It has been a quarter of a century since Pokémon first emerged onto the world stage. To say these internationally beloved creatures have had a successful run would be an understatement. In 2021, Pokémon is the highest grossing media franchise of all time – bigger than Harry Potter, bigger than Star Wars, and even bigger than Marvel.
Originally a video game released on Nintendo’s handheld console the Game Boy, Pokémon has since spawned a hit anime series, a school playground-infiltrating trading card game, toys of all shapes and forms, and even food. This isn’t to mention the Pokémon branded aircraft.
In 2019, the pocket monsters made their way to Hollywood with the first live-action Pokémon movie, the moderately successful Detective Pikachu, but this wasn’t this media powerhouse’s first foray into theatres. In fact, since 1998, Pokémon has released a feature length anime movie annually.
These films are hardly the pinnacle of cinema, ranging from good to outright terrible, nor are they at the consistent quality of other anime studios such as Studio Ghibli, yet fans continue to return to the series. It seems, even 22 movies into its big screen existence, there remains something eternally endearing about 10-year-old Ash Ketchum and his loveable Pikachu.
In this edition of Ranked, we here at The Film Magazine have judged each of the Pokémon franchise’s 22 feature length anime films and judged each in terms of quality, significance, lore-building, public perception and critical reception to offer you: Pokémon Anime Movies Ranked
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22. Genesect and the Legend Awakened (2013)
Pokémon the Movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened may be last in this list, but like any Pokémon movie it still has some positives. Namely, the animation is a standout, and there are a number of slow-motion Mewtwo scenes that are worth the admission alone for long-standing fans of the Pokémon universe. That’s where the praise ends however…
As a product of the Pokémon cycle, Genesect and the Legend Awakened feels almost entirely inconsequential, from its cliché-riddled plot to its shallow exploration of what it means to be a man-made sentient being. It’s repetitive too, flipping from one battle between Mewtwo and Genesect to another, to another and to another before the film is over.
The biggest offence of this 2013 release is how it passed on the opportunity to make this Mewtwo the same one that starred in The First Movie (1998). By bringing back such a well-known character, with a deep history within the universe and a beloved history within the fandom, each scene could have been elevated, turning this forgettable flick into essential viewing. As it turns out, this was not the case, and Genesect and the Legend Awakened became the most lifeless of all Pokémon movies released to date.
21. Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006)
The final film with the Hoenn gang is the longest in the series… and it shows. Temple of The Sea is a slog to get through, featuring a generic plot that barely surfaces above boring. The film is a glorified advert for the ‘Pokémon Ranger’ videogame released the same year, and even then it does the game no favours.
Many of these films shoehorn in legendary Pokémon to trick kids into thinking the plot is more epic than it actually is. Temple of The Sea might just be the biggest offender regarding this – during the film’s climax, the legendary Pokémon of the sea, Kyogre, pops up for about 30 seconds, impacting the plot in no way whatsoever; but hey, it gave the producers a reason to put it on the poster.
The 3D animation seems to have regressed since the previous instalment (Lucario and The Mystery of Mew), making this not only one of the most boring in the series, but one of the ugliest too.
There are flickers of enjoyment to be had, from May and Manaphy’s touching friendship to Ash’s heroic act in the climax. And the main villain is a pirate with a very cool beard. But if that sounds like a stretch, it’s because it is.
20. Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution (2019)
In 2019, Pokémon took a break from releasing new films and released a CGI remake of its first release: The First Movie.
Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution looks good for the most part, from stunning environments to rich details never seen in Pokémon before – such as Ash’s hair being no longer the solid black chunk it had been for 20+ years – but the lack of evolution within the narrative and dialogue illustrated Pokémon’s resistance to evolve.
This new coat of paint doesn’t completely match, resulting in something that borders on the uncanny. Perhaps if the script had been overhauled it might have felt more modern, but instead the film is an inferior version of what it once was.
This is ultimately an inoffensive remake, but can only be recommended as necessary viewing to the completionists wishing to watch ’em all.