Top 20 Japanese Anime Movies

May 31, 2021 11 min read

japanese anime movies

Ever since a decade ago, Japanese anime movies have been spreading far beyond the Land of the Rising Sun. Conscious of this passion for japanime and Japanese pop culture, we invited you to share with us your favorite anime movies in order to establish a ranking.

Well, here is your top 20 Japanese anime movies!

Anime, also known as frame-by-frame cinema, is a prominent art form in Japanese culture. Japanese anime films use various techniques to give life to inanimate objects, materials or images. Nowadays, big animation studios are using powerful 3D animation software in order to produce even more breathtaking movies.

Ready to plan a Sushi party and spice it up by watching a masterpiece of Japanese animation?

1. Your Name (Kimi no na wa)


Your Name is a movie that has convinced millions of spectators all over the world about the richness of Japanese anime, and many of you voted for this masterpiece. The script imagined by the great filmmaker Makoto Shinkai sounds like something you might have seen before: a body swap between a young Tokyoite and a teenage girl from the Japanese countryside. However, the universe that Shinkai has created is truly unique.

Deeply moved, you will realize that this is actually a fake science fiction movie. The style is masterfully exploited to better amplify emotions and reflect reality. A must-see!

2. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi)


If there is one piece of cinema that has elevated Japanese animation to the top of the seventh art, it must be this movie by the legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki. This anime movie has won awards at various festivals in the West. The story may seem childish, but the vision of the Japanese director charges it with very powerful messages: "My film is about the effort it takes to become a human being ... to rebuild an archipelago that is losing its soul". Nothing more, nothing less! Be assured, it's still about cartoons, fantasy and escapism.

3. Princess Mononoke (Mononoke hime)


Another cult film by Japanese icon Hayao Miyazaki. The star director of Studio Ghibli proves, once again, that the world of anime is not just for the young ones and that it offers real cinema.

One day, a Japanese prince kills a demon boar to protect his village. Wounded and affected by a curse, he must find the healing deer. On his way, he meets a wolf princess. The story, in the imaginative style of Miyazaki, tells the story of feudal Japan and the internal conflicts between enemy clans. We can recognize the epic and warlike tone of this Japanese director, adored throughout the world. Throughout this film, the fight between man and nature is omnipresent.

4. Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro)


The Miyazakian characters of this Japanese anime film are touching and complex at the same time; the universe is abundant, the atmosphere is tinged with fantasy and steampunk impulses while the themes treated are more serious: the obsession of appearance, the relationship between man and war, the quest for inner peace and peace between nations. That's also what a Japanese anime movie is about!

At the dawn of the war, Sophie, a young 18 year old hatter, meets a seductive magician who comes to her aid. The witch of the Waste is jealous and puts a curse on her.

5. A Silent Voice (Koe no katachi)


The Japanese anime cinema also touches the dramatic romance. Such is the case in this shonen movie produced by Kyoto Animation Studios and directed by Naoko Yamada.

Nishimiya, a young deaf girl is bullied at school by a boy. Dealing with school bullying, disability (deafness, hence the title), remorse and affection, this anime film is sure to bring some tears to the most sensitive among you.

6. My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)


The consecration of Miyasaki and Japanese animation could not have been better expressed. My Neighbor Totoro is a fairy tale that touches reality. Watch it with your children, you will gently communicate them the secret of autonomy.

7. Weathering with You (Tenki no ko)


After the phenomenal success of the anime movie Your Name, a great challenge awaited the Japanese director Makoto Shinkai. Weathering with You did not disappoint the admirers of Japanese anime: realism, humor, poetry, and perfect technical mastery. The heroes of this movie will make you visit the urban jungle called Tokyo. A high school runaway student who became a paranormal journalist meets a young Tokyoite that stops the rain ... To be continued !

8. Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)


Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese animated film directed by Isao Takahata for the Ghibli animation studios. Dealing with the Second World War horrors, the film did not seduce the young audience. Both tragic and poetic, this anime that tells the story of two children left to their own devices in the darkness of war was disastrous when it was released. However, the enthusiasm of the adult public in Japan and elsewhere has finally propelled it to the rank of a cult film. Another register of the Japanese animation.

9. Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no shiro Rapyuta)


After having escaped from the pirates who were holding her prisoner, Sheeta meets Pazu who helps her. She reveals to him that she is the descendant of the kingdom of Laputa.

In this fantastic anime movie, inspired by speculative philosophy, Miyazaki makes several references: The island of Laputa is a reference to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Similarly, the robots in the castle are reminiscent of the Machine in The King and the Mockingbird

Welcome to the deep and magical world of Japanese animation.

10. Wolf Children, Ame & Yuki (Ōkami kodomo no Ame to Yuki)


The story of a young student who falls in love with a young werewolf. After becoming a widow, she decides to isolate herself to raise her two children. The synopsis seems bland, flat, déjà-vu ... Well, think again! The success of this masterpiece of the Japanese animation industry has made the big studios Ghibli regret breaking their contract with director Mamoru Hosoda. Even in Japan, vengeance is a dish best served cold. Enjoy this fantastic Japanese anime film.

11. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika)


Released under the name of " Star Princess set ", this anime is the second animation film directed by Miazaki. It is a cinema adaptation of a manga of the same name. The heroes try to survive the advance of the toxic forest and the aggressions of the neighbors. A universe of apocalypse where love becomes a weapon of resistance: love of neighbor and nature. Enjoy!

12. Flavors of Youth (Shikioriori)


This movie is the result of a collaboration between Japanese and Chinese animation. The result is magnificent: a cult feature film composed of three short films. This will allow you to have a break! The stories, the universes and the characters are all different. More than an anime series, Flavors of Youth offers a real reflection on society. Moreover, Netflix is offering it on streaming.

13. Ponyo on the cliff (Gake no ue no Ponyo)


This feature film has been described as a realistic and historical autofiction by the master of fantasy anime, Miazako. In this animation, the mangaka revisited Anderson's tale "The Little Mermaid" written in 1837. The drawings were entirely handmade. A titanic work that will surely thrill you!

14. I Want to Eat Your Pancreass (Kimi no suizō o tabetai)


Living together and accelerating a whole life in the time of one spring: the proposal of the dying heroine to her lonely friend. Initially, this was a novel in tankobon format, which has been adapted into a manga, a live-action film and an anime film. And... it is not about eating a pancreas! Enjoy the movie.

15. The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no ko)


The path of a 9 year old orphan crosses that of a beast who needs to develop a disciple in order to gain access to the throne of the monsters. Director Mamoru Hosoda's talent is proven with this Japanese anime movie. Comedy and drama, confrontation and tenderness, fantasy and realism: all these ingredients were added to create this film that symbolizes the passage from one world to another. We love it!

16. Tales from Earthsea (Gedo Senki)


An evil witch broke the balance of the world. To restore it, a young prince joins forces with a great magician and a mysterious young girl he met on their journey. This romantic saga, directed by Miyazaki, is full of symbolism and questions. Let yourself be carried away by its fantastic universe and enjoy the metaphors. This was the first film of the master of Japanese animation.

17. Akira


Akira is a post-apocalyptic anime movie directed by Katshuhiro Otomo. This science fiction movie released in the late 80s, evokes the trauma of Hiroshima. This is 2019, thirty-one years after a nuclear explosion that devastated Tokyo. The new capital, ruled by the army, is on the verge of a crisis. This dystopia of the cyberpunk genre evolves in a dark and violent world, in full corruption.

Akira is a critique of the industrial society that deals with serious issues such as social breakdown, the quest for power that leads to destruction and mental experimentation by the military. In addition to a well-crafted scenario, you will not be disappointed by the aestheticism of Otomo's drawings. A cult film that marked a whole generation: a must see!

18. My Hero Academia 


A class of future heroes find themselves on a peaceful island before being attacked by the evil Nine, the most fearsome antagonist of the series. The high-flying fights follow one another and blow you away. An action-packed animation movie that takes you through all sorts of emotions.

19. When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Mānī)


Based on a novel by Joan Robinson, this movie tells the story of Anna, a young adopted girl suffering from depression who finds herself in the countryside to treat her asthma. In the swamp, she meets and befriends the mysterious Marnie. This feature film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi speaks of the difficulty of finding one's place through a teenager in search of her identity. The border between the imaginary and the real is blurred and we are lulled by the beauty of the images and the touching character of Anna.

20. The Secret World of Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti)


Another gem by Ghilbi studio directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Released in 2010, this movie was inspired by a children's story and based on a scenario by the legendary Miyasaki: The thieves are tiny men who live under the floorboards of houses to hide from humans. The young Arietty knows that she must only borrow what is necessary and in microscopic quantities to avoid being discovered. But the arrival of a boy changes all that. In this animated film with a doll-like universe and lively music, Yonebayashi proves that he has taken over from the behemoth Miyasaki.

👉  Feel like discovering these masterpieces and many more in the manga version? Check out our Top 30 best Japanese manga!

 

And in addition...

liste de films d'animation japonais

Because winter evenings can seem long and we are always looking for the right movie to watch, here is a bonus list of 20 great Japanese anime movies! A small gift from us as we appreciate you're reading our blog

  • The Anthem of the Heart

A girl who carries the guilt of breaking up her family with carelessly uttered words when she was young is suddenly cursed by a mysterious "Egg Fairy" so that she can never hurt anybody with her words again. Having few friends in high school, she is forced to work with three other classmates on a musical project. A project in which she will be given the lead role...

  • Violet Evergarden The Movie

While writing other people’s emotions, she may have neglected her own. Violet Evergarden, the child soldier turned Auto Memory Doll, writes letters that evoke the words her clients can’t. But when a terminally ill boy requests her services for his family, her own feelings about love and loss resurface. Now she must confront her past and the death of the Major.

  • One Piece Gold

The Straw Hat Pirates take on Gild Tesoro, one of the richest and most ambitious men in the world.

  • Porco Rosso

In Italy in the 1930s, sky pirates in biplanes terrorize wealthy cruise ships as they sail the Adriatic Sea. The only pilot brave enough to stop the scourge is the mysterious Porco Rosso (Shuichiro Moriyama), a former World War I flying ace who was somehow turned into a pig during the war.

  • Whisper of the Heart

A young girl with a passion for literature accidentally notices that a certain Seiji borrows the same books as she does. But who could this mysterious boy be? That's what she's going to try to find out.

  • Miss Hokusai

Discover the story of the talented daughter of the famous painter Hokusai. Fascinated by freedom and devoted to her art, we can't count the hours she spent in her studio at her father's side. Who knows how many works were created by her hand?

  • In This Corner of the World

Set in Hiroshima during World War II, an eighteen-year-old girl gets married and now has to prepare food for her family despite the rationing and lack of supplies. As she struggles with the daily loss of life's amenities she still has to maintain the will to live.

  • Liz and the Blue Bird

Two high school girls with opposite characters are preparing for the great classical music competition. Through this Japanese anime movie, the friendship between two young girls and all the ambiguity of their relationship shines through.

  • The Cat Returns

High school student Haru rescues a cat that was about to be run over by a truck and discovers the cat is actually a prince named Lune. Out of gratitude, Lune's father, the Cat King, asks her to marry Lune. 

  • Colorful

A spirit is given a second chance at life by being reincarnated into the body of Makoto, a college student who took his own life.

  • The Tale of the Princess Kagyuya

One day, an old man discovers inside a bamboo stem, a strange creature that will turn out to be a beautiful princess.

  • The Place Promised in Our Early Days

After the war, Japan is divided into two territories governed by two opposing forces. Three friends living in the American zone decide to join the Union by building a plane.

  • A Whisker Away

This anime film from Studio Colorido tells the story of a schoolgirl in love who struggles to be noticed by the handsome Hinode. To get closer to him, she will transform herself into a cat.

  • The Castle of Cagliostro

Lupin and his partner Jigen rob a casino. When they realize that the bills are counterfeit, the two partners start an investigation that leads them straight to Cagliostro's castle.

  • Ride Your Wave

A young girl who loves to surf meets a charming fireman. When he dies, she sees his spirit in the waves.

  • Kiki's Delivery Service

On her thirteenth birthday, Kiki has to move to another town to start her life as a witch. She practices a delivery business with the help of her flying broom.

  • Redline

A daredevil driver is determined to compete in Redline, the most popular race in the galaxy. The race only occurs every five years, but in order to participate he must overcome the mafia, the government and even love.

  • From Up on Poppy Hill

This adaptation of the shôjo manga by Hizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama tells the love story of 2 high school students who without knowing it are linked by a secret.

  • The Wind Rises

The young Jiro dreams of becoming a pilot, but his poor eyesight prevents him from doing so and he becomes an aeronautical engineer. A brilliant inventor, Jiro will revolutionize the world of aviation.

  • Miraï, My Little Sister

A boy who is jealous of the attention given to his little sister takes an incredible trip back in time. He will meet his family and follow their story at different moments of their lives.

That's it, you now know how to spend your movie nights. Moreover, if you are a true expert of Japanese cinema, don't hesitate to complete our selection of the best Japanese anime movies by leaving a comment!

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