Here is a brief overview of classic anime movies and OVAs from the 80s and 90s that inspired me.
I recently posted a cast about my love for Angel's Egg and someone suggested that I create a list of old anime movies to watch.
While there may be some dispute over what's considered "old" I'm far less familiar with 60s and 70s anime properties than I am with titles that came out in the 80s and 90s, so we'll focus on those. However, I do know enough that if you're looking for some solid 70s films, you're best bet is to go with Lupin III or Galaxy Express 999.
When I joke that I am heavily inspired by "90s women supervillains" you're probably thinking I'm talking about Sailor Moon. No, I'm talking about X/1999. This post-apocalyptic anime movie was my first exposure to CLAMP (Chobits, Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth.) This manga artist group has a propensity for style and storytelling that I really connected with, but X was a very Freudian sort of "you have to kill your mom to save the world" type of property, and as a teenager I think that really spoke to me.
Macross: Do You Remember Love
I like Macross because its main premise is that it's a space opera in which the aliens main weakness is music. What the entire series tries to get at though, is there's a uniquely human aspect to our culture that aliens could probably never understand and would (literally) make their brains explode when exposed to it. It's a wonderful premise for a mech anime, and it's a shame the more Macross doesn't make it over to the states.
Imagine if the guy who art for Final Fantasy and the guy who produced Ghost in the Shell decided to make an anime movie about a little girl running around a fantasy city trying to protect an egg from a guy. It has very little dialogue, and is intended to be more of an animated art piece than a 'movie.'
Vampire Hunter D
All the goth kids loved this one. The film nerds, too. The video game nerds like it for the Yoshitaka Amano artwork. It's yet another post-apocalyptic post-nuclear property on this list, but what's special about it is that it's high-fantasy cyberpunk, almost teetering on the magipunk. Although, that might just be the Amano influence.
When it comes to World War II movies, everyone's first choice is to talk about Grave of the Fireflies; however, if you're looking for something egregiously more traumatizing and less artsy, I always suggest Barefoot Gen. The movie is a story about a young boy who witnesses the bombing of Hiroshima and his journey to find safety. It's absolutely tragic and not for the faint of heart, but it does a great job showing the horrors of what nuclear war can do to a family.
A Wind Named Amnesia
The premise of this was "What if everyone on the planet suddenly had amnesia but two people didn't forget." It's kind of an interesting post-apocalyptic tale that delves into the human experience and what it would be like to rebuild civilization from the ground up.
It's a fairly typical cyberpunk fare that I can't say much about without spoiling. I mostly loved it because it had amazing animation and we rented
This was more of an OVA (original video animation) than an actual movie or televised series. Properties that were a little too graphic would end up on the rental-only market but were still paced in such a way that you could watch them in one sitting as if they were a movie. This one was heavy scifi 'stop the bad guy from destroying the world' type of scenario. One thing it was also well known for was its fan-service,
Before Cartoon Network and Scifi channel told us which anime to watch, this was the big anime movie everyone would rent from Blockbuster. It had sex, violence, and ninjas. It had high production values and was a pretty
I originally saw this in my youth. Directed by the same director as Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo, this too is a dystopian cyberpunk tale. An old man requiring a machine to live, it becomes sentient and he goes on a rampage. It was inspirational to me because it explores something that's growing into a big field: life extension.
Gall Force: Eternal Story
I believe this was one of the first anime I saw where I intentionally sat down and knew I was watching something other than a cartoon. A vast space opera, an all-female cast, and it was honestly pretty standard fare at the time. Vast amounts of ships firing at each other, but what grabbed me most was realizing that in the timeline of things: this takes place prehistorically, meaning it's a sci-fi space opera mech anime where the kicker is that the moon still has life on it.
Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz
I have to put some Gundam on here, and while I think things like Stardust Memory and War in the Pocket might be better movies, they aren't the best entry points for people unfamiliar with what Gundam can be. Gundam Wing and its associated properties were far more meaningful to me growing up. Even though this movie is from 2001, I'm including it on this list because the original series is classic that has been spanning decades, with the Gundam Wing series primarily being a 90s anime itself.
Satoshi Kon is one of my all-time favorite directors and Perfect Blue was the first of his titles I encountered. It's about a psychological thriller about a Jpop idol singer who transitions to becoming an actress and a parasocial fan who won't stop stalking her, driving her to madness. The whole film has this stream of consciousness vibe that makes you feel like the entire experience is a dream, like many Kon films are apt to do.
Cyberpunk dystopia, robot uprisings, that sort of thing. This isn't a movie but I'm including it anyways because there is now precident for OVAs; however, I would much rather be listing the animated sequel Bubble Crisis: Tokyo 2040 but the original is the best place to get started. Everything about this is just true cyberpunk. When you ask a geek "what good old cyberpunk series should I watch that aren't Ghost in the Shell?" they will likely tell you to watch this immediately.
Directed by Rintaro, who also directed Galaxy Express 999 and X/1999 and based on an Osamu Tezuka manga with the screenplay done by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) this is kind of a masterclass in cyberpunk anime film. This one deals with megacorporations and the harsh realities of what it's like to have robots stealing your jobs. The movie itself is about an escaped superweapon that can control all the robots and the journey to dismantle the power structures that govern their broken society.
Special mentions: End of Evangelion
You should probably just watch the series. Or the newer ones. But EoE blew me away when it first came to America. Evangelion is probably one of my favorite series of all time, but you'd be much better off watching the Rebuilds and then coming back to the original series and then watching the End of Evangelion to get the full scope of what's happening here.
I used to work at a Suncoast video store and a few other rental shops over the years and have seen so many different movies it can be difficult to remember the names of all of them. There's movies I've seen that I used to suggest to people all the time that I don't remember anything about since I haven't seen them in so long like Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, and City Hunter. (Wow, is the word city a pneumonic antimeme for me?)
There are a ton of old anime movies out there that have been lost to time due to licensing rights. A lot of the old movies released by ADV have simply been abandoned if they weren't acquired after they fell apart.
If you want to get started researching your own, I'd suggest visiting MyAnimeList and browsing through the publishing companies archives:
Pioneer: Pioneer LDC - Companies - MyAnimeList.net
Bandai Visual: Bandai Visual - Companies - MyAnimeList.net
AD Vision: ADV Films - Companies - MyAnimeList.net
Central Park Media: Central Park Media - Companies - MyAnimeList.net
Geneon: Geneon Entertainment USA - Companies - MyAnimeList.net
If you run through these links and click on "movies" or "OVAs" and filter by 'newest' and scroll all the way to the bottom, you will likely start to find a number of the series I have discussed here today. Most of the properties I've discussed here today are from the 80s and 90s but if this does well, I might do a list for my favorite films from the turn of the century and early 00s'. That was the era when I started working at a Suncoast and started going to anime conventions and not just renting random tapes from Pandora's Cube, Starland, or Blockbuster growing up.
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