Best Anime Movies Ever: Everything We Know so Far
This list of the top anime movies is an attempt to accomplish just that: to construct a primer of one hundred of the most influential and vital films that Japanese animation has created, including a full aesthetic, technical, and historical dissection of why these films matter. To that end, Paste is delighted to employ the curatorial abilities of Jason DeMarco, on-air creative director of Adult Swim and co-creator of Toonami, whose unique role in anime’s increasing popularity in the West has helped to hone this list to its best. Given the shared evolution of anime film and television, as well as the significance of the home video revolution, this list includes not only traditional features but also original video animations (OVAs) made for home video and anthology films—with the stipulation that each entry has at some point premiered in theatres. We hope that by curating this list, we have created an entry point for both the expert and the layperson, the Otaku, and the neophyte, to trace the rich and varied history of anime’s evolution across both film and popular culture, and to offer newcomers a comprehensive guide through which to learn, rediscover, explore, and debate the full potential the genre of Japanese animation has to offer now and in the future.
The Beauty and The Beast (2015)
Mamoru Hosoda is regarded as one of the greatest anime directors working today. That notoriety stems in large part from his status as the successor apparent to Hayao Miyazaki’s cinematic heritage, which he formally resigned from directing with the release of his then-final film, The Wind Rises, in 2013. Despite this pleasant association, few of Hosoda’s works have achieved the same level of cinematic brilliance and canonical enshrinement as the Studio Ghibli luminary’s illustrious career.
This is the situation with The Boy and the Beast. Ren, an orphaned youngster who stumbles through an Alice in Wonderland-style tunnel into a world of fantastical monsters, is adopted as a disciple by the boisterous and indolent swordmaster Kumatetsu, who vies to become the lord of all beasts. All of the surface elements of a superb picture are present, including breathtakingly clean animation, intense battle scenes, and judicious use of computer graphic graphics to emphasize these sequences.
F-91 Gundam Mobile Suit (1991)
Set 30 years after the events of Char’s Counterattack, Mobile Suit Gundam F-91 is a curious oddity in the Gundam universe, but not an unwanted one. The story happened because Yoshiyuki Tomino chose to start a new Gundam story a full generation after the hard-won peace achieved at the end of Char and Amaro’s climactic battle. Originally planned as a series, Tomino enlisted the “best hits” of his old partners for the project, including Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Kunio Ookawara. It’s unknown why, but internal disagreements forced the series to be canceled early on. Not wishing to quit the project (about 13 episode scripts had been prepared), Tomino decided to condense the plot he had been creating into a film. As a result, Mobile Suit Gundam F-91 is a sloppy but extremely deserving addition to the Gundam canon. After years of peace, a separatist faction called the Crossbone Vanguard launches an attack on the unsuspecting earth colonies. The plot centers around Seabrook Arno, an Amaro analog, and his Gundam, F-91.
On-Gaku: Our Sound (2021)
Being a teenager in a suburban town can be terribly boring. Nothing feels useful when there is no change in the routine. But every now and again, something happens that breaks the monotony and adds excitement to an otherwise mundane existence.
Ah! The Film About My Goddess (2000)
Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, a sequel to a five-part OVA from 1993 based on a popular manga, is a rare example of a film built on an established anime/manga franchise that is superior to the original source material. The film finds ways to inject more drama and urgency into the normally light-hearted romance of the original story, while the lengthier run time offers more room for character development and deeper motivations for all of the primary cast members. Putting Belldandy at the center of a scheme to hack the Yggdrasil computer in the heavens (long story) and forcing Keiichi to reckon with what Belldandy has grown to mean to him brings romance and sweetness that has always been at the heart of this series to the forefront.
Dallos is unquestionably Mamoru Oshii’s worst film. With a subpar space opera plot described by anime historians such as Helen McCarthy and Jonathan Clements as “an unremarkable rip-off of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” and an animation style that could only be described as low budget, showing little to nothing of the mark of its director who later became known for the likes of Patlabor 2 and Ghost in the Shell, there’s a reason why Dallos occupies the darkest unknown corners of Os So, why is it on this list? Because, despite its overall poor quality, the scale of its historical significance more than compensates. Simply put,
Marnie Was Present (2014)
According to David Foster Wallace, every love story is a ghost story. He may easily have been describing the mood of When Marnie Was There, the second feature directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and the final Ghibli movie before the studio’s hiatus following Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata’s retirement in 2013.