The Best Anime Movies You Must Watch

In the world of cinema, there’s so much for you to explore. No one would ever watch all the masterpieces. But there are some movies that if you miss, you may miss out on a lot. These truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences are the culmination of the incredible genius of both the authors, directors and everyone who is involved in it. Anime is no exception to this rule. This art form is unique in many little ways and an exceptional form of cultural expression.

It’s a completely different experience from what you would get from a regular cartoon. Because it’s driven by an artist, who looks at the same thing and sees something vastly different from what another one would. The Japanese just have a spark that no other country does, and that’s because their world and culture were isolated for thousands of years. In this post, we are going to explore the non-negotiable anime films that you must give a look at at least once in your lifetime (hint: most of the fans have watched them an endless amount of times).

Good Ole’ Classics And One Modern

Howl’s Moving Castle

Released in 2004, roughly based on a British book of the same name, this Japanese animation move has remained in millions of people’s hearts ever since. It went on to become one of the most successful Japanese movies of all time, and the English dub had a celebrity cast, including famous actors: Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, Josh Hutcherson, and others.

Created by a stellar storyteller, and an exceptional director Hayao Miyazaki and his own studio “Studio Ghibli”, he considers this to be the Magnum opus of his career (we could name quite a few other exceptional works of his that immediately come to mind). On multiple occasions, Miyazaki said that he put all of his efforts into conveying the message of the film: “That Life Is Worth Living”. With strong underlying themes, the movie explores themes of the devastating effects of war, romantic and friendly love, personal loyalty, and freedom.

The plot is set in a country where two kingdoms are at a ravaging war with each other. In this world, there is both magic and technology similar to that of the past century. The movie tells the story of a youthful woman, who is of the working class and a regular gal. One day, an old witch comes into her shop, curses her, and turns her into an old woman. She then meets a wizard and gets mixed in with the war that is going on.

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Spirited Away

Another work of Miyazaki, released in 2001, has received universal acclaim and financial success more than any other anime movie, except for just one that was released in 2020 (spoiler alert: it’s the next title in the list). Gaining the highest recognition of the worldwide community, it has won the best-animated feature at the seventy-fifth Academy Awards.

This fantasy anime tells the story of a young ten-year-old girl, who is moving to a new district with her family. While on the trip, they stop at an abandoned station, and while exploring it, get stuck in a magical world of spirits (Kami in Japanese). Without spoiling too much, we would say that the girl gets into big trouble, and has to go through an archetypal journey and confront this new world. 

In North America, the film was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, which means that it got dubbed by some of the most famous voice actors of all time, including John Ratzenberger (Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Cars, Incredibles). It is the only hand-drawn and foreign-language animated feature to win the Academy Awards. It is also frequently included in the best movies of the 21st-century lists, with frequent rankings at the top five.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train

Oof, that’s a long one. This title is the one we hinted at when we talked about the highest-grossing anime movie. Released back in October 2020, it became an overnight success and broke quite a few records. It is now the highest-grossing film in Japan (not just animated but of all), the highest-grossing R-rated movie (for those over 17 years old), and also the highest-grossing anime and Japanese films outside the country.

It’s really not that complicated. Through the tale of an archetypal hero, one who has suffered a terrible loss (his whole family was murdered by demons), the protagonist becomes a demon slayer. Through this revenge story, we see the characters grow and evolve beyond their beginnings. A friend of mine from Japan recently wrote an excellent review covering the film. Check it out on

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Final Say

These are the best movies that you can possibly offer to introduce your friends outside the anime fanbase. They are not only great animated feature films, they are also excellent movies standing outside any genre. Through the tale of stories as old as humans are, we get to explore our being in this very strange yet real world. If you are interested in picking up a good anime series apart from movies, you can find it here.