The 80s were a great time for anime. Japan’s top animators loved watching Hollywood films like Die Hard, Predator, Lethal Weapon and Robocop. Practical animation is an amazing and fascinating art form, and in its heyday Japanese anime became a beacon of sci-fi action cool. There are a lot of great movies and series to come out of this time period that fans champion and revisit often. Here are ten great anime titles that every 80s fan should have in their permanent collection.
Ghost in the Shell
The original Ghost in the Shell directed by Mamoru Oshii is an anime classic. Often considered a cyberpunk classic and one of the greatest animated features of all time, this one to watch and revisit often. It’s an 80s cop drama that mixes in some of the best futuristic tropes from the era. Visually stunning and extremely influential, there’s a reason why Ghost in the Shell is remade all the time. We even have a new one coming out this year.
Akira is one of the most recognizable titles in anime. The original 1988 film was a massive production, and the subsequent stateside release became a VHS classic. Motorcycle chases, gang wars, and the incredible ending will forever be watershed moments in anime action. Even the speeder chase in the sewer is a cool bit for hoverbike fans. With a visual aesthetic that often mirrors Blade Runner, Akira is a classic example of the medium at its best.
Fist of the North Star
The story of martial arts master and wasteland warrior Ken from Fist of the North Star is one of the coolest and most hardcore tales in anime. The victim of a brutal fighting technique that leaves him nearly dead, Kenshiro rises from the post-nuclear desert to defeat his former best friend. Notable for some of the craziest fight scenes ever in an animated film, this adaptation of the manga and TV series is a must see.
Cyber City Oedo 808
Cyber City Oedo is the one that has it all. Released as a three-episode original video animation (OVA) this short series is a blast for action fans. Killer robots, gritty fight scenes, and a subplot similar to Escape from New York, Cyber City Odeo 808 hits all the tropes just right. Even the soundtrack stands out as a perfect score encapsulating 80s cool. Just try watching this one in English without thinking of almost every John Carpenter ever.
8 Man After
When a good cop dies in the line of duty, his body soon becomes a crime fighting super cyborg. Just like the classic Paul Verhoeven gritty sci-fi thriller Robocop, this OVA series is intense and incredibly fun. 8 Man originally started out as a 1960s Japanese superhero, but the version that popped up in the early 90s is a cult classic. 8 Man After contains enough robotics and body horror to satisfy any fan of the era. It’s a wild and thrilling ride.
Iria: Zeiram the Animation
Iria is one of the greatest female bounty hunters ever. Similar to the likes of Samus from the classic Nintendo franchise Metroid, the star of Zeiram the Animation is a tough and powerful galactic warrior. When an unstoppable alien creature known as Zeiram begins wreaking havoc on the galaxy, Iria and her brother Gren step in to find out what killed the crew of a small transport ship. Fans of Alien and The Thing should seek this one out.
Civil war is destroying the planet Venus, and only a small gang of motorcycle racers can stop it. Venus Wars is an action-packed, fast-paced thrill ride. The animation is kinetic and has become one of the most influential displays of the style ever made. Based off a beloved manga series, this anime is a good starting off point for all ages. The racing scenes are fun and exciting, and the overall story is entertaining. Venus Wars has everything an 80s action fan could hope to ask for in an animated movie.
Some of the greatest anime anthologies are group efforts. Robot Carnival boasts the talents of the most profound creators at the time, and the final product shows it. Each segment is great on its own, and the two short animations in this film titled Deprive and Starlight Angel are mana from heaven for 80s genre fans. Filled with monstrous creatures, giant robots and intense sequences of sci-fi fantasy and horror, Robot Carnival has it all. Even the fights against cyborg aliens are awesome.
Neo Tokyo is a three-part anthology film featuring a surreal and abstract wrap-around story. The three main segments of the movie are entertaining, but the one standalone tale titled The Running Man is the high point of the whole production. Imagine the classic hovercar racing game F-Zero became the planet’s most popular sport. The kick comes in when the world’s top competitor develops psychokinetic abilities and starts destroying everything in his path.
Battle Angel Alita
Another OVA that diehard anime fans fight to the death over, Battle Angel Alita is an almost forgotten classic. The story is set in a dystopian future where a cybernetics expert lives in a decaying slum. When he finds the living remains of a female cyborg in a trash dump, the tale of Gunnm begins. This anime is full of cyberpunk thugs and wasteland bounty hunters. It’s so good, even director James Cameron loves it. He plans to release a live action version of Alita next year.