Studio Ghibli is a legendary animation studio known for creating some of the most enchanting and imaginative films in the history of cinema. Founded by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki in 1985, the studio has produced a diverse array of animated masterpieces that have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. While it’s difficult to label any Studio Ghibli film as “bad,” we can certainly rank them based on their overall impact, creativity, and cultural significance. Here’s a comprehensive ranking of every Studio Ghibli film from worst to best.
25. Earwig and the Witch (2020)
Let’s start with the most recent addition to the Studio Ghibli repertoire. “Earwig and the Witch” marks the studio’s first foray into 3D CGI animation, and unfortunately, it falls short of the high standards set by its predecessors. The animation style lacks the charm and fluidity of traditional hand-drawn Ghibli films, and the story is less captivating.
24. Tales from Earthsea (2006)
Directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki, “Tales from Earthsea” is a visually stunning film with an intriguing premise. However, it suffers from pacing issues and a somewhat convoluted plot. While it has its moments, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of other Ghibli classics.
23. From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
“From Up on Poppy Hill” is a charming coming-of-age story set in post-war Japan. While it’s beautifully animated and explores themes of love and nostalgia, it lacks the magical elements that define many other Ghibli films. It’s a solid film, but it doesn’t stand out as a masterpiece.
22. The Cat Returns (2002)
A spin-off of the beloved “Whisper of the Heart,” “The Cat Returns” is a whimsical adventure that follows the misadventures of a girl who can talk to cats. While it’s entertaining and features some delightful characters, it’s a lighter entry in the Ghibli canon and doesn’t have the depth of storytelling found in other films.
21. Pom Poko (1994)
“Pom Poko” is a unique Ghibli film that explores environmental themes through the antics of shape-shifting tanuki (raccoon dogs). It’s a visually inventive and often humorous film, but its tone can be uneven, and some viewers may find it less accessible than other Ghibli works.
20. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
Based on Mary Norton’s classic novel “The Borrowers,” “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a beautifully crafted film that brings a tiny world to life. It’s a heartwarming tale of friendship and discovery, but it doesn’t quite reach the emotional depth of some of the studio’s best films.
19. Ocean Waves (1993)
“Ocean Waves” is a simple yet compelling love story set in a Japanese coastal town. Originally made as a television movie, it lacks the grandeur of Ghibli’s theatrical releases but still manages to capture the essence of teenage romance with its realistic character dynamics.
18. Only Yesterday (1991)
“Only Yesterday” is a quietly introspective film that delves into the life of a woman reflecting on her childhood and early adulthood. While it’s a departure from the fantastical worlds Ghibli is known for, it’s a touching and relatable exploration of nostalgia and self-discovery.
17. My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
This film stands out for its unique visual style, resembling a comic strip brought to life. “My Neighbors the Yamadas” offers a series of vignettes about the daily life and quirks of an ordinary Japanese family. Its humor and heart make it a delightful, if unconventional, addition to the Ghibli catalog.
16. When Marnie Was There (2014)
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, “When Marnie Was There” is a touching exploration of loneliness and friendship. The film’s beautifully realized characters and mysterious narrative make it a poignant addition to Studio Ghibli’s lineup.
15. The Red Turtle (2016)
Co-produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit, “The Red Turtle” is a dialogue-free, visually stunning tale of survival and the relationship between man and nature. Its simplicity and universal themes earned it an Academy Award nomination, showcasing the studio’s ability to collaborate on diverse projects.
14. Porco Rosso (1992)
“Porco Rosso” is a swashbuckling adventure set in the Adriatic Sea during the interwar period. The film follows a World War I pilot cursed to look like a pig as he battles air pirates. With its charismatic characters and aerial dogfights, “Porco Rosso” is a unique and entertaining entry in the Ghibli canon.
13. Ponyo (2008)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, “Ponyo” is a visually stunning and whimsical retelling of “The Little Mermaid” set in a coastal town. The film’s imaginative storytelling and enchanting underwater sequences make it a favorite among younger audiences.
12. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
“Whisper of the Heart” is a heartfelt coming-of-age story that explores the dreams and aspirations of a young girl who discovers her passion for writing. While it may not feature the fantastical elements of other Ghibli films, its relatable characters and themes of self-discovery resonate deeply with viewers.
11. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a visually spectacular film that blends steampunk aesthetics with a compelling love story. The film’s intricate world-building and complex characters make it a standout entry in the Ghibli canon.
10. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Although technically predating the founding of Studio Ghibli, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” is often considered a Ghibli film due to its creative team’s involvement, including Hayao Miyazaki. This post-apocalyptic tale of a princess trying to save her people from environmental devastation foreshadows many themes and visual motifs that would become Ghibli trademarks.
9. Castle in the Sky (1986)
“Castle in the Sky” is an exhilarating adventure that follows two young protagonists as they seek a legendary floating city. With its memorable characters, breathtaking aerial sequences, and a touch of steampunk, the film is a testament to Hayao Miyazaki’s storytelling prowess.
8. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a heartwarming tale of a young witch’s journey to find her place in the world. The film’s themes of independence and self-discovery resonate with audiences of all ages, and Kiki’s endearing character makes her one of Ghibli’s most beloved heroines.
7. The Wind Rises (2013)
Hailed as Hayao Miyazaki’s swan song, “The Wind Rises” tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s World War II fighter planes. This contemplative and visually stunning film explores the intersection of art, ambition, and the consequences of one’s creations.
6. Spirited Away (2001)
“Spirited Away” is often regarded as one of Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievements. This enchanting and surreal tale follows a young girl named Chihiro as she navigates a mysterious and magical world. Its richly layered narrative and stunning animation have made it a timeless classic, earning it the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003.
5. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Directed by Isao Takahata, “Grave of the Fireflies” is a heartbreaking and powerful film that depicts the struggles of two siblings trying to survive in war-torn Japan during World War II. Its emotional impact and poignant storytelling make it a must-watch, even though it’s one of the studio’s most emotionally devastating films.
4. Princess Mononoke (1997)
“Princess Mononoke” is a sweeping epic that tackles themes of environmentalism and the clash between nature and civilization. With its morally complex characters and breathtaking animation, it’s a film that leaves a lasting impression and cements Hayao Miyazaki’s reputation as a master storyteller.
3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
“My Neighbor Totoro” is a heartwarming and whimsical tale of two sisters who befriend forest spirits while their mother is ill. Its gentle storytelling and iconic characters, particularly the lovable Totoro, have made it a beloved classic for audiences of all ages.
2. Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Released early in Studio Ghibli’s history, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” is a masterful blend of adventure, fantasy, and steampunk aesthetics. It’s a testament to Hayao Miyazaki’s ability to craft intricate worlds and memorable characters that stand the test of time.
1. Spirited Away (2001)
At the top of our ranking sits “Spirited Away,” a film that transcends the boundaries of animation. Its intricate and imaginative world, coupled with a touching and universally relatable story, makes it a cinematic masterpiece. “Spirited Away” continues to captivate and enchant viewers of all ages, solidifying its place as the crown jewel of Studio Ghibli’s extraordinary legacy.
Studio Ghibli has consistently produced remarkable animated films that have left an indelible mark on cinema. While each Ghibli film possesses its unique charm and appeal, the ranking above reflects their overall impact, storytelling prowess, and cultural significance. Whether you’re a fan of breathtaking adventures, heartfelt coming-of-age tales, or thought-provoking dramas, there’s a Studio Ghibli film for everyone to cherish and enjoy.
As the studio continues to inspire and delight audiences worldwide, it’s certain that future generations will discover and treasure these timeless classics, ensuring that Studio Ghibli’s legacy remains vibrant and enduring.