Every Single Pokémon Movie, Ranked From Worst to the Very Best
Gotta rank 'em all—every single Pokémon film, that is.
With the most recent entry into the Pokémon movie series, Secrets of the Jungle, having been out for nearly 2 years, it’s as good a time as any to explore the colorful and diverse world of Pokémon—especially in its many films that have released over the years. Starting with classics like the first ever Pokémon movie (1998) and going down to newer releases such as I Choose You! (2017). We present every Pokémon movie, ranked.
What is the best Pokémon movie? Keep in mind that this is all fairly subjective, so don’t feel bad if your favorite doesn’t rank high on the list. Additionally, spoilers are discussed in quite a few evaluations of each title, so be warned that if you haven’t seen any of these movies yet, plot details do follow. With that being said, here’s every Pokémon movie ranked worst to best.
25. Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution (2019)
Let’s be honest: This is one of those remakes that no one asked for, and it’s very easy to forget it exists. It’s not a novel idea to remake an old classic via CGI, but there’s something about this film that feels undeniably hollow. It’s easy to blame “nostalgia goggles” for why this re-adaptation feels off to most viewers, but there’s something about a classic film that can feel classic no matter the time period, and a big part of that is the animation style and feel of the score. A sudden remake of said movie in a new style can definitely feel both unwelcome and strange. Anyone wanting to relive the nostalgia is, for that reason, much better off watching the original film.
24. Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel (2016)
Though it was part of the discussion regarding leaks and spoilers for the (at the time) recent releases Pokémon X and Y, Volcanion is a very forgettable Pokémon, as it currently stand—and it did not help its case to be the subject of a movie involving itself and the Mythical Pokémon Magearna. Released nearly three years after X and Y came to the 3DS, this film is mostly dominated by sequences of Mega Evolution, a half-baked plot, and more focus on the newer Mythical Pokémon Magearna rather than Volcanion itself. Overall, this movie suffers from both bad timing and bad focus.
23. Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction (2014)
This feels like yet another film that is easily forgotten in the minds of Pokémon film enjoyers. Though it is more recent in the history of Pokémon X and Y compared to the previous movie on the list, Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction also suffers from a poor plot—though, in this case, the issue with the plot is it being linear and clichéd. During the movie, Diancie is tasked with saving her kingdom by learning to make a new Diamond Heart from life-giving Pokémon Xerneas. The resulting journey is very straightforward and leaves very little wiggle room for unexpected events or plot twists—which are a staple of many Pokémon films. Watching this movie will feel more like you’re in a Cocoon of Boredom.
22. Genesect and the Legend Awakened (2013)
Similar to Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel, this film also suffers from an overbearing focus on Mega Evolution. The difference between this film and Volcanion’s, though, is that a Mewtwo ends up using its Mega Evolution in this film—all to steal the show from the movie’s main focus, a rogue band of Genesect led by a Shiny Genesect. Though it can be easy to avert one’s eyes from the exact reasoning of why it’s included, Mewtwo in this movie feels more like a grab at nostalgia than a true inclusion for the plot’s sake or any kind of relevance.
21. Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006)
Similar to many of the other films this low on the ranking, this Manaphy-centered film meant to promote the Pokémon Ranger spinoff series feels half-baked and also holds a fairly linear plot. Much of this movie feels slow, as well, as if it itself were also swimming underwater. The pacing, execution, and other aspects of this film’s story don’t particularly feel special or interesting, hence its low ranking.
20. Victini and Zekrom / Victini and Reshiram (2011)
Although this film additionally suffers from a linear plot, it ranks sufficiently higher for a unique and interesting feature. Victini and Zekrom and Victini and Reshiram are effectively the same film, but with completely different aspects that differentiate them, just like the Pokémon games having multiple versions for each game. Even the other Pokémon Trainers that Ash and his friends meet in this movie are completely swapped around—with one fighting the other in either version, using either a Hydreigon or a Golurk. A unique and novel way of promoting the then-newly released Pokémon Black and Pokémon White versions, these two dual films, despite the plot feeling very basic, are elevated among the other low-rankers.
19. The Power of Us (2018)
This Zeraora-centered film is, although yet another one with a pretty basic plot, a fun romp for new and old fans alike. The highlight of this film is its action set pieces, as electric-powered Zeraora steals the screen whenever it appears. Though it still retains aspects of many of the more modern Pokémon movies, The Power of Us feels like a genuine return to form for those who are fans of the classic Pokémon movies and the early days of the games’ animated features.
18. Destiny Deoxys (2004)
For fans of long bouts of Pokémon fights interspersed with short breathers, Destiny Deoxys is a movie that almost entirely focuses on the seemingly eternal battle between alien lifeform Pokémon Deoxys and the guardian of the sky, Rayquaza. Though most of the fighting is beautifully animated and gives fans what they’re looking for, Destiny Deoxys ends on a very sudden note, giving little time for the fighting in the movie to draw to a satisfying close. Regardless, this film is one of the better ones within Pokémon’s repertoire.
17. Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias (2002)
Admittedly, most of us remember this film for the weird moment where Latias, disguised as a human girl, kisses Ash on the cheek. All strangeness aside, this unique film’s plot is wrapped very neatly in a bow, with lots of foreshadowing and unique sequences, as well as including unique appearances from lesser-known Team Rocket villains Annie and Oakley. While we’re climbing higher in the rankings, so it’s not really bad, this one doesn’t stand out as much as many other films on the list despite many of its unique traits.
16. Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice (2012)
Similar to its prior films Victini and Reshiram and Victini and Zekrom, this film’s primary antagonist, Kyurem, is able to switch freely between its new forms Black and White Kyurem, giving it an edge against the underdog hero Keldeo. The film focuses on Keldeo’s relationship with the Swords of Justice Cobalion, Terrakion, and Virizion, all while Keldeo comes into his own as a fighter. With plenty of Three Musketeers parallels to go around, Kyurem vs. the Swords of Justice takes its place as one of the better films in the Generation 5 era.
15. Hoopa and the Clash of Ages (2015)
Yet another film that is best known for its fight sequences, Hoopa and the Clash of Ages rings true as the ultimate nostalgia-centered film in the Pokémon pantheon, thanks to its central Mythical Pokémon Hoopa having the ability to use its hoops to summon Pokémon from across regions. The film also pulls its fair share of whimsy to keep things light in between the fight sequences. This film’s highest point is the final battle between Unbound Hoopa and Ash, where Ash rides on Mega Latios, Mega Latias, and a shiny Mega Rayquaza to confront the rampaging Hoopa. This film’s solid fight sequences give it a well-deserved higher rank.
14. Secrets of the Jungle (2020)
Though initially delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Secrets of the Jungle proved to be well worth the wait (and that Mythical Pokémon Zarude is more than just a Mojo Jojo lookalike). Though its plot is hardly original, most of this movie is interspersed with a coming-of-age story about a boy raised by a Zarude that gave up his life in the jungle to see to the boy’s wellbeing. The sweet side of Dada Zarude recalls the mythical but gentle nature of Legendary and Mythical Pokémon in earlier films, giving this film a high spot.
13. Giratina and the Sky Warrior (2008)
Further recalling the mythical but gentle nature of Legendary and Mythical Pokémon, Giratina and the Sky Warrior comes with the complete package of a powerful Pokémon causing both harm and help (namely Giratina), and the small but spry Shaymin trying to get back home with its kind. Add in the cool-looking, debonair villain Zero, and an iconic film beyond Pokémon’s earliest years is born. It’d be hard not to want to take a ride on a Pokémon like Giratina after watching this wonderful film.
12. The Rise of Darkrai (2007)
Though many Pokémon films use the catch-all of catastrophe for their main conflicts, The Rise of Darkrai takes a different approach by blending a misunderstood Pokémon with a world-ending conflict. The film also blends said misunderstood Pokémon Darkrai’s source of comfort, the song Oracion, with the ultimate solution to said world-ending conflict, that being the “forbidden conflict” between opposing forces Dialga and Palkia. There is a constant sense of dread and danger in this film, even until the very end, though everything ultimately works out. This film stands out as yet another that follows the tried-and-true formula of what makes Pokémon films look and feel great.
11. Arceus and the Jewel of Life (2009)
The last film within the Generation 4 era of Pokémon uses its prior films as sources of continuity while also blending the past and the present in the form of both time travel and including references to the then-upcoming remakes of the Johto region, Heart Gold and Soul Silver. The film also closely follows the same form of time-travel and adventure that HG and SS used for one of their in-game events: taking an Arceus to the Ruins of Alph to receive one of the Creation Trio: Palkia, Dialga, or Giratina. The cherry on top is that retrieving said Jewel of Life is accomplished specifically with Arceus’s unique gimmick of using Plates to change type.
10. I Choose You! (2017)
For fans of the original anime, I Choose You! is a fond trip down memory lane that mixes the old with the new. Loosely based around the first episode of the anime where Ash meets Pikachu and struggles to gain his trust, this reimagining of the early anime, unlike Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution, does not feel forced and fits right in with the new Mythical Pokémon Marshadow being introduced and causing events in this alternate timeline to go awry, including giving us a bizarre “nightmare vision” sequence where Ash lives in a world without Pokémon. This more unique take on the original source of nostalgia (with just as much tears thrown in) is a welcome entry into the list of Pokémon films.
9. Mewtwo Returns (2001)
Although imperfect in many places, this sequel to the first-ever Pokémon movie addresses many points that were left out of the end of the first movie—and gives us proper closure on the character arc set up for Mewtwo in the first movie. We also get some proper time onscreen to confront animated adversary Giovanni, who, prior to this film and the first one, was almost never seen in the anime. Finally, we get to see Mewtwo having a softer side to him—and finally getting to feel like he’s a real Pokémon.
8. Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (1999)
Most of us probably walked away with this movie with the question in mind of how to get our own baby Lugia, but this film stands out for having two separate parts : the main event, The Power of One, and a 20-minute short featuring all the Pokémon at camp. The film also marks the proper cinematic debut of Kanto’s Legendary trio of birds, connecting them to Lugia with the explanation of weather involved. We also get to see a Legendary Pokémon being benevolent towards human beings initially, rather than as a learned idea, for the first time—something that would soon set the template for most other Pokémon movies to follow.
7. Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
A live-action Pokémon movie sounds like it would be a disaster on paper, but as it turned out, this adaptation of spinoff game Detective Pikachu was a smash success. Between well-adapted versions of Pokémon across many regions, a simple plot that’s easy to follow, and a proper ‘whodunit’-type story mixed with action and nostalgic beats from the first Pokémon movie, and this spinoff has proven that video game movies can still easily hold their own, no matter the franchise. In fact, Detective Pikachu topped Lara Croft as the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time, only beaten out by Uncharted and Sonic the Hedgehog a couple years later. If that’s not testament to a high-quality film, we’re not sure what is.
6. Pokémon: The First Movie (1998)
Let’s face it: You just can’t beat the classics. In an era when Pokémon was still finding its footing as a potential super-popular franchise, the pressure to create a movie that would rope in fans was understandably high. From the efforts of 24 years ago came this classic as a result: an overpowering villain, a tragic past, a sad moment that brings everyone together, and the ultimate redemption of the Genetic Pokémon, Mewtwo. It’s hard not to hear his iconic words still rattling around in our heads even after all these years. Pokémon: The First Movie was the film that ultimately set in stone the standards that every other movie since has hopefully attempted to follow.
5. Pokémon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown (2000)
Yet another iconic film that recalls the era of the classics, Spell of the Unown is an equally mystifying and interesting film that takes a look at a seemingly insignificant Pokémon, Unown, while also giving us an interesting take on a Legendary Pokémon being the villain—that being Entei. With magic and all manner of bizarre nonsense in play, this unique film creates stakes that are less disastrous, but still feel fun and interesting. Spell of the Unown for all these reasons is a must-watch for any Pokémon fan.
4. Jirachi – Wish Maker (2003)
This film is remembered most for its exceedingly high stakes, the ridiculous power of Jirachi’s Doom Desire, and a super-freaky-looking antagonist in the form of Virus Groudon. With most of the action and unique set pieces taking place at night, this film encapsulates the chaos of what everything happening in one night can feel like while also creating some believable and catastrophic stakes for our heroes to follow. Jirachi – Wish Maker stands above other films for the chaos that so well encapsulates what it can feel like to encounter Legendary and Mythical Pokémon.
3. Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (2005)
While most people will point to films like The First Movie or I Choose You! as being the saddest, many fans know that Lucario and the Mystery of Mew is also a high contender. This film also stands as one of the best films in the franchise. Unlike many other films in the Pokémon repertoire that have attempted to address the themes of grief and tragedy, Lucario and the Mystery of Mew is arguably the one that does it the best. Though it may seem like a rehash of Mewtwo gaining his trust in humans, Lucario’s arc in this film is undeniably touching, and cements Lucario as one of our favorite Pokémon in many ways. (Also, is it potentially possible that Sir Aaron and Riley are related? The world may never know …)
2. Zoroark – Master of Illusions (2010)
Out of all the films on this list, this is the only one within the main animated line of films that does not focus its attention on Legendary Pokémon, but rather, a Pokémon that can imitate their appearances: Zoroark. Much of this film’s praise comes for its focus on the iconic mother-daughter relationship between Zoroark and Zorua, who are separated for most of the movie but are later reunited after the villain, Kodai, does many despicable things to both of them, including tricking Zoroark into thinking that he’s holding Zorua hostage. Thankfully, everything works out in the end, and the two Pokémon are finally properly reunited. This film is a must-watch for any Pokémon fan—especially considering Zorua and Zoroark’s popularity as Pokémon.
1. Pokémon 4Ever: Celebi – Voice of the Forest (2001)
Quite possibly the ultimate Pokémon movie, Celebi – Voice of the Forest is beautifully iconic in so many ways. Using Celebi’s time travel abilities as its main focus, this film has all kinds of great details—from the Dark Balls being a parallel to the Colosseum games and XD’s Shadow Pokémon (admittedly before the games even were an idea) to the little kid Ash helps out turning out to be a younger version of Professor Oak, Celebi – Voice of the Forest is a perfect film in so many ways that it reaches the very top of this list for being such a wonderfully complete Pokémon film. Every single Pokémon movie is ranked here, from worst to best. If you want to know what Pokémon movies what to watch, and what not to watch, look no further.
(featured image: The Pokémon Company)
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