Summary

  • Anime films have become increasingly popular in recent years as the medium has gone more mainstream. Action films are some of the best produced in the industry, with overwhelmingly impressive production quality.
  • While many original films, like Studio Trigger’s Promare make for infectiously entertaining pieces of media for anime fans, sequel films, like film adaptations of Fate/stay night stand out for how they masterfully craft the finales of their respective stories.
  • Toei Animation and Studio Trigger have proven time and time again that the two studios have a knack for crafting anime films that can be action-packed and gorgeously animated without skimping on any details during their production periods.


One of the biggest trademarks of anime is its proclivity for intense action. While many great shows have nothing to do with the genre, many of the biggest anime in history have been ones that have had a heavy focus on action, whether it be grounded in reality or the fantastical.

Feature-length anime films are often when animators are given complete time and freedom on a project, and that often leads to anime movies focused on action, which takes their stories and animation to incredible levels, especially if they were part of an ongoing franchise, and being some of the best things to watch in the entire medium.

Goku in Dragon Ball Super Broly after activating a new Saiyan ability.

This has always been the case for old and new movies alike, with a few taking it far enough to be some of the best action-centric anime films for fans to watch.

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10 Promare a Love Letter To Studio Trigger’s History

Produced by Studio Trigger

Promare Promotional Poster featuring Galo and Lio, as well as the mechs featured in the film.

Release Date

May 24, 2019

Director

Hiroyuki Imaishi

Cast

Billy Kametz, Johnny Yong Bosch, Crispin Freeman, Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld

Runtime

112 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Max

The first great action anime movie to watch is 2019’s Promare. Promare is notably light on story and characterization, even by Studio Trigger’s standards, but Promare more than makes up for any lack of depth in its writing with incredible visuals, animation, and fight scenes that all feature a level of bombastic flare that’s still among some of Studio Trigger’s best. The film was essentially a celebration of everything that Studio Trigger had done up until then, both in terms of stories and visual aesthetics, and that resulted in a fantastic film and one of their best projects to date.

Watch On Max

9 Princess Mononoke More Than Deserves Its Status As One Of Studio Ghibli’s Best

Produced by Studio Ghibli

A woman with red face paint and a fur cape rides on the back of an angry white wolf.

Release Date

July 12, 1997

Director

Hayao Miyazaki

Cast

Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson

Runtime

133 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Max

While Studio Ghibli is known for their whimsical fantasy and slice-of-life stories, a great film that came about from leaning into action was 1997’s Princess Mononoke. In addition to the always stellar art and animation of Studio Ghibli, Princess Mononoke managed to perfectly balance Hayao Miyazaki’s typical commentary on war and the environment with tense and gruesome fantasy action, resulting in one of the most unique films to ever be released by Studio Ghibli. 27 years after its release, Princess Mononoke is still regarded as one of the best Studio Ghibli films, and it’s easy to see why.

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8 Ghost In The Shell Is Still One Of Anime’s Most Iconic Stories

Produced by Production I.G.

Ghost in the Shell anime movie key art featuring the cyborg Motoko Kusanagi.

Release Date

November 18, 1995

Director

Mamoru Oshii

Cast

Mimi Woods, Richard Epcar, Tom Wyner, Christopher Joyce, William Frederick Knight

Runtime

82 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Prime Video, Tubi

Another older movie that stands out as a great action-focused anime movie is 1995’s Ghost in the Shell. While primarily a cyberpunk crime drama, Ghost in the Shell still features exciting fight scenes with animation and choreography that still holds up almost 30 years later, and with a gripping story about what it means to be human, the movie has plenty to offer for people who wouldn’t normally watch anime. Ghost in the Shell is still often regarded as one of the best anime movies of all time, and the execution of its action plays a big part in that.

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7 Paradox Spiral Was The Ultimate Climax For The Garden Of Sinners

Produced by Ufotable

Paradox Spiral key visual by Type-Moon depicting official artwork of the main charactr holding a sword in the foreground, with a red collage of other characters behind her.

Release Date

August 16, 2008

Director

Takayuki Hirao

Cast

Maaya Sakamoto, Kenichi Suzumura, Takako Honda, Tetsuya Kakihara, Joji Nakata, Koji Yusa

Runtime

114 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Crunchyroll

Ufotable’s The Garden of Sinners is one of the best action productions by the studio, and the fifth film in the series, 2008’s The Garden of Sinners: Paradox Spiral. Paradox Spiral served as the perfect climax to The Garden of Sinners‘ overarching narrative. It achieved this by not only having some of the best animation and music in the franchise, but with a story that brought the mysteries and emotional beats of the franchise to their peak. The Garden of Sinners was the first Type-Moon story, and with Paradox Spiral, it’s easy to see how the company became such a success.

Watch On Crunchyroll

6 The Final Part of Heaven’s Feel Is Easily the Best Fate Adaptation Yet

Produced by Ufotable

Release Date

August 15, 2020

Director

Tomonori Sudo

Cast

Bryce Papenbrook, Cristina Vee, Melissa Fahn, Stephanie Sheh, Mela Lee, Crispin Freeman

Runtime

122 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Currently unavailable

Another Type-Moon adaptation that serves as an incredible action film is 2020’s Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel III. spring song. Heaven’s Feel has always been the biggest story of the original visual novel, and Studio Ufotable’s third installment of their adaptation perfectly showed why with an amazing soundtrack, the culmination of some of the best character writing in the franchise, and, most importantly, the most gorgeous animation to ever come out of any project from the studio. The film takes place at the end of the original Fate/stay night storyline, and in terms of story and visual aesthetic, there was no better way for that to happen.

5 Our War Game Showed Just How Great A Director Mamoru Hosoda Can Be

Produced by Toei Animation

Digimon: Our War Game! featuring the Digidestined, as well as their companions.

Release Date

March 4, 2000

Director

Mamoru Hosoda

Cast

Toshiko Fujita, Yuto Kazama, Umi Tenjin, Chika Sakamoto, Mayumi Yamaguchi

Runtime

40 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Currently unavailable

While Digimon: The Movie is a messy hodgepodge of a film, one of the follow-up films to make up for it is 2000’s Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! The film was legendary director Mamoru Hosoda’s first big project, and in his hands, Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! featured incredible action, art, and directorial style, with Omnimon’s debut being a particularly great moment, and it still serves as one of the best installments in the entire Digimon franchise. Mamoru Hosoda has made some of the best films in the industry, including Belle and the Academy Award-nominated Mirai, and this film is perfect proof of how he’s garnered so much success.

4 Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Perfectly Built Off the Anime’s Success

Produced by MAPPA

Release Date

December 24, 2021

Director

Sunghoo Park

Cast

Kayleigh McKee, Anairis Quiñones, Allegra Clark, Kaiji Tang, Lex Lang

Runtime

105 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Crunchyroll

Jujutsu Kaisen has been one of the best action anime to come out in recent years, and its prequel film, 2021’s Jujutsu Kaisen 0, was an appropriately exciting release. As great as Jujutsu Kaisen season 1 was, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 took the anime’s art and animation to a whole new level with its level of fluidity and bombastic execution, and having such a stellar story to go along with it enhanced that even further. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 more than earned its success, and said success has played a big part in making Jujutsu Kaisen the massive franchise it’s been for the past few years.

Watch On Crunchyroll

3 One Piece Film: Red Struck a Perfect Balance Between Action & Story

Produced by Toei Animation

One Piece Film: Red poster

Release Date

August 6, 2022

Director

Goro Taniguchi

Cast

Colleen Clinkenbeard, Amanda Lee, Brandon Potter, Jim Foronda

Runtime

115 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Crunchyroll

With how long the series has gone on, One Piece, naturally, has plenty of action films in its catalog, and the one that stands out as the best is 2022’s One Piece Film: Red. The film was made to celebrate One Piece‘s 25th anniversary, and very appropriately, One Piece Film: Red has gorgeous and creative action from start to finish and features some of the best character writing in the entire One Piece franchise. The film perfectly encapsulates what makes One Piece so amazing in terms of both writing and action, and it’s easy to see how it ended up becoming such a major hit.

Watch On Crunchyroll

2 Dragon Ball Super: Broly Perfectly Highlighted The Franchise’s Biggest Selling Point

Produced by Toei Animation

Anime characters Goku and Vegeta upgrading their Saiyan forms in Dragon Super Ball: Broly

Release Date

December 14, 2018

Director

Tatsuya Nagamine

Cast

Sean Schemmel, Christopher Sabat, Christopher Ayres

Runtime

100 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Crunchyroll

Another great action film from an anime franchise that has plenty of options in terms of film adaptations is 2018’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly. The film was the first official animated sequel to Dragon Ball Super, and fittingly, Dragon Ball Super is essentially an hour of fighting with some of the best art, animation, and overall direction in the Dragon Ball franchise that has yet to be topped by anything since its release. Dragon Ball Super: Broly is notably light on story, but with how much effort it puts into highlighting the other key elements of the franchise, that’s hardly a point against it.

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1 Gurren Lagann’s Second Film Is Still One Of The Best Action Films Of All Time

Produced by Studio Trigger

Release Date

April 25, 2009

Director

Hiroyuki Imaishi

Cast

Tetsuya Kakihara, Katsuyuki Konishi, Marina Inoue, Yukari Fukui

Runtime

126 Minutes

Where To Watch It

Currently unavailable

The last great action-based anime film to highlight, and quite possibly the best of them, is 2009’s Gurren Lagann the Movie: The Lights in the Sky Are Stars. The film covered the second half of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann‘s original anime, and not only did The Lights in the Sky Are Stars perfectly translate Gurren Lagann‘s over-the-top writing and acation to film, but it also expanded on the original story to make a finale even more wild than the original. It was the perfect conclusion to such an iconic anime, and it’s allowed the film to easily stand out as one of the best action anime movies of all time.



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