Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland shot through with revealing economic anxieties, Hayao Miyazaki’s smash hit—the most commercially successful movie (animated or otherwise) in Japanese history—is dense enough to fuel a dozen dissertations. Thankfully, it’s also a blast: warm, witty and wild.
Animation isn’t limited to Disney, Pixar and those damn Minions. Sure, that’s where plenty of anglophone cartoon lovers start. But once you’ve exhausted the Western classics, the next stop is the world anime – and what a wonderful world it is to explore. Bursting with eye-popping visuals and thrilling storytelling, Japan’s best animated films can stand up to any live-action drama for detailed universe building and emotional impact.
And if you think you’re simply too old to dive in now, don’t fret: many animes have both adults and kids in mind – though parents should know that just because a movie features adorable forest sprites doesn’t necessarily mean it’s child-friendly. Need some help navigating? Here are 20 excellent movies to start with.