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Highest-Grossing Anime Movies Of All Time: ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Demon Slayer’ And More

It is interesting to note that all the 12 highest-grossing Japanese movies of all time are anime. This shows the immense popularity of anime in its country of origin and its indelible cultural influence on Japanese society.

Truly, the world of anime extends far beyond the television screen where romantic anime series dominate ratings charts. For decades, anime films from Japan have captivated audiences with their stunning visuals, thought-provoking storytelling and diverse styles. But it has only been in the last two to three decades that these films have garnered critical acclaim worldwide. As a result, they’ve scripted history at the box office, raking in millions of dollars and establishing themselves as a dominant force in the larger animation industry.

Variety is at the heart of anime movies. There are intense action-packed films such as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train and the history-creating Spirited Away (2001) — the only non-English-language animated film to have ever won an Academy Award.

Speaking of Spirited Away, it becomes imperative to mention its maker Studio Ghibli. The animation house was co-founded by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, the latter of whom is renowned worldwide for directing some of the saddest anime films of all time. Indeed, four of the 13 biggest box office grosses in the Japanese film industry are Studio Ghibli films. These include Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away. That number rises to six if the top 20 are considered.

The other major name apart from Studio Ghibli is director Makoto Shinkai, whose string of box office successes have made him one of the greatest anime filmmakers of all time in just over a decade. Two of his anime movies, Your Name (2016) and Suzume (2022) are among the top five and a third, Weathering with You (2019), is among the top 10 highest-grossing anime movies.

It is also important to note that all animated films are not anime. Animated films include techniques such as cel animation, rotoscoping, hand-drawn, stop-motion, computer-generated imagery (CGI) and several other forms. The highest-grossing animated film is Frozen II (2019), which earned USD 1.4 billion at the worldwide box office.

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A look at the list of highest-grossing anime movies

1 /12

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast: Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka

Box office gross: USD 150 million

Synopsis: A young prince Ashitaka gets intertwined in a struggle between forest gods (kami) and greedy humans of a mining town who are devouring natural resources. In the process, he meets a human girl San (Ishida), who rides with the wolves and is referred to as Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke).

2 /12

One Piece Film: Red (2022)

Directed by: Gorô Taniguchi

Voice cast: Mayumi Tanaka, Kaori Nazuka, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura, Shūichi Ikeda

Box office gross: USD 162.4 million

Synopsis: Uta (Nazuka), whose voice is described as “otherworldly,” is set to reveal herself before the world for the first time. As everyone, including the Straw Hat Pirates, famed for their search of the “One Piece,” and the Navy, watches closely, it is revealed to their shock that she is the daughter of Shanks (Ikeda).

3 /12

Pokémon: The First Movie (1998)

Directed by: Kunihiko Yuyama

Voice cast: Rica Matsumoto, Ikue Ōtani, Yūji Ueda, Mayumi Iizuka, Masachika Ichimura

Box office gross: USD 163.6

Synopsis: Mewtwo (Ichimura), a bioengineered Pokémon, with incredible psychic powers creates havoc in the world. Ash (Matsumoto), Misty (Iizuka) and Brock (Ueda) along with Pikachu (Ōtani) decide to stop him.

4 /12

Weathering With You (2019)

Directed by: Makoto Shinkai

Voice cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri

Box office gross: USD 190 million

Synopsis: High-school boy Hodaka Morishima (Daigo) flees his troubled home on a quiet island in Japan for Tokyo. While struggling in the big city, where it rains incessantly, he meets a young orphan girl named Hina Amano (Mori) who has the power to manipulate the weather. Hodaka decides to use Hina’s powers to financially help each other. But he is unaware that there is a terrible price Hina has to pay the more she uses her powers.

5 /12

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (2021)

Directed by: Seong-Hu Park

Voice cast:  Megumi Ogata, Kana Hanazawa, Mikako Komatsu, Takahiro Sakurai

Box office gross: USD 196 million

Synopsis: Yuta Okkotsu (Ogata) joins Jujutsu Sorcerers at the Tokyo Prefectural Jujutsu High School to become an extremely powerful mage. As he is trained to control his powers, his overseers prepare him to prevent the evil Suguru Geto (Sakurai) from eliminating non-sorcerers.

6 /12

Ponyo (2008)

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast: Yuria Nara, Hiroki Doi, Tomoko Yamaguchi, Yūki Amami, Tomoko Yamaguchi, George Tokoro

Box office gross: USD 205 million

Synopsis: Sosuke (Doi) is a five-year-old boy who strikes a friendship with a goldfish princess he names Ponyo (Nara). Overcome by her great desire to become a human and stay with Sosuke, Ponyo accidentally triggers a magical catastrophe that puts Sosuke’s village in danger.

7 /12

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast:  Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa, Tatsuya Gashuin

Box office gross: USD 237.8 million

Synopsis: Sophie (Baisho) works in her late father’s hat shop. When she is turned into an elderly woman by the evil Witch of Waste (Miwa), she turns to the wizard named Howl (Kimura), who lives in a magical flying castle. But things aren’t as simple as they seem, for Howl hides a secret connected to a fire demon Calcifer (Gashuin) and the town where Sophie lives is under a threat of invasion from a neighbouring kingdom.

8 /12

The First Slam Dunk (2022)

Directed by: Takehiko Inoue

Voice cast: Shugo Nakamura, Jun Kasama, Shinichiro Kamio

Box office gross: USD 279.4 million

Synopsis: Ryota Miyagi (Nakamura) is a 17-year-old student of Shohoku High School. He plays as the point guard of the school’s basketball team and is struggling to fulfil his late elder brother’s dreams of seeing him as a star player. He finds that golden opportunity when his team faces Sannoh Kogyo High School, the reigning champion of the Inter-High School National Championship.

9 /12

Suzume (2022)

Directed by: Makoto Shinkai

Voice cast: Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu

Box office gross: USD 323.6 million

Synopsis: Suzume (Hara) is a 17-year-old girl who unexpectedly becomes part of an adventure with a stranger named Souta (Matsumura), who is trying to close the mysterious portals to trap a supernatural worm and prevent natural disasters across Japan.

10 /12

Your Name. (2016)

Directed by: Makoto Shinkai

Voice cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki,  Mone Kamishiraishi

Box office gross: USD 348 million

Synopsis: Mitsuha Miyamizu (Kamishiraishi) and Taki Tachibana (Kamiki) are students living in different cities in Japan. One day, they find themselves swapping bodies at random intervals. When they decide to meet in person, they discover that they are actually separated by time.

11 /12

Spirited Away (2001)

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Box office gross: USD 383 million

Award won: Oscar for Best Animated Feature

Synopsis: Chihiro (Hiiragi) is a 10-year-old who is moving to a new home with her parents. On the way, her parents decide to explore an abandoned amusement park. When they magically turn into pigs, Chihiro must find a way to restore her parents to their human form and escape the supernatural realm populated by a host of magical characters, spirits and the powerful witch Yubaba (Natsuki).

12 /12

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Movie: Mugen Train (2020)

Directed by: Haruo Sotozaki

Voice cast: Natsuki Hanae, Akari Kitō, Hiro Shimono, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Satoshi Hino

Box office gross: USD 507 million

Synopsis: Tanjiro Kamado (Hanae) becomes a demon slayer after his family is murdered and his sister, Nezuko (Kitō) turns into a demon. With their two friends and a powerful swordsman of the Demon Corps, the siblings go on a mission to stop a demon aboard the Mugen Train.