Feel like getting away from it all? There's no better place to escape Earth than the darkest reaches of space, which is why outer space is such a popular setting for anime movies.
There are countless space anime movies that'll have you blasting off beyond the stratosphere. Several of them are actually quite good, and a few of them are even phenomenally influential.
Looking for the best space anime movies to watch? Here are our picks that are worth your time, from old classics to modern hits. If you're ready for launch, read on!
10. Harlock: Space Pirate (2013)
Directed by Shinji Aramaki
Starring Shun Oguri, Yû Aoi, Haruma Miura
Animation, Adventure, Sci-Fi (1h 55m)
Okay, I know many anime purists will decry the use of CGI as decidedly "not anime," but I'm not one of them.
I think CGI animated films can make for an incredible viewing experience when it's done well, and I think Harlock: Space Pirate is a great example of a CGI anime movie done well.
Fun fact: As of this writing, Harlock: Space Pirate is the most expensive Japanese CGI anime movie ever made.
In this remake of the highly influential anime series Space Pirate Captain Harlock, you can see the influence of both Mobile Suit Gundam and Star Wars on how the action plays out on screen.
While this space anime movie didn't find the cult audience that the original series did, it does a great job of respecting the source material while still feeling modern and relevant today.
9. Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
Directed by Osamu Dezaki
Starring Shigeru Matsuzaki, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Gorō Mutsumi
Animation, Action, Fantasy (1h 39m)
If you're after swashbuckling action set in space, Space Adventure Cobra is one of the best anime movies for it. Don't be turned off by its age! It may look dated, but it's still a great watch.
Space Adventure Cobra follows the aptly named Cobra, a space pirate who's recruited by bounty hunter Jane Flower to rescue her sister. The plot quickly escalates into something much more epic: stopping a wandering planet from falling into the wrong hands.
There's a big element of cheesiness in Space Adventure Cobra that manages to be endearing rather than annoying, and the characters feel surprisingly fleshed-out for the relatively short runtime.
8. Space Battleship Yamato (1977)
Directed by Toshio Masuda
Starring Gorô Naya, Kei Tomiyama, Shûsei Nakamura
Animation, Action, Adventure (2h 15m)
It feels criminal to put an IP as influential as Space Battleship Yamato so low on this list, but this space anime movie is little more than a re-edit of several episodes from the series, so I suppose it's deserved.
The story is one of the best space operas of any anime film, but the animation here doesn't take full advantage of the longer runtime or the larger budget that films normally allow.
However, few classic animes are more important than Space Battleship Yamato, so this film pretty much earns a spot by default. If you don't have the time to watch the full series, this is a decent substitute.
7. Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace (2014)
Directed by Tatsuo Satô
Starring Mikako Komatsu, Asami Shimoda, Kana Hanazawa
Animation, Adventure, Comedy (1h 33m)
Taking place after the end of the original series, Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace serves as a great capstone to it all.
This anime film follows Marika Kato, a diligent student by day and a registered space pirate by night.
When a job sends her to rob a high-class passenger ship, she and the crew of the Bentenmaru set off on a fast-paced and high-energy mission across the galaxy.
Everything in this movie is bigger and better than it was in the series, complete with fantastic animation that's a joy to see. The end result is one of the best space anime movies you can watch.
6. Galaxy Express 999 (1979)
Directed by Rintarô
Starring Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Makio Inoue
Animation, Action, Adventure (2h 9m)
Galaxy Express 999 is a space opera that takes place in a distant future when humanity can now freely traverse the stars.
There's a rumor that anyone who reaches the final stop of the Galaxy Express 999 intergalactic train will receive a new, immortal robot body with which they can spend eternity exploring the universe.
And there's Tetsuro Hoshino, a young boy living in the slums of Earth who dreams of making that journey.
Galaxy Express 999 was first released in 1979 and quickly became a classic anime film for its stellar animation and wonderful balance between thrilling action and heartbreaking drama.
5. Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight (1985)
Directed by Takeshi Shirato and Eiichi Yamamoto
Starring Toshio Furukawa, Keiko Han, Hideyuki Hori
Animation, Action, Adventure (2h 19m)
If the ongoing rise of AI in our current time has you worried, Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight will drive your fears home. This anime movie takes place in space and feels like two distinct halves.
The first half follows the crew of the Starlight, an interstellar ship on a test flight between systems. In the second half, their journey takes them to a far-distant planet known as Odin, where a corrupted AI has twisted the population into dangerous cyborgs.
There are moments where the plot can be confusing and absurdly strange, but there are plenty of great philosophical questions to ponder and explosive space battles to watch on screen.
4. Interstella 5555 (2003)
Directed by Leiji Matsumoto and Kazuhisa Takenouchi
Starring Romanthony, Thomas Bangalter
Animation, Adventure, Music (1h 8m)
If you're a fan of Daft Punk, you've probably already seen this one. Not a single word of dialogue is spoken here. Instead, the entire film is set to the music of the band's second studio album, Discovery.
In Interstella 5555, a band of aliens are kidnapped and taken to Earth. It's up to Shep, a space pilot who flies a giant guitar-shaped spaceship, to rescue them.
Interstella 5555 is a continuation of the storylines that run through Daft Punk's music videos. Expect lots of flying through wormholes, daring escapes in jetpacks, and dark rituals involving a growing collection of Gold records.
It's admittedly a strange and unique experience, but you can't deny that the music in Interstella 5555 is great. Plus, the animation (supervised by Leiji Matsumoto) is captivating to watch.
3. Welcome to the Space Show (2010)
Directed by Kôji Masunari and Masaaki Yuasa
Starring Keiji Fujiwara, Tamaki Matsumoto, Honoka Ikezuki
Animation, Adventure, Drama (2h 16m)
We usually think of space as being dark and full of dangers, but Welcome to the Space Show imagines it as a much more fun and light-hearted place.
Written by Hideyuki Kurata, Welcome to the Space Show centers on the adventures of five elementary school kids from Earth who find an injured dog that turns out to be an alien.
The kids end up launched into space with only one way to return back home: by getting their new alien friend to his home planet.
Welcome to the Space Show is one of the sweetest space anime movies, making it perfect for younger viewers who are developing a love for sci-fi stories and are interested in the world of anime films.
2. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe
Starring Kouichi Yamadera, Megumi Hayashibara, Unshou Ishizuka
Animation, Action, Crime (1h 55m)
Does it feel like cheating to include Cowboy Bebop: The Movie on this list? Maybe. But come on! Cowboy Bebop is one of the greatest space animes ever made, so obviously the movie deserves a spot.
Set between episodes 22 and 23 of the original series, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is basically one long episode of the show. Shinichiro Watanabe returned as director and the legendary Yoko Kanno was brought back to create new music for the film.
In Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, the crew of the Bebop are out to find the man who set off a deadly new pathogen on Mars. But, as is usually the case for them, things don't go to plan.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie has everything that made the original series great, plus a bigger budget. What's not to love?
1. Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (1991)
Directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino
Starring Kouji Tsujitani, Yumi Touma, Masaaki Maeda
Animation, Action, Drama (2h 0m)
It would've been easy to fill this entire list with just Mobile Suit Gundam movies, but instead we're only going to focus on one film from the franchise: the 1991 classic by director Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Mobile Suit Gundam F91 takes place 30 years after the previous film (Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack) and features a world still gripped by war and the ever-escalating battle for resources.
The involvement of Tomino—the original creator behind Gundam—means that this feels true to the franchise's roots as a political drama punctuated by giant robot fights.
Mobile Suit Gundam F91 is more than just a great space anime movie or mecha anime movie. It's one of the best anime movies, period.