30 Best Action Anime Of All Time, Ranked (Series & Movies)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Action has been a staple of anime since the very beginning. Even if it’s not always the primary focus like it used to be, in the 70s and 80s, most anime featured scenes or set pieces with dynamic combat sequences.
And I’d say the anime world has never moved too far away from those cinematic scenes.
Let’s go through a bunch of amazing action anime, ranking the very best-of-the-best of all time. These will vary in genre and overall merit, but rest assured we’ll have something for everyone here.
Whether it’s gore, zombies, sakuga, boxing, tournaments, superheroes, warfare, or just good ol’ revenge.
So get your popcorn, rocket launcher, battle suit, and the key to your mecha robot.
We’re going in.
Kei Kurono is hit by a train. His body is destroyed, obviously – except he wakes up in a small flat.
There are other people there, as confused as he is, and all are unable to stop looking at the dark black orb that floats in the room’s center.
The orb tells them they are dead, gives them weaponry and armor, and sends them back out into the world as spiritual beings to slaughter alien invaders. If they die: that’s it.
But if they manage to get 100 points, then reincarnation becomes a reality.
Gory, gruesome, disturbing.
Gantz is an edgy and horrific ride through despair and the bizarre. It will make you uncomfortable if you’re into that like I am.
Also, check out Gantz 0 – a CGI adaptation of the manga with incredible action set pieces.
29. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
The Kabane are horrifying monsters akin to zombies that can only be destroyed by piercing their iron-protected hearts. After Ikoma’s city is overrun, he boards a fortified iron train alongside some new allies to search for somewhere safer.
The animation here is its main selling point, with constantly panning camera angles accentuating the dynamic and swift combat.
Wit Studio and Hiroyuki Sawano team up to orchestrate an action-packed zombie flick set on a train.
It gets weird near the end, but there’s a sequel movie available that aims to patch up its flaws!
28. Tokyo Ghoul
Ken Kaneki is a meek bookworm, rather introverted and idealistic.
He receives the shock of his life when the gorgeous Rize Kamishiro takes an interest in him for his bookish interests and subdued disposition… Oh, and when she attempts to brutally devour him… but ends up dying in the process.
The doctors perform an emergency operation, transplanting Rize’s organs into Ken, and incidentally embed him with the power of a Ghoul(basically a vampiric creature reliant on human-meat for sustenance).
This series is worth a watch for its confident character writing and dynamic action moments.
Unfortunately, Tokyo Ghoul’s follow up seasons do not hold up compared to the first. Hopefully someday we can get a Madhouse-style remake, please…?
27. Megalo Box
Channeling the spirit of the legendary Ashita no Joe into a futuristic industrial age, Megalo Box tells the story of Junk Dog: an underground fighter with ambitions to become the greatest Megalo Boxer alive by winning the Megalonia tournament.
The fighters are equipped with robotic arms and minimal armor, creating tense matches with real stakes on the line.
With animation and art harkening back to classic 90s anime, and a distinctive hip-hop electronic soundtrack, Megalo Box tells a concise story without much fluff.
And it looks incredible doing it.
26. Black Lagoon
The crew of the Black Lagoon is a ragtag bunch of mercenaries in it for the coin, but bound together by their relationships.
When the non-assuming businessman Rokurou Okajima joins the gang and dons the name ‘Rok’, his life turns sideways (and then some) as he’s ferried into a world of violence, corruption, and greed.
A world where seeing a boat ascend up a ramp to slam into a helicopter is commonplace.
Black Lagoon embodies Michael Bay explosive action while juggling good characters and an exciting pace.
Watch this if you’re a fan of anime like Cowboy Bebop or Jormungand, where a group of malefactors take on worse malefactors in a criminally overlooked action buster.
After being hit by a truck and not dying, Kei Nagai discovers he’s an Ajin – an immortal creature hunted by humanity for their inherent evolutionary supremacy.
Immediately, Nagai is in the run – avoiding even those he loves, frightened they’ll turn him in for the bounty.
Soon he encounters Satou – a gun wielding extremist terrorist who happens to be an Ajin, and so very much wants humans to recognize their inferiority in the face of violence.
Studio Polygon Pictures get a lot of flack for their hybridized CGI style, but I personally love it.
That, compounded with stellar sound design that accurately conveys the weight and destruction on screen, creates a cinematic Hollywood experience rarely seen in anime. Well worth checking out.
In the derelict and inhospitable district of Hole, we find destitute humans and powerful magic users alike.
Kaiman is a tall brooding figure, with a crocodile head. But he wasn’t born like this. And he’s searching for the guy who took his body, memories, and ultimately his identity.
Heads will be removed, faces separated from skulls, and arms disjointed from the shoulder. Action at its finest.
Dorohedoro is delightfully disturbing, both colorful and drab.
The blended 3D and drawn animation and character designs reminiscent of Akira instill a similar feeling of macabre intrigue in the viewer.
So much care and attention were put into this Studio Mappa 2020 adaptation. I eagerly request you to take a look!
23. Vinland Saga
Infatuated by tales of sailors and warriors as a child, Thorfinn stumbles into a world of combat and darkness after witnessing the murder of his father.
Throughout the available 24-episodes (commonly referred to as simply the prologue to a greater story by adoring manga fans), Thorfinn will need to learn that the quest for revenge comes at a great price.
And that violence isn’t always the right answer.
But, of course, to learn that the hard way requires a lot of bloodshed and violence. Go figure huh?
This Viking-based historic shounen manga is delivered with the vicious energy expected of Studio Wit. And though this may just be the introduction, it stands on its own as a brilliant story of revenge and fatherhood.
22. Knights of Sidonia
Stowed aboard a collection of ships floating across space, Nagata Tanikaze has no idea of the large-scale intergalactic war between humans and the alien Gauna.
But he soon comes to realize that the cloned citizens of Sidonia are all that remain of the species. And he may be the person needed to ensure they don’t go extinct.
The expansive battlefield of space provides an incredible backdrop for the beautifully 3D animated mecha battles. And the perfect grave for any caught in the grip of a Gauna.
Dark, visceral, yet unmistakable anime – Knights of Sidonia is unique in its storytelling and world design.
There are hundreds of episodes of Gintama spanning multiple genres. I enjoyed it from the start, but some say you need to get to the first real serious arc to understand why Gintama’s setting and characters are so important.
Set in feudal Japan after an alien invasion, Gintoki is a samurai assisting people with jobs here & there.
Along his journey he encounters all sorts of fascinating people, and he’s forced to unsheathe his sword in more than one occasion. This is one series you’ll have to experience to understand why it’s so great.
20. The Tower of God
The recently finished Tower of God is the first webtoon to be animated! And so I’m glad they picked a good one.
This anime improved over the webtoon in every single way, with a distinct and rough artstyle plus an electronic orchestral soundtrack providing an epic weight to every conflict.
Oh, and there’s a lot of conflict!
For the Tower of God is a competition at heart, created with the sole goal of reaching the top.
Even if that means betraying, killing, or conspiring along the way.
Bam is determined to reach the precipice no matter what. He groups up with a few other driven characters to make the climb easier, and our story carries from there.
The action is swift and well-drawn, with character designs ranging from giant pillow monsters to a giant lizard man. There’s a lot to like here.
Akira is an all-time classic.
Set across the garish yet alluring backdrop of Neo-Tokyo is gang warfare, psychokinetic conspiracies, and a government ploy that could once more destroy the city and kill most of the populace.
The storytelling is thick, but let’s focus on the action.
Each frame is painstakingly drawn to create a detailed and vivid flipbook of explosions and destruction.
Whether it be a motorbike crash or a monster transforming, every second will stand unique and fluid.
No wonder it has inspired so many anime since its 1988 cinema release.
Shinichi narrowly avoids having his brain (and body) ruled by a parasitic alien lifeform – phew!
But not his hand, which now hosts eyes and mouth and a personality… Oh. Well that’s bad, but one can always adapt, r-right?
Well no, because there are more of the creatures about who have achieved their objective and are keen to exterminate the both of them.
Body horror has never been so overtly action oriented.
The gory, life-threatening encounters between Shinichi and his adversaries are accompanied by a killer dubstep soundtrack and plot changes aiming to reinvent the 1989 horror manga into the modern age.
Shinich is thrown into a violent world with violent consequence. And not everyone he loves will remain unscathed.
17. Land of the Lustrous
Studio Orange shocked even 3D-anime haters with their 2017 anime, proving that there is a place for the style in an otherwise saturated market.
Because Land of the Lustrous is beautiful.
It’s pretty to watch, featuring a ton of likeable and well-defined characters that each need to conquer their own demons in the everlasting warfare waged between their kind (an enigmatic gem-based lifeform) and the Lunarians, who aim to harvest their bodies for their beauty.
Some of the set-piece action scenes will leave your jaw between your feet waiting to click on the next episode.
It’s dynamic, brilliantly choreographed, and has some of the best cinematography in anime TV show history.
16. One Punch Man
The author of the original web comic (then manga) really hit – uh, punched – it out of the park with his initial concept.
Get this, okay? So imagine a traditional shounen anime, or even superhero comic, where the protagonist is so infinitely powerful that it takes less than his weakest punch to finish off world-destroying mega-villains.
Imagine he’s so bored of the battle that his face has fallen into a perpetual mask of dissatisfaction.
Okay, you’ve got the One Punch Man set up.
Now go and watch what happens because the animation in season one of OPM is incredible.
The fights are both comedic and hype, helped by a strong supporting cast who don’t have the powers of the unbeatable Saitama.
15. Sword of the Stranger
In Sengoku-Japan, the child orphan Kotarou(and his dog) is suddenly a target of the Ming Dynasty for reasons he doesn’t understand.
They run into the loner samurai Nanashi who accepts Kotarou’s offer of being his bodyguard.
What follows is a violent, well-choreographed journey through a bygone Japan. Encountering opponent after opponent to get Kotarou where he needs to be.
In particular, the end fight is A-class sakuga material.
Each sword swing, each facial emotion, is conveyed through visceral animation in a well-realized environment that often serves instrumental to the fight – whether it be obstacle or weapon.
Meanwhile in Edo-Japan, Shichika Yasuri practices an ancient technique of sword-fighting, his own unique style.
He can use his body as a blade, concentrating his attacks to a fine point before striking.
Soon he’ll need to use this style against twelve other opponents, each with their own sword-fighting techniques passed down generations. All to reclaim their weapons – the twelve Deviant Blades – for the illusive Togame, who elects to accompany Shichika in his ventures.
Featuring a unique style, a stellar wit, and some brilliant character writing, Katanagatari is a concise yet simple story told in a very certain way.
It’s fallen by the wayside and isn’t a very popular series at all. So if you’re looking for some hidden gems in the action genre give this one a shot.
The fight scenes are always varied, with the higher ground changing repeatedly within a single engagement.
And the ending is definitely, definitely worth the beautiful adventure.
13. Hellsing Ultimate
Hellsing Ultimate takes everything from the original Hellsing(and the manga source material) and elevates things to the extreme.
Ten episodes clocking in at just under an hour each tells a zany and macabre narrative of vampirism and survival.
The gore is thick, the combat riddled with lost limbs and inhumane acts of depravity.
Hellsing Ultimate relishes in bloodshed and quick action.
Nerv is an organization primed with the task of protecting humanity from Angels (alienlike creatures set on genocide) through the assistance of the Evangelion, a huge machine capable of taking them on in combat.
Gendou Ikari head’s Nerv, ordering children capable of synchronizing with Evangelion to fight for the sake of the planet.
His estranged son Shinji is asked to meet with him. What the boy doesn’t realize, is that his father intends for a lot more than a meet and greet.
Philosophical, psychoanalytical, and action driven. Evangelion is a classic staple of the genre with the way it deconstructs the mecha genre to tell a destructive story of introspection and depersonalization.
11. Devilman: Crybaby
You looking for brutality?
Looking to see a monster tear another in half?
Looking to cry and question existence and life after the last episode? Then BOY, I’ve got an anime for you!
Devilman: Crybaby is a modernized remake of Go Nagai’s classic anti-war manga, Devilman.
It’s a streamlined rendition without tampering the original message and manages to surpass the source material in every way. Also, the soundtrack is masterful.
Akira Fudou has been given the moniker ‘Crybaby’ for how sympathetic and pure a person he is.
When he merges with the demon Amon, Akira manages to retain his humanity to become the first Devilman.
For the action masochists out there: your chariot awaits.
10. Kill la Kill
Ryuuko Matoi is searching for her father’s killer, equipped only with a large blade shaped like a scissor.
She storms the gates of Honnouji Academy, declaring war on the council president Satsuki Kiryuuin before getting trashed and running home.
Defeated, she considers what to do next when the Senketsu Kamui(a set of clothes that give enhanced abilities) latches onto Ryuuko, giving her the strength to return to the school and uncover the culprit for good.
The hits are energetic, the characters eclectic, and the story always enthusiastic.
It’s a rollercoaster.
Kill la Kill is an over-the-top thrill ride complete with killer Studio Trigger animation and art, and a glorious Hiroyuki Sawano score that tops the best of his discography with its diverse genre and stylings.
9. Mob Psycho 100
ONE may have received his fame for his manga, One Punch Man. But it’s his lesser appreciated work that really shines.
Mob Psycho is as funny and absurd as its older brother, but really pulls no punches with the heart.
Character writing here is strong and touching, and perfectly complements the comedy.
But alongside that is some of the best action Sakuga ever crafted. It’s massive in scale, with punches sending people cities-length in distance. And the psychokinetic powers that govern the narrative are given a distinctive flair.
The weight and power felt through the production quality is what makes MP100 so dynamic.
With each punch, kick, or scream, we get the appropriate emotional resonant with the soundtrack and voice acting.
Oh and unlike OPM, Mob Psycho’s second season improves upon the first in every discernible way.
8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Constantly walking the line between absurdity and seriousness, JoJo begins rocky before evolving into something truly special.
This is gonna be a hard one, so bear with me.
JoJo is a(currently) eight-part manga series spanning three decades, with five of those parts adapted throughout the 2010s.
Each part is loosely connected through lineage and genetics, and are all unique experiences building on the prior part.
Phantom Blood (1) is an 1800s shounen take of Stoker’s Dracula. It follows Jonathan Joestar and his adopted brother Dio Brando’s rivalry, and features a stone mask that can turn you into a vampire, mystical breathing sun magic, and tons of masculine poses.
Battle Tendency (2) is set in 1930s New York. This follows Joseph Joestar (grandson of Jonathan) as he goes about saving the planet, resolving the tale of the stone mask set up in the prior part.
Both of these parts are short and contained in the first season.
Stardust Crusaders (3) is set in 1989 and features Jotaro Kujo (grandson of Joseph) as he travels from Japan to Egypt to finish what Jonathan had started a century ago.
This part introduces the Stand battle mechanic, where a spectral being is linked to the soul and capable of unique abilities under the wielders command.
Diamond is Unbreakable (4) is set ten years later, in the small village of Morioh. It concerns the youthful Josuke Higashikata and his friends as they go about protecting their hometown from a mysterious killer.
And lastly we’ve got Golden Wind (5) starring Giorno Giovanna and his gang, as they aim to topple the mafia in order to cease their rampant drug distribution in the city of Naples.
Each part is brought to the screen perfectly courtesy of David Productions, and features some of the most incredible and unbelievable action possible.
Tactical mind games quickly come to the forefront as the series progresses, but the action never stops.
7. Cowboy Bebop
Shinichiro Watanabe loves to combine music genres (and what they represent) to create fresh formulas never seen before.
The quintessential example of this is Cowboy Bebop, which mashes together sci-fi, western flicks, and bebop jazz to create an emotional journey through the main cast’s past and present.
Each episode offers something new and exciting, but always packs some ridiculously well-animated action set pieces that provide a crescendo of action punctuating the somber story.
It tackles concepts of ennui and existentialism without harming the pace or flow of the experience, ending with a successful swansong dive off the tower of stellar anime into the pool of masterpieces.
6. Samurai Champloo
Fuu Kasuni loses her job as a waitress when the breakdance-styled samurai Mugen, and the rigid noble samurai Jim accidentally destroy her workplace.
Luckily she gets them excused – but as a reward she requests they bodyguard her in the search for a samurai with the scent of sunflowers.
It’s commendable how well Shinichiro Watanabe blended hip-hop and samurai in his Cowboy Bebop follow-up.
Watch this if you’re looking for more Bebop. It only ranks higher due to its tighter focus on action – which Bebop had already near mastered.
5. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal
Trust and Betrayal is a four-episode OVA (about the length of a single film) set before the events of Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X).
You don’t need to see the longer, more childish brother to enjoy this, however.
This is a stylish yet subdued story of death and remorse.
We follow the lost samurai Kenshin Himura from his tragic childhood up to his teen years.
It shows how he chose the path of pacificism after years of unstoppable murder.
Released in 1999 by Studio Deen, this is the best samurai anime ever made. It embodies the concept and ideology through the soundtrack and atmosphere, with action scenes that are uniquely realized to take full advantage of emotion and quick climax.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Edward and Alphonse attempt an alchemic ritual to bring their mother back to life. But they were unaware of the Law of Equivalent Exchange – that dictates offering something of equal worth in order to create.
If you’ve seen the series you’ve heard this a thousand times.
Their transmutation failures, taking Ed’s left leg and Alphonse’s body. In a last chance attempt to save his brother, Ed offers an arm to affix Al’s soul in a suit of armor.
Fullmetal Alchemist follows their search for the Philosopher’s Stone capable of overturning the Law of Equivalent Exchange to return their bodies back to normal. If you’re into mysticism, alchemy, the occult, or anything in that same vein, you’re probably gonna like this series.
One of the – if not the – highest acclaimed anime ever made.
Brotherhood perfectly adapts the popular manga, retaining the tear-jerking and action-packed moments alike.
3. Attack on Titan
Mankind, pushed to the point of extinction, have congregated in one Germanic civilization protected by multiple walls.
This is to survive in a world inhabited by towering creatures of zombie-mentality and kaiju-ability.
One day the young boy Eren Jaeger and his friends lose everything when an impossibly gargantuan titan (far larger than the walls) kicks a hole through their defenses, unleashing an army of titans into their home.
Attack on Titan is a masterclass of action animation. It offers swooping camera motions complimenting the perfect Hiroyuki Sawano score to provide a constant flood of adrenaline and anticipation.
Please, enjoy the ride – and avoid spoilers, because things change quickly to become a whole new elevated experience.
2. Hunter x Hunter
Gon wants to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a hunter(an ultra-specialist of anything from medicine to ecology).
Along the way he makes some unforgettable allies, and some haunting villains.
Hunter x Hunter is the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to genre. One moment you’re following a hype tournament arc, then gang warfare, then card games, then a sports match, then mutant genocide.
And all the while, there’s action. Lots of it.
Studio Madhouse doesn’t mess around with their adaptations. Faithful without fault, Hunter x Hunter manages to be consistent and engaging throughout the entirety of its 148-episode run.
1. Gurren Lagann
This is a deconstructive love letter to all things bombastic, dynamic, and action-packed.
Our protagonist’s Simon and Kamina are eager to leave the underground refuge where humanity has lived for generations.
Their dreams are realized one day, and they’re launched headfirst into mecha combat.
This soon evolves into something much greater, which evolves into something even greater, resulting in a galactic-scale conflict that blew the door off what we thought possible with the medium.
One of the most beloved, hyper-stylized anime to have been created has left a gargantuan legacy yet unmatched since 2007.
If you want action, Gurren Lagann knows how to provide in spades. Please do check this one out.