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When many people hear the phrase "science fiction," the only thing they imagine is space travel and aliens. And of course, space and aliens are a huge part of the sci-fi genre! However, they're not the only part of it. Science fiction is a much broader title, encompassing cyberpunk, steampunk, some horror and more! It can have elements like robots, reimagined historical settings, advanced technology, time travel, and monsters just to name a few. Sci Fi can walk hand in hand with other genres like fantasy and supernatural.
And the end result is an awesome story that really stretches the limit of your imagination!
There are a lot of anime movies that are in the sci-fi genre, so it can be intimidating to pick one and find the best. That's why we have created our list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Anime Movies. We tried to be diverse and include as many different kinds of science fiction as we could, from the traditional to the more modern, with old and new films alike. All of these films can be watched on their own without needing to commit to an anime series to understand them! And of course, they all had to have some fantastic sci-fi elements. So what did we chose in the end? Keep reading to find out our choices for the Top 10 Sci-Fi Anime Movies!
10. Wonderful Days (Sky Blue)
- Air Date: Jul. 2003
Wonderful Days is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been nearly destroyed by terrible environmental pollution. In an attempt to save humanity, the city of Ecoban was created using the pollution itself as an energy source to power it. While that seemed like a great solution, it also created a group of elite people who think they are above the system, and refuse to let anyone else live in Ecoban unless they are a manual labourer. Outside the city, the world is a wasteland - and that's where the main character, Shua, is living. He feels there is no point in life other than his love for his childhood friend, but when he finds out she loves someone else...what is the point of living in such a destroyed and broken world?
We couldn't have a list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Anime Movies without having some dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles, of course, and Wonderful Days fits that bill perfectly. A world destroyed by pollution is all too real a possibility, which makes the film ring with a stronger meaning for the viewer. Wonderful Days was made with a very unique animation style as well that really adds to the film's futuristic and sci-fi feeling and makes it more visually stimulating and interesting to watch. Plus if you like love stories, and especially love triangles, this is the sci-fi film for you! A major part of the plot is the story of Shua, his friend Jay, and another man named Cade. If you're interested in a love story in a dystopian world, well, you've found one!
9. Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)
- Air Date: Jul. 2006
Makoto Kanno is a teenage girl struggling to decide what she wants to do with her future after high school in Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. She's under a lot of pressure from her teachers, and would just rather spend time relaxing with her friends. One day she discovers that she has a very special ability - the ability to leap through time itself and change the past. At first, Makoto has a lot of fun time leaping and playing with her new skill. As time goes on though, she begins to understand that for every small change she makes there is a butterfly effect of much bigger consequences. Every choice has a reaction, and there are some she never expected or intended to happen.
Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo is another award-winning film on our list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Anime Movies. It won several awards when it was released, and is critically acclaimed for its story and script. Time travel is a popular element of science fiction, and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo does it tastefully without being confusing and weaves together a very emotional and heartfelt story. It may take place in an otherwise normal city in Japan, which is quite different from other entries on our sci-fi list, but don't let that steer you away. It has plenty of sci-fi factors and consequences from Makoto messing with time, and you'll find yourself emotionally invested in her fate before the film reaches its climactic ending. It’s an especially perfect choice for a more casual sci-fi fan or someone who wants to watch a science fiction film without feeling overwhelmed!
- Air Date: Jul. 2009
Tetsu has a secret, very strange pet called Cenco he has been caring for in Cencoroll, and only his friend Yuki knows about it. But his secret might become public when suddenly a monster appears and begins to attack the city! The Japanese Special Defence Force deploys their weaponry, but no one has the answer to what is happening. Could it be something related to Cenco? That's when another mysterious boy appears who has a connection with the monster - and a strong interest in Cenco. It seems that Cenco and the monster are definitely related, so what will happen in the upcoming battle for the city?
Cencoroll is a monster science fiction movie that is reminiscent of other famous Japanese monster films like Godzilla. It has the mysterious monster that appears to destroy the city while the military tries to stop it, and eventual solutions that involve even more sci fi answers (like using other monsters). If you're a fan of the classic monster movie plot, you're going to love Cencoroll! It has plenty of action and excitement, and some really cool science fiction creatures to check out as well. Get ready for a big fight to save the whole city!
7. Ibara no Ou (King of Thorn)
- Air Date: Oct. 2009
The world has fallen to a terrible epidemic known as "Medusa" in Ibara no Ou, and everyone is dying. In an effort to save humanity and escape, a group of people is selected is be put to sleep by an organisation called the CSCC, with the promise they will be awoken when a cure is discovered. Kasumi is one of the chosen, going to sleep in the old castle along with 159 other people. But when they awake, the world is not what they expected. The castle is covered in thorns, and the CSCC has changed dramatically. Plus they are being attacked by monsters! What has happened and how long were they asleep? Will anyone be able to survive?
Ibara no Ou is a science fiction film about a widespread disease, adding an element of horror to the genre. It's a very dark film, with exciting action that will keep you on the edge of your seat! It's also a mystery story as Kasumi and the others try to figure out what has happened to the world, and the plot will keep you guessing. Plus escaping from an old castle full of monsters is already exciting, anyway. Adding in disease and mystery just makes it even more entertaining to watch! If you like your sci-fi with a side of horror and suspense, make Ibara no Ou your next stop. It's definitely the darkest sci-fi film on our list!
6. Shisha no Teikoku (The Empire of Corpses)
- Air Date: Oct. 2015
Shisha no Teikoku takes place in a reimagined past, where in the 19th-century humans have learned how to reanimate corpses. However, the bodies are not capable of individual thoughts or feelings, so they are used as manual labour. But one of the leading scientists in the research, Victor Frankenstein, claims to have the only reanimated corpse with a soul! Too bad he and his research had all disappeared. That's where medical student John Watson comes in, a man determined to find Frankenstein's notes and uncover the mysteries of the human soul. But is it morally acceptable to reanimate dead bodies in the first place? At what cost does such an advance in science have?
Another darker anime on our list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Anime Movies, Shisha no Teikoku adds more excitement and horror to the list. The setting has a steampunk vibe as well, being Victorian London but with an unmistaken modern vibe. The idea of reanimating a dead body is definitely something straight out of science fiction - but this isn't just another zombie film! It's got a very different plot line that is much deeper and more meaningful as it explores human morality and just what a human soul is. Shisha no Teikoku tells a unique story while searching for the answers to these questions and will keep you guessing and wondering yourself! If you like zombies, steampunk, and horror Shisha no Teikoku is a great film to watch.
5. Captain Harlock (Space Pirate Captain Harlock)
- Air Date: Sep. 2013
The universe has been entirely conquered by humans in Captain Harlock, but now all of its resources are being used up. When over 500 million people try to return to Earth, it causes a power struggle for the limited land there. Thus the Gaia Sanction was born to protect the Earth, and Captain Harlock was one of the leading commanders of a group of ships that defended it. But when the Gaia Sanction allowed an elite group of humans through, Harlock went rogue in his anger and tried to destroy the Earth with dark matter. He also encased himself in the substance, prolonging his life for over 100 years. Now, Harlock is still at large, a rogue force captaining his ship the Arcadia - and he's ready for one more fight with the Gaia Sanction.
Captain Harlock is a space fantasy science fiction, with lots of interplanetary travel and space battles in it to satisfy anyone looking for that kind of adventure. It takes place in the distant future and plays upon the idea of humans using up too many resources, a common theme in sci-fi these days. But don't think it's just the same old story again! Harlock is a really unique character - he's a dark hero, who you can't help but cheer for even though he may be morally questionable. The animation style used for Captain Harlock is computer generated, adding to its futuristic sci-fi feel as well. And don't worry if you haven't seen the old anime of the same name - Captain Harlock is a self-contained, standalone film that you can enjoy even as a newcomer to Harlock's story!
- Air Date: Jul. 1994
Steamboy is the story of Ray, a young inventor living in Victorian England. One day he receives a mysterious package from his grandfather containing a strange device called the Steam Ball. It seems the Steam Ball has the ability to give anything that is powered by steam an endless energy supply! Of course in this time period, that kind of energy is priceless, and there are plenty of people with bad intentions that want to get their hands on the Steam Ball, too. Ray has to protect it from falling into the wrong hands to save not only himself but the future!
Steamboy is another different example of the many elements of science fiction - this time, steampunk. The setting may be Victorian England, but it's a reimagined England from the historically accurate one, where steam power is even more important than it was! Steamboy is a really fun battle between good and evil with this unique sci-fi twist and plenty of fun, whimsical ideas and action. Plus the animation is really unique as well. Expect plenty of fun steam-powered inventions and devices that will really tickle your imagination, and a great sci-fi adventure through a much more romantic past.
3. Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa (Castle in the Sky)
- Air Date: Aug. 1986
Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa takes place in a world that used to be full of flying cities, and people had taken to living on them rather than on the ground. A terrible disaster changed that though, sending people back to their grounded lives - but they never gave up their love of flying and exploring the sky, leading to a great number of airships and other fantastic flying devices. The main character is Sheeta, a girl being abducted on an airship by a man named Muska who works for the government. Luckily for Sheeta, she is able to escape her captor and is found by a boy named Pazu. Along with him, Sheeta discovers that her mysterious amulet is actually the key to finding the long lost flying castle called Laputa. Can Sheeta and Pazu find Laputa before Muska and his corrupt government can?
Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa is a whimsical sci-fi film with a lot of fantasy elements. It's made by the famous Studio Ghibli and is actually their first film, which in and of itself warrants a watch. But the film helped the studio gain fame for a reason - it's very well done. Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa combines fantasy and science fiction together seamlessly by painting a world full of airships, sky pirates, mysterious robots, and more while telling a classic story of the underdog standing up to a corrupt government.
The story feels magical when you're watching it but everything is explained through fantasy technology and science rather than an unknown art, firmly landing Laputa in the science fiction genre. If you're looking for a light-hearted story with characters you can really care about, and like fantasy as well as science fiction, Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa may be perfect for you.
2. Ghost in the Shell
- Air Date: Nov. 1995
Ghost in the Shell is set in 2029 when the advancement of prosthetics has allowed humans to replace almost their entire bodies with robotic parts. Major Motoko Kusanagi is one such person, with most of her body being robotic prosthetics. The world is not all benefitting from this advanced technology though, and corruption and terrorism abound. Along with her partners Batou and Ishikawa of the Public Security Section 9, Motoko is assigned a special assignment to investigate a hacker called the Puppetmaster. It seems like a simple job - but nothing is ever as simple as it seems, as Motoko is about to find out.
Ghost in the Shell is the first movie made from the famous manga of the same name, but don't worry - you can watch it on its own even without seeing any previous content. It's arguably one of the most famous and well-known anime films of all time, and even inspired Western films like the Matrix. And of course, it's full of sci-fi fun! A world where cyborgs and robots live alongside humans is a great science fiction setting. And there are plenty of thrilling action sequences and fights to be had throughout the film! It also pushes questions of identity, and the value of one's soul as even one's gender in such a society, which are compelling ideas. If you like cyborgs, action, and psychologically stimulating sci-fi - watch Ghost in the Shell.
- Air Date: Jul. 1988
Akira begins in Japan in 1988, when a boy with powerful psychic abilities sets off the beginning of World War III. Of course, he is quickly captured and never heard from again, but the world will never be the same. Skip ahead to 2019, and the city of Neo-Tokyo which is full of gangs and violent resistances to the government. Shoutarou Kaneda leads one of these gangs known as the Capsules, and in a battle with an opposing group, he gets tangled up with an esper who has escaped his government confinement somehow. From that chance encounter, Shoutarou develops his own psychic abilities - and they're powerful ones. Can he escape the government as they're hot on his trail, not wanting the start to another devastating war and believing he could be the trigger?
Akira is one of the most famous anime films of all time, and despite being old, is still loved and watched by many people. It's an award-winning film set in a dystopian, cyberpunk Tokyo that is very different from the Tokyo we know today and instead is one reimagined after World War III. Its visuals and story are what make it so special, and have led to its lasting legacy. Akira had been cited as an influence for most modern anime, as well as Western movies and TV shows from the Matrix to Stranger Things. And it's considered to be one of the best science fiction movies of all time! All for good reason - Akira is hard to forget after you've seen it, shocking and visually stunning at every turn. If you've missed this classic up to this point, be sure to watch it soon. It's a great film for science fiction lovers of all kinds, and a must for anime lovers!
From robots to zombies, aliens to cyborgs, dystopian wastelands to whimsical cities, science fiction anime films are just as diverse as sci-fi movies and books. Whatever element of science fiction that you like, there's likely to be at least one if not more anime films you would enjoy! Being anime means they don't have the limitations that live action stories have to have, so anything can happen as long as you can imagine it. So get ready for compelling stories, deep main characters, and amazing settings that will captivate your imagination and draw you fully into their sci-fi world with our Top 10 Sci-Fi Anime Movies.
What's your favourite sci-fi anime film? Did we miss it from the list? Have you ever watched any of these before? What's your favourite thing about sci-fi in anime, or your favourite kind? Whatever you want to say or ask about science fiction anime films, do it in the comments below!