Ranking All Studio Ghibli Movies

By Diego Caceres, Staff Writer

Strap in your seat belts because this one is going to be fun. I am reviewing all of the Studio Ghibli movies based on my experiences with the films. These movies have impacted my life. I hope this list will encourage you to give them a try. They are better than whatever garbage Hollywood is producing for kids nowadays (I sound pretentious, but I stand by that statement). I have seen enough Ghibli movies to make an already lengthy review even longer. If the movie is not on the list, I have not seen it.

  1. Pom Poko

Pom Poko is the worst Ghibli movie, or movie in general, that I have ever seen. I immediately forgot about what in the world those raccoon-dogs were doing after the movie was over. All I remember is they can shapeshift and use an unexpected part of the body to perform magic (you have to watch the film to understand). I would not recommend it though.

  1. Only Yesterday

If I were to describe this movie, I would say it is like looking at a pineapple for 10 minutes. That is an actual scene in this movie. This movie is incredibly slow and incredibly forgettable. I would not recommend this movie.

  1. When Marnie Was There

At first, I thought the two main characters were in love. It turns out that, spoiler alert, it was her dead grandma the whole time. This movie was bearable but nothing special.

  1. The Cat Returns

This film is where things start getting good. This movie is a fun time. The style, scale, and surprising elements are so much fun to experience alongside the main characters. The animation is crisp and exemplifies the whimsical nature of the movie. Although I do have some story issues, this is pretty good considering where it lies on the ranking list.

  1. The Red Turtle

This movie is long, meaning it has a slow pace that may scare some viewers, but it packs a powerful punch. You get attached to these characters that hardly speak (I saw this a while ago. I remember there was hardly any dialogue). It tells the heartbreaking story of a man shipwrecked on an island. I wish I could remember this more because I liked it. That says something about how good it is in my mind. It can remain at this spot for now.

  1. Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart is one of Ghibli’s quieter films. It has a simple story and lengthy runtime but still manages to intrigue audiences. This is an example of a coming-of-age movie done right.

  1. Ponyo

This one has a lot of sentimental value for me because it was one of the first Ghibli movies I ever saw. It manages to capture the feeling of childlike wonder perfectly. All of the characters are memorable and distinct in their personalities. The music and animation are incredible. One scene in particular, when the moon looms over a massive wave as the music swells, is mesmerizing. This movie holds a special place in my heart.

  1. Kiki’s Delivery Service

This one is a hot take. I admire this film and the slow pace it took. One of the film posters for the movie is Kiki working a shift like any other day. That captures the essence of the film. The ending feels jarring compared to the everyday-feel of the film. It cuts to an action-packed, high intensity sequence when most of the movie is calm and knows what it wants to be. Even if the ending feels out of place, the music, characters, and setting compliment the film like most other Ghibli movies.

  1. Porco Rosso

I cannot believe how underrated this movie is. Following the adventures of Porco Rosso, a man turned pig, the film uncovers his personality and shows his growth through a series of fun interactions from lovable characters. It is the most upfront Ghibli movie in terms of female empowerment because it contrasts with Porco’s character. All of the settings are gorgeous, with a focus on European architecture, and the music compliments that. This film is solid.

  1. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is incredibly mature compared to something like Ponyo. The story centers around a princess who was taken from her country roots and thrust into royalty. The characters are complex, shown through their changing desires. The film is real, raw, and powerful. The art style is like nothing I have ever seen in an animated movie. One scene where Princess Kaguya flees from her palace utilizes unstable linework to capture the desperation of the characters. This is one of Isao Takahata’s best films.

  1. Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky is an exceptional adventure movie. For the runtime, it manages to captivate viewers without leaving them behind. It elicits an emotion of emptiness that I have never experienced before. Check this one out if you have the time (check out all of these for that matter).

  1. The Wind Rises

This one could be considered another hot take. The Wind Rises is the most personal to Miyazaki, the director of most Ghibli films, because it stems from his love for aircraft and mixed feelings towards war. The story is about the importance of living. The film is raw and passionate, creating an unforgettable experience that taps into the mind of one of the greatest filmmakers alive.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle feels like a breath of fresh air. It is genuinely funny and manages to tell a soaring romance that blooms from unexpected circumstances. The ending is what does it for me. It is so jarring and desperate to leave on a happy note that it puts into perspective how I viewed this movie. It questions the audience whether they choose to accept this moment of happiness or think of it as lazy writing. Besides that, the scenery and music never cease to amaze. This movie is truly magical.

  1. Grave of the Fireflies

This movie is sad. That statement fully encapsulates the film. A hard-hearted film about dying children and war, this movie is so jarring compared to the lighthearted whimsy in movies like Ponyo. It is an objectively great film.

  1. Princess Mononoke

This film is spectacular. From the character dynamics to the themes of nature and hate, Princess Mononoke rises to the top of the ranking. I am speechless every time I finish this film. It is close to perfection but is only in third place. 

  1. My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is a time capsule that holds the essence of childhood. It is filled to the brim with wonder and pure joy. As I reach the bottom of this ranking, I have less and less to say. These films are impossible to describe because they need to be experienced firsthand.

  1. Spirited Away

Perfection. I have never experienced anything so emotionally impactful, capable of shaking me to my core. The soundtrack, story, pacing, characters, and everything else about it is indescribable. That feeling of conclusion at the end of the film is like nothing I have ever felt in my life. I am so fortunate to have seen this movie. I will always be grateful for the impact these movies have had on me.