All The Studio Ghibli Movies RANKED


Arguably the greatest animation studio in world cinema, Japan’s Studio Ghibli brought us 21 wonderful films over the course of 28 incredible years (1986-2014).

Ghibli movies are loved all over the world for their uniquely beautiful visual style, emotionally captivating storytelling and boundless imagination.

But how do all 21 films stack up against one another? Let’s find out as we see all the best Studio Ghibli movies RANKED.

21. Tales From Earthsea (2006)

ゲド戦記 / dir. Gorō Miyazaki

Arguably the only really poor film that Studio Ghibli has ever made, Tales From Earthsea is a roundly disappointing fantasy adventure.

Its animation is just as pretty as the rest of the studio’s films, but Tales From Earthsea‘s beauty is little more than skin deep. Its story is fairly uninspiring, lacking originality and above all imagination throughout, developing as a fairly generic action-adventure – worlds away from the countless moving odyssies that Ghibli is so well-known for.

Read a full review here.

20. Ponyo (2009)

崖の上のポニョ / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Placing Ponyo this low on the list might prove a little controversial, but it’s difficult to put the film on a par with some of Studio Ghibli’s true greats.

Certainly, its visuals are striking, and it tells a sweet tale of friendship akin to classics like Pinocchio and The Princess And The Frog. But other than that, it really doesn’t deliver the emotional resonance its story aims for, languishing for the majority of its runtime before a strong but overdue final act.

Read a full review here.

19. Ocean Waves (1993)

海がきこえる / dir. Tomomi Mochizuki

The only Studio Ghibli film not to get an original theatrical release, romantic drama Ocean Waves made its debut on TV in 1993, and remains one of the studio’s outliers.

On the one hand, it’s far from perfect. Missing the majesty of the greatest Ghibli films, and equally proving frustrating in its depiction of an imperfect relationship, Ocean Waves isn’t neither an inspiring nor truly moving drama.

Yet on the other hand, it’s a down-to-earth, human drama like nothing else in the studio’s repertoire, stepping beyond fantasy and sun-baked nostalgia to deliver a striking, real-world tale of love and loss.

Read a full review here.

18. From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)

コクリコ坂から / dir. Gorō Miyazaki

A step up from Tales From Earthsea for director Gorō Miyazaki, From Up On Poppy Hill is a heartwarming tale of young love in post-war Japan.

Although hardly the most emotionally powerful watch, the film is innocent and kind-hearted in all the right ways, with a relaxing, calming atmosphere playing out alongside typically gorgeous visuals. It’s a little sappy, and doesn’t have the real-world emotional depth of some other Ghibli films, but it’s thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable nonetheless.

Read a full review here.

17. Only Yesterday (1991)

おもひでぽろぽろ / dir. Isao Takahata

A gorgeous portrait of nostalgia and memory, Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday is an under-appreciated gem of Studio Ghibli’s history.

It’s not a perfect film, and perhaps doesn’t deliver consistent emotional resonance all the way through, but it is a powerfully intimate portrayal of personal memory, as one woman looks back on her past and how quickly her life has developed up to the present day.

Tapping into universal sentiments of nostalgia and a longing for a forgotten childhood, Only Yesterday is deeply moving at its best moments, and certainly deserves a place as one of Ghibli’s most striking and offbeat works.

Read a full review here.

16. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya (2013)

かぐや姫の物語 / dir. Isao Takahata

Taking a step away from Studio Ghibli’s usual visual style, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya recounts classic Japanese folklore with stripped-down, pure animation.

Its visual simplicity is matched by a blissfully refreshing atmosphere, unfolding against a gorgeous natural landscape that harks back to a purer, simpler era.

Unfolding over 137 minutes, Princess Kaguya is a little overlong, undermining that blissful simplicity and making for an often disappointingly exhausting watch. It’s a gorgeous film, but not always the piece of pure beauty that it could have been.

Read a full review here.

15. Pom Poko (1994)

平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ / dir. Isao Takahata

Almost certainly one of the strangest films in Studio Ghibli’s catalogue, Pom Poko is filled with laughs and an engaging environmental message, but at times feels strangely trivial.

Of all Ghibli’s films, this is perhaps the closest the studio has got to a full-blown comedy. Its tongue-in-cheek humour and farce is brilliantly funny throughout, as we see a bunch of bumbling tanuki raccoons learning to master the ability of transformation – as is often said of the animals in Japanese folklore.

It also delivers a captivating and measured environmental message, about the destruction of natural habitat in exchange for urbanisation. Those two things about the film are excellent on their own, but when put together they do clash, and undermine what is at its core a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

Read a full review here.

14. The Cat Returns (2002)

猫の恩返し / dir. Hiroyuki Morita

Ghibli’s only sequel/spin-off, The Cat Returns builds on the lore of Whisper Of The Heart with boundless imagination and sweet, soothing atmosphere.

Much like many of the studio’s most famous films, The Cat Returns is a fantasy adventure, but it’s without a doubt the calmest, most pleasant film of the genre Ghibli have made.

With delightful parallels to The Wizard of Oz, the film tells the story of a girl whisked away to a magical kingdom where cats rule, only to desperately try and find a way back when she discovers her fate there is far from temporary.

Read a full review here.

13. When Marnie Was There (2014)

思い出のマーニー / dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Studio Ghibli’s final film, When Marnie Was There was a gorgeous send-off for one of cinema’s most beloved animation houses.

Blending the studio’s love for fantasy and intimate, kind-hearted storytelling, the film follows a young girl who befriends a mysterious girl while away in the countryside.

With a powerfully serene and almost reflective atmosphere, When Marnie Was There is one of Ghibli’s most mature yet still pure films. And with more beautiful animation than ever, it was a wonderful way to conclude 28 incredible years of filmmaking.

Read a full review here.

12. Castle In The Sky (1986)

天空の城ラピュタ / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

The very first film from Studio Ghibli, Castle In The Sky isn’t just a great film because of the legendary lineage it started, but because it’s a genuinely wonderful watch.

A soaring adventure that follows a young boy and girl who find themselves battling against pirates in a search for a magical floating castle, the film is a blissful but thoroughly entertaining watch from beginning to end. It may be simple, but its energy and boundless imagination make it an utter joy.

And with groundbreaking animation and steampunk style that has remained hugely influential to this day, Castle In The Sky was the perfect launching point for the beloved animation house that came to be known as Studio Ghibli.

Read a full review here.

11. Porco Rosso (1992)

紅の豚 / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

One of Hayao Miyazaki’s ultimate passion projects, Porco Rosso is a beautiful piece of work, bringing together the director’s undying love for planes and Italian folklore.

Its premise of a pilot cursed to look like a pig falling in love with a beautiful woman might sound strange at first, but the film delivers genuinely moving emotion alongside great humour, and an enjoyable and imaginative adventure throughout.

And you can feel Miyazaki’s passion being poured into the film at every moment. Its serene, quiet atmosphere makes it a pleasant watch, but the attention to detail and emotional depth is indicative of the director’s enormous love for storytelling.

Read a full review here.

10. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

ハウルの動く城 / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

One of the studio’s most universally-acclaimed films, Howl’s Moving Castle is a stunning show of imagination and emotion all rolled into one.

The heart-wrenching tale of a young woman who is cursed to be old, Howl’s Moving Castle takes you on an incredible adventure that’s imbued with powerful emotional resonance, centring on themes of regret, anxiety and self-confidence.

The film is more than just a quest to find a magical moving castle, with real worthy depth furthering its impact throughout – not to mention its utterly gorgeous visuals.

Read a full review here.

9. The Wind Rises (2013)

風立ちぬ / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s swansong, The Wind Rises is about as moving a conclusion to an incredible career as you can imagine.

Once again a love letter to aviation, the film tells the story of Jirō Horikoshi – designer of the legendary Mitsubishi Zero aircraft – and his personal life leading up to the Second World War and beyond. From a historical standpoint, The Wind Rises is one of Ghibli’s best films, but from an emotional perspective, it’s even better.

Miyazaki puts everything into this final film, using his skill in animation to turn a biography into a gorgeous, soaring tale of love, loss and ambition. It’s more than just a historical drama, but a powerfully moving, dynamic and deeply intimate story, and without a doubt a perfect send-off for one of cinema’s greatest directors.

Read a full review here.

8. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

魔女の宅急便 / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

One of Studio Ghibli’s purest and most pleasantly enjoyable adventures, Kiki’s Delivery Service is an absolutely delightful watch for all the family.

At its heart a gripping coming-of-age story – following a young witch who learns to fly on her own – the film is full of relatable, heartfelt and deeply powerful emotion that lends real depth to what on the surface may seem like a fluffy story.

But it’s that atmosphere of serene, pleasant joy that really makes Kiki such a memorable watch. It’s one of Ghibli’s best family films, and can be enjoyed either as a soothing adventure or a moving drama – and that changes as you grow up and discover more and more about it.

Read a full review here.

7. Whisper Of The Heart (1995)

耳をすませば / dir. Yoshifumi Kondō

Studio Ghibli has taken us to far-away worlds on so many incredible adventures. But Whisper Of The Heart proves that the same magic can be found right on your own doorstep.

With brief hallmarks of fantasy throughout, the film is first and foremost a down-to-earth, romantic drama, following the relationship between a boy and a girl who share a love for books.

The film’s animation is utterly gorgeous throughout – giving a magical yet still realistic and accurate portrayal of suburban Tokyo – but its true magic lies in its blissful atmosphere. Brimming with nostalgia for young love, Whisper Of The Heart is enormously pure, and will fill your heart with joy like few other films can ever do.

Read a full review here.

6. Princess Mononoke (1997)

もののけ姫 / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Perhaps the most striking fantasy film from the studio, Princess Mononoke is a stunning mix of traditional folklore, modern imagination and intensely powerful emotional depth.

An incredibly vibrant film that evolves like no other, Princess Mononoke is the epitome of Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki’s boundless capacity for imagination, portraying the tale of an endangered princess threatened as humans struggle to live in harmony with nature.

Focusing on powerful environmental themes as well as traditional Japanese folklore, the film is deeply engrossing from beginning to end. But even more so, with a darker, more intense atmosphere than many Ghibli films, it’s a genuinely hard-hitting watch, and undoubtedly one of the studio’s most striking works.

Read a full review here.

5. The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010)

借りぐらしのアリエッティ / dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi

A real hidden gem, The Secret World Of Arrietty is unfairly overlooked in many Studio Ghibli retrospectives.

Based on the classic story of The Borrowers, the film is a heartwarming and powerfully imaginative look at the life of a family of tiny people living in a human house. It touches on familiar Ghibli themes of balance between humanity and nature, and proves surprisingly moving as it demonstrates the danger of an imbalance in that regard.

But above all, the way the film takes such a familiar story and breathes fresh life into it is what makes it such a wonderful watch. It might just be Ghibli’s most beautiful and vibrant film, while its blend of the studio’s famed elegance and the excitement of the original tale make it an unforgettably gorgeous watch.

Read a full review here.

4. Spirited Away (2001)

千と千尋の神隠し / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Studio Ghibli’s most famous film around the world, Spirited Away‘s widespread acclaim isn’t without merit, nor is it countless awards wins – including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

A powerful tale of a young girl who is separated from her parents and falls into a life of slavery in a mysterious fantasy land, Spirited Away isn’t just an imaginative masterpiece, but an intensely engrossing and hard-hitting story that touches on numerous difficult and uncomfortable themes.

The film perfectly straddles the line between Ghibli’s family favourites and darker fantasy tales, but with truly beautiful animation, lighter moments, a powerfully elegant atmosphere and striking imagination, there’s never a dull moment in what is without a doubt one of the studio’s very best works of all.

Read a full review here.

3. My Neighbours The Yamadas (1999)

ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん / dir. Isao Takahata

The most offbeat film from Studio Ghibli’s copybook, My Neighbours The Yamadas not only strays away from the studio’s love for fantasy, but even changes up its trademark animation style.

But in changing things up, the film proves a wonderfully refreshing watch throughout. It’s a beautifully minimalist, down-to-earth story of an everyday suburban family, with relatable drama, a sweet heart and brilliant humour.

It definitely doesn’t aim for the same level of spectacle as you might typically expect from Ghibli, but My Neighbours The Yamadas is a true breath of fresh air, and a film so genuinely wonderful that it will make your heart soar and put an enormous smile on your face.

Read a full review here.

2. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

火垂るの墓 / dir. Isao Takahata

Simply put, Grave Of The Fireflies is one of the greatest films ever made.

Packing an emotional gutpunch like no other, all the while retaining the legendary elegance of Studio Ghibli throughout, this World War II drama is a heartbreaking tale of survival and lost innocence, told in truly gorgeous fashion.

The Ghibli animation lends the film its beautiful elegance – which comes to a head in its devastating but unforgettable finale – but the film’s insightful, compassionate and heartfelt eye for a young boy and girl doing their best as the world around them falls apart is what really makes it such a powerful watch. No matter how many times you watch Grave Of The Fireflies, tears will be streaming down your face, but it’s just a testament to what a true masterpeice this film is.

Read a full review here.

1. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

となりのトトロ / dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Totoro, the big cuddly neighbourhood monster, isn’t the icon of Studio Ghibli for no reason. My Neighbour Totoro is the very definition of what makes the studio so great, and why we will always love their films to the end of time.

A blissfully simple story of childhood, the film follows two sisters who befriend a giant but gentle spirit in the forest by their house. From there, they discover the beauty of nature, all the while growing closer together as they adjust to a new life after a family tragedy.

With its almost effortlessly beautiful animation, a wonderfully sweet and innocent atmosphere and a legendary musical score, My Neighbour Totoro is the perfect watch for all ages, and will send your heart soaring more than any other Studio Ghibli film.

But it’s not just a simple family adventure, as it brings real emotional depth and complex themes into what at first seems like a very carefree story of childhood. Both soothing and genuinely engrossing, the film is the embodiment of Studio Ghibli’s unparalleled capacity for storytelling, and that’s what makes it the very best Studio Ghibli film of all time.

Read a full review here.


About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: