Ranking Hayao Miyazaki Films List
Hayao Miyazaki is regarded as one of the best animation directors of all time. Many would argue that he is the very best of all time. All of that praise is deserved as he truly is an iconic, brilliant director who has never made a bad film and only a couple of his films are just okay. Most are very good or great. He helped shape Studio Ghibli as he made 9 films for the studio. Here is my ranking of all those Ghibli films as well as two non-Ghibli ones. For the ranking of all Ghibli films including all of their directors, click on this link.
11. The Wind Rises
There is no denying that the romance in The Wind Rises works and that the animation is absolutely gorgeous. However, everything else is very subpar. This is further proof that Miyazaki just could not make a film out of his biggest passion – aviation. This story was promising, but the script is entirely unsophisticated and it doesn’t explore its interesting themes at all leading to a disappointing bore.
10. Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is one of the most overrated animated films of all time. The animation is beautiful and the film of course has a great environmental message, but I have just always found it boring to watch, overly epic, too action oriented and not emotional enough. The characterization is particularly weak here.
9. Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso is another disappointing aviation movie from Miyazaki. It is better than ‘The Wind Rises’ owing to a much more entertaining and better crafted plot, but still that third act was too comedic and the movie is just solid and never great. It is serviceable, but very forgettable when put against other director’s films.
8. The Castle of Cagliostro
This film was a feature debut for Miyazaki and he did prove himself with it. Certainly it has overwhelming action in it plus the humor didn’t work all too well, but the storyline is pretty good and its mix of genres is very interesting – it is a heist, comedy, romance and mystery all in one package. The imagery is quite beautiful as well. It’s a solid film that put him on the map.
7. Howl’s Moving Castle
Another somewhat overrated film, Howl’s Moving Castle is epic in scope and world building, gorgeous in its animation and filled with a bunch of memorable sequences and a great use of its setting and time period, but the film has too many things left unexplained and the overall affair is overly rushed and underutilized.
6. Kiki’s Delivery Service
This film was never meant to appeal to me. It is for children and especially girls and thus it has very limited appeal. It’s a charming, pleasantly deliberately paced and charming flick with many moving scenes, but the ending was overly bombastic and unappealing and, as I said, the film lacks universality in its approach and execution.
5. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Now we get to the really good films. The films up to this point are weak or pretty solid, but from here on we get his best works. This environmental tale is definitely the director’s first signature film and thus incredibly influential for both him and Studio Ghibli which was still not around during that time. It has too much action once again and the supporting characters are weak, but the protagonist is great, the animation is groundbreaking in quality and the world building is splendid.
Ponyo is the film that grew on me upon second viewing as I didn’t like it quite as much the first time around. But even though it is derivative in its storyline, it is more than charming and lovable enough to compensate for that. Ponyo and Sosuke are Ghibli’s best couple and just watching them together is bound to get a smile on your face. Its colorful, sweetly simplistic animation and a great setting also help.
3. Castle in the Sky
The very first Studio Ghibli film is also one of their best. It has its flaws, but Castle in the Sky is for the most part a phenomenal film with a wonderful adventurous story, a lovely sidekick in Captain Dola and breathtaking animation. Once again the world building is amazing and once again its ecological message is resonant.
2. My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is a movie for everyone unlike ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. It’s deceptively simple, but actually sophisticated in its execution which is more slow paced and less action oriented and thus it proved groundbreaking for family films. The characters are very endearing, the animation is stunning and it’s just such a charming, childlike, wondrous film that is difficult to resist.
1. Spirited Away
Of course there is no denying the fact that Spirited Away is the best film that Hayao Miyazaki has ever made. The character development is fantastic with Chihiro being one of the best film characters of all time, the story is epic, the world building is spectacular and the film is so meticulously detailed that you can watch it over and over again and still find something new to admire. It is also very rich in themes and character growth. Spirited Away is not only the crown jewel of Miyazaki’s filmography, but also one of the very best that animation has to offer.