Studio Ghibli is truly a titan in the world of animation. Since the beginning, they have consistently delivered films that have pushed the boundaries of what animation can do and made a lasting impact on cinema globally. Worldwide, Studio Ghibli movies are praised for their unmatched storytelling that blends complex plots with deep emotional resonance. These movies aren’t just cartoons; they are true works of art that have captivated audiences of all ages from Tokyo to Toronto.
Their influence is clear when you see how often their films come up in discussions about the greatest animated works ever. Their fame extends beyond box office numbers or awards—it’s about the unique way they tell stories. Studio Ghibli has a knack for weaving tales that feel real and meaningful, making them relatable and timeless. While often exploring rich Japanese culture, their narratives still speak to universal human experiences and emotions in a way that travels across borders.
In this article, we will highlight some of Studio Ghibli’s best movies ever made. Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to their work, this list can guide you to discover or rediscover the magic of Studio Ghibli. Dive in to find movies that may quickly become your favorites too.
The Legacy of Studio Ghibli
It’s impossible to talk about animation without bringing up Studio Ghibli. Established in the mid-80s, this legendary Japanese studio quickly became synonymous with quality. Founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata started with a simple goal: to tell heartfelt stories. And did they ever deliver!
Remember the first time you watched a Ghibli film? Maybe it was the magical world of “Spirited Away” or the heartwarming “My Neighbor Totoro.” These movies do more than entertain – they stay with you, making you think and feel, often revisit.
But Ghibli’s magic isn’t just great narratives. They’ve shown animated films can be as profound, meaningful and impactful as any live action drama. And the world took notice. Today, you see Ghibli’s fingerprints everywhere in pop culture. From merchandise to music covers, their influence is undeniable.
So why does Studio Ghibli matter? Because they changed the game. They proved animation isn’t just for kids and stories of love, nature and growing up are universal. Most importantly, the best Ghibli films are timeless treasures to be enjoyed by young and old alike. In animation, Studio Ghibli isn’t just a name – it’s a legacy. And we’re lucky to bear witness to it.
Criteria for Ranking the Best Studio Ghibli Movies by Gazettely
When determining the best Studio Ghibli movies, a systematic approach was essential. The movies were selected based on a combination of factors. First, we considered the narrative strength of each film. How compelling was the story? Did it resonate with audiences across different cultures and age groups?
Next, we looked at the animation quality, a hallmark of Ghibli productions. Was the animation innovative and visually captivating? To ensure a comprehensive ranking, we referred to multiple sources, which offered both expert reviews and audience feedback, ensuring a balanced perspective.
15 Best Studio Ghibli Movies
Now that you have a good understanding of Studio Ghibli and its impact on the world of animation, in the following we will countdown the 15 greatest Studio Ghibli movies ever made. From Hayao Miyazaki masterpieces like Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle to lesser known gems like Pom Poko and Whisper of the Heart, this definitive ranking covers Studio Ghibli’s most magical and inspiring films.
We’ll discuss memorable characters, impactful storytelling, and beautiful artistry that makes these animated features so special. Whether you’re a long-time Studio Ghibli fan eager to revisit these classics or looking for an introduction to the studio’s imaginative filmography, this post highlights the top 15 Studio Ghibli movies you need to see.
The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises departs from Studio Ghibli’s traditional fantasy narratives, instead offering a deeply human tale rooted in history and passion. Released in 2013, this film demonstrates Ghibli’s versatility and commitment to emotionally resonant storytelling.
Centered around Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautical engineer who designed Japanese fighter planes during WWII, the film delves into his dreams, ambitions, and challenges. Though set against a historical backdrop, the narrative keeps an intimate focus on Jiro’s love of aviation and relationship with Nahoko, the woman he meets and falls for.
What makes The Wind Rises truly stand out among Ghibli’s best works is its nuanced portrayal of dreams versus reality. It doesn’t shy away from the complexities of ambition, love, and moral dilemmas faced by individuals during conflict. The film prompts reflection on the costs of pursuing dreams and the choices we make.
Visually, The Wind Rises is a true masterpiece, capturing pre-war Japan’s natural beauty and bustling cities with Ghibli’s signature meticulousness. The dream sequences blending reality with fantasy offer insights into Jiro’s inner world and are particularly mesmerizing.
Ultimately, The Wind Rises presents a cinematic journey inviting introspection on life, love, and the nature of ambition. It showcases Ghibli’s ability to craft narratives grounded in history yet deeply personal, cementing its status among animation’s finest works.
Uncover Cinematic Hacking Sagas: “From the neon-lit realms of ‘Tron’ to the mind-bending reality of ‘The Matrix’, uncover the best in cinematic hacking. Click here to explore our expertly curated list of the best hacker movies ever made, and prepare to be enthralled by these digital masterpieces.”
Howl’s Moving Castle
Diving into the world of Studio Ghibli often leads audiences to the enchanting realms of “Howl’s Moving Castle.” This 2004 film, with its mesmerizing visuals and intricate storyline, stands as a testament to the studio’s unparalleled creativity and storytelling finesse.
At the heart of the film is Sophie, a young woman who finds herself cursed with old age by a spiteful witch. Her quest to break the curse brings her to the enigmatic wizard Howl and his magical, wandering castle. As their paths intertwine, the narrative unfolds, touching on themes of love, self-worth, and the transformative power of compassion.
What sets “Howl’s Moving Castle” apart in the lineup of the best Studio Ghibli movies is its ability to blend fantasy with deep emotional undertones. The moving castle itself, a marvel of animation, symbolizes the ever-changing nature of life and relationships. Howl, with his complexities and vulnerabilities, challenges the traditional portrayal of heroes, making him a relatable and endearing character.
Beyond its captivating storyline, the film is a visual treat, showcasing Ghibli’s signature attention to detail and imaginative landscapes. Each frame, from the bustling market streets to the serene skies, is a testament to the studio’s artistic prowess.
“Porco Rosso” is a shining gem in the treasure trove of Studio Ghibli films. Released in 1992, this movie offers a unique blend of adventure, romance, and introspection, all set against the picturesque backdrop of the Adriatic Sea. While it might feature a pig-faced aviator as its protagonist, the narrative dives deep into themes that are universally human.
The story follows Marco, a World War I pilot who, due to a mysterious curse, has been transformed into a pig. Now known as Porco Rosso, he lives as a bounty hunter, chasing air pirates and navigating the challenges of his unique existence. Yet, beneath the surface of thrilling aerial dogfights and Mediterranean vistas, the film delves into Marco’s past, his regrets, and his quest for redemption.
What makes “Porco Rosso” stand out among the best Studio Ghibli movies is its ability to balance light-hearted moments with profound introspection. The film doesn’t just entertain; it prompts viewers to reflect on themes of identity, love, and the scars left by war. Marco’s journey, both literal and metaphorical, resonates with anyone who’s grappled with their past and sought a path to healing.
Visually, “Porco Rosso” is a treat. The animation captures the charm of the 1920s European setting, from bustling coastal towns to serene skies. The aerial sequences, in particular, showcase Ghibli’s prowess, making viewers feel the thrill of flight.
Castle in the Sky
Castle in the Sky demonstrates Studio Ghibli’s brilliance in weaving tales that transport viewers to worlds filled with wonder and excitement. Released in 1986, this seminal film helped establish Ghibli’s signature combination of gripping storytelling and breathtaking visuals.
The narrative follows young Pazu and Sheeta embarking on a quest to discover the legendary floating city of Laputa. Armed with a mysterious crystal and pursued by pirates and government agents, their journey is one of discovery, friendship, and understanding heritage’s true value. Facing challenges and uncovering sky secrets, an unbreakable bond forms between the duo.
What makes Castle in the Sky truly stand out is its intricate world-building. Floating islands, airships, and steampunk-inspired technology craft a fantastical yet grounded universe. The film invites viewers to immerse themselves in a sky holding endless possibilities beyond merely presenting a tale.
Beyond its captivating plot, Castle in the Sky delves into environmental conservation, ambition’s perils, and history’s importance. It entertains while prompting reflection on humanity’s relationship with the natural world. In essence, Castle in the Sky captures adventure’s essence and depth of human connection. For those seeking a Ghibli film blending action, emotion and magic, this seminal gem is a must.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a heartwarming tale encapsulating youth’s essence, independence and challenges of finding one’s place. Released in 1989, this beloved Studio Ghibli classic resonates with audiences of all ages.
The story follows 13-year-old witch Kiki, who as tradition dictates, leaves home to spend a year living alone with her black cat Jiji. Settling in a coastal town, she starts a delivery service using her broomstick. Navigating independence’s ups and downs, Kiki faces struggles from self-doubt to friendship and responsibility complexities.
What truly sets Kiki apart is its authentic portrayal of growth and self-discovery. Rather than grand adventures or magical battles, it realistically focuses on everyday challenges and triumphs of stepping outside comfort zones into the unknown – a universal experience of maturing.
Visually delightful, the picturesque town with European architecture and scenic views provides a vibrant backdrop for Kiki’s adventures.True to Ghibli’s reputation, detailed animation draws viewers fully into Kiki’s world.
Ultimately, Kiki’s Delivery Service celebrates youth, resilience and journey to self-discovery. It beautifully captures adventure’s spirit and importance of believing in oneself. For those seeking warmth, humor and meaningful life lessons from Studio Ghibli, this timeless choice delivers.
Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart shines as a prime example of Studio Ghibli’s brilliance in crafting stories that resonate with everyday life’s intricacies. Released in 1995, this film stands out for its heartfelt portrayal of adolescence, dreams, and self-discovery’s journey.
The narrative follows book-loving Shizuku, whose curiosity leads her on a quest after noticing the same person has checked out all the library books she wants. Along the way, she encounters Seiji, a boy with dreams of becoming a violin maker, as they navigate challenges and joys of young love and ambition.
What truly makes Whisper of the Heart stand out is its focus on life’s subtleties, beautifully capturing youth’s essence – from uncertainty about the future to sparks of inspiration. It celebrates both big and small dreams, and our paths to achieving them.
True to Ghibli’s signature style, the detailed, immersive animation is a testament to their artistic prowess, from bustling Tokyo streets to quiet reflection moments.
Ultimately, Whisper of the Heart offers a touching exploration of our passions and relationships. It speaks to the heart, reminding us of dreams’ beauty and importance of following our path. For a genuine, relatable portrayal of adolescence, this is a heartwarming choice.
Princess Mononoke is so much more than your average animated feature – it’s a powerful narrative delving into humanity’s relationship with nature. A hallmark of Studio Ghibli’s storytelling prowess, this 1997 film seamlessly blends fantasy with poignant environmental and social themes.
The story follows Ashitaka, a young prince who finds himself caught between gods of the forest and humans consuming its resources. Enter San, the fierce Princess Mononoke raised by wolves and determined to protect her forest home. Their interactions amid stunning landscapes and intricate characters explore the delicate balance of progress and preservation.
One thing that makes Princess Mononoke truly stand out among Ghibli’s best is how it refuses to paint characters as purely good or evil. Each individual, whether human or spirit, has motivations and beliefs that blur lines between antagonist and protagonist. This complexity adds depth, pushing viewers to reflect on their own perspectives.
Visually stunning and thought-provoking, Princess Mononoke demonstrates Studio Ghibli’s mastery of crafting stories that resonate on multiple levels. For those seeking an animated film that challenges, inspires and entertains, this movie provides an unparalleled cinematic experience.
My Neighbor Totoro
“My Neighbor Totoro” is a name that deeply resonates with Studio Ghibli fans, and rightfully so. This 1988 film and its heartwarming tale of iconic characters have undoubtedly cemented its place among the studio’s most beloved works. It’s more than a movie—it’s a gentle embrace of childhood wonder and the magic found in everyday life.
Set in rural Japan, the story follows sisters Satsuki and Mei as they move closer to their hospitalized mother. Exploring their new surroundings, they encounter a series of magical creatures, including the lovable, enigmatic Totoro. Through their adventures with these forest spirits, the sisters navigate change, family bonds, and nature’s beauty.
What sets My Neighbor Totoro apart among Ghibli’s best is its simplicity. There’s no epic villain to defeat or complex problem to solve—the film celebrates small moments, discovery’s joy, and the ties binding us to the world around us. Totoro, with his wide grin and comforting presence, embodies childhood wonder and magic lurking just beyond ordinary experiences.
Visually, lush landscapes, vibrant colors, and detailed animation bring Totoro’s world to life, inviting viewers to lose themselves in its charm.
Ultimately, My Neighbor Totoro shares a timeless tale speaking to the child within us all. It reminds us of everyday magic and the bonds connecting us to the world and each other. For those seeking a heartwarming Ghibli film sparking imagination, this movie is pure delight.
The Cat Returns
Among Studio Ghibli’s diverse catalog, The Cat Returns emerges as a delightful, whimsical tale sparking imagination. Released in 2002, this film offers a refreshing spin on parallel worlds, presenting an enchanting narrative filled with heart.
The story centers around Haru, who saves a cat from an oncoming truck, only to discover he’s no ordinary feline but a prince from the Cat Kingdom. As thanks, the kingdom wishes to shower her with gifts and even offers her the prince’s hand in marriage. However, when the cat world proves overwhelming, Haru seeks help from the dapper Cat Baron and his companions to find her way home.
What truly distinguishes The Cat Returns among Ghibli’s best is its playful storytelling. It effortlessly blends humor, adventure and romance, creating a film appealing to all ages. The vibrant Cat Kingdom’s quirky inhabitants and regal splendor showcase Ghibli’s talent for crafting immersive worlds that linger long after.
Beyond its captivating plot, The Cat Returns explores self-discovery, courage and staying true to oneself, reminding us that even in extraordinary circumstances, our essence remains unchanged. In summary, The Cat Returns is a charming escapade showcasing Ghibli’s knack for tales resonating with warmth, humor and magic. For those seeking a lighthearted cinematic experience leaving a smile, this is the perfect choice.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is so much more than an animated movie – it’s a profound exploration of humanity’s relationship with nature. Released in 1984 before Ghibli’s official founding, this seminal film set the tone for future masterpieces by committing to resonant storytelling on multiple levels.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story follows Nausicaä, a young princess and pilot from the Valley of the Wind. As she navigates a landscape scarred by ecological disaster and giant insects, Nausicaä seeks to understand nature’s balance and humanity’s role in preservation or destruction.
What truly distinguishes Nausicaä among Ghibli’s best is its visionary approach to environmental themes. The film poses questions about responsibility, coexistence, and ambition’s consequences rather than simply presenting a tale. Nausicaä, with her compassion and determination, embodies hope for harmonious futures, lingering in hearts long after.
Visually, the film is stunning. Vast, expressive landscapes from serene valleys to haunting forests showcase Ghibli’s artistic mastery. Detailed animation and captivating designs fully immerse viewers in a world both familiar and fantastical.
Ultimately, Nausicaä delivers a cinematic journey that challenges, inspires and captivates. It demonstrates Ghibli’s brilliance in crafting narratives that not only entertain but provoke thought and reflection. For those seeking action, emotion and powerful messaging combined, this seminal work stands without equal.
Only Yesterday stands as a testament to Studio Ghibli’s versatility in storytelling. Released in 1991, this film offers a refreshing departure from their more fantastical narratives through a heartfelt exploration of self-discovery, nostalgia and finding one’s place.
The story follows 27-year-old Taeko on a trip to the countryside, where memories of her childhood come flooding back intertwining with her present experiences. These reflections ranging from school days to first crushes paint a vivid picture of life’s joys and challenges.
What truly sets Only Yesterday apart is its grounded approach. The film delves deep into the human psyche, exploring memory’s nuances and the past’s impact on present choices. Taeko’s physical and emotional journey resonates with anyone reflecting on life’s “what ifs” and “might have beens”.
While more subdued than other Ghibli works, the animation remains captivating through detailed portrayals of the beautiful Japanese countryside providing the perfect backdrop for Taeko’s introspection.
Only Yesterday is a beautifully crafted narrative speaking to the soul. It’s a reminder of time’s fleeting nature, cherishing memories, and never-ending quest for self-understanding. For those seeking a deeply reflective cinematic experience from Ghibli, this is a must-watch.
Ponyo is undeniably one of the best Studio Ghibli movies to have captured hearts worldwide. Directed by legendary Hayao Miyazaki, this enchanting animated movie tells the story of Ponyo, a young fish longing to become human. It’s a delightful blend of fantasy, adventure and heartwarming moments.
What makes Ponyo truly stand out is its breathtaking hand-drawn animation. Studio Ghibli’s attention to detail and artistic brilliance shine through in every frame, creating a visually stunning experience. The underwater scenes in particular showcase the studio’s dedication to crafting a magical world feeling real.
Joe Hisaishi’s enchanting score adds immense charm, complementing the story’s emotions and magical elements to make every moment memorable. A remarkable aspect of Ponyo is its universal appeal. While animated, it resonates strongly with both children and adults through themes of friendship, love and environmental awareness.
Ponyo is essential viewing for any Ghibli fan, old or new. Its beautiful animation, captivating storyline and universal themes cement its status as one of their best films ever created. Magical fantasy and heartwarming moments await for all to discover.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a masterful blend of folklore and contemporary storytelling. Released in 2013, this film showcases the studio’s commitment to crafting narratives that resonate profoundly – both emotionally and visually.
Based on the classic Japanese folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” the story revolves around a tiny princess found inside a shining bamboo stalk. As Kaguya rapidly grows into a beautiful woman, she experiences life’s joys and challenges – from countryside simplicity to capital complexity. Yet, a celestial secret defines her destiny.
What truly sets Kaguya apart is its unique animation style – a dreamy, ethereal watercolor technique complementing themes of impermanence, beauty and life’s bittersweet nature.
Beyond stunning visuals, the film delves deeply into the human experience. Kaguya’s journey through joy, sorrow, love and discovery mirrors our universal quest for purpose and identity. Her interactions, challenges and choices prompt reflection on life’s essence and beauty’s transient nature.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a cinematic gem beautifully marrying tradition with modernity. It demonstrates Ghibli’s ability to touch hearts and minds, cementing its status as an essential piece among their finest works. For those seeking profoundly moving and visually enchanting tales, this folk story is essential viewing.
Grave of the Fireflies
Among Studio Ghibli’s vast library, Grave of the Fireflies holds a unique, poignant place. Released in 1988, this film diverges from their typical whimsical, magical works by offering a heartbreaking portrayal of humanity’s resilience during war.
Set against WWII’s backdrop, the story follows siblings Seita and Setsuko as they navigate Japan’s devastating landscape. Their journey – fraught with hardship, hunger, and loss – shows the strength of family bonds and how far we’ll go to protect loved ones.
What makes Grave of the Fireflies stand out among the best Ghibli films is its raw, unfiltered depiction of war’s impact on ordinary lives. It spares no details showing the grim realities, creating a profoundly moving yet often somber experience. Yet amid the despair, it beautifully captures moments of hope, love, and innocence.
In animation world, Grave of the Fireflies is a true masterpiece, demonstrating animated films can tackle profound, serious themes with nuance and depth. For those seeking a cinematic experience that echoes real-life emotions and challenges, this seminal Ghibli work is essential viewing.
When diving into the world of Studio Ghibli, “Spirited Away” often emerges as a standout. This 2001 film isn’t just an animated feature; it’s a journey into a realm of wonder, mystery, and self-discovery. Following the tale of Chihiro, a young girl who inadvertently enters a world of spirits, the movie masterfully weaves a narrative that’s both captivating and deeply symbolic.
Chihiro’s adventure, filled with intriguing characters and challenges, mirrors the complexities of growing up. From a bustling spirit bathhouse to encounters with creatures like No-Face and Yubaba, every element of the film serves a purpose, pushing Chihiro to find her strength and identity.
But what truly sets “Spirited Away” on a pedestal among the best Studio Ghibli movies is its universal appeal. While rooted in Japanese culture and folklore, its themes of bravery, love, and transformation resonate globally. Critics and audiences alike have lauded its depth, animation brilliance, and storytelling prowess.
Studio Ghibli’s Unparalleled Storytelling
When discussing the best Studio Ghibli movies, their storytelling cannot be overlooked. While renowned for visual artistry, Ghibli truly shines through unparalleled narratives. A hallmark is tackling profound themes with nuance and depth. Whether exploring nature’s delicate balance in “Princess Mononoke” or self-worth in “Spirited Away,” these movies invite reflection on complex issues, resonating with both children and adults.
Character development stands out too – Ghibli crafts multi-dimensional, relatable characters. From ambitious witch Kiki to introspective Shizuku in “Whisper of the Heart,” their personal journeys captivate and linger long after.
Additionally, Ghibli blurs fantasy-reality lines. Films like “My Neighbor Totoro” and “The Cat Returns” fully immerse viewers in worlds where magical and mundane coexist, offering fresh perspectives on everyday experiences.
Ultimately, Ghibli’s unique approach seamlessly combines profound thematic exploration, rich character depth and imaginative worlds. It’s this blend that ensures their films not only entertain but also provoke thought, securing timeless classic status in cinema. Masterful storytelling truly sets Ghibli films apart.
The Art and Animation of Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli’s esteem in animation stems largely from distinctive art and techniques. Their movies immediately impress with meticulous attention to detail and commitment to artistry.
A defining trait is blending hand-drawn techniques with subtle digital enhancements, resulting in timeless yet dynamic scenes. Nature’s delicate movements in “My Neighbor Totoro” or Nausicaä’s intricate creatures showcase precision and passion in every frame.
Backdrops also stand out – lush landscapes from serene countryside to bustling cities. Rich in color and nuanced detail, these settings establish atmosphere while immersing viewers in tangible, alive worlds.
Character designs further exemplify artistic mastery. Expressive features allow profound emotional depth, adding narrative layers. Ghibli captures essences of both human and fantastical characters remarkably well.
Ultimately, Ghibli’s art and animation do more than entertain visually – they are integral to storytelling mastery. Each film emerges as an unparalleled work captivating audiences through eyes and heart. For those seeking animation’s pinnacle in artistry and innovation, Ghibli leads the industry.
Ghibli’s Cinematic Tapestry: A Lasting Legacy
Reflecting on Studio Ghibli’s vast body of work, it’s clear this animation powerhouse has left an indelible mark on cinema’s canvas. With a repertoire spanning genres, themes and emotions, Ghibli films consistently resonate globally.
Weaving intricate tales paired with unparalleled craftsmanship, movies ranging from magical adventures to poignant real-world narratives achieve universal appeal. Each carries the distinct Ghibli touch – a blend of heart, art and narrative depth.
Beyond entertainment, Ghibli sparked conversations, inspired creators and paved future animation paths. Their legacy lies not just in stories told but widespread impact.
In conclusion, Studio Ghibli demonstrates cinema’s transformative power. Through enriching animation and enduring inspiration, their films will continue captivating for generations, cementing Ghibli’s place in cinematic history. Master storytellers, they’ve left a tapestry ensuring their legacy lives on.