Studio Ghibli’s Movies, Ranked

Studio Ghibli’s Movies, Ranked

Since its foundation in 1985, Studio Ghibli has released over 20 feature films. Some of these have become animation classics! Others have stunk up the joint.

This story has been republished following the news of Spirited Away’s live action theatrical adaptation.

Netflix Australia Just Picked Up 21 Studio Ghibli Movies

The good news is that Netflix just got the rights to stream pretty much every major Studio Ghibli release, from Totoro to Princess Mononoke to Ponyo. Even better news: it's all coming to Netflix Australia.

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While the studio is synonymous with the works of Hayao Miyazaki, don’t forget that a number of other directors have helmed projects for Ghibli, from studio co-founder Isao Takahata to Miyazaki’s son Goro.

Note that for the purposes of putting this list together, I’ve included only theatrical feature films. That means no TV movies or shorts. I’ve also included Nausicaä, because while that was technically released before the studio’s foundation, it involved all of Ghibli’s key players (Miyazaki directing, Takahata writing and Joe Hisashi on music), and Ghibli now owns it (the film is part of all the major box sets collecting its works).


21. Tales From Earthsea

20. Pom Poko

19. My Neighbours The Yamadas

18. Howl’s Moving Castle

17. The Wind Rises

16. Whisper Of The Heart

15. From Up On Poppy Hill

14. When Marnie Was There

13. The Cat Returns

12. Only Yesterday

11. Ponyo

10. Arrietty

9. Spirited Away

8. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

7. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service

5. Grave Of The Fireflies

4. My Neighbour Totoro

3. Castle In The Sky

2. Porco Rosso

1. Princess Mononoke



  • I love Totoro, yes, but while the front half of the film is packed with enough childhood wonder to power a small European nation, the back half (the search for Mei) has never sat right with me. The fact my kids always get bored and want to turn it off around then only reinforces my suspicion that the darker tone of the search is a clumsy fit with the magical opening.
  • The Wind Rises sucks. It’s a humourless trudge. As a story about war, it’s sanitised. As a biography, it’s fiction. About the only thing it has going for it is the best collection of smoking animations in cartoon history. This view upsets my colleague Brian Ashcraft, who thinks this is the best Ghibli movie, but he is wrong.
  • Howl’s sucks too. Great hair animations, but it’s Miyazaki’s most tired film, a grab bag of symbols and characters from previous works thrown together into a tedious tale that feels more like a desperate lunge at the old magic than, well, actual magic.
  • Arrietty is a lot better, I think, than many people give it credit for! A big part of all of Ghibli’s films, not just Miyazaki’s, is that much of the story-telling and world-building is done through small quirks of animation. Mei struggling with a bucket, Chihiro running too quickly down stairs, etc. Arrietty is full of this stuff, especially in its opening ten minutes, and is I think Ghibli’s best work in purely technical terms.
  • Like the Pixar post, it’s a testament to the quality of Ghibli’s films that, again, being at the rear end of this list doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. I wouldn’t draw a line that said “won’t ever watch these movies again” until maybe #17.
  • Conversely, shit gets real at about #9. You could randomly reorder the list from there and every time you did it you’d make someone happy.


  • I might disagree with some of the rankings but I think in general the list gets things right. Princess Mononoke is definitely the top choice in my book.

    • Totally agree with you. Saw Princess Mononoke at the top and cheered then looked at the rest of the list and scratched my head.

      • I think the list gets more right than wrong. Nice to see Mononoke at the top. Strange to see Nausicaä not in the top three. The author is right that the top 9 are practically a tie with each other.

      • I probably would have gone with Grave of the Fireflies or Castle in the Sky, but I don’t disagree a whole lot.

        • For me it’s gotta be spirited away followed by castle in the sky at the top. God damn beautiful films

  • The Wind Rises sucks

    Ugh! Humourless shouldn’t be a mark of a film’s quality. Since when does Ghibli have to be about humour? It’s classic romance, easily one of Ghibli’s best. Personally I’d put Ponyo/Only Yesterday/Wind Rises up the top.

    • Recently, I’ve been watching the few Studio Ghibli films that I had not seen before. One of those was Only Yesterday, and I thought it was remarkable.

      • Only Yesterday is ranked way too low in this list. I think that Luke was one of those people who it just doesn’t click for, and if it doesn’t, it’s never going to rank well. It’s a very artistic film, and as a piece of art, it’s arguably the best that Ghibli ever produced.

        • Whereas I would put it down the list, below earthsea even. That movie is so incredibly tedious. Of all the Ghibli films, it lacks any spark. If you want to get a room full of people to fall asleep, that is a sure fire go too.

    • Agreed! You could accuse grave of fireflies of being humourless too but it’s still an incredible film.

  • I’ll admit, I haven’t seen all of Ghibli’s films yet. However, from the ones I’ve seen, my list is quite different. 1, 2 and 3 are pretty much set in stone, but the rest can change depending on mood.

    8.) Ponyo
    7.) Princess Mononoke
    6.) Howl’s Moving Castle
    5.) My Neighbours the Yamadas
    4.) Spirited Away
    3.) My Neighbour Totoro
    2.) When Marnie Was There
    1.) Grave of the Fireflies

    To be fair, I wonder if I’m the only person who thinks When Marnie Was There was one of the absolute best Ghibli films.

  • Spirited Away would be my top pick; followed by Grave of the Fireflies and Whisper of the Heart. Porco Rosso and Tortoro were amazing as well.

    Wasn’t Castle of Cagliostro a Ghibli film as well?

    Edit: Also no mention of Laputa Castle in the Sky?

  • Wow.. The Wind Rises sucks??

    You know what they say about opinions… I suppose its right in this case

    And I must be one of the only people who finds Mononoke boring, long and not that interesting a film… again, opinions, right?

    • I have seen it about a dozen times. With the kids as well. So being on his list at 18 and never going to watch again, Is disappointing!

      I love it

      • Yep. It may be because it was the first Ghibli movie I’ve seen, but it’s my favourite.

  • Of the 21 listed I’ve only seen 9. Still much to see. 🙁 Some of the big ones I’ve yet to see include Princess Mononoke, Arrietty and The Wind Rises.

    My list goes like this:

    1. Spirited Away
    2. Laputa Castle in the Sky (my personal favourite)
    3. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
    4. My Neighbour Totoro
    5. Grave of the Fireflies
    6. Porco Rosso
    7. Kiki’s Delivery Service (after no.7 it goes downhill)
    8. Howl’s Moving Castle (I want to like it but I just can’t)
    9. Ponyo (fantastic wave animation, but the film is just too short)

    How about a list ranking the best Ghibli film scores by Joe Hisaishi?

    • AH! That Hisashi list would be excruciatingly hard to put together. Probably similar to this list being quite opinion based (unlike you I love howls, but I agree with your first two). But how would you like the list judged? By how well it fits with the movie, which one is more pleasing to the ear when separated from the movie or even by single tracks rather than a full OST?

    • Yeah the animation and music were awesome. The story was a bit confusing but makes more sense if you watch it again. I really liked it too!

  • My top five would be:

    1. Whisper of the Heart / The Wind Rises (equal first!)
    3. From Up on Poppy Hill
    4. Porco Rosso
    5. Spirited Away

  • I dont know why everyone has such a hard-on for grave of the fireflies. Yes its a good flick the entirety of the movie frustrated me. It was like “Look at these kids and FEEL SAD NOW!”.

    The bloody kid had money all along to buy food. The sisters death was completely unnecessary and felt like a plot device to force home the “FEEL SAD NOW” theme of the film.

    Even teh director Takahata said he didnt want to fild to be about anti war and instead was really about how not following societys rules of get a job and do you duty will result in failure and ultimately death.

    • 1. Nausicaa
      2. Princess Mononoke
      3. Laputa
      4. The Cat Returns
      5. Arriety
      6. Grave of the Fireflies

  • For me:

    1. Princess Mononoke
    2. Porco Rosso
    3. Castle in the Sky
    4. Spirited Away
    5. Nausicaa
    6. Only Yesterday
    7. When Marnie Was There
    8. Kiki’s Delivery Service
    9. Arrietty
    10. Grave of the Fireflies
    11. The Wind Rises
    12. Whisper of the Heart
    13. The Cat Returns
    14. Totoro
    15. Ponyo
    16. From Up on Poppy Hill
    17. Howl’s Moving Castle
    18. The Yamadas
    19. Pom Poko
    20. Tales from Earthsea

    Have still not gotten around to Princess Kaguya or Ocean Waves. Have had both on bluray since their respective releases but just haven’t felt like them. I’d imagine they’ll slot in around the middle.

    When Marnie Was There is really underrated. I think it’s just that a lot of people didn’t see it. It’s got probably the most well-written plot of all of them, with the way that in the last 15 minutes or so everything clicks into place and you realize what had actually been happening. Very satisfying in a way that’s quite unique. It’s sad to think it could be the last film the studio makes, since Yonebayashi seemed to be a really good director and more than capable of filling the shoes of his predecessors.

    22 films (counting Ocean Waves and Nausicaa) and there is not a bad film there. Earthsea is without a doubt the worst of them, but it’s mediocre at worst, and really only seems bad relative to the rest of their films. I don’t think there’s any other movie studio you could say had that level of consistency.

    • Yes! cannot be forgotten.
      Its definitely not the best, because that of course is Mononoke (SAAAAAAN!!!!)
      But I do quite like it. TBH I would find it nigh impossible to rank Ghibli films other than
      Mononoke #1 and Pom Poko & Yamadas at the bottom.
      Of course I haven’t gotten around to Kaguya hime and am too afraid to try Fireflies.

  • While it isn’t the best Ghibli movie by far, I think Pom Poko is better than it’s given credit for here. I feel like a lot of appreciation for it comes from the context of Japanese culture, however, and it definitely doesn’t translate to Australian, and especially not American audiences.

    I actually dislike Arrietty, though. While it’s a visually pretty film with lovely music, the story doesn’t really… go anywhere. Very little happens and I felt like it ended far too quickly.

    I do agree that Howl’s overrated, but I still reckon it still sits in the top 5, with Laputa, Spirited Away, Mononoke and Nausicaa. I see it how I see Star Wars: very, very good, but certainly not the best, and certainly not something that lives up to the love people have for it. I’d probably put it at number 5.

    …I really need to watch Spirited Away and Nausicaa again, though…

    • I agree. I also note that when I lived in Japan (a decade ago) the hardest movie to get from my local dvd shop was Pom poko. I worked my way through the the ghibli films at that point and had seen most twice by the time I managed to rent that one. Either that town loved it, or it doesn’t translate well to Australia.
      Grave of the fireflies was also pretty hard to get, but I still saw it long before Pom poko.

  • Lol, I think I’m one of a tiny fraction of people who really loved Pom Poko.
    Also, The Cat Returns would be in my personal top 10…

  • I absolutely love Pom Poko, it doesn’t deserve to be that low on the list. Same with My Neighbours the Yamadas, while I didn’t immediately love it, I watched it in Japanese and everything clicked. For me the top movie should be The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, easily one of the most beautiful films ever made. Dare I say it, but Isao Takahata makes better movies than Hayao Miyazaki.

  • I think it’s difficult to put them in an ordered list. However, I have Ghibli films I :

    Actively dislike: Nausicaa, Laputa and Princess Kaguya.
    Don’t care for: Cat Returns, Tales From Earthsea, Ponyo, Pom Poko, The Wind Rises,
    Enjoy: Marnie, Howl’s, Yamadas, Poppy Hill, Whisper of the Heart,
    Actively like: Arrietty, Fireflies, Totoro, Spirited, Mononoke,
    LOVE: Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s,

    Probably controversial, but it’s not like my opinion is objective fact. I think I’ve teared up in Only Yesterday more than any other Ghibli film though.

  • Grave of the Fireflies – How you could or want to put yourself through watching the most depressing movie again I don’t know. Once was enough.

    I will watch it once more with each of my three kids when old enough to appreciate it.

    Edit: in my household we will rematch Kiki, Arriety, howls and totoro time and time again.

    • I haven’t even watched it once. I know what it’s about and I’m like “Nope. Won’t be putting myself through that.”

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is not a Ghibli movie and you forgot “Ocean Waves”, which is Ghibli’s best movie #1.
    Yes we can all agree “Tales From Earthsea” is terrible.

  • Thanks Luke,the missus saw your list and is now waving her arms around and yelling at me that Howl is a great movie while I nod….

  • There is a really good podcast on Ghibli called Ghibliotheque that I highly recommend.
    Really interesting stuff.
    I am so glad that the films are coming to Netflix. I can finally watch them all (I’ve seen about 10).
    Particularly looking forward to Only Yesterday, Whisper of the Heart and When Marnie Was There. Have heard some really interesting things about them and they’re a bit different.
    Top five of what I have watched is
    1) Porco Rosso
    2) Spirited Away
    3) My Neighbour Totoro
    4) Princess Mononoke
    5) Kikki’s Delivery Service.

  • You can never please everyone with this sort of list but I’ve scarcely seen a list that I disagree with more than this one.

  • Porco Rosso for #1

    Also how do you people like grave of the fireflies so much? I was the saddest most tragic movie I’ve ever watched. I watched it when i was a kid, new to anime and still believed all stories have a happy ending. Hired it from the local video store not knowing exactly what it was about, pretty sure it traumatized me a bit.

  • I watched Whisper of the Heart recently and it struck me as one of the best slice of life stories about first / young love I’d ever seen. I absoloutely adored it and it made my old, cold heart beat a little happier for a while.

    • Gonna have to sit on the backburner until we’re done with the redesign + backend upgrades, unfortunately (which should be very soooooooooooooooooooooooooon)

    • I’d love to be in a job where I could submit something I’ve used half a dozen times before as new work.

  • Howl’s sucks too. Great hair animations, but it’s Miyazaki’s most tired film

    yeah nah.
    It’s a beautiful rendition of the book which was supervised by the original author.

  • Any Ghibli list that doesn’t have Spirited Away at least in the top 5 is simply objectively wrong.

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