We enjoy compiling lists of anime films on a variety of criteria, such as during which decade it was released and the type of genre. This time, we are focusing on the latter, especially the Horror anime genre.
The horror genre is a very particular niche and not a lot of people get into it. Whether it’s pure terror or petty ignorance, people who enjoy horror are a rare breed. But we enjoy curating lists regardless as our respect for everyone remains the same without any bias.
In today’s list of anime movie rankings, we are going to rank the best horror anime films and provide a brief description of the plot. Some of them have already appeared on our lists regarding 80s and 90s anime films but this list is made especially for those entries who succeed in freaking you out.
11 Horror anime movies that are a must watch:
If you have tried searching for them before, you’ll realize that horror anime movies are not very easy to find. So in this article, a wide variety of horror anime films are taken into consideration. Some of them offer traditional gore but some are surreal and artsy.
There is also a bit of psychological horror in the mix to provide a good balance so even if you are new to the horror genre, you should check them out and pick your poison.
That was a long intro, but the night will only get longer once you dive into the ocean of horror anime films!
Spoiler Warning: Some entries may contain spoilers to explain the context of the film so read at your own risk!
11. Demon City Shinjuku
Runtime: 79 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Release Date: October 25, 1988
As Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are to the family-friendly and social issues, Yoshiaki Kawajiri is to the horror genre. This man has directed a plethora of horror anime films and it is an honor to start the list with Demon City Shinjuku.
Set in a supernatural version of Shinjuku, Kyoya Izayoyi must step up and confront Rebi Ra, a madman who has opened a portal to hell and unleashed demonic forces upon the district of Tokyo.
After his father dies trying to stop Rebi Ra, it is up to his son to battle the demons of hell and prevent the invasion from further into the city. The worst part? Kyoya is not a “hero” of any sort with little adeptness with his powers.
The nightmarish environments with the haunting soundtrack make this horror anime movie an absolute thriller to watch, as Kyoya goes through a perilous journey filled with action and gore.
10. Corpse Party: Tortured Souls
Runtime: 30 mins per episode
Director: Akira Iwanaga
Release Date: July 24, 2013
Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is a horror anime that tests the limits of your capacity to digest gore. Based on the game Corpse Party Blood Covered: … Repeated Fear, the PSP remake of the 1996 PC survival horror video game, its dark and gruesome setting can throw you off, so think of it as a warning before deciding to play it for real.
This title is actually an OVA released as 4 episodes each 30 mins long. However, the total duration roughly equivalent to that of a 2 hour long movie, and so we decided to include this in our list!
The plot involves high school students who perform a certain ritual, not knowing that this will lead to their worst nightmares ever. Now haunted by the ghosts of the past, the students must find a way out… or face death at the hands of vengeful spirits.
The group of nine must figure out the past, make sense of the present, and decide on a future that leads to the safest outcome but as the cover suggests, it might not go the usual route.
Each and every death shown here will leave your eyes with a crimson tint as the students struggle helplessly. It’s a four-part OVA but its length is similar to other horror anime films mentioned here.
Also, it is worth checking out the actual game which will provide a more vivid and intended experience.
09. Midori Shoujou Tsubaki
Runtime: 47 mins
Director: Hiroshi Harada
Studio: Mippei Eigeki Kiryuukan
Release Date: May 2, 1992
If Corpse Party succeeds in gore, Midori succeeds in psychological horror. It’s depressing to use the word “success” together with this horror anime film not because of its quality, but due to the mind-breaking plot described by Suehiro Maruo. In fact, it has been banned in many places due to its bold description.
Do not be dissuaded by the MAL score of this title. If you can stomach it, you can enjoy it. The animation quality could have been way better though!
Made into a film by director Hiroshi Harada, it revolves around the story of Midori, who gets “recruited” to a circus, and her daily interactions with the other members of the circus. Midori delves deep into gore and psychological horror which can get disturbing, so viewer caution is advised.
As simple as it may sound, every moment of this horror anime film will question your decision to watch it, but it doesn’t shy away from the reality of the world. Midori goes through the worst a person, or specifically a girl can go through.
She also shows signs of Stockholm Syndrome, where she knows that all she’s left with is the circus, despite it being a nightmare. Even when she starts finding silver linings, she is met with equally devastating events that drive her mad. Despite its rating, it is a must-watch from a literary standpoint.
08. Ninja Scroll
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Release Date: July 5, 1993
We are back with another Yoshiaki Kawajiri creation, that being Ninja Scroll. Also one of the best 90s anime films in general, this horror anime movie combines elements of action, fantasy, and horror, creating a dark and atmospheric tale.
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.
Not shying away from mature themes such as gore and sexuality, it takes more than an average viewer to brave the storm that is Ninja Scroll, as Yoshiaki Kawajiri makes a statement of his name, but his best is yet to come.
07. Wicked City
Runtime: 82 mins
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Release Date: April 25, 1987
Wicked City was the introduction of Yoshiaki Kawajiri as a solo director and this is the second movie he ever worked on. A widely acclaimed horror anime film on its own, this was just the beginning of Yoshiaki’s career, and boy oh boy, did he start with a bang.
The world is in a terrible state and after years of conflict, Earth and the demonic-infested “Black World” have made a precarious peace deal to preserve some sort of order. Enforcement of the pact is carried out by the Black Guard, a unique police unit composed of both humans and demons.
Enough time passes and as the contract nears its expiry, not everyone wants to renew it, which gives rise to conflict again.
With this horror anime movie, Kawajiri showcased his abhorrent aesthetic and passion for gory violence through graphic horror. From people turning into hideous monsters and growing sharp teeth and claws, this horror anime film is only recommended for people who can handle extreme horror.
06. Belladonna of Sadness
Runtime: 87 mins
Director: Eiichi Yamamoto
Studio: Mushi Production
Release Date: June 30, 1973
Belladonna of Sadness was released back in 1973. That makes this 50-year-old horror anime movie the oldest entry on this list. But has it aged well and is worth watching now? Well if it’s on the list, then there is something that makes it special.
In a poor, rural community in medieval France, where cunning witchcraft and dishonest superstition are practiced openly, Belladonna of Darkness tells a compelling psychosexual adventure through the means of surreal art style and haunting music.
As the newlywed couple consisting of Jean and Jeanne make pleas to the demon lord, he instead offers them a condition, that involves Jeanne entering a ritual that would scar her for a lifetime. After having the worst possible night for a newlywed girl, Jean makes a pact with a spirit and she becomes a symbol of rebellion against the oppressive social and religious institutions of the time.
Based on the 1862 book La Sorcière (Satanism and Witchcraft) by French historian Jules Michelet, this particular adaption in the form of a horror anime film explores surreal and psychological horror while exploring themes such as feminism and societal repression.
05. Cossette no Shouzou
Runtime: 36 mins per episode
Director: Akiyuki Shinbou
Release Date: April 11, 2004
If you were intrigued by the idea of Corpse Party having 4 episodes that can be watched in the duration of a film, then Cossette no Shouzou is another horror anime feature that has a similar format, although the offering in the genre department is different. We have another surreal horror anime film in the mix.
The story is a Gothic and psychological tale that revolves around a young artist named Eiri Kurahashi. He discovers an antique Venetian glass that seems to have a doll-like trapped inside. As he is attracted to the elusive figure inside, he finds himself obsessed with her.
But as beautiful as the girl seemed to be, her haunting past leaves Eiri in shock when he realizes the girl was tragically murdered along with her family.
Known for its atmospheric and surreal visuals, this horror anime film leaves a heavy impact on its viewers, with its emotional and psychological depth. Also, Akiyuki Shinobu is also the director of the Monogatari series, so one familiar with it knows the potential this movie has to offer.
04. Angel’s Egg
Runtime: 71 mins
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Studio: Studio Deen
Release Date: December 22, 1985
Mamoru Oshii is a legendary name among the best anime film directors and Angel’s Egg is easily of his best creations. Using a very minimalistic approach to narrative and storytelling, it leaves much to the viewer’s interpretation.
Like many appearing on the list, Angel’s Egg uses surreal and abstract storytelling to convey its plot, of a young girl who would protect a mysterious egg with her life in a desolate world. After she meets a mysterious soldier, they travel through a metropolis full of abandoned structures and eerie sights together.
The nature of reality, faith, and existentialism are among the themes explored in this horror anime film. Even after the soldier asks about her obsession with the egg, he never receives a proper answer, but he cannot leave her behind as well.
The heavy focus on symbolism and minimal focus on dialogue create an eerie environment that will keep you alert at all times, making this one of the best horror anime movies without a doubt.
03. Magnetic Rose (Memories Episode 1)
Runtime: 37 mins
Director: Katsuhimo Otomo
Studio: Madhouse, 4°C
Release Date: December 23, 1995
We have included Memories in the best 90s anime list and without a doubt, it deserves a spot on that list. But the fact that each of the three movies within offers a unique theme, makes it stand out even more. The first movie of the anthology, Magnetic Rose is a horror anime movie and it’s one of a kind.
When a group of Space Garbage Collectors stumble across an abandoned ship, they are greeted by haunting illusions of an opera singer named Eva Friedel. They realize that those illusions were actually surreal holographic projections of the memories of the ship’s creator, who was once deeply in love with Eva.
As the characters face their own ambitions and pasts, the lines distinguishing reality from illusion become more hazy. This horror anime film is known for its psychological depth, atmospheric visuals, and the exploration of themes related to memory, love, and the impact of technology on human emotions.
The other parts of the anthology provide completely unrelated stories, but on its own, Magnetic Rose clearly outranks most of the horror anime movies in existence with its memorable plot.
02. Vampire Hunter D
Runtime: 80 mins
Director: Toyoo Ashida
Studio: Ashi Productions, Studio Live
Release Date: December 21, 1985
That was a lot of surrealism, so let’s get back to some classic gore horror and if you haven’t watched Vampire Hunter D, then you are very lucky my friend! A classic 80s horror anime movie for sure, it takes place in a dystopian-cyberpunk setting.
The story is set 10,000 years in the future, where the world has changed drastically; monsters roam the earth freely, and humanity, although being armed with high-tech weaponry and riding robotic horses, lives a lowly existence better suited to centuries before.
Vampires are also present in the story as the main character is bitten by the Vampire lord and she seeks out help from D, one of the best Vampire Hunters in the world.
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. The beautiful and eccentric art style with the gothic atmosphere along with the nonstop gore makes it one of the best horror anime films ever, but the “best” is yet to come.
01. Perfect Blue
Runtime: 81 mins
Director: Satoshi Kon
Release Date: Feb 28, 1998
Satoshi Kon might have been nervous about Perfect Blue at its time of release as it was his directorial debut but one thing that he didn’t know then was that it would end up being not only the best psychological horror anime movie but in general one of the best anime films in existence.
Probably the peak of psychological horror, Perfect Blue talks about 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.
It does an outstanding job of getting viewers to question the boundaries between reality and imagination by focusing on serious topics like psychological depth and identity crisis. Because of Satoshi Kon’s unique representation, you feel as though you are living her life.
As Mima drowns into madness, she commits heinous acts that determine her fate. The film has gained critical acclaim for its thought-provoking storytelling and has become a seminal work in the psychological horror genre within anime, easily crowing it as the best horror anime film without a doubt.
With that, we have concluded the list of the best horror anime films. Although covering a variety of sub-genres of horror, there is something for everyone to check out. But let’s not forget, these horror anime films will succeed in giving you goosebumps for sure!
Legendary directors such as Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Mamoru Oshii, and Satoshi Kon contributed to the horror genre immensely through gore, psychological, and surreal mediums.
Let us know in the comments below, whether you agree with this list or not! If you want to argue about any rankings, we always encourage a healthy discussion, and if you have any other horror anime film in mind that deserves to be on the list, do let us know as well!