The allure of the Pokémon series isn’t just in the imaginative and seemingly endless waves of video games. One of the reasons for the immense success of the Pokémon brand is the flexible nature that allows it to transcend beyond just roleplaying games.
The Pokémon series also enjoys a hefty amount of success in the animation department, allowing fans to follow Ash, his Pokémon, and friends as he journeys across various regions. Though the Pokémon anime started as a TV show, it eventually expanded to include animated films and even a live-action movie.
At this point in time, there are a whopping 25 movies in the Pokémon anime series (26 if you include the almost identical Black & White films as separate entities). This insane number of movies have been released on a nearly annual schedule ever since the debut of Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back in 1998.
As someone who was there when the first movie came out as a wide-eyed new Pokémon fan (and barely remembers it), I quickly became a passionate fan. I watched all of the movies at the time of their releases or soon after that, some even multiple times.
With all of that in mind, it is time to rank all 25 Pokémon movies from worst to best, from the very first movie all the way up to the most recent entry, Secret of the Jungle. While all of the films include tons of cute or menacing little Pokémon, not all have the animation or production quality, characters, action, and story to be among the very best there is in the Pokémon series.
25. Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution
2019 was a mixed but jam-packed year for Pokémon fans. On the one hand, you had the latest games in Sword & Shield, and on the other, you had Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution.
Fans would have welcomed the disturbing remake of the original movie more than 20 years later if it didn’t have such stiff and horrid 3D animation. It lacked the color and detail of the traditional 2D art that previous Pokémon movies used while only worsening the aging nature of the 1998 story and characters.
An almost one-for-one remake, you’re better off watching the original, which holds up markedly better than this 3D mess of a style that, hopefully, isn’t ever brought back.
24. Black: Victini and Reshiram/White: Victini and Zekrom
The novelty of the Pokémon games comes in having two distinct versions with unique Pokémon in each that you can trade with your friends. Black: Victini and Reshiram and White: Victini and Zekrom brought this idea into the movie space with two almost identical movies.
Both films follow Damon, a man looking to restore his kingdom using the power of either Reshiram or Zekrom, depending on which version of the movie you watch. There are only cosmetic changes between the movies, with no story beats or twists changed outside of the legendary Pokémon.
The idea of hosting two movies where you choose your own adventure, so to speak, is unique and exciting. However, the films themselves are a boring snooze fest with mediocre action and a storyline about the power of legendary Pokémon that’s as cookie-cutter as it gets.
23. Hoopa and the Clash of Ages
Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is the pure definition of having too much of a good thing. In a strange celebration of the Pokémon series, the mythical Pokémon, Hoopa, summons some of the most iconic legendaries and mythicals from across the entire franchise.
In turn, Hoopa attempts to be the Avengers of Pokémon but without any heart or real foundation for the movie. This creates a flashy but empty film that intrigues for a few moments but does little to keep the audience engaged.
Even the fight scenes that attempt to anchor the film, such as between Ash and Hoopa, have just passable animation. Hoopa and the Clash of Ages has its fun moments for kids, but older fans will struggle to find any depth beneath the surface.
22. Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction
For anyone who needs to fall asleep quickly, Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction is the movie to watch. Ignoring the metal name, Ash and his friends attempt to help the adorable Diancie create the Diamond Heart in a strictly linear-style adventure.
There aren’t any vast fights, surprising twists, or even character development here. Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction is the simplest form of a Pokémon movie you can find. It has a paper-thin conflict and premise that solely exists for you to see your favorite X & Y Pokémon like Diancie and Xerneas run around on the silver screen.
21. Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea
In the running for the most forgettable Pokémon movie of all time, Ranger and the Temple of the Sea feels like a cash grab to get players interested in the spin-off DS game. It doesn’t do anything inherently wrong outside of being boring, unlike the above films, but it doesn’t do anything noteworthy at the same time.
Ranger and the Temple of the Sea’s greatest mistake is doing nothing notable in the slightest, good or bad. The plot points are all copy-and-paste from other movies, the new characters are bland, and Manaphy’s role in the film isn’t anything special. But, hey, at least the animation is generally pretty good.
20. Destiny Deoxys
If you want action in your Pokémon viewing experience, there are a few other places you should go than Destiny Deoxys. The entire film revolves around the legendary fight between the glorious green legendary dragon, Rayquaza, against the alien invader from space, Deoxys, for the world’s fate.
Literally, the entire film is about this one battle, making it just action from nearly start to finish. Destiny Deoxys at least makes the action solidly animated and explosive to its credit. However, the fight loses its shine early on in the movie when you realize that this is all there is to it. With almost no story to find, Destiny Deoxys is worth a single watch, at least, but that’s it.
19. Genesect and the Legend Awakened
Genesect and the Legend Awakened takes the typical formula of a conflict surrounding a powerful Pokémon and the heroes trying to stop it. What you can appreciate about Genesect, though, is that its group of fellow Pokémon are essentially the villains in the film.
This isn’t that new of a premise, giving some familiar vibes of Mewtwo and Pokémon: The First Movie. Speaking of which, Mewtwo himself makes an appearance in a tremendous way, raising the value of this film in the process.
Genesect and the Legend Awakened might not have the highs of other similar Pokémon villain movies like The Rise of Darkrai and Pokémon The Movie 3. Still, it doesn’t have the lows of the previous movies on this list, either.
18. Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice
The Pokémon films are at their best when they embrace the heart and goofiness of the series in a lighthearted but emotional manner. Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice doesn’t fit that bill in that way it could have, but it at least tries with a solid attempt.
The quartet of legendary Pokémon, including Keldeo and friends, gives this Three Musketeers vibe that is genuinely funny and full of heart. During a dark time for the Pokémon anime in Gen 5, Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice wasn’t a total mess.
17. Giratina and the Sky Warrior
Giratina is one of the most popular Pokémon from the beloved Gen 4 games, and its inclusion in this movie makes it clear why that is. If you haven’t had enough of “insert Pokémon name here,” causing destruction and hurting people as the villain, this is yet another movie with that honor.
However, what is surprising about Giratina and the Sky Warrior is how not menacing it is compared to the Gen 4 games. Giratina and the Sky Warrior could have been so much more with a little bit darker and creepier elements. In its execution, it is nothing more than another villain taking advantage of a legendary Pokémon power.
16. Arceus and the Jewel of Life
Part of the appeal of Arceus and the Jewel of Life is that it acts as a surprising direct sequel to all of the past Gen 4 movies, including the previous entry on this list. This sequel nature gives it an Endgame feel, with Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina all appearing once more.
In the process, this delightful mish-mash of Gen 4 legendary Pokémon elevates an otherwise unsurprising premise. Much of the movie and its time travel and the heavy focus on Arceus’ lore is mostly there to serve as a promotion for Pokémon games like HeartGold and SoulSilver.
15. Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias
Setting aside the Ash Ketchum kissing Pokémon memes for a second, Heroes: Latios and Latias is the perfect definition of a run-of-the-mill Pokémon movie. A solid watch, fun for all ages, the tale of Team Rocket coming back with yet another nefarious scheme is enjoyable enough.
The animation at the time was a sharper version of the already colorful and detailed Pokémon Advanced series. Throw in the dual legendary Pokémon protagonists and some relatively decent character development for Ash, and you have a movie that is worth being talked about for more than its memes.
14. Pokémon: The Movie 2000 – The Power of One
Pokémon: The Movie 2000 benefits most from the power of nostalgia. The second movie tried to go bigger and more expansive than its predecessor, nearly succeeding in the process.
The sweeping visuals of numerous Pokémon joining in the battles and the swarm of legendary Pokémon felt like such a massive moment at the time. Team Rocket even gets some decent scenes in the movie, making this one of the quintessential early Pokémon films.
13. Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back
This is where it all began. Pokémon: The First Movie was a turning point for the anime and franchise as a whole, showing that it could be so much more than a couple of RPGs. With heartfelt moments, shocking twists, and even some high stakes, Mewtwo Strikes Back gave development not to the humans but the Pokémon themselves.
The source of this was the titular Mewtwo, one of the most complicated villains in the series to date. One second, he would be spitting fire one-liners that far too many people put in their bios, and other times, tearing at your heartstrings. Few Pokémon villains compare to Mewtwo.
12. Mewtwo Returns
Mewtwo Returns elevated the idea of a human-created Pokémon clone, Mewtwo, and his struggles in existing. One of the few direct sequels in the Pokémon films, it picks up where the first Pokémon movie stopped, showing Mewtwo’s continued development.
The animation doesn’t do all that much to impress compared to most films in the series, likely due to its made-for-TV movie format. Still, it doesn’t need to with one of the strongest villains to date and a prime example of turning the Pokémon themselves into more than a cute creature that yells out its name over and over.
11. I Choose You!
The question of whether or not the Pokémon anime movies even needed a reboot is irrelevant when you have such a solid film as I Choose You! Returning to the very start of the series, viewers see a new take on Ash’s introduction to the series mascot, Pikachu.
Though the reboot film glossed over much of the first season of the anime series, the new characters and meme-worthy twists elevated the gorgeous movie. Not to mention that one particular sequence in the middle of the film took Pokémon storytelling in an entirely new direction and fanned the flame of conspiracy theories in the community.
10. Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel
When it comes to the standard formula of introducing a fancy new Pokémon that Ash and Co. have to assist, Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel is the prime example of why this style works. It starred not one but two wonderful newer Pokémon at the time in Volcanion and Magearna.
The animation is of the utmost quality, with the steampunk focus making for an almost Studio Ghibli-like experience. Volcanion’s relationship with Magearna steals the show, giving echoes of the performance of a certain other powerful Pokémon further down on this list.
9. Detective Pikachu
The first and only live-action Pokémon film to date shocked viewers by somehow not being a total train wreck. Despite the controversial debut trailer, the move of realistically recreating the furriness and creepiness of Pokémon in the real world worked surprisingly well.
The high production values of Detective Pikachu’s CG and the well-acted cast gave fans a glimpse of what the world could look like if Pokémon had evolved alongside humans. With a sincere storyline and Ryan Reynolds’ unfiltered titular Detective Pikachu, fans wait with bated breath until this successful film gets an inevitable sequel.
8. Jirachi – Wish Maker
The idea of a Pokémon that grants wishes is already wacky enough on its own but Wish Maker took the idea to a new level. Purely rewatchable for the bombastic action and craziness that happens in Jirachi – Wish Maker, this is a strong case for how cinematic Pokémon movies can be.
The battle between Ash and his friends and the grotesque Virus Groudon is one of the wildest in the Pokémon anime film series. All the while, the movie has some intense emotional sequences that help to show just how terrifyingly powerful the wish-granting nature of Jirachi is.
7. Zoroark – Master of Illusions
Part of the Pokémon franchise’s appeal is in the relationships between the trainer and their partner Pokémon. In the case of Master of Illusions, the focus this time around is on the mother and child relationship of Zoroark and Zorua.
Zoroark’s search for its child is emotional and riveting, giving such a grounded take on a movie that is unlike most other films. The stakes aren’t too high here; instead, focusing on a very personal story. Zoroark – Master of Illusions was a rare bright moment in the Gen 5 anime time period.
6. Secret of the Jungle
Speaking of relationships, one of the strangest risks was Pokémon meets The Jungle Book in Secret of the Jungle. This movie wears its inspirations on its sleeves, which works wonders in seeing the new Gen 8 mythical Pokémon, Zarude, raising a lost human baby.
There are few movies on this list that can compare when it comes to the heartwarming and emotional moments that Secret of the Jungle offers. Without spoilers, it includes one of the most heartbreaking sequences that Pokémon surprisingly doesn’t hold back in, showing that even a kid’s movie like this one deserves a thoughtful and well-written script.
5. Lucario and the Mystery of Mew
There is a reason that Lucario is one of the most popular Pokémon of all time, and his starring role in Mystery of Mew is a real treat. The period-piece nature of this movie allows Lucario and his plight against humans to have some seriously tough moments.
If you’re looking for a Pokémon movie that will rip your heart out and step on it, Lucario and the Mystery of Mew is the one to watch. The writing in this movie feels like an improvement over Mewtwo’s similar arc in the first movie, not holding back in the tear-jerking department.
4. The Power of Us
Easily the most underrated Pokémon film, The Power of Us, came at a time when the future of the anime series looked confusing after the I Choose You reboot movie. What fans got with this movie was the best proof that the Pokémon anime series doesn’t need Ash to succeed.
With an ensemble cast in a town nearing the annual celebration of Lugia, viewers see the struggles of each of the main characters. With Ash and even the starring Pokémon, Zeraora, stepping back, the focus is on a whole new cast of characters that all feel developed and engaging.
Without a doubt, characters like Risa show that the future of the Pokémon series might be better off moving on from Ash and Pikachu with the endless possibilities that could happen.
3. The Rise of Darkrai
Utterly disturbing, complex, and visceral is the action and writing of The Rise of Darkrai, the best that Gen 4 had to offer. Honing in on the battle between Dialga and Palkia, Darkrai is the real star here as the most misunderstood Pokémon villain of all time.
The visuals are dark and moody, with almost horror-like atmospheres and sequences that appear during this dreadfully psychedelic experience. The action is the best seen in any Pokémon movie to date, while the soundtrack showcases the complicated feelings of the hated Darkrai.
2. Pokémon 4Ever: Celebi – Voice of the Forest
Pokémon 4Ever: Celebi – Voice of the Forest had the challenging task of following up on the very best Pokémon movie ever made, and it somehow lived up to that. Time travel is a tricky gimmick in films, yet Pokémon 4Ever handled it with grace.
The exceedingly dark tale of an evil group trying to take advantage of the adorable Celebi’s powers doesn’t hold back, showing off some of the most edge-of-your-seat sequences in all of the movies. A special mention goes to the welcome origin story of one of the most beloved Pokémon characters, adding layers to this must-watch movie.
1. Pokémon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown
The Pokémon series is, ultimately, about humans and their relationship with the powerful creatures known as Pokémon. No movie captures that better than the third film, Spell of the Unown. Ranking up there in the greatest animated films of all time, Pokémon 3 features the story of legendary Pokémon Entei and his complex, nearly toxic relationship with the young girl, Molly.
Grief and growing up without a father are just some of the difficult subjects that Spell of the Unown tackles with the utmost care. Entei is the most effective and understandable villain to date, too, not even looking like the bad guy to many viewers.
The dream-like action sequences are top-notch, the writing is superb, and the development of Entei is unmatched for a Pokémon who can talk. Anyone can sit down and watch Pokémon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown: Entei without a problem, and they absolutely should.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.