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The 20 Best Anime Films on Netflix

From Miyazaki’s early work to some recent tear-jerkers.

Demon Slayer just became the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, surpassing the previous record-holder, Spirited Away. Anime movies are only getting bigger and bigger. With that in mind, we compiled a list of the best anime movies on Netflix for you to watch right now. Although Spirited Away isn’t in the catalog, there are some great options for everyone out there, from Hayao Miyazaki diehards to people looking to dip their toes in the genre. Without further ado, these are the 20 best anime movies on Netflix right now. 

1. The Castle of Cagliostro

While movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke have firmly found their footing as some of the greatest animated movies of all time, some older movies of Hayao Miyazaki’s go overlooked. The Castle of Cagliostro was the legendary director’s feature film debut, and it tells the tale of master thief Arsène Lupin III. The movie is thematically different from many of Miyazaki’s later entries, but still features his telltale beautiful portrait shots and witty characters. The Castle of Cagliostro is a must-watch for Studio Ghibli fans, as it provides amazing insight into the genesis of Miyazaki as a filmmaker. 

2. A Whisker Away

This is one of the most recent entries on the list; A Whisker Away released in English on Netflix this past June. The film depicts the story of Miya Sasaki, an unhappy middle school girl who receives a magical Noh mask from a mysterious seller, which grants her the miraculous ability to transform into a cat. As she spends more and more time as Tarō the cat, Miyo has to face numerous questions regarding the self and who she truly is. The animation is beautiful and the film poses questions about what makes us who we are. It’s introspective, colorful and adorable; you’ll come away from the movie with a totally new perspective on relationships and the self. The film was directed by Sailor Moon director Junichi Satoh and written by Anohana writer Mari Okada.

3. Flavors of Youth

Flavors of Youth is an anthology film, so it actually covers three seemingly disparate stories: “The Rice Noodles”, “A Little Fashion Show”, and “Love in Shanghai”. All of the segments of the film, which was a Japanese-Chinese co-production between CoMix Wave Films and members of Haoliners Animation League, take place in China, beautifully highlighting the country’s distinct cityscapes. Flavors of Youth is only 75 minutes long, with each segment making up roughly a third of the runtime. But directors Li Haoling, Jiaoshou Yi Xiaoxing and Yoshitaka Takeuchi manage to pack in tons of sentiment and commentary on family dynamics in the film’s short runtime.

4. A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice, which is based on the manga of the same name, is an incredibly heartfelt teen drama from 2016. The film investigates the horrors of teen bullying, invoking characters who have been both the perpetrators and victims of harassment. In this way, director Naoko Yamada (and original manga writer Yoshitoki Ōima) provides a less black and white narrative of teenage trauma. It’s a thematically dark film, rendered beautifully by Kyoto Animation. This movie is truly a must-watch; you will come away from it a different person than when you began.

5. Okko’s Inn

The 2018 film Okko’s Inn is based on the series of children’s novels of the same name, released between 2003 and 2013. The film tells the tale of young Okko and her grandmother Mineko (and a ghost or two) as they manage the Hananoyu Inn. It’s a beautiful movie, which includes scenes of cutting sadness peppered in amongst moments of pure joy. Unlike some of the other options on this list, Okko’s Inn is a great choice for children and adults alike. 

6. Expelled from Paradise

Expelled from Paradise is another great entry for fans of science fiction. The film, directed by Seiji Mizushima and written by Gen Urobuchi, tells the story of agent Angela Balzac, who works on the space station DEVA. The inhabitants of the station have no physical bodies; their minds have been inputted into a virtual reality environment. This is a super cool movie for fans of science-fiction world-building and post-apocalyptic/dystopian futures. The animation, from Toei Animation and Graphinica has a cool, paler color palette, but the complicated sci-fi narrative is what makes this 2014 film really stand out. 

7. Children of the Sea

Children of the Sea is a 2019 film from director Ayumu Watanabe and producer Eiko Tanaka (of Studio 4 °C). Like many of the entries on the list, this movie is also based on a manga of the same name, written by Daisuke Igarashi—who also wrote the screenplay. As the title suggests, the movie is set near the ocean and uses the backdrop to interrogate numerous questions regarding the relationships between humans and nature. The film follows the relationship between junior high student Ruka—and her two new friends, brothers Umi and Sora—and a series of aquatic supernatural phenomena. 

8. Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Mary and the Witch’s Flower was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a former animator for Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. That much is clear when you watch his 2017 film. Yonebayashi certainly takes cues from legendary Miyazaki in its tale of young Mary Smith, who discovers “fly-by-night”, a curious flower which grants her the ability to become a witch for one night. This film is incredibly cute, and a great option not only for scratching your Miyazaki itch, but for anyone interested in discovering an up-and-coming auteur in the anime genre. 

9. Mirai

Mirai is an extremely cute movie that finds its biggest strengths in its simplicity. From legendary writer/director Mamoru Hosoda and Studio Chizu, the critically acclaimed anime (it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards, among numerous other accolades) tells the story of young Kun Ota as he adjusts to having a newborn sister. The screenplay was inspired by Hosoda’s own experience with his three year old son and explores family dynamics and coming-of-age, told through numerous invocations of fantasy and time travel. 

10. The End of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is widely considered to be one of greatest anime television series of all time. The television show tells the tale of Shinji Akari as he pilots the massive humanoid mecha Evangelion Unit 101 in a series of battles against the hostile alien race, the Angels. The End of Evangelion serves as a parallel ending to the TV show; it picks up where the 24th episode of the show ended and answers some of the questions posed in the series’ 25th and 26th episodes. You honestly can’t consider yourself a diehard anime fan if you haven’t seen this landmark film. 

11. MFKZ

MFKZ (Mutafukaz) is a French-Japanese co-production between Ankama Animations and Studio 4°C from 2017, directed by Shōjirō Nishimi and Guillaume “Run” Renard. MFKZ is a deeply chaotic and turbulent science fiction movie, which takes cues from many great films of the sci-fi canon. The English dub cast also includes some bigtime names, from legendary actor Giancarlo Esposito to Long Beach rapper Vince Staples. The film features a super unique animation style reminiscent of sketched-out video games like Borderlands. It’s truly worth a watch just for a glimpse of the unique animation style. 

12. Naruto Blood Prison

Naruto requires no introduction. Although this movie was met with semi-mixed reviews upon its 2011 release (2014 for North America), Naruto diehards are desperate for any content we can get with our favorite nine-tailed demon fox Naruto Uzumaki. Blood Prison depicts the story of iconic protagonist Naruto after he is wrongly arrested and sent to prison for attacking the Fourth Raikage. 

13. Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You

Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of Pokemon movies available on Netflix right now, but of the limited selection, I Choose You is certainly a cute entry to the franchise. Released as part of a 20th anniversary celebration of the anime series’ initial release, the film (based loosely off of the anime’s pilot) tells the story Pokémon Trainer Ash Ketchum and his pals, Pikachu, Verity, and Sorrel, on their quest to meet the Legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh. It’s not exactly a cinematic masterpiece, but certainly a fun watch for any big time fans of the franchise. It’s also exactly 1 hour and 37 minutes long, so we had to include it. 

14. The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words is only 46 minutes long, but manages to pack in a lot of narrative and themes of maturity and loneliness. The film was written, directed and edited by Makoto Shinkai and animated by the studio CoMix Wave Films. The narrative focuses on Takao Akizuki, a 15-year-old aspiring shoemaker, and Yukari Yukino, a 27-year-old woman, as they keep bumping into each other at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Rain, poetry and the Japanese garden are motifs throughout the film, contributing to the film’s overall aesthetic which highlights the beauty in traditionally gloomy spaces.

15. Lu Over the Wall

Lu Over the Wall, directed by Masaaki Yuasa (of studio Science Saru) and written by Yuasa and Reiko Yoshida, is a really cute entry on the list. The film tells the tale of Kai Ashimoto and his burgeoning friendship with ningyo (a fish creature from Japanese folklore) Lu. It’s a beautifully eye-catching and colorful film with a fairly simple narrative, making it an easy and fun watch for any fans of the genre.

16. NiNoKuni

NiNoKuni is a film adaptation of the renowned video game series of the same name. The games, which have been released since 2010, include animated sequences produced by legendary Studio Ghibli, and most of the games’ music was composed by Joe Hisaishi, the composer for all of Miyazaki’s films. The magic-filled adventure that is the 2019 film may not be a masterpiece, but it’s certainly a solid watch for any fans of the franchise.

17. Evangelion Death (True)

This film is another followup to the legendary anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion. This iteration is an edit of the film Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, which was released as the first installment of the film series following the anime. The film consists of a recap of the series’ first 24 episodes as well as a substantial amount of new animation, setting up the events of The End of Evangelion, mentioned above. You could hypothetically watch this movie as your first entry into the franchise, as it explains many of the events of the series. However, the anime series is truly a masterpiece, so there’s good reason to binge it before diving into the films. 

18. Sol Levante

Sol Levante is only 4 minutes long, but it’s still technically a film, albeit short. It is the first hand-drawn anime using 4K HDR technology, which allowed the artists to provide even more detail than traditionally permitted, giving the film an entirely fresh visual style. The film tells the story of a young warrior on a quest for a place said to grant wishes. The narrative aside, Sol Levante is an immensely innovative film for anime as a whole and the technological capabilities opening up to the genre.

19. Fireworks

Fireworks is a 2017 anime based on the 1993 live-action Japanese film, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? It tells the story of a romance between Norimichi Shimada and Nazuna Oikawa. Although the film doesn’t break any barriers from a narrative perspective, the gorgeous music (composed by Satoru Kōsaki) and beautiful animation (who doesn’t love animated fireworks?) make it a great choice for fans of romance movies looking to get into anime. 

20. Berserk: Golden Age Arc I – The Egg of the King

The first entry from the Berserk: Golden Age Arc is such a banger. Based on the Berserk manga series, the first film tells the story of mercenary Guts in the war against Midland’s rival kingdom. The series is set in medieval pseudo-Europe dark fantasy world, and follows the tale of Guts and Griffith, the leader of the mercenary band called the “Band of the Hawk”. All three movies (released between 2012 and 2013) from the series are available to stream on Netflix, so this trilogy is a great option if you’re looking to binge. 

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