Fullmetal Alchemist was one of the most popular anime franchises in the 2000s, becoming a staunch part of that era's wave of anime fandom. The franchise's popularity saw it get the usual foray of video games, toys and other peripheral merchandise associated with the well-known series' -- including two films.
Like most shonen anime, the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise added movies to its roster of content -- though not nearly as many as other series, like, Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece. Also, unlike those series' movies, the FMA films were not entirely outside of the continuity. Despite their potential importance, neither are mentioned much whenever the franchise is discussed, making their quality somewhat questionable. Here's the rundown on what the movies are about and whether fans should check them out.
Conqueror of Shamballa
The franchise's first film, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa, was released in 2005 and bucked the usual anime trend of being non-canon. The movie takes place after the end of the original 2003 anime series and is that timeline's proper canonical close. It deals with Edward Elric's fallout after sacrificing his body and soul to save his brother, Alphonse, with his penance involving being taken to a parallel world governed by science instead of alchemy.
Edward fights desperately to find a way back home from a parallel Earth -- where he finds himself in 1920s Germany -- encountering people who heavily resemble those from his past. Meanwhile, Alphonse continues trying to bring his brother back while the post-World War I German society grows incredibly restless in the wake of their defeat in the other world. This causes the Thule Society to seek out arcane means to empower their fallen nation once again.
The film was well-received upon its original release, namely, feeling like a satisfactory and worthy ending to the anime series. The primary complaint was the lack of thematic depth or topical discussion compared to the show, which makes sense given the shorter time frame. This time frame also cut down from how long the film was initially meant to be, explaining the criticism. However, outside of this, fans and critics enjoyed it, and it should be watched to understand the show's true ending.
The Sacred Star of Milos
The second animated movie was 2011's The Sacred Star of Milos, released after Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Despite this, it isn't as clean-cut into canon as the first movie was and is much more of a side story. The story is filled with movie-exclusive characters, which further cements it as filler in some fans' eyes.
The plot has Edward and Alphonse helping a woman named Julia Crichton, who hopes to restore the glory of her village, Milos, in the face of the oppressive tyranny they face from the nation Creta. The Milos rebellion eventually involves the artifact that the brothers have been seeking all along -- the philosopher's stone -- causing them to question their place in the battle.
The film arguably takes place around Episode 21 of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, which itself was a much closer adaptation of the manga. The two versions caused some to question whether or not to watch the original series, and the idea of new adaptations to closer match the source material has become a trend in anime. However, this hasn't necessarily engendered The Sacred Star of Milos into being a must-watch among the fandom.
The Sacred Star of Milos received positive reviews and is generally well-liked, but its filler status makes it much easier to skip than the conclusive Conqueror of Shamballa. Fans also criticized its more rounded art style, which likely added to the sense that it was an unnecessary side project within the wider canon. While it's still worth watching, it can be more easily missed than its predecessor.