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Top Ten Studio Ghibli Movies

Studio Ghibli Movies | Graphic by Abigail Abbott | The Wright State Guardian

With Studio Ghibli’s most recent movie, “The Boy and the Heron,” being released in theaters in the United States only a few short weeks ago, now is the perfect time to rank Studio Ghibli movies.

10. “The Wind Rises”

“The Wind Rises” focuses on a fictionalized retelling of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese engineer known for his fighter jet designs and engineering prowess. It was Hayao Miyazaki’s last film until a decade later with “The Boy and the Heron.”

The film takes an artistic approach on Horikoshi’s life and tells both his passion for aircrafts as well as his love life. While I will not spoil too much, his life takes a tragic turn for the worst when the love of his life falls ill. 

9. “Grave of the Fireflies”

This film is a storytelling masterpiece, but at a price: it is overwhelmingly heartbreaking. “Grave of the Fireflies” deserves a higher ranking, but many watchers are not looking for a heart-wrenching story when they put Studio Ghibli on.

“Grave of the Fireflies” tells the story of two war orphans who try to survive the horrors of the final months of World War II. After a tragic family death, they move in with their aunt, who turns out to be a selfish woman who does not have the best interest of the children in mind. 

The older of the siblings, Seita, takes his younger sister to survive on their own rather than deal with the abuse of their aunt. The story continues to fall into tragedy, but the storytelling aspects of the film are astounding. If you are willing to experience such a heartbreaking film, I highly recommend “Grave of the Fireflies.”

8. “Castle in the Sky”

The first film that Studio Ghibli animated, “Castle in the Sky” tells the tale of a boy who wishes to clear his father’s name by finding the potentially fictitious floating island of Laputa. The boy, Pazu, is accompanied by a girl named Sheeta, as well as a crew of pirates run by a woman named Dola.

The conflict in this one is about greed, as others want to find the island of Laputa along with Pazu, as well as government influence. The film also has heavy steampunk elements.

7. “Spirited Away”

Many people first think of “Spirited Away” when they think of Studio Ghibli movies, and thus it is often ranked higher mainly for how well-known it is. While I am not here to argue that it is not a good movie, I simply find other Studio Ghibli movies to have a more interesting plot or world.

“Spirited Away” has a heavy focus on traditional Japanese folklore; to be specific, spirits. The main character, Chihiro, accidentally finds herself in the world of spirits after her parents are turned into pigs by a witch named Yubaba. She meets a colorful cast of characters as she tries to figure out how she is going to free herself and her parents from Yubaba’s grasp.

No-Face is a famous character from the film; however, there are many more interesting characters to be found in the world of spirits!

6. “Princess Mononoke”

One of Studio Ghibli’s more violent films, “Princess Mononoke” tells the story of a prince who accidentally finds himself wrapped up in the conflict of humanity versus the protectors of the forest. 

Ashitaka, the prince of a far-away land, is banished from his home after fighting one of these gods of the forest to protect his people. He was banished not because he fought the god, but because he became infested with a deep hatred that the god had been plagued with. He sets off on a quest to learn where this hatred came from and comes to learn of the humans who are selfishly consuming the natural resources of the world and killing the protectors of the forest in the process.

Full of violence, self-sacrifice and fantasy elements, “Princess Mononoke” is an excellent pick for those who can handle a little bit of gore in their movies.

5. “Kiki’s Delivery Service”

A much more light-hearted film compared to the previous one, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is set in a world of witches. After reaching the age of thirteen, Kiki is sent away from her parents to develop her independence with only the company of her cat, Jiji.

She is offered a home from the kind-hearted bakers who live in the city of Koriko and offers to deliver their baked goods as part of her payment for living with them. 

The story is very warm and focuses on young girls forming a sense of identity, independence and responsibility. 

4. “My Neighbor Totoro”

“My Neighbor Totoro” is yet another well-known name from Studio Ghibli. After a family moves to the countryside to be closer to their mother who is recovering from a chronic illness, two siblings, Mei and Satsuki, find themselves in the fantastical world of Totoro, a large forest spirit.

The younger sister soon encounters trouble, however, but the movie has a happy ending! It is an all-around heartwarming film about family bonds.

3. “Howl’s Moving Castle”

“Howl’s Moving Castle” is an epic interpretation of the book with the same name—which I also highly recommend—about the oldest in a hat-making business who feels herself ugly and insignificant until she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste for her beauty. 

The film follows the now cursed woman, Sophie, as she leaves her hometown and pursues the witch in hopes of getting her spell lifted until she gets caught up in the life of Howl, a famous wizard with his own barrage of problems.

It has a heavy anti-war theme hidden within a story of love and conflict. The world they live in is fantastical, and I recommend reading the book the film was based on, as it provides more worldbuilding and a bigger appreciation for the film.

2. “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”

This film is actually not technically a Studio Ghibli film, but in my mind it counts. It was animated and published by a company that soon disbanded, and many of the employees at that company went on to form Studio Ghibli—plus, it was directed by Hayao Miyazaki, so I choose to believe that it is a Studio Ghibli film.

Anyways, onto the actual premise. “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” tells the story of a princess living in a post-apocalyptic world in which a toxic jungle has taken over much of the world, and this jungle is home to large, mutated insects. Nausicaä has a special empathetic connection to the insects, which proves vital in the plot.

The film focuses on the conflict between different kingdoms of the remnants of humanity and the giant insects that threaten to destroy them all. It has incredible worldbuilding and a fantastic story of war and violence with a happy ending.

1. “Ponyo”

“Ponyo” is a heartwarming tale of a girl from the sea who becomes entranced with human life after encountering a young boy named Sōsuke, who saves her from being trapped in a small glass jar. After their encounter, the girl—named Ponyo by Sōsuke—swears to become human and reunite with the boy who saved her life.

I personally believe Ponyo truly encapsulates the Studio Ghibli style, from the soft animation to the story itself, Ponyo is what I would point to to describe Studio Ghibli’s films. While this film lacks the actual romance most Studio Ghibli movies have, it is still full of love and warmth that would attract viewers from all genres.


Of course, there are more Studio Ghibli movies than the ones featured on this list. With winter break approaching, students should settle down and warm their hearts by watching Studio Ghibli films with friends and family!

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