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.
Once you’ve consumed every classic Disney and Pixar film, the world of anime is typically the next stop for any budding anglophone animation connoisseur. And what a wondrous place it is to explore. Japan’s best animated films are as smart and sophisticated as any live-action drama, using breathtaking visuals and ingenious universe-building to tell stories that are often fantastical and thrilling but pack deep emotional punches.
Crucially, they frequently have both adults and kids in mind - a film from the famed Studio Ghibli might star adorable forest sprites, but those creatures are used to deliver an impactful message about environmental calamity. Not all of them are child-friendly, though. For a novice, it can all be a bit overwhelming to jump in, so here are 20 excellent movies to start with.