14 Best Sci Fi Anime Movies You Need to Watch

Best Sci Fi Anime Movies featured

Good sci-fi is about more than just purple-haired teenagers piloting giant robots, which is why it's important to be discerning about the sci-fi anime that you watch. You don't want to waste your time with silly plots and cheesy special effects. You want the good stuff.

Before we begin, let’s clear the air on what we consider a Sci Fi to be. We chose movies that have at least on Sci Fi element like:

  • Advanced technology (more advanced than what we have our hands on at the moment).
  • Aliens or alien civilizations.
  • Time travel (sometimes time travel is independent of the advanced technology we mentioned earlier).
  • Basically, all elements that can be categorized as fictional science.

If you're looking for the best Sci Fi anime movies, here are a few flicks that get it right. Don’t forget to vote your favorite!

1. Ghost in the Shell

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  • Release date: 1995
  • Director: Mamoru Oshii
  • Genre: Cyberpunk, action, drama, technology

Considered one of the classics of the genre, Ghost in the Shell follows a human-cyborg police officer as she attempts to locate a mysterious hacker. It tackles themes of identity, humanity, and sexuality, and it was so influential that it actually inspired The Matrix.

This is a personal favorite of mine for a multitude of reasons: a riveting soundtrack that really leaves a mark on you, a cinematic, well-thought-out approach to colors of visuals, a depth of characters that resonates years after its release, and the fact that it's one of the primary pioneers of the modern Cyberpunk genre.

Ghost in the Shell, without a shadow of a doubt, is a recommendation I can wholeheartedly make even to someone who is not an anime fan. If anything, converting anime skeptics through movies like this or Ninja Scroll is surprisingly efficient.

2. Ibara no Ou (King of Thorn)

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  • Release date: 2009
  • Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama
  • Genre: Dark, horror, survival

Ibara no Ou follows the abrupt reawakening of a group of strangers who were put into suspended animation as humanity's last hope of surviving a virus. It would be a tough situation even without the bizarre monsters running around, but as the protagonists are quick to learn in this dark, violent story, life isn't fair.

Considered a staple of the survival horror genre, Ibara no Ou, also known as King of Thorn in English, is known for its good pacing structure as well as an introduction that grabs a hold of you and does not let go. If you're looking for a series to get gripped by, you might want to give it a chance.

3. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

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  • Release date: 2003
  • Director: Mamoru Hosoda
  • Genre: Drama, romance, time travel

What would you do with time-traveling powers? This is the question confronted by a normal high school girl in one of Japan's most famous animated movies. It even won the equivalent of a Japanese Academy Award! Widely considered as having a lot of cutesy and wholesale moments, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is considered a classic in most circles and is definitely worth watching if you're looking for a relaxed, laid-back time.

4. Sky Blue (Wonderful Days)

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  • Release date: 2003
  • Director: Kim Moon-Saeng
  • Genre: Apocalypse, dystopia

Also known under its original title Wonderful Days, this film follows rebels living in a polluted wasteland after the planet's richest citizens have walled themselves off in an elite city. It was rendered with computer-generated animation to give it a unique look.

Sky Blue is a Korean production and features some of the most stylish animations I've ever seen. The art style is uniquely different from most productions we're used to. Some say it has a boring story without much depth or flavor, though I enjoyed it for what it was.

5. The Empire of Corpses

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  • Release date: 2015
  • Director: Ryoutarou Makihara
  • Genre: Horror, drama, steampunk

In an alternate version of reality, humans have discovered how to reanimate corpses for manual labor. But what happens when a medical student tries to bring back the dead with their souls intact?

6. Castle in the Sky

  • Release date: 1986
  • Director: Hayao Miyazaki
  • Genre: Drama, adventure, fantasy, steampunk

Castle in the Sky was the very first film of Studio Ghibli, and it's considered one of the best sci fi anime movies of all time. It follows a pair of orphans as they attempt to locate a lost city while evading soldiers, robots, air pirates and other enemies.

7. Paprika

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  • Release date: 2003
  • Director: Satoshi Kon
  • Genre: Thriller, mystery, crime

A lot of people who watch Paprika say that it reminds them of Inception. What they don't realize is that Paprika came first! It follows a female psychologist who uses special dream-sharing technology to climb into her patient's psyches.

8. Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)

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  • Release date: 2006
  • Director: Makoto Shinkai
  • Genre: Drama, romance

Kimi no Na wa absolutely shattered box office records when it came out. It tells the story of two young high school students who start inexplicably switching bodies, but there's more to their fateful connection than it seems.

9. Summer Wars

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  • Release date: 2009
  • Director: Mamoru Hosoda
  • Genre: Action, drama, romance, comedy, AI

There are two stories told in Summer Wars. The first is about a young geeky guy pretending to be his crush's fiance in front of her family, and the second is about that same geeky guy triggering the malevolence of a rogue AI program and almost destroying the world. It's a complex movie.

10. Voices of a Distant Star

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  • Release date: 2002
  • Director: Makoto Shinkai
  • Genre: Romance, drama, war

When a young fighter is sent into space to battle an alien threat, she sends messages back to her male friend on Earth. The catch: The messages always take years to reach him because of their distance. Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, it didn't take long for Voices of a Distant Star to cement a place in anime movie history.

11. Origin: Spirits of the Past

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  • Release date: 2006
  • Director: Keiichi Sugiyama
  • Genre: Drama, romance, adventure

“Genetically modified trees” might sound like a weird premise for a movie, but in Origin: Spirits of the Past, the war between man and nature is anything but funny. It takes a chance meeting between a boy and a girl for peace to become a possibility.

12. Expelled from Paradise

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  • Release date: 2014
  • Director: Seiji Mizushima
  • Genre: Technology, action, apocalypse

Born on a space station where “people” are nothing more than digitized minds, a young government agent is given a physical body and sent to Earth on a mission. However, what awaits her there will shock every part of her processing system.

13. Saikano: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet

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  • Release date: 2005
  • Director: Mitsuko Kase
  • Genre: War, romance, drama

When their city is bombed, two high school students in a budding romance make the horrifying discovery that the girl is actually a weapon of mass destruction. How long can she hold on to her humanity when her body is slowly turning into a machine? Saikano is such a popular sci-fi title that it boasts a manga, anime, OVA and live-action film.

14. Akira

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  • Release date: 1988
  • Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
  • Genre: Apocalypse, cyberpunk, drama, action

Last but certainly not least, Akira tells the story of a bike gang leader in post-apocalyptic Tokyo who is fighting against the government to right a wrong. You've probably seen a lot of references to it. It's one of the most influential Japanese films of all time.

I cannot say this enough: Akira is absolutely a must-watch. It's going to get your adrenaline pumping like no other, and you just wait until the music kicks in. From start to finish, Akira is exhilarating and worth thinking about long after it's finished.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the best sci fi anime movies for intellectual viewers. What do you think? Did we leave off any classic or awe-inspiring films? What would be on your own list?

Don’t forget to vote your favorite sci fi anime and let us know in the comments below if we missed any notable title.