2019 is rapidly shaping up to be a banner year for Nintendo's Pokemon franchise with Detective Pikachu about to adapt the video game property for live-action, while a new generation of the bestselling Pocket Monsters will be released on the Nintendo Switch in Pokemon Sword and Shield. After over 20 years, the future of Pokemon looks brighter than ever, so here's a look back at the many animated films starring Nintendo's fiercely adorable property of fantastical creatures that fight each other senseless.
There are a staggering 21 animated Pokemon films, many of which have never had a wide theatrical release in the United States or been subject to professional critical review. As such, here is the comprehensive ranking of all the animated Pokemon films based on user scores from IMDb over the entire cinematic history of the franchise as Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum and his loyal Pikachu continue their ongoing quest to become the very best.
21. Pokemon the Movie: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice - 5.6
Taking place during the events of Season 15 of Pokemon Black and White, the 2012 film has Ash learn about an elite organization known as the Swords of Justice. The Pokemon Keldeo endeavors to join the group but must face their ultimate challenge: Defeat the Legendary Pokemon Kyurem.
As Ash stumbles across the wounded Keldeo, they discover that Kyurem possesses both powerful Black and White transformations that give it a further boost of power. Undeterred, they prepare for an inevitable rematch that will determine whether Keldeo is worthy of joining the Swords of Justice.
20. Pokemon the Movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened - 5.6
Set during the 16th season of Pokemon Black and White, the 2013 film has Mewtwo and Ash separately discover a race of Pokemon hundreds of millions of years old known as the Genesect Army. The revived Genesect are driven from their original home and set out to create a new habitat, threatening other Pokemon and humans that live in the area.
The 16th Pokemon film features a team-up between Ash and Mewtwo to save the region from the Genesect while committing to establish a new sanctuary for them. In addition to introducing Genesect to the animated story, it also debuts Mewtwo's Mega Evolution form.
19. Pokemon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction - 5.6
The first film during the X and Y era, the 2014 film has Ash come across a rare Diancie, the princess of her underground kingdom. The Heart Diamond powering the kingdom has been failing for some time, so Diancie seeks Ash's help to find the legendary Pokemon Xerneas to awaken her latent abilities and create a new Heart Diamond to serve as a new power source.
With Xerneas living in a devastated forest known as the Cocoon of Destruction, Ash and Diancie find their inner courage as they venture into the forbidden lands with the usual interference from Team Rocket.
18. Pokemon 3: The Movie - 5.7
The third Pokemon film was the last one to receive a wide theatrical release from original English language distributor Warner Bros. The 2000 film has Professor Hale research the Unown and become trapped in their home dimension. Enlisted by a fellow Pokemon trainer named Lisa to help rescue Hale's daughter Molly, Ash's mother and Professor Oak are drawn into the mysterious Unown dimension.
This puts them all on a collision course with the legendary Pokemon Entei, who shares a protective bond with Molly, whose experiences with the Unown leaves her paranoid and frightened by Ash and his friends' initial appearance.
17. Pokemon 4Ever - 5.7
The 2001 film and fourth film in the series, and final film to receive a wide theatrical release in the United States, leaned more into the magic and mysticism than may of its more sci-fi oriented counterparts, as Ash and his friends investigate the appearance of a new Pokemon, Celebi, capable of traveling through time, after crossing paths with the legendary Pokemon Suicune.
What follows is an time-bending adventure that proves to be Professor Oak's most personal yet, while a new enemy attempts to subvert Giovanni and take control of his criminal syndicate, Team Rocket, through use of a Dark Ball, a special Pokeball that brainwashes those captured by it.
16. Pokemon: Jirachi - Wish Maker - 5.9
Taking place during the sixth season of Pokemon: Advanced Challenge, the 2003 film centers around the Millennium Comet, which travels close to the Earth for one week every thousand years and causes unusual traits to emerge in Pokemon. During this time, the mythical Jirachi awakens to absorb some of the comet's energy.
As Ash and his friends arrive at a festival to celebrate the comet's arrival, they become ensnared in the plot of a mad scientist working for Team Magma named Butler, who wants to use Jirachi and the comet to resurrect the mythical Pokemon Groudon for his own nefarious ends, leading to Ash teaming up with several new Pokemon to save the day.
15. Pokemon the Movie: Black - Victini and Reshiram/White - Victini and Zekrom - 5.9
In reality two separate films that largely tell the same story with minor plot changes and types of Pokemon that appear across the narrative, the 2011 films take place during Season 14 of Pokemon Black and White and introduce Victini.
After a natural disaster devastates a valley and threatens its inhabitants, the People of the Vale, a man named Damon attempts to summon either Reshiram or Zekrom, depending on the version, to revitalize the land. Along the way, Ash befriends Victini, who plays a key role in Damon's plans, putting Ash and his friends on a collision course with him.
14. Pokemon: The Movie 2000 - 6.0
The second Pokemon film centers around the first generation of legendary bird Pokemon, Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno, while introducing the second generation legendary bird Lugia to the franchise, marking a transition from the original set of Pokemon to those introduced in Pokemon Gold and Silver.
Released in 1999, the film has Ash and his friends travel to the Orange Islands for a festival celebrating the legend of Lugia. As a collector begins to capture the three original legendary birds to awaken Lugia, the effects cause disastrous consequences for the environment, leading Ash to stop a battle between the birds from completely destroying the islands.
13. Pokemon: The First Movie - 6.1
The animated film that started it all, spinning off from the long-running anime series, the film tells the origins of the powerful psychic Pokemon Mewtwo. Mewtwo is developed in a lab and abused when Team Rocket attempts to clone Mew. The clone Pokemon becomes vengeful towards all of humanity, tricking Ash and his friends into traveling to a private island where Mewtwo has developed his own clone army.
The film was a massive success worldwide, both theatrically and on home video. In addition to laying the foundation for all the subsequent animated films in the series, the 1999 film is receiving an enhanced CGI remake that will be released in Japan this July.
12. Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys - 6.1
Set some time during the events of Season 7 of Pokemon: Advanced Challenge, the 2004 film opens with Deoyxs crash-landing on Earth in a meteorite, after which it is gravely injured in a fight with Rayquaza, leaving it to recover over a period of four years.
Ash and his friends discover that another Deoxys arrived four years ago and is being experimented on by unscrupulous scientists who have their own robot army. As the two Deoxys reunite and Rayquaza resurfaces for a rematch, Ash finds himself caught in the middle of what's rapidly shaping up to be another epic battle.
11. Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea - 6.1
The final film set during the Advanced Generation era of the anime, set during the ninth season of Pokemon: Battle Frontier, the 2006 film has Ash and his friends team up with a Pokemon Ranger named Jack Walker to deliver the mythical Pokemon Manaphy to an underwater palace.
The final film in the franchise to feature traditional animation before The Pokemon Company switched to digital animation, Ash and Jack's efforts are threatened by a mercenary company led by Phantom the Pirate across the film's largely underwater adventure.
10. Pokemon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages - 6.1
Focusing on the sixth generation of Pokemon, including the titular legendary Pokemon Hoopa, the 2015 film introduces Hoopa as a Pokemon with a docile form and a destructive alternate version that threatens those around it in a sort of Jekyll and Hyde story that draws in an impressive number of legendary Pokemon to stop it.
Ash and his friends are pulled into an alternate dimension by Hoopa's portals, arriving in Dahara City. With the two versions of Hoopa at war with one another, Ash has to bring in several other legendary Pokemon from adventures past to save Dahara. As the second lowest-earning film in the entire franchise, weak reception to Hoopa and the Clash of Ages led The Pokemon Company to quietly begin development on a reboot of the film series.
9. Pokemon Heroes - 6.2
The final film to star the original voice cast of the anime's first five seasons, the 2002 film had Ash and his friends visit a Venetian-inspired city protected by the dragon Pokemon Latias and Latios. The siblings are targeted by Team Rocket to capture for themselves while a resurgent pair of fossil Pokemon threaten the entire city.
Receiving only a limited theatrical release in the United States, the fifth film in the long-running series is currently the lowest-earning in the entire franchise, earning only $27.7 million at the worldwide box office.
8. Pokemon: Zoroark - Master of Illusions - 6.2
The final film during the Diamond and Pearl era of the anime, taking place during the 13th season of Pokemon: Diamond & Pearl - Sinnoh League Victors, the 2010 film has Ash and friends travel to the Dutch-inspired Crown City to watch the Pokemon Baccer World Cup. Along the way, they encounter a scheming businessman named Grings Kodai who has his own designs for the city.
Using a Celebi, Kodai is able to see into the future and target a powerful Zoroark by kidnapping its child Zorua to ensure his wealth will continue after seeing 20 years into the future. Learning of this, Ash and his friends rush to free Zorua and reunite it with its mother.
7. Pokemon the Movie: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel - 6.2
The final animated film set during the X and Y era and last one to date before the film series was rebooted, the 2016 film took on clear steampunk influences as Ash and his friends dealt with a nefarious councilman named Alva who planned to seize control of a flying fortress by obtaining the heart of the artificial Pokemon Magearna.
To help them combat Alva's army of Mega Evolved Pokemon, Ash teams up with the mythical Pokemon Volcanion to thwart Alva's plans and destroy his heavily armed fortress once and for all.
6. Pokemon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior - 6.3
Taking place during the 11th season of Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl - Battle Dimension, the 2008 film picks up soon after the events of its immediate predecessor, Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai. The epic battle between Giratina and Dialga at the climax of the previous film had such far-reaching consequences that it damaged an alternate dimension known as the Reverse World, setting the events of its sequel in motion.
Coming across the legendary Pokemon Shaymin, Ash and his friends, along with Team Rocket, are trapped in the Reverse World through a vortex created by the battle. Learning of a new villain named Zero who intends to destroy Earth and rule over the Reverse World, Ash must fight for the fate of two separate worlds while contending with the powerful Pokemon.
5. Pokemon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life - 6.4
The final film in the Diamond and Pearl era, occurring during the events of the 12th season of Pokemon: Diamond & Pearl - Galactic Battles, the 2009 film picks up on plot threads established by the preceding two films to serve as the culmination of sorts to the storyline started by Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai.
Ash and his friends travel to the Greek-inspired Michina Town where Giratina, Dialga and Palkia all emerge from a different dimension to potentially stage an epic rematch. To help bring the conflicted Pokemon to peace, Ash seeks out Arceus, the powerful Pokemon who created the alternate dimensions in the first place, to bring order back to the region.
4. Pokemon: I Choose You! - 6.4
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the franchise and reinvigorate the cinematic series after the past several films started to see a noticeable decreases at the box office, The Pokemon Company released a cinematic reboot with Pokemon: I Choose You! in 2017.
The 20th film in the series retold Ash Ketchum's origins as a Pokemon trainer who sets out to be the very best along with his faithful Pikachu, loosely covering the events of the anime's first season. Slight modifications included Pokemon from later generations figuring prominently in the film and Ash's original companions, Brock and Misty, being replaced with different characters. Despite these changes, the film did well at the box office and prompted a sequel in this newly established timeline.
3. Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai - 6.5
First released in 2007, the 10th Pokemon film took place during the 10th season of Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl. The story had Ash and his friends encounter Palkia, a powerful Pokemon with dominion over space, facing Dialga, a Pokemon who has mastery over time itself. As the battle between the two intensifies, the mysterious Pokemon Darkrai, who has the ability to instill nightmares, arrives, poised to destroy the nearby Alamos Town during its next Pokemon contest.
The first film in the franchise to be animated digitally, in contrast to most installments of the film series featuring standalone stories, the events of The Rise of Darkrai would directly inform its two sequels and the future of the anime series on which it was based.
2. Pokemon: The Power of Us - 6.5
The 2018 sequel to Pokemon: I Choose You! and the most recent animated film in the franchise to date, The Power of Us has Ash and his friends in the reboot timeline trying to save Fula City from a forest fire, poisonous spores and conniving poachers.
Receiving a theatrical release in the United States, it is the first Pokemon film in the entire franchise to earn a "Fresh" rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Now firmly in its own rebooted continuity, the animators took more creative liberties with several characters, including visibly redesigning Ash in comparison to his traditional depictions. The film was a success at the box office.
1. Pokemon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew - 7.0
The highest-rated Pokemon film on IMDb by a considerable margin is 2005's Pokemon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, which went as far as to earn a nomination for Best Anime Feature at the American Anime Awards, losing to Final Fantasy: Advent Children.
Taking place during the eighth season of Pokemon: Advanced Battle, the movie had Lucario bring peace to a warring Kanto a thousand years in the world's past before being sealed in a magic staff. Ash and his friends face the freed Lucario in the present, with the powerful psychic Pokemon Mew getting drawn into the proceedings. Hailed for its improved animation style and darker tones, the 2005 film is the most acclaimed animated Pokemon film to date and takes the top spot in this extensive catalog.
Directed by Rob Letterman from a script written by Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, Detective Pikachu stars Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe and the voice of Ryan Reynolds. The film opens in theaters on May 10.