The Best Animated Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked

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Anime is a perfect way to bring imaginative science fiction to life. The freedom offered by drawn visuals (as opposed to live action) means that sci-fi worlds can be created without building massive sets or relying on cheap CG. The limitations posed by live action simply disappear when working with animation, although it can be just as costly and time-consuming. Although there are many movies that mix anime and sci-fi, some of them top the others. These are the films that define the medium, shatter expectations and stand the test of time. Let’s look at six of the best examples of sci-fi animated cinema, ranked.


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6/6 Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie takes everything that makes the animated series great and turns it into a sci-fi feature. With a much higher budget than any episode of cowboy bebop, it’s a beautifully animated depiction of Mars in the year 2071. The film follows the pattern of the series’ more serious dramatic arcs, which are now only enlarged for the big screen. It’s heavy on bombast and light on comedy, but nevertheless fits perfectly into the mood and themes of cowboy beboplater episodes. Fans can either catch the movie after finishing the series or watch it between episodes 22 and 23, as that’s where it seems to canonically fit best.

5/6 Paprika (2006)

Visionary anime filmmaker Satoshi Kon, known for psychological thriller perfect blueproduced a sci-fi masterpiece with Paprika. Set in the near future, it focuses on the DC Mini, a new technology developed to enable dream visualization. Although the DC Mini can be used to help treat patients who are having recurring nightmares, things go awry when a dishonest developer begins using the machine to kill. Paprika is visually and conceptually stunning, with a colorful dreamlike aesthetic and a story that inspired Christopher Nolan’s 2009 film Creationby Hollywood Insider. In August, it was revealed that Amazon was planning a live action Paprika series, which will hopefully do justice to Kon’s vision.

Related: How Perfect Blue Brilliantly Lights Up Its Viewers

4/6 End of Evangelion (1997)

Released as a feature-length follow-up to the acclaimed series Neon Genesis Evangelion, End of Evangelion is a direct sequel that chronicles the cataclysmic Third Impact, an event that aims for the extinction of life on Earth in hopes of reaching a new stage of evolution. The film requires an intimate familiarity with the events and subtext of the original series, and can feel deeply confusing if approached unprepared. For those who want to struggle with End of EvangelionWith its intricate symbology (and willingness to commit to a second viewing), it stands out as the franchise’s finest medium and one of the greatest works of sci-fi animation ever produced.

3/6 Angel Egg (1985)

Although most famous for ghost in the shellanime director Mamoru Oshii’s debut film, angel egg, is a masterpiece in its own right. Clever and densely allusive, it brings together science fiction and religious symbolism in a mysterious whole. Don’t expect a satisfying rendition on your first viewing, as much of the film’s meaning lurks beneath the surface. At first glance, this appears to be a simple story of a girl living in a desolate scientific landscape who only wants to protect a giant egg she keeps hidden in the folds of her dress. Oshii leaves it up to the viewer to figure out what’s really going on, but that’s part of what makes it so alluring. It also helps that the movie is one of the best looking on this list, even if it’s lesser known.

2/6 Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Mamoru Oshii’s brilliant cyberpunk thriller, ghost in the shelldrastically changed the media landscape when it was released in 1995. By voicelater films defining the medium as The matrix drew inspiration from his philosophical musings and neo-noir aesthetic. It follows Major Makoto Kusanagi, a human woman with a completely cybernetic body, as she attempts to thwart the cyberterrorism of a rogue artificial intelligence known as the Puppet Master. From its frenetic action choreography to its beautiful rendition of Japan 2029, ghost in the shell is a landmark achievement for science fiction and anime. The 2017 live-action remake tried and failed to recapture the spark of the original, demonstrating that you can’t improve on perfection.

Related: Ghost in the Shell Producer Reveals the True Cost of the 1995 Anime

1/6 Akira (1988)

Akira is perhaps the most influential animated film ever made. When it was released in 1988, its jaw-dropping visuals, intricate story and visionary score took the world by storm. A historic example of hand-drawn cel animation, it showed the potential of Japanese animation; nowadays; it’s hard to find a better movie, anime or otherwise. He’s most famous for his iconic motorcycle sequence, which reveals just how much work has gone into rendering the cyberpunk metropolis of Neo-Tokyo. The film’s plot, while confusing at times, is overshadowed by its visuals and sound design. It’s no surprise that a live-action has been in the remake for years now, as the original still occupies an important place in the cultural sphere. An unforgettable cinematic work of art that transcends its medium, Akira is the best sci-fi animated film of all time.


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