Grave of the Fireflies
A film that single-handedly redefined the way I thought about animation, Isao Takahata's powerful portrait of the effect that war has on two innocent children is one of the greatest anti-war statements in cinema and the most upsetting film of all time.
Hayao Miyazaki has long been regarded as the Walt Disney of Japanese animation but he (arguably) kept the best until later in his illustrious career. Winner of Best Animated Feature at the Oscars and still the highest grossing film of all time at the Japanese box office, Spirited Away follows a young girl called Chihiro as she strays into a surreal, fantastical world. Reminiscent of a Lynchian combination of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, Miyazaki's masterpiece is a magical look at growing up.
5 centimetres per second
Miyazaki may be the Japanese Walt Disney but Makoto Shinkai, a "new kid on the block" has no Western equivalent. 5 Centimeters Per Second follows young Takaki and his relationships in a heartbreaking, poetic tale that plays out with stunning animation.
How to Train Your Dragon
One of the finest animated movies of recent years, How to Train Your Dragon is Dreamworks' greatest achievement. The animation is stunning, the script is solid and contains humour that isn't inundated with pop culture references and you really connect with the characters. Tender and beautiful, the film contains moments of pure transcendence.
This fast-paced sci-fi epic is a landmark in the history of anime. With jaw-dropping animation and strong messages regarding corruption and will to power, Ōtomo's adaptation of his own manga tome is a highlight in animation.
Others: The Place Promised in Our Early Days
Whisper of the Heart