People love going to see certain types of movies where there are well-developed characters, writing and dialogue that keep the audience engaged, and a clever plot that breaks new ground. However, sometimes people want to go to a movie where they are just simply entertained by what’s in front of them and not having to think too hard in order to follow what’s going on. Most action films tend to go this route: as long as it can entertain you visually, then it can usually make up for the rest of the other aspects.
The same can be said about most anime action films as well. That being said, there are a variety of action films in most of the other genres as well. Ergo, you have action films that are all about the action, action films where the action isn’t the most important aspect but still delivers visually, and action that actually further develops the plot as well as the characters. With representations of all of these approaches on this list, here are the Top 10 Anime Action Movies.
10. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
- Genres: Action, Military, Police, Psychological, Romance
- Aired: Nov 17, 1999
This movie is all about action, but not in the way you might expect. Although there is plenty of fighting and violence seen throughout the movie, a big part of Jin-Roh is the fact that there’s a lot of action taking place overall dictating the pace as opposed to relying on dialogue for setting the pace, like most movies. You therefore get a different feel as to how the movie takes place as opposed to how it might have been had it been more dialogue heavy. This results in a unique perspective, especially when you consider the fact that at one time this movie was going to be live-action as opposed to animation; as a result, that outlook is still somewhat present. If you like actions of the characters, whether small or big, directing the pace of the movie as opposed to just big fighting scenes or huge explosions, Jin-Roh is worth checking out.
9. Boruto: Naruto the Movie
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Super Power, Martial Arts, Shounen
- Aired: Aug 7, 2015
While there are certainly a fair amount of action scenes in Naruto movies, this one tends to stand out from the rest. With a new cast of characters such as Boruto and Sarada carrying on the legacy from the main cast as they participate in their Chunin Exams, they soon find themselves facing off against a mysterious enemy with the fate of Konoha at stake. As a result, we get to see some big and vast displays of various Jutsu techniques, massive explosions resulting from these techniques, and some classic hand-to-hand combat we saw throughout the Naruto series. While the story may be somewhat lacking in terms of not having fully fleshed out characters as opposed to the series, the movie certainly makes up for this in terms of the action used.
8. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society
- Genres: Action, Mecha, Military, Mystery, Sci-Fi
- Aired: Sep 1, 2006
Deciding which Ghost in the Shell movie is the best can be pretty difficult, but Solid State Society is a solid contender by not only following the events of the amazing Stand Alone Complex anime series, but also capitalizing on the action displayed. While GITS may be recognized for its thought-provoking questions and its tackling of complex issues, it certainly helps to have some badass fighting going down, and SSS doesn’t fall short of that in the slightest. With Togusa and Batou having key roles in this movie and the Major coming along not too long after, you’re all but guaranteed to see them fighting as they know best. If you enjoyed the action that took place in Stand Alone Complex as well as the philosophical points raised, then you’ll be a big fan of this movie as well.
7. Fate/stay night - Unlimited Blade Works
- Genres: Action, Fantasy, Magic, Supernatural
- Aired: Jan 23, 2010
An adaptation of the 2nd route that can be taken from the Fate/stay night visual novel, this movie serves as a great definition for simply enjoying action over story. With hours and hours of gameplay being condensed into a short movie, it’s almost impossible to truly get the same satisfaction one would obtain from the original medium. It also doesn’t help that being a fan of the Fate/stay night series as a whole is recommended if you really want to follow everything story-wise. That being said, simply enjoying the movie for what it is (especially if you’re not a Fate/stay night fan) can be done, as the visuals are stunning and make the combat scenes that much more impressive. This may not be your go-to choice if you’re a fan of the Fate/stay night storyline, but if your main interest is in watching well-choreographed action sequences, this movie is worth a viewing.
6. Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' On Heaven's Door
- Genres: Action, Space, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
- Aired: Dec 25, 2000
This movie has a unique take on its action scenes. Whereas most action films tend to have a fair amount or even an excessive amount of action taking place, this film only has a couple of action scenes to speak of. Nevertheless, those action scenes have an incredible fluidity to them in addition to possessing some impressive moves, especially in Spike and Vincent’s fight. Sometimes it doesn’t get more action packed than 2 regular guys duking it out to see who will come out on top. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys watching the buildup to the ensuing fight that takes place, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door certainly delivers in that regard and then some.
5. One Piece: Strong World
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Shounen
- Aired: Dec 12, 2009
It’s no surprise to any anime fan that One Piece has some of the wackiest fights, yet it still delivers in terms of the amount of solid action seen in the series. Strong World is no different: although things have a humorous tone at the beginning, it eventually progresses into each of the Straw Hats utilizing their signature techniques in order to get the upper hand against their opponent. This is especially true when Luffy faces off against Shiki aka "the Golden Lion" and reaches Gear Three during their fight. Almost any fight where Luffy is using this technique is worth watching, as the intensity Luffy brings in addition to the destruction both he and his opponent are dishing out make for an action-packed fight. Certainly a great One Piece film to check out if you’re looking for an awesome battle between two powerhouse opponents.
- Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Cars, Sports
- Aired: Aug 14, 2009
While this movie may not consist of people fighting each other in combat, it certainly has the same intensity a fight can have, if not more so. With a race where the only rule is that there aren’t any, and with this year’s race being held on a planet where criminals and military alike look to take advantage of the situation, you’re left with a high-stake high reward race to the finish where finishing alive isn’t a guarantee. From start to finish, this movie takes you on a wild ride and doesn’t let up by any means. If you’re looking for an action movie that isn’t about fighting, Redline is the go-to movie.
3. Berserk The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King
- Genres: Action, Military, Adventure, Demons, Fantasy
- Aired: Feb 4, 2012
A different action movie from most of the others on this list, Berserk: The Egg of the King is set in the realm of fantasy, resulting in fights with swords and armor as opposed to fists. The action sequences, however, are incredibly well done: the way the soldiers wield their weapons as well as fight one another appears almost lifelike, and there isn’t a single scene where it seems like somebody is defying gravity or the very law of physics in order to perform a superhuman feat. Even when Guts uses his sword, which is larger than himself, it is still shockingly realistic as to how he uses it. If you’re into the type of action where warfare and using weapons satisfies your craving, Berserk The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King would be a great starting point.
2. Dragon Ball Z Movie 01: The Dead Zone
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Shounen
- Aired: Jul 15, 1989
Without a doubt Dragon Ball Z is pretty influential to action anime to say the least. The amount of fights that take place throughout the series is too high to count, and the numerous displays of power and feats accomplished could constitute their own articles. The best action in DBZ films, however, occur before Goku, his friends, and their rivals reach the extremely high levels that they do, and Dead Zone is the perfect example of that. Without the ability to turn Super Saiyan, use the Spirit Bomb, or even relying on flying consistently, Goku has to rely on his Power Pole and his standard Kamehameha to go toe to toe with Ginger and Nikki while Piccolo trades fists with Sansho, and Garlic Jr engages Kami in battle. It’s exciting for both new and old fans, as newer fans get to see what Goku’s strength was like in the past while old fans can get a refresher seeing how strong Goku was at one time. One of the classics worth checking out.
1. Sword of the Stranger
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Historical, Samurai
- Aired: Sep 29, 2007
A classic anime action film that seemed to come out of nowhere, Sword of the Stranger has a simple plot but executes its use of action sequences flawlessly. Some of the best action scenes in an anime movie are in this film, as there isn’t anything done editing wise to try and disguise the fighting or make it seem cooler than it already is. The fighting is primarily through swordplay as opposed to other weapons or hand –to-hand. Yet even so, this remains the best anime action film to date, and for a reason. Quite simply, if you’re looking for only a couple of action anime films to watch, Sword of the Stranger should be one of the few.
The action genre isn’t for everyone; some people may consider anime action films lowbrow due to not straining yourself to think. But sometimes not every movie you watch has to be thought-provoking or make a comment on society, and there are plenty of anime action films that do this too. Sometimes you just want to unwind and watch something cool. What are your guys’ thoughts? Is there a film missing that should’ve been on this list? Post your opinions below!