Pokémon movies are a mixed bag if we’re being honest. They range from good to decent to “wow, this is beyond stupid and annoying”. Recently, I went and re-watched all the classic Pokémon movies from my childhood that were dubbed by 4Kids. As bad as the company was, it did inspire me and an entire generation of kids to get into anime. So I went a watched the seven Pokémon movies under the 4kids banner in a experience I regret immediately. Fair warning: Destiny Deoxys will not be making the list. Because it is legitimately my least favorite Pokémon movie. Time to take a trip down memory lane and separate the Charizards from the Luvdiscs. Here are the top 5 best classic Pokemon Movies:
5. Pokémon 4 Ever – Celebi: Voice of the Forest
It was a toss between this or Pokemon The Movie 2000. Lugia didn’t show up until halfway through his movie and I was given no reason to care whatsoever. What put 4ever ahead is a slightly better villain and the Professor Oak plot twist. Looking back, Pokemon 4ever is a decent story that could’ve been so much more yet is fine for what it is. 4ever introduces Celebi early on and focuses on Ash and Sam’s friendship against the Team Rocket Lieutenant. The concept of Dark Pokeballs is unique and interesting. Catching Pokemon and turning them evil is a concept players of Pokemon Colosseum & XD are familiar with. Maybe this movie gave inspiration to those cult favorite Gamecube Games?
The Iron Masked Marauder catches Celebi, turns it evil, and begins to destroy the forest before Ash and Sam save the day. Suicune also makes an appearance to help save Celebi’s life. I love that the movie is set deep within the forest and Ash forms a genuine bond with Celebi before helping it. Although Celebi’s time travel ability is not taken advantage of more which is super disappointing.
Celebi is cute, The Iron Masked Marauder is hilariously cheesy, and Sam being revealed as Professor Oak is the one reason people remember this movie. That honestly would have been really interesting if the anime explored it into the Johto Season. Imagine a Professor Oak anime prequel season? I would watch that in a heartbeat. It’s honestly par for the course for the Pokémon series to not live up to their true potential.
4. Lucario and The Mystery of Mew
THE AURA IS WITH HIM
This flick is terrifying. After the gang arrives at the Tree of Beginning. Things get scary real quick. Ash, May, Max, and Brock die from the tree’s antibodies. Mew brings them back of course. However, Mew becomes infected as so Lucario sacrifices himself to save everyone and dies in the same spot where his master, Sir Aaron, perished.
I love that Ash’s main goal is to rescue Pikachu. And that comes into conflict since Sir Aaron “abandoned” Lucario. It shows how loving and trusting those closest to oneself can solve any problem. But seriously though this film is messed up and I love it. If the blobs murdering the cast isn’t enough to scare you. Then the terrifying Regi trio will be.
This film starts off slow and boring. Then it kicks into overdrive once the Regis attack and the gang races against time. Lucario is fantastic and his bond with Ash provided fans years of wanting him own a Lucario. I honestly recommend watching this movie now that Ash finally has a Lucario of his own. The action scenes are great and the connection between Ash and Lucario drive this movie’s emotional conflict.
3. Mewtwo Strikes Back
Alright let’s get into it. Mewtwo Strikes Back sparks a huge debate in quality. Some people say it is the best Pokémon movie of all time. Others say it’s overrated. And some will say it is flat out bad all together. There is a lot to love, and hate, about Pokémon The First Movie.
Mewtwo is one of the top villains in series history. The scope is certainly larger than other Poké-flicks. We get the appearance of Gen 2 Pokémon. And this movie has the luxury of buildup with teases from the Anime. Mewtwo’s backstory was haunting and sorrowful. It perfectly sets up Mewtwo as an antagonist and he remains far and away one of the better Poke-villains. This is the Pokemon movie that feels the most like a movie and it left a huge mark on the series. There’s a reason why it was given a CGI remake last year.
Yes, there are plenty of stupid elements as well. Ash turning to stone and the Pokémon crying to bring him back is insufferable. The hypocritical message of animal abuse is wrong when the series is practically dogfighting is ridiculous. However, I think Mewtwo Strikes Back remains an iconic piece of Pokemon hisroty and shaped the groundwork for future movies.
It also helps that the main legendary of the movie is a genuine character with emotional investment instead of a simple plot device. Mewtwo drives the plot with his thoughts an actions and that’s needed for us to care about him. Point is, even with the stupid moments, Mewtwo Strikes Back has just as many good moments as well and remains an iconic movie for Pokéfans.
2. Pokémon Heroes: Latios & Latias
While lacking in scope, Pokémon Heroes hits the ground running with exciting action and phenomenal music. Alto Mare is gorgeous to look at. And I personally like that the dub changed Annie & Oakley into Team Rocket Members. It’s a much better reason to explain their actions and makes them more natural antagonists.
Rather than being titans/gods. Latias & Latios are more relatable legendary Pokémon. We, the audience, care more about characters when they are more “human.” The tension ramps up after Latios is kidnapped and the pace keeps up well. Also Ash’s bond with Latias is certainly emotional.
Pokemon Heroes features goes all in on a fantastic Venice setting. Beautiful art mixed with classic anime battles. This film feels like an art painting at times and I love it. The film’s strongest aspect is that it goes with a thematic art style different from the tv series to make it more unique.
1. Spell of the Unown
The is the only Pokémon film I would say borderlines on greatness. How Spell of the Unown is not universally recognized as the best Poke-film of all time is beyond me. Pokemon The Movie 3 goes way and beyond expectations to deliver the quintessential Pokemon experience.
Everything about this movie is great. Molly Hale is a fantastic, relatable, and sympathetic antagonist. Instead of a generic villain wanting to take over/destroy the world. She is a little girl who only wants her parents back. The dub score is beautiful, the best out of any Pokémon movie bar none. It captivates a storybook environment that only adds to the experience rather than take away. Also Ash has a real reason to get involved in the plot when his mom is kidnapped.
I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about this flick. I absolutely love it. From the spectacular art, to the music, to the battles. Spell of the Unown is the best Pokemon movie 4kids ever dubbed. And it is without a doubt the best Pokemon movie ever made.
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