The 5 Best Anime-Inspired Hollywood Movies

It’s no secret that Hollywood takes inspiration from Japanese anime. But did you know how many hit films aren’t entirely original?

Anime is now a cultural phenomenon that transcends boundaries and captivates viewers all over the world. From Pokémon to Attack on Titan, there is a wide range of genres, so there is something for everyone.

Anime is relatively new to Western audiences. Three Tales was the first anime film to air in the United States in 1960, followed by Instant History (1961–63) and Astro Boy (1963–66). However, in recent decades it has had a profound impact on Hollywood culture.

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So here are five of the biggest Hollywood titles inspired by popular anime series.

Top 5 Anime-Inspired Hollywood Blockbusters

From Disney classics to Oscar winners, did you know the secret source material behind these five films?

1. The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion

If you ask anyone at Disney, they’ll probably say they’ve never heard of, let alone seen, Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba the White Lion. But that doesn’t change the striking similarity between Disney’s 1994 The Lion King and 1966’s Kimba the White Lion – even The Simpsons pointed it out.

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The similarities don’t stop with the names Kimba and Simba. Since the Disney hit film was first released, there have been repeated allegations of plagiarism.

Just like The Lion King, Kimba the White Lion follows the journey of a young lion cub to become king of the jungle. But it’s the animation that draws the most comparisons, with familiar scenes like Mufasa sitting on Pride Rock and his ghost appearing later in the film Simba bearing an almost eerie resemblance to the earlier anime.

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Kimba the White Lion is available to watch on: Funimation.

2. Black Swan and Perfect Blue

The parallels between Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 Oscar-winning film Black Swan and Satoshi Kon’s 1997 Perfect Blue are not as obvious as those between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion. However, there are enough similarities to make fans wonder if they’re more than a coincidence.

Both films are psychological thrillers in which a female protagonist struggles with the pressures of her job (Black Swan’s Nina is a ballerina and Perfect Blue’s Mima is an idol). Essentially, both films are about a psychological battle that blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

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But it’s not just that. Despite some plausible deniability regarding the plot, fans cannot overlook the fact that Aronofsky owns the American remake rights for the anime. Additionally, keen observers have noticed that several scenes in Black Swan bear a striking resemblance to those in Perfect Blue, although Aronofsky denies any influence from the anime.

Perfect Blue is available to watch: Amazon Prime Video

3. Pacific Rim and Neon Genesis Evangelion

In the 1990s, Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion helped anime recover from a massive industry slump. More than 30 years later, it has been winning awards and inspiring art ever since.

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So Pacific Rim and Neon Genesis Evangelion are both science fiction classics about machines fighting monsters. But the plot comparisons don’t stop there. The premise behind the two films is incredibly similar, both revolving around military coalitions banded together to create giant robots to fight aliens.

It might be a little unfair to say that Pacific Rim was directly inspired by Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, the influences in Del Toro’s blockbuster are so clear that you can cut and paste a Mecca anime until you finally get Pacific Rim.

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Neon Genesis Evangelion is available to watch on: Crunchyroll and Netflix

2. Inception and Paprika

Unlike the other entries on this list, Christopher Nolan is pretty open about his anime inspiration for the 2010 film Inception – Satoshi Kon’s 2006 film Paprika.

Both films are about dream manipulation technology, where organizations enter people’s dreams to influence their minds. However, the films are so similar that fans are taking to Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr (and pretty much every other online platform you can think of) to compare and contrast them. Why? Because many fans feel that the line between inspiration and plagiarism has been crossed.

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Paprika is available to view on: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

1. The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell

It’s no surprise to anime fans that the 1999 hit film The Matrix was inspired by the 1995 anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

Although the stories are very different, both films have similar cyberpunk themes and strong visual similarities. You could say that “The Matrix” is essentially an homage to its predecessor and is full of references that can’t be missed, including exploding watermelons, a green gradient and an infamous scene in which a woman falls from a great height through the City falls.

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In fact, these two films are so similar that fans have created many websites, podcasts, and even side-by-side comparison videos to discuss how many creative liberties the Wachowskis took.

Ghost in the Shell is available to watch on: Amazon Prime Video and Funimation

One of the most amazing things about the creative industry is how works of art can inspire other works of art, and that goes both ways. Hollywood takes its cues from anime, as seen in series such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, while anime draws inspiration from the West, as seen in works such as Little Witch Academia compared to the series The Worst Witch . This shows the limitlessness of creative media, providing fans with endless hours of entertainment (and in this case, discussion).

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Here’s how to watch Crunchyroll from outside your location in 2023

Crunchyroll is the world’s best hub for streaming anime, whether it’s One Piece, Attack on Titan or Jujutsu Kaisen – and thanks to ExpressVPN, you can access the platform’s full library even outside the US.

If you’re abroad, here’s what you need to do to access Crunchyroll’s entire selection – and it’s really that easy:

  1. Sign up for ExpressVPNwhich has ultra-fast servers and offers a secure, private connection anywhere in the world
  2. Connect to any location in the US. With Express VPN you can choose from 24 different locations, from New Jersey to Santa Monica
  3. Visit Crunchyroll online and stream all your favorite anime – and maybe some you’ve never seen

Access to Crunchyroll’s US roster makes a difference; For example, users in Hong Kong only have access to fewer than 100 titles, while in the US there are almost 1,000 movies and TV shows.

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You can also stream anime on Crunchyroll for free with an ad-supported plan, or pay for a subscription – there’s even a 14-day free trial if you can’t quite decide.

While you’re here, check out some of our other anime reviews here.

Please note that we may receive a small affiliate commission if you click on a product link on this page.

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a Nytimas U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined Nytimas in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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