Top 6 Pokémon Films So Far

Ash's many companions over the years
Ash’s many companions over the years

Even though there are users on the Serebii.net forums who say they only started watching the Pokemon anime in 2013, the popularity of Pokemon is not at the heightened levels of the late 1990s craze. Pokemon plushies are still available in retail outlets, the films have started getting released in sets of three and the kids’ shelves are overwhelmed with other franchises like Beyblade or Monsuno. With the Pokemon formula prevailing most of the series it takes longer and longer for long-time viewers to come across episodes that are unique. With the introduction of Ash’s new female companion Serena in the X&Y anime, I felt inspired to watch all the movies released to date and rank them. The seventeeth film Pokémon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction is due for a release in July and features Ash’s new companions.

Like the series, the films are not without a formula. The movie formula’s usually follow the series: (a) Ash and co will travel to a new area (b) They will meet a new Pokemon and/or person with a problem (c) while they work to solve the problem Team Rocket will appear (d) After some thunderbolts and Pokemon fights Team Rocket goes blasting off (e) Ash and co say goodbye, promise he’ll meet his new friends again someday and continue on his journey. The film formula subsections to add to this are (a) the Pokemon will most likely be legendary and (b) the villains may or may not be Team Rocket.

For those wanting to get a Pokemon fix the films are a safe bet. However, those who are not fans of Pokemon are unlikely to be swayed by this article either. The animation and soundtrack are stronger than the series and a good one might make you laugh or cry. In terms of rating these movies against each other, as well as animation, artwork, character and story elements I have also considered emotional impact, the legendaries and the uniqueness of the film. Generally if the film did something different to the others it is on here. I would also like to note that the release dates listed are the Japanese ones.

This list will contain spoilers.

6. Zoroark: Master of Illusions (2010)

Zoroark Master of Illusions

Movie Number: 13

Pokemon Season: 4th Movie of Diamond and Pearl

Ash’s Companions: Dawn and Brock

If Pixar’s Brave was turned into a Pokemon film it might look something like this, if only for the importance of a mother daughter bond. Ash and co travel to Crown City to watch the Pokémon Baccer World Cup when they come across a Zorua looking for its mother (“Meema“) whom has been captured by a man called Grings Kodai. Ash and co decide to help it. Celebi and all the legendary dogs from the Johto region (Entei, Raikou and Suicune) feature in this film, making it nostalgia gold for the fans of these legendary Pokemon. It also gives all these Pokemon similar, if not, more interesting roles than their previous appearances in Pokemon: Spell of the Unown and Pokemon 4Ever while improving the aesthetics, story and character elements, which is one of the reasons why this film made this slot.

Since movie number four Pokemon movies have had a terrible trend of having a prologue explaining what Pokemon are and how the universe works. Considering parents of Pokemon obsessed children must have some idea, the explanation is ultimately a pointless time killer. In the version of the film I saw this part was cut out (hurray). As a result there is no opening song either, although it seems to be part of the original Japanese version. A very minor, insignificant change includes just having “Zoroark: Master of Illusions” as the title without a big, obnoxious Pokemon sign overwhelming the screen.

Given that the film was made in 2010 the animation is solid, but not as impressive as some later Pokemon film. The area it falls down is the character designs. The character designs for the Pokemon series and film have been more or less the same throughout the series and film run (gosh, Sayuri Ichiishi, Toshiya Yamada and co must be exhausted). Additional talent like Kazuaki Mohri (Robot Carnival) and Tokuhiro Matsubara, the character designer for the prequel to Pokemon movie Genesect and the Legend Awakened are also responsible for the character designs for this film. While the villains had decent character designs a few of the side characters like Karl, Joe and Tammy look a little more ridiculous with off-model eyes and stretched, elongated faces. An adorable, purple haired girl named Peg is also part of the film but sadly has about fifteen seconds of screen time. The lighting effects are solid. The locations were based around multiple regions of the Netherlands in Europe, which are very nice to look at!

Zoroark: The Master of Illusions is a sweet film which combines a touching theme of family, blood pumping action scenes, a chance for the legendary dogs and Celebi to have a second chance at swaying viewers, and some interesting villains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyMBmJLlJP8

Rating:

5. Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)

The Rise of Darkrai

Movie Number: 10

Pokemon Season: 1st Movie of Diamond and Pearl

Ash’s Companions: Dawn and Brock

Like most other films, this one opens with an introduction to the Pokemon world. It is well animated and visually pleasant, even if the material could be fast forwarded. The film opens with an exploration of one of the side characters, Tonio, as he observes a rift in the space-time balance through some gadgets in a room. The two legendaries of the film, Dialga and Palkia are fighting in an alternate dimension. They control time and space respectively. Pokemon’s ideas for legendaries may be getting redundant, repetitive and more extravagant over the years but a science fiction idea of time and space is an unusual and interesting premise to base a Pokemon film on. Dialga and Palkia are very mechanical-looking dragon Pokemon with heavy armor. They do not have the most eye-pleasing design but the film makes them look beautiful with its blend of fluid 3D, 2D animation and lighting effects. It certainly looks less obvious and out-of-place compared to the scenes of Ash running through the Venice-esque city in Pokemon Heroes.

Palkia and Darkrai fight over the brown rooftops of Alamos city.
Palkia and Darkrai fight over the brown rooftops of Alamos city.

Ash, Brock and Dawn find Alamos town to enter the Pokemon contest. Along the way they meet Alice. Through her Ash and his companions encounter Darkrai. Next to Pokemon Heroes, Darkrai has some of the most impressive animation in terms of location design and artwork. It also has a lot of location spots in common with Heroes. While Heroes had the tower of Alto Mare, Darkrai has the Time-Space tower: a beautiful, symmetrical tower that shares aesthetic components of balance and harmony. The color composition is pleasant to look at throughout most of the film. Despite a lot of wonderfully animated fight scenes, Heroes is still the most visually unique due to its design being based off the blending, green pastel colors and architecture of Venice. The character designs are by the same team who have done the majority of the other films, and look consistent with the Pokemon style of characters. Alice in particular is well designed.

The main side character of Heroes, Bianca showed Ash and co her garden. A similar, nicely animated garden is presented in Darkrai. A few similar locations seem to feature in this film but where Darkrai exceeds compared to Hereos is the detail placed into its side characters. Bianca in Heroes comes off as flat and uninteresting as we are not presented with any personality characteristics besides the fact she shares a relationship with Latios and Latias. Alice, as deep as Pokemon characters go, is given flashbacks as to her past and links of her heritage. These link directly into Darkrai as well, giving him a bit more of a character then simply “Oh, here’s this Pokemon. He has such and such ability”. The film does not involve much of a villain which is a refreshing change. Team Rocket hardly play a role, but don’t get in the way either.

The plot of the film, like most, is fairly straightforward although not as repetitive as the other films are in terms of villains motives. Palkia and Dialga, whom feature on the covers of the Diamond and Pearl Pokemon games do not have much of a role besides fighting each other, but their fight is enthralling to watch. Darkrai, being the title character, is more the focus here. He is the Pokemon of nightmares and Ash’s first encounters with him involve being sucked into one – trippy, yes? This feature of Darkrai gives the film a darker tone to earlier movies, even if it does not match The First Movie. Similar to Pokemon 2000, Dialga and Palkia’s fighting causes harmful effects on Alamos Town (and presumably, the world at large if it is not stopped). It is also resolved with the power of music, although not for the same reason, kind of reminiscent of the ending to the anime Mai Otome (2005). One of the Pokemon reaches a similar fate to Celebi in Pokemon 4Ever. While it is not incredibly moving it isn’t as rushed as Pokemon 4Ever so doesn’t come across as melodramatic or overdone.

The soundtrack is very hit and miss. The theme song “We Will Be Heroes” is performed by John Loeffler in this movie. Sadly the original version by Kristen Price is a lot better, as her voice fits the pop style and her performance has more energy. It would have been nice if they changed the tempo and style of the song to fit the rough tone and limited vocal range of Loeffler. For once it does not occur when Ash is having a Pokemon battle. The background music is impressive with piano tracks creating mood when needed. The mixture of orchestra ensemble with bells and chimes creates the beautiful Oracion which plays in full from the Space Time Tower. Overall the soundtrack is not as memorable as Heroes although the closing track makes up for it. For the English release the ending song is either “Where the Lost Ones Go” by Sarah Brightman and Christ Thompson, or “I Will Always Remember You” by Kristen Price. This is a rare time where some big name artists have been used for the songs. Considering how awful Brock sounds in the english dub I would recommend a foreign language version. That being said, Alice and Tonia are well cast and pleasant to the listen to.

The Rise of Darkrai has similar elements to previous Pokemon films but executes them in a more interesting, solid fashion. The effort made on the insert songs and strong orchestra track allows the film to feel more than just an extra long episode and the inclusion of Darkrai himself – a Pokemon of nightmares, gives the film a different tone as well. It is similar to the third movie, the Spell of the Unown with a focus on dreams, although the characters are more than just a plot device… even if just by a bit. The combination of its gorgeous animation, pretty music, so-so-story and most importantly, solid characters grants it this spot at #5.

Rating:

4. Jirachi: Wish Maker (2003)

Jirachi Wish Maker

Movie Number: 6

Pokemon Season: 1st Movie of Advanced Generation

Ash’s Companions: May, Max and Brock.

There are a number of Pokemon films which include a small, “cute” (debatable) legendary Pokemon. Jirachi in this film, beats the small Pokemon in Pokemon and the Ranger of the Sea and Giratina and the Sky Warrior simply because it doesn’t cry like a newborn baby throughout the majority of the film – go away Manaphy and Shaymin. In fact, much like Mew, Celebi, Zorua and Victini (from Pokemon White/Black) the film gets points for having a “token cute Pokemon” which doesn’t make me feel like I’m getting a case of prenatal depression.

Sadly this film starts with a preview of the Pokemon universe even if it does use different animation. What it does not contain which is different to every other film so far is an opening song. Instead, we are treated to an orchestra piece while a wonderful animation of the theme park the movie is based around is put to use. It sounds simple but when you watch 15 Pokemon movies it can be very easy to roll your eyes and say “Right, I’ve seen this before”. I highly recommend against watching all the Pokemon movies for this reason.

The animation for Jirachi Wish Maker stands out from other films mostly because of its effective color composition. Pokemon Hereos has a lot of pastel blue and green. This film’s location, like Heroes and Zoroark, is based off a real locationWulingyuan in China. Maybe to match Ash and May’s hat, as well as the yellow of Jirachi a lot of red, yellow and orange was included in this film because of this setting. It matches the red and gold national emblem and flag, too. Colour composition aside the fight scenes are fluid, colorful and intense. The 3D animation blends in very well with the 2D animation. A highlight is a fiery, fake Groudon which has a rough, glowing texture like hot coals. Many viewers were disappointed that a real Groudon did not appear in the film (hey, I think it did in the introduction), however, that would defeat the point of the two-part episodes in the Advanced Generation series “Gaining Groudon” and “The Scuffle of Legends”. It was also very pleasant to see May’s craftily designed souvenir have some significance to the story.

In terms of the soundtrack the orchestra score fits in very nicely with scenes and adds emotional impact when it is needed. This is one of the last films, if not the last which includes the original 4Kids voice cast for the english dub, so hurray. Presuming you were an original fan of this cast you don’t have to worry about finding an alternate language track for the film. A big change for the movies was the inclusion of a half translated ending song. “Chiisaki Mono” by Asuca Hayashi and “Make a Wish” by Cindy Mizelle were combined together. The verses alternate between English and Japanese which is a refreshing change for the Pokemon films. That being said, I also watched the french version of this movie and was very happy that Jirachi was voiced by a child, instead of an adult putting on a high-pitched voice. It made Jirachi a lot more adorable to watch.

The villain and conflict with the legendary Pokemon, Jirachi: Wish Maker very closely follows the second act of Pokemon 4Ever. The small legendary Pokemon is used to control another more powerful, intimidating looking creature. There are many reasons that Jirachi’s execution of this idea exceeds the one of 4Ever. Firstly, the villain behind the attack has a lot more sympathetic, interesting qualities in Jirachi. He appears more like a well-rounded person as he started off in the film with different intentions. More than this, his intentions change again throughout the course of the film. The blending of the 3D and 3D animation is a thousand times better in this film and it is a lot more suspenseful as the creature in Jirachi is capable of causing grave damage to the surrounding environment. This section of the film also doesn’t last for nearly as long, which is far more realistic and reassuring to watch. The process in which Jirachi falls under control of the villain is also much more logical and believable than the cheap ploy used to turn Celebi evil in Pokemon 4Ever.

The spotlight is lead off Ash for this film. Most would agree this is a pleasant change. For someone who dearly hates Max with a passion I was surprised how much I enjoyed Jirachi: Wish Maker. He gained my sympathy in the episode “Do You Hear a Ralts?”, and this movie follows a similar storyline to that episode. There are themes of moving on, change and loss, as both May, Max and Ash reflect back on the past and the important relationships in their lives. There is not much to the story, but the relationship between the two side characters is what makes the film stand above the others. The villains Butler and Diane are more than what meets the eye as well. Their intentions flip back and forth a couple of times throughout the movie, making them more interesting than your average side character in Pokemon films. For a pretty film with touching themes, Jirachi Wish Maker is worth a watch.

Rating:

3. Genesect and the Legend Awakened (2013)

Genesect and the Legend Awakened

Movie Number: 16

Pokemon Season: 3rd Movie of Best Wishes

Ash’s Companions: Iris and Cilian

As someone who had not seen a single episode of Black & White when I watched this, I did not expect it to be ranked this high. It was so far down the line of films, how could it be good? From the very first moment I was hooked on the story and my attention only wavered close to the end. Compared to all the other films Genesect does a lot of things differently. For the first time since movie number four we have a scene at the beginning which isn’t just an introduction to the world of Pokemon. Don’t get excited, it appears after the five-minute segment, but it is an improvement never the less. We are introduced to a machine like Pokemon called Genesect, a very angry and confused group of Pokemon who catch the attention of Mewtwo. I don’t want to spoil the story too much but it shares similar themes to Pokemon: The First Movie while also introducing one more of its own: the desire to belong and find your place in the world. It was the 10th highest grossing film in Japan that year. That’s saying something for a Pokemon movie.

The animation is a step above everything we have seen from Pokemon thus far. It is quality enough to be on par with most other anime film. The biggest improvement over some previous Pokemon films is the color composition. For example, in Lucario: Mystery of Mew and Destiny Deoxys, there are many scenes where the colors in the frame clash and it does not make for an aesthetically pleasing image. Here, there are greens, blues and yellows in scenes with gardens and blues, browns and blacks in indoor scenes. It may seem insignificant but its these small details which make a difference to the overall image. The 3D animated sections also blend perfectly with the 2D animation. It was difficult to tell where 3D animation was used except for lighting effects for Pokemon attacks, which look beautiful, almost like something from a Makoto Shinkai movie. The backgrounds are beautifully detailed. Highlights include the garden with lily flowers and the city the characters find themselves in: New Tork City. Guess which city it was based off? The rich flashing colors of billboards and lights was based off Times Sqaure. As a result the fight scenes are amazing. Besides Pokemon Hereos and Rise of Darkrai this film has the most beautiful backgrounds, artwork and visual appeal.

The soundtrack is also strong. The opening song by Neal Coomer and Kathryn Raio “It’s Always You and Me” has pleasant vocals and is simply an elongated version of the original version. The ending song “We’re Coming Home” by Jess Domain is also an extension of the television song. It is not nearly as catchy but it is passable. The new dub for Pokemon is not too bad here as Brock is not part of the picture, although those who have not adjusted to Sarah’s performance of Ash should seek out a foreign language version of this film, whether it’s Japanese, French or German with English subtitles.

The strongest characters are the ones introduced in the film which is how it should be – we already know enough about Ash and his friends. It is worth noting that the Mewtwo in this movie is not the same as the one from Mewtwo Strikes Back – for one, it’s female. Since this takes place in the Black & White series Ash’s companions are Iris and Cilian. I am not very familiar with them myself and did not have any strong feelings towards them either way. Ash doesn’t act like a total idiot in this either. Team Rocket doesn’t play much of a role but they also don’t take up much screen time doing pointless things which is good. The film ends on a touching note without being overly melodramatic so stands above a good number of previous Pokemon films because of this.

With beautiful animation, a pleasant soundtrack, memorable characters and solid execution, Genesect and the Legend Awakened is a great film for Pokemon fans, especially if you’re curious or skeptical about the direction the films are going.

Rating:

2. The Power of One (1999)

Pokemon Movie 2000

Movie Number: 2

Pokemon Season: Orange Islands

Ash’s Companions: Misty and Tracey

I’ll admit that I saw this film for my 8th birthday in the cinema so it holds a special place in my heart, however, I have also seen it numerous times over the years. There are elements about The Power of One that set it apart from the ones that come after, even if these are simple changes. This film takes place in the Orange Islands and revolves around the Legendary Birds from Kanto, and Lugia from Johto. The mixture of these four legendary Pokemon is linked in very nicely with the story. There isn’t a prologue explaining Pokemon in this one which is a relief. The opening song also doesn’t coincide with a Pokemon battle which is nice to see.

The animation is decent. The 3D animation that was integrated with Lawrence’s ship was nicely designed even if it did not blend incredibly well with the 2D animation. The interior of his flying machine has the most impressive background and design art of the entire film. The lighting effects with the crystals are lovely to watch and the colors are often shades of blue and green, with the setting of ocean and snow. The fluidity of the battle scenes and detail in the backgrounds does not match Genesect and the Legend Awakened, but it still stands up in time. The character designs do not seem stylistically out-of-place and the bright colors which are very much in tune with the theme of the ocean, blend nicely. All in all its a pleasant movie to look at.

The soundtrack is one of the strongest elements, once you discount the average insert songs. The film version of “Pokemon World” sounds almost like hip hop with synthesizer pop music which doesn’t make it a song you could listen to on its own. The ending songs are far more memorable. Big name artists were utilized for the soundtrack in tracks like “The Power of One” and “Flying without Wings” which, although cheesy are nicely sung. Lugia’s song, played by Melody on her flute is memorable and beautiful. There hasn’t been anything like it in a Pokemon film to date. The closest would be the main theme from Darkrai. The only flaw in the english dub would be Eric Rath’s (Its Complicated) performance as Lugia. He sounds very Godlike, and it is very cheesy – although this was probably the point of his character.

The story element which becomes to be repetitive in Pokemon from this film onwards is the inclusion of a legend about Legendary Pokemon… who would have thought? At least here, unlike most of the other films there is a prophecy. In true Pokemon fashion it revolves around the hero, Ash Ketchum and integrated into the ancient inscription with a play on words. When I was 8 years old I took the prophecy very literally so was just as surprised as the rest of the cast when the true meaning of the legend is brought to light at the end of the second act, although to most adults it is easier to spot and a lot more predictable. The moment where Ash realizes he has to take on this responsibility is difficult for him, and it is touching to watch him struggle with something he is usually does on instinct. The villain is very straightforward and wants to collect Pokemon rather than take over the world, which is a nice change compared to nearly every other Pokemon movie villain. He does not contain much character development which puts him a step below the other villains in Pokemon films.

However, there are things that the Power of One has that other Pokemon films don’t. For once, Team Rocket plays a role in helping Ash achieve his goal becoming the good guys for about thirty minutes. This is refreshing to see and humorous, especially when a light sex joke is brought into the writing. This made my mum laugh. There was also a clever change of Team Rocket’s motto “Prepare for more trouble than you’ve ever seen. Make it double we’re on the big screen” and Ash replies “I gotta catch this on video!”. It was a nice addition to the film even though it may make viewers cringe. It makes the movie feel less like an extra long episode of the series.

The main side character, Melody, becomes Misty’s rival and pokes fun at Misty for her obvious infatuation with Ash. She may not be a complicated character but she is the catalyst for some entertaining character chemistry. There are lots of nice lines for Ash and Misty shippers which made the film more emotional and humorous than average. Ash’s mum and the crew from Pallet town, even Brock are brought into the film as well. It was nice to have all the characters together again. My Mum especially appreciated the inclusion of the adult characters. They add a pleasant contrast to the simple mindedness of Ash.

The Power of One may not be as visually impressive as recent Pokemon endeavors but the soundtrack is excellent, characters likable and memorable, and the story fun without being too melodramatic (except for Ash). Highly recommended to all Pokemon fans.

Rating:

1. Pokemon: The First Movie (1998)

Pokemon the First Movie

Movie Number: 1

Pokemon Season: Kanto League

Ash’s Companions: Misty and Brock

I am not trying to sound like a nostalgia junkie for putting Mewtwo Strikes Back at number one, but even after watching the later Pokemon movies this one has the most interesting story elements and unique aesthetics.

It is worth noting that since this film came out in 1998 that even on a clean DVD the colors are a lot duller than other films. As you can see in the image above, lots of blacks are used for shading. Don’t be fooled, the animation is fluid and looks wonderful and fluid in the fight scenes. The use, or rather, lack of color adds to the dark atmosphere that parades this Pokemon movie, very similar to the atmosphere of Kawajiri films. The background art and animation does not stand up as high as later renditions, like many of the titles listed earlier in this article. It isn’t as detailed. The beautiful, symmetrical design of the New Island Tower adds to the atmosphere. The colors blend nicely and are aesthetically pleasing.

For the first scene, the shortened version of the “Origin of Mewtwo” provides something different to the fourth film onwards. Instead of giving a prologue similar to the start of the Pokemon games, we are thrown into the middle of a sequence which describes information about our villain Pokemon legendary: Mewtwo. It gives depth to the character which otherwise wouldn’t be there. The original trio Ash, Misty and Brock are introduced as the opening credit sequence is placed in the middle of a Pokemon battle – a trend that many Pokemon films follow, but this one stands above others due to its strong opening number. Billy Crawford has strong vocals, even if it sounds similar to Jesse McCartney. The song was just lifted from the television show. Since this movie had a soundtrack released along it well-known pop singers (at least, at the time) were utilized to provide the songs, which adds to a cinematic experience. The ending songs contain tracks by Christina Alguilera and M2M. The insert song during the big fight scene “Brother my Brother” by Blessed Union of Souls is beautiful, Pokemon or not. The musical score is also very memorable, most notably in the laboratory and some of the last scenes. This is the original dub, obviously, and it is fabulous. Some have found Mew to be annoying, though.

The side characters are not given a great deal of screen time, which is good considering they were not awfully interesting. Story wise this film does not integrate any ideas of legends, as Mewtwo was created in a laboratory. This sets it apart from the other films that follow it. Since Mewtwo talks and is also the villain makes it interesting too. The idea of Pokemon clones, and their character designs were appropriately creepy. Mewtwo points out a lot of flaws with the Pokemon universe in general, kind of like Team Plasma in the Black and White series, leading to one of the most moving moments in Pokemon history along with an engrossing, although somewhat confusing message.

During a big fight near the three-quarter mark of the film Brock says that “These Pokemon look like they’re ready to fight to the death” and Ash decides this isn’t right. Pokemon deaths or near deaths are visible in the Pokemon films although here Ash takes his stupidity to a whole new level: running in the middle of a crossfire of Pokemon attacks. This very act of rebellion has been criticized extensively. Pokemon fight all the time although for some reason it isn’t right in this movie? It seems like the difference is the intentions behind the fighting. The creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri intended Pokemon to not die during fights as this was too violent. Fighting to the death is not right, is what the film seems to be saying, although that message is not much better. Frankly, all kids know fighting isn’t great but Pokemon is like competing for fun. It may be a flawed idea but it was still interesting to explore in this movie. It is a bit stupid but hey, it’s Pokemon.

Anyone who has seen the movie knows the emotional scene that follows, but the reason it works is the film’s extensive use of silence and suspense. The tension gradually builds. There is a long minute of denial where the characters try to comprehend the situation, instead of jumping to conclusions and believing a character may be dead, which is both unnecessary and unbelievable. The emotional moment ends with the summary of the most powerful, logical message of the film.

Before Mewtwo wipes leaves with his clones, he says “The circumstances of ones birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are” – a very wise, Dumbledore-like message. Obviously, psychology may argue the nature versus nurture but this message is still an important one. It also allows Mewtwo to grow as a character. He turns good again, and wipes the characters memory’s before he leaves. Another complaint of the film is the fact it ends this way. It undoes everything the characters fought for and learned. How would the television show be different if it followed this story? Ash would certainly think more before he acts and grow. He wouldn’t keep running into crossfires every chance he gets and act the hero. Alas, we learned in the Black & White series that Ash is still 10 years old even though he should be 16. Stupid continuity.

Mewtwo Strikes Back, may be old, but the visual designs and aesthetic stands up, even if it is incredibly dark and grim compared to later film. The soundtrack is one of the strongest to date, the characters undergo some temporary character development and the film attempts to tackle themes which are more logically explored in the Black & White games and series. This aside, it is an enjoyable and emotional journey which is worth watching for any Pokemon fan.

Rating:

For those who are interested in seeking out the runner-ups Pokemon Hereos is the most visually unique, Pokemon 4Ever, despite some flaws, adds some cannon to the Pokemon universe and Lucario and the Mystery of Mew has an interesting story and is a popular one. Kyurem and the Sword of Justice and Pokemon White are not extraordinary but they are entertaining. It is worth considering these for viewing if their legendaries or particular story elements attract your attention. They nearly all got the same score so it was a matter of elimination to avoid a tie. When two or more similar ideas were presented I asked: which one executed this idea better?

Pokemon films won’t change the world, but the ones listed above provide all the things we love about Pokemon – great fights, wonderful songs, a variety of lovable characters and an all-round enjoyable experience. They may go on forever (or until the staff die), but hopefully they’ll be more gems within the sea of Pokemon. Whether you’re an old fan who gave up on the series long ago or someone just getting into Pokemon, it is a nice use of an afternoon, or even many nights, to absorb some Pokemon goodness into your life. The good thing is the stories are stand alone so you don’t need much, if any, background on the characters to jump in.

No doubt, everyone has their favorite and I may not have covered it here. How do you rank your Pokemon films?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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82 Comments

  1. Probably going to re-watch them for nostalgia purposes. I feel old…

    • The first 2 movies were great. After that, it started to go down. Pokemon wasn’t original anymore, especially having new voices. It started to kill the franchise, yet it is still loved. I’ll always love the original Pokemon, but this generation Pokemon will never own up to the original.

    • The first 2 movies were great, but then after that Pokemon started to go down. I’ll always love the original Pokemon, the one I grew up with. But this generation’s will never own up to one I grew up with as a child.

      • The first two films were indeed mythical and the best so far. However. Out of the rest of the list, I’d choose my top 5 to be these because of their narrative and originality in relation to the rest:
        1- The film trilogy of the Dimensional Pokemon (three fims already).
        4- Pokemon Forever (love the whole time travel, celebi and suicine, and Prof. Oak story)
        5- Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (the flashbacks and a bit of pokemon history is interesting).

  2. Blasting list! Here’s my rankings for the best Pokemon movies from worst to best:
    16. Giratina and the Sky Warrior
    15. Kyurem vs the Sword of Justice
    14.Zoroark: Master of Illusions
    13. Arceus and the Jewel of Life
    12. Pokemon the Movie Black/ White
    11.Genesect and the Legend Awakened
    10. Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea
    9.Jirachi Wishmaker
    8. Destiny Deoxys
    7.Pokemon 4ever
    6.Pokemon Heroes
    5.Lucario and the Mystery of Mew
    4.Spell of the Unknown
    3. The Rise of Darkrai
    2.Pokemon: The Movie 2000
    1. Pokemon: The First Movie

    With the exception of Jirachi, I hate it when the Baby Legendaries ( Shaymin, Keldeo, and Zorua even though he’s not a legendary) talk. Their voices annoy me. Anyway, this is my opinion.

    • Jordan

      Cool list 🙂 I agree I thought some baby legendaries talking was a pain!

    • Kayla Matthews

      Definitely agree with Pokemon 4Ever. I watched that one shortly after I started playing the games and then was super excited when Nintendo released Celebi for one of their Free Wifi events.

  3. okay guys lets be honest
    the pokemon anime series sucks ass but has a strong nostalgic feel to it.
    digimon has a way better story-line but because of constant accusations of copying pokemon it is inferior even though the digimon story is to good to be a copy paste from pokemon, however the consept of digimon did bite off of tamogachi i’ll give you that, but not freakin pokemen.

    • Both Mons are awesome. I like the whole battle trainer gym setup of pokemon and the digital world of digimon. Pokemon stay evolved. Digimon can revert back. Household pet. Tamogachi. They are really completely different. They just both have Mon in the title.

      • Jordan

        Digimon has a storyline. Pokemon is more episodic. One of many differences 😛 I go through phases of which one I watch more.

    • Justin Wu

      If you want Pokemon with storyline, go read the manga “Pokemon Adventures” (or sometimes translated as “Pokemon Specials”. Even the original creator said this manga fits what he imagines the Pokemon World to be the most.

      • nathan pokemon optimist
        0

        I agree, the mangas are the absolute best when it comes to pure storyline.They are also my only hope for pokeshipping at this point,(unless the franchise eventually does a “last season storyline” that brings misty back).

    • Digimon has some cool monsters… however, hated the show otherwise.

    • Pokemon aired way before Digimon, Digimon is a sad rip off. It just looks stupid, the mons are poorly made and look like an amateur made them.

      • FuckYourself
        1

        Pokemon’s a sad rip off of Persona. It tried to be Persona and failed utterly. Cri sum moar about how Digimon ripped off Pokemon, you little cunt. Nobody gives a shit because Digimon was based on Tamagotchi, kid.

      • FuckYourself
        1

        Like, Jesus, mate. Do some research before you go around sprouting cancerous nonsense like that. People might be stupid enough to believe the things coming outta your mouth that you called “words”.

  4. Er. Olsen
    0

    When I started playing pokemon X I actually found a guy who had made a website streaming all the important episodes from season one all the way up to the XY series. And since 90% of a season of the series is stupid filler and 50% of the episodes themselves are repeating the same team rocket gag (gawd I’d rather wish the show was 10 minutes shorter removing them completely because it would be like if they did peter hurt his knee thing in every family guy episode ever). But it was actually kinda fun catching up with what I had left of from when I was a kid and have it in the background while playing the game. It does make me kinda wish they had made a series like the red vs green anime movie, sure I never saw it with english dub so maybe the voice acting would have been terrible there aswell. But they could just do something silly as break up the timeline using celebi or something and keep the 19 year old ash in the mindset and body of a 10 year old. And then make a show for us that grew up with it and make it a geniuenly good show and I would probably watch it. Cause as soon as I was finished with the game I tried to watch more but I just couldn’t. The game distracted me enough to where I could have it in the background, but if I started concentrating on it, the bad stuff really just became to obvious. Though i am thinking of watching a little of XY and see where it goes, since they’ve now upped the “production” value by actually having real backrounds and animations and moves instead of still cheap still shots.

  5. Memories…

  6. Thats cool and all loved them as a kid!

  7. My favorite Pokemon movie was Pokemon 2000. i love everything about that one. But what I think really stuck out to me with that one, was the implications made that Misty liked Ash and that she was clearly jealous of Melody who was all flirty with Ash and even kissed him. I dunno why they don’t feel they can do more relationship stuff within the show, it could add a whole layer of interesting side stuff.

  8. these cartoons were cool back in the day

  9. This reminds me… I have to finish Pokémon Y one day.

  10. Pokemon Adventure manga was the best.

    Still tho, I’d definitely recommend watching the original Indigo League anime. Very cheesy at times, but still very fun to watch.

  11. Ha Allard
    1

    Who wants to go back and watch the Pokemon show they grew up with? I loved it as a kid but the show sucks in all reality. I’ll just go back and play the old games instead.

  12. Burn Side
    0

    After Pokemon the Movie 2000, no other Pokemon movie is decent. This movie was epic, and still is.

  13. Every single Pokemon movie is such a unique beast that manages to rehash old idea but combine them with new ones. The only one that I’ve seen that I legitimately did not like was Pokemon Ranger. It didn’t help that it was the first movie after the voice cast change.

  14. SmallWood
    0

    Hated the first movie. I like Mewtwo and all with his backstory and everything, BUT COME ON! I nearly turned off the movie after seeing Ash get brought back to life by tears…. why?! Why would you do one of the most cliche and sappiest things in a Pokemon movie?! Not even AZ cried back for his pokemon in the end of X and Y, and he’s one of the sappiest characters in that game (No offense, I actually do like AZ, it’s just he didn’t make me shed a tear like a lot people. I might be evil now that I think about it more lol)

    • Zoe London
      1

      The first movie is Oscar worthy compared to the later ones.

    • Aesthetician
      1

      Honestly, I agree with you. It’s one of the worst pokemon movies out there. There is almost no plot in the movie. It seemed like they just wanted to pit Mewtwo with some other trainers in an arena and that’s it. The only thing that made the movie seem good is nostalgia, but besides that, it’s crap.

      Storywise, the best movies out there is Pokemon: Lucario and the Mysteries of Mew.

      The Gen 4 Trilogy is also great though the 2nd one in that trilogy (Giratina and the Sky Warrior) is kind of underwhelming compared to the 1st (Rise of Darkrai) and the 3rd (Arceus and the Jewel of Life).

      Graphics-wise, I applaud Kyurem vs The Sword of Justice but it faces the same problem as the first movie. The plot was crap.

      If I were to name the worst pokemon movies, it would be:
      Genesect and the Legend Awakened
      Ranger and the Temple of the Sea
      The First Movie

      The people saying The First Movie is the best don’t know what constitutes beauty in a film.

  15. I thought the Darkrai, Lucario, and Arceus movies were pretty good.

  16. Mary Awad

    The soundtrack on Pokemon 2000 is absolutely amazing. Just really really great. And the saddest moment in everyone’s childhood was when Ash got turned into a statue and the Pokemon’s tears brought him back to life. Nice list~ Pokemon’s great.

  17. Honestly I’m sick of Pokemon anime, why can’t Nintendo make an anime based of another one of there franchises.

    • We have had other TV show’s though most were American drawn, some were still anime esque.. You had Zelda back in the 80’s and Captain N, which featured characters from Metroid and Kid Icarus and so on. You also had 2 Mario based cartoon’s.

      Though I wouldn’t mind something done in the now and not 25+ yrs ago.

  18. Pokemon could’ve been one of the best Anime’s out there if they just done it right.

  19. Shermen
    0

    For some reason I’ve became re-obsessed with Pokemon. I’ve been watching and playing the original games on game boy and N64, Hulu Plus has Pokemon on it and the Pokemon Origins Anime as well starring Red. I’m 22 years old and love everything from my childhood….I wanna go back man…just…wanna go back.

  20. so many years without watching pokemon… Has Ash become a pokemon master or he is still a loser?

  21. Armando Caldwell
    1

    I love Pokemon. I’ve watched all the seasons and movies and I’ve played at least one game in each generation. That being said, as much as I like it, the anime drives me nuts. The problem is is that they “reset” with each new series. It makes sense, as they’re trying to keep Pokemon fresh for each new generation of children, but not with the same main character. Pokemon would be a lot more successful if they changed the main male protagonist with each generation, so that character can go through a normal character arc. Ash drives me nuts because he does make strides as a character, but then the second a new generation starts he’s back to square one as if nothing ever happens. That would be all well in good if everything was like that but when you have characters evolving and staying evolved, like his former travelling companions, it makes absolutely no sense and it makes Ash seem pathetic. If they had an over-reaching story, ie Ash is in a coma, he’s trapped in some alternate reality, who the heck knows, maybe it would make sense. But Pokemon is almost purely episodic and the major “plots” are restricted to a single series. Sorry for the long post, needed to rant. xD

  22. I don’t want to sound like a stereotypical Gen 1’er, because I’m not, but I agree with putting the older films towards the top. Mewtwo Strikes Back seemed to really be trying to do something bigger than the rest. Mewtwo musing philosophically just has a lot more substance than the other movies.

    As for The Power of One, one of the things that I really enjoyed was how it managed to feel epic. I got the sense that the world was collapsing and only Ash could save it. Other movies have epic scale too, but I think that one did it best.

    The only other I would have liked to see on the list (although you did mention it) was Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. It had nice fights and looked pleasant just like all of the movies, but I specially liked it because of the sense of special camaraderie I felt between Ash and Lucario. One of the things that hooks you about early Pokémon is how much Ash and Pikachu care about each other, but that starts to feel stale after so many years. Seeing two characters team up to do something really big seemed awesome.

  23. In the show he’s still a loser. The writers would rather rinse and repeat the formula and swap out his followers than actually show progression.

  24. If you haven’t, I do recommend watching Pokemon Origins. It is a mini series about Red and effectively Pokemon Red/Blue. It looks and runs far better than the actual anime and Red is far more likeable. The only problem with it is that it is a mini series so they just flash forward through much of the things that he does. I really wished they made it a real season at around 20 or so episodes, but I digress. Give it a try.

  25. ScorpiusNox

    Boy, what a read! My eyes are a little sore >_< .

    Very in-depth article: well thought-out analysis of each film reviewed and adequate defense of your claims. I was pretty confident The First Movie was going to be #1 based on the criteria you were using; I haven't seen all of the Pokemon movies, but of those I have seen, none of them has as dynamic an antagonist as Mewtwo. That he is a Pokemon himself only adds to the weight of his actions, as everything he does feeds as much into a rebellion against his human "overlords" as it does into a crusade for somewhat abstract notions of justice.

    Not a huge fan of the series these days, though. I do like that Team Rocket finally got their stuff together, but I can't really stomach Ash's personality anymore. I also wish he'd, y'know, age every once in a while =P .

  26. Thank you for the breakdown of each of these films, and an analysis of their plots; although some of these movies I cringe now to watch again, it is interesting to find the redeeming qualities some of the writers tried to develop in the story-lines. I discovered the cut “origins” clip to the first movie as adult, and was very moved; it certainly casts the movie in a different light, particularly in regards to trauma theory. I also recently caught a portion of Genesect and was interested to see a female Mewtwo– I’d certainly enjoy seeing a crossover of these characters. One movie that didn’t make the list but I find interesting to look back on now is the third movie. A girl’s father goes missing, a Pokemon becomes her surrogate parent, the girl herself changes ages throughout the movie– if it weren’t a Pokemon movie, it sounds like it could be a psychology class case study of a girl trying to reconcile her own fractured identities throughout time due to the loss of her father. In this way, I see both the first and third movie as playing with the idea of trauma theory, where characters struggle to respond to the traumas they have been subjected to, find it difficult to incorporate into their own identities and histories, and ultimately either find their memories literally tampered with or tamper with the memories of others. Even the Unknown of the third movie could represent “the great unknown” of the human mind. Some interesting layers beneath seemingly simple kids movies. Thank you for sharing this review, particularly in highlighting the later films that often get skipped by the original generation of Pokemon enthusiasts.

  27. tjtheemperor

    I must have been 9 when I saw the first movie in theaters. Nostalgia aside, even now I consider that movie much better than a Pokemon movie has any right to be.

  28. I completely agree with the placement of the first movie at the top– it really took the series in several different routes. It introduced new Pokemon, the idea of multiple Pokemon battles (though it’s debatable if that was the point) as well as the notion that Pokemon of the same species could be stronger than others (which I’m sure led the game developers to investing more thoroughly on the EV/IV system). Definitely haven’t seen all of these though, you’ve got me interested now!

  29. I was young when Pokemon first started in the States and the first three movies were the ones I watched. To this day they still rank in my top three compared to all of the others, but I feel like I need a marathon to acquaint myself with the newer ones.

  30. The games just kept getter better and better every generation! The anime… not so much.

  31. Alex Carroll
    0

    Pokemon came out when I was 10 going on 11…. Now I feel old and have the urge to yell at kids to get off my lawn.

  32. I love watching the show and playing the games it bring back a lot of good memories.

  33. I have to respectfully disagree with this article, as it leaves out what is, while potentially the smallest scale film, by far the most well put-together: Pokemon the Movie 3.

    Admittedly, the film does not deal with Earth-shattering legendary pokemon threatening global annihilation, but the story present in this film is absolutely laden with stylistic symbolism and personal struggles. It offers insight into the protagonist’s past through tying it with the past of the villain; the struggle is far more personal, Satoshi/Ash fights for what is most important to him, rather than an arbitrary “save the world” plot. Furthermore, the setting of the story is at once creative and decidedly disturbing. The crystal palace changes shape and form to reflect the mental state of the little girl, being at once beautiful, but also sterile and ultimately fake. As her illusions are slowly shattered, it changes into a sharp, jagged, twisted abomination of itself, as she desperately tries to keep herself locked away in her own nonreality. The film is remarkably insightful in its analysis of what essentially amounts o a case of post traumatic stress disorder, and pushes the boundaries of what the Pokemon franchise is capable of achieving.

    • Jordan

      If I ever decide to write an article on representations of trauma in Pokemon I could definitely use that movie as an example 😛

  34. I grew up with the original cartoon tv show, Pokemon blue version, & n64 Pokemon stadium.. Went and saw the first movie and it blew my mind..

    • pokemon blue and yellow were the best games I have ever played on generation of the game boy. I remember I use to hate that show with a passion, so my friend hand it. Of course I was making fun of him for playing a “kiddies game”, so he told me to play it. I did, and for an hour I didn’t say a single word I was completely addicted to it. Similar to how addicted crack heads are addicted to drugs.

  35. Nilson Thomas Carroll

    The climax of The First Movie made me and my friends all cry when we watched it probably a year or two ago. It’s huge and sad in like a Wagner way, even if it is just a kid’s cartoon. Nostalgia aside, it’s not a “great” film, but it gets a lot right ; )

  36. Nice list and analysis!

    It’s interesting to note that the first movie was actually fully animated in 2D. However, for the later releases and for what they used in the English dub, several scenes were reworked into 3D.
    There’s still an air of mystery about the original plot of the film too: Early trailers had a glimpse of an older Misty in them. There was the theory that the film was to developed as a possible finale to the Indigo League, with Misty looking back on the events. But nothing can be said for sure, unless the screenwriters ever say something.

  37. I remember being obsessed with Pokémon as a kid. My brother and I used to collect cards and watch the cartoons frequently. I enjoyed your ranking and the reasoning behind each pick.

  38. maevehmorgan
    0

    Love how you ranked rated each film.

  39. Never saw any of the movies, but I remember Pokemon being the early stages of obsession in my life. Collecting and trading the cards, the Gameboy games, etc. The trading was, I suppose, a miniature idea of strategy–though it was mostly about who had the best versus who didn’t, at the time, or one’s favorite, for some particular reason, Pokemon.

  40. Kinda sad Misty never got to do anything in the movies but bicker with Melody about Ash. She has a brief battle with Molly in Movie 3 but that’s about it.

    Then again Misty was almost always kept into the background unless they made an episode about water pokemon. Anyone find it ironic that Movie 9, a movie all about water pokemon with the legendary being the “prince of the sea” is written after Misty is gone? Its funny how May got that role when Movie 9 felt like it would have been Misty’s dream movie. I know Misty was long gone from the series at that point so she wouldn’t have been in it anyway, but its rather amusing to think of.

  41. Of the Hoenn era movies, the best one was the Lucario film. Its also one of the best films in general. I don’t know how they got that one right but its geuinely good.

    The bad part about all the Pokemon movies in general is that…Ash saves the day in every single one of them. You would think the writers would let Ash’s friends star in a movie. I mean even if Max, May and Dawn had connections with legendaries in the films, in the climax it was still Ash alone saving the day.

    Misty and Brock never got to save the day in movies, neither did May/Max, Dawn did get to help out a bit in Movie 10 but that was about it, Iris/Cilan nothing, lol.

    The movies would be far more interesting if one of Ash’s friends got to truly star but I guess it will never happen at this point

  42. My boyfriend is a Pokémon fanatic, so I have seen many of these. My favorite is still the first one, which I still have in VHS form. I know some people really like the new ones, but Misty was my girl. It’s just not the same without her. I think you perfectly described the general outline of Pokémon movies, haha.

  43. Don’t think any anime can beat Pokemon

    • Jutor

      definitely. Though you never know, maybe another anime will someday knock Pokemon from the 1st place seat!

  44. Anyone else haunted by the fact that Ash doesn’t even consider catching all these legendary pokemon he encounters? Poor fool…

  45. Totally wish the list had included “Spell of the Unown” and “Lucario and the Mystery of Mew”. If ever there were Pokemon films that tugged at the heart strings, it was those two.

  46. Christopher Sycamore

    Pokemon the first movie had to be number one on your list, nothing will beat the original set of Pokemon for me.

    • Prasanna
      0

      Only the Japanese version of the first film is really any good. I’m sick of small brained idiots claiming it’s the best just because it’s the original. Pokemon 2000 and Lucario and the Mystery of Mew had much better stories, and didn’t have that stupid “violence is bad message”. Sure the Japanese version is good, but the english dub is one of the worst. It’s only value is the nostalgia factor. Mewtwo Strikes Back is not the best.

  47. Jess B.

    The first two movies were awesome! Jirachi is my favorite after that. I do wish you included “Spell of the Unown” to your list but to each there own!

  48. Halogen
    0

    This is the internet, of course the first movie will be the best

  49. lI’ve only watched the first 9 movies, but I have to say that music wise, Pokemon Ranger had the best ending theme. My ranking (of the first 9) would be as follows:
    1. Mewtwo Strikes Back
    2. Pokemon Heroes
    3. Lucario
    4. Jirachi
    5. Ranger
    6. Celebi
    7. Power of One
    8. Deoxys
    9. Spell of Unown

  50. i think “The Rise of Darkrai” is the best movie i ever seen

  51. I think Lucario: Mystery of Mew is the best Pokemon movie!

  52. The first movie is great… but the second movie is NOT. Way too many cliché, way too many stupid dialouges, all the great music by shinji miyazaki was replaced by terrible synth music, the Ash didn’t really do much despite the movie being name “the power of ONE”. The 2nd pokemon movie was worst movie ever. Pokemon Heroes: Latios & Latias and Pokemon 4ever are way better than “the power of Misty’s sappy romance”

  53. Here’s my list of top 17 Pokémon movies!
    17.Pokemon 4 ever
    16.Spell of the unknown
    15.Pokemon heroes
    14.Giratina and the sky warrior
    13. Pokemon black and white
    12.Arceus and the Jewel of life
    11.Jirachi the wish maker
    10.Mewtwo strike’s back
    9.Pokemon Rangers
    8.Destiny deoxys
    7.Lucario and the mystery of mew
    6.Kyurem vs the sword of justice
    5.Pokémon the movie 2000
    4.Diancie and the cocoon of destruction
    3.Genesect and the legend awakened
    2.Hoopa and the clash of ages
    1. Volcanion and the ingenious magerna

    Feel free to disagree with my ideas

  54. I meant
    10.Zoroark
    9. Mewtwo

  55. Jutor

    Is it just me, or does it seem like the Pokemon movies and series are getting worse as time goes on? I watched all the Pokemon series up through the Sinnoh region and loved the old Gameboy Pokemon games, but the new series and especially the strange Pokemon they are thinking up for the new regions seem to be going down in quality. Is it just that I am no longer a little kid anymore? or have others had this same experience with the Pokemon franchise?

  56. noonespecial
    0

    It must be pure nostalgia with most of you with the second movie. I watched it for the first time and it was utter crap. Pales in comparison to the first film, and is out shined in later films.

  57. Sam
    0

    My favourites so far have been
    * Mewtwo strikes back
    * The power of one
    * Lucario and the mystery of mew
    * Ranger and the sea temple
    In no particular order though, and also I’ve only seen the first 9 movies. I’m 17 but honestly I don’t find any of the movies cringy at all because I don’t expect the greatest story ever written. A large majority of these movies exceed the expectations that they should have, considering that the Pokemon anime in essence is a kids anime. But that’s just my two cents. The soundtracks to some of the movies are beautiful btw, I listen to them all the time when I go for a run, they’re unbelievably motivational.

  58. Gekkouga
    0

    It started well, but in the end it was as bad as most of the rankings is saw.

    Movie 1 and 2 in the first two places, really? One more shitty ranking to ignore..

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