These movies know how to make anime fans cry. Thanks to their melodrama, character interactions and soundtrack, all types of fans are forced to buy a box of tissues before viewing them. Even the most cynical fan will have trouble choking back their tears!
Only stand-alone movies were chosen for this list. While movie tie-ins to existing series, like K-On! the Movie, are tearjerkers, they assume fans have already watched the previous seasons.
1. Five Centimeters Per Second
Genre: Drama / Romance / Slice of Life
Studio: CoMix Wave Films
Quick Pitch: Takaki and Akari were close childhood friends, but Akari moved away due to her family’s job. The two make a promise to write letters, but Takaki also moves, adding distance between them. As their lives go on, their contact slowly fades, but they wonder if they will ever meet again.
2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Genre: Adventure / Drama / Romance / Science Fiction
Quick pitch: Makoto Konno is in her last year of high school, but she has no plans for the future. Makoto deals with the pressure she faces from teachers by hanging out with her friends. But her life changes when she accidentally learns that she can leap through time
3. A Silent Voice
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Quick Pitch: Shouya Ishida is a boy who is always getting into trouble. When a deaf transfer student named Shouko Nishimiya is introduced to Ishida’s class, he deems her as the perfect target for bullying. Ishida bullies Nishimiya to kill boredom and doesn’t think about the effects of his actions until he starts to become ostracized by his own classmates.
4. Wolf Children
Genre: Fantasy / Slice of Life
Studio: Studio Chizu
Quick Pitch: Hana is a college student who falls in love with a mysterious man. On a full moon, it is revealed that he is the last werewolf, but that doesn’t weaken their bond. Shortly after giving birth to two babies, Hana’s lover dies in an accident. Now, she is left alone to raise two babies who can turn into werewolves.
5. The Light of a Firefly Forest (Hotarubi no Mori e)
Genre: Drama / Romance / Supernatural
Studio: Brain’s Base
Quick pitch: Six-year-old Hotaru Takegawa loses her way in an ancient forest while visiting her uncle. Alone and desperate for help, Hotaru meets a masked spirit named Gin. While Gin is willing to help Hotaru, he warns her not to touch him, or else he will disappear forever.
Despite this, the two become close friends over the years as Hotaru visits Gin every summer. When romantic feelings form, their resolve is put to the test.
6. Grave of the Fireflies
Genre: Historical / War Drama
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Quick Pitch: Seita and Setsuko are siblings whose lives are ravaged by World War II. Orphaned and homeless, the two have no choice but to drift across the countryside. Despite meeting apathetic adults and witnessing the horrific aftermath of American bombings, the two maintain hope.
7. Millennium Actress
Genre: Drama / Romance
Quick Pitch: Director Genya has been working on a documentary about the reclusive and retired actress Chiyoko. After managing to score an interview with his idol, he drags the cynical cameraman Kyouji to go meet her at a mountain resort. Chiyoko shares her life story with Genya, who realizes he has a much deeper connection with her.
8. A Dog of Flanders (Flanders no Inu)
Genre: Drama / Historical
Studio: Nippon Animation
Quick Pitch: Nello is a poor orphan who is taken in by his grandfather. One day, he finds a half-beaten dog and names him Patrasche. The two work together and deliver milk to Nello’s grandfather’s clients in hopes of raising money so he can spend time with Aloise.
Genre: Drama / Slice of Life / Supernatural
Studio: Sunrise / Ascension
Quick Pitch: Upon reaching the train station to death, a soul is notified that they have won a lottery and will have a second chance at life. The soul is to possess the body of Makoto, a boy who committed suicide by overdosing on pills. Watched over by a neutral spirit named Purapura, the soul has six-months figure out the greatest sin it committed in its former life while trying to discover why Makoto committed suicide.
10. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Genre: Drama / Military / Psychological / Romance
Studio: Production I.G.
Quick pitch: Constable Kazuki Fuse fails to follow an order to execute a frightened young girl before she commits a suicide bombing. Scarred from the event, Fuse is ordered to go to training camp for re-evaluation. During some down time, he visits the grave of the girl and meets Kei, who is the deceased’s sister. Over time, they form a peculiar bond.
11. A Letter to Momo (Momo e no Tegami)
Genre: Drama / Supernatural
Studio: Production I.G.
Quick Pitch: Momo and her mother move to the remote island Seto following the unexpected death of her father. The possession Momo has from her father is an unfinished letter that reads, “Dear Momo.” Struggling to adjust to rural life, Momo finds an old youkai picture book, with three of the youkai coming to life.
12. The Anthem of the Heart (Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda.)
Genre: Drama / Romance
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Quick Pitch: Jun used to be a chatterbox, but a magical egg convinces her that her talking caused her parent’s divorce. Placed under a “curse,” Jun loses her ability to speak. In high school, Jun is enrolled in the Community Outreach program with three other students. After bonding, they decide to do a musical based on Jun’s experiences.
What are your favorite tearjerking anime movies?