When asked about my favorite anime, I usually stick with television series, because if I include movies, that list becomes very movie-centric. It’s even less varied if I give my favorite anime movies, since it’s top-heavy with Studio Ghibli. But oh how I love anime films! So in the spirit of including them among my favorites, while also creating a list with some diversity, I’m giving my five favorite anime films with the caveat that each film on the list has to have a different director. Sorry, Hayao Miyazaki. Apologies, Mamoru Hosoda.
While you peruse my list below, why don’t you give yours in the comments? What are you five favorite anime films from five different directors? Also, be sure to check out our anime movie recommendations!
1. Princess Mononoke
It’s a credit to Miyazaki that there’s no one movie that is consistently pointed to as his masterpiece – it could be Spirited Away or Nausicaa or Laputa or this one, which I still marvel at each time I watch it. A tale of how greed can destroy our hearts and the world around us, Miyazaki’s environmental tale strikes such a perfect note of being meaningful without being pushy, of being brutally honest and still touching. The animation is top-notch and remains shocking in its vividness.
Article: Hayao Miyazaki’s Common Grace
2. In This Corner of the World
I recently watched this tale of the final days of World War II near Hiroshima. Like the previous entry, this movie is subtle in delivering its message, inserting the audience into the daily victories and later unending suffering at the war reaches its horrific climax. I was so lucky to get to see the film upon its release; the DVD is coming out in English soon, and I can’t recommend enough that you give it a watch.
3. Grave of the Fireflies
From one film about the bombings of Japan during WWII to another, Grave is the second Ghibli movie on this list (but I’m not cheating – this one was directed by Isao Takahata). One thing I often see when people comment about this movie is that it’s too painful to watch twice, and certainly I felt that way, going more than a decade between viewing the story about a brother and sister’s slow descent into disease and starvation. But I saw it again last year, and was glad I did; it was more meaningful and even better the second time around.
4. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Haruhi is such a trip. In the television series, there are moment that just work so well, like Yuki’s explanation of her existence and Kyon’s exposition, but there are also times where this vast, creative story feels too confined by a 22-minute run time. The Disappearance movie is told in one big whole, and it’s the best for it. Beautifully animated, well-developed, and full of love for the original series yet unafraid to jump entirely into a new portion of the tale, Disappearance is also the most heart-warming piece of Haruhi. Previous viewing of season one is required.
5. The Boy and the Beast
The top four slots were easy (other than picking which Miyazaki film to include), but the fifth was harder, both because there were a lot of films that I deem were of comparable quality and because I love Mamoru Hosoda’s works so much that it’s hard to select just one. The Boy and the Beast, a movie about a boy finding his “heart” by journeying into an animal world, edges out the others by a bit, though, because it’s more ambitious in its scope and more beautifully animated than either Summer Wars or TGWLTT, and while it’s not as tightly knit as Wolf Children, it has a heart-warming quality that means so much to me.
There were many others that I wanted to add to this list. Besides Ghibli fare and other Hosoda works, Akira, Evangelion 2.0, Metropolis, two Shinkai films, and a couple Kara no Kyoukai movies almost squeezed in. But now I want to hear from you: what are your five films?