturing into another world.

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Drama
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮﨑駿)

21. In this Corner of the World (2016)

In this Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に), one of the most grossing anime movies all over the world in 2016, is based on the manga serialized during 2007-2009. Another version of the anime was released in 2019 with new scenes for another 40 mins added to the original one, titled as In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World (この世界の(さらにいくつもの)片隅に).

In This Corner of the World is set in Hiroshima during WWII, centering on Suzu, a young woman who navigates the challenges of daily life amidst the horrors of war. As she marries and moves to a small town near Hiroshima, she witnesses the devastating effects of the conflict, culminating in the tragic dropping of the atomic bomb.

Genre: Drama
Director: Sunao Katabuchi (片渕須直)

20. A Silent Voice (2016)

A Silent Voice (聲の形) was directed by Naoko Yamada and produced by Kyoto Animation, released in 2016. It’s an adaptation of the manga series written by Yoshitoki Ōima, which ran from 2013 to 2014 and spans seven volumes. The film was praised for its animation quality, character depth, and its handling of sensitive subjects.

The moving anime has sensitive social themes such as teens bullying, suicide, disabilities, parental divorce and so on. This anime movie focuses on two main characters: a deaf girl Shoko Nishimiya and Shoya Ishida who bullied her in elementary school.

Genre: Drama
Director: Naoko Yamada (山田尚子)

19. Belle (2021)

As the 6th full-length original anime film directed by Mamoru Hosoda, Belle (竜とそばかすの姫) was released in 2021 following his previous work Mirai in 2018. Being distributed all over the world, the fantasy latest anime movie earns a global reputation. Mamoru Hosoda completed Belle, partly inspired by the classic romance Beauty And the Beast.

Belle is set in a countryside in Kochi Prefecture, centering on a high school girl Suzu, who lives with her father. The story unfolds when she joins an enormous virtual world called U as an avatar named Belle and performs a self-produced song there. It depicts the fusion between the online and real world with several main unique characters.

Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Director: Mamoru Hosoda (細田守)

18. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (2015)

Dragon Ball Z is one of the most popular Japanese anime which has been loved by both children and adults around the world for a long time. There are also lots of anime movie titles. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (ドラゴンボールZ 復活の「F」), released in 2015, is a top-rated title of the Dragon Ball films. Its story is written by Akira Toriyama, which starts with the resurrection of Frieza.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ brings back the iconic villain, Frieza, who is resurrected by his loyal underlings using the Dragon Balls. Restored to life, Frieza seeks revenge against Goku and the other Saiyans who defeated him in the past. This leads to a fierce battle on Earth, pushing Goku, Vegeta, and their allies to their limits as they strive to stop Frieza’s vengeful rampage. It also shows the Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan forms.

Genre: Action, Adventure
Director: Tadayoshi Yamamuro (山室直儀)

▶︎Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is just one example in this anime movie series. Here is a list compiling all Dragon Ball movies. Also, for those looking for manga or anime similar to Dragon Ball, refer to this list: 5 Best Anime like Dragon Ball.

17. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

The Castle of Cagliostro (ルパン三世 カリオストロの城) is the second film of the popular Lupin the Third franchise and marks the directorial debut of the esteemed Hayao Miyazaki in 1979. Notably, American filmmaker Steven Spielberg has praised it as one of the greatest adventure movies ever made. It’s a cornerstone of Miyazaki’s legendary career and a must-watch for any anime enthusiast.

The master thief Arsène Lupin III and his fellow Daisuke Jigen steal vast amounts of money for a casino but recognize that the money is counterfeit bills. Then, they head to the country named Cagliostro which seems to be the source of the counterfeit bills and see the heroine Clarisse.

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Comedy
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)

16. Paprika (2006)

Many advanced anime fans have applauded a psychological thriller film Paprika (パプリカ), which was screened in 2006. Based on the same-titled science fiction novel written by the renowned author Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1993, Paprika was directed by Satoshi Kon, who is also known for the 2003’s adventure animated film Tokyo Godfathers.

It presents warfare between a dream terrorist who can make others have a nightmare and a dream detective called Paprika. The terrifying story features a newly-invented psychotherapy machine known as DC Mini, the scientific key that allows people to open the door to their dreams.

Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction
Director: Satoshi Kon (今敏)

15. Summer Wars (2009)

Summer Wars (サマーウォーズ) is one of the Mamoru Hosoda anime movies that have the highest reputation, released in 2009. It combines some genres such as sci-fi, family drama, and romantic comedy. Internationally acclaimed, it won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and the prestigious Annie Award. Also, it was selected for the main competition at the 2010 Locarno International Film Festival. This film emphasizes the influence of the internet on modern life.

A high schooler Kenji and his Senpai named Natsuki who is a year ahead of him visit her family home. There is the clear contrast in Summer Wars. Japanese traditional culture and customs with rural rich nature are depicted there. At the same time, the story proceeds with problems in the virtual reality world named OZ.

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Director: Mamoru Hosoda (細田守)

14. Wolf Children (2012)

Wolf Children (おおかみこどもの雨と雪) is known as one of the masterpieces of Mamoru Hosoda and produced by Studio Chizu, which is the animation studio founded by the director. The financially successful fantasy movie was released worldwide in 2012, grossing over 4.2 billion yen domestically. It earned several prestigious awards, including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

The main character Hana meets a man in the university in Tokyo, who can transform into a wolf. Then, they have two kids Yuki and Ame who can also change their forms into wolf and get back into human. As they grow up, their inner conflicts are increasing: They should live as a human or a wolf.

Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Director: Mamoru Hosoda (細田守)

13. Suzume (2022)

Suzume (すずめの戸締まり) is the eighth theatrical anime film directed by Makoto Shinkai in 2022 after the previous title Weathering with You in 2019. It has been highly-rated by fans and experts around the world since the release. It was nominated for the Competition section of the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. This is the first time in 21 years for a Japanese animation to be nominated since Spirited Away.

The road movie, categorized as fantasy, has the theme of great earthquakes and tsunami Japan has gone through such as the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The story begins when a high schooler Suzume Iwato opens a weird door remaining a devastated building. She starts on a journey around Japan to close that kind of doors to prevent disasters.

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Director: Makoto Shinkai (新海誠)

12. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Ghost in the Shell is a classic cyberpunk anime franchise, based on the manga written by Masamune Shiro. The popular anime series started with the first anime film Ghost in the Shell (GHOST IN THE SHELL / 攻殻機動隊) in 1995, and the second movie Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (イノセンス) showed in 2004. Both of them were directed by one of the most famous Japanese anime directors Mamoru Oshii.

In the dystopian future of Ghost in the Shell, cybernetic technology has become commonplace, allowing people to replace their body parts and even brains with artificial components. Major Motoko Kusanagi, a full-body cyborg and the team leader of Public Security Section 9, delves into the darkest corners of her city to uncover a complex web of technology and corruption. When they encounter a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master, the team embarks on a high-stakes journey that questions the very nature of their identities, blurring the lines between humanity and artificial intelligence. This anime movie is celebrated for its thoughtful exploration of the intersection between humanity and technology.

Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk
Director: Mamoru Oshii (押井守)

▶︎If you’re a fan of this serious cyberpunk franchise, check out these titles to see if they suit your taste: 5 Best Manga and Anime like Ghost in the Shell.

11. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (2020)

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (鬼滅の刃 無限列車編) is the first anime movie adaption of the Demon Slayer series, released in October, 2020. The original manga of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba was just completed on Weekly Shonen Jump in May, 2020. The latest anime movie title is the sequel of the 26-episode first season.

It centers on the main characters Tanjiro, his sister Nezuko, Zenitsu, Inosuke and Kyojuro Rengoku, who is the Flame Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps. They fight against the strong demons including the Twelve Kizuki to save passengers in the train.

Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure, Dark Fantasy
Director: Haruo Sotozaki (外崎春雄)

▶︎After watching Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, what are others watching? Let’s check out similar works right now: 5 Best Anime like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.

10. Rebuild of Evangelion (2007-2021)

One of the most famous anime series worldwide is Neon Genesis Evangelion, and its remake anime has been made into a movie since 2007, which is named Rebuild of Evangelion (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版). The new anime movie series consist of 4 parts: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:序) in 2007, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:破) in 2009, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q) in 2012 and Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 (シン・エヴァンゲリオン劇場版:||) in 2021. Human dramas and battle scenes between the bio-machine mecha Evangelion are highlights of this anime.

The story follows a 14-year-old boy Shinji Ikari called upon to pilot an Evangelion, a giant bio-machine, against monstrous beings known as Angels. As the story unfolds, Shinji, along with fellow pilots Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley question their roles, the morality of their actions, and the nature of their existence, all while the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.

Genre: Mecha, Action, Fantasy, Drama
Director: Hideaki Anno (庵野秀明)

▶︎For those who enjoy the Evangelion series, which includes a mix of genres like mecha, fantasy, action, and drama, these are also recommended: 5 Best Manga and Anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion.

9. Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind (1984)

When you talk about Hayao Miyazaki, you should not miss Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ), which is his 2nd full-length anime movie. Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind was originally published as manga from 1982, and it was made into an anime movie in 1984 with the stories of 2 volumes of the manga. The anime is known as the early film by Studio Ghibli. Precisely, it was produced by its predecessor animation studio Topcraft.

After the disastrous war, industrial civilization is destroyed, which lead to the formation of the enormous Toxic Jungle where large mutant insects live. The protagonist Nausicaä, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, seeks a way for both people and nature to co-exist harmoniously.

Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)

▶︎There are many works influenced by Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but for those looking for anime with a similar worldview, start here these 5 Best Anime Series and Movies like Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind.

8. Weathering with You (2019)

Weathering with You (天気の子) is the latest anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai and one of the most viewed films in 2019. It is distributed to theaters in about 140 countries and regions by 2020. Two young characters are featured in the anime movie.

A high school boy Hodaka gets away from home in a remote island to Tokyo. A young girl Hina survives without parents in the busy city. They meet each other and come to help many people who hope good weather for their important days such as wedding and festivals, using her supernatural ability to change the weather. Weathering with You includes a lot of themes you need to consider such as unusual meteorological phenomena, child rearing, poverty and so on.

Genre: Fantasy, Slice of life
Director: Makoto Shinkai (新海誠)

7. 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

For fans of the new leader of the anime industry Mokoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters per Second (秒速5センチメートル) is a must-watch anime film. It is looked on as the best anime in his early career, released in 2007. The anime work is divided into three short parts: Cherry Blossom, Cosmonaut and 5 Centimeters per Second.

The main character Takaki’s first love with the heroine Akari in elementary school is depicted at first, and his life after that is focused on. In the final part, the two grow up and the story mark the climax of the moving anime. There is neither supernatural power nor action battle scenes, but just the beautiful reality.

Genre: Romance, Drama
Director: Makoto Shinkai (新海誠)

6. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) is one of the most popular Studio Ghibli movies among families around the globe. The fantasy anime, directed by Hayao Miyazaki was released at the theater in 1988 as a part of the double feature with Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓), directed by another Studio Ghibli’s leader Isao Takahata.

The setting of My Neighbor Totoro is Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture in 1950s. A family moves to a rural village, consisting of an elementary schooler Satsuki, her young sister Mei and their father Tatsuo. Her mother stays in the hospital located near the village. One day, the kids meet mystic creatures names Totoro. If you have not watched any Studio Ghibli films, it’s recommended to start with this.

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)

▶︎Here are anime similar to My Neighbor Totoro, enjoyable for both adults and children: 5 Best Anime Movies like My Neighbor Totoro.

5. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), released in 1997, was the number one movie at the domestic box office at that time. It is also regarded worldwide as one of top Japanese films. It is said that its director Hayao Miyazaki spent about two decades building the plot and making it into this anime movie.

The fantasy film focuses on the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) with the two main characters a tribe’s prince Ashitaka and a young woman San raised by wolves in the forest. The conflict between humans and nature is featured there, and Ashitaka seeks a way for both to coexist.

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)

▶︎For fans of Princess Mononoke, these works, blending seriousness and fantasy, are also highly recommended: 5 Best Anime like Princess Mononoke.

4. Akira (1988)

The worldly renowned Akira (アキラ) was originally made as a manga written by Katsuhiro Otomo and its anime movie adaption was released in 1988. The manga series had not completed yet at that time, so the anime movie was based on the 3 volumes that had been published by 1988 with the climax story exactly different from that of the manga.

The setting is Neo Tokyo in 2019, where Tokyo is destroyed due to the outbreak of WWIII. There are two main characters in Akira: a leader of the Bosozoku group (Japanese biker gang) named Shotaro Kaneda and his childhood friend Tetsuo Shima. The story unfolds first when Tetsuo gains a supernatural power after a motorcycle accident.

This anime film became a hot topic again in 2019 since it had predicted Tokyo’s hosting the 2020 Olympics.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Science Fiction
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo (大友克洋)

▶︎Here is a lineup similar to Akira, along with other globally acclaimed works by Katsuhiro Otomo: 5 Best Anime Movies like Akira.

3. Your Name (2016)

Your Name (君の名は。), the greatest anime directed by Makoto Shinkai in 2016, has won recognition domestically and internationally. The popular anime movie was aired on the big screen in over 120 countries and regions between 2016 and 2018, and it made the most at the foreign box office in Japanese anime movies.

The story proceeds with two main characters: Taki Tachibana living in the metropolitan Tokyo and Mitsuha Miyamizu living in the countryside. One day, they notice that their bodies are switched with each other, and that is intermittently repeated. Taki and Mitsuha are getting more and more about each other while being puzzled under the strange condition.

Your Name is mainly based on the two real life places Tokyo and Takayama in Central Japan. Makoto Shinkai beautifully represents the real world, which encourages the fans to travel the spots pictured in the movie.

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Makoto Shinkai (新海誠)

▶️Let’s explore masterpieces that rival Your Name, including other recommended films by Makoto Shinkai: 5 Best Anime Movies like Your Name.

2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

In 2006, one of the Japanese animation leaders Mamoru Hosoda released his masterpiece titled The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女). The fantasy anime film was based on the novel written by the best-selling sci-fi Japanese author Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1967, but it tells the different story from the novel’s one.

The setting of the anime is 20 years after the world in the novel. There are three main characters who are high schoolers in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Makoto, Kosuke and Chiaki. They live in the ordinary high school life, where there are general adolescent interests such as love, study and career choice in this anime. However, Makoto notices she becomes able to transport herself to the past.

Time travel is a popular plot of anime these days, but it was new and unique when the anime was released, which is partly because it is top rated by anime fans.

Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Director: Mamoru Hosoda (細田守)

1. Spirited Away (2001)

What is best of the best anime movie of all time? Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), the masterpiece of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli released in 2001, deserves it. It has gained the highest recognition all over the world including Best Animated Feature in the 75th Academy Awards and has been the highest grossing movie ever made in Japan while about two decades passed since it was released.

A 10-year-old girl Chihiro wanders into a weird and strange world with her parents, and her parents are transformed into pigs due to the witchy curse. She decides to work hard in the bathhouse under the rule of the witch named Yubaba to help them, losing her real name and changed to Sen.

There are various unique characters such as a key person Haku, twin witches Yubaba and Zeniba and a mystic creature Kaonashi (No-Face) in addition to Chihiro (Sen). What is attractive in Spirited Away is that you can watch it from a variety of perspectives depending on how you view it.

Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Director: Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿)

▶️Those who want to see other world-class works like Spirited Away, check this out: 5 Best Anime Movies like Spirited Away.

+ Best Anime Movies of 2023

As we welcome 2023, the most popular animated films released last year continue to have long theatrical runs in the new year. Makoto Shinkai’s latest work Suzume (すずめの戸締まり) and The First Slam Dunk have garnered high praise worldwide. The latest installments of popular franchises, One Piece Film: Red and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, have also achieved explosive success.

So, what does the lineup look like for anime movies released in 2023 and those yet to come? The highlight is undoubtedly Studio Ghibli’s latest work How Do You Live? (君たちはどう生きるか) directed by Hayao Miyazaki. This highly anticipated new Miyazaki anime, the first since 2013’s The Wind Rises, premiered in July. Although inspired by the 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino, the film departs from the original work and features a Ghibli-esque adventure-action fantasy.

Another highlight of 2023 is Alice to Therese no Maboroshi Koujou (アリスとテレスのまぼろし工場), which was released in September. One reason this work is drawing attention is due to the director, Mari Okada, who served as a screenwriter for series such as Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and Toradora!. However, this slightly disturbing and penetrating drama story is considered by many to be one of the best anime movies of 2023.

Additionally, an anime movie based on Akira Toriyama’s manga Sand Land, famous for Dragon Ball, was also released in August of this year. This one-shot movie is a must-see for fans of Akira Toriyama and fans of Sci-fi adventure. The first anime film of the highly popular action-comedy anime series Spy x Family has been confirmed, with the title Spy x Family Code: White scheduled for release in December.

▶︎Check the list of the best anime movies of 2023!

Anime have been developed in a unique way with its long history and its sense of presence has been increased in the entertainment industry all over the world. A new wonderful anime movie will be made and released in the future and this list will be updated. Not only anime fans but beginners should try those best anime movies above!

*This article was published in April, 2020. It was updated on November, 2023, with my latest selections.

For those who became interested in Japan through anime and are considering a trip to Japan, start by checking out this Japan Bucket List: 30 Best Things to Do in Japan Now. From actual places depicted in anime to shops offering exclusive goods and anime-themed museums, I have curated a selection of destinations tailored for anime enthusiasts in Japan: 10 Best Anime Spots in Japan. I’m delighted to assist in your anime adventure.

▽If you would like to know the recent best anime movies, check the lists below!▽

▶︎Best Anime Movies 2023

▶︎Best Anime Movies 2022

▶︎Best Anime Movies 2021

▶︎Best Anime Movies 2020

▶︎Best Anime Movies 2019

▽For anime fans, here is the greatest anime series lineup!▽

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