One of the genres that succeeds in bringing unadulterated entertainment and thrill is the action genre, regardless of the form of media. Action anime movies are not any different, portraying masterclass cinematics with varying art styles and discussing myriad unique storylines.
Action anime movies have been a focus point for many directors and studios, who have been perfecting the genre since the 80s. In some cases, it is nigh impossible to believe that animators from 40 years ago were able to create wonderous action sequences way ahead of their time.
What makes these movies more special than the ordinary is that animating such scenes with only manga pages to refer from is an impressive task. Props to the wonderful mangakas for creating such masterpieces and to the talented animators for bringing life into the story through animation.
Although there are some entries that almost anyone would recognize, there may even be some rare and underrated gems in the list that you may have never watched. Glorifying the revered and shedding light on lesser-known titles is something that we believe in dearly.
Best Action Anime Movies:
With all that in mind, we have curated a list of the 21 best action anime movies for our viewers, so that they don’t have to keep looking on the internet looking for the gems. The ranking is dictated purely by the action in the movie, so expect some wild stuff!
Also, these action anime movies are standalone, hence taking only a fraction of your time of the day to give you a complete experience. Who doesn’t like that? But enough talking, and let the adrenaline take over!
21. Brave Story
Runtime: 112 mins
Director: Kouichi Chigira
Release Date: July 8, 2006
We start the list of the best action anime movies with Brave Story. An underrated gem, it was released in 2006, making it one of the newer ones, and guess what? We are starting with an Isekai. Let’s find out more about Wataru’s life in a new world.
The movie revolves solely around Wataru’s difficulties and hardships in a new world of magic and monsters. Sure, that may be the most generic-sounding plot of all time, especially for the Isekai genre, but what’s more appealing to the audience is Wataru’s struggles in trying to survive through the world.
Being a scared and timid child stuck in a world where there are millions of ways to die is not easy. The action scenes feel solid and considering the adventure element, the excitement never dies.
Another element is Wataru’s story in the real world, which plays an important role in shaping his character, making it a journey full of suspense and mystery!
20. Genocidal Organ
Runtime: 114 mins
Director: Shukou Murase
Studio: Manglobe, Geno Studio
Release Date: February 3, 2017
It is time to wake up to reality as Genocidal Organ takes the next position on the list. On top of being an action anime movie with pretty solid animation, it also rewards people who are into finding meaning in the smallest of things due to the themes it focuses on.
Intelligence agent Clavis Shepherd is tasked with an important mission to track John Paul, the person behind the collapse of the world balance as terror in the form of genocides begin to spread.
The Sci-fi setting offers an intense battlefield for futuristic warfare and conflicting moralities in the form of survival.
Although this action anime movie is based on war and dominance of the world, the action scenes are a bit lacking when compared to the screen time but overall, if you are a fan of gray characters and twisted moralities, this action anime movie is worth watching.
19. Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
Runtime: 110 mins
Director: Kanta Kamei
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: October 3, 2009
After a short trip to Sci-fi land, we are back to the world of fantasy with Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike. In a way, it is similar to Brave Story, although not Isekai. But what else does it offer differently?
It is based on a game on the game of the same name (just Tales of Vesperia) and the story follows a few years before the events of the game where Flynn and Yuri, the two protagonists begin their careers as imperial knights in the town of Ceazontania. With the involvement of darker and more powerful forces, they need to step up their game.
The two partners take on monsters of all shapes and sizes to overcome their hardships. There is nonstop fighting during some sequences and they hold up surprisingly well. Now budget constraints can hurt any project, but this is one of the better action anime movies for sure.
Runtime: 90 mins
Director: Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Studio: Studio 4°C
Release Date: September 5, 1998
Spriggan is an action anime movie that dives deep into science fiction and supernatural intrigue. Also delving into political conspiracies and ancient mysteries, it is a solid package in a stand-alone film. It made it into the best 90s anime movies list, do check it out!
Yu Ominae is a member of the Spriggans, a paramilitary group that operates under ARCAM and is tasked with protecting historical artifacts from falling into the wrong hands.
Considering that this action anime movie was directed in 1998, it is rather impressive. You will find yourself sweeping the entire screen to take it all in since the action scenes and facial responses are so precise.
There is no lack of combat sequences as you will find yourself at the edge of the seat at all times and if you are also into heavy symbolism of humanity and evolution on top of action, this is the movie for you.
17. Demon City Shinjuku
Runtime: 78 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Release Date: October 5, 1988
Yoshiaki Kawajiri is responsible for multiple successful anime movies and Demon City Shinjuku is one of them. Released back in the 80s, the 35-year-old action anime movie is nothing but horror and action to the brim. It also made it to the best horror anime movies list as well!
The story, which takes place in a supernatural version of Shinjuku, demands Kyoya Izayoyi to face Rebi Ra, a lunatic who has opened a portal to hell and let demonic forces loose on the Tokyo neighborhood. The stakes are even higher when his father loses his life trying to stop Rebi Ra.
Despite fewer fights than expected, they are entertaining to watch and expertly coordinated when they appear. As the movie progresses, Kyoya must battle several demons and creatures, and several other characters are also engaged.
Along with the superb action, the horror elements explored throughout make this action anime movie a thrill to watch and is a great option for a Friday night.
16. Wicked City
Runtime: 82 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Release Date: April 25, 1987
We aren’t done with Kawajiri-San as next up is Wicked City, released just the year before Demon City Shinjuku. Along with the similarity in names, the idea of supernatural creatures causing mayhem in the human realm is also present in this action anime movie.
For centuries, Earth and the “Black World” where such creatures reside have maintained peace between themselves but the peace treaty is close to its expiry and renewal doesn’t seem so viable anymore. It is the job of the main character Renzaburo Taki and his partner to ensure the treaty’s success.
Wicked City’s representation is very creative. The anime is set in a gloomy urban setting, exudes elegance, and is atmospheric. The demons are undoubtedly special and possess some incredible powers.
The action sequences might be harsh and exaggerated at times but they do not fail to induce horror and in a way, excitement. Overall, another big win for the director, releasing two successful action anime movies in consecutive years.
15. Project A-ko
Runtime: 84 mins
Director: Katsuhiko Nishijima
Studio: A.P.P.P, Soeishinsha
Release Date: June 21, 1986
Action anime movies don’t always have to be enjoyed by gruesome scenes and nonstop slaughter, and Project A-ko is here to prove it with the incorporation of comedy. Taking on a Sci-fi setting, even that doesn’t stop it from being a laughter fest.
This Action anime movie is about a fictional metropolis called Graviton City, a futuristic Utopian society that was destroyed sixteen years ago and rebuilt but here’s the fun part – all of this does not concern Eiko Magami, the supergirl who only cares about two things: her best friend and arriving school on time.
The animation is well done, considering it is one of the older action anime movies on the list and a must-watch for someone longing for nostalgia. The pure action comes from the epic fighting and chasing scenes that Eiko and her friend go through.
You know how old people keep saying “Back in my day I used to cross a mountain to reach school”? it is exactly that but imagine trying to stop space warfare and fighting dangerous murderers on your way to school plus a bit of comedy. What other reason do you need to watch it then??
14. Tekkon Kinkreet
Runtime: 111 mins
Director: Michael Arias
Studio: Studio 4°C
Release Date: December 23, 2006
Tekkon Kinkreet is a unique entry to the list through and through. Directed by Michael Arias, who has been a part of the Japanese anime Industry for a long time, it made him the first non-Japanese director of an anime movie. Also, the art style and animation of this action anime movie are one of a kind.
So what’s it about? Tekkon Kinkreet is a mispronounced way of saying “Reinforced Concrete”. Shiro and Kuro are two orphans known as the Cats who know everything going on in the streets of Treasure Town. Things take a different turn with the introduction of the Mafia and it is up to them to survive the upcoming ordeal.
The crisp animation and floaty art style directly complement the action scenes and choreography. Street fights and parkour take most of the screen time and let’s not talk about some moments that transcend your daily urban life, along with the symbiotic relationship between Shiro and Kuro who are literally, Black and White.
Despite its uniqueness, its strongest suit can be its weakness as personally, the art style and character design is a hit or miss. It’s worth checking out though, as the action and symbolism make this action anime movie one of a kind.
13. A Farewell to Arms
Runtime: 25 mins
Director: Hajime Katoki
Release Date: July 13, 2013
Set in a time of war, A Farewell to Arms is a 25-minute action anime movie, that is part of a collection of four short films known as Short Peace. It is also an original creation of none other than Katsuhiro Otomo, the legendary director of Akira.
This action anime movie talks about four friends Gimlet, Marl, Gin, and Junki. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans fail to sustain the world, the four soldiers set out on a dangerous mission that will test their survival capabilities.
The brotherhood and comradery among the four soldiers and the constant life-threatening action result in an enjoyable watch. From fighter planes to tanks to gunfire, it is a complete war movie. Although the use of CGI is on the higher side, there is no shortage of exciting scenes as the four try to go against tanks that can end their life in moments!
To know the whole context of the story, it is quite essential to watch the complete movie Short Peace, but A Farewell to Arms alone provides a great story and fulfilling action for being an action anime movie.
12. Dead Leaves
Runtime: 52 mins
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: January 16, 2004
Production I.G has never failed to deliver entertaining products, be it anime or anime movies. Dead Leaves is one of them and heed my words when I say that this action anime movie knows how to incorporate nonstop action.
The story follows two characters, Pandy and Retro, who wake up naked with no memory of Earth. They quickly embark on a bizarre and violent journey, encountering strange creatures and facing numerous challenges. It also acts as a journey of self-discovery but we are here to talk about the action element specifically.
This action anime movie offers a unique and frenetic animation style, characterized by exaggerated movements, vibrant colors, and dynamic action sequences. The storytelling is unconventional yet coherent and will satisfy people who are into avant-garde.
The art style may seem chaotic at first but it is quite flashy and colorful in a good way. The closest thing to compare it to would be Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which also featured an art style focusing on a flashy approach, but do you see how I compared a 2004 movie to a 2023 movie? That does say something about it.
Runtime: 70 mins
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama
Release Date: April 21, 1988
Time to get back to the Cyberpunk genre and also to the 80s as we have a masterclass action anime movie that goes by the name Appleseed. The story is different when compared to the manga, but different doesn’t mean bad, and the great characters with fantastic action scenes are here to prove it.
The plot itself is based on the fictional setting of World War III and its aftermath, where alongside Humans, robots and Bioroids reside together in a self-proclaimed Utopian society but what others call Utopia might be something that someone else describes as Dystopia.
Along with the themes of moral ambiguity and the common portrayal of man vs machine, you will only ask one question after watching it: “Why is it so short?”. Those 70 minutes will pass by so quickly as you drown further into the sci-fi world of Appleseed.
People fighting in armored suits, and tanks and aircraft running wild, you got it all in Appleseed. Also, the action sequences are accompanied by fast and energetic music to keep up the mood. Overall, this is one hell of an action movie.
10. Princess Mononoke
Runtime: 133 mins
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date: July 12, 1997
Studio Ghibli never really focused too heavily on the action anime movie department but when they did, they came out with masterpieces such as Princess Mononoke. They can make anything that they desire and reach the top of these lists every time.
Easily one of the best anime movies of all time, Princess Mononoke depicts the idea of the destruction of nature by man and technology. 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.
It has some of the best raw action scenes in the industry without a doubt. On top of it, we have the bizarre yet astounding conglomeration of themes and different races, like the spirits with the power of nature and the humans with their robots.
Delivering raw action with thought-provoking themes and beautiful art direction is Studio Ghibli’s forte and they didn’t miss out on this action anime movie, even if it is rare for the studio to make one!
Runtime: 111 mins
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Release Date: May 24, 2019
The most recent action anime movie in terms of release, Promare was created by the team behind Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill. This action anime movie is respectful of the release date, and what I mean by that is that it feels like it came out in 2019 due to its masterclass art style and animation.
The plot revolves around Galo Thymos and Lio Fotia, and both of them belong to different factions of the world. Lio is a part of special people who have pyrokinetic abilities (use of fire) and Galo saves her, who is a group against such people. They get entangled into a world of corruption and it’s their turn to burn it down.
This action anime movie shines in the action department. This is exactly what people call eye candy. The bold visual style is maintained at all times and compliments the action sequences. The mecha action sequences on top of it are certified mind-blowers. There is still use of CGI but honestly, it is implemented correctly to not make it stand out too much.
You will find a lot of inspiration from the other two anime mentioned above in the beginning as this action anime movie also marked the team reuniting after years, making it a special movie for both the studio and the viewers.
08. Vampire Hunter D
Runtime: 80 mins
Director: Toyoo Ashida
Studio: Ashi Productions, Epic/Sony Records, CBS/Sony Group Inc., Movic
Release Date: December 21, 1985
Vampire Hunter D is one of our favorite movies in general, appearing on multiple lists like the best 80s list and the best horror anime movies list but we are not going to stop and include it here as well, because it ticks all the requirements for being a great action anime movie.
The incorporation of cyberpunk elements with deadly vampires was an idea not many could have thought about. The story is set 10,000 years in the future, where the world has changed drastically; monsters roam the earth freely, and humanity, although armed with high-tech weaponry and riding robotic horses, lives a lowly existence better suited to centuries before.
The action scenes are animated well despite having been released in 1985 and the film is extremely heavy on gore, depicting brutal scenes of murder and vampire slaying. Vampire Hunter D himself is an enigmatic and extremely powerful character as he barely struggles to kill vampires.
Being the oldest action anime movie on the list, it still holds up to this day. Along with a great story and antagonist who stands out, it would be a shame if anyone were to pass up on this action anime movie thinking it would be outdated.
Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Katsuhito Ishii, Takeshi Koike
Release Date: August 14, 2009
We have been covering a lot of fighting movies so let’s switch gears. I hope you didn’t think of it as a pun, because it’s time to switch the rusty gears of your cars if you want to survive in the world of Redline, in which there are no rules!
JP is a racer who lives for nothing but a thrill. His passion led him to become somewhat of a daredevil and to him, a race like Redline is a golden opportunity to quench his thirst. This time, he is expecting strong rivals but it would be wise to keep his expectations in check.
Remember how I mentioned that there are no rules in the tournament? That means ending the lives of other racers is theoretically allowed. JP needs to win the race and survive other monstrosities in his way, to see the light of the day!
Redline has successfully incorporated both fighting and the feeling of racing at high rpm. The tagline during its release was “Witness the Future of Animation” and boy, they were not kidding.
The constant sense of thrill when the racers drive and fight at the same time gets you and during some moments it is possible to completely forget that it is a movie about racing! It is that good.
06. Ninja Scroll
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Release Date: June 5, 1993
Hey now, hold your horses because the classics still have worthy competitors to go up against the modern and flashier ones. Ninja Scroll comes to mind when you think about your vintage style that focuses more on raw action than anything.
The story revolves around Jubei Kibagami, a traveling swordsman for hire in feudal Japan. Burdened by a heavy past, he wanders and when the time comes when he saves a girl, she is not the only one to come back as his past comes back as well, knocking on the door.
The action department is where this movie shines. Simply speaking, it looks good. The action scenes are perfectly designed and also work well with the plot. This action anime movie also doesn’t shy away from portraying mature themes.
Ninja Scroll is a raw action anime movie, with fitting music, atmosphere and and great characters. Also, if you didn’t notice, it is Kawajiri’s third action anime movie on the list. That man is on a whole different level.
05. The Garden of Sinners
Runtime: 50 mins to 1 hour
Director: Multiple directors
Release Date: Dec 1, 2007 (First film)
If it’s not just a single movie, but a series of action anime movies that you are craving for, then look no further as Garden of Sinners is exactly what you’re seeking Also, it is made by the famous ufotable Studio, who are known for making some of the most visually appealing series of all time.
Now we are going to break the rules for a bit, as it is a collection of seven anime movies that revolve around Ryougi Shiki and her life after magically acquiring the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, which allow her to see the “death of things” or how something will meet its end.
Based on this power, her life is set in motion as she deals with supernatural cases as an investigator. Every single movie has great action sequences and intense psychological mysteries. Also, Garden of Sinners is set in an alternate universe of Fate/Stay Night, another ufotable series with masterclass action.
Talking about all of them individually would be spoon-feeding so it is worth checking all of them out. Every movie ranges from about 50 minutes to an hour so the dedication isn’t extreme but if it takes such a high spot on this expansive list, it is for a reason.
04. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: November 17, 1999
The fourth place goes to Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, a thought-provoking action anime movie that delves into the psychological and political aspects of a dystopian alternate history. Released first in France in 1999, it hit the Japanese theatres at the beginning of the new millennium.
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.
By the description, you may have already understood that it is a war movie, which means action is a must. The time of war hits the people in the story as well as the viewers hard. It does a great job portraying the war environment by showing riots, cries of hunger, crimes, etc.
The original manga was written by none other than Mamoru Oshii and Production I.G did a fantastic job in bringing this into animated form. The art style feels mature and appropriate to the time with the action sequences looking clean and solid.
03. Sword of the Stranger
Runtime: 103 mins
Director: Masahiro Andou
Release Date: September 29, 2007
It feels like an eternity has passed since the beginning of this article but if you have climbed the mountain (or scrolled to the bottom) then you deserve the best of the best. At number three we present to you the action anime movie Sword of the Stranger.
It talks about a young orphan named Kotarou, who along with his beloved dog Tobimaru, survives on theft. His life takes a different turn altogether when he finds out he’s hunted down by assassins from a different land. But they aren’t looking for him because of his petty crimes.
They are in luck as they are saved by a stranger but will that guarantee the safety of their lives? The gruesome period of the Sengoku era is explored in this action anime movie and it’s without doubt that it will satisfy all action lovers.
Man, the animation is clean and crisp and that adds so much weight to the perfectly animated fights and moments. The swordplay is especially well done and along with the beautiful storyline and characters, Sword of the Stranger is easily the best action anime movie in the 2000s era.
02. Ghost in the Shell
Runtime: 82 mins
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Studio: Production I.G
Release Date: November 18, 1995
Easily Mamoru Oshii’s best creation, Ghost in the Shell is a classic and is a commercial success, looking at all the movies, series, and live-action productions. One of the best anime movies of all time in general, it takes the penultimate spot on the list.
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. 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 gloomy mood and exquisite animation but the way it portrayed a futuristic world can be replicated only by very few movies. The fighting scenes are brilliant and perfectly complement the plot.
Even at this early stage of CG animation, the action is wicked, the backdrops are wonderfully drawn, adding mood to every scene, and the modest CGI is effectively blended. The old-school soundtrack makes it a must-watch for nostalgia lovers.
This action anime could’ve been the best, had it not been for that one other movie.
Runtime: 124 mins
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Release Date: July 16, 1988
How about a challenge? Do ten pushups every time you find Akira at the top of the list. You would attain Yujiro Hanma’s physique in no time. Well jokes apart, it didn’t take much time to decide the best action anime movie. Akira is just meant to be there.
Akira is set in an alternate universe where World War III takes place in 1988 due to a young boy with psychic powers who causes an explosion in the middle of Tokyo.
Thirty years later, Shoutarou Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima, get stuck in somewhat of a similar situation when Shima gets affected by similar powers like the boy. The masses are in trouble again as it reminds them of the time thirty years ago.
Akira is a masterpiece of animation and has a very distinct artistic approach. Along with the extreme detail of art and animation, the story is full of action. It is difficult to put it into words but Akira’s legacy is so strong that it was way ahead of its time.
Also not just raw action with chase scenes and fighting, it also excels in demonstration of supernatural abilities that play a major role in the story. It is important to realize Akira’s position in the anime universe to fully understand its value and it is the reason why it’s the best action anime movie.