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Ranking All Studio Ghibli Featured Films


Watching most of the Studio Ghibli movies for the first time ever at the start of the year makes me believe that only happy vibes will happen this year.

When I was watching them, I was wondering why I haven’t seen these movies when I was younger. If I had, would I have picked up on all of the subtle lessons and themes that the writers and animators of many of these beautiful masterpieces incorporated?

I mean, I was transported into a world of spirits, moving castles, princesses, wartime, tiny people, innovators, dream chasers, and witches – many of whom reminded me of how important it is to believe in yourself, fight for what and who you love, follow your dreams, listen to the words unspoken, break down and cry once in a while as long as you get back up, have fun, and experience each day with a bit of magic.

There’s nothing else in the world that can compare to the folktale, history, self-reflections, and adventures that Studio Ghibli films narrate.

“Walt Disney movies reach the heart. Studio Ghibli films reach the soul.”

A Bit of Studio Ghibli History

Studio Ghibli Inc. is a Japanese animation studio founded on June 15, 1985, by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki. It is currently headquartered in Koganei, Tokyo. The studio is best known for its animated feature films, and has produced a number of short subjects, tv commercials, and one television film.

Its mascot has been the giant catlike spirit, Totoro, from their 1988 anime film My Neighbor Totoro.

In 2014, Studio Ghibli went into a temporary suspension following the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki. The studio made a comeback with its 2020 feature film, Earwig and the Witch, which was directed by Miyazaki’s son, Gorō. And, currently, the studio is in production for their 2023 feature film, How Do You Live? directed by Hayao Miyazaki, a movie intended to be his last one.

All of the movies I’ve included in the ranking are listed on the Studio Ghibli Wikipedia page, except for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Nonetheless, I included Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind because it was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and animated by Topcraft. Topcraft eventually went bankrupt and dissolved into two. Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, and Isao Takahata later formed Studio Ghibli. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was eventually re-released as part of the “Studio Ghibli Collection” DVD and Blu-Ray range.

I initially watched the movies in English Dub. I didn’t notice I could switch to English Sub until I was practically done watching all of them. By the time this post goes up, I’ll probably be a quarter done re-watching the movies in the sub. Nonetheless, I don’t think my rankings and opinions will change much.

The reviews are based on my personal opinions and preferences.

The criteria scores are out of a total of 10, and because I have huge respect and admiration towards Studio Ghibli films, the lowest I’m scoring any of them is a 4. They do not reflect the overall ranking of the films.

The Criteria


The theme took inspiration from real issues;

Unique and original premise of the story;

Effective use of imagination.


Quality of illustrations reflected in the final work;

The music score suits the film and relates to the character’s journey.


Distinctive, compelling, multi-layered, and unpredictable personalities;

Showed growth and development as the story progressed;

The protagonist (s) and antagonist(s) have clear and active goals.


Actions, events, conflicts, and turning points propel the story forward;

Pacing and structure were relevant and good;

Fun, engaging, and/or thought-provoking;

Plot holes, if any, weren’t noticeable.


The message was clearly depicted of the cause it represents;

The film achieved what it wanted to achieve;

Length was appropriate.


Lesson(s) hit the heart;

Creates a desire to make a change; and spreads the message further.

My Ranking (Updated: 01.2024)

24. 海がきこえる // Ocean Waves (1993)

Theme: 4

Animation / Score: 9

Characters: 4

Storyline: 4

Ending: 4

Overall Impact: 4

This film frustrated me, even more so the second time I watched it.

I watched Only Yesterday just before this one and basing Ocean Waves on the movie poster, I was expecting them to be quite similar.

I really wanted to like Ocean Waves. It has beautiful illustrations and visuals with the soft pastel colors being pleasing to the eyes and fitting the narrative of the story. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t see and understand any other positives of this film.

The story revolves around high school relationships, mainly around three people – Taku, Yutaka, and Rikako.

The main character, Taku, showed promise. I liked him. He was outspoken, a loyal friend, and a genuinely good guy. His best friend, Yutaka, also showed promise. If the movie revolved around their friendship, I would’ve probably enjoyed that more.

Rikako, the female lead, is something else. She’s a manipulative, whiny, and ungrateful individual who could probably have been the older version of Earwig, with better eyebrows.

The movie shows Rikako’s disrespectful attitude towards Taku, and practically everyone else in her class, except for the one friend she’s managed to have, Yumi. Taku, being the person I admired him for, called her out for her rude behavior, which gave me hope that Rikako might change her attitude or that the two would part ways and Taku and Yutaka could go on with their lives without her.

Ha, such wishful thinking.

Taku and Rikako’s last encounter was bad. Since then, they hadn’t spoken to each other, and I thought all was dandy until the class met up for their 10-year reunion, and Taku realized that he’d been in love with Rikako the whole time.

Did I miss something or…? Every scene that the two had wasn’t exactly happy or indicated any sign of romance.

This is why I don’t think I can ever understand what true romantic love is.

23. アーヤと魔女 // Earwig and the Witch (2020)

Theme: 6

Animation / Score: 5

Characters: 6

Storyline: 5

Ending: 4

Overall Impact: 5

I was a bit hesitant to watch this, but then I read the synopsis and I became intrigued. In fact, the first few minutes of the film were interesting, but then it all went downhill from there.

I’m sorry (not really), but the main character’s, Earwig’s, personality was a no for me. Right at the beginning, Earwig, who was living in an orphanage, would boast about how everyone follows her every command and that she can easily manipulate even the adults to do her bidding.

On the other hand, as the movie progressed, I began appreciating the fact that Earwig does seem to care deeply for Custard, her closest friend at the orphanage, and looks out for him more than anyone else.

Earwig eventually gets adopted by a couple who are also in the magic business, and she’s basically made to be her adoptive mother’s, Bella Yaga, assistant, while her adoptive father, The Mandrake, is to be left alone and unbothered at all times.

Surprisingly, The Mandrake is my favorite character here even though I don’t support his actions towards the end. Bella Yaga, on the other hand, is viciously rude and unkind towards Earwig throughout the film. Unfortunately, there were times when I didn’t mind her attitude towards Earwig because let’s face it, Earwig needed a taste of her own medicine.

Now, you’d think that since Earwig is being treated this way, she’d somehow realized the extent of her erratic behavior, reflect on that, and become a semi-decent child, right? NOPE! There were about 20 minutes left in the film, and by some strange twist of fate, The Mandrake and Bella Yaga began treating her in a more civilized manner.

The film ends with the biggest cliffhangers that I’ve never seen in a Ghibli film before, and in a way that doesn’t exactly resolve anything other than Earwig getting people to do her bidding…again. Many of the Ghibli films have often left me wondering what more would or could happen afterward, but they’re typically open-ended and they left the story in an acceptable spot.

But this? This ending was just cruel and the storyline as a whole is my least favorite Studio Ghibli featured film.

Also, I read that the studio was playing around with 3D animation for this film, and I completely commend them for branching out to a variety of animation styles. Personally, the animation didn’t bother me much, if not, at all. The visuals of the characters were okay, except for Earwig’s eyebrows. They were distracting for me.

22. ゲド戦記 // Tales from Earthsea (2006)

Theme: 8

Animation / Score: 7

Characters: 7

Storyline: 5

Ending: 7

Overall Impact: 5

I had extremely high expectations for Tales from Earthsea. The movie poster and synopsis had dragons—DRAGONS. Need I expect more?

Unfortunately, dragons were shown battling it out during the first couple of minutes and then discussed a couple of minutes later, and never made any other appearance until the last couple of minutes in the film. Everything else in between was practically jumbled up with no focus on what the synopsis entailed.

I was expecting action, in-depth backstories, and actual quests where the characters would go through some challenging obstacles to obtain or defeat whoever is creating the imbalance of the world.

What I watched was the main character, Prince Arren committing a crime in his own home, running away, meeting up with a powerful sorcerer, Sparrowhawk, and deciding to follow him on his journey of the unknown.

Along the way, they stop by this big town where Prince Arren saves the female lead, Therru, and meets Tenar, and altogether they end up being in the middle of the antagonist’s plot to create chaos in the world.

Honestly, this theme has the ability to tell a good story if the plot was more focused on the adventure/fantasy genre that they wanted it to be. Some of the things that went on weren’t even explained until the last quarter of the film, and at that point, I was not expecting the story to get any better.

The only character who was interesting enough to keep me watching was Therru because she was given the most detailed backstory and showed character development since her first appearance. My only nitpick with her is the abruptness of her hidden family background that wasn’t really further explained.

I guess it is mostly my preference and expectation for these types of movies to get my heart pumping in anticipation with my eyes glued to the screen, not wanting to miss a single thing in case something tiny happens that could change the outcome of the story.

The illustrations and visuals were lovely. The ending scene with the dragon was gorgeous.

Overall, if you’re looking for something to watch to pass the time, this may be considered. I believe that it has the potential to have a stronger storyline because right now, I see it as a work in progress.

21. 平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ // Pom Poko (1994)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 9

Characters: 10

Storyline: 9

Ending: 8

Overall Impact: 10

I enjoyed Pom Poko.

The storyline revolves around deforestation from the point of view of the creatures, specifically raccoons, living there. It is because of the environmental theme that I enjoyed this film as a whole.

I appreciate that viewers were given a kind of like inside scoop into the lives and reality of forest creatures who are suddenly in danger of their homes being destroyed and having to relocate or struggle to survive. I was able to feel the anger and frustration of all of these sudden changes and not being the more predominant being to voice out their concerns and be heard and have them respect their homes.

I love the theme and how they expressed it from a unique point of view that got the message across, at least for me. I enjoyed the little in-between moments of raccoon life, and that amidst all of the challenges in trying to fight to get their home back, there is also still the instinct to mate and have a family and that as long as they are all together, they can get through anything in life.

I admire their passion and that they gave everything their 100% no matter how small they are compared to humans.

What took points off from the film was the raccoons’ special ability to change into humans, though not all of them could do so. I just felt like it took away from the focus and strength of other living beings besides the humans and I don’t like this aspect of the film.

I’m also torn between wanting the film to have the main character and being okay that almost all of the raccoons who spoke were given equal screen time. I honestly can’t remember a single character name in the film, but right now I’m leaning towards the second one because it is refreshing to see a group of main characters work together towards one specific goal.

Pom Poko is an inspiring film that reminds us to look beyond the surface and gain empathy toward the living beings that humans have overpowered.

20. 紅の豚 // Porco Rosso (1992)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 9

Characters: 9

Storyline: 8

Ending: 8

Overall Impact: 7

Porco Rosso…it’s something else (in a good way).

The story lies in between fantasy and reality, as the main character, a human with the face of a pig ventures through life after the war as a bounty hunter.

And, actually, other than Howl’s Moving Castle, this was the only other Ghibli film to literally make me laugh out loud multiple times, and it was mainly due to Porco’s sarcastic humor.

Porco’s personality is mysterious, but as an outsider, you’d find him enjoyable to be around. And he’s also quite the softy once you see past that macho façade.

Also, Porco has still managed to have at least two women fall for him. And if I’m being honest, I ship Porco with one more than the other. I’m a sucker for love that began years ago and was just waiting for the perfect moment to bloom.

I was expecting more of a history or even what happens afterward with this love triangle. Ghibli being Ghibli, of course, implied something near the end, but never really confirmed what happened amongst the three.

Anyways, other than the enjoyable character that is Porco, the movie as a whole was pretty lighthearted. My favorite scene was definitely the last battle between Porco and Donald Curtis, his rival in almost everything.

You’d think the two of them would battle it out seriously, and at first, it did…until it didn’t. And their battle just turned into a hilarious mess.

Overall, Porco Rosso is an entertaining watch that I’d go to for a good laugh.

19. 天空の城ラピュタ // (Laputa:) Castle in the Sky (1986)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 8

Storyline: 8

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 6

Castle in the Sky is the first film officially released by Studio Ghibli Inc. I find this film to be one of the studio’s lighter storylines.

As much as I enjoyed the film and love the idea of this mysterious civilization hiding in the sky, along with the heavy emphasis on adventure, I felt like there was just too much going on without giving much more background to what’s going on if this makes sense.

There are two lead characters, orphaned children, Sheeta and Pazu, who are trying to find the mysterious civilization in the sky called Laputa. While setting off on the big adventure, they’re also trying to outrun a literal family of pirates and some sort of government agency that somehow has a whole branch for looking for the semi-mythical, and powerful civilization.

The next thing I know, the kids and one set of enemies are working together, and the leader of the other enemy has a deeper background and reason for wanting to find Laputa thus eventually becoming the lead antagonist. And with Laputa, I honestly wished I was able to see more of it and know more about its history. I would be very interested in watching a prequel about Laputa itself and what life was like when it was at its prime.

Also, just something I felt like needing to point out – in the English dub, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I thought I was hearing different accents from Sheeta. In one line she’s talking in a British accent, and a couple of lines later, she has an American accent.

Castle in the Sky is something I don’t mind watching again. The idea of a castle in the sky is already an interestingly creative narrative that can easily catch people’s attention.

18. 風立ちぬ // The Wind Rises (2013)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 7

Storyline: 8

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 8

The Wind Rises is in my top three Ghibli films that get my heart clenching just thinking about it, right after Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Although the emotional impact of The Wind Rises happened mostly at the end of the film, it was one heck of an ending, so prepare some tissues.

Honestly, I initially did not understand what was going on here. I found the time jumps a bit confusing and I didn’t understand the narrative. Of course, I think it would’ve helped if I read the synopsis, but I didn’t. So suffice to say, I did find the first half of the film quite uninteresting for me. It’s most likely also due to my own personal lack of interest in the subject matter, aviation.

There was also not much about Jiro, the main character, that stood out to me other than him trying to achieve his life passion (which is actually what I admire the most about him).

For the most part, The Wind Rises lands right in between Ocean Waves and Only Yesterday in terms of interesting realism narratives in Ghibli films. It has a stronger storyline than the former but is not as personally impactful as the latter.

It wasn’t until the second half of the film that I caught on to the time jumps and understood Jiro’s passion for aviation. And my interest sparked, even more, when romance entered the storyline.

Ghibli never fully touched on romantic love that included marriage and physical affection, and instead focused on the events that these characters go through that subtly show there is deep love between the two leads in the forms of friendship, support, self-love, healing, and self-reflection. But, in The Wind Rises, viewers are able to see the profound love and affection that the younger characters have fueled into the romance of a lifetime between Jiro and Naoko.

 If there’s one kind of love I’d cherish in my own personal lifetime, it is the love between Jiro and Naoko.

17. 風の谷のナウシカ // Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10


Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was technically a film released before Studio Ghibli ever came into existence, but I am going to include it here because it’s a masterpiece. Plus, I just read that the film was released as part of the Studio Ghibli Collection DVD and Blu-ray range. So, win!

This was the first Ghibli film I watched when I began binging all of them, and it set a great pace and expectations for the films to follow. There’s just something about many Ghibli film that produces otherworldly visuals and storytelling that manage to take my breath away upon the first watch.

And Nausicaä was no different. I was drawn to the illustrations right away and found them to be soothingly calming. Almost immediately, I felt as if I was transported to a different world because the animation was something I didn’t really grow up with, and so I was watching the entire film with wonder and awe at the character and creature designs, sceneries, and air transportations.

Furthermore, the film demonstrates a theme of environmental destruction, something I realized I’ll be seeing a lot of in the Ghibli franchise (which, let’s face it—is a blessing in disguise to anyone watching as we all need to be reminded of how much pain humans are causing the planet).

The theme of deforestation was exceptionally executed through metaphoric visuals of a poisonous forest with giant mutant insects. Nausicaä seems to be the only one who has a deeper connection with the forest and is able to understand all living beings in there. This sets the conflict for the entire film, and Nausicaä’s journey, along with the help of Asbel later on, to create a balance between humans and the forest and coexist with one another.

With such a significant theme, there is no doubt that the events that took place were fairly serious, and I find as one of the more mature films of the Ghibli collection.

The characters were okay. What stood out to me the most was the baby Ohm who I dream of being an actual living creature.

Other than that, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is definitely a must-watch film. It had set the standard for all of the other Ghibli films I watched afterward.

16. ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん // My Neighbors The Yamadas (1999)

Theme: 9

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 9

Storyline: 8

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 8

After numerous attempts, I finally paid attention and completed My Neighbors The Yamadas, which is why I’m quite surprised that it has managed to be this high up on the list.

My Neighbors The Yamadas is a touching story about the ups and downs of everyday family life. I guess I couldn’t relate to it so easily because the story was mostly from the point of view of the dad (Takashi), mom (Matsuko), and grandma (Shige). And, well, with it being on a more realistic scenario, I based my feelings on my own current reality. And my current reality is that I’m not married, nor do I have kids yet.

Still, I appreciated the film because it provided a lot of meaningful guidance to anyone about the challenges of having a family, with a high emphasis on married life.

My favorite character would definitely be Shige Yamada, the grandmother. She has her quirks, but a lot of my favorite lines and advice in the movie came from her.

I also like the bit of humor they would throw in. It shows the happy times and moments within the family just as much as their not-so-great moments. I do wish I would have been able to see more of Nonoko, Takashi’s daughter, though. There was only one scene that was about her in the beginning, but after that, it was like she was almost never around.

I would get a little confused with the storyline as well because the film was orchestrated in a way that shows mini scenarios every once in a while without really showing a smooth or defined transition. I often thought they were still on the previous scene, but it would be a different day and/or time of events.

I thought the illustrations were interesting. They reminded me of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’s, but they’re still two different styles. The soft pastel colors were pleasing and brought out a warm atmospheric vibe, and the illustrations were very simple, but detailed enough to tell the story. I can’t even reach this amount of skill in sketching.

Overall, My Neighbors the Yamadas, is a lovely narrative about a family’s home life, going through challenges, but overcoming them because the love and support that they have for each other is much stronger than any storm that heads their way.

15. 借りぐらしのアリエッティ // The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

Theme: 8

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 9

Storyline: 7

Ending: 9

Overall Impact: 8

The Secret World of Arrietty was the second out of the two Ghibli films I watched before binging the entire featured films collection.

I think I’d already formed a connection with Arrietty upon watching it due to seeing Peter Hewitt’s 1997 film, The Borrowers, first as both films are loosely based on Mary Norton’s 1952 children’s novel of the same name, and I absolutely love the 1997 version. It’s no surprise that I would feel any less with Ghibli’s version of an iconic storyline.

The novel, and the films, are overall about a family of tiny people living behind the walls and floorboards of a regular-sized human household, borrowing items from them in order to survive.

I know that not a lot of people enjoy this film for the reasons that it doesn’t really represent the rest of the Ghibli collection or that they thought there would be romance involved between Shō and Arrietty. For the film to be based on an English novel, I think that the studio did a fairly wonderful job at developing it as close to what Ghibli is all about, especially when comparing it to the American film version.

There is definite room for improvement in the plot, such as Haru’s interest in capturing the little people. I felt like her story was so sudden and lacked a buildup or reason as to why she wanted them captured, and what she wanted to do with them after she’s captured them. I originally thought the conflict would remain between Arrietty and Shō, as most Ghibli films would introduce the conflict right from the beginning. Here, the conflict was shown somewhere in the middle when I was already committed to the development of Arrietty and Shō.

Other than that, I thought the visuals were insanely beautiful, Arrietty was a kickass character, and Shō was such a gentle and sweet “human bean.” Their friendship, though started out as rocky, became one that was wholesome and bittersweet. I love them.

Arrietty also did bring out a more sentimental storyline than The Borrowers, especially towards the end. Now the ending was a definite Ghibli style as it left me to wonder more about what could be.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a touching story about family and friendship. It’s a Ghibli version that touches on another meaningful aspect of two characters motivating each other to live their lives every day and produces a friendship type of love that’s already explained without having to even say much about the other or to each other for the viewers to understand the bond that they have developed.

14. 猫の恩返し // The Cat Returns (2002)

Theme: 9

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 8

Ending: 9

Overall Impact: 9

I adore The Cat Returns for being the only spin-off film in the entire Ghibli collection (spun-off from Whisper of the Heart), and for being one of two films to have Baron Humbert von Gikkingen as a protagonist.

Upon the first watch, I didn’t connect to it as much as I thought I would. I didn’t dislike it, but I also didn’t love it. When I watched it a second time, a lot of my initial feelings changed. I still don’t love it as much as the others, but it’s definitely piqued my interest more.

I love the parallel universe between The Cat Returns and its predecessor, Whisper of the Heart. I’m not that surprised considering that 14-year-old Shizuku, the main female lead, had written a completed novel about the Baron in Whisper of the Heart to which I can definitely see The Cat Returns being the featured film adaptation of her story.

The Cat Returns has that childlike wonder that I believe would come from a young writer as talented as Shizuku. It has a sense of innocence and clichéd kind of tale, in a lovely way of course. I also couldn’t help but love the message of this film revolving around the idea of believing in oneself as it so happens that Shizuku had trouble believing in her skills as a writer.

Also, I absolutely love Muta, Baron’s big furry cat friend. His humor is something I enjoyed and found myself chuckling along with, even though, most of the time, he wasn’t even trying to be funny. I wish I would’ve seen Toto more as well. I love his character.

Then there’s Yuki and Prince Lune. I would love to see a spin-off based on their romance. I don’t know why but I find their relationship to be endearing and interesting. I don’t normally prefer watching romance movies, but for these two, you can bet I’ll be one of their biggest shippers.

The main thing that bothered me was the film’s incessant remarks towards someone’s physical appearance – their weight and their face. I do get that it’s all supposed to be light humor, but I think that a lot of people, especially the younger generations, might take some of them seriously and believe that looks are the most important asset to have in the world. And I just wished they cut back on such remarks.

Overall, The Cat Returns is a lighthearted film for viewers with a meaningful message that touches the hearts of those who have yet to find confidence in themselves.

13. 崖の上のポニョ // Ponyo (2008)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 9

Storyline: 9

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

Ponyo was, I believe, the very first Ghibli film I’ve ever watched before binging every other featured film that Ghibli has released. And I never knew it was part of the Ghibli collection until I found out about, well, Ghibli Studios.

Ponyo has a special place in my heart. I loved the film back then and I love it even now.

The very first time I saw this, I simply enjoyed its intriguing storyline of a goldfish magically transforming into a human girl and befriending a human boy who is insanely sweet and thoughtful for his age.

When I rewatched the film, I saw Ponyo’s beauty in animation, as a storyline, and as a lifelong lesson of pure, innocent love between two beings who may not be of the same form.

Many of us may not have a goldfish that can transform into a human, but we could have a pet, a childhood toy that we still keep to this day, a customized gift from a friend, a clothing item from our favorite anime, etc. These are our Ponyos in the real world. We find happiness with them. We love, cherish, and go out of our way to protect them. We look at them with adoration and excitement. We smile when we see them or think about them.

I honestly wouldn’t mind if the movie didn’t have any conflict because I would enjoy it just as much seeing the friendship between Sosuke and Ponyo grow. It’s easy to tell that the two share a deep bond that many of us typically wouldn’t have at that age.

Ponyo is an incredibly wholesome film, and I love that Ghibli made one for the much younger viewers who would experience this kind of adventure in the film.

I’d also like to point out that when Ponyo tells Sosuke she loves him at the beginning of the film, Sosuke doesn’t say it back. Instead, he says that he’ll learn to love her back. And there’s just something about this line that’s powerful for me. I felt that Sosuke pretty much understands that “love” isn’t a term too lightly to pass around. It’s something that evolves over time, even if it starts out as a friendship kind of love.

When I have kids, I pray that they have the understanding, empathy, excitement, courage, and extreme cuteness that Sosuke and Ponyo have.

Ponyo is a childlike masterpiece, and I encourage everyone to watch it.

12. 君たちはどう生きるか // THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023)

Theme: 8

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 9

Storyline: 8

Ending: 8

Overall Impact: 7

The Boy and the Heron is a special one for me – it is the first Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki film I saw in the theater. Sidenote: This film also marked another first for me, wherein I saw this movie on my own, and, other than excitement, I felt accomplished for doing something I have never experienced before. I was initially worried that my hometown would not show the film, but I leaped for joy when I saw both a sub and dub version on the movie listings. (I of course chose to watch the sub version.)

As special as this film was for me, I, unfortunately, did not emotionally connect with it as much as I expected to, hence it’s space on my top 12 list.

However, there are dozens of qualities that were incorporated into the film that I believe only a master of his crafts can portray in a film as extensive and in-depth as The Boy and the Heron. One thing I noticed early on was the homage to Miyazaki’s previous masterpieces, one of which being Mahito’s (main protagonist) strikingly similar resemblance to Jiro from The Wind Rises (peep #18 on the list). Throughout the film, I was amazed at how Miyazaki was able to incorporate previous films, change them up a bit, and include them in this film as new, but nostalgic, characters and imagery. 

Like many Ghibli films, the animations of The Boy and the Heron exceeded expectations. Other than my indifference towards the heron, the entire film’s illustrations were beautifully captivating. I felt like I was in the world of all of Ghibli’s creations and it made me want to explore more off-screen.

My biggest critique of the film was that a lot was going on that my emotions and thoughts could not keep up and I was left leaving the movie theatre with more confusion than connection. Connections with Ghibli films (and any other movies) are what essentially makes the movie memorable and admirable for me. These connections can be emotional, relatable

11. 思い出のマーニー // When Marnie Was There (2014)

Theme: 9

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

This was the last film Studio Ghibli released before they went on a temporary suspension. And I don’t know why I suddenly thought of a deeper connection between this film and Studio Ghibli’s hiatus.

Originally, I gave this film lower scores for the criteria, but I still stuck with my score of 7 for its theme due to the storyline not catching my attention for the first couple of minutes.

It wasn’t until everything was being revealed that I was just completely mind blown and saw the beautiful narrative that the film has been trying to convey. Literally, everything began making sense – Anna’s behavior and actions; her attachment to Marnie, which I kind of felt a completely different subtext between the two at first that I would’ve supported all the way; and who Marnie truly was.

I’m doing my best to not give away too much without spoiling the biggest plot twist that the movie threw because I really want others to watch this and be as surprised and emotionally attacked as I was.

Some events made me realize something was different than usual, but it’s one of those things where I would still want to keep an open mind or would expect a completely different outcome because it wouldn’t be that easy of a plot to delve into.

The film starts with the main character, Anna, obviously carrying some heavy burdens in her mind and heart as well as struggling with asthma. She was then sent to stay with her relatives who live in a place with clean air, as a way to help with her asthma.

During her stay, she becomes attracted to this beautiful mansion, where then she meets Marnie. As the two got closer, it was easily able to see the spark returning to Anna’s eyes. She was smiling more, laughing more, having fun as kids normally would. She also began forming lifelong friendships with those who seem to genuinely care for her as well.

As she leaves to go back home, she looks back and sees Marnie waving to her at her window, subtly letting Anna know that she will be fine from now on and that memories of their time together will never be forgotten.

So, with the deeper connection between Ghibli and this film that I mentioned earlier, I compared Marnie as Ghibli Studio and us viewers as Anna. Normally, we’re going through our daily lives just trying to make each day the best. Every single one of us often goes through challenges and there may be days when we’re just not feeling 100%. Yet, when we enter the world of Ghibli animations, some of our burdens are released and we enjoy our time experiencing adventures with spirits, aviation, and otherworldly creatures, all the while being reminded of important life lessons that often motivate us once again to keep pushing forward.

With Marnie waving goodbye to Anna at the end, it’s like Ghibli waving to their viewers as they go through a hiatus, and that as long as we have the memories of these powerful narratives in our hearts, they will always be with us even if we won’t physically be seeing their work for however long it takes.

When Marnie Was There is such a beautiful story with an everlasting impact on the hearts of those who experience Anna’s journey.

We’ve made it down to my top 10 Studio Ghibli featured films. As soon as I reached my top 15, everything just became much more difficult. I knew right away which would be my top two, but everything in between went through a lot of rearranging.

What do you think of the ranking so far? What are your top 10 Studio Ghibli featured films or other Ghibli works?

10. 火垂るの墓 // Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

I initially was excited to watch this film because of what reviews had said about it. And then a friend suggested not to do so unless I wanted to get emotionally wrecked. I listened for the most part, but another part of me was highly intrigued as to why it’s very well-respected. I was also thinking: “I’ve seen some sad movies and I was able to pull through. How bad can this film be?”

I should’ve known that asking that type of question would lead me to feel some of the most heartbreaking emotions I’ve ever felt in my life and what I would not want to ever feel again.

One night as I was going to bed, I decided to go ahead and watch it because what better time to watch a sad film than late into the night? Little did I know that because I knew what I was getting into and I had a sense of the storyline, I was in tears during the first two minutes of the film.

Right from the beginning of the movie, we’re shown what essentially happens to siblings, Seita and Setsuko. I found this to be unfair and much more painful having to go through the entire film and reliving the events that led to the siblings’ unfortunate circumstances. It was cruel, but it also conveyed a powerful narrative.

I am in awe of the relationship between Seita and Setsuko. I’ve always wanted an older brother, and if I had to describe how he would be, Seita is the perfect example of one. No words can perfectly describe the love and bond that the two have for each other.

The adults, however, have truly let me down.

The night I watched this, I couldn’t go to bed until about three hours later because every time I closed my eyes, I would just see the events of the film.

It’s actually also difficult writing this review without having to take a breather every now and then because that’s how much it’s affected me, and it’ll most likely affect me for the rest of my life.

If you are to watch a Ghibli film, consider watching other films in the collection before this one. Or, don’t watch it all. If you do, just prepare yourself for the events of the film.

09. もののけ姫 // Princess Mononoke (1997)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

I was surprised at the mature narrative that Princess Mononoke expressed. But I do admire the different and more realistic approach towards environmental matters, such as deforestation.

What I love about this film is the seemingly flawless pace and events of the storyline, and the characters’ gradual development in not only themselves but in resolving the primary conflict as well.

Something that gets to me is Ashitaka’s concern for both sides of the conflict. I understand that Ashitaka just wants peace amongst everyone and that he’s supposed to see things unclouded by hate, but it was still hard to fathom him looking out for those who were destroying the forest in such a destructive way. Everything worked out in the end, but I don’t think I would’ve had the same will as him to hold in the pain of understanding the less likable side.

Then there’s Lady Eboshi, who’s one of the few characters in the Ghibli universe that got on my nerves. I can’t really blame her though as it shows that she played the antagonist part really well. I was having a somewhat hard time deciding what I truly felt about her, but there was one scene, one decision, she made that threw my ongoing debate in my head away, and decided that I lost any ounce of what little respect I had for her left. The goals that led to her selfish acts were worse than Princess Kaguya’s father’s, and that’s already saying a lot.

Thankfully, there’s San. She’s awesome. I like her. I would love to see a movie about her life living in the forest with wolves before and after the events of this film. I actually thought Princess Mononoke would revolve around this kind of narrative, but this storyline is still much more impactful than I expected it to be.

I also love Yakul and think that the forest spirits, known as Kodama, are cute as well.

Overall, Princess Mononoke is a must-watch. It’s beautiful in its own way and I admire the overall impact it has regarding deforestation and the environment as a whole.

08. 魔女の宅急便 // Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 9

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

When I first watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, I didn’t really feel any connection to the movie. I thought it was lighthearted, but Kiki, the main character, was annoying to me. I really did not like her throughout the film. Her attitude was not pleasant.

Somehow I kept replaying the movie as background sound, and then I decided to actually pay attention because I wanted to understand why many people love it.

And wow, was I wrong with my initial thoughts about the film, especially watching it in English Sub. Kiki’s personality was much more likable in my opinion.

This is one of those stories that isn’t exactly black and white. There are many messages in the film that suggested something much more meaningful and relatable to anyone of any age, including myself.

I honestly never thought much about what’s actually happening with Kiki, the 13-year-old witch in training who left her home in the countryside with her cat familiar, Jiji, in order to live in a big city and start her witch training.

This is something I admired about her since first watching. But as I kept rewatching, I completely missed an important narrative that was staring me right in the face –

Kiki pursued the idea of turning something that she loves – that she’s passionate about – into a business in order to make a living. The pressure of trying to make more out of her passion actually took away from why she does it, and most importantly, who she is.

And Kiki felt this in her heart. She became more distant than ever and was experiencing symptoms of burnout and what even looked like a lead to depression. Because, as she brought up to Osono, what good is she if she no longer has her magic? Her essence compromised of her being a witch, of her magic. She was born with it. It’s who she is, and what she’s made of, and it brings her so much happiness and joy.

It was when a friend, Ursula, decided to have Kiki stay with her at her home away from the city for a couple of days that Kiki began connecting with her inner self once again. She was away from the busy streets of the city and back to what she was most comfortable with – what she grew up with – closeness to nature and fresh air for her to breathe in relaxation and breathe out her worries.

With a change in scenery to a place where she’s found comfort and peace, she took back her power, as a young girl growing up, and as a witch in training.

I honestly can’t believe I missed this because this was literally a punch to my reality, especially as an aspiring blogger whose passion is to write. I decided to use my passion to do more and make a business out of it and I had also burnt myself out many times without fully realizing it.

Kiki and I are more alike than I originally caught on. And I’ve finally understood why the film is a masterpiece and has touched the hearts of millions of people.

Also, I absolutely love the illustrations in the film. Miyazaki was able to put together visuals that encompass objects, such as cars and buildings, as well as supporting characters, from different generations. I love how there was a homage to the old ways of doing things, such as when one of Kiki’s customers wasn’t able to bake because there was something wrong with her modern-day oven. Kiki suggested using the brick oven instead, where she collected firewood in the backyard and baked the pie the old-fashioned way.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a beautiful film with an inspiring narrative and is worth watching.

07. おもひでぽろぽろ// Only Yesterday (1991)

Theme: 9

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 9

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

Only Yesterday was the first true-to-life adult animated film I’ve seen from the Ghibli collection, and it was a change of pace considering the Ghibli films I watched before this was mystical and had nonhuman characters that are loveable.

Nonetheless, Only Yesterday has magic of its own.

As a child, Taeko was bubbly and had all of these amazing ambitions that she hoped to fulfill as she grew up. This is something we, unfortunately, don’t see in her present circumstances. And as she goes on vacation to the countryside, she begins having flashbacks of specific life events during her childhood – crushes, puberty, math, aspirations, etc.

It was lovely seeing Taeko’s life as a child and how those flashbacks helped mold her into the person she was, as well as inspiring those who were there to listen to her stories. Taeko was financially stable, lived in her own apartment, and lived in the big city as an adult. She was fulfilling the needs of basic human necessities. 

It was through her recollections that she began questioning if her current lifestyle was something that her younger self had wanted for her. If her younger self would’ve been scolding her for not following their dreams and for lying to themselves about what brings them meaning and joy in their life. Did she end up losing her true self in order to become someone who simply fits in with the crowd?

Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, there’s something about this film that’s soothing to me. I think it’s the theme of self-reflection and realization that makes me personally relate to Taeko’s struggle with finding that purpose in herself.

It’s a beautiful story that I think many people in their 20s can relate to.

06. となりのトトロ // My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

The most anticipated film I was looking forward to watching.

If you’re looking for something lighthearted, then this is an amazing film to watch almost all the time during any part of the day.

The storyline is heartwarmingly wholesome and I can understand why thousands of people love it so much. Totoro himself has even been Ghibli’s mascot since this film was released.

The siblings, Satsuki and Mei, are adorable. I love the bond between them and can see how much they love each other.

One thing I would’ve loved to see that would’ve probably made this rank higher on my list is Totoro interacting more with the siblings or just him doing whatever it is does on his own time. Like when he gets into the Catbus. It would be interesting to see what was on his to-do list, especially so late in the night and going away from his home.

This was also the first film where I got to see the versatile creativity of the nonhuman characters in the Ghibli universe. There was obviously Totoro, his friends, the Catbus, and the Susuwataris (small, dark, dust-like house spirits). I love them. They’re amazing and cute.

There is a rather serious situation that the film touches on, but it was told in a way that would easily be explained to children if such a scenario happens in real life, especially seeing as the film is primarily aimed towards the younger generations.

Other than that, My Neighbor Totoro is probably the best feel-good, slice-of-life kind of film that is undoubtedly bounded to lift up anyone’s spirit, no matter how awful their day has been.

05. コクリコ坂から // From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Theme: 9

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 9

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

There’s just something about From Up on Poppy Hill that brings me a sense of comfort that I’m actually not quite sure I understand myself, let alone explain.

I began watching it with little expectations, which is why I was surprised at how content it made me feel by the end of it.

The film is a touching story about students working together to save a historical landmark that they find a sort of home away from home. There is also the budding young love between the two teens, Umi and Shun.

I even got a little teary-eyed when secrets began unfolding in the plot. I love Umi and Shun. They’re definitely in my top Ghibli couples (continue, or skip, below to check out my “top Ghibli” categories), and they were able to gain my adoration of their young love by simply being nonmagical teenagers who found additional happiness with each other.

Wait, I guess there is a little bit of magic in this film.

The whole time I was watching this, the emotions I felt weren’t too extreme as they were for most of the other Ghibli films. But that’s not exactly a terrible thing.

I think it’s the fact that I didn’t go overboard with my emotions that make this film stand out to me and why I still find the storyline just as enjoyable and endearing to watch. Even with the conflicts that arose, it was interesting to see how the characters came together to produce a plan, and go out of their way to follow through with viable solutions.

I respect everything about From Up On Poppy Hill and wish it was longer.

04. ハウルの動く城 // Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

I was so excited to watch Howl’s Moving Castle after hearing a lot of positive reviews from it.

And it didn’t disappoint.

The film is essentially a romance, adventure, fantasy kind of film. There were multiple themes and hidden messages throughout that might not make much sense or are difficult to understand at first watch, and that’s completely understandable. I missed a lot of subtle contexts my first time watching.

An underlying message that stuck with me the most was the idea of living life and realizing that growing old doesn’t mean that life becomes less dull – in fact, growing old allows us to see how much more breathtaking life can be. 

Here we have the insecure, but the oh-so-sarcastic female lead, Sophie, who was cursed to appear as an old lady by the Witch of the Waste. She then goes in search of Howl, a mysterious sorcerer who is breathtakingly handsome and lives in a whimsical castle that moves thanks to the sassy fire demon, Calcifer.

Then there’s the adorable wizard-in-training, Markl who also lives in Howl’s castle and has easily captured my heart. And the final member of this lovely family is Turnip-Head who keeps getting his head stuck into something, but has a heart of gold.

Aside from the mystical world of sorcerers and witches, the film captures a dark part of reality – a war between two nations that the group, especially Howl, despises. After all, it was a war highlighted by violence and, well, pettiness.

If there’s one thing I love about Ghibli films, it is their attention to detail with their illustrations, and Howl is no different. I love everything about the visuals – the characters, the scenery, the castle. I thought they were wonderfully executed. Was I the only one who melted from seeing Howl the first time? Or thought that Sophie is absolutely beautiful inside and out? Or have dreams about wanting to visit Howl’s childhood flower field and spend hours there just keeping to myself? And don’t even get me started on the intricate artwork of Howl’s castle. I would love to visit such as castle if it exists somewhere.

Also, this was the first Ghibli film to make me laugh a lot throughout the story.

Howl’s Moving Castle was wonderfully executed, and I absolutely love it.

03. 耳をすませば // Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

I think out of all Ghibli films, Whisper of the Heart connected to me the most wherein the main character, Shizuku, struggled to believe in herself and her abilities. Shizuku had changed up the lyrics of the famous song, “Country Roads,” which I think were amazing versions, and though she had written them for fun, she still lacked confidence in herself even though she clearly has unbelievable talent.

My heart absolutely melted when Shizuku and Seiji, the male lead, does an impromptu, violin rendition of the song, and Seiji’s grandpa and friends joined in with their own musical instruments. This was such a magical moment to witness and stands out the most out of every other Ghibli scene I’ve watched.

Another whisper of the heart in this film is the blossoming relationship between Shizuku and Seiji, and their undying devotion to supporting and uplifting each other through their creative paths, including the way in which Seiji was able to get Shizuku’s attention. What I also admire about their storyline is how naturally their relationship seems to develop. The two had no doubt felt something for each other, but they managed to focus their relationship on motivating each other to achieve their dreams and being there for each other through every steep hill that would come their way first.

I guess the reason that the film hits me differently is that the core of the storyline depicts the challenging tasks of creative artists – Shizuku with her constant doubts about whether her writing is good enough, and Seiji who, even though is confident about what he wants to do in life, realizes that he still has a lot more to learn and experience before going to where he needs to get to.

I can completely see how this film is able to adapt to a wide range of audiences. Shizuku and Seiji, who are only in their early teens, have managed to inspire me, someone in my late 20s, that no uphill battle can stop me from finding a home in the life that I have found meaning for.

Whisper of the Heart is truly a testament to its own time and has no doubt touched my own heart with its beautiful soul.

02. かぐや姫の物語 // The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

I admit – I was a bit bored during the first couple of minutes, but it surprisingly piqued my interest fast afterward and eventually became one of my top favorite Ghibli films of all time.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya actually stems from the Japanese folklore, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter – a narrative that entails the life of a baby found in a bamboo stalk by an old bamboo cutter. The baby grows up to have unearthly beauty and attracts five of the wealthiest men in the nation. Unwilling to marry, she tasks these suitors with unfathomable tasks. Eventually, the Emperor takes interest in her, which leads to the revelation of her true heritage.

The film was interestingly illustrated through watercolor-type visuals due to Sir Takahata’s desire for viewers to “have people recollect the realities of this life by sketching ordinary human qualities with simple props. I want to have the wind blow freely between the reality of our daily lives and what we see in the film.” This is something we see in most, if not all, of his works and I found them to be some of the most emotional, reality-hitting, connections I have amongst the Ghibli films.

I love Princess Kaguya so much because of the message about being able to love life in the simplest ways possible. Many of us look to money to feel as if we’ve found the greatest treasure in life, but most of the time, it’s not. There are far more valuable experiences, memories, and people that fulfill our lives and it’s going to be different for everyone.

Princess Kaguya had to learn this lesson by trying to fulfill her father’s own wishes. And it’s what ultimately caused the emotional ending of Princess Kaguya’s tale.

Aside from this lesson, the story touches on a bit of romance. I was highly rooting for Princess Kaguya’s relationship with Sutemaru. But, I’ll just leave this here.

The storyline is incredibly powerful and I would still need to give praise to the characters I despise because if it weren’t for them, I don’t think the messages would’ve been as clear or impactful as they currently are.

Princess Kaguya… was the first Ghibli film to make me bawl my eyes out. My heart is already beating louder than usual just thinking about it. I felt like the ending was one that fits in with the reality of Princess Kaguya’s story (hence the perfect score for my ‘ending’ ranking), if this makes sense. Because, trust me, I was wishing for a completely different ending and was hoping until the very last moment for something, anything, to change.

Nonetheless, the ending was a touching visual ending that represents death without dying.

01. 千と千尋の神隠し // Spirited Away (2001)

Theme: 10

Animation / Score: 10

Characters: 10

Storyline: 10

Ending: 10

Overall Impact: 10

We’ve made it! My all-time favorite Studio Ghibli featured film ever is indeed the one and only Spirited Away!

I was trying to see if there would be another Ghibli film that could outrank Spirited Away, and clearly, nothing was able to capture my heart in the way that Chihiro’s adventures in the spirit world have.

I don’t even know where to begin.

Spirited Away is practically a culmination of the best attributes of every other Ghibli film ever released. It is more than everything I could imagine Ghibli to represent.

I am in love with everything about it.

The illustrations are insanely detailed and beautiful. The storyline is *chef’s kiss* And the characters, my gosh the characters.

The characters’ personalities were illustrated and developed in a way that made them incredibly memorable and likable upon the first watch. The antagonist wasn’t even all bad so there really isn’t anyone to dislike in the film.

The bond between Chihiro and Haku is the sweetest I’ve ever seen, and I can’t help but love their friendship. Haku motivates Chihiro to build confidence in herself, whereas Chihiro saves Haku by reminding him of who he truly is. Neither of them had to really say what they were feeling because it was clearly shown by their actions towards and for each other, which screamed how they truly felt about each other.

And then there’s No-Face. At first watch, I didn’t really understand why many people gush over him because his personality kept changing and I didn’t know whether to like him or not. I didn’t know who or what he truly was. I did some research online and read what other people analyzed about No-Face, and I was completely mind-blown at how well-developed and thought-out his character truly is. I think I’ll keep my findings to myself for now because I want anyone watching the film for the first time to develop their own thoughts and feelings about No-Face first.

Spirited Away is just the most magical, in every sense of the word, an animated film I’ve ever seen. It touches on the darker aspects of reality, such as greed and environmental destruction, in a way that still fits the whimsical life of the spirit world.

I greatly admire and applaud Spirited Away for everything that it is and everything that it represents.

My Top Ghibli...


Chihiro Ogino, Spirited Away

San, Princess Mononoke

Sophie Hatter, Howl’s Moving Castle

Umi Matsuzaki, From Up On Poppy Hill


Haku, Spirited Away

Howl Jenkins Pendragon, Howl’s Moving Castle

Seita Yokokawa, Grave of the Fireflies

Shun Kazama, From Up On Poppy Hill


Lin, Spirited Away

Tatsuo Kusakabe, My Neighbor Totoro

Shiro Nishi, Whisper of the Heart

Markl, Howl’s Moving Castle


Totoro, My Neighbor Totoro

Calcifer, Howl’s Moving Castle

Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, The Cat Returns

No Face, Spirited Away


Spirited Away

Howl’s Moving Castle

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Secret World of Arrietty


Grave of the Fireflies

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Wind Rises

Only Yesterday


My Neighbor Totoro


Howl’s Moving Castle

Kiki’s Delivery Service


Spirited Away

Howl’s Moving Castle

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Whisper of the Heart

Thank you to Studio Ghibli and all of the insanely talented and creative production staff who made all of these beautiful, irreplaceable, and life-changing characters and worlds come to life.

I may not have experienced most of them in my childhood, but I’m so elated that I get to go on these adventures right now.

The classic Disney films made me believe that there are white in shining armor coming to rescue me and give me my happy ever after.

Ghibli films taught me that we all go through challenging times, and we can always overcome them as long as we believe in ourselves.

Let's Chat!

What was the first Ghibli film that you’ve watched? What are your top Studio Ghibli films? What do you love about them?  What was your first favorite Ghibli film and what’s your current favorite Ghibli film?

Keep being inspired and take care always,


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