Ranking Studio Ghibli Films List
Studio Ghibli is one of my favorite animation studios, up there with Walt Disney Animation Studios. Their films are beloved across the world, but actually quite underrated as they should be appreciated on a global level just as Disney movies are. Most of these films are great or very good and none are bad which is a huge testament to their high quality work. Whether tackling serious drama or fantasy worlds, these films usually deal with the themes of environmentalism and family but all are original, unique worlds in their own right. Without further ado, here is my ranking of all twenty Studio Ghibli films.
20. From Up on Poppy Hill
I have to say that this period piece is Ghibli’s worst and thus it takes the last spot. It is far from a bad film of course as the animation is as great as usual for this studio, some scenes are quite sweet and the score is beautiful to behold, but the movie is just uninteresting in its Japanese historicisms and not particularly engaging to follow. The characters are also weak and the overall story is incredibly sappy and reminiscent of soap operas.
19. The Wind Rises
This is another period piece and another quite disappointing effort. The Wind Rises is basically a passion project for writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, but unfortunately he never really made a great film based on his aviation hobby and this one is a further proof of that. I really liked the romance and the animation is spectacular, but the film is overlong with bland characters and it doesn’t utilize on its great premise at all. It’s one of the dullest animated films out there.
18. Princess Mononoke
I know that this one is going to be controversial, but I just do not care for Princess Mononoke. Certainly its environmental message is respectable, but Ghibli made much better environmental films in the past. It is well animated and epic, but it has too much action, not enough dialogue or strong characterization and it is just a pretty boring, overrated film which is never as deep as it thinks it is.
17. Tales from Earthsea
I actually do not hate Tales from Earthsea like so many people and critics do. It is far from a bad film and is overall much better than the previous three entries on this list. In this underrated film we got problematic direction from Goro Miyazaki and very bad pacing. The story is also awfully rushed in its second half. However, the action scenes are terrific, the film is admirably dark in tone plus it features an excellent, menacing villain in Lord Cob.
16. Porco Rosso
This aviation film is better than The Wind Rises, but still a disappointing effort from Miyazaki. The characters and the romance are memorable and the film is interesting in its story and locations. It is very well made and frequently endearing, but the third act is overly silly, the film struggled with its shifts in tone throughout the whole runtime and it is just a pretty messy film in most areas.
15. Howl’s Moving Castle
I loved the historical period in this film as well as the magical elements. The attention to detail is stunning here and the world building is absolutely magnificent and so epic. But the film leaves too many questions unanswered and too many characters underutilized. The action is also quite overwhelming. It is a very solid, frequently admirable effort, but a flawed, very overrated film in the end.
14. Kiki’s Delivery Service
Most of the things I said about the above entry also applies to this one. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a solid, but still very overrated Ghibli flick which is so well scored and animated per usual with a refreshing emphasis on leisurely pace than action and with a good metaphor and charming characters. But it remains a film that is great for kids and especially for girls, but not particularly interesting for adults. The third act is also ridiculously climactic and bombastic.
13. Pom Poko
And with Pom Poko, we now have arrived to the really good and not just solid films. The middle section in Pom Poko drags, the film might be too weird at times and the narration is overwhelming, but this remains a rich, moving tale of environmentalism with very likable, charming characters, such a well crafted plot and such an emotionally rewarding third act that is the highlight of the entire film.
12. The Secret World of Arrietty
Arrietty is a film that improves quite a bit upon second viewing. It is still far from deep or sophisticated as the plot demands and the inclusion of a villain is very silly as this serious film did not need her at all, but I really liked the main romance, the animation is charming and detailed and the movie has a bunch of memorable set pieces and sequences with a very moving ending.
Some of the character design is odd in this flick and the unoriginality of its storyline is evident from the beginning, but Miyazaki still added enough of his own fresh ideas into Ponyo to make it his own film. The animation is very charming and the overall story is sweet and cozy, but it is its main characters who are the selling point here and their wonderful relationship which is the heart and soul of the film.
10. My Neighbors the Yamadas
My Neighbors the Yamadas fully deserves this spot in the middle of my list as probably the studio’s most underappreciated flick. Certainly its narrative is uneven and some scenes are less interesting than others, but this is a wonderful family dramedy with a beautiful exploration of familial relationships, highly endearing characters, memorable scenarios and such a sweet, strong humor that fuels the film to even bigger heights.
9. The Cat Returns
The Cat Returns is another very underrated anime. It surely is simplistic and way too short, but so good nonetheless being one of my childhood favorites. It serves as such an interesting spin-off to ‘Whisper of the Heart’, but it is a much different film than its predecessor as it is a fantasy flick and a wonderful one at that. So childlike, sweet, charming with highly memorable and amusing characters, the film is also incredibly entertaining and also frequently hilarious.
8. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
This sprawling fairy tale might be long but phenomenal nevertheless. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya surely was a return to form for Studio Ghibli as it features not only terrific, subtle storytelling, but also such a beautiful ending, well developed characters and a great score. However, its biggest selling point is its animation. The watercolor painting style is incredibly authentic and beautiful here leading to one of the best looking animations ever.
7. Castle in the Sky
As the very first Ghibli film, Castle in the Sky might be lowly placed, but that is only because the competition is highly fierce here. The main characters here are weak, but the villain is excellent and Captain Dola is such a wonderful, goofy sidekick. The movie is such a grand, epic adventure which has everything future Ghibli films tried to replicate but mostly less successfully – beautiful animation, score and ecological message. This truly was a fantastic start for a killer studio.
6. When Marnie Was There
The latest (and hopefully not the last) Studio Ghibli film gets a very high sixth spot on my list. I know that many would disagree with this placement, but I simply adore this film which is beautifully animated and with such unforgettable, beautiful imagery. It deals with some very mature themes, the protagonist is very relatable to me and the overall story is very mysterious and involving with such a stupendous reveal at the end.
5. My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro of course is an undisputed classic that gave us a very different, groundbreaking formula for a children’s film. There are no villains here and almost no conflict, not to mention no action whatsoever. But what we get instead is a gentle, sweet slice of life story with lovable characters, gorgeous animation and many heartwarming and highly memorable scenes. It is a wonderful fantasy drama that every child and parent should see.
4. Only Yesterday
Only Yesterday’s ending touched me a lot with its song choice, high emotion and heartwarming imagery, but the entire film is great as well. This is the kind of dramas I love – a very thematically rich, sophisticated story with such a well developed, realistic main character. Beautifully animated, directed and scored, Only Yesterday’s highlights are its dialogue and script which both work in tandem to deliver one outstanding, clever and very relatable story.
3. Whisper of the Heart
With one of the best heroines in animation, a meticulous attention to detail and such a wonderful use of one of my favorite songs, Whisper of the Heart is another sophisticated, deep and moving drama which this time around deals with teenagers and in a phenomenal manner. You cannot get a better animated drama than this one as this film spoke to me on a highly personal level with a big amount of relatable conversations and truthful observations.
2. Grave of the Fireflies
Once my number one pick but now delegated to the second spot, Grave of the Fireflies still remains an undisputed masterpiece in the world of animation. Isao Takahata is one of my favorite anime directors and here he made a classic anti-war film which features an excellent build up and a great sibling relationship at the center of the film that all lead to such a tragic, devastating ending that shook me to the core. This film deserves its status as one of the most heartbreaking films of all time.
1. Spirited Away
Artistically animated, smartly written and featuring one of the best scores in film history, Spirited Away also features a stellar script and such brilliant world building. Hayao Miyazaki has created an entire wonderful world here full of crazy, memorable or goofy creatures and a lot of intriguing places so beautifully explored too. The characterization is amazing as the protagonist goes through a life-changing journey that is impactful and just perfectly crafted on every level. Tonally diverse, but always fascinating and simply magical, Spirited Away is one of the most unforgettable cinematic experiences you can have and not only the best Studio Ghibli film of them all, but also one of the best animated as well as one of the overall best films of all time.