Must-Watch Anime Films For Newcomers

New to the world of anime and not sure which movies to watch? I’ve got you covered. By this point, you’ve surely seen a few household names floating around — especially if it’s a classic Ghibli film. 

While there are certainly a vast array of options at your disposal, this list is made specifically for those who’ve never ventured into the genre before this point. Whether it’s for you or that reluctant friend who’s interested but needs a little extra nudge, these movie recommendations should hook any newcomer into the genre so they’ll want to stick around for more — I like to think of myself as a master of persuasion, so get ready to be dazzled.  

  1. You can literally just stop reading at this point. Seriously. This movie is absolute magical perfection. It follows two teenagers — city boy, Taki, and small-town girl, Mitsuha — as they discover a mysterious but powerful connection that has them suddenly swapping bodies. They’re confused at the beginning, and as the brief switch-ups continue, the teenagers begin to bicker through written notes and texts over what the other has done during the few hours in their life. And soon enough, you guessed it, they start to develop feelings for each other and decide to meet in person… at which point, things get real complicated.

    I’ll say this right now: this movie is not what you’ll expect it to be. It’s romantic and funny, but good golly is it a rollercoaster of emotion. You will find yourself gasping in shock at its unexpected twists and turns. The storytelling is executed so intensely and intricately that it will have you sitting at the edge of your seat wondering if the two will ever successfully meet. You will be invested in a way you’ve never been before.

    And the animation? Gorgeous. Absolutely breathtaking. The colours are so mesmerizingly vivid you won’t want to look away. Seriously — watch it. 

  2. Interested in an anime film but don’t wanna look beyond Netflix? This is the movie for you. Gentle-mannered Shouko is mercilessly bullied by bad-boy classmate Shoya for her hearing impairment, so much so that she transfers to another school to escape his abuse. After years have gone by, they meet again and Shoya is finally faced with the severity of his past actions. Ridden with remorse, he sets out to make amends and get close to the girl he once tormented so long ago.

    Guys, this movie hurts. Anyone who says anime is for children will eat their words after watching this one. It covers bullying, mental health, disabilities, depression, and even suicide (no one kills themselves, don’t worry!) It’s heartbreakingly real and touches on so many important themes like redemption, forgiveness, and healing. Plus, a main character with a hearing impairment? We love to see it.

  3. It’s not an anime movie rec list without a Ghibli movie. Normally, Spirited Away is at the top of people’s recommendations, but I give Howl’s Moving Castle an edge here purely for its mature themes. In the midst of a war, diffident seamstress Sophie is cursed into an old woman’s body by a nasty witch. Realizing that the curse is too strong for her to break, Sophie flees her town and finds shelter in a creaky moving castle on the hillside — one that belongs to the handsome but dangerous wizard, Howl. As they spend more time together and tackle the complications of the war, Sophie has to face not only her feelings about herself, but also her feelings for the charming man who might be her last hope at regaining her life.

    This is a crowd favourite, y’all. Every detail of this movie may seem innocuous at first, up until the end when you realize they were there for a big reason all along. The characters are hilariously endearing, from the helpful bouncing Turnip Head to the fire demon Calcifer’s sarcastic wit, right down to Howl’s melodramatic meltdowns. Despite all the humour and the magic, the movie also touches on real-life issues such as self-esteem, love, and friendship, and even war — in fact, director Miyazaki stated that the war in this movie was a direct metaphor for the Iraq war, which he greatly opposed. You definitely don’t want to miss this cult classic (or Christian Bale’s dreamy voice acting!)

  4. Most of this list’s been more or less comprised of romance movies, so I thought I’d throw in an old psychological thriller just to shake things up. Pop singer Mima gives up her musical career in a leading girl band to pursue a future in acting. However, as she attempts to focus on her new role, she finds herself being followed by a mysterious stalker and what could even be a frightening ghost of her past. With major life changes and a newfound job working on her own, Mima slowly spirals into paranoia that threatens her very sanity.

    If this plot line sounds familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. There is some speculation that Black Swan happens to be partially inspired by this movie. In fact, Director Darren Aranofsky bought the American filming rights to Perfect Blue so he could replicate its famous “screaming into bathtub water” scene in another one of his films. Whether or not Perfect Blue was a direct influence for Black Swan is left up to question, but the movie is fantastic simply for its exploration of how celebrities can be manipulated into stressful career paths and how the subsequent emotional hardships can impact their sense of self and reality as a whole. The creep-factor is definitely an added bonus!

So there you have it. Hopefully, these movies can give you a good jumping-off point into the wonderful world of anime while also helping you develop an appreciation for non-Western storytelling. From this point, you can start exploring the vast array of options at your disposal, and even drag some of your friends into it on the way. After all, that’s most of the fun!