If you’re a fan of animation, you’ve probably heard of Studio Ghibli, the legendary Japanese animation studio. Since the 1980’s Studio Ghibli has been producing some of the best animated films pretty much ever. Here I will be ranking Studio Ghibli movies – all written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
(*Disclaimer, if you have not seen the films the ranks will probably not make any sense. You have been warned!)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
First up, we have Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Released as the first Ghibli film all the way back in 1984, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind features the titular character Nausicaa living in an apocalyptic future where the Earth has largely been overrun by the Toxic Jungle. The Jungle is home to giant bugs who protect the poisonous plants of the Jungle. Humans and the bugs of the Toxic Jungle have been at odds with each other since the Jungle came to be. While some have accepted the Jungle and attempted to live in harmony with it, others are not so content and wish to take back the Earth.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a beautiful story about a young woman who does her best to protect those she loves and treasures all life. I give it 10 out of 10 Ohmu.
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Next, we have Castle in the Sky. Released two years after Nausicaa, it is another early movie released by Studio Ghibli. Featuring a young girl named Sheeta who has been kidnapped from her home for her mysterious connection to an ancient civilization by the name of Laputa, she bonds with a young miner as she discovers her heritage and seeks to protect it from those who would take advantage of it for their own gains.
With pirates, flying machines, magic, and ancient technology, it’s hard not to fall in love with Sheeta’s story. She’s an earnest girl struggling to find her place in the world. I give it 5 out of 5 magic necklaces.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
IIt’s impossible to talk about Studio Ghibli without at least mentioning Totoro. The large, furry troll is the studio’s mascot and titular character from one of its most well-known movies. My Neighbor Totoro is for a younger audience than most of the other movies on this list but still holds a dear place in my heart. Looking at the lives of two young girls, Mei and Satsuki, they move to a new town with their father and adjust to living in the country. As they wander around their new home and befriend the forest spirit Totoro, their life is turned upside down when news of their sick mother makes an already stressful situation even worse.
The movie introduces two of the most memorable Ghibli characters ever, Totoro and the Catbus. It is a fun movie for children, which helps them see the magic in everything. I give it 7 out of 8 Catbusses.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
One of my personal favorites, Princess Mononoke, is a film that really looks at the big picture relationship between Man and Nature. Focusing on Ashitaka, a prince who has left his people after being cursed by a demon. In search of the source of the demon’s pain, he comes across Irontown. Irontown borders a large forest, which is home to many gods and spirits who take the form of large animals. The humans of the town create iron and have grown bolder with their efforts to reach the minerals under the forest, thus angering the gods of the forest.
One of Princess Mononoke’s main themes is harmony between man and nature, a common theme throughout many Ghibli movies. It was the first animated film to win a National Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year in Japan. With beautiful artwork and a compelling story, it’s easy to see why it was so popular. I give Princess Mononoke 15 out of 15 forest spirits.
Spirited Away (2001)
Vivid colors, exotic monsters, magic, and amazing food. After watching Spirited Away, those are the things I associate most with the film. After watching her parents transform into pigs and being forced to work in a bathhouse in the realm of spirits, the main character Chihiro, can get back to the human world thanks to her friends and some quick thinking of her own. The film is honestly unlike anything else I watched as a child. The detail for an animated film is astounding. It’s impossible to take it all in on one or even ten watches.
It became the highest grossing film in Japanese history, overtaking Titanic and becoming the first anime to win an Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature. With remarkable characters ranging from the adorable to the grotesque, I highly recommend Spirited Away for anyone with an appreciation for animation. I give it 12 out of 12 sentient lumps of soot.
These are just a handful of the many amazing Studio Ghibli films out there. I cannot recommend enough watching literally any of them… Though, if you decide to pick up Grave of the Fireflies, you should also expect to grab some tissues for your tears.