Was Pokemon: The First Movie Actually Good? – GameRant


  • Pokemon is a massively successful media franchise that extends beyond video games, including merchandise, mobile games, trading cards, and animated series and movies.
  • Pokemon: The First Movie, while beloved by fans for its darker themes and mature elements, received negative reviews from critics upon release due to poor dubbing and contradictory messaging.
  • The movie is considered a great Pokemon movie by fans, but from a critical perspective, it may not meet the standards of a high-quality film. However, fans are allowed to enjoy it for what it is.

Pokémon is an absolute cultural juggernaut. While at its core it is a video game series first and foremost, it exists as a media franchise on a much larger scale than the majority of video games can hope to match. It is, in fact, the highest grossing media franchise of all time. Far beyond just the console games, this is also thanks to Pokémon’s copious amounts of merchandise, mobile games, trading cards, and of course, the anime and movies based on the franchise.

The first of those movies, Pokémon: The First Movie, was an instant hit among the fanbase and remains a thoroughly beloved piece of the Pokémon franchise to this day. Critics, however, were famously not nearly as fond of the picture as fans were, something that fans have been remarkably unhappy about over the years. So the question is, was Pokémon’s first step onto the big screen actually a success?

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The First Pokemon Movie


Kunihiko Yuyama


Takeshi Shudo

Release Date

July 18, 1998

Rotten Tomatoes Score


Metacritic Score


Pokémon was unleashed upon the world in 1996, with Pocket Monsters Red and Green releasing in Japan, followed by Pokémon Red and Blue releasing in the rest of the world months later. A year later, the anime series based on the video games was released. The Pokémon anime only loosely followed the plot of the games, featuring original human characters with a completely different story. Following the success of both the games and show, in 1998, Pokémon became an unprecedented worldwide sensation, in a phenomenon dubbed Pokémania. What’s important is that while the game series sold incredibly well and was undoubtedly a huge part of the craze, Pokémania was more centered around the anime.

Of the huge assortment of Pokémon products made during this period, ranging from official handbooks, to toy Pokédex’s, to board games, to even an official stage musical, nearly all of them were primarily based on the anime and featured Ash and friends. For a while, the anime was what most people knew Pokémon from. A frequently airing cartoon was simply much easier to access than a series of RPG’s on the GameBoy. Even to this day, when a lot of people think of Pokémon, they think of Ash Ketchum. The prominence of the show has died down over time, and today the video games are undoubtedly the keystone of the franchise. However, there is no denying that the Pokémon show was a huge driving force that made the series popular to begin with, and the first movie was a huge part of that.

Pokémon: The First Movie was, as expected, based off the anime and not the video games. It focuses on the legendary Pokémon Mewtwo, a clone of the first Pokémon, Mew, and his plan to seek revenge on humanity. He lures powerful Pokémon trainers, including Ash, Misty, and Brock, to his island and steals their Pokémon in order to clone them. The movie took a relatively mature tone compared to the usual series, with elements such as Ash’s near demise and the traumatic creation of Mewtwo. It also featured fun battle scenes and the show’s typical humor, and thus became a huge hit financially, elevating the Pokémon brand even further.

Was Pokemon: The First Movie Actually Good?

Mew-Two from the Pokemon movie.

Pokémon: The First Movie is beloved among fans, considered by many to this day to still be the best Pokémon movie ever made. The Pokémon community seems to love the film for its darker themes and more mature elements. Quotes from Mewtwo and Meowth about judging people based off of their actions and looking past their differences are still often quoted and even used as yearbook quotes by fans. They love the compelling portrayal of Mewtwo, the moving moment of Ash’s revival, and the respectful overall treatment the movie gives to Pokémon.

The critical consensus for the movie, however, has never been nearly as positive as the fan reception. Upon release in America, the film was given negative reviews on the basis of being poorly dubbed, contradictory in its messaging, and overly childish. The movie has a critical score of only 16% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metascore of 35%. The poor critical reception has often been bitterly brought up by fans, who use it to call critics out of touch, pretentious, or unable to have fun with movies. So, who’s correct? Is Pokémon: The First Movie good or bad?

The answer is that both are true, depending on what the person watching it is looking for. Pokémon: The First Movie excels at being a Pokémon movie. It treats the source material with respect, it features a lot of fun battle scenes and a lot of different Pokémon, and it goes darker than would be standard for the target audience of children. There are a lot of positives there, and if someone went into the movie as a Pokémon fan looking for a good Pokémon movie, they would likely get a lot of enjoyment out of it as millions of other Pokémon fans have over the years.

With that being said, it’s fair to say that in the grand scheme of cinema, Pokémon: The First Movie is somewhat underwhelming, at least from the perspective of a film critic judging movies to a more artistic standard. It’s a movie specifically made to appeal to Pokémon fans, which consequentially means there’s not much to enjoy if the viewer is unfamiliar with the series. And as the target audience for Pokémon is children, it is still very much a children’s movie in spite of the attempt at a more mature tone. Moments like Ash being revived by the tears of Pokémon, while touching, could also be considered a bit cheesy by some. The English release had its maturity level cut down, with changed dialogue, an omitted Mewtwo monologue at the beginning, and a cut prologue showing Mewtwo’s traumatic creation. The movie’s main theme is also undeniably messy. Making the point that Pokémon shouldn’t be made to fight each other is a strange decision to make in a franchise completely focused on the creatures battling one another. It actually damages the perception of the series as a whole, making some wonder if Pokémon really do enjoy battling as fans would be led to believe.

There has been a strange phenomenon in recent years of fans taking issue with poor reviews for franchise films, citing these reviews as evidence that fans are out of touch. The Five Nights at Freddy’s movie is a perfect example; the movie was beloved by fans, but received a subpar critical reception, which outraged some people who enjoyed the film. What people as a whole should come to realize is that there is a difference between liking a movie and thinking a movie is good.

Not every movie needs to be made with the intent of becoming an enduring classic or an Oscar winner. Some films are made to be fun, simple, and appealing to a very specific group of people. If a movie is made based off of a popular franchise or property made mostly for children, there’s a high chance it will not be an objectively high quality film. And that’s perfectly fine! Fans of that property can see a movie full of references and nods to the series they love, and enjoy it for what it is.

A movie critic will not watch the film in the same way. They’ll be watching it the same way they’d watch any movie, looking for certain marks of high quality that probably won’t be present in something like Five Nights at Freddy’s or Pokémon: The First Movie. This doesn’t mean that critics are out of touch, it means that they’re doing their jobs correctly. What this also means, however, is that no one should ever feel like they can’t enjoy a movie just because it wasn’t reviewed well. People are allowed to like different types of media for different reasons. Pokémon: The First Movie may not be an excellent movie. It is, however, a great Pokémon movie, and that’s more than enough for a lot of people who love Pokémon.



Pokemon is a franchise that needs no introduction. One of the most successful media empires in history, Pokemon spans games, television, films, manga, merchandise, music, and more.

Created by
Satoshi Tajiri

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