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Anime has been one of the most powerful cartoon genres ever created, and has become synonymous with Japanese culture. Though we all know about classic anime series like Pokémon and Naruto, a lot of the best works in this entertainment genre aren't actually TV shows. They're movies.
Of the anime movies that have been released, many remain a major part of part pop culture. Anime movies are part of the reason why otaku culture has become so pervasive, after all.
Good anime will get the immediate appreciation that it deserves. Cult sci-fi anime movies, such as the ones down below, definitely deserve more admiration than they have received.
We couldn't really get away with making a list of great cult sci-fi anime movies without at least one Madhouse film. Paprika follows the story of a "dream detective" who uses a device by the name of the UC Mini to enter people's dreams. When a UC Mini prototype gets stolen, it's up to Paprika the scientist to save the world before too much damage is done.
Striking visuals, dreamlike scenery, and awesome storytelling is what made Paprika a smash hit when it was released in 2008.
When most people think of cult sci-fi anime movies, they think of Akira. This smash hit classic takes place in Neo-Tokyo after a massive nuke hit the original city. In 1988, the Japanese government performed psychic experiments on children.
Now, a bike gang leader tries to save his friend Tetsuo from a government experiment. As he and his friends try to save Tetsuo, the full depth of the government's tinkering becomes revealed.
Akira is one of the most iconic cyberpunk anime movies ever made. It's so famous, major artists from around the world gathered together to pay homage to Akira as part of a way of saying "thanks for the inspiration."
'Space Pirate: Captain Harlock'
While we tried to avoid movies based on anime series, once in a while, there's a film that's literally exceptional. Such is the case with Captain Harlock. This movie is actually based on an anime series, but because it's so well done, we included it anyway.
The anime series Captain Harlock was first released in the late 1970s, and like Akira, became a mainstay in the world of science fiction anime. It's the story of a lone space pirate who stands in the way of a corrupt group's conquest of the galaxy. Can he save the universe from the malevolent GAIA Coalition, or will all be lost for humanity and worlds beyond?
Ever since the movie release of this series was shown in 2013, Captain Harlock has remained one of the most popular cult sci-fi anime movies of all time. It's visually stunning, poignant, and impressively well-written.
'Space Adventure Cobra'
Space Adventure Cobra is one of those cult sci-fi anime movies that's criminally underrated—and for the most part, forgotten by Western viewers. How this happens, I don't even know.
This epic film details the story of Cobra, the deadliest hunter in the universe, who wanders the stars while having a bounty placed on him by the Justice Federation of United Galaxies. Everything goes awry after he meets Jane, a bounty hunter, and her companion, an android by the name of Lady.
Like Captain Harlock, Space Adventure Cobra has a TV series by the same name. Its exceptional aesthetics and haunting scenes are what make it a must-see for any serious sci-fi art fan.
'Golgo 13: The Professional'
If you're a fan of cult sci-fi anime movies that at least try to keep things semi-realistic, you'll probably enjoy watching Golgo 13: The Professional. Golgo 13 is a man who's part James Bond, part rebel of his own unique brand.
Golgo 13 is a hitman who finds himself in a lot of trouble after he kills the son of oil baron Leonard Dawson. Leonard becomes revenge-obsessed, and sends out tons of different groups including the FBI, CIA, and a number of random superhuman psychos.
Can he survive a battle with superhumans? Golgo 13: The Professsional is a noir-style movie that'll leave you on the edge of your seat asking for more.
'The Cat Returns'
Tiptoeing between experimental, shojo, sci-fi, and fantasy is a beautiful movie called The Cat Returns. This movie is about a half-human girl by the name of Haru who saves a cat named Luna's life. As a reward, she has to marry the Cat Prince—but the thing is, she doesn't want him like that.
A lot of people tend to call this movie a spinoff of Whispers of the Heart, but it's really anything but that. While The Cat Returns features a number of characters from other movies, including Muta from Whispers of the Heart, it's actually a really powerful statement about favor culture.
Admittedly, I'm a fan of cats and find this to be one of my favorite cult sci-fi anime movies because of it. This is one of the more touching anime films out there, and I can't help but love it for its beauty.
Considering it's made by Studio Ghibli, that's to be expected, though. They're masters at animating fine art.
'Fist of the North Star'
There are most dystopian cult sci-fi anime movies aside from Akira, you know. Fist of the North Star is about a warrior who earned the title of Fist of the North Star. After he loses his girlfriend (and a lot more) to the Fist of the South Star, he sets out to find her once more.
It's part love story, part ridiculous gorefest. It's exactly what a campy 80s battle movie should be. Like others on this list, Fist of the North Star is based on manga and a TV show by the same name. Later on, it became immortalized as a video game.
Wicked City is a story that's part sci-fi, part fantasy, and all dark. It takes place in a city where people have made a pact with demons to keep the peace. All has been well for 500 years, and now the contract has to be renewed once more. A faction of demons don't want this to happen, and are ready to stop at nothing to end it.
This is one of those cult sci-fi anime movies that really knows how to kill it when it comes to sexy but dark imagery. If you're a fan of serious artwork that would make any acid trip look placid, this is a great choice to queue up.
Steamboy is one of the newer releases from the same person as Akira, and as you'd imagine, it has equally striking storytelling complete with a world that is perfect for daydreaming about.
While Akira moves into a dystopian future where tech just annihilated everything, Steamboy brings it back to a more neo-Victorian era where tech just became a major thing. Steamboy explores the destructive and constructive uses of tech in a delightfully steampunk way. What more could you want?
Perhaps one of the most brilliant cult sci-fi anime movies out there is Metropolis, a gender-bent homage to the classic 1927 Metropolis movie by Fritz Lang. Though Lang's main focus on Metropolis was the struggle between the rich and poor, the anime version tells a tale of love between man and machine.
It's dystopian, yes, but it will shake you to your core for more reasons than that. Sometimes, the most human thing we can do is love something that can't love us back. Metropolis will leave you stunned by everything from its human plot to its cyberpunk visuals.