There are few forms of entertainment that offer as much versatility and creative freedom as anime, but there’s still a bit of a stigma that’s associated with the medium. There are some exceptional stories being told in anime that audiences are limiting themselves from experiencing just because of unwarranted hesitation and preconceived notions about what anime needs to be.
RELATED: 15 Best Anime Movies Ranked (According To IMDb)
Like any medium, there are certain stereotypes that can fill anime, but they’re not present in every property and are less rampant in self-contained narratives, like movies. Anime feature films are an excellent resource for anime beginners and those who are reluctant to give it a shot. There are plenty of anime movies that abandon certain anime staples and tell some absolutely incredible stories.
10 Your Name Crafts A Remarkable Love Story With A Smart Sci-Fi Twist
Makoto Shinkai has become a renowned anime filmmaker and most of his movies depict extremely powerful romances and coming-of-age stories. Your Name might be Shinkai’s magnum opus. It’s a delicate story about two young adults who strangely find themselves displaced in each other’s bodies. Your Name subverts typical body swap and rom-com conventions to create something special. There have been repeated efforts to try and make a live-action American version of Your Name happen, but it’s absolutely a story that doesn’t need to experience any sort of update. Your Name sets the standard for modern love stories.
9 Millennium Actress Is An Evocative Journey Into Someone’s Life & The Power Of A Legacy
All of Satoshi Kon’s anime movies are iconic works of art that make it even more devastating that the auteur’s career was cut short. Most of Kon’s material grapples with bleak questions of identity, which aren’t fully absent in Millennium Actress, but they’re also their most restrained here. The contemplative movie has an acclaimed movie star reflect back on her prolific career, but because it’s Satoshi Kon, her nostalgic voyage is presented in an unconventional and visually astounding manner. It’s a poetic and simple story that feels more at home in an arthouse film than an anime.
8 The Wind Rises Is Hayao Miyazaki At His Most Earnest & Humble
Anyone who has seen enough of Hayao Miyazaki’s work should realize that he has a passion for planes and aviation. The Wind Rises allows Miyazaki to truly embrace this fascination and use it to tell a painful story about how something beautiful can be used to inflict pain and destruction.
RELATED: 10 Best Anime Movies Not Based On Manga Or Franchise (According To IMDb)
Jiro Horikoshi just longs to create planes but is forced to wrestle with their use in World War II. It’s mature subject matter that doesn’t rely on the same supernatural flourishes as Miyazaki’s other movies.
7 I Want To Eat Your Pancreas Evokes Tears Early On & Doesn’t Hold Back
There are a number of anime films, just like dramatic movies, that intentionally pull at the audience’s heartstrings and want to have people bawling their eyes out by the time that the credits roll. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas doesn’t even attempt to hide how it’s going to be an emotionally grueling story. It honestly depicts how painful it can be to love someone who has a debilitating illness or limited time left. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas can be manipulative at times, but the relationship connects and it earns its struggles.
6 Perfect Blue Is A Gripping Psychological Drama With Thoughtful Turns
All of Satoshi Kon’s anime movies should be required viewing, even for those that have zero interest in anime, but Perfect Blue has become the director’s most prolific work. Perfect Blue juxtaposes a vulnerable performer’s struggles to figure out the image that she wants to put out for herself with a dangerous stalker’s growing obsession. It’s a paralyzing story about the cost of fame and how easy it can be to become corrupted. Perfect Blue even largely inspired Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, so anyone that enjoys that trippy movie deserves to give Perfect Blue a shot.
5 Redline Turns A Space Race Into The Attraction Of A Lifetime
The majority of the anime movies included here tell high-minded and emotionally grueling stories that largely prioritize character over eccentric animation. Redline is the exception, and it’s a simple movie that revolves around a prestigious intergalactic race. Redline is pure spectacle and it wants to celebrate over-the-top velocity and unusual characters.
RELATED: The 10 Best Anime Movies On Crunchyroll, According To IMDb
It’s an excellent example of how animation in these types of movies can break all of the rules. However, Redline doesn’t come dependent on anime clichés and anyone who enjoys Fast and the Furious or the podracing in Star Wars can get a kick out of Redline.
4 Porco Rosso Combines Studio Ghibli’s Sense Of Wonder With Serious Subject Matter
Porco Rosso is an anime movie that is so purely Hayao Miyazaki and best represents the two extremes of the filmmaker. On one side, Porco Rosso is a serious narrative about an expert World War I fighter pilot and his ragtag friends and loved ones, but on the other, it indulges in Miyazaki’s fascination with the impossible and it inexplicably makes its titular fighter ace a pig. This makes Porco Rocco the perfect hybrid that can be enjoyed for its deeper message, but also with how it uses anime to enhance its story.
3 Paprika Is A Fascinating Deconstruction Of The Human Mind & Memory
Paprika is the final film by Satoshi Kon and in many ways, it’s his busiest piece of work. Paprika jumps into the complex territory of dreams and the many layers that make up somebody’s subconscious. Paprika is one of Kon’s more psychologically dense and visually ambitious movies that feel impossible to pull off outside of anime. However, there’s so much of the same DNA shared between something like Paprika and the works of Christopher Nolan, especially Inception, that it’s easy to see how this movie transcends its medium.
2 Ride Your Wave Proves The Eternal Bonds Of Love & The Importance Of Grief
Masaaki Yuasa has accomplished a tremendous amount over the past decade, both when it comes to anime feature films as well as television series. Yuasa’s work specializes in unpredictable animation that plays by its own rules and it often represents how free and limitless anime can be. Ride Your Wave still features eye-popping visuals, but it tells a more grounded story about loss, grief, and how to mourn. A highly irregular relationship is formed through intense hardship, but in the end, it feels more like a fantasy film with magical realism than something that’s traditionally reflective of anime.
1 A Silent Voice Presents True Kindness & Empathy That Everyone Can Learn From
There are certain ideas that are explored in anime movies that would only get diluted if stretched out across a full series. Sometimes the best story is one that’s direct and can cover tremendous ground in a brief time rather than prolonged serialization. A Silent Voice is a deeply human story about an ignorant bully who terrorizes a deaf classmate, only to reconnect with her years later and realize the error of his ways. A Silent Voice presents such a moving, honest relationship that can transform even the darkest of hearts.
NEXT: The 5 Best & 5 Worst Anime Series & Movies That Got A CGI Remake
Naruto: First 7 Characters Madara Uchiha Killed (In Chronological Order)
About The Author
(757 Articles Published)
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. Daniel recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales” and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel. Daniel’s extra musings can be found @DanielKurlansky on Twitter.
More From Daniel Kurland