Japanese animation has a storied, yet surprisingly unheard history. Today, more than ever, anime is finally hitting the right chords with newer audiences. With television series and films reaching wider audiences and receiving high levels of acclaim, anime has now become a staple for anyone with an iota of interest in pop culture.
If you want to delve into the genre for the first time, here are 20 of the best anime movies that'll give you the perfect taste and appetite for the same.
1. Grave of the Fireflies, 1988
Grave of the Fireflies revolves around a young boy and his little sister struggle to survive in Japan during World War II.
The death and destruction of World War II is best represented in this absolutely beautiful movie. The animation is both realistic and stylized but that's not the point. The main focus of this film is the character development of the brother and sister protagonists and the narrative never shies away from it.
2. My Neighbour Totoro, 1988
When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have some unexpected adventures in a nearby forest.
Anything we tell you about this movie can be deemed a spoiler. It's a beautiful joyride through the innocence of childhood and the magic of imagination. Sometimes you feel like you're not watching an animated children's movie, because the characters and the storyline seem so realistic.
3. Howl's Moving Castle, 2004
Howl's Moving Castle is all about this young woman who is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch.
This movie has everything you'd expect from Miyazaki: strong women characters, open landscapes, and flying machines that are so fantastical you don't care whether they make sense or not, and it also deals with the repercussions of war.
4. Paprika, 2006
Paprika is arguably one of the greatest movies of this century.
Paprika is about the creation of a device that allows therapists to enter their patients' dreams. The device - called the DC Mini - is stolen, leading psychiatrist Dr. Atsubo Chiba and her dream alter-ego Paprika on a wild chase for the thief. It was so good that Nolan's Inception bears an uncanny resemblance to the movie.
5. Castle in the Sky, 1986
Castle in the Sky follows two kids, Princess Sheeta and an aviation-obsessed boy named Pazu, as they try to reach the last floating city in the sky.
The tale is inspired in large by Gulliver’s Travels, but the brilliance of the movie lies with the voice-overs. It's an excellent amalgamation of perfect casting and some sheer cinematic brilliance. If you need more convincing to watch this movie, please note that it was directed by Miyazaki himself.
6. Perfect Blue, 1997
The central plot of Perfect Blue revolves around this retired pop-singer-turned-actress whose sense of reality is shaken when she is stalked by an obsessed fan.
Making a great thriller is already challenging enough, but to do it so well with an anime movie deserves special attention. The tension is gripping and the movie successfully keeps you at the edge of your seats.
7. Spirited Away, 2001
A 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches and spirits, and where mankind has lost its way.
Spirited Away is simply a modern masterpiece. Often hailed as the greatest anime movie of all time, Spirited Away truly stirs your soul and makes you ask yourself some really poignant questions. This movie is sure to put you in a daze and you need to be completely invested in it to truly appreciate the film.
8. Ghost in the Shell, 1995
Ghost in the Shell follows a female cyborg, Motoko, searching for meaning in her existence.
Unique lighting techniques and thermo-optical camouflage were also incorporated to lend a distorted, dark, and psychedelic appearance to the picture. The eerie soundtrack only adds to the brilliance of the overall amazing movie. ScarJo is all set to feature in the live-action version of this classic.
9. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, 2001
Cowboy Bebop is one of the best anime TV series of all time and the movie only helps take the legacy forward.
It's surprising how a lot of fans of the original TV series aren't aware of this movie. It gets everything right - the humour, the references and the action. Set in space, the film revolves around the daily adventures of a bounty hunter. This is a must watch, space cowboys.
10. Akira, 1988
Akira is about a teenage biker, Tetsuo and his mission to release the imprisoned psychic, Akira.
Akira is arguably one of the most popular anime movies of all time. The sci-fi themes have been time and again used by a lot of renowned directors and filmmakers, most notably in Looper. The gritty visuals of the futuristic metropolis, realistic character designs and intense action-packed story make Akira one hell of a ride.