Studio Ghibli is among the most outstanding animation production studios in history. Renowned for its glorious animated films, both 2D and the occasional 3D, Studio Ghibli's success is one that many other studios and creators have chased for decades.
The success of Studio Ghibli primarily sits on the shoulders of Hayao Miyazaki, the director and creator of some of the finest work from the production company. Studio Ghibli has made 23 animated feature films in the decades since its first release.
Here are all of the Studio Ghibli movies, ranked from best to worst. Most of these films are among the best-animated movies ever made, so deciding on their ranking required an examination of their overall animation, story structure, action, characters, and writing.
1. Spirited Away
Spirited Away has all of the qualities associated with Studio Ghibli to the highest degree. Chihiro is a young girl who ends up in a magical realm and must find her parents to escape it. It runs a range of emotions, making you laugh one moment and tear up the next.
Made in 2001, its animation holds up unbelievably well, looking much better than some recent animated films. The scale and visual quality of the dazzling world that Chihiro ends up in are instantly memorable. That is all before considering the characters and writing that are among the best that Studio Ghibli has ever done.
2. Grave of The Fireflies
Though many Studio Ghibli movies deal with heavy themes, none are like Grave of the Fireflies. This is the darkest and most heartbreaking movie on this list, but also the best-written at the same time. The story of two siblings surviving after a World War II bombing is riveting, filled with gruesome imagery, and a movie you will never forget.
3. Kiki's Delivery Service
Kiki's Delivery Service is the ultimate coming-of-age storyline from the Japanese studio that nailed this aspect. Following Kiki, a young witch girl, as she completes errands around her town, it is magical from top to bottom. Fun for all ages and filled with action well ahead of its time, this is one of the best Studio Ghibli films.
4. Princess Mononoke
Considered the Star Wars of the anime world, Princess Mononoke has a scale and action-packed nature, unlike any other Studio Ghibli film. The environments are massive and wondrous, the characters are instant favorites, and the action is on a whole new level.
This is also one of the most rewatchable films from the studio.
5. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
One of the best folklore tales from Japanese culture was finally recreated in the most impressive way possible with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Though the animation is a love-it-or-hate-it situation, the storytelling and writing are on a new level. There is a reason this is considered an instant classic, despite being made in 2013.
6. Only Yesterday
One of the most beautiful and stirring films in the studio's works, Only Yesterday took far too long to make it stateside but was well worth the wait. An exploration of a burnt-out office worker's mental state as she explores the Japanese countryside and sees what could have been.
7. My Neighbor Totoro
The inspiration for the company's mascot, My Neighbor Totoro is among the best movies to come out of the studio. It follows two young girls as they explore their new neighborhood and befriend the adorable but massive creature, Totoro.
Cute, funny, and heartwarming, this is an unforgettable exploration of the imaginative power of children.
8. Howl's Moving Castle
There are many comparisons between Disney and Studio Ghibli, and Howl's Moving Castle is perhaps the most glaring similarity between Disney's animated films. The story of a girl cursed by an evil witch, it follows a young man named Howl as he uses his flying castle to track down and turn the girl young and beautiful again.
It has a classic feel, with some of the best animation and action sequences from a Studio Ghibli movie.
9. Castle in The Sky
This is the movie that started Studio Ghibli's eventual domination of the Japanese animated film space. It began and was arguably among the best tropes of an aviation-themed adventure filled with mystery, intrigue, twists, and plenty of heart-pounding action.
10. Whisper of The Heart
The only film led by the immensely talented Yoshifumi Kondo, Whisper of the Heart, showed that Miyazaki wasn't the only one who could make such phenomenal films. Following a girl obsessed with her possible soulmate, she goes on an adventure with a talking cat.
It has all the trappings of what makes a Studio Ghibli film great while also feeling romantically driven in a welcome way.
11. The Secret World of Arrietty
One of the most underrated films from Studio Ghibli, this 2010 movie follows a boy who encounters a tiny girl and is enveloped in her secret world. With some of the best modern animation from the studio and surprisingly emotional storytelling, it is well worth a watch.
Ponyo is like a modern Japanese take on The Little Mermaid, quirks and all. About a goldfish princess who meets a young boy, their relationship and their attempts to help the titular Ponyo's dream of becoming human are ridiculous, magical, and fun.
13. When Marnie Was There
When Marnie Was There is one of the quietest and most reflective films of the brilliant Studio Ghibli studio. While it is by no means the best around, it has a gentle approach to the intimate relationship between two friends who encounter one another.
The lead girl, played by Hailee Steinfeld, is the only one able to see a blonde girl she encounters. Their friendship is moving and the heart of this thoughtful piece.
14. The Cat Returns
Oddly enough, one of the few returns for a Studio Ghibli film, The Cat Returns, is a spin-off of another feature film. It explores many familiar aspects of a Ghibli film, like the transition from mundane life to a magical world and the strong relationships between characters.
15. Nausica of The Valley of The Wind
Though this wasn't, technically, made by Studio Ghibli, it was the first film from Hayao Miyazaki to kickstart the beloved animation style and fantastical settings that would be the premise of some of the best-animated movies ever made.
It is whimsical with a bold premise of a boy trying to save his post-apocalyptic fantasy world from its devastating state.
16. Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso is one of the more bizarre films from Studio Ghibli, following a man turned into a pig-like humanoid. This is mainly the background for an over-the-top aviation adventure through the skies. With a lot more action than the next movie on this list, it soars well into the hearts of some Ghibli fans.
17. The Wind Rises
There is a lot to love about the then-supposed final film of Hayao Miyazaki in 2013. The Wind Rises is the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese engineer who created a new plane model. The story is bittersweet, with wide-sweeping set pieces in the sky and tender moments between the smaller cast.
18. Ocean Waves
Ocean Waves takes a unique approach for a Studio Ghibli film, centering around a love triangle between two best friends and the girl they like. This quieter film works well emotionally and heartfelt, even if the story structure feels noticeably older than other movies.
19. From up on Poppy Hill
This is a nostalgic modern film from Studio Ghibli that follows a group of teens as they try to keep their clubhouse intact. It has some of the same tropes as Pom Poko but with less creepy character designs. The relationship between the characters carries this otherwise predictable film.
20. Pom Poko
Pom Poko is one of the few Studio Ghibli movies that may disturb you because of the main cast. Following a group of magical shapeshifter tanuki (raccoons), it shows their conflict against the people trying to destroy their lands.
The story is fine, the animation is decent if you can ignore the character designs, and the tone is nothing special but still good.
21. My Neighbors, the Yamadas
My Neighbors the Yamadas is far from the classic Studio Ghibli movie. Instead of the action-packed fantastical wonderlands that other films on this list are, this is, by and large, the most mundane storyline you could find.
It is a feature-length movie about a traditional Japanese family and their everyday lives. While nothing extraordinary happens in the film, it has a relaxed, colorful approach to its animation and a goofy tone that at least makes it worth a watch once.
22. Tales From Earthsea
While not a terrible movie, Tales from Earthsea is far from the fantastical showstopper it could have been. Based on a fantasy novel, this could have been an unforgettable adventure following a group of magical characters trying to stop an evil threat. Instead, it is a mediocre film with some at least solid animation.
23. Earwig and The Witch
Earwig and the Witch is the only movie released by Studio Ghibli that is unequivocally a bad film. There are few redeemable factors for this predictable storyline about a young girl who discovers her witch powers.
This movie feels like a 3D clone of far better films like Kiki's Delivery Service, but without any of the qualities that made it so good. This is worsened by lackluster 3D animation, which shows why Studio Ghibli should stick to its signature 2D animation style for now.