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Best Animes From 1980s - Still Worth Watching!

I only included the animes I have watched from over these years. I'm not including Sequels from anime that started in previous years. I am including Sequels where it makes sense to keep watching, in order to complete the story.
1 Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

The Movie that gave birth to Studio Ghibli, literally, as they were able to purchase the studio where they work at the time (Topcraft) and Studio Ghibli was born out of the proceeds of this movie, therefore is often considered part of Studio Ghibli's catalog.

Who would have thought of ecological themes in the early '80s? This film is a timeless masterpiece, Nausicaa's personality is amazing and something we can all learn from.

If you haven't seen this film, do yourself a favor and start watching it right now, your life will be better at the end of it.

2 Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Another great fantasy/adventure from Studio Ghibli, in my opinion, the second best film from this studio after Nausicaa. This time it takes us to an abandoned castle, floating in the sky.

How they come up with this ideas? The film has several influences, from Gulliver's Travels to Biblical & Hindu Legends. Everything is put together into an amazing adventure that will keep you glued to your screen.

3 Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac

Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac

Also known as Knights of the Zodiac o Caballeros del Zodiaco in Spanish. This story includes lots of mythology, but it's mostly about human endurance, not just physically, but from the heart. How do you keep the focus on your goals, how do you reach them, how far will you go for something you believe in? These are some of the questions the characters try to answer as they fight and what gruesome, tough fights they have.

I recommend watching the subs. The English Dub is ok, the Latin Dub is way more superior so that one is also a good choice.

4 Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter - Sanctuary

Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter - Sanctuary

This is the continuation of the story, split into 3 more chapters: Sanctuary, Inferno & Elysion. This is the first part of the three.

5 Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter - Inferno

Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter - Inferno

This is the continuation of the story, split into 3 more chapters: Sanctuary, Inferno & Elysion. This is the second part of the three.

6 Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter - Elysion

Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter - Elysion

This is the continuation of the story, split into 3 more chapters: Sanctuary, Inferno & Elysion. This is the final part and conclusion of the story.

7 Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meiou Shinwa

Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meiou Shinwa

This is a prequel depicting the events of the previous Holy War.

'Obviously in comparison to the original series, Lost Canvas cuts right to the last story arc. Not only is it a prequel, it's a very excellent addition and extension to the original source material.' -ParaParaJMo

8 Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meiou Shinwa 2nd Chapter

Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meiou Shinwa 2nd Chapter

Continuation of the story.

9 Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball

Who doesn't love Dragon Ball story? Packed with tons of originality, great characters, personalities, events, etc. You'll see tons of references from other animes to this one and Z, because this anime push the industry forward and introduce anime to many westerners.

10 Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z

The continuation of Dragon Ball story. Somehow you'll find yourself watching chapter after chapter of a fight and after a couple of weeks, you'll realize nothing has really happened, but wonder, how this show can be so entertaining, despite the fact they have barely punch each other through 8-10 episodes. The tension is amazing from one scene to the other.

There is also Dragon Ball Kai, which follows the Manga more closely, this alone should make it worth watching, but unfortunately, its not a new anime, its just a re-edit of the original Dragon Ball Z and its censored with lots of violence tone down, furthermore, even if is HD, the frames were not expanded, so depending on the version you watch will be either widescreen but cropped, or in the old TV format 3:2 (not widescreen).

I still recommend the Original Z over Kai, I think the fillers help expand the story and create more suspense. However, I recommend you end it right after the Cell Arc and move to the new and improved 'Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters (2014)'. This is the Majin Buu Arc, the Original Z just go crazy with the fillers and the quality of the story decreases considerably. It is way more comprehensible on the new version as it follows the manga.

Unfortunately, Dragon Ball GT is not as great as its predecessors and it's not canon, therefore I'm not including it on this list, but if you find yourself a hardcore fan you may still want to watch.

The official continuation of the story is 'Dragon Ball Super', which I haven't watched, so I have no comments about it.

11 Space Adventure Cobra

Space Adventure Cobra

This is an amazing Sci-Fi story with a look and feel like Blade Runner & Star Wars & Total Recall. Finally, we have a male character that knows how to react & treat women, with a James Bond kind of personality, something that has gotten lost in most recent animes where all male heroes become total losers when a woman enters the scene.

12 Space Adventure Cobra Movie

Space Adventure Cobra Movie

This is the same story as the Anime Series for the most part, but has alternative scenes that move the story in some kind of parallel universe to the series. It still a good watch, so I'm adding it here. The anime series is more complete but this can also be a good introduction to see if you'll like the show.

13 Super Dimensional Fortress Macross

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross

So this is one of the first animes televised in the USA and to do so, they had to join and edit together 3 different animes, so it can be long enough for broadcast. So these different animes with a similar theme of humans vs aliens were edited into a single, continuous story. It is debated if the Robotech Saga is better than the 3 stand-alone animes, but almost everyone agrees that at least the songs are better in the Robotech series. LOL

Anyway, I like the continuity of the story on the Robotech Saga, so that is what I added to this list.

This is the first part and depicts the events of The First Robotech War.

14 Robotech: The Masters

Robotech: The Masters

This is the second part, taken from the Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross. This is the most edited part as it has to blend the elements of the other 2 series into a continuous story. In my opinion is also the weakest. I'm only adding it here for continuation of the Robotech Story, but you can definitely skip if you decided to watch the stand-alone series.

If you are interested in knowing the differences you can look for it on Google and here is one article that points some of these differences:

(I recommend you to watch the series first, to avoid spoilers) https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?477719-The-differences-between-robotech-and-the-originals-(spoilers)

15 Genesis Climber Mospeada

Genesis Climber Mospeada

The Third Robotech installment, depicting the events of The Third Robotech War. The story doesn't quite end here but its the conclusion for the series.

The story continues on Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, but it's not as good as the series and the story won't conclude there either, it's just the last chapter animated so far. Watch only if you become a hardcore fan.

16 Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service

Studio Ghibli's Movies are amazing in the way characters interact with each other and how they approach a challenge. In this instance, witches choose a city to make a living and keep training by themselves, looking to do something productive.

This is a good watch for all ages.

17 Armored Trooper Votoms

Armored Trooper Votoms

Kudos for the amazing designs, this anime has aged really well due to its original designs and the Votoms, kind of an Exoskeleton Tank commonly used in a world full of war.

18 Armored Trooper Votoms: Big Battle

Armored Trooper Votoms: Big Battle

Set during the one-year gap of the TV series (in the middle of ep 52). The storyline features Chirico and his comrades participating in a mecha gladiatorial match.

19 Armored Trooper Votoms: Red Shoulder Document - Roots of Treachery

Armored Trooper Votoms: Red Shoulder Document - Roots of Treachery

The storyline serves as a prequel to the main series and especially The Last Red Shoulder. It details Chirico's time in the Red Shoulder elite military unit and his encounters with General Palisen.

Prequel OVAs tend to assume you've watched the series, so I recommend you watch the main TV Series first.

20 Armored Trooper Votoms: Pailsen Files

Armored Trooper Votoms: Pailsen Files

It is a prequel to the main series and the timeline fits best between Roots of Ambition and The Last Red Shoulder.

21 Armored Trooper Votoms: The Last Red Shoulder

Armored Trooper Votoms: The Last Red Shoulder

The storyline takes place after the Uoodo storyline in the TV series (between episode 13 & 14, however, to avoid spoilers I recommend watching it after the series). It details Chirico meeting with his old comrades in his old military unit, and their plan to get revenge on General Palisen.

22 Armored Trooper Votoms: The Brilliant Heretic

Armored Trooper Votoms: The Brilliant Heretic

This is a sequel to the Main TV series

23 Armored Trooper Votoms: Alone Again

Armored Trooper Votoms: Alone Again

Serves as a sequel to the Shining Heresy and prequel to the Phantom Chapter.

24 Armored Trooper Votoms: Phantom Arc

Armored Trooper Votoms: Phantom Arc

It is a sequel to Shining Heresy & Alone Again.

25 They Were Eleven

They Were Eleven

They were supposed to be 10, but they were 11! The eleven-member possibly a spy. When you think about the consequences of having an extra member on outer space with limited supplies, you'll start to imagine how everything is going to play out on this Sci-Fi suspenseful drama.

26 Gunbuster


Originality and creativity way ahead of its time, so much that the show was almost canceled and you'll have to watch the final episodes as sketches of what the anime could have been, never the less, the story is too amazing, taking into account the problem with 'time' as you travel long distances in space at high speeds. This is where the story shines, as you see how can become a blink of an eye for some and a lifetime for others that are left behind on Earth.

The ending is superb, this is a must watch for Sci-Fi fans!

27 Barefoot Gen

Barefoot Gen

This is a strong story that deals with the aftermath of the Atomic Bomb. Loosely based on the author's Nakazawa's own experiences as a Hiroshima survivor. It is really tough to watch but a must see at the same time. I think is important to know history and to understand what man has done through the ages, so we can create something better today.

In this movie, the aftermath of the Atomic Bomb is well explained. There is a sequel that I still haven't watched, therefore I haven't added yet.

28 Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

Stop! If you watched Barefoot Gen and you think you can stomach Grave of the Fireflies, think again. This movie is only watchable because its made as an anime and not as a real-life movie. It is a strong watch and at the same time, a must see for all. It's amazing that is also made by Studio Ghibli and is the best movie from Isao Takahata.

This is great storytelling on how fragile life really is, especially in a society unwilling to empathize with people in need.

29 Akira


'Akira is a film by author & director Katsuhiro Otomo, released on July 16, 1988. The film had a production budget of ¥1.1 billion ($9 million), making it the most expensive anime film of its time, eventually earning over $80 million worldwide from home video sales.

It garnered a large cult following since its theatrical release and is widely considered to be a landmark in Japanese animation. It is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest animated and science fiction films of all time.

The film had a significant impact on popular culture worldwide, paving the way for the growth of anime and Japanese popular culture in the Western world as well as influencing numerous works in animation, comics, film, music, television and video games.' -Wikipedia (extract)

Personally, I didn't find it that enjoyable storywise, in part because the full manga story was severely condensed into the movie, and in part probably because I watched it around 2008, and by then it has lost most of its appeal. Compare that to Ghost in the Shell (1995), which in my opinion, remains as relevant as when it first came out. Akira's story didn't' age quite well, but nobody can refute its a landmark that changed the industry forever and it's a visual feast for the eyes, without a doubt, this is one of the best-animated shows from the '80s!

'I have been staring at my computer screen for what seems a decade, trying to sum up what Akira feels like to watch - after a considerable period of hesitation, I offer the following graceless suggestion: think Ghibli on acid. Although relentlessly brutal and disturbing, Akira remains strictly philosophical at heart with its exploration of human evolution set against a backdrop of human decay. As such, it has that energizing creativity to be found in Ghibli productions; and yet, due to the level of bizarre savagery, it also makes me feel like I'm experiencing a rather bad hallucinatory trip.

Overall Akira is an action fest kind of movie with an unexpected philosophical and sociological depth; sure, plot progression is disjointed on occasion and the cast is not phenomenally sympathetic, but I could offer Akira nothing less than a high score. As a thrilling sci-fi with a unique ‘brink of madness' approach, it makes a powerful and lasting impression.' -VivisQueen

Why is this film important? This video will explain but beware it does contain spoilers.

30 Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

Don't expect a lot of action, this is a character-driven story with lots of dialog, strategies & tactics. Please read the description in the watching guide for an in-depth explanation of this epic series and comparisons with the 2018 adaptations, as well for why is worth watching:

Legend of the Galactic Heroes - Watching Guide

"The first movie in the Legend of the Galactic Heroes franchise is a prequel (to the 1988 OVA) that serves two useful purposes. It adequately fills in some historical details that the series could not and polishes its rousing space battles with the updated animation they deserve." -VivisQueen

This movie has amazing graphics for its time which are really able to convey the large scale of the fleet in great detail. Since the plot is character-driven and with lots of dialogs, the faces of each character are also greatly defined. I'm really perplexed at the quality of details this anime has considering its time of release. They use classical music for the soundtrack of the whole series and this really creates that "Space Opera" feeling, playing an important part in the animation as well, as you can almost see the battleships dancing to the music during the battles. No wonder why this has been the standard for Space Operas for so many years!

The events of this movie seem to predate also the 2018 remake, so it's different content for the most part and gives more time to get to know the characters.

31 Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War

Continuation of the story.

Watch instead of Episodes 1-2 of the 1988 OVA

The events of this movie are the same as Episodes 1-2 of the 1988 OVA, as well as the 2018 Remake: Die Neue These (DNT) with some minor differences.

32 Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

33 Transformers: The Movie

Transformers: The Movie

This movie serves as a transition between Season 2 & 3 of The Transformers TV Series, and a new cast of characters are introduced during the movie, which will become the main protagonists in future seasons.

How much do you want to see this movie will depend on how much of a fan of The Transformers you already are, as this is not intended for new audiences. So you'll have to watch at least Season 1 and maybe some of the episodes from S2 to understand what's going on here and why this movie was so controversial at the time of release.

Ironically, the Original TV Series, although it was animated by Toei, is in the list of animes that won't be added to Anime-Planet's Database. I guess it is considered American Animation since it was created for a western audience?

The dub is good.

34 Patlabor: The Movie

Patlabor: The Movie

This is from author Masami Yuki, also known for Birdy the Mighty: Decode and director Mamoru Oshii, best known for also directing the acclaimed Ghost in the Shell Movie. You'll find some mecha designs & technology that seem to be precursors for Ghost in the Shell.

I should mention that there are 2 different timelines: 

  1. The TV Timeline is more comical and average, so I don't recommend watching it.
  2. The Movie Timeline, which includes this Prequel OVA. This one has a more serious tone and is the timeline that has made this series famous. Obviously, this is the one I recommend watching.


Follow the watching guide for best enjoyment:

Patlabor - Watching Guide

Optional OVA

Note that this Prequel OVA is where all the characters are introduced, but despite having excellent animation for its time, the plot and antics are just average and leaning more towards comedy and slice-of-life than to action, so it's up to you to decide to watch it. It's episodic, focusing on the training of the characters. The plot is not essential for watching for the movies, although getting to know the world, character's personalities, and their backstories do help to identify them and expand their world. It could also be watched at a later time.

The mecha on this series is treated as 'real-life mecha', no more than machines meant to serve a purpose and they are not the focus of the show.

This is a classic anime and one that is still worth watching!

Each movie story is self-contained and their story is completely independent of the rest of the series, except that it is still the same universe with the same characters. The movies are like an extended episode of the series and one of the best, as they have plenty of action, detective work, politics, and an even more impressive animation that still outclass most current animes today.

"Upon first glance, one might assume this is a mecha anime. I would prefer to classify the anime as mystery or conspiracy. While mecha are central to the plot, they are not characters, nor are they involved in many flashy fight scenes. This is a thinking man’s anime–uncover the villain, his motives and why the Labors are malfunctioning to save Tokyo." -bedheadred

The movie has plenty of intrigues, detective work, tactics & strategies, then it all ends with great action scenes in amazing animation, especially when you consider this is from the '80s."

The dub is good.

35 Patlabor 2: The Movie

Patlabor 2: The Movie

Patlabor - Watching Guide

As I mentioned above, this is a continuation but also a self-contained story and you don't need to watch anything prior in order to understand it.

This movie has very little action and an even more serious tone than the rest of this series. The enjoyment is more about the intricate plot and the philosophy and ideas that are trying to convey, full of social critique. So if this is not your thing you may want to pass on this movie.

"Most of the prevailing theme in the movie has been cast on the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and on their legality as Japan's military force..." -Wikipedia

"Several real-life incidents were also mentioned or used for the movie. For instance, references to Viktor Belenko's defection to Japan in 1976 were mentioned by Arakawa himself when he spoke to Goto and Nagumo. Another incident with the nearly fatal dogfight over Tokyo was supposedly based on an accident in a computer simulation that forced the US military to go onto DEFCON 3 and almost went to nuclear war with the Soviet Union." -Wikipedia

The dub is good.

36 Ranma 1/2

Ranma 1/2

This is a great comedy series, especially at the beginning, but it gets repetitive and many people drop it towards the end as the fillers take over the story. Although there are many fillers worth watching, especially at the beginning and middle of the series. I recommend you this list:


You can also see this series as a stepping stone into some of the personalities that will make the characters on InuYasha, Ranma being similar to InuYasha, Akane to Kagome and so forth.

37 Fist of the North Star

Fist of the North Star

This is a long post-apocalyptic series where Kenshiro, a man that looks like Schwarzenegger, but goes into Bruce Lee mode when he fights, even his voice changes to Bruce Lee's, LOL. There is a lot to like in this anime, it has aged rather comically by today's standards, full of cliches and overly-dramatic scenes, but never the less is a great story to watch, a classic of classics and often referenced in newer shows.

Ken is a crybaby that has learned to fight from an early age and has an innate ability to kill people. In fact, every strong man here seems to be a crybaby at heart, unable to change their destiny written in the stars.

38 Fist of the North Star 2

Fist of the North Star 2

When will the bloodshed end? Well at episode 43 my friend! There is still so many people to fight, strangle and a couple of surprises, like the origin of the Fist and the connection that Kenshiro has with Lin.

39 Captain Tsubasa

Captain Tsubasa

This is a great Football Soccer anime, especially for kids. It has many special moves, not all possible in real life but its entertaining storytelling. It has been translated into many languages, the Latin dub is particularly good (not the Spanish from Spain as it lacks emotion and sound).

Because it's very old, there may be other Football Soccer series that are better by today's standards, but this one was one has a great story especially at the first tournament.

40 Vampire Hunter D

Vampire Hunter D

'D wanders through a far-future post-nuclear Earth that combines elements of pulp genres: western, science fiction, horror, high fantasy, H. P. Lovecraftian mythos, folklore and occult science.' -Wikipedia

This movie was surprisingly good, the visuals have aged fairly well and the story is good, it has a little of everything as depicted above, quoting the Wikipedia page.

41 Go Lion

Go Lion

The Classic Voltron Robot Story! It may not have aged well by now, with an episodic timeline that barely moves the main story forward, but it may still be a great watch for kids. There is a reboot of the franchise on Netflix.

42 Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV

Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV

Also known as Vehicle Voltron, or the second part of Voltron. Some people didn't like this version but I think it was a good story too.

43 Venus Wars

Venus Wars

This is a great Sci-Fi series about Freedom and has aged pretty well considering the time, still depicting the 80s look and feel.

44 Bubblegum Crisis

Bubblegum Crisis

This classic cyberpunk anime has incredibly detailed graphics for its time and excellent character designs. There is not much of a story though, each episode is self-contained with a villain of the week and the plot is often to identify the villain and go fight them, simple, straight, this show is all about the action, the visuals, and the look & feels from the '80s as well as the music, in short, is all about style & energy, rather than an intricate plot. I found it interesting to see how people from the '80s foresaw the future we live in. The first episodes are definitely better than the lasts, so if you don't like them there won't be much of an incentive to keep going.

Bubblegum Crash! the sequel is more of the same, it doesn't particularly add more to the story, so continuing watching will depend on your enjoyment of this show.

The dub is good, although I think there are at least 2 versions of dub. The one I watched was from the remastered version I think and even the music was dubbed, which was great.

45 Baribari Densetsu

Baribari Densetsu

From 'Shuichi Shigeno' the creator of 'Initial D', yes, he did motorbike racing before he moves into car racing.

46 Space Runaway Ideon: Contact

Space Runaway Ideon: Contact

To be honest, I haven't watched this movie, I watched the series, but at 39 episodes is way too long for me to recommend watching, as it hasn't aged well and is very repetitive, basically a chase and survival on each episode.

This movie is a condensed version of the events of the series and you'll need to understand that in order to watch the next movie and get to the end, which is for me what is really worth watching.

The conclusion of the story is great, in the sense that takes advantage of the immensity of space and vast time at the point that you don't know if the events of the story can have happened before or after our time. And offers a glimmer of hope despite the cruelty of the world.

47 Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked

Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked

You'll probably want to watch either the series or the first movie (which I recommend, so you don't have to go over 39 repetitive episodes). It's hard to explain why I think this movie is so great, especially the ending without giving any spoilers away. I'm not sure if everyone will get it but in my opinion, the ideas presented at the end are very original and somehow fulfilling.

You'll have to try for yourself to see what you can get out of this story.

48 Angel's Egg

Angel's Egg

I found it incredible that a film like this was created early on the 80s with such an amazing artistic visual quality still unparallel today with newer anime. Having said that this is indeed 'artistic' and won't appeal to everyone, many finding it boring perhaps. It certainly leaved Mamoru Oshii, today mostly known for Ghost in the Shell, without work for several years, in my opinion, a testament to how much ahead of its time it was made for an audience still not prepared to analyze or appreciate it for its beauty alone.

'What is Angel's Egg? Is it a post apocalyptic movie? Is it a warning to the Japanese public about the evils of overfishing? Is it a Noahs Ark parable? The beautiful thing about existentialist films such as Angel's Egg is that we can draw our own conclusions, and witness it as a reflection of our own values.

As far as plot goes, it's an existentialist movie, enough said. The plot needs to be inferred through our responses to the images we are presented So the plot will be different for everyone who sees it.

Angel's Egg is very liquid. Many scenes are dominated by water, and how water distorts the world through reflection and refraction. The scenery is for the most part 19th century Gothic architecture; with some Salvador Dali inspired backgrounds thrown in for good measure. Character animations are ... unique, it's something you just have to see. Overall for its day, the animation of Angel's Egg is excellent, scenes are detailed, and once you get past the unique character animation, the fluidity of the animation really stands out.

Sound, The weak-point of the anime, but really out of lack of sound to speak of. Most of this movie is silent, with very little background noise at all. Incidental music is minimal and there are less than twenty lines of dialogue in the whole movie.' -kamenoko

'Essentially senseless, Angel’s Egg spurns ordinary analysis in favour of subjective interpretation. It is far more interested in prompting questions within its audience’s mind than offering a rational external plot. As such, any attempts to define it will necessarily fail. Still, having absorbed every detail of the movie and finding its overt existentialism thought-provoking, what do I actually think it means? Well, my guess is rebirth. What’s yours?' -VivisQueen

Here is an interesting analysis of the symbolism to watch 'after' watching the film.

49 Giant Gorg

Giant Gorg

Definitely a different approach to animes of its time with a story full of mystery, trying to discover the secrets of an island. A big part of the series is also a chase, they must keep escaping the bad guys. It's a good watch for Sci-Fi fans.

50 Devilman: The Birth

Devilman: The Birth

These 3 Movie-OVAs are not for everyone, you must like Gore & Violence in order to watch them. They are not perfect by any means but they are the only ones of their genre around this time that are worth watching. The animation is quite good especially for its time, I particularly liked the demon's character designs, just watch the intro at the beginning for a taste of the quality and production values they have.

These OVAs are a close adaptation of the manga, they were created several years apart, so characters & quality changes drastically.

The dub is good.


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ScorpioVelvet Aug 19, 2018

Great list with wonderful descriptions on how these animes changed the '80s, I'm currently watching Gunbuster as well & it's really great so far (gotta love Noriko) just to let you know.