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The 15 best anime movies of all time

Maybe you’ve heard about Spirited Away, but there’s so much more to the best anime movies from Japan’s finest artists

Best Studio Ghibli films: Castle in the Sky
Castle in the Sky
By Time Out contributors and Joshua Rothkopf |

Animation comes in all shapes and sizes, from classic Disney fantasies to modern Pixar movies and weird products of the independent fringe. But Japan's best anime movies have arguably advanced the form the most, making sophisticated storytelling and strong female characters a must. Academy Awards? Not the benchmark here. The best anime movies are about pure transportation into other worlds. Here are the top 15 anime movies, ranked.

Best anime movies of all time

Best animation movies: Ghost in the Shell
Movies, Animation

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Best leave the young ones at home—Mamoru Oshii’s cyberthriller (one of the few anime features to get a wide theatrical release in the U.S.) features gore aplenty. Adults will find existential questions à la Blade Runner and other sci-fi dystopias.

Best Studio Ghibli films: Castle in the Sky
Movies, Animation

Castle in the Sky (1986)

Flying ships, airborne pirates, damsels in distress and government agents fighting the good fight—no offense, Jude Law, but this is how to do the whole sky captain thing right.

Best animated films: Perfect Blue
Movies, Animation

Perfect Blue (1997)

Well, perfect may be stretching it. But anime fans swear by this thriller-cum-philosophical-treatise, in which ruminations about the nature of reality offer an excuse to indulge in a bit of the old animated ultraviolence.

Best animated movies: Millenium Actress

Millennium Actress (2001)

A documentarian tries to uncover the reasons why a famed actress disappeared from the spotlight 30 years earlier. Yes, it doesn't quite sound like an animated film, so prepare to have your mind blown.

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