10 Best Animated Movies Of The 21st Century, According To IMDb

Anime is a broad term that covers a Japanese animation line, both hand-drawn and computer-generated, from fantasy epics and jaw-dropping sci-fi to intimate drama and gritty realism. It has been around for over 100 years, but its popularity really exploded in the second half of the 20th century to become one of Japan’s top cultural exports.


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The genre has continued to produce innovative and engaging films in the 21st century. Hayao Miyazaki and its Studio Ghibli heirs have delivered classics like Taken away as if by magic and When Marnie Was Here. Artists outside Japan have also successfully explored anime, such as the Dutch animator Michel Dudok de Wit with his movie The red turtle. Without speaking about, Makoto Shinkai catapulted to the forefront of anime with its charming sci-fi love story your name. All of this indicates that anime will remain a hub of creativity for years to come.

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“The Grandfathers of Tokyo” (2003) – IMDb: 7.8/10

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Tokyo Grandfathers is an adventure film from the director Satoshi Konwho also did Paprika and perfect blue. It follows three homeless people in Tokyo who find a baby in the trash on Christmas Eve, so they set out to find the child’s parents.

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It is Kon’s most realistic film, with no magical or sci-fi elements. He doesn’t have the crazy energy to Paprika, but it’s funnier and more sentimental. The three main characters are all absurd and likeable, making for a charming story about finding a family.

‘Ghost in the Shell 2.0’ (2008) – IMDb. 7.9/10

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1995 ghost in the shellaccording to the manga of Masamune Shirow, is a cult classic and one of the most influential animated films of all time. It follows a cyborg law enforcement officer (Atsuko Tanaka/Mimi Woods) and his partner (Akio Otsuka/Richard Epcar) as they investigate an incident where sex robots were hacked and tricked into attacking people.

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It was re-released in 2008 with new images and updated animation, alongside a remixed soundtrack. Purists may prefer the 1995 version, but there’s no denying that the reissue is visually superior. However, the film’s main appeal remains the way it explores themes of identity in a world of high technology, where the line between human and robot is increasingly blurred.

“When Marnie Was There” (2014) – IMDb: 7.7/10

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Anna is a 12-year-old girl with asthma, so her adoptive parents send her to their relatives in their house by the sea. While exploring the wetlands there, Anna comes across a rundown mansion and the girl who seems to live there. Anna befriends the mysterious blonde Marnie, but many questions remain. What is Marnie’s story? Is she a ghost? A memory?

When Marnie Was Here is a Ghibli film by Hiromasa Yonebayashwho also made The secret world of Arriety. It’s a heartwarming story told through beautiful 2D animation at which Ghibli is the best. It received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

“The Wind Rises” (2013) – IMDb: 7.7/10

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The wind picks up is the most recent film directed by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of his most realistic films and tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the engineer who designed many of the Japanese fighter planes used in World War II. In particular, the film explores how the talented and idealistic Horikoshi was exploited by his country’s militaristic rulers.

The animation is gorgeous, as you’d expect from a Ghibli movie, and the landscapes of pre-war Japan are depicted almost like a fantasy world. The sequence showing the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 is particularly successful.

‘Evangelion: 2.0 You (Cannot) Advance (2009) – IMDb: 7.9

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Evangelion: 2.0 is the second entry in the Rebuilding Evangeliona series of four films which recount the events from Neon Genesis Evangelion To display. This series followed the conflict between humans using giant mechs and a race of beings known as angels.

Neon Genesis Evangelion has been cited as one of the most influential anime series ever made and has also been referenced in many western anime shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls. Wes Anderson even confessed to being a fan of the series. For those who want to try, the Rebuild movies are a good place to start.

‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ (2013) – IMDb: 8.0/10

Princess Kaguya playing with sakura petals in The Tale of Princess Kaguya

A bamboo cutter discovers a baby girl inside a bamboo stick, and he and his wife adopt her. The girl, whom they called Princess, is growing rapidly and appears to have magical abilities. The princess and her new parents move to the capital, where many suitors try to win her hand, but she remains sad and lost. To find her place in the world, Princess must first uncover the mystery of her past and where she came from.

Chloe Grace Moretz does a terrific job as the titular princess in the English dub. She is joined by Darren Criss, James Caan, Lucy Liu, and Beautiful Bridges. Impressively, the film currently holds a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Wolf Children” (2012) – IMDb: 8.1/10

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Wolf children focuses on young mother Hana (Aoi Miyazaki/Colleen Clinkenbeard) who is struggling to raise her two children, Ame (Yukito Nishii/Micah Soluso) and Yuki (Haru Kuroki/Jad Saxton), after the tragic death of their werewolf father. Children must learn to deal with their half-wolf nature, while keeping it a secret from society.

This turns out to be easier said than done. Yuki, in particular, struggles to master his wolf side, and he even breaks down at one point and injures a classmate. Despite this supernatural premise, Wolf children is truly a family drama and a story to come. The characters are cute and well designed, thanks to the artist Yoshiyuki Sadamotowho also worked on Neon Genesis Evangelion. But the main appeal is the writing and the voice cast, which embody these characters with genuine emotion.

“Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004) – IMDb: 8.2/10

Howl protects Sophie in her bird form.

Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle is a Miyazaki film based on the beloved children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones. It takes place in a fantasy world where two kingdoms are at war. An evil witch curses young Sophie (Chieko Baisho/Emily Mortimer), turning her into an old woman. Sophie sets out to undo the curse, and in doing so, teams up with a young wizard named Howl (Takuya Kimura/Christian Bale). The two soon become embroiled in the war.

Besides the magical setting, Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle explores anti-war themes. Miyazaki was reportedly inspired to make the film due to his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2013 he named Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle as his favorite of his own films. “I wanted to send the message that life is worth living, and I don’t think that has changed,” he said.

‘Your Name’ (2016) – IMDb: 8.4/10

Mitsuha and Taki sitting together in your name

your name follows two Japanese high school students living in separate parts of the country who inexplicably begin to swap bodies. Some mornings they each wake up in the body of the other and have to live a day in their life. They struggle to make sense of the situation and the strange connection between them, and in the process they form a close bond.

It might look like an anime terrible friday, but it’s actually a surprisingly moving story about loneliness and connection. The voice is excellent and the images are always beautiful. Not for nothing, your name grossed over $380 million at the box office to become the third highest-grossing animated film of all time. Director Makoto Shinkai is set to release a new fantasy adventure film early next year.

‘Spirited Away’ (2001) – IMDb: 8.6/10

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Image via Ghibli Studios

Taken away as if by magic focuses on ten-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi/Daveigh Chase), who discovers a world populated by magical spirits. Many of these entities are friendly, but some are dangerous. Indeed, the witch Yubaba (Mari Natsuki/Suzanne Pleshette) enslaves Chihiro and turns her parents into pigs. In secret, Chiro begins to plan a way to save his parents and escape the spirit world. This is yet another film directed by Miyazaki, and probably his most famous work.

It relies on techniques that it pioneered My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke. The film is visually arresting, with many memorable characters and creatures, from the dragon Haku to the masked ghost No-Face. However, the main draw is the story and the characters. They’re realistic and complex, helping to elevate this fantasy adventure into a mature drama. With it, Miyazaki set the bar exceptionally high for animated films entering the 21st century.

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