10 best 80s Anime Movies That Still Hold Up Today

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Ayush Rajan

Best 80s Anime Movies That Still Hold Up Today

The 1980s were a golden age for anime movies. During this exciting decade, anime gained mainstream popularity worldwide thanks to landmark films like Akira and Studio Ghibli’s earliest masterpieces.

Whether you’re a longtime anime fan or just discovering these classics, the distinctive hand-drawn animation and imaginative stories of 80s anime created an enduring legacy.

In this article, we’ll count down the 10 greatest anime movies of the 1980s. So let’s get started –

Note: This article only covers the best 80s anime movies and not series. We have a separate list for the best 80s anime series in the works so stay tuned.

10. Wicked City (1987)

Wicked City 1987 poster

Wicked City is a dark 80s anime film directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, known for his action and horror films like Ninja Scroll.

It takes place in a version of our world that exists alongside a demonic “Black World.” To maintain peace between the two realms, a treaty must be renewed, but militant factions aim to prevent this.

The story follows two agents of an organization called the Black Guards, tasked with ensuring the treaty goes through. Taki, a human, teams up with Makie, a centuries-old demon woman, to protect the signatory of the treaty.

As they battle demonic forces trying to stop the signing, the agents must also contend with their growing feelings for each other despite being from different worlds.

With its film noir visual style, erotic elements, graphic violence, and dark tone, Wicked City stands out as a sexually charged horror action film with imaginative demon designs. Despite story weaknesses, fans of Kawajiri’s signature style may appreciate this anime’s stylish presentation of sex and gore.

It delivers entertainment to those seeking a mature supernatural thriller with plenty of action like Redo of Healer.

9. Devilman: The Birth (1987)

Devilman: The Birth 1987 poster

Devilman: The Birth is a dark supernatural action OVA from the late 1980s. It follows high schooler Akira Fudo, a kindhearted but timid boy. He reunites with his aloof, mysterious childhood friend Ryo, who reveals to Akira the existence of demons.

After demons attack them at a nightclub, Ryo has Akira merge with the powerful demon Amon. This transforms Akira into Devilman, a being with Amon’s demonic powers but Akira’s human empathy and desire to protect humanity.

The rest of the OVA shows Akira struggling to control his newfound demonic powers and impulses as Devilman. He must also defend humanity from other bloodthirsty demons who see humans as lesser beings to torment and kill.

With its graphic violence and demonic themes, The Birth establishes the premise of the Devilman franchise that would later spawn manga and anime adaptations like Devilman Crybaby. It delivers dark action and horror with an antihero protagonist.

8. Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day (1988)

Kimagure Orange Road: I Want To Return To That Day 1988

Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day concludes the popular anime series with a somber tone. As high school graduation nears, Kyousuke finally professes his love to Madoka, the aloof girl he’s always loved from afar.

He breaks up with his current girlfriend Hikaru, shattering her world. Unable to cope with this betrayal, Hikaru desperately clings to the vain hope they can rekindle their relationship.

In my opinion, this melancholy drama delivers a boldly honest portrayal of youthful romance and outgrowing childhood bonds. The characters long to return to easier times but must find the strength to accept change. While the story is brutally sad, it provides an impactful conclusion to the franchise.

You will appreciate the movie’s mature tone, which diverges from the silly TV series into something more raw and true to life. The emotional weight makes it one of the most memorable anime romance movies of the 80s.

7. Patlabor: The Movie (1989)

Patlabor: The Movie 1989 poster

Patlabor: The Movie is a 1989 sci-fi anime film set in a futuristic version of Tokyo. A major construction project called Babylon aims to build artificial islands, using giant robots called Labors to assist.

When a key figure tied to the project’s conception dies under mysterious circumstances, Captain Gotou’s Patlabor police unit investigates.

Soon, Labor around the city started malfunctioning and rampaging out of control. It becomes clear someone has hacked into the AI system controlling the robots. Gotou’s team, including brave pilot Noa and her trusty Labor Alphonse, springs into action to stop the haywire Labors from destroying the city.

They uncover a sinister conspiracy related to the Babylon Project and biblical references. With countless lives at stake, Noa and Alphonse confront the mastermind hacker behind the Labor mayhem. Their goal is to save Tokyo and expose the truth behind the mysterious happenings before it’s too late.

With high stakes and sci-fi action, Patlabor: The Movie delivers an imaginative police story filled with giant robots. It highlights the bonds between Noa and her Labor Alphonse as they work together to protect the people of Tokyo against chaotic forces threatening the city’s future.

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of the most well-known 80s anime movie that tells the story of a young girl who is training to become a witch.

As part of her training, she is required to spend a year alone in a town and leaves home and her family for the first time while being both nervous and excited.

While Kiki struggles to adapt to society at first, after running into many kind people who were willing to help her out, she slowly grows accustomed to it and sets up her own delivery service using her flying broomstick.

Through this, she meets several kinds of people who give her wisdom and experiences she won’t forget in her lifetime. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one evergreen 80s anime movie that you have to watch at least once.

5. Angel’s Egg (1985)

Angel’s Egg 1985 poster

Angel’s Egg is an extremely ambitious story that is set in a desolate and dark world. In this dystopian setting which features various kinds of supernatural beings and creatures, the story follows a young girl in an abandoned town who takes care of a large egg.

She spends her days scavenging the wasteland for food and water while trying not to attract attention. This soon changes as she runs into a young man who is curious about the story of the girl and the egg.

They instantly strike a bond and decide to explore the land together while experiencing several things and discussing issues that get the viewer thinking very deeply.

While Angel’s Egg might seem slow in some parts, it is a meticulously written movie that misses out on no detail and manages to retain its atmosphere despite the low amount of dialogue.

4. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro

Studio Ghibli is known for its fun fantasy stories that appeal to a younger audience and evoke a sense of nostalgia for the older ones. A big part of their rise to prominence can be attributed to the amazing and wholesome My Neighbour Totoro.

It tells the story of a father who moves to the countryside with his two daughters in order to be closer to their sick mother. As the girls spend their days in a careless manner and while away their time, they soon run into a giant forest spirit named Totoro.

They instantly befriend it and we watch as our loveable cast has adventures filled with magic and astonishing creatures.

This 80s anime movie has many interpretations too so do take a look at them after you have watched the film.

3. Akira (1988)


When it comes to influential animes that have been referenced countless times in modern pieces of cinema, there are very few that hold a candle to Akira.

The story is set in a dystopian Japan which is rising from the ashes of World War 3 which was caused due to the mishap of a person with psychic powers.

In the present day, we are introduced to a pair of friends named Tetsuo and Kaneda who spend their days riding large motorcycles and clashing with their foes in the streets. This completely changes when Tetsuo starts developing supernatural powers of his own after an accident.

With a mysterious organization chasing and hoping to contain them, Tetsuo and Kaneda attempt to survive this situation. With exciting action and mature themes, Akira is one gem from the 80s that you cannot miss out on.

2. Castle in the Sky (1986)

Castle In The Sky 1986 poster

Castle in the Sky is a very enjoyable adventure with a sweet romance that was made by the great Hayao Miyazaki. It follows a cheery young girl named Sheeta who finds herself captured by government agents due to a crystal amulet in her possession.

After a lucky coincidence when her captors are attacked by pirates, she manages to escape and runs into a boy named Pazu who wishes to find a flying castle named Laputa. Together, the two of them have some great experiences while their bond gradually grows closer.

With enemies who also wish to find the flying castle for dishonest purposes, however, they will need to be one step ahead of them.

Castle in the Sky is an 80s anime movie that fills the viewer with wonder while having amazing elements of fantasy.

1. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most depressing yet brilliant stories ever written which is why it has earned its place at the top of this list. It follows the life of a young boy and his sister as they suffer and try to live through the brutal World War 2.

Being homeless after being separated from their parents, they try to survive on their own while depending on the passing kindness of adults. We watch as the children try to keep up their spirits and hope for a brighter future despite the devastating atmosphere.

This historical anime movie gives us a precise look into the effects of the war on families while taking us on the tragic journey of its young protagonists.

A must watch for any anime enthusiast. Just keep a box of tissues ready when you finally decide to watch this masterpiece.

With that our list of best 80s anime movies comes to an end. Do you agree with our list? How many of these anime movies have you watched? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time!

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Ayush is a dedicated animanga enthusiast with a vast collection of experiences. With over 200 anime series and 300+ manga, manhua, and manhwa titles under their belt, Ayush's knowledge and passion are unparalleled.
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