The 20 movies you need to know

For those looking to get into anime movies, it can certainly be daunting given the unfamiliar descriptors such as kodomo, shonen, seinen, josei, and kodomomuke that are used to describe the overall genre. And as our exploration of 20 essential anime for beginners revealed, it’s a hot topic when there are perceived omissions.

If there was one unifying trait for the above subgenres, it’s that most anime movies are action-packed – albeit performed in a very different way than your blockbuster. average Hollywood, who is often stereotypical and easy to predict.

Equal parts dreamlike and serious, these are the 20 anime movies and action TV shows you need to know more about.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is a series of eight separate stories that all revolve around a different character (all named JoJo, all part of the same family) who learn that they are destined to battle supernatural forces during the different time periods in which they live.

With vampires, Egyptian ghosts, murder mysteries, 19th century New York and a soundtrack by 90s pop group Savage Garden, this stuff is bonkers! Film legend Takashi Miike’s live-action feature film adaptation of the same name is also worth a look.


Comic book legend Warren Ellis is writing a stunning video game adaptation that goes to the emotional jugular. The series is currently running for two seasons on Netflix and watching Trevor Belmont do battle with Dracula and his henchmen is a joy to behold.

Astro Boy

Astro Boy was made for kids in the 60s. So, it’s kind enough for today’s audiences who are more used to a more violent genre. So why is it on an action anime list? Because without it, there would be no list. 40% of the TV-owning population in Japan have watched the original 193 episodes of this show. Without his gorgeous renderings of a robotic future, who knows what the landscape of Japanese animation would look like today?

ninja scroll

ninja scroll is one of the animated features that managed to seep into the west (probably via numerous college dorms on sketchy VHS tapes). There’s no real nifty message or dreamy subplot here, but there’s a ninja determined to fight off a bunch of demons and do it in an amazing animation style that still takes you through nearly 30 years. later.

Princess Mononoke

The sprawling fantasy epic from legendary animation house Studio Ghibli is a must-have for any anime fan. It is a slow combustion, but hyper-violent. Rich and rewarding magical and historical fiction that beautifully explores humanity’s impact on the environment.

A punch

Our titular hero A punch, Saitama, is so powerful that he can end all battles with just one punch. While this immense power might suggest a lack of drama in this action anime series, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Thanks to a depth accorded to the character of Saitama, the viewer is left to contemplate a Clark Kent-esque existence where the internal battle is often more impactful.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

In a world where humans have been confined to living and working in isolated underground communities by a cruel overlord known as the Spiral King, two boys hijack a mecha suit named Lagann and join the human resistance on the surface. This series features some of the biggest and craziest mechas you’re likely to see on screen this side of Mobile Suit Gundam.

my hero academia

relatively newcomer, my hero academia is becoming incredibly popular. In a world where having superpowers is fairly normal, Izuku finds himself one of the unlucky ones to be born without any. Obsessed with becoming a superhero, he enrolled in a school for heroes after a chance encounter with the world’s greatest hero.

The attack of the Titans

The attack of the Titans is a recent – but incredibly solid – addition to the world of action anime that sees humans take on hulking, man-eating giants. Of course, it’s a lot more intricate than that – and the gorgeous and creative renderings of the titans themselves should be enough to get you hooked.

Hunter X Hunter

Gon, our young protagonist, discovers that the father he thought was dead is not only living, but is actually an elite member of humanity known simply as “The Hunter”. It’s a touching coming-of-age tale, complete with dad issues, ethics, and tons of fights.

Mobile Suit Gundam

It’s a familiar story in the anime world; a war-torn dystopian future in which a teenage boy who loses everything finds himself piloting a prototype full-body war robot across the galaxy, defeating evil in the name of good.

1979 Mobile Suit Gundam laid the groundwork for this sort of thing. Consequently, there would be no Pacific Rim Where Transformers if Gundam didn’t fly first.

Dragon Ball Z

Is there anyone in the world who needs Dragon Ball Z did he explain to them? The sequel to the original dragonball The series sees Goku – now an adult (and also an alien?!) – on a quest to rescue his son, who has been kidnapped by Goku’s alien brother. The series is expansive, the fights are jaw-dropping, and its cultural impact is incredibly deep.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Two brothers use the scientifically proven process of alchemy to resurrect their deceased mother, to accidentally lose their bodies and keep their mother very dead. Now joined in a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone to recover their bodies, Fullmetal Alchemist quickly turns into an intense exploration of an alchemy-infused government conspiracy.


Teenage Ichigo reluctantly finds himself becoming a Soul Reaper tasked with defending humans from evil spirits and other Grim Reaper-related activities. In the 366-episode series, Igchigo and his classmates set out to rescue Rukia, the Soul Reaper who initially stood in for Ichigo but made some earth-shattering discoveries along the way.

The series achieved cult status in the early 2000s — and while some episodes are filled (nobody knocks it out of the park 366 times in a row, right?) — its story and character work overall have never disappointed.

A play

A play is more than enough to keep you busy for a while, as there are over 860 episodes and counting. Focusing on the adventures of teenager Monkey L. Duffy – and his obsession with becoming the world’s greatest pirate by obtaining the ultimate treasure (the titular One Piece) – he scores odd points for the fact that the body Monkey’s is basically made of rubber because he ate a ghostly piece of fruit.


A global phenomenon that reached hungry Western audiences through Cartoon Network in the early 2000s, naruto follows Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who wishes to be recognized as the strongest in his village. It’s not quite there yet, however. The series’ 220 episodes are downright fun.

ghost in the shell

The dystopian future-noir sets the bar incredibly high with its sophisticated exploration of identity intricately interwoven through searing violence and a hail of bullets. It was massively influential east and west without Scarlett Johansson ever having to come close.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the granddaddy of ’90s Mecha-Anime. Known for being so good it basically saved TV anime at the time, the series follows a teenager, Shinji, who is recruited by his ex-dad to pilot a combat robot on the front line against a race of demonic aliens called “Angels”.

If you get a bit of a religious vibe, you’re not wrong; Neon Genesis Evangelion literally means “The Gospel of the New Age”. It’s essential work that’s been legendaryly hard to come by (a DVD will currently run you around $500) but all is not lost. netflix announcement that all 26 episodes will be available to stream worldwide this year.

cowboy bebop

Yet another influential, stone-cold classic, and a perfect entry point into the world of action anime. It’s almost a cliched concept now, but at some point in the past the idea of ​​setting a western in space was a new and strange concept.

The series follows an eclectic team of misfits, hitmen and hyper-intelligent Corgis as they fight their way through the wastelands of the solar system. Netflix just announced that a live-action remake will hit screens in 2019, so get in on the action now and catch up on this dark and inventive series.


Thirty years in the future (in a movie made thirty years ago… so now, basically) and Neo-Tokyo is a sprawling metropolis of crime, futuristic military technology, and biker gangs. The combination of which makes for a sublime tale of post-war catharsis and Cold War panic in one incredible white-knuckled tale. It’s simply stunning, it’s the definitive action anime and it deserves your full attention.

For more recommended viewing, be sure to check out the best animated movies of all time.

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