The phenomenon of anime is mostly known for its animated series, which are also responsible for the genre’s popularity overall. But, alongside the series, there are also numerous anime movies, some of which are considered to be true classics and absolute works of art. They might not be as famous as their televised counterparts, but they still deserve our attention and are part of animation history. This list of anime movies is going to focus on adventuring and will provide you with the 12 best anime movies where the characters go on an intriguing, action-packed adventure. They are going to be listed in random order, as our goal is to provide you with a list where adventuring is the main plot focus and not a ranked list that will evaluate these works. Enjoy!
1. Spirited Away
Original Release: July 20, 2001
Running Time: 125 minutes
What it’s about: Chihiro and her parents are forced to move to another city. During the move, his father decides to take a shortcut to save time; however, they get lost and arrive at a building with a strange tunnel in the center. Even though Chihiro refuses to enter, his parents insist on following the tunnel. On the other side, they discover an apparently abandoned village; the family chooses to explore the place and ends up finding a restaurant where they decide to stop and eat. Chihiro leaves them to continue investigating. As night falls, a mysterious young man named Haku appears and orders Chihiro to leave the place before it completely gets dark.
Why you should watch it: Spirited Away‘s title gives it away, although this type of adventure is more spiritual than actual. The young Chihiro experiences a most bizarre set of events as her parents are turned into pigs, and she has to save them. This is a truly magical story that you will benefit from absolutely, and that is why we recommend it wholeheartedly.
2. Pokémon: The First Movie
Original Release: July 18, 1998
Running Time: 75 minutes
What it’s about: On a mysterious island, archaeologists have discovered a fossilized eyelash of Mew, the rarest Pokémon in the world. The researchers decided to create a clone of Mew, Mewtwo, using this sample, with the aim of offering it to Giovanni, the Leader of Team Rocket. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that the clone has no desire to become their guinea pig. He destroys the lab and kills everyone in it with his incredible power. Following these events, he decides to organize a big tournament to bring together the best trainers, including Ash, Misty, and Brock, with the aim of seizing their Pokémon, cloning them, and becoming the master of the world.
Why you should watch it: And while every Pokémon movie is an adventure on its own, we decided to include the first one, because it was such a great film and because it was so successful. The introduction of Mewtwo to the plot was executed brilliantly, and the first Pokémon is truly an adventure that no Pokémon will ever forget.
3. Porco Rosso
Original Release: July 18, 1992
Running Time: 94 minutes
What it’s about: Born in 1893, Marco Pagot is an ace of the Regia Aeronautica who has a near-death experience during a fight during the First World War. Miraculously survived, he came out with a disfigured face, which took on the appearance of a pig’s snout.
Abandoning the aeronautics and social life (including love for Gina, a childhood friend who became the owner of a hotel set up on a small island in the Adriatic and frequented by smugglers enchanted by her singing skills and her beauty), he retires to the Dalmatian coast, earning a living with the bounties placed on the pirates of the air fighting with his Savoia S.21 monoplane seaplane (or S.21 “Folgore”, after having mounted the engine of the same name), painted red, hence the nickname “Porco Rosso.”
Why you should watch it: If you like a more action-packed approach to adventuring, Porco Rosso is undoubtedly a title for you. This is yet another timeless classic by Miyazaki that will take you out to the sea, where you’ll see pilots, airplanes, pirates, and all sorts of amazing characters in an adventure that you’ll thoroughly enjoy from start to finish.
4. Princess Mononoke
Original Run: July 12, 1997
Running Time: 133 minutes
What it’s about: The story takes place in medieval Japan (Muromachi era). Ashitaka, the prince of the tribe of the Emishis, a reclusive people north of Honshū, is cursed after killing Naggo, a boar god turned demon: his arm is animated with a supernatural force, but is eaten away by the demonic entity. The shaman of the village says he is doomed to die and advises him to leave the village in order to seek in the west the cause of nature’s anger and the hope of finding the reason for his curse.
Why you should watch it: Everyone knew that Princess Mononoke would end up on this list. This is a timeless classic and one of Miyazaki’s best movies, without a doubt, which is why you absolutely have to see it. It is one of the most amazing adventures you’ll see and a journey that is as unique as it is beautiful.
5. Ocean Waves
Original Release: May 5, 1993
Running Time: 72 minutes
What it’s about: Rikako Mutō is a student from Tokyo who has just been transferred to one of the institutes in Kōchi, a coastal city far from the capital, after her parents’ divorce. Rikako is a beautiful, intelligent young woman, good at studies and sports. However, she is unable to adapt to the social life of her school. Taku Morisaki and Yutaka Matsuno, two great friends from high school, attend the same high school, the former of whom begins to notice the young newcomer visibly.
Why you should watch it: Like some other titles on this list, Ocean Waves shows us how life is an adventure in itself. It is not a fantasy story full of magic and strange characters, it is a very down-to-earth, realistic story about growing up, love, relationships, and people. And it is also an adventure that shows us how life can tell the most amazing tales.
6. The Cat Returns
Original Release: July 20, 2002
Running Time: 75 minutes
What it’s about: Haru is a 17-year-old high school girl full of doubts who does not find her place among the others. Her life changes the day when, on her way home from high school with her best friend Hiromi, she saves the life of a cat that is nearly run over by a truck. But it’s not just any cat, because this one speaks and introduces himself as Loon, the prince of the kingdom of cats. The cats now owe Haru a debt. During the night, they shower her with gifts and the King of the Cats himself invites her to his kingdom where she will have to marry Prince Loon. The film is an initiatory tale of the passage from adolescence to adulthood.
Why you should watch it: The Cat Returns is a great example of why Ghibli is Japan’s biggest anime studio when movies are concerned. It was not directed by Miyazaki, but The Cat Returns is an unforgettable adventure that has Ghibli’s signature all over, which is why it is such a beautiful work and why we have decided to include it on our list.
Original Release: February 10, 2022
Running Time: 100 minutes
What it’s about: The story takes place in the city of Tokyo, invaded by strange bubbles floating in the air. One day, Hibiki, a young parkour daredevil in the bubbles, and Uta, a mysterious girl, hear a sound that they are the only ones to perceive.
Why you should watch it: Not sure about Bubble? Neither were we, but we can only say that this unique story is so special that you absolutely have to see it. That is why we have decided to put it on our list, as it is truly an amazing story and adventure the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle
Original Release: September 5, 2004
Running Time: 119 minutes
What it’s about: An eighteen-year-old girl, Sophie, who works in her late father’s store, accidentally meets a mysterious wizard named Howl, during a chase. The latter then takes her in sympathy. However, the Witch of the Waste, who is in love with Howl, becomes jealous of the attention paid to Sophie by the latter. To get revenge, she decides to transform the young girl into a ninety-year-old lady. Unable to reveal this transformation to her family, she locks herself in her home, then runs away.
In the mountains, she meets an enchanted scarecrow whom she affectionately calls Turnip. This leads her to Howl’s Moving Castle. Once inside, and after having noticed a total insalubrity, she meets the fire demon, Calcifer. He moves the castle and guesses that Sophie has been the victim of a spell. He then offers to break the spell, but Sophie will have to help him in turn in order to break the pact that unites him with Hauru.
Why you should watch it: As you’d expect, this title is actually going to be full of Miyazaki’s films because these films are always amazing and Miyazaki knows, as a storyteller, how to take us on an amazing adventure. Howl’s Moving Casle is yet another classic by the great filmmaker and an adventure that you definitely have to see (or revisit, if you’ve already seen it).
9. Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna
Original Release: February 21, 2020
Running Time: 94 minutes
What it’s about: Announced as the last installment in the saga of the original DigiDestined, Kizuna was a feature-length anime movie that delivered an emotional farewell to the series that inspired generations. With improved animation, a remixed soundtrack, and a strong, emotional story, Kizuna was a heartbreaking, yet fitting end to a 20-year-long saga. The DigiDestined had to unite with their partners once more to stop the mysterious Eosmon, a Digimon who seemed to kidnap the souls of DigiDestined around the world, only to discover that their time with their partner Digimon is coming to an end due to their growing up.
Why you should watch it: Okay, Last Adventure Kizuna might be a movie for Digimon fans, but we had to list it here because it was a truly amazing end to a 20-year-long journey that raised not just one, but a couple of generations. The saga of the original DigiDestined came to an end with this heartbreaking adventure, and we can only say that the series truly delivered in both the narrative and the emotional aspects.
10. Castle in the Sky
Original Release: August 2, 1986
Running Time: 124 minutes
What it’s about: Sky pirates, the “Dora Band,” attack a flying fortress; they are looking for a “flying stone” belonging to a young girl, Sheeta, held prisoner. The latter manages to escape to land at Pazu, a boy of her age. The two discover that they have one thing in common: Laputa, a legendary island floating in the sky. Pazu’s father had seen it with his own eyes, but no one had believed it, leaving him to die of grief; but Sheeta has this “flying stone” that leads to the island. Pursued by the pirates and by Muska, a secret service agent supported by the army fleet, the two children help each other to get there before them. Muska wants to use the young girl to succeed in reigning over these lands.
Why you should watch it: Castle in the Sky is yet another example of how Hayao Miyazaki can take us on an adventure we’ll never forget. Even when he works around similar motifs, Miyazaki can make it unique, and Castle in the Sky is such a great example of that. The story is truly magical and emotional, which is why this is yet another deserved addition to the list.
11. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Original Release: March 11, 1984
Running Time: 117 minutes
What it’s about: A thousand years have passed since the fall of industrial civilization during the “seven days of fire”, a planetary war of immeasurable violence. Humanity is surviving as best they can in a few enclaves threatened by the fukai, a gigantic forest that is constantly gaining ground and whose spores are fatal for the majority of living beings. This thick jungle is protected by giant insects which have adapted to this environment. The “ômu” are its main representatives, by their size and their sensitivity. The Valley of the Wind is a small agricultural kingdom, protected from spores and fukai by sea winds.
The destruction of a massive ship belonging to the Tolmec Empire, which was a victim of insects after an unlucky stopover in the poisonous forest, disturbs his state of mind. The Tolmec forces attacked the valley in search of the contents of this ship; they killed the old King Jill and kidnapped his daughter Nausicaä.
Why you should watch it: Nausicaä is the final Ghibli story on this list, and it certainly deserves to be here. Like all of Miyazaki’s movies, Nausicaä is a truly amazing and magical experience, where adventure is not just literal but also metaphorical. The aesthetics are, as always, amazing, and this is a movie that has to be seen and enjoyed regardless of whether you’re looking simply for adventure or not.
12. Wolf Children
Original Release: June 25, 2012
Running Time: 117 minutes
What it’s about: Hana is a nineteen-year-old student who meets a boy she falls in love with at university. He reveals to her that he is a wolfwere, the last descendant of the now-extinct Japanese wolf. Nonetheless, the two get together, and when she finds out she is pregnant, she does not visit for fear of the baby being born a wolf.
Nine months later, Yuki (“snow”) is born on a snowy day, and a year later, her little brother Ame (“rain”) is born on a rainy day. Shortly after the birth of her son, the father disappears: in search of her, Hana discovers her accidental death during a hunt to procure prey for the young. Despite her pain, the girl decides to raise the children alone, a task that is far from easy for a single woman, especially considering that these children can turn into wolves.
After the owner of the condominium where they live threatens to evict them because she suspects the presence of animals (prohibited by the condominium regulations) and that social workers come to ask questions about the children who have not been subjected to scheduled vaccinations, Hana decides to move to the countryside to allow children to grow up without problems and to decide whether to live as humans or as wolves.
Why you should watch it: Wolf Children is also not a classical get-together type of adventure where they fight villains; it is more of a metaphorical journey through life and coping with life’s problems and with being different. It is certainly an adventure, seeing what is happening to the characters, but we decided to list it here because of the beautiful and heartwarming plot, as well as the fact that it beautifully portrays how life’s everyday hardships can be an adventure as well.