Anime movies have captured the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide with their unique storytelling, stunning visuals, and memorable characters. From the classic works of Studio Ghibli to the latest blockbusters from the anime industry, these movies have become a significant part of the global entertainment industry.
Over the last two decades, anime has established itself globally. Anime’s shift towards mainstream acceptance has resulted in box office performance. But which anime movies have been the most successful? In this article, we will look at the top-grossing anime titles of all time (along with their worldwide box office earnings) and explore what makes them so popular among audiences worldwide.
1. Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train ($507,127,293)
Japanese title: Kimetsu no Yaiba Movie: Mugen Ressha-hen
Release date: October 16, 2020
In 2020, Japan released an anime film that would shatter records and become a global phenomenon. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, a continuation of the beloved anime series, adapted a canon arc from the manga – a rare feat for most anime films.
To fully appreciate the movie, existing fans needed to have pre-existing knowledge of the series, while newcomers interested in shōnen anime could still get something out of it.
The movie debuted in U.S. theaters on April 23, 2021, and was hailed as an action-packed masterpiece. Ufotable’s animation team did not disappoint, delivering a visually stunning movie that ramped up the original material to 11. The film’s booming soundtrack and impressive CGI work added to its appeal, showcasing the preference of fans for canon material over non-canonical filler plotlines.
The success of Demon Slayer: Mugen Train broke records and exceeded expectations, paving the way for a new era of anime films. Despite being released at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the movie broke records and became the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time. It’s also worth noting that the movie’s darker tone and bloody fight scenes challenged the notion that anime is immature entertainment for children.
With over US$506 million in earnings, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train became the highest-grossing anime movie of all time, surpassing even Spirited Away’s 19-year record. Its enthralling fight scenes and gorgeous visuals have earned it high praise, cementing its place in anime history.
2. Spirited Away ($383,877,891)
Japanese title: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Release date: July 20, 2001
In the vast world of anime films, few can match the brilliance of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Released in 2001, the movie follows the adventure of Chihiro, a young girl who discovers herself in a bathhouse filled with various spirits, some of which are downright terrifying. Later on, she meets a boy named Haku, who helps her find a way out of the spiritual dimension. Despite its fantastical elements, the movie manages to tap into the inner child of its viewers, invoking a sense of wonder and curiosity that is unparalleled in animation.
Unsurprisingly, Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it the only anime movie to do so. The film has also gained iconic status within the anime community, with characters like No-Face becoming a recognizable mascot of Studio Ghibli.
It’s not just the fans who love it, though, as the movie has received numerous local and international awards, including the Annie Awards and Critics’ Choice Awards. Spirited Away is a must-watch for any anime fan, and its status as the highest-grossing movie of all time for Studio Ghibli only solidifies its place in the pantheon of anime greats.
3. Your Name ($382,238,181)
Japanese title: Kimi no Na wa
Release date: August 26, 2016
Your Name by Makoto Shinkai shattered the misconception that only Studio Ghibli films or adaptations of popular properties can become global hits. This Makoto Shinkai film is a romantic anime movie about Taki and Mitsuha, two teenagers from different worlds who swap bodies and eventually fall in love. Packed with humor, plot twists, and relatable character drama, Your Name is a crowd-pleaser that has earned its place as a cult classic since its release in 2016.
The stunning visuals, dynamic dialogue, and captivating soundtrack only add to the movie’s success. It held the top spot at the Japanese box office for several consecutive weekends and grossed $160 million in 2016, surpassing international titles such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Shin Godzilla, Zootopia, and Finding Dory. Produced by CoMix Wave Films, Your Name is undoubtedly one of the must-watch films for all anime fans.
4. Suzume ($300,752,798)
Japanese title: Suzume no Tojimari
Release date: November 11, 2022
Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, Suzume, has become another box office success, as his movies have a reputation for being popular hits. Like many of Shinkai’s works, this anime film explores themes of nature and grief through a narrative about a girl named Suzume Iwato, who can see things others cannot. She meets a boy named Sōta Munakata, who is searching for a door that, when opened, unleashes calamities that threaten Japan. Inadvertently, Suzume opens all the doors, and it’s up to her to close them to save her country from the disasters that are unleashed.
Despite its supernatural elements, Suzume deals with relatable human emotions, both personal to the protagonist and collective, through Japan’s history with earthquakes. Makoto Shinkai is known for his critically acclaimed films, such as Weathering with You, 5 Centimeters per Second, The Garden of Words, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, and the popular Your Name. With Suzume being his latest addition, it stands out with its unique and intriguing story that justifies its success.
Suzume quickly rose to fourth place at the box office, surpassing even a film from a popular franchise like One Piece Film: Red, highlighting the talent of Makoto and his team. Anything less than near-perfection would be a step back for Shinkai, but Suzume comes close to meeting and exceeding expectations, showcasing the director’s consistency and brilliance.
5. One Piece Film: Red ($246,500,000)
Japanese title: One Piece Film: Red
Release date: August 6, 2022
One Piece Film: Red has shattered box office records, surpassing all other movies in the One Piece franchise. This 2022 anime film is a testament to the explosive growth of the anime industry in recent years, with films based on shonen anime now enjoying global success comparable to Studio Ghibli’s iconic projects.
The film features a new character, Uta, who is not only an international singer but also Luffy’s childhood friend and Shanks’ daughter. One Piece movies have had a mixed track record in introducing new characters, but Uta has become one of the franchise’s most beloved additions. The movie is known for its breathtaking musical numbers and an engaging storyline that captivates both One Piece fans and newcomers alike.
Box Office Mojo lists the film’s worldwide gross at $187,170,704, while creator Eiichiro Oda’s Twitter account has confirmed a whopping ¥31.9 billion in earnings. One Piece Film: Red broke box office records in a short period and remains the highest-grossing film in the franchise’s history, surpassing even Jujutsu Kaisen 0’s impressive earnings.
6. Howl’s Moving Castle ($237,536,126)
Japanese title: Howl no Ugoku Shiro
Release date: November 20, 2004
Hayao Miyazaki, the director of Spirited Away, shifted his focus to war for his next film: Howl’s Moving Castle. This decision was influenced by the social climate of the early 2000s, and the movie reflects Miyazaki’s anti-war beliefs, as well as other themes like life, nature, and love. The story follows Sophie, a young woman who is cursed by a witch and ages rapidly, and her search for Howl, a mysterious wizard who can help her reverse the curse.
Released in 2004, Howl’s Moving Castle showcased Hayao Miyazaki’s impressive talents as a director. Although the movie may appear to be a romantic comedy, Miyazaki sprinkled anti-war messages and encouraged viewers to accept themselves and the aging process. The film premiered at the 61st Venice Film Festival in 2004, where it was awarded the Osella Award for Technical Achievement.
7. Ponyo ($205,162,666)
Japanese title: Gake no Ue no Ponyo
Release date: July 19, 2008
Ponyo is yet another captivating film from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, telling the endearing tale of a young boy and his interaction with a magical goldfish who longs to be a human. Although Miyazaki’s films are known for being family-friendly, Ponyo appears to be aimed specifically at children, with a simpler story compared to other Ghibli classics like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Despite its uncomplicated plot, Ponyo is a feast for the eyes, with breathtaking animation showcasing Studio Ghibli’s renowned quality. Miyazaki’s signature style and poignant coming-of-age tone are ever-present, filling the audience with childlike wonder and amazement each time they watch Ponyo.
Released in 2008, Ponyo became an instant hit, grossing an impressive $3,585,852 during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada.
8. Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie ($196,290,952)
Japanese title: Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Movie
Release date: December 24, 2021
As a prequel to the Jujutsu Kaisen anime series, the movie focuses on Yuta Okkotsu and the cursed spirit Rika Orimoto. It takes place one year before the events of the main series. Although the film does not feature Yuji, Nobara, and Megumi, it shines a spotlight on Tokyo Jujutsu High’s second-year students. Yuta Okkotsu, haunted by Rika, a special-grade cursed spirit, enrolls in the high school to undo her curse and make amends for his past mistakes.
With thrilling action and occasional comedic moments, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a must-watch for fans of the franchise and anyone who enjoys a good shonen battle story. Animated by MAPPA, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 offers an exhilarating adventure from start to finish.
The movie debuted in December 2021 in Japan and became the highest-grossing movie of the year in Japan, with a total earning of US$91 million.
9. Weathering with You ($192,917,583)
Japanese title: Tenki no Ko
Release date: July 19, 2019
Sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, or stormy – Hina Amano can control it all. Known as Tokyo’s “sunshine girl,” Hina can control the weather by praying. She meets Hodaka, a runaway high school student trying to make ends meet, and they start a business that clears bad weather for weddings or parties. Their encounter changes their lives forever. And that’s why the movie is appropriately titled, Weathering with You.
Released in 2019, the film is Makoto Shinkai’s 12th movie, and it encapsulates everything associated with his identity as a director. Weathering with You is his quintessential film, reflecting his style and signature themes. Shinkai received critical acclaim for its captivating storyline, stunning animation, endearing storyline, and beautiful soundtrack by Japanese band Radwimps.
10. Stand by Me Doraemon ($183,442,714)
Japanese title: Stand By Me Doraemon
Release date: August 6, 2014
If you aren’t familiar with the titles above, you’re probably familiar with Doraemon – a Japanese cultural icon appointed as the first “anime ambassador” in Japan. Doraemon is a manga series that originated in 1969 and has become iconic over
40 films under its belt. Stand by Me Doraemon is widely regarded as the best of the bunch, as it presents a unique twist to a coming-of-age story.
Stand by Me Doraemon tells the story of Doraemon’s rescue of Nobita Nobi, a beloved figure in Japanese cartoons. Doraemon helps Nobita after his great-great grandson, Sewashi, warns him of a grim future due to his laziness and poor academic performance. This heartwarming film was highly acclaimed, winning the prestigious 38th Japan Academy Prize’s Animation of the Year and almost all of its other nominations. Released in 2014, the film covers Doraemon and Nobita’s entire history by modifying key storylines from the series, leading to an emotional goodbye.
Whether you’re a die-hard anime fan or new to the genre, these movies are a must-watch and a testament to the incredible storytelling and creativity of anime filmmakers. As the industry continues to evolve, we can only look forward to what new and exciting movies await us in the future. There are many interesting anime films to explore – you may want to start with the titles in this list!