All The Studio Ghibli Movies Ranked!
Are you in the mood for a movie marathon? Well, you’re in for a treat as we welcome you to the enchanting world of Studio Ghibli! Talking animals, flying castles, and brave heroines – in these films, imagination knows no bounds.
Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio that artist Hayao Miyazaki founded. It takes its name after an Italian plane, “Ghibli,” which means “hot desert wind” in Arabic. Miyazaki used this name to symbolize the studio’s mission of bringing a fresh breeze to the world of animation.
While Japan is popular for anime, Ghibli movies stand out. It has a unique animation style and storytelling that blends fantasy with reality. Curious to know more about what makes Studio Ghibli special? Check out our previous article, Discover the Ghibli Magic!
With 25 full-length feature films, Ghibli has left a mark in the animation world. Now, grab your popcorn, and let’s rank the best Studio Ghibli movies!
#25 Earwig and the Witch
Japanese title: Āya to Majo ( アーヤと魔女 )
“Earwig and the Witch” tells the story of Earwig, a young girl left at an orphanage, who gets adopted by a witch. She comes home to a spooky house that’s filled with magic. She wants to learn magic, but her adoptive parent, Bella Yaga, refuses to teach her.
This film is directed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki’s eldest son. It’s Studio Ghibli’s only CGI animated film. Unfortunately, when you’re familiar with Studio Ghibli’s animation, it’s hard to be a fan of “Earwig and the Witch.” Some fans felt it didn’t match the studio’s usual style, and the storytelling felt predictable.
#24 Tales from Earthsea
Japanese title: Gedo Senki? ( ゲド戦記 )
Strange and bad things are happening in Earthsea, with dragons fighting in the sky! “Tales from Earthsea” is loosely based on Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels and Hayao Miyazaki’s manga, “Shuna’s Journey.” It tells the story of a magical world with powerful wizards and a troubled prince.
This Studio Ghibli movie is a bit different because it was based on two sources. But, that’s probably why some fans didn’t like it much. They said the movie is confusing, with characters and scenes all mixed up. Despite the good animation, the storytelling fell short.
“Tales from Earthsea” is also directed by Goro Miyazaki. While it’s not considered Studio Ghibli’s best movie, it can be understandable because this is Goro’s first film.
#23 My Neighbors the Yamadas
Japanese title: Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun ( ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん )
Instead of a continuous story, “My Neighbors the Yamadas” showcases a series of small, loosely connected stories about the Yamada family. The Yamadas take you through their everyday adventures, exploring the ups and downs of family life.
What’s cool about this movie is its special animation that’s a bit different from the usual Ghibli style. Isao Takahata directed it and made it Ghibli’s first-ever digital production. The drawings are digitally colored, and it’s also the first to use DTS digital sound.
The movie is based on a newspaper comic strip, and Takahata’s approach makes the film look like a collection of those strips. However, the film didn’t become a blockbuster, especially after following the success of “Princess Mononoke.” Still, fans dig this bold move from Studio Ghibli.
#22 Ocean Waves
Japanese title: Umi ga Kikoeru ( 海がきこえる)
“Ocean Waves” is a teen romance movie that’s all about friendship and a bit of drama. The movie follows the story of a new girl Rikako and her classmates Taku and Yutaka. The story unfolds around the friendships, struggles, and complexities of teen life.
“Ocean Waves” is a coming-of-age drama, not as fantastical as other Ghibli films but it feels very real. It’s made as a training project for the studio’s young artists. And guess what? It’s the first Ghibli film made for TV!
#21 The Cat Returns
Japanese title: Neko no Ongaeshi ( 猫の恩返し )
“The Cat Returns” is a spin-off of the Studio Ghibli movie, “Whisper of the Heart,” but is a good story on its own. It all starts with Haru, a girl who’s taken into the Kingdom of Cats and transforms into a cat. And who comes to the rescue? The Baron, that cat from “Whisper of the Heart.”
This film directed by Hiroyuki Morita is a whimsical and cat-tastic adventure! It has a unique art style, like the typical anime style of “Whisper of the Heart’s author,” Aoi Hiiragi. Story-wise, it’s similar to a regular Disney fairy tale, unlike the usual intricate Ghibli films.
#20 Pom Poko
Japanese title: Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko ( 平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ )
If you’re looking for a funny Studio Ghibli movie, you can give “Pom Poko” a try. This quirky film is centered around “tanuki,” magical shape-shifting creatures once believed to be raccoon dogs. These playful creatures face a big problem when humans start taking over their land for urban development.
This film directed by Isao Takahata may be a bit bonkers, but underneath the humor, it tells an important message. It highlights the cost of modernization on the natural world. While some may find it a bit strange, this film can be an enjoyable watch.
#19 Castle in the Sky
Japanese title: Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta ( 天空の城ラピュタ )
Also known as “Laputa: Castle in the Sky,” this tale is about Sheeta and Pazu and their quest to find the mythical floating island of Laputa. With a mysterious crystal in hand, they face off against government forces, sky pirates, and ancient robots in a steampunk world.
This adventure-filled movie is cooked up by director Miyazaki during his young school days, making it his first original animation. Facing challenges in funding, he teamed up with Toshio Suzuki and founded Studio Ghibli. That’s why “Castle in the Sky” is considered to be Ghibli’s first produced film.
#18 From Up on Poppy Hill
Japanese title: Kokurikozaka kara ( コクリコ坂から )
Go back to the 1960s in Japan when you watch this heartwarming animated movie! “From Up on Poppy Hill” is about a girl named Umi living in a boarding school. She and her friend Shun discover that the clubhouse they love is about to be torn down. So, they decide to join forces to save it!
Now, the story might feel a bit familiar, like the classic tales of teens coming together to protect something special. Some say it’s a tad predictable, but that doesn’t lessen the movie’s overall charm.
Directed by Goro Miyazaki with a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, this film is a great collaboration. It’s Goro’s redemption, as he was able to capture Ghibli’s art style in his second movie.
#17 The Wind Rises
Japanese title: Kaze Tachinu ( 風立ちぬ )
Once thought to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, “The Wind Rises” is a biographic movie that tells the life story of Jiro Horikoshi. He designed airplanes for Japan during the World War II.
Although there were some controversies about how the story was told, many praised Miyazaki for creating a beautiful and honest look at history. He didn’t shy away from showing the challenges Japan faced in the 1930s.
This film brings together all of Miyazaki’s interests – airplanes, Japanese history, the impact of war, and the power of dreams. It stands out as one of Miyazaki’s most personal and powerful creations.
#16 The Red Turtle
Japanese title: Reddo Tātoru: Aru Shima no Monogatari (レッドタートル ある島の物語)
Want to watch a movie without words? “The Red Turtle is a unique and special movie that doesn’t have any dialogue. It’s about a shipwrecked man finding himself alone on an island. There’s a red turtle that seems to keep him company, but as the story unfolds, you discover it’s not just an ordinary turtle.
This film is an international collaboration between Studio Ghibli and a Dutch filmmaker. It’s dreamlike and has an animation style influenced by Franco-Belgian comics. That’s why it’s one of the most unique films in the Studio Ghibli library.
While it might be one of the lesser-known Ghibli films (some lists don’t even include “The Red Turtle”), it received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2016. It’s a film that might not be for everyone but is definitely worth checking out.
Japanese title: Gake no Ue no Ponyo ( 崖の上のポニョ )
Created by Hayao Miyazaki, this movie is an underwater adventure that follows the story of a cute fish-girl named Ponyo. One day, she gets separated from her family and is rescued by a human boy. The two quickly become friends, and Ponyo decides she wants to stay in the human world.
Now, “Ponyo” isn’t your typical “Little Mermaid” tale. It’s filled with vibrant animations that will make your eyes sparkle. Although the story is more straightforward than most Ghibli movies, Miyazaki’s signature animation shines through.
But what we like most about this movie is the catchy theme song. It goes, “Ponyo, Ponyo, fishy in the sea” – and it’s impossible not to get it stuck in your head!
#14 When Marnie Was There
Japanese title: Omoide no Mānī ( 思い出のマーニー )
Join Anna as she befriends Marnie, a mysterious girl with a secret past. “When Marnie Was There” is an adaptation of a classic British novel of the same name. It adds a gentle touch to the friendship between an orphan with social anxiety and a mysterious girl from an abandoned mansion.
In this movie, you’ll find drama and fantasy sprinkled with a bit of supernatural elements. But what sets it apart is the beautiful locations, gorgeous animation, and the strong bond between Anna and Marnie that is sure to touch your heart.
#13 Howl’s Moving Castle
Japanese title: Hauru no Ugoku Shiro ( ハウルの動く城 )
“Howl's Moving Castle,” Ghibli's follow-up to “Spirited Away,” became another big success. The movie features a magical house and tells a love story between the wizard Howl and the main character, Sophie.
Despite a different plot from the novel it was supposedly based on, the film beautifully explores the impact of war, carrying Miyazaki's anti-war message. While the ending feels a bit rushed, Howl's Moving Castle delights with lively and charming characters and Miyazaki's signature touch.
#12 The Secret World of Arrietty
Japanese title: Karigurashi no Arietti ( 借りぐらしのアリエッティ )
Go on a tiny world of adventure when you watch “The Secret World of Arrietty!” In this film, the tiny people called Borrowers live secretly in a regular-sized human house. Arrietty is one of them, and her first mission to borrow things takes an unexpected turn when she’s spotted by a boy named Sho.
What’s cool about this movie is how it plays with scale. Everything looks gigantic from Arrietty’s perspective because she’s only six inches tall! From the small world of the Borrowers to the wide green landscapes of the British countryside, this animation is a feast for the eyes.
“The Secret World of Arrietty” is directed by Hirosama Yonebayashi and co-written by Miyazaki. It’s based on Mary Norton’s classic novel, “The Borrowers.” The film beautifully adapts the story, making it well-received by fans.
#11 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Japanese title: Kaze no Tani no Naushika ( 風の谷のナウシカ )
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, a thousand years after a big war. It follows Nausicaä, a princess with a heart as wild as the wind. She wants humans and creatures like giant insects to live together peacefully. When a dangerous weapon threatens the peace, Nausicaä makes sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Although it’s not officially a Studio Ghibli-produced movie, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” helped Studio Ghibli come to life! This movie created by Hayao Miyazaki was so successful that he decided to start the animation studio.
“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” has everything we love in Ghibli movies – brave heroes, flying, and caring about nature. It set the standard for all the Studio Ghibli films that followed!
#10 Porco Rosso
Japanese title: Kurenai no Buta ( 紅の豚 )
You’re in for a sky-high adventure with “Porco Rosso.” It’s about a pig-headed pilot, a bounty hunter taking on air pirates. There’s a love triangle in the mix, too, involving Porco, a rival pilot, and a cabaret singer.
This film is Miyazaki’s ode to his love for airplanes, but it almost didn’t take off! Miyazaki faced pressure after the success of “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” and he initially thought of making this a short film that would serve as a break before his next major film. Luckily, it became a full feature that anime lovers adored.
#9 Whisper of the Heart
Japanese title: Mimi o Sumaseba ( 耳をすませば )
“Whisper of the Heart” is a heartwarming story of first love. It tells the story of Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a writer, and Seiji, a boy who crafts violins. While this is a slice-of-life movie, it also adds a touch of fantasy as Shizuku’s stories come to life.
The story was written by Hayao Miyazaki but was directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. Sad to say, this was Kondo’s only film with Ghibli before he passed away. Still, “Whisper of the Heart” remains a standout work. It’s a simple yet charming film that captures the Ghibli magic.
#8 The Boy and the Heron
Japanese title: Kimitachi wa Dō Ikiru ka ( 君たちはどう生きるか )
Inspired by the book, “How Do You Live,” this film follows Mahito, a boy in wartime Japan who lost his mother. Struggling with grief, he encounters a mysterious heron that leads him into a magical world.
The film is traditionally animated but takes a different tone from other Studio Ghibli classics. It’s not as whimsical; instead, it brings you to a haunting fantasy world. Miyazaki’s films could have been a touch scary before, but this one borders on disturbing.
“The Boy and the Heron” is Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, marking his return after a ten-year break. He made it as a gift for his grandson, intending it as a legacy. As fans wonder about Miyazaki’s retirement, this movie feels like a summary of the artist’s life and career.
#7 Only Yesterday
Japanese title: Omoide Poro Poro ( おもひでぽろぽろ )
“Only Yesterday” is a dance between the past and the present. It takes you on a journey with Taeko, an unmarried lady who decides to hit pause on city life and explore the countryside. It’s like she’s stepping on a time machine because, on her trip, she starts reminiscing about her childhood days.
Although this film has high ratings, it’s a lesser-known Ghibli movie. The reason might be that it wasn’t translated into English until 2016. Plus, it was banned from release in North America for years due to its scene that shows Taeko’s first period. But now, the film is out in the open, ready for everyone to enjoy.
#6 Princess Mononoke
Japanese title: Mononoke-hime (もののけ姫 )
Step into the magical world of "Princess Mononoke," a Studio Ghibli masterpiece set in 13th-century Japan. It mostly follows the story of Ashitaka, a cursed prince on a quest for a cure, as he encounters Princess Mononoke, a girl raised by wolf gods.
This timeless classic is celebrated for its detailed animation, intricate plot, and powerful message of caring for the environment. It explores the delicate balance between humans, technology, and nature.
Is it a popular movie? Yes! Famous author Neil Gaiman translated the script into English and this helped Studio Ghibli reach more audiences. Neil Gaiman's translation of the English script helped Studio Ghibli reach global audiences.
#5 Kiki’s Delivery Service
Japanese title: Majo no Takkyūbin ( 魔女の宅急便 )
The list of best Studio Ghibli movies won’t be complete without “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” This film takes you on a joyous ride on a magical broomstick through a world of a young witch named Kiki. As part of her magic training, Kiki must live independently in a new town.
The movie is all about Kiki’s journey into adulthood and it’s filled with magical moments and lessons. Armed with a flying broomstick and her cat, Jiji, Kiki becomes the town’s favorite delivery girl.
Sure, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” doesn’t have a complex plot, but that’s the beauty of it! This is a feel-good film with a collection of mini-adventures. No wonder it’s a timeless classic that captures hearts, whether you’re a kid or a grown-up!
#4 The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Japanese title: Kaguya-hime no Monogatari ( かぐや姫の物語 )
Imagine a world that looks like a living painting – that’s what this movie is all about. “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is based on a legend from the 10th century. It tells the story of a bamboo cutter finding a tiny girl in a bamboo shoot.
This movie is Isao Takahata’s last film. His unique approach, blending tones and experimenting with emotions, works like magic. Somehow, the film manages to be cute, wondrous, surreal, and serious all at once.
The visual style of “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s a mix of charcoal and watercolor. It’s undeniably a work of art that captivates from start to finish.
#3 My Neighbor Totoro
Japanese title: Tonari no Totoro (となりのトトロ)
Watching “My Neighbor Totoro” is like stepping into a magical wonderland! Two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, move to the countryside with their dad to be closer to their mom in the hospital. But this is no ordinary countryside – it’s filled with nature spirits led by Totoro, a giant, fluffy, forest spirit!
Originally, the story was about a battle between humans and the Totoro tribe. But the movie decided to set a friendlier tone, making Totoro a gentle spirit that the sisters loved. This cuddly creature became a superstar, even becoming the face of Studio Ghibli.
One of the most memorable scenes in this movie is the bus-stop moment in the rain! This film is a perfect blend of mature themes and a relaxed vibe, making it a top Ghibli classic.
#2 Spirited Away
Japanese title: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi ( 千と千尋の神隠し )
Written and directed by Miyazaki, “Spirited Away” revolves around Chihiro, a young girl whose parents accidentally find themselves in a mysterious realm. They were turned into pigs by an evil witch named Yubaba. In this quest, Chihiro must be brave and find a way to rescue her parents.
“Spirited Away” is a tale of spirits and gods that blends Shinto and Buddhist lore. In addition, the film beautifully showcases themes like identity, resilience, and courage to face the unknown. This isn’t just a movie; it’s a masterpiece. In fact, it’s the only non-English animated film to win an Oscar!
What makes this film even more special is its universal appeal. Originally made for a 10-year-old friend, it ended up becoming super popular all around the world. It’s a big hit, becoming Japan’s highest-grossing film for almost 20 years.
#1 Grave of the Fireflies
Japanese title: Hotaru no Haka ( 火垂るの墓 )
“Grave of the Fireflies” tells the sad story of two kids trying to survive in Japan during World War II. The siblings, Seita and Setsuko, lost their parents and faced one challenge after another.
The movie is directed by Isao Takahata and is based on a true story. It’s a bit different from Studio Ghibli’s usual cheerful films, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great! Even though it’s anime, it’s considered one of the greatest war films ever.
In “Grave of the Fireflies,” Takahata uses the “masking effect,” a technique combining animation and realistic background. It not only makes the movie look softer, but it also makes the characters even more relatable.
This story is a certified tear-jerker so you better have your tissues ready! It’s one of those movies that are too heartbreaking to watch repeatedly. It shows the harsh realities of war and the consequences that come with it.
Time for a Movie Marathon!
Phew! That's quite the lineup, isn't it? Whether you're in the mood for magical adventures, heartwarming coming-of-age tales, or breathtaking visuals, Studio Ghibli has something for every movie buff.
So, grab your popcorn, summon your favorite Ghibli plushie, and let the movie marathon begin! What’s your favorite Ghibli movie? Share it with us in the comments!