Studio Ghibli is a renowned Japanese animation film studio known for producing some of the most acclaimed and influential animated movies ever. The studio was founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki.
Here are some key points about Studio Ghibli
Innovative Storytelling: Studio Ghibli films are recognized for their unique narratives, which often blend elements of fantasy, environmental themes, feminism, pacifism, and critiques of modernity.
Artistic Excellence: Ghibli movies are famed for their hand-drawn animation, attention to detail, and lush visuals. They create immersive worlds that draw viewers into their stories.
Iconic Films: Some of the most beloved films from Studio Ghibli include “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Grave of the Fireflies,” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” among others.
Awards and Recognition: Many of Studio Ghibli’s films have received international acclaim. For instance, “Spirited Away” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003.
All Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked
Let’s delve into the stunning works of Studio Ghibli films.
Here, we have meticulously ranked each of their cinematic masterpieces, from those that may not have reached the pinnacle of perfection to the absolute best in their repertoire.
23Earwig and the Witch (2020)
Coming in at the worst Studio Ghibli movie is Earwig and the Witch.
I couldn’t relate to the characters or the narrative. Watching the mistreatment of children was distressing, and overall, I didn’t enjoy the film.
Had I not known, I’d mistake this for a low-budget film, not a Studio Ghibli production. The weak plot and dull characters clash with the studio’s usual artistry.
Instead of their iconic animation, we get subpar CGI. Amidst its flaws, there are glimpses of potential. It feels like a cheap children’s show, and seeing the Studio Ghibli name on it is disheartening. The abrupt ending lacks any satisfying closure.
22The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on the ancient Japanese tale, “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” a story that has been retold in various film adaptations throughout the years. In fact, I was already acquainted with the narrative, having watched the 1987 live-action film “Princess From the Moon.”
However, this particular rendition stands out as it’s animated by Studio Ghibli, known for Miyazaki’s works, although Isao Takahata directed this. The film largely adheres to the traditional story: a humble woodcutter discovers a tiny, enchanting child inside a bamboo stalk.
21My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
While I wouldn’t classify this as Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievement, I appreciated its unique approach, which still encapsulates the studio’s signature charm.
In terms of English dubs, it might not be the strongest; the voice acting is proficient, but the script includes references that might elude some audiences. Nonetheless, the film shines with its wit, charm, and humor.
The animation deviates from the norm with its sketch-like style, which I personally found refreshing.
Paired with captivating music, the story remains both engaging and straightforward. The characters, especially the endearing grandma, remain a standout. It might not be Ghibli’s magnum opus, but it’s a film I thoroughly enjoyed.
20Pom Poko (1994)
This Ghibli film was crafted by Takahata, the studio’s lesser-known director who is most recognized in Japan for his ‘Heidi’ TV series from the 1970s. While his 1999 film ‘Tonari no Yamada-kun’ (‘My Neighbours the Yamadas’) didn’t fare well at the box office, his creation ‘Pom Poko’ is a gem in Studio Ghibli’s repertoire.
It’s a whirlwind of creativity, blending humor, depth, sentimentality, and a distinct Japanese essence. I’d place it above Miyazaki’s acclaimed ‘Mononoke Hime,’ which, while impressive, feels somewhat overbearing in its earnestness.
19The Cat Returns (2002)
This film offers a more straightforward narrative than Studio Ghibli’s prior epics. It centers around a typical modern teenager, Haru. One day, on her way back from school, Haru saves a cat from being hit by a truck. She later finds out that the cat is none other than Prince Lune, the next in line for the throne of the Cat Kingdom.
In gratitude, Lune’s father, the Cat King, insists that Haru marry his son as a way to repay the life-saving favor.
Naturally, Haru is taken aback by this unexpected proposal and seeks assistance from the mysterious Baron, the head of the Cat Bureau, to avoid being whisked away to the Cat Kingdom by the persistent feline royal entourage.
As someone who adores cats, I was captivated by this film.
18Ocean Waves (1993)
After being introduced to some of the more renowned works from Studio Ghibli, I stumbled upon this anime. This truly hits the mark for those who savor an authentic, subtle depiction of high school romance.
Produced by Studio Ghibli in collaboration with Tokuma Shoten and Nippon Television Network, “Ocean Waves” debuted on Nippon TV on May 5, 1993. The narrative unfolds in the city of Kōchi, capturing a love triangle that emerges among two close friends and a new student who arrives from Tokyo.
“Ocean Waves” was initially conceived as a project to allow Studio Ghibli’s younger talent to create a film with a modest budget. However, the project ultimately exceeded both its budget and timeline.
17Tales from Earthsea (2006)
Being an ardent admirer of LeGuin’s works, I was excited to hear that Studio Ghibli would be taking on the adaptation. I hoped this rendition would redeem the lackluster adaptation previously aired on the SciFi Channel. The silver lining here is that while the movie genuinely respects the original material, it doesn’t wholly do justice to it.
The movie’s narrative borrows fragments from various Earthsea books, introduces a novel antagonist, and reshuffles character interactions that diverge from their original encounters in the books. The film remains a visual delight despite my sense of letdown from these modifications.
16Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
While not technically under the Ghibli banner, ‘Nausicaa’ had Miyazaki collaborate with the studio behind ‘The Last Unicorn‘. This studio would later evolve into what we now know as Studio Ghibli after ‘Laputa’ was produced a few years subsequent.
Nausicaa is set in a distant future and weaves a tale around a heroine who embodies the roles of a princess, warrior, and nature enthusiast, intertwined with pronounced environmental motifs.
It also features a rival princess figure aiming to harness technology to navigate the seemingly antagonistic surroundings. If this reminds you of ‘Princess Mononoke’, you’re thinking in the right direction. ‘Nausicaa’ can be seen as a precursor to ‘Mononoke’, though the latter delves deeper into spiritual and mythological themes, sidelining the science fiction elements.
15Porco Rosso (1992)
Produced by Toshio Suzuki and animated by Studio Ghibli in collaboration with Tokuma Shoten, Japan Airlines, and the Nippon Television Network, the film was distributed by Toho, with its evocative score crafted by the renowned Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi.
The movie is a stunning piece of art, intricately designed in both narrative and visual aspects. Yet, it remains vastly underrated. In my review, I aim to address the critiques rather than echo the praises that many others have already offered.
Most of the criticisms seem to cluster around two main points: overlooking subtle hints in the storyline and potential inaccuracies in the dub/sub translations.
14Castle in the Sky (1986)
Produced by Isao Takahata and brought to life by Studio Ghibli, the film was distributed by the Toei Company. The original Japanese cast includes Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, and Minori Terada, while the 2003 English adaptation features voices from James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, and Mark Hamill.
Hayao Miyazaki stands unparalleled in the realm of hand-drawn animation storytelling, though many often liken him to Walt Disney. The film blends a captivating concept with compelling characters in a seamless fashion.
The animation quality is top-notch, and the drama suffices to hold one’s attention throughout the film. Like most Ghibli productions, it’s challenging to succinctly encapsulate its essence, but it’s always best to dive in and experience its magic firsthand.
13Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Studio Ghibli’s ‘Whisper of the Heart’ stands out from the studio’s typical fare, as it doesn’t revolve around fantastical creatures or extraordinary journeys. It’s a poignant narrative about a regular teenage girl navigating the complexities of adolescence.
The story centers on Shizuku, a mid-teen who harbors a profound love for books and writing. On her regular library visits, she notices a recurring name, ‘Seiji Amasawa’, on the checkout cards of the books she borrows. She soon discovers that Seiji is none other than a classmate she perceives as insufferably conceited.
12From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
The beauty of this movie lies in its simplicity. It’s a love story stripped of villains, passionate kisses, or revealing scenes. Yet, I was completely engrossed, hoping for the protagonist and his love interest to unite.
It immerses you in the ordinary: a coastal town, a boarding house, and a school, devoid of fantastical elements or thrilling chases. It evokes feelings similar to those I had while watching Ocean Waves, another Ghibli masterpiece I hold dear.
Penned by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, the film was animated by Studio Ghibli in collaboration with partners including the Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Walt Disney Japan, Mitsubishi, and Toho, with distribution handled by the latter.
11Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Hailing from the shores of Japan is this mesmerizing tale of a mystical castle. A young girl, Sophie, finds herself unexpectedly bound to a wandering stronghold after a chance encounter with a charismatic wizard prince.
Little does she know, this brief interaction would incur the wrath of the Witch of the Waste, pulling Sophie into the midst of a battle to restore peace to a war-torn world. While the narrative itself is captivating, the animation and breathtaking landscapes amplify the drama and excitement beyond conventional storytelling.
This cinematic experience was brought to life by producer Toshio Suzuki, crafted by the talented team at Studio Ghibli, and distributed by Toho.
Many are familiar with Ponyo’s narrative – a goldfish princess who forges a deep connection with a young boy. The movie’s animation is a visual feast, painted with an array of dazzling colors that breathe life into the tale. Ponyo, as a character, is irresistibly endearing, weaving a narrative rich in warmth that deeply connects with viewers.
The story touches upon profound themes like love, allegiance, faith, and marine conservation with subtlety. This film, a quintessential piece from Studio Ghibli, has a straightforward yet impactful story that resonates uniquely with each viewer, ensuring a universally delightful experience.
9The Wind Rises (2013)
This film stands as a testament to artistic excellence. Directed and penned by Hayao Miyazaki, it showcases distinctive color schemes and intricate designs. With the setting predominantly in the skies, the animators have excelled, meticulously hand-drawing the backdrops and aircraft motions. It’s a spectacle watching the planes gracefully glide, making viewers feel they’re flying alongside.
The voice performances are commendable, encapsulating the essence of each character and their intricate relationships. A significant portion of the story delves into the romantic bond between Naoko and Jiro, a relationship that’s both heartwarming and heartrending.
Originally premiered in Japan, the American version overlays dubbed voice-overs, which might occasionally divert one’s attention.
8When Marnie Was There (2014)
Titled “The Secret World of Arrietty” globally, and recognized as “The Borrower Arrietty” in Japan and simply “Arrietty” in the UK, this 2010 animated masterpiece comes from the renowned Studio Ghibli. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and penned by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa.
This film resonates deeply with audiences. It portrays a young girl who experiences abandonment first by her mother, then her grandmother, and subsequently feels a sense of detachment from her foster mother, leading her to believe she cannot rely on adults for comfort or safety.
7My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Professor Tatsuo Kusakabe relocates with his daughters, Satsuki and Mei, to an aged countryside home close to the hospital where his wife Yasuko is recuperating. The girls encounter small soot sprites that shy away from light and Mei stumbles upon the forest guardian, Totoro, napping beneath a colossal tree.
Crafted by the iconic animator Hayao Miyazaki, this story is woven with charm, featuring endearing characters and the heartwarming spirit of Totoro. While it subtly handles its dramatic elements, it masterfully captures the essence of growing up. Totoro’s fascination with rain tapping on the umbrella is sheer delight. The film emanates an irresistible warmth, persisting even through its concluding credits.
6Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Released in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies is a poignant Japanese animated film that draws its narrative from a 1967 short story by Akiyuki Nosaka. Directed and penned by Isao Takahata, it was brought to life by the iconic Studio Ghibli in collaboration with Shinchosha Publishing.
The narrative unfolds in Kobe, Japan, during June 1945. It heartbreakingly chronicles the lives of two war-affected siblings, Seita and Setsuko, as they navigate the grim realities of the waning months of World War II.
Having achieved universal praise, this cinematic masterpiece is heralded as one of the foremost war films ever made and stands as a testament to the brilliance of Japanese animation.
5Only Yesterday (1991)
“Only Yesterday,” originally titled “Omohide poro poro,” is a 1991 Japanese animated drama film crafted by the revered director and writer Isao Takahata. The film draws inspiration from the 1982 manga penned by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone.
The legendary Studio Ghibli carried out the animation in collaboration with Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network, and Hakuhodo, and it saw its distribution through Toho.
For viewers accustomed to a certain type of film from Studio Ghibli, “Only Yesterday” might come as a surprise due to its more mature themes and intricate character development.
4The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
In late 2009, Ghibli revealed its new project, marking Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s introduction as a director. The esteemed Miyazaki played a supervisory role in the film’s development. By April 2010, voice actors were selected, and Cécile Corbel composed both the film’s soundtrack and its theme song.
Notably, this film represents Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s first venture into cinema, and the British dub introduced audiences to Tom Holland’s film debut.
Hand-drawn animation possesses an unparalleled charm. Regardless of the sophistication of computer graphics or how closely a CGI figure resembles Tom Hanks, it’s hard to match the enchantment woven by Ghibli’s traditional animation techniques.
3Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Yet another masterpiece from Miyazaki. The story follows a young, kind-hearted witch who, in line with tradition, departs from her parents’ home on her 13th birthday, accompanied by her black cat.
The objective? To complete her witch training and become independent. She searches for a city that could benefit from her magical services and settles in a coastal town. Along her journey, she encounters several warm-hearted individuals who support her.
The film doesn’t revolve around a primary antagonist, instead offering a more ‘slice-of-life’ narrative. Ultimately, everything culminates in the young witch performing a valiant deed.
2Princess Mononoke (1997)
Released in 1997, “Princess Mononoke” is a mature animated epic set in a historical fantasy world, crafted by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and brought to life by Studio Ghibli in collaboration with Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network, and Dentsu.
When I first experienced “Princess Mononoke,” I was profoundly stirred and taken aback. Although it was a Studio Ghibli creation with Disney’s dubbing, I appreciated its departure from the typical “fairytale ending.”
The narrative refrained from delineating clear-cut heroes or villains. Even Lady Eboshi, who emerges as the primary antagonist, holds a justifiable reason for her endeavors against the animal deities and her pursuit to deforest the land.
1Spirited Away (2001)
“Spirited Away” holds a special place among my Studio Ghibli favorites. While I was captivated by the magic of “Howl’s Moving Castle,” enthralled by “Princess Mononoke,” deeply moved by “Grave of the Fireflies,” and charmed by the simplicity of “The Cat Returns,” it’s “Spirited Away” that resonates most profoundly with me.
The animation, a blend of hand-drawn artistry and CGI, weaves a tapestry of unparalleled enchantment. Each movement of the characters feels genuine, and the palette is simply breathtaking.
The film’s musical score, from the gentle piano melodies to the stirring climactic moments, enhances its allure. Although some have pointed out minor narrative gaps, I found the story to be original, touching, and utterly delightful.
Chihiro, voiced with genuine passion by Daveigh Chase, starts off as somewhat petulant but quickly showcases her bravery and wit, qualities I admire in youthful protagonists.
Characters like the compassionate Lin, voiced by Susan Egan, and the intriguing Haku, brought to life by Jason Marsden, add depth to the narrative. Suzanne Pleshette’s dual roles as the imposing Yubaba and her sister Zeniba showcase her range. In conclusion, “Spirited Away” is a masterpiece that never ceases to enchant.