Anime, now a globally popular visual category, is not just about showcasing grand fantasy worlds or displaying flashy battle scenes through animation technology. It’s also characterized by its ability to materialize emotional stories and beautifully depict the nuances of everyday life.
Anime movies, often concluding in around two hours, are the perfect content to evoke deep emotions, making viewers tear up. Of course, there are anime series spanning dozens of episodes that can move you just as profoundly (for heartwarming anime series, check out this separate list). However, anime movies tend to pack a dense array of emotive elements into a single story.
In this article, I’ve handpicked the 10 best saddest anime movies from a plethora of masterpieces. It covered everything from classic films by the renowned Studio Ghibli to the latest greatest hits. These movies are ranked by their tear-jerking potential. Most of these films can be watched on global platforms like Netflix and Amazon, so if any anime movie piques your interest, don’t hesitate to check it out immediately.
10. Grave of the Fireflies
As a classic anime film that makes viewers feel sad, many people will associate Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓). Directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Studio Ghibli, it was released in 1988, at the same time as My Neighbor Totoro by another Ghibli’s leader Hayao Miyazaki. This critically acclaimed film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka. Set during World War II, it offers a heart-wrenching perspective on the ravages of war through the eyes of two young siblings, making it one of the most poignant anti-war films ever made.
In the final months of World War II, after their mother’s death during an air raid, teenage Seita and his younger sister Setsuko struggle to survive amidst the devastation. Facing starvation, illness, and the apathy of adults around them, the two embark on a desperate journey, showcasing the profound human cost of war. Their tale is a tragic testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the depths of familial love.
Director: Isao Takahata
Runtime: 88 min
9. Wolf Children
Wolf Children (おおかみこどもの雨と雪) is an heartwarming anime movie with the theme of “mother and child” and “human and nature.” As the second original full-length anime movie directed by Mamoru Hosoda, it was released in 2012, following the previous work Summer Wars. Through a blend of fantasy and reality, it examines the nature of love, resilience, and identity, making it an unforgettable entry in the world of animated cinema, delving into the challenges and joys of parenthood. In addition to the touching ending, the beautiful countryside makes you more sentimental.
Hana falls in love with a man who reveals he’s a wolf-man. Together, they have two children, Yuki and Ame, who possess the ability to turn into wolves. After their father’s tragic death, Hana relocates to the countryside, attempting to raise her wolf children away from prying eyes. The film captures their life’s journey, exploring the siblings’ struggle with their dual identities and the mother’s enduring love and sacrifices for her children.
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Runtime: 117 min
8. One Piece: Episode of Chopper Plus: Bloom in the Winter, Miracle Sakura
The expansive adventure series One Piece is renowned for its multitude of tear-jerking episodes. Among them, One Piece: Episode of Chopper Plus: Bloom in the Winter, Miracle Sakura (ONE PIECE THE MOVIE エピソードオブチョッパー+ 冬に咲く、奇跡の桜) is an emotional film that reimagines the early heartwarming story arc of the Drum Island. It is a 2008 feature-length film, serving as the ninth movie in the series. The film’s main appeal lies in its fresh take on familiar events, making it a delightful watch for fans.
The Straw Hat Pirates find themselves in the Drum Kingdom, a snow-covered island now under the tyranny of Wapol, its exiled king. When Nami falls ill, the crew seeks the aid of Dr. Kureha. The story centers around Tony Tony Chopper’s tragic past and his eventual decision to join Luffy’s crew. With added twists and new characters, this rendition highlights Chopper’s growth and the importance of friendship amidst adversity.
Director: Junji Shimizu
Runtime: 113 min
7. In This Corner of the World
Directed by Sunao Katabuchi and produced by Mappa, In This Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に) is a renowned historical anime movie released in 2016. Based on the manga of the same name by Fumiyo Kono, the movie offers an intimate portrayal of the daily life of its characters amidst the chaos and hardships of World War II. This 2019 extended version In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World (この世界の（さらにいくつもの）片隅に), also directed by Sunao Katabuchi, incorporates additional scenes and further delves into the life of the protagonist, Suzu, before her marriage.
Set against the backdrop of Hiroshima during World War II, the film follows the life of Suzu Urano, a young woman who moves to the small town of Kure to live with her husband’s family. Amidst air raids and the daily challenges of wartime life, Suzu navigates her new existence, finding beauty and resilience in the midst of adversity. Building on the original narrative, this extended version provides a deeper exploration of Suzu’s life, focusing on her relationships and experiences, shedding light on the many corners of her world.
Released: 2016/2019 (In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World)
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Runtime: 129 min/168 min (In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World)
6. Violet Evergarden: The Movie
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to include it in this Best Saddest Anime Movies list, since it doesn’t exist on its own, but rather serves as the conclusion part to the 12-episode TV series. However, I couldn’t leave Violet Evergarden out of the theme of anime that makes you cry, and Violet Evergarden: The Movie itself is a must-see, so I’m going to include it here as well.
Violet Evergarden: The Movie (劇場版 ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン) is a 2020 anime film produced by Kyoto Animation, directed by Taichi Ishidate. After the TV series airing in 2018 and a side-story movie Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll (ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン 外伝 永遠と自動手記人形) in 2019, this anime movie continues the emotional journey of Violet, an ex-child soldier turned Auto Memory Doll, exploring themes of love, loss, and the human ability to connect through written words.
Several years after the end of a great war, Violet Evergarden still offers her transcription services. However, a mysterious letter arrives, pushing her to confront her past and deeply held emotions. As Violet grapples with her feelings and memories of Gilbert, her beloved major, the film delves into the profound bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the healing power of time. The story of Violet and her beloved is coming to an end.
Director: Taichi Ishidate
Runtime: 140 min
5. Stand by Me Doraemon
Doraemon is a nationally beloved anime that has been popular among both adults and children for a long time, and Stand by Me Doraemon (STAND BY ME ドラえもん) is a 2014 3D computer-animated movie, a unique rendition of the beloved Doraemon franchise. It features landscapes that anyone who sees it will find nostalgic and emotional stories. Marking the franchise’s 45th anniversary, this movie brings together stories from various manga chapters, presenting them in a cutting-edge 3D animation format. Directed by Ryuichi Yagi and Takashi Yamazaki, it provides a fresh, visually immersive experience for fans. A sequel, Stand by Me Doraemon 2, was released in 2020.
The story revolves around Nobita Nobi, an underachieving student who faces constant academic and personal challenges. As his future seems bleak, Doraemon, a robotic cat from the 22nd century, arrives to aid him. Through a series of futuristic gadgets and heartwarming adventures, Doraemon strives to improve Nobita’s circumstances. Yet, as changes unfold, Nobita must confront the possibility of a future without his cherished friend. The film touches on themes of friendship, choices, and the bittersweet nature of growing up.
Director: Ryuichi Yagi/Takashi Yamazaki
Runtime: 95 min
4. 5 Centimeters per Second
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, renowned for his emotionally resonant and visually stunning anime movies, 5 Centimeters per Second (秒速5センチメートル) is a poignant anthology of three interconnected stories. Released in 2007, it explores themes of distance, love, and time’s inexorable flow. The movie is divided into three episodes: Cherry Blossom, Cosmonaut, and 5 Centimeters per Second. Each segment delves deep into the fragile human connections and the pain of growing apart, manifesting Shinkai’s signature blend of reality and ethereal beauty.
Cherry Blossom: This segment follows Takaki and Akari, childhood friends who grow close but are separated by circumstances. They decide to meet once more, facing several challenges along the way. Their reunion is sweet, yet fleeting, setting the tone for their future relationship.
Cosmonaut: Now in high school, Takaki has moved again. Despite being in a relationship, he’s unable to forget Akari. Through the perspective of Kanae, a classmate in love with him, we see the impact of Takaki’s past on his present.
5 Centimeters per Second: As adults, both Takaki and Akari have followed different paths, yet memories of their time together linger. This chapter captures the essence of moving on, demonstrating how sometimes, life takes us in directions we never anticipated.
Throughout these stories, the narrative reflects on the distances — both physical and emotional — that come between people over time.
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Runtime: 63 min
3. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day – The Movie
The sad anime movie titled Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day – The Movie (劇場版 あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。), is an adaptation and retelling of the widely acclaimed 2011 TV anime series Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai, this 2013 film offers a fresh perspective on the original story while expanding upon its themes of loss, grief, and friendship. It uniquely blends a recap of the TV series with new content, providing both newcomers and returning fans a touching cinematic experience.
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day – The Movie follows a group of childhood friends who have grown apart after the tragic death of one of their members, Menma. When the ghost of Menma starts appearing to Jinta, the group’s leader, he initially believes it’s due to stress. However, as events unfold, the old friends reunite, and it becomes clear that Menma has a wish she wants to be fulfilled. The movie delves into each character’s perspective, revealing their guilt, regrets, and unresolved feelings related to Menma’s death. As the group strives to help Menma move on, they also embark on their own journeys of healing and reconciliation, leading to an emotionally charged conclusion. Throughout the narrative, the film emphasizes the significance of understanding, forgiving, and cherishing the moments spent with loved ones.
The TV series of Anohana concludes in just 11 episodes, so it can be watched in a relatively short time. Honestly, I recommend watching the series if you want to fully savor its touching story. However, even if you only watch this movie, you can still enjoy its content. Many fans rank it among the best tear-jerking anime.
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
Runtime: 99 min
2. A Silent Voice
A modern masterpiece A Silent Voice (聲の形) is looked on as the best and saddest anime movie by lots of anime watchers around the globe. Directed by Naoko Yamada and produced by Kyoto Animation, it is a profoundly touching film adapted from the manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Oima. It is notable that Naoko Yamada is also famous for other renowned Kyoto Animation anime series such as K-On! and Tamako Market. Released in 2016, the movie delves into themes of bullying, redemption, and friendship, offering a poignant portrayal of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. Its beautiful animation, heartfelt narrative, and memorable characters have earned it critical acclaim and made it one of the most essential anime movies for both fans and newcomers alike.
The story follows Shoya Ishida, a boy who once relentlessly bullied his deaf classmate, Shoko Nishimiya, in elementary school. Years later, filled with guilt and self-loathing for his past actions, Shoya decides to make amends. The movie chronicles his journey to seek forgiveness from Shoko and, in the process, find redemption for himself. Along the way, he faces the consequences of his past actions, learns the depth of friendship and understanding, and grapples with his personal demons, all while navigating the tumultuous waters of adolescence.
Director: Naoko Yamada
Runtime: 129 min
1. Your Name
So what is the best saddest anime movie that makes you cry the most? Directed by the famous Makoto Shinkai and released in 2016, Your Name (君の名は。) quickly rose to international prominence, becoming not only one of the highest-grossing anime films but also a global phenomenon. The film beautifully blends elements of romance, drama, and supernatural fantasy, featuring stunning visuals and a memorable soundtrack by the Japanese rock band Radwimps. Shinkai’s masterful storytelling, coupled with its emotional depth, makes Your Name a must-watch, marking a new standard in modern animation and filmmaking.
Mitsuha Miyamizu, a high school girl from a rural town, and Taki Tachibana, a high school boy from bustling Tokyo, inexplicably start swapping bodies. Initially disoriented, they gradually set ground rules and communicate via notes to navigate their alternate lives. As the swaps continue, they develop a unique bond and start affecting meaningful change in each other’s lives. However, when the body-swapping suddenly stops, Taki realizes they are separated by time and embarks on a quest to find Mitsuha, leading to a heart-wrenching discovery and a race against time to reconnect.
Makoto Shinkai has created many masterpieces of emotional anime movies including Weathering with You in 2019 and Suzume in 2022, but his masterpiece Your Name is not only the highest rated animated movie of all time, but also it makes you cry.
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Runtime: 107 min
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