Best Anime Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

Discover the best anime movies, ranked by Metascore

Cynthia Widmayer

'Spirited Away'

Courtesy of Disney / YouTube

If you are even remotely familiar with Pokémon, chances are that you know what anime is. In Japan, anime is the term for any work of animation. However, in North America, it is a genre of 2D animation movies and television shows produced in Japan and inspired by Japanese drawings and comics. Sharp, vibrant graphics and fantastical storylines usually characterize anime, and it's hard to miss the bulging eyes or the colorful, spiky hair.  

For the last couple of decades, anime has been making waves among the English-speaking audience, with multi-million dollar global hits elevating the genre from niche to right in the zeitgeist. 

Whether you are just discovering anime or want to add to your list of movies to watch, here Metacritic highlights the best anime movies, based on their Metascore.

Spirited Away

Metascore: 96
Best for: Fantasy and adventure lovers
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 125 minutes

Spirited Away is the story of Chihiro (voiced by Rumi Hiiragi in the original Japanese film and Daveigh Chase in the English version), a little girl who visits an abandoned amusement park with her parents and gets trapped in a world of spirits. Marked as the greatest anime movie of all time (so far) due to its impressive Metascore, Spirited Away is also known for its beautiful animation, fantastic storyline and direction, well-developed characters, and Joe Hisaishi's magnificent musical score.

"Such a landmark in animation that labeling it a masterpiece almost seems inadequate." — Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

Grave of the Fireflies

Metascore: 94
Best for: Fans of war drama and tear-jerkers
Where to watch: Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 89 minutes

Grave of the Fireflies made Studio Ghibli famous with the story of a little brother and sister duo trying to survive in war-ravaged Japan. From the complex anti-terror narrative to the profound ending, Grave of the Fireflies proves that animation has just as much power to move and uplift as any other genre. 

"While a child might be affected by the film, it takes the weight of a certain number of years to fully absorb what director Isao Takahata has put up on the screen." — James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Only Yesterday

Metascore: 90
Best for: Lovers of romantic drama
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 118 minutes

If you adore slice-of-life, sentimental human dramas, Only Yesterday will appeal to you. Although animated, the movie rarely feels cartoonish because it's targeted at an adult audience. Viewers journey alongside 27-year-old Taeko (voiced by Miki Imai in the original Japanese movie and Daisy Ridley in the English-dubbed version) as she takes a train ride to her extended family in the country, reminiscing about the past and the future, forgotten romances and memories, and childhood experiences that shaped her life. Only Yesterday is sensitive, self introspective, and moving, and a must-watch offering from Studio Ghibli.

"It's both an important part of Ghibli's history and a gem in its own right." — Sherilyn Connelly, The Village Voice

My Neighbor Totoro

Metascore: 86
Best for: Fans of mystery, fantasy, and adventure
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 86 minutes

Two girls and their adventures with the magical creatures that live in the forest form the plot of My Neighbor Totoro, but the movie is so much more than just that: It is a personification of innocence and imagination, of a benign world where everything is good and pure. Aimed at children but enjoyed by people of all ages, My Neighbor Totoro awakens the child in us and makes us smile with the child-like sense of thrill and adventure and Pokémon-esque cuteness.

"An otherworldly tale of childhood and a definitive work of imagination." — Dan Jolin, Empire

Kiki's Delivery Service

Metascore: 83
Best for: Lovers of feel-good family dramas with a touch of adventure
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 103 minutes

A teenage witch (voiced by Minami Takayama) with a talking cat sets out for a year alone in a far-flung town as part of her training. The result is the endearing family drama that has continued to charm both young and old alike over the years. Kiki's Delivery Service may be a simple tale of a young girl trying to find her place in this world, but it sends out powerful messages about hope, belief, and the search for one's true self.

"It's a sweet, small story that deals comfortably in big emotions when required, whilst also taking time to speculate on the nature of art and the difficulties of navigating adolescence." — David Sugarman, Cinevue

The Wind Rises

Metascore: 83
Best for: Fans of biographical and historical dramas
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 126 minutes

A fictionalized biography of famous aeronautical designer Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Hideaki Anno in the Japanese film and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English version), The Wind Rises was director Hayao Miyazaki's swan song and often hailed as his masterpiece. Blending the elements of a biopic with fantasy and drama, the movie inspires a sense of wonder and captivates with its beautiful animation. 

"An otherworldly tale of childhood and a definitive work of imagination." — Dan Jolin, Empire

Penguin Highway

Metascore: 82
Best for: Fans of fun-filled adventure and sci-fi
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Pluto TV, TubiVudu
Runtime: 118 minutes

Adventure and discovery form the heart of this lively anime from Studio Colorido Co., telling the story of fourth-grader Aoyama (Kana Kita), a budding genius who must solve the mystery of a strange penguin infiltration of the small, unhappening Japanese town. The storyline might not be novel or mind-blowing, but the delightful animation, bold colors, and the dreamy, almost meditative feel of the movie have made Penguin Highway an anime classic for all.

"This well-written cartoon playfully complements the kind of storytelling that Westerners are already enjoying via American-made, live-action series, while incorporating lots of delightfully Japan-specific details along the way." — Peter Debruge, Variety


Metascore: 81
Best for: Those who love emotional family dramas with a fantastical twist
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 98 minutes

Merging parenting and family with fantasy and imagination, Mirai is a growing-up tale of Kun, a little boy whose world drastically changes after the arrival of his baby sister. Over the course of Mamoru Hosoda's movie, Kun comes across the past and the future versions of his family members who help him understand life, in a very Dickensian style (think A Christmas Carol). The short and sweet story is beguiling and wholesome with a balance of realism and fanciful flights. The young version of Kun is voiced by Moka Kamishiraishi, and the adult version is Tasuku Hatanaka.

"Hosoda's unassumingly sumptuous Mirai is a hand-drawn miracle, rivaling Pixar and Ghibli's efforts to devise family entertainment with a complex and humanistic edge." — Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap


Metascore: 81
Best for: Sci-fi adventure fans
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 90 minutes

Brainy but cold scientist Atsuko and her redheaded alter-ego Paprika (voiced by Megumi Hayashibara in the original and Cindy Robinson in the English version) must come together in their fight to save the world from an evil head of a corporation. Some would call it schizophrenia, others would call it cyber-punk, but Paprika remains a dazzling tale of man's obsession with power and what happens as a result. It's not intended for children, because it's trippy and chaotic, just like the human mind. 

"It happens to be one of the most wildly (and disturbingly) inventive animated films I've seen." — David Ansen, Newsweek

Howl's Moving Castle

Metascore: 80
Best for: Lovers of fairytale-like epic fantasy adventures
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 119 minutes

Bringing together Eastern and Western storytelling, Howl's Moving Castle is highly reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, except here it is a young girl cursed with the ugliness of old age and a mysterious wizard in a moving castle who can help her. The movie has all elements of a Disney movie, from the cinematic visuals to the enthralling soundtrack by Hisaishi, but it essentially remains a story of love, beauty, and strength in the face of adversity. 

"The worldview, the sense of childlike fun shaded with adult melancholy, and the joyful, serene attention to visual oddity and wordless beauty could only be made in Japan. And, specifically, made by Hayao Miyazaki." — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly