For years, YouTube video essayists have worked tirelessly to definitively find the best Pokémon movie. With Ash Ketchum’s journey as a forever 10-year-old protagonist finally coming to an end, I took it upon myself to figure out the true answer, once and for all. 

Historically, this field of study has been fraught with bias, rooted in reviewers’ nostalgia for whatever their favorite Pokémon movie was as a child. Others are too critical, choosing to grade films on their actual quality instead of their ability to market children a world of portable magical creatures with limitless power. My scientific rating system avoids these pitfalls by awarding points based on the following categories: bad guys, movie-exclusive characters, main character growth, Pokémon marketing, and actual film quality. 

For my own sanity, I chose to focus on only anime spin-off films, bringing the total number of feature length films from 24 to 19. Of those, here are the very worst and the very best. For the full ratings, visit our website at

The Worst Five:

5. Pokémon: The Movie 2000 – The Power of One (1999) – 19/50

Most of this movie focuses on Ash dealing with being ‘the Chosen One’ and having to save the world alone. Points were awarded for character growth and interesting side characters, but in terms of Pokémon marketing, it falls woefully short. Plus, the title alone is bad enough to make the bottom five.

4. Pokémon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown (2000) – 18/50

“Spell of the Unown” came out just a year after “The Power of One,” and while it managed to do better on Pokémon marketing, it was still very mediocre overall. The most interesting part of this movie is the antagonist, Molly, a distraught child whose parents have gone missing. When given unlimited power, Molly attempts to recreate her broken family, abducting Ash’s mom in the process. It’s a compelling concept, but unfortunately Molly is also extremely annoying.

3. Pokémon: Giratina & the Sky Warrior (2008) – 17/50

I hate it when legendary Pokémon talk for no reason. It completely breaks the immersion and destroys any mystique or majesty they’d otherwise have. This movie is the perfect example. The titular ‘Sky Warrior’ is Shaymin, a mythical Pokémon unfortunately caught in an interdimensional conflict between gods. Shaymin is a tiny hedgehog covered in flowers, and it would be extremely cute if a third of the film’s running time wasn’t dedicated to it being a whiny, ungrateful brat. By the end of this movie, I was ready to punt Shaymin like a football.

2. Pokémon: Jirachi — Wish Maker (2003) – 16/50

I had high hopes for this one! It’s the first movie where Ash isn’t the main character, instead choosing to focus on Max, a character that’s usually just comedic relief. Unfortunately, this movie is weirdly low-budget compared to the rest of the films. Jirachi is adorable, but the pacing is slow and the animation is lackluster. Worst of all, there isn’t a single fun Pokémon battle! In the entire movie!

1. Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice (2012) – 6/50

This movie doesn’t have a single redeeming feature. The main character is Keldeo, a horse with the color scheme of Crest toothpaste and the voice of a prepubescent middle schooler. The plot consists of a single battle between two legendary Pokémon. Ash and friends show up at some point, but play fairly minor roles in the “story.” We barely see any other Pokémon, which is really the bare minimum for a movie about Pokémon. By the end of this film, I deeply regretted all of my life’s choices.

art by: lyssa copeland

The Best Five:

5. Pokémon 4Ever: Celebi – Voice of the Forest (2001) – 34/50

A fan favorite, “Pokémon 4Ever” is a magical forest romp of time travel and the enduring power of friendship. It’s a knockout on Pokémon marketing, with a solid mix of adorable Pokémon shenanigans and fun, dynamic battles. The cherry on top is the plot reveal at the very end of the movie, which blew the minds of elementary schoolers across the world. The only major flaw was with the animation, which featured some of the worst CGI to ever grace the screens of Cartoon Network.

4. Pokémon: Destiny Deoxys (2004) – 40/50

“Destiny Deoxys” features one of the franchise’s more compelling stories, tackling complex themes of trauma and recovery. It’s a surprisingly touching film! Its biggest strength is its colorful ensemble cast of movie-exclusive characters, which showcase a variety of trainers and Pokémon. There’s a minor character for every child to project onto here! 

3. Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (2006) – 40/50

“Temple of the Sea” has it all! Undercover spies! Pirates! Lore! A coherent plot! Just like Jirachi, Ash isn’t the main character. Instead, “Temple of the Sea” focuses on May, who forms a special bond with the Pokémon Manaphy. Manaphy is under hot pursuit by a crew of high-tech pirates, but luckily the Pokémon Rangers (action heroes slash park rangers) are here to save the day. In addition to being thoroughly entertaining, it’s a great ad for the Pokémon Ranger spin-off games.

2. Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (2005) – 42/50

“Lucario and the Mystery of Mew” is a pretty common pick for Top 5 Pokémon Movie lists. It has good writing, solid Pokémon marketing, and an unconventional bad guy. Those are all fair points, but the real reason this movie is great is because the gang goes to a renaissance fair and dresses up in fun little costumes. They dress up Pikachu like a court jester! It’s fantastic!

1. Pokémon the Movie: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel (2016) – 44/50

This movie was the last one on my list, and I nearly skipped it altogether. I’m glad I didn’t, because “Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel” manages to perfect the Pokémon movie formula like never before. For its brief 95 minutes, the film chooses to prioritize featuring as many Pokémon as it possibly can, using a variety of settings to showcase their different strengths and personalities. It doesn’t have the most compelling story or the best quality animation, but this movie sold the concept of Pokémon like no other. If I saw this movie as an eight-year-old, I would have begged my mom for every piece of Pokémon merchandise in the grocery store. And that’s what Pokémon movies are all about!

art by: lyssa copeland