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The Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked From Fine to Phenomenal

Every Ghibli Film Ranked From Fine to Phenomenal

The Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked From Fine to Phenomenal

In the world of Japanese animation, the name Ghibli is as well known and influential as Disney. Producing some of the most iconic works in the entire medium with stories, characters and themes that remain relatable even decades after they were first revealed to the world, its films stand as examples of what anime is and should continue to strive to be. Their catalog of works is basically required viewing among many anime fans, and for those wondering where to start, we’ve ranked all 22 Ghibli films from fine to phenomenal. Author’s note: While Studio Ghibli provided assistance in the production of The Red Turtle, the film is credited to a director and production staff outside of the studio and will not be considered for this ranking.

22. Tales From Earthsea

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

Tales From Earthsea is a bit of an odd duck among the works of Studio Ghibli. On one hand, it takes the same inspirational path as many other Ghibli works and adapts an existing novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, giving image to the tale of a young man out to save his homeland from a growing imbalance and turmoil. On the other, it’s the debut work of acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki, and the signs of inexperience in pacing and story structure are… noticeable, to say the least. Regardless, the film still holds strong in its visuals, whisking viewers away to a beautiful fantasy world of dragons, magic and wide open vistas. For those who don’t mind leaning on style over substance, there’s still something to enjoy about this movie.

21. Ponyo

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

A heartwarming tale of coming to a new world, Ponyo strikes the same vein as some of the most well regarded Disney films. Centered around Ponyo, the daughter of an undersea wizard who left the surface for its mistreatment of nature, the film follows her journey to the surface, her befriending of a young boy named Sosuke, and their journey to set the balance of the world back in check so that all can live in peace and harmony. It’s fun, imaginative and a perfect diving-in point for younger viewers that might not be ready for the more intense entries in Ghibli’s filmography. That said, the simplified themes might not strike a chord with older viewers in the same way as the studios more mature works, and Ponyo should be seen as a work for children first and foremost.

20. The Secret World of Arrietty

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

Set in a world where small, fairy-like beings known as Borrowers live just outside of the view of humans, The Secret World of Arrietty tells the tale of a young boy who discovers these beings and tries to befriend one known as Arrietty. Though the two come to see each other as friends, the intersecting of their world threatens the very existence of the Borrowers and forces both of them to decide whether to remain friends of return to separate worlds. A wonderful film that presents the possibility for fantasy in everyday life, Arrietty is a fun mix of Studio Ghibli’s more realistic and lighthearted works. It may not have a world ending plot or implications, but it’s still the type of film that most anyone can enjoy comfortably.

19. From Up on Poppy Hill

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

Umi Matsuzaki, a high school student living near the port of Yokohama in Japan, meets another student named Shun Kazama after he writes a poem on her daily tradition of raising signal flags with the message of “I pray for a safe voyage.” The two slowly form a friendship and, in time, romantic feelings for each other before discovering a strange coincidence: Both have the same photo of a deceased man who is supposedly their father. To this end, they set off to discover the truth, coming to terms with their feelings for one another and what it will mean when the truth is revealed.

An enjoyable slice-of-life film, From Up on Poppy Hill is one of the easier period pieces made by Ghibli to see. While the main character’s romantic dilemma can be a bit off-putting at first, it does wrap up in a satisfactory way and makes for a worthwhile viewing experience Ghibli or otherwise.

18. Ocean Waves

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

One of Ghibli’s more subdued and nuanced offerings, Ocean Waves tells the story of how a young man named Taku Morisaki came to know a young woman known as Rikako Muto. Strong-headed and standoff-ish, he finds little to like about her at first. As time goes on though, the two’s lives intersect again, and again until a strange bond starts to form between them, and draws their friends and classmates in as a result. Straying from the magical and fantastical of the studio’s other works, Ocean Waves instead feels like a genuine and grounded coming of age tale, complete with all of the imperfect exchanges and mistakes that come with it.  Though some might not enjoy it as a result, it’ll more than satisfy anyone who wants to see the legendary animators test new waters with promising results.

17. The Cat Returns

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

A spin-off of another Ghibli property, The Cat Returns follows a young girl named Haru Yoshioka who is whisked away to a magical world of anthropomorphic felines after rescuing their supposed prince from being hit by a truck. Though he wishes to make her his wife for her actions, Haru instead wishes to return to her world and must find a way to escape the magic spell that threatens to trap her there forever as a cat. Luckily, she has the help of the suave and enigmatic Baron to guide her toward a solution and uncover a lesson she needs to learn about herself along the way.

A rare example of a continuation from one of Ghibli’s other works as well as one of their few films not directed by a Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, the film does a fine job of presenting an interesting fantasy world with a likable protagonist and plot, all to the trademark aesthetic of Ghibli’s art style. It’s a fun romp for viewers young and old, and while it may stumble here and there in its execution, it’s an interesting look into the storytelling process of other members of the iconic team.

16. The Wind Rises

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

The swan song of Hayao Miyazaki’s career – or at least, it was before he announced plans for a new film – The Wind Rises tells the life story of Jiro Horikoshi, a man who dreamed of creating airplanes to fly through the sky. Living through many major events that help to shape this dream, viewers are treated to his perspective through and through; What appeared as an earthquake to others came off as a roaring crowd rending the Earth to Jiro, just as a minor modification to a paper airplane holds the secret to a more aerodynamic full-scale plane in his eyes.

Seen from childhood all the way into his career as a military engineer, these points of view lead him to do great things at the cost of his inventions becoming weapons for World War II. His struggle to come to terms with the implications of this tugs at the heart strings, and is worth the longer stretches of exposition.

15. Whisper of the Heart

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

Shizuku Tsukushima is a young girl with dreams of becoming a writer, but is hesitant to pursue it until she meets Seiji Amasawa, a violin player who dreams of becoming a master at the craft, and his grandfather Nishi, the owner of an antique shop. Inspired by the way Seiji is willing to go across the world to achieve his dreams, she resolves to tackle writing wholeheartedly and to create a story which shows how far she can go with the profession. To that end, she begins to craft the tale of an enigmatic cat known as the Baron, and his journey to find his long lost love.

The film which inspired The Cat Returns with its imaginative lead’s day dreams and writing process, is a touching tale of pushing through one’s doubts to accomplish your dreams. For a film that mixes slice of life elements with fantastical wonder, few are better than this.

14. My Neighbors The Yamadas

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

There aren’t many Ghibli films that stray from the studio’s trademark aesthetic, but for films like My Nieghbors The Yamadas it proves to be a huge boon. Telling a number of different vignettes centered around an eccentric family and their daily lives, the movie’s art style brings it to life with a cheery, rough-lined style that gives it an innocence and curiosity.

Subjects as mundane as a child getting lost in a grocery store, arguing over what to watch on T.V. and many more daily activities become intriguing experiences with high stakes, yet still feel relatable no matter what your upbringing. For a great change of pace that will strike a familial chord, check out this oft-forgotten entry in Ghibli’s filmography.

13. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

Speaking of films that depart from the Ghibli art style, The Tale of Princess Kaguya breathes new life into the age-old Japanese fairy tale of a girl born from a magical bamboo chute. From her upbringing with a kind couple in a calm village, to her eventual crowning as divine royalty, every new scene flows and moves with an artistic flair that is hard to pull yourself away from. Factor in the emotion presented by the titular character’s journey for freedom and purpose, and you have a stunning departure from the studio’s norms which is sure to cleanse the palette of even the most avid fan.

12. When Marnie Was There

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

Following Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement, many wondered how the studio would fare in their first work without the director. As it turns out, they marked it with this phenomenal film, proving that they do indeed still have top of the line stories up their sleeve. Set in a quiet mountain town, the movie sees a young girl named Anna struggling to find a sense of belonging in life when she meets Marnie, a bright and vibrant girl who helps her enjoy the smaller moments in life and see the kind of person she can be. It’s an intimate and heartfelt story that not many films could tell, and save for a stumble or two near the end it serves to help establish where the studios films could head in the future.

11. Pom Poko

Best Studio Ghibli Movies, Ranked

The tanuki is a treasured piece of Japanese mythology with a variety of fables to pull stories from, so it’s no surprise Ghibli were able to make such a fun and interesting film based on them.

Centered around a group of the legendary critters who are threatened by human development projects, the plot sees their efforts to protect their existence, while also coming to understand humans before they decide how to carry on in the new world with them.

Poignant in its portrayal of the struggle to adapt to a changing world, it balances its heavier themes with excellent comedic moments ranging from an attempt to convince townspeople their homes are haunted to, yes, the assault on land developers with giant inflated testicles (trust me, you need to see it for yourself). If you haven’t seen this film already, make the time to cross it off your list.

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