21 Best Alien Anime Series & Movies (Ranked)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Anime featuring aliens are a wacky bunch. And no, not the inaccuracies of our human-centric bias in their character designs.
Oddly enough, these anime seem to have embedded themselves into every nook and cranny of the otaku culture. Even sometimes perfectly slipping away from the science fiction genre it’s supposed to be founded on.
And so for this list, let’s dive into some pretty cool anime series with ETs and aliens.
As always, a couple of rules before we begin:
- Science fiction doesn’t need to be the focus genre
- Doesn’t need to take place in space
- Story complexity will not be as important of a criterion for this list
- Alien characters do not need to be identified, just their existence confirmed
- The aliens still need to be important enough to the story though
- Humans branching into different lifeforms don’t count
- Evolved humans from far, far, distant futures also a no-no
And now, recommendations!
21. Rinne no Lagrange 2nd Season (2011)
An alien anime with somewhat weird mixed genres here, it manages to keep itself engaging and entertaining by focusing on its characters and interactions.
Particularly alien-to-human interactions, which is probably the only reason why this anime is included in this list.
The second season’s greatest strength is simply putting more emphasis on what made the first season interesting: purpose-driven conflicts.
The overall plot can still get a little bit too underdeveloped though, for such an interesting premise, so do be mindful of your expectations.
20. Haiyore! Nyaruko-san (2010)
Another one tailing on the far end of our list is a comedic series that happens to be focused on extra-terrestrial entities… with very questionable obsessions.
It’s not even the best comedy anime out there, mind you.
But the formula that Nyaruko creates provides good entertainment at the sheer ridiculousness and stupidity of each of the episode’s plot developments.
It’s essentially the light-hearted anime of otherworldly pursuits.
19. Ano Natsu de Matteru (2012)
The spiritual (and literal?!) successor to Onegai Sense, this series opens up as your standard slice-of-life genre that’s pre-set with typical teenage drama and youthful romances.
The odd mix of science fiction elements doesn’t really manage to change the down-to-earth tone of the series, but instead it’s used for simple world-building foundations.
Most of the time at least.
Individual decisions of these characters can be a bit mind boggling at times. But you might simply write it off as the “misadventures of the inexperienced youth.”
18. Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu OVA (2005)
A very odd anime that delves on the stereotype of a dense protagonist, forced into a situation where he needs to take care of a strange and mysterious girl.
The aliens are not exactly shown in the series, just mentioned or reported.
But their existence serves as an important plot device for the series.
As the story is quite short, viewers might be left with some questions unanswered.
But it’s still quite an intriguing short series to check out, even just episode 1.
17. Kidou Senkan Nadeshiko (1996)
Does the combined genre of comedy and space war sound odd?
If not, then this classic might be your cup of tea.
For the most part, the setting here, the locations, and technologies are built as a serious storytelling foundations.
But the character profiles are where the fun begins.
From the questionable credentials of Nadeshico’s crew, to the inane antics inside the ship, there’s always something for watchers to poke fun at.
16. Knights of Sidonia (2015)
Before you write this off as yet another “humans versus unintelligible aliens” sci-fi anime, think about the core of the setting first.
We already lost. Our heroes are thrown into a far future setting, in a timeline where the audience already knows was dominated by the main antagonists.
The details you fill in within its timeline, while writing a logical drama that depicts how life on some long-term generation ship might be, makes watching this series very worthwhile.
And I’m not even talking about the more gruesome(?) details yet.
15. Captain Herlock: Outside Legend – The Endless Odyssey (2002)
Out of all the Captain Herlock media out there, this is probably my personal pick as the “alien” anime recommendation.
Endless Odyssey properly returns the franchise to its proper form, being an official sequel that is set directly after the 1978 adaptation.
Harlock is as spanky as ever as the space western hero, amplified further by the “dire” setting at the beginning of the series.
As for the aliens in this show, to quote a certain Super alien: “alien is relative, it’s a big universe out there”.
14. Hoshi no Koe (2002)
A rather simple story abruptly cut short by the very limited run time.
Don’t let this deter you from enjoying this one though.
Aliens, for the most part function similarly as with Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu. The conflict in this one seems a bit less concerning, given that both of them had access to the solution when given the chance.
But the long-distance interactions are something that holds this 25-minute special quite well, and makes the story somewhat realistic in the face of its super fantastic setting.
13. Outlaw Star (1998)
Space western/bounty hunting isn’t the most unique of premises, as some very popular classics prove.
But it’s quite a balanced template for adventures nonetheless.
For Outlaw Star, there’s a specific addition of interacting with alien races, which makes the variety of characters quite wackier.
This is especially notable since it’s actually high fantasy, not sci-fi, that inspires most of their designs.
As for how interesting its badass protagonist really is, well you might want to ask the eponymous ship’s propulsion system instead.
12. Space Dandy (2014)
If there’s anything that Space Dandy definitively proved, it’s that the randomness of space may perhaps be the most efficient comedic tool for writing.
Couple that with a despicable but somehow delightful protagonist, wacky western adventure tropes, and modern cultural references, and you have an alien anime recipe set to entertain from start to finish.
Or make you cringe hard at every joke.
Regardless of how you accept its style, Space Dandy will leave an impression that you definitely won’t forget.
11. Urusei Yatsura (1981)
Probably one of the very first alien anime series to not focus on its science fiction elements, Urusei Yatsura became the base template for many different romantic comedy series going forward.
Don’t get me wrong, the romantic themes are still strong for this series.
But its comedic formula is such a masterpiece that you can still get a chuckle or two no matter how old you are.
There’s just something about the timing and tempo of its story that makes it so entertaining, regardless of era.
10. Onegai Sensei (2002)
The classic alien romance anime that launched a thousand series with vaguely similar concepts.
Onegai Sensei differs itself from the much more classic Urusei Yatsura with a notably heavier focus on romance.
Just like its spiritual successor later on, most of the science fiction elements are simply kept as world-building foundations, to facilitate the development of the two main characters.
Anyone interested in watching the series will be in for a rollercoaster ride of feels, as well as gripped with perhaps one of the most cheat-level romance tropes frequently used to test relationships.
9. To Love Ru series (2008)
Did I have to remind anyone that this series actually features aliens?
I mean I get it, Even Rito’s potential harem members themselves are more or less accustomed to Earth already.
In fact, science fiction is probably straight-up not part of its classifying genre. So if you happen to only have tingles for romantic comedy ecchi, then you already have several volumes worth of entertainment to indulge.
Assuming you haven’t read them all yet, of course.
8. Dragon Ball Z (1989)
Ah, one of the greatest shounen classics.
Today the magic of its novelty may have worn off, yet it still catches the awe of audiences worldwide.
The first Dragon Ball may have already established Son Goku as an alien.
But it was only after Dragon Ball Z that the whole subject became a lot more relevant, with an entire cast of alien characters coming onto the scene.
I mean, it’s not solely beings from other planets now, but from entirely different universes as well.
7. Tenchi Muyou! (1995)
What I’m ranking here is technically the first TV series(and probably the most memorable one) despite the development of later seasons.
Oddly, for such a title of being one of the first modern harem series, it has a rather
convoluted complex story.
The alien sci-fi elements are implanted firmly into the narrative, and not just some world-building tool. Eventually, the same sci-fi plus harem formula will be the basis of yet another memorable series airing exactly a year later.
6. Eureka Seven (2005)
The plot twist of Terrans becoming the alien to their own home planet is not too common.
One of the better series to have done this is Eureka Seven.
The series boasts a balanced mix of innocent and adult romance, mecha, and fantasy elements, as well as the philosophical conflict of harmony.
It definitely isn’t perfect of course. A few eyebrow-raising moments here and there.
But it’s a classic worth checking out for if you’re an alien anime aficionado. Oh, and how about its sequel?
Eh, what sequel?
5. Macross Plus (1994)
Building up further into the story that was setup by the original TV series, Macross Plus is still technically set within the same timeline.
As such, we can consider the alien elements as present, or at least as the indirect driving forces of these future events.
As suggested, the movie itself does not actually revolve around the Zentradi anymore. They are simply loosely used as connecting identities for the main cast.
Definitely a step up from the original TV show, but you need to watch it first before you can watch this well-done sequel.
4. Keroro Gunsou (2004)
Here we have one of the most all-around entertaining series to have shaped the anime and manga realm at the dawn of the 21st century.
Keroro Gunsou is undoubtedly the alien series that has all the stereotypical bells and whistles of an “alien arriving to Earth” series… at the very beginning at least.
But hey, at least Giroro desperately clung to the idea for good long while.
Those who are into aliens in anime that also have a knack for liking mundane-that-gets-wacky type of comedy, would definitely feel at home with this series.
3. Parasyte (2014)
At a glance, it’s probably obvious that Parastye will be a series that is all about aliens. After all, this is essentially “The Thing” in manga and anime format.
The conflicts that arise from individual story arcs in this series even delve with the idea of an unseen, hidden intruder.
But the underlying discussion of life, death, and the difference between interacting with what you know and what you don’t, is also what makes Parasyte so entertaining to watch.
That, and also watching humans get eviscerated in the most gruesome way possible.
2. Gantz (2004)
Speaking of evisceration, when you say science fiction manga/anime series, perhaps the one thing that we otaku always have in mind is Gantz.
Saying that this is an alien series is a huge understatement. It is the core essence of its existence.
From the enemies that they fight, characters that interact, major story arcs, as well as the technologies featured in the series. They all scream extra-terrestrial.
The only sad part is that the anime offers a tiny, tiny sliver of what the original manga can show you.
1. Gintama (2006)
What’s better than the epic battles of Gantz and the philosophical nightmare of Parasyte?
Why, the sheer variety-based comedy of Gintama of course!
Unforgettable comic gags? Check.
Epic shounen fights? Check.
Hilarious character interactions? Check.
Fourth wall breaks? Triple check.
The aliens are not just for show, either. As their identities frequently becomes important plot points for some of the series’ most crucial arcs.
Gintama is hands down the best alien anime to have ever existed, without being even remotely science fiction from an entertainment standpoint.