15 Best 90s Anime Movies That Are Too Iconic!

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90s Anime Movies

No matter the advancement of technology and presentation this world may witness, it is our duty to remember and respect the classics of any form of art. Anime is the same and there are such classics that may be considered well ahead of their time.

There were some that deserve a seat in the underrated 90s anime films that we have covered before, but today we are here to celebrate the very best, the ones that pushed the industry forward.

These 90s anime moves are revered to be the generation-defining, as we move on from the 1980s. Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli continued to produce films suitable for all ages and many movies saw their sequels come out during this decade.

90s anime movies that you definitely must watch!

As always we have compiled the best movies in a single list. Without further adieu, we welcome you to this cherished list containing the best 90s anime films with a brief overview of each entry!

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers and plotlines are discussed for context, read at your own risk!

15. Spriggan

Runtime: 90 mins
Director: Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Studio: Studio 4°C
Release Date: September 5, 1998


We start off the list with Spriggan. This 90s anime film dives deep into the realms of action, science fiction, and supernatural intrigue. Also delving into political conspiracies and ancient mysteries, it is a solid package in a stand-alone film.

Yu Ominae is part of a paramilitary unit known as the Spriggans working under the organization ARCAM, who ensure the safety of ancient relics and do not let them fall into the wrong hands.

Their job is considered critical to the world’s safety due to a warning left by the ancient species who inhabited their world long ago and got annihilated using their own technology. As he is sent to investigate a new relic, he is met with an unprecedented amount of danger from foreign forces.

By offering a thrilling cinematic experience and incorporating elements of military espionage, mythology, and supernatural battles, it acts as a great entry point to the list and the era of 90s anime films.

14. The Dog of Flanders

Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Yoshio Kuroda
Studio: Nippon Animation
Release Date: March 15, 1997

The Dog of Flanders

Having been adapted from a book and made into a movie, anime series, and even an anime film, The Dog of Flanders has seen its fair share of daylight and fame.

The original novel was released in 1872, penned by the English novelist Marie Louise de la Ramée, under the pseudonym Ouida.

Released in 1997, this 90s anime movie version doesn’t fail to capture the attention of the audience even with limited time, as Nello’s dream of becoming a great artist is explored, even when he is bound by the shackles of poverty and social prejudice.

Along with his faithful dog Patrasche, the story revolves around the relationship between the two and Nello’s never-ending determination to overcome adversity, despite the challenges. Not to mention, the film did justice by depicting 19th-century Belgium with a beautiful art style.

For those who want to skip the anime adaptation, the movie is the best thing to watch.

13. Pom Poko

Runtime: 119 mins
Director: Isao Takahata
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date: June 13, 1994

Pom Poko

As people started breathing in “the new wind” that blew through the anime industry, it began a revolution: the Golden Age of Studio Ghibli.

Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata didn’t rest after their success in the 80s as their contribution to the 90s anime films is no less in comparison.

In 1994, Pom Poko was released, proving to everyone that Studio Ghibli’s portrayal of ideas was more unique than anyone else’s. It talks about the story of a family of a special species who can shapeshift and their struggles with the urbanization of Japan.

As the said urbanization will affect wildlife, it is up to them to repel the plans of humanity to increase the lifespan of their forests but will they be successful, or are they living on borrowed time? Not only is it one of the greatest 90s anime movies, it is an award-winning one nonetheless.

12. Roujin Z

Runtime: 79 mins
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Studio: APPP
Release Date: September 14, 1991

Roujin Z

Roujin Z is way ahead of its time, even if it’s a 90s anime movie. Portraying modern-day trending topics such as AI and technology, it is also written by the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo, the man who created Akira. He continued to extend his knowledge of art and direction into the next decade.

Set in futuristic Japan, a new project known as Project Z was introduced to the public to take care of the elderly using an AI-powered bed known as the Z-001 machine.

Despite the widespread approval from the younger generation, Haruko didn’t take it as a heavy weight lifted off of her shoulders.

After an elderly man decides to be used as a test subject, dark secrets are revealed. The battle between moral values and sacrifice of self for more comfort than required leads into the dark abyss of reality, that is portrayed through AI and Machine Learning.

11. Ninja Scroll

Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Studio: Madhouse
Release Date: June 5, 1993

Ninja Scroll

Hope your seatbelts are tight, as we are going back in time. Now instead of Algorithms, let’s talk about Shurikens as Ninja Scroll comes next in the list!

Jubei Kibagami is a traveling swordsman for hire in feudal Japan. Warring political groups and their agendas don’t him due to a horrible past that left him without a master’s guidance.

As he wanders aimlessly, all of his troubles come right back, knocking on the door when he saves the life of Kagero, a female ninja. The plot thickens as he is dragged back into the problems that he swore to leave behind. Together, they need to face adversaries worse than their nightmares.

Ninja Scroll is a masterclass in the presentation of fantasy and ninja powers. The fights are spectacular, to say the least, and it doesn’t shy away from mature themes, such as violence, sexuality, and even horror. A classic 90s anime film for sure but now it’s time to step into the top ten.

10. Kayoko’s Diary (Who’s Left Behind?)

Runtime: 90 mins
Director: Seiji Arihara
Studio: Mushi Production
Release Date: March 9, 1991

Kayoko's Diary

Kayoko’s Diary is based on the real-life incident of Kayoko Ebina and her survival in the 1945 Air Raid during World War 2. It is an eye-opening 90s anime movie, focused on war and its effects on innocent people whose survival is as random as a coin toss.

Kayoko lives a simple life and is a happy-go-lucky kid who doesn’t hesitate to cry if things do not go her way but she is ready to take on the responsibilities of an elder sister as her mother is expecting another child.

As she grows, she slowly but surely understands the effects of war but will she be ready for what’s to come as the whole world rages and fights?

Japan has its share of war-based anime films and Who’s Left Behind is another heart-wrenching entry to this list but we appreciate diversity. All of our love goes to Kayoko Ebina and this list would have been incomplete without this film.

9. Porco Rosso

Runtime: 93 mins
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date: July 18, 1992

Porco Rosso

Another banger of film, Porco Rosso has a serious yet charming setting. Set in the Adriatic Sea during World War I, the story follows the adventures of Marco Pagot, a skilled pilot who, due to a mysterious curse, has been transformed into a pig and now goes by the name Porco Rosso.

Now don’t let that fool you as Marco never lost his drive to fly and complete his missions as a bounty hunter, but things take a different turn when he is brought down by the famous Donald Curtis, who takes great pride in his act.

Being a 90s anime film, it encapsulates the theme of war beautifully, while also exploring themes of love, loss, and the impact of war on individuals and society.

The film also captures a sense of nostalgia and romance for the golden age of aviation. “Porco Rosso” is a revered classic and it stands as a monument to Miyazaki’s storytelling prowess with its original plot, compelling characters, and stunning animation.

8. My Neighbors the Yamadas

Runtime: 103 mins
Director: Isao Takahata
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date: July 17, 1999

My Neighbors the Yamadas

As minimalistic as it may look even for a 90s anime movie, My Neighbors the Yamada manages to tell a simple story with brilliant presentation. Also, surprise surprise, it’s another Studio Ghibli production!

This time they decided to tell the story of the manga written by Hisaichi Ishii in visual form, which goes through the daily lives of the Yamada family who try to entertain each other through various squabbles that go around in a typical family.

Despite all of their shenanigans, they all care for each other and try to make each other smile in their mundane lives.

Not only is this a departure from your typical fantastical themes of Studio Ghibli, but its uniqueness shines brighter due to the watercolor sketches, which add to the simple setting. If you are looking for a relaxing anime film that invokes a nostalgic feeling, this is what you need.

7. Patlabor 2: The Movie

Runtime: 113 mins
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: August 7, 1993

Patlabor 2: The Movie

Patlabor was a successful franchise in the late 90s as not only do we have Patlabor 2 in this list of the best 90s anime movies, but its predecessor Patlabor is also one of the best 80s anime films! Mamoru Oshii wasn’t satisfied with one masterpiece.

Set three years after the events of the first film, Kiichi Gotou is still working with his Patlabor unit, even after his former teammates have gone their separate ways. A new danger looms as a terrorist organization has decided to cause uproar and civil unrest in the city of Japan.

Kiichi finds himself stuck in all of this as his comrade and romantic interest Nagumo Shinobu is somewhat involved. As Kiichi begins to reassemble his former team, Shinobu needs to deal with her complicated past to overcome this ordeal.

Carrying over the legacy of the first installment, the sequel doesn’t shy away from elements of surprise and intense mecha battles. Philosophy and politics show up as important elements as well in this masterclass of a 90s anime film.

6. Memories

Runtime: 37 mins per episode
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Tensai Okamura
Studio: Madhouse, Studio 4°C
Release Date: December 23, 1995


37 mins per episode? Isn’t it a film? Yes, it is but it is an anthology, which is a compilation of three short films. Like the 80s anime film Neo Tokyo, Memories talks about completely different plot lines but follows a core theme throughout. It consists of Magnetic Rose, Stink Bomb, and Canon Fodder.

Although it would take a whole review with spoilers to explain the concept of the individual movies, the main themes explored are based on warfare and morality. The changes in genre are vivid, as they can reach extremes, from making you laugh to creeping you out.

Each segment offers a unique perspective and explores different themes, making it a diverse and thought-provoking anthology film.

To sum up, the three episodes are not connected by a single, overarching story. However, taken alone, they display some of the greatest animation available at the time and still stand up for collectively being a 90s anime movie.

5. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: November 17, 1999 (France)

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

The fifth place goes to Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, a thought-provoking 90s anime movie that delves into the psychological and political aspects of a dystopian alternate history. It also has a unique inception, being premiered in France first.

It talks about an alternate history where the Nazis prevail due to which Japan gets heavily affected. During such unprecedented events, the military elite Kazuki Fuse is sent back to the academy after failing to prevent a great act of terrorism.

What he doesn’t know is the fact that all of this is just the tip of the iceberg as fate has different plans for him. A battle fought not only on the field but with oneself as well, Fuse needs to decide the path he needs to take.

From top-notch presentations to leaving a heavy impact on viewers, the 90s sure were blessed with spectacular anim films

4. Whisper of the Heart

Runtime: 111 mins
Director: Yoshifumi Kondo
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date: July 15, 1995

Whisper of the Heart

It gets challenging to come up with unique introductions when you have multiple installments from the same creator or studio, but that also means that Studio Ghibli needs no introduction and you could say, that I am “speechless”! Even if it were the 80s or the 90s, some things never changed.

Whisper of the Heart portrays your usual Ghibli movie traits: a young and energetic female protagonist who gets pulled into a beautiful and fantastical world of fantasy with overarching themes of social issues or self-discovery.

Shizuku finds out that Seiji Amasawa, an enigmatic boy, has also checked out every book she has checked out from the library. Intrigued by the act, she sets off on a self-discovery adventure, following her ambitions and discovering her artistic abilities.

The shift in Shizuku’s ambitions is integral to the story and that made this 90s anime film the highest-grossing Japanese film of the year.

3. Perfect Blue

Runtime: 81 mins
Director: Satoshi Kon
Studio: Madhouse
Release Date: February 28, 1998

Perfect Blue

It is time to enter the top 3 of this short but impactful list of 90s anime movies. The bronze medal has been captured by Perfect Blue in the same way as the J-pop idol group CHAM! captured the hearts of its fans. The man behind the movie is none other than Satoshi Kon, responsible for a myriad of different anime films.

The protagonist of the tale is Mima Kirigoe, a former pop star who chooses to pursue an acting career. Mima loses her sense of reality when she enters the challenging world of acting and encounters the harsh realities of the entertainment industry.

Focused on heavy themes such as psychological depth and identity crisis, this particular 90s anime film excels in making the viewers question between fantasy and reality. Satoshi Kon’s unique style of portrayal makes you live her life as if it were yours.

Perfect Blue is the directorial debut of Satoshi Kon and his adaptation of the original novel came out as a banger. Also making in debut in Montreal, it is a winner of multiple international awards.

2. Princess Mononoke

Runtime: 133 mins
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date: July 12, 1997

Princess MononokePrincess Mononoke

Losing count of the number of times this particular studio has made it to the list, Princess Mononoke was the best 90s anime film from them. What is the secret behind Miyazaki and his fellow directors’ success? Even if we never get to know them, we can at least enjoy them.

Ashitaka is a young prince who, while protecting his town, gets cursed by a boar demon. While looking for a cure and the root of the corruption, Ashitaka gets tangled in a battle between industrial humans and the spirits of the forest, led by the mysterious Princess Mononoke, also known as San.

After learning about the conflict for resources and effects such as deforestation, Ashitaka helps the enigmatic princess while also battling his own curse.

Despite portraying violence in a relatively high amount, this 90s anime film is the winner of multiple awards such as Best Japanese Movie, Best Animation, and Japanese Movie Fans’ Choice. It is a beautiful presentation of a problem relevant now.

1. Ghost in the Shell

Runtime: 82 mins
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: November 18, 1995

Ghost in the Shell

It would be a shame if you didn’t expect Ghost in the Shell to be at the top but regardless of anything, at the pinnacle of the best 90s anime films list stands this Mamoru Oshii masterpiece. Ghibli might have dominated the list but Oshii grabbed the bag!

The plot takes place in a cyberpunk future where people may connect their thoughts to a global network and modify their bodies with cybernetic implants. It is the adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga of the same.

Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg agent for the government organization Section 9, discovers a complicated web of intrigue including cyberterrorism, political intrigues, and issues about the nature of consciousness and identity as they look into a mystery hacker known as the Puppet Master.

The film is renowned for its melancholic musical soundtrack, gloomy mood, and exquisite animation. It continues to be a classic in the anime industry, serving as an inspiration for both live-action and animated films that came after. Without a doubt, it is the best 90s anime movie in my opinion.


Thus we conclude our list of the best 90s anime films. A variety of genres have been taken into consideration but all of the entries excel at one thing: giving you the best experiences of entertainment within a matter of two hours. May it be a story of a young girl exploring her fantasy world or a story about the human mind and its psychological limits.

The list is dominated by Studio Ghibli which is well deserved, but other directors such as Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Oshii have made masterpieces of their own which directly compete with the aforementioned studio.

One can watch most of the above-mentioned movies on streaming platforms such as Netflix but in the end, it is a firm request to everyone to watch them all so that we can respect our predecessors and keep them in our hearts as we go further!

Do you think we missed any other famous 90s anime films? What else do you think can take a spot on the list? Do let us know in the comments below.

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