Pokémon has grown from the cards we collected in the nineties into one of the biggest franchises in the world during its twenty-six-year run. Since the card games, Pokémon has sprouted off manga, games, action figures, and even more.
With the cards and video games being the obvious fan-favorite, the television series and movies come next. It’s how a lot of us got into Pokémon as kids and there have been twenty-three seasons that total out into eight separate series.
Since 1999, Pokémon has released a new film every year to keep its fans happy. While there are twenty-one films to choose from, we’ve shortened the list into the ten best that every Pokémon fan needs to see at least once. Spoilers ahead for various films in the series if you haven’t watched them!
10. Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You! (2017)
While the first half of the movie was a retelling/reboot of the first season of Pokémon and Ash’s rocky start to his relationship with Pikachu, it was a decent reboot that ran through the basics quickly while adding new characters and storylines that were intriguing as well. The legendary Pokémon, Ho-Oh, drops a rainbow wing that Ash catches, prompting him and Pikachu to go after the legendary. It’s revealed that whoever has the rainbow wing is considered the ‘Rainbow Hero’ and is destined to battle Ho-Oh. Ash and his newfound group, another trainer (Verity), and an aspiring Professor (Sorrel), make it to Mt. Tensei where Ho-Oh is said to reside.
After Ash’s rival steal’s the feather, Marshadow, a mythical dark Pokémon, turns the wild Pokémon evil and has them attack Ash and his friends. When all hope seems lost, Ash forces Pikachu into its Pokeball. As Ash falls out, Pikachu releases itself and lets out an immensely powerful thunderbolt in mourning over its partner. Of course, in the end, all is resolved and Ash comes back to Pikachu and they continue on their journey as we’ve seen through the various seasons of the show.
9. Pokémon Ranger And The Temple of the Sea (2006)
When our heroes, Ash, Brock, May, and her little brother Max, get lost on their journey, they stumble upon a traveling circus belonging to the Marina group who are descendants of the People of the Water. Among the group is an undercover Pokémon Ranger, Jackie, who is tasked with protecting a Manaphy egg and delivering it to Samiya, an underwater kingdom. When the egg ends up in May’s arms and hatches though, the group gets pulled into the journey as Manaphy thinks May is its mother.
Under the lunar eclipse, the kingdom of Samiya makes itself visible to Manaphy, letting everyone enter and explore. The pirate, Phantom, beat them there though and has begun stealing crystals from the structure, causing it to begin sinking back into the ocean. Ash heroically seals May, Pikachu, and Manaphy in an escape pod while taking the final crystal to put back and save the kingdom. After dealing with Phantom, May and Manaphy share an exceptionally painful goodbye before Samiya goes back underwater, Manaphy along with it.
8. Pokémon Heroes (2002)
Dragon types Latios and Latias are the legendaries of this movie and it’s such a fun and different movie than the ones before it. Pokémon Heroes takes place in the town of Alto Mare, a city on the water that’s said to be protected by Latios and Latias. Team Rocket members Annie and Oakley chase after Latias who is disguised as a girl named Bianca, but Ash intervenes to save her, only for Latias to disappear right after. While the trio is visiting a museum that explains the city’s history, Ash meets Lorenzo and his granddaughter, who he mistakes as Latias/the girl he saved earlier.
It is finally revealed that Latias disguises herself as Bianca to explore the city freely. While the Pokémon play, Lorenzo, who guards over Latios and Latias, shows Ash the Soul Dew which is said to contain the soul of another Latios that sacrificed itself to save the city. Annie and Oakley’s drone found the Soul Dew and they steal it as well as Latios while Latias escapes to get help. Latios uses its sight-sharing ability to show Ash what’s happening in the museum with Team Rocket and the group springs into action to stop them and the Defense Mechanism of Alto Mare (DMA).
The DMA overpowers, everyone flees the museum, but Annie takes the now blackened soul dew which turns all of the city’s water into a tidal wave. Latios and Latias go together to stop it and Latios ends up giving its life to protect Alto Mare, creating a new Soul Dew in the process.
7. The Rise Of Darkrai (2007)
This movie, along with the other Sinnoh films, are fan favorites of the series. Along with Ash and Brock, they now have a Pokémon Coordinator named Dawn traveling the region with them. Dawn’s next Pokémon contest is in a place called Alamos Town inside the grand buildings known as the Space-Time Towers. After meeting Tonio, the grandson of the architect behind the Space-Time Towers, the trio is taken to a garden where they meet Alice who was rescued by Darkrai as a child and is one of the only people who isn’t scared of it. Tonio has a hundred-year-old diary of his grandfather’s that foretells of two legendaries that will fight in the space-time rift and destroy Alamos Town.
Alice’s grandmother, Alicia, had befriended Darkrai and played ‘Oracion’ to settle it by using a leaf as an instrument. This trait and song were passed down to Alice who does the same to Darkrai in the present. Palkia and Dialga, the legendaries mentioned in the diary, cause a rift in the middle of town which sends Tonio into a frenzy to find a solution. Then, Palkia emerges into town to escape Dialga, only for the entirety of Alamos Town to be moved into a separate dimension for the two to finish their fight. Finally, our heroes realize they have to play ‘Oracion’ through the Space-Time Towers, and after Pikachu and Pachirisu power it up, the song rings out and calms everyone as Palkia returns the town to how it was.
6. Arceus And The Jewel Of Life (2009)
Ash, Dawn, and Brock arrive in Michina town, a town made beautiful by the Jewel of Life. They meet Sheena, a girl with the ability to communicate with Pokémon telepathically. When the legendary Pokémon Arceus appears, it starts a meteor storm to pass bad judgment on humanity after a betrayal at the hands of Sheena’s ancestor a thousand years ago. When Dialga appears and helps the gang travel back in time, they right the wrongs done to Arceus and are brought back to the present having made a friend in the legendary and saving the world.
This movie had time travel involved in its main plot and it was executed completely differently which was interesting to see. Instead of time travel being one of the catalysts, it served as the solution to our hero’s problem. There was also Sheena’s ability to communicate with Pokémon, seeing a human with special abilities like that was a new aspect of Pokémon lore that was a fun addition to the world. There were just a lot of little things about this movie that made it unique, plus it was the culmination of all three Sinnoh movies which was incredible.
5. The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (1999)
Not only is Mewtwo Strikes Back the first movie, but it’s also one of the most iconic in terms of both plot and characters. Mewtwo was created using Mew’s DNA, and scientists thought of it as a huge success. With rage and confusion fueling him, he destroys the lab and declares his hatred for humans, fleeing. Months later, Pokémon trainers begin to receive invitations to face the strongest trainer around and they fight through a massive storm to get there.
While a lot of love for the first movie comes from nostalgia, it also has a deeper meaning and truly holds a lot of impactful and memorable moments. Like other Pokémon movies, Mewtwo Strikes Back hides a message about rebuilding trust behind the fantasy world of Pokémon. Even more than that though, this movie solidified Ash Ketchum as an amazing character. Ash turning to stone after stepping between Mew and Mewtwo is something no one can forget, that plus the clone Pokémon battling one another are some of the most iconic scenes in an animated movie.
4. Pokémon 4Ever – Celebi: Voice Of The Forest (2002)
The legendary Pokémon Celebi is being attacked by a hunter when a young man, Sam, steps in to protect it. To escape, Celebi travels forty years into the future, bringing Sam with it. In the present, we find Ash, Misty, and Brock in a forest village being told about Celebi as a warning before continuing their journey. Sam and Celebi appear, but the Pokémon runs away, leaving an unconscious Sam in the village. Our main trio, along with Sam, go searching for Celebi to take it to the Lake of Life to heal its wounds. During their time together, Ash and Sam bond over their love and compassion for Pokémon. This is interrupted by a member of Team Rocket known as The Marauder.
The Marauder captures Celebi using a dark ball, and at his command, Celebi starts to destroy the forest until Ash and Sam come to its rescue. While they save the forest, it seems it’s too late for Celebi, even when Suicune purifies the Lake of Life to heal the Pokémon. This is where the iconic scene of all of the Celebis across time come to revive Celebi in this timeline. From the music to the pure joy on each character’s face, it’s a beautiful way to end the movie. That’s not the end though, instead, Sam is sent back to his own time and Ash tells Professor Oak about his adventures. The professor assures Ash that Sam will always remember him before ending the call, and then the scene pans to Sam’s drawing journal in Professor Oak’s lab, implying Professor Oak and Sam are the same person.
3. Pokémon 2000: The Power of One (2000)
Onto one of the original three Pokémon movies, The Power of One kind of steps out of the box in terms of the other Pokémon movies we’ve seen. It has a different course of action, so rather than Ash helping the legendary do something, this one focuses more on Ash needing to fulfill different tasks to save the world. In one of the only movies without Brock, we see Tracey replace him as the trio are now in the Orange Islands, more specifically Shamouti. When our heroes crash on the shore, there’s a festival going on, and the festival’s maiden, a girl named Melody, chooses Ash as the chosen one. His mission is to get the crystal ball from each legendary bird’s island; Zapdos, Moltres, and Articuno. Then, he must bring them back to Shamouti and place them at the shrine so Melody can play the song of Lugia which will bring peace to the Orange Islands.
While Ash is trying to collect the crystal balls, an evil Pokémon collector, Lawrence III, is trying to collect the Legendary Birds themselves, hoping to awaken Lugia in the process. He succeeds in capturing Moltres which disrupts the climate as the birds help to balance it out. Ash gets caught along with Zapdos by Lawrence III. Now that he has two of the legendary birds, the Earth’s weather is going crazy which awakens Lugia. Ash and his friends manage to bring down Lawrence’s ship, releasing Zapdos and Moltres. Articuno then comes and the three wage an all-out war against each other. Lugia has to communicate with Ash that he must finish his mission in order to save the world. Ash agrees, obtaining the ball from Articuno’s island and returning them all to Shamouti as Melody plays Lugia’s song, ending the climate crisis and saving everyone.
2. Lucario And The Mystery Of Mew (2005)
When Ash wins Cameron Palace’s contest, he is rewarded a staff that belonged to a legendary hero. Unbeknownst to him, the Pokémon Lucario is trapped inside and released when mistaking Ash for the hero, Sir Aaron. Confused and scared, the Pokémon attacks until Ash is able to calm him down and explain what’s going on.
Meanwhile, the legendary Pokémon, Mew is playing with the other Pokémon when attacked. Mew transports back to the Tree of Beginning and takes Pikachu with it. Our heroes follow Mew to save Pikachu, only to be met with the tree’s defense Pokémon. Mew stops them, which disrupts the tree’s energy and starts its self-destruction. Lucario and Ash, who have an aura bond with each other, use their auras to stop the self-destruction and save the tree, as well as Mew. At the last minute, Lucario sacrifices himself to save Ash, which is what Sir Aaron did for the Pokémon all those years ago.
1. The Spell Of The Unknown (2001)
Molly Hale lost her mother when she was a baby, and now at eight, she loses her father to Pokémon research involving the mysterious Unknown. After making a wish for her father to return, it is granted by the Unknown. Her father appears, but not as he once was, but instead as the legendary Pokémon Entei. Both she and the Pokémon believe it’s her father, and all is well again until she needs a Mother… And a nicer house… And eventually, nothing is enough. Ash Ketchum enters the story when Entei abducts his mother to be Molly’s new guardian. Along with Brock and Misty, Ash must fight through Molly’s dreams and the spell of the unknown to save his mother and a little girl in mourning.
Entei and Molly feel threatened and so they defend their home by wishing for Molly to be old enough to battle, “If that is what you wish.” is Entei’s famous response to all of her requests. Misty and Brock face off against Molly as she ages from eight to ten, and soon enough ten to sixteen with her own powerful team of Pokémon. What makes The Spell of the Unknown so entertaining is all of the tricks the Unknown and Molly are able to pull off. We get to see her and Misty battle underwater where they can breathe, plus Brock faces off against an older and prettier version of Molly which we all know is his weakness. From the exciting battles, the core theme of family, and even the return of Charizard, The Spell of the Unknown is undoubtedly the best Pokémon movie.