Everyone needs a good cry, and these 10 anime movies are here to help you do exactly that. What is it about seeing 2D characters suffer that makes us cry so much? Do we relate to the characters, or is our empathy more heightened during these moments? No matter the reason, it is a universal truth that masochism runs rampant in the anime community. Everyone is looking for shows that will make them feel something, even if it’s just pure pain.
While series like Clannad, Angel Beats, and Anohana have already left us empty, these anime movies will make sure to deliver the same effect within a span of two hours. So make sure to grab good food, drinks, and a box of tissues. Trust us - you'll be needing them.
If you want to prepare yourself for the emotionally devastating moments, the spoilers for each anime movie will be in the drop-down box marked spoilers. So with that said, let's get started!
10. 5 Centimeters per Second
5 Centimeters per Second is a bittersweet anime movie about two childhood friends and the effect distance has on their relationship.
The story follows Tono Takaki and Shinohara Akari, two close friends harboring romantic feelings for each other, who are separated due to their family. The pair promises to remain in contact via letters - however, as time passes, they gradually grow farther and farther apart from one another.
The character we follow through the movie is Takaki Tohno, and we get to see him grow from a child to a teenager and, finally, an adult. Tohno's development through these stages of life as he keeps his first love, Akari Shinohara, in his heart is emotional, to say the least.
5 Centimeters per Second is a tear-jerking masterpiece about first love and the difficulties of being in a long-distance relationship. Despite not being as tragic as others on this list, this movie will stick with you long after its ending.
Takaki and Akari decide to meet up before the former moves away with his family, their distance growing further. Despite getting impeded by the snowy weather, Tohno arrives at the station, where Akari waits for him with warm food. During this final meet, they share their first kiss, spend the night together side by side, and finally bid farewell to each other.
Several years later, Takaki is now a grown-up with a full-time job and a girlfriend. However, it seems that he is still incapable of forgetting his first love. After breaking up with her and leaving his Job, Tohno is a portrait of sadness. Akari, on the other hand, has moved on with her life and is even engaged.
When Akari and Tohno finally cross paths, the latter looks back, only to be met with nothing. Akari is no longer there, and this sad realization is heartbreaking.
9. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a timeless classic. The anime movie follows Konno Makoto, a 17-year-old girl who suddenly finds out she has the ability to reverse time. However, her actions have dire consequences, and Makoto learns this the hard way.
Konno Makoto lives a good life, filled with fun days at school and hanging out with her two best friends, Chiaki and Kousuke. However, she soon discovers her ability to leap back in time. While this power is at first used to save her life, Makoto starts using it to live conveniently. For example, she rewinds time to arrive at school on time, to cheat on tests, and whatnot.
However, when Makoto uses this ability to avoid some of the more personal issues that arise with her friends, this gift starts taking the form of a troublesome burden.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time deals with the complexity of time and the irreversible consequences of not taking it seriously. While it acts as an entertaining coming of age on the surface, this movie will not fail to make you cry once tragedy strikes.
Makoto could only leap a certain number of times, as indicated by the numerical tattoo on her hand. As the leaps became fewer, she began to use them to help others and fix things for them. However, Makoto uses her final time leap to avoid Chiaki's phone call asking if she knows about time leaping.
Tragedy strikes, and immediately after the phone call, Kosuke and his girlfriend are killed in the train crossing accident originally meant for Makoto. However, it is at this moment that time stops, and Chiaki arrives. Revealing himself to be a time traveler from the future, Chiaki tells Makoto about his desire to see a painting restored by Makoto's aunt that has been destroyed in his present.
He further reveals that he has used his final leap to prevent Kosuke's accident and will disappear when time begins. Chiaki's last leap inadvertently restored Makoto’s own final time leap to the moment she gained her powers. Konno then reveals everything that he told her in the future and promises to ensure the painting’s safety.
Having heard this, Chiaki leaves, telling Makoto that he will be waiting for her in the future.
8. Weathering with You
Weathering with You can be called the spiritual successor of Your Name. Sharing similar magical themes, it is no wonder why this anime movie is immensely popular.
The story begins with Hodaka running away to Tokyo from his remote island home. However, he quickly finds himself being pushed to his limits. Hodaka lives his days in isolation, not unlike the gloomy and eternal rainy weather of Tokyo. Things finally start to look up as he finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine.
Similarly, Hina Amano, an orphaned girl, strives to find work to sustain herself and her younger brother. Hodaka and Hina’s fates intertwine when the former attempts to rescue the girl from shady men. Soon, Hodaka discovers that Hina has the ability to call out the sun whenever she prays for it.
Seeing the potential of this power, Hodaka and Hina decide to capitalize on it. However, as it is with such stories, great power always comes with a hefty price.
Hodaka Morishima and Hina Amano start a business where the latter uses her power to clear away the rain in limited areas. However, a tragic fate awaits the 100% Sunny Girl. In order to stop Tokyo from drowning, Hina realizes that she has to sacrifice herself. She does this gladly, resulting in her being transported to a magical world above the clouds and gradually fading from existence.
While Hina gives up on life in order to save the people, Hodaka’s love for her makes him break many laws and risk his own life. He goes through the archway in the shrine to enter the magical world and manages to bring Hina back. However, undoing Amano’s sacrifice dooms Tokyo to an eternity of rain and flooding.
After coming back to Tokyo, Hodaka is forced to return home. Unfortunately, by the time he returns to see Hina after graduation, most of Tokyo is completely submerged. The lovers' reunion comes at a significant cost, one that neither of them can afford.
While the couple's actions received a lot of backlash, seeing Hodaka recklessly risk his life to save Hina did not fail to bring tears to the viewers' eyes.
7. Hotarubi no Mori e
Run time: 45 min
Buy it here: Amazon.
Hotarubi no Mori e is a beautiful short anime movie that starts with Hotaru, a 6-year-old child, who is rescued by a masked forest spirit called Gin. This incident starts their unusual friendship separated by both distance and planes of existence. However, as it is with such stories, there's a condition 一 Gin will disappear if touched by a human.
Hotarubi no Mori e takes the concept of forbidden love and remakes the idea in a refined and tasteful manner. Hotaru and Gin are bound by the chains of time. One cannot leave the forest for fear of being touched by a human, and the other can only see him when summer finally arrives.
These two people who should never have crossed paths try to hold tightly onto each other, despite the unreliability of their future. As this tale of friendship evolves into one of sweet first love, their resolve is put to the test, and the outcome is nothing short of tear-jerking. Their time together is short, meaningful, and hard-hitting, much like the movie itself.
The summer holidays are almost over, and Hotaru informs Gin that she needs to leave the countryside and return to the city. The young man suggests Hotaru come back next summer. The girl manages to keep her promise, and her relationship with Gin strengthens over the years.
As Hotaru grows older, she becomes aware that her relationship with Gin has its limitations. During one of their meetings, Hotaru confesses to Gin her desire to find a job in the countryside after graduating high school so that they can see each other more often.
One day, Gin invites Hotaru on a date to a festival held by the spirits. Towards the end of their night, Gin admits his feelings towards Hotaru and places his mask on her face to kiss her. This moment is cut short when a boy behind them stumbles, and Gin grabs him by his arm. However, the boy turns out to be a human child, resulting in Gin starting to disappear. Before vanishing, Gin asks Hotaru to hug him.
The spirits of the forest appear and thank Hotaru for giving Gin what he wanted: to touch a human. Despite what happened, Hotaru eventually gets over the pain and continues to visit her uncle in the countryside during summer.
6. Wolf Children
Wolf Children is a bittersweet anime movie about motherhood. The story centers on Hana, a 19-year-old college student who falls in love with a mysterious man in her classes. As it turns out, the man is not a human but a living werewolf. Despite this shocking reveal, Hana decides to marry and start a family with him.
This family of four’s quiet life is suddenly disrupted as the wolf-man dies, leaving Hana to fend for their two children alone. In order to conceal the existence of these wolf children, she decides to move to a rural town far removed from the city and hopes that Ame and Yuki can live a free life.
The challenges of being a single mother to human-wolf hybrids in a harsh world are beautifully portrayed in the movie. Wolf Children can make its viewers laugh, as well as weep the very next moment.
Yuki and Ame live alongside their mother in the countryside while trying to figure out what they want from life. Yuki adjusts to school life and embraces her human side. Not only does she make a lot of friends, but Yuki also lets her new classmate — Sohei — in on her secret identity as a wolf-human hybrid.
Ame, on the other hand, has a more challenging time fitting in. Unlike his sister, he decides to spend more time in the forest and, upon meeting a fox mentor, embraces his wolf side.
One day, Hana heads out to pick Yuki from school but notices Ame's absence. Desperate to find him, she enters the forest and enters an unconscious state upon falling. It is at this point that Ame finds his mother and takes her to a safe place. However, upon awakening, Hana sees her son leaving her and cries tragically.
Ame has now found his place and departs into the forest after comforting his mother with a howl. A year later, Yuki too leaves the house to move into a high school dormitory, leaving Hana alone in their house once again.
5. Your Name
Your Name is an anime movie that has caused waves in the community. The story revolves around Mitsuha and Taki, two teens who find themselves in each other's bodies.
Mitsuha is a female high school student living in a rural town nestled deep in the mountains. Lamenting her current lifestyle in a confined town, she yearns to live among the bustling crowds of Tokyo. Taki, on the other hand, is a male high school student who lives in central Tokyo. He works part-time at an Italian restaurant and is interested in architecture and fine arts.
One day, Mitsuha awakens in a room that is not her own and finds herself living in Tokyo in the body of Taki. Similarly, the boy finds himself in Mitsuha's body, living a life in the humble countryside. In pursuit of an answer to this strange phenomenon, Mitsuha and Taki begin to search for each other.
The complexity and absurdity of Your Name takes the viewers on an emotional roller coaster, leaving them drained by the end.
While Taki and Mitsuha switched bodies, the former was three years in the future while the latter was three years in the past.
When Mitsuha visited Tokyo in order to meet Taki, she realized that he did not recognize her. Frustrated, Mitsuha gave Taki her ribbon and asked him whether he knew her name. Met with silence, Mitsuha returned to the village where a comet fragment struck and killed everyone. The bodyswap stopped after this event, while Taki tried his best to search for the shrine.
After accomplishing his goal, Taki drank the spit of Mitsuha in the shrine, resulting in him waking up in her body. Now capable of saving the Itomori town, he hatched a plan but was thwarted by the mayor. At his wit's end, Taki finally managed to meet Mitsuha during twilight - a period that allowed them to transcend their respective worlds - and told her about the tragedy. Following this event, Mitsuha managed to convince her father and saved the town from its imminent destruction.
Several years have passed since then, with both Mitsuha and Taki living in the present. While they had forgotten about each other, a feeling that they were missing something prevailed. After coincidentally meeting on the subway, Mitsuha and Taki finally got the chance to ask each other for their name.
4. A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice is one of the defining anime movies of 2016 alongside Your Name. The story begins with an elementary school student, Shouya Ishida, bullying a deaf girl, Shoko Nishimiya. As the bullying goes too far and the girl’s mother interferes, the class turns its back on Ishida, turning him into a social outcast.
Now alone and depressed, Shouya is still plagued by his actions and decides to set out on a journey of redemption. As he meets Shoko, their friendship slowly blooms, with both trying to deal with the struggles of adolescence.
Despite being a coming-of-age story, A Silent Voice has one of the darkest themes. The consequences of bullying and the scars they leave are beautifully portrayed. The movie will leave its audience empathizing with the characters and grieving for their struggles.
A Silent Voice follows Ishida, who decides to end his life after repaying his debt to his mother. However, after a sudden change of heart, he decides to carry on with his life and make amends for his past actions. Shouya soon finds Shoko and tries to become her friend. Things seem to go well at this point since he is now surrounded by friends, but certain wounds still remain open.
As Shouya's friends from the past that were involved in the bullying make an appearance, Shoko relapses and blames herself for everything. Finally, unable to love herself for who she is, Shoko tries to jump down and take her own life. However, Ishida arrives just in time and manages to save her at the expense of his own body. By the end, we see a seriously injured Shouya who acts as a wake-up call for everyone.
3. Barefoot Gen
Run time: 1 hr 23 min
Watch it here: Prime Video.
Barefoot Gen is an anime movie that centers on Gen, a 6-year-old who has lived with the war his entire life. In the summer of 1945, the anime takes place three years after the onset of war between Japan and the USA. Lucky enough to survive after the bombing of several cities, Gen and his family live a struggling but satisfying life.
However, with entire populations taking refuge in his city, Gen’s family suffers from severe malnutrition. In order to help their pregnant mother and their father at work, Gen and his little brother Shinji barely have enough time for themselves. Unfortunately, with the bombing of Hiroshima, their lives are about to change drastically.
What makes Barefoot Gen so emotionally devastating is the fact that it is an autobiographical account of the mangaka’s experience during the bombings. Thus, the harsh life of the Japanese people living in Hiroshima during 1945 shown in the movie is inspired directly from real life.
While Barefoot Gen manages to instill its viewers with hope and horror, it manages to give a happy ending to the Hiroshima horrors.
The movie takes a drastic turn when Hiroshima is bombed, leaving Gen’s father and brother dead. After removing himself from under the rubble, Gen finds his pregnant mother, Kimie, and helps her give premature birth to a girl. Soon after, the parent-child pair dig up the remains of their family members and take refuge in a makeshift shack.
The next day, Gen and Ryuta (an orphaned boy) tend to a bomb survivor in order to get some milk for Tomoko. However, when they return home, they find that Tomoko has already died. In despair, Gen shouts out to his father and vows to fill his shoes and take care of his mother. A few weeks later, Gen and Ryuta see weeds beginning to grow, so with renewed enthusiasm, they set a paper boat lantern down the river for Shinji.
2. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
Run time: 1 hr 48 min
Watch it here: Netflix
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is an anime movie that once again highlights that life is just really *curse word* cruel sometimes. Sakura Yamauchi is determined to live her life to the fullest until the day she finally passes away, and now, she has finally found one more person to share her secret: the aloof boy who does not show any sympathy for her plight. This pair of opposites affect each other in a way never seen before.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a beautiful love story about an anti-social boy who falls in love with his jovial classmate. The tragedy lies in the fact that the girl has pancreatic cancer and does not have long to live. The juxtaposition between a dying girl living her best life and a boy who has long to live but seems dead inside is jarring.
This poignant movie about first love and the uncertainty of life and death is sure to leave your emotions in absolute shambles.
From the beginning of the series, we know that Sakura is going to die. However, the way the movie handles her death will catch you off guard, to put it lightly.
At the end of I Want To Eat Your Pancreas, Haruki waits for Sakura to show up after being released from the hospital. However, after waiting for a while, she still does not arrive. Disappointed, Haruki returns home only to see a news report about a murder that has taken place near their town.
In an emotionally devastating twist of events, it is Sakura who has been stabbed through the heart by a serial killer. While her death was foreshadowed from the beginning, the way it was carried out left the viewers shocked and bawling. Haruki's mourning only made the scene more tragic and doubled down on the message that death will always be sudden, frightening, and cruel.
1. Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the saddest anime movies of all time. The story takes place during World War II as the atomic bombs fall on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The devastating consequences of war are beautifully displayed in the struggles of Seita, a teenager charged with the care of his younger sister, Setsuko. As the siblings are separated from their parents, their heartbreaking tale of survival starts.
The reason this anime strikes a chord with its audience is its realistic portrayal of war. What happened to these two children has happened to countless others in a manner that is not beautiful in the slightest. The cruelty of war and the ugliness of human nature it brings out is unflinchingly shown to the viewers.
Grave of the Fireflies is designed to leave you weeping and in shock. It is a movie that must be watched - probably not alone, though.
Grave of the Fireflies doesn't pretend to be anything but utterly tragic. Instead, it stays true to its nature, resulting in one of the saddest anime endings of all time.
After losing their house in the bombings, the siblings manage to escape alongside their mother. However, she ends up dying due to severe burns, leaving Seita and Setsuko to fend for themselves. After living with a distant aunt for some time, the pair run away due to her hostile nature.
Unfortunately, due to lack of food, Setsuko starts to suffer from severe malnutrition. Seita is forced to spend all of their savings in exchange for some food to provide for her. However, by the time he returns to his younger sister and starts preparing a meal, Setsuko succumbs to her illness. Soon after, Seita is seen burning his little sister’s body and carrying her ashes with him in a tin can.
In the opening of the anime movie, we saw Seita dying of starvation at a train station. The ending takes place in the same setting, as the spirits of Seita and Setsuko board the train to look out on the present-day Kobe.