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From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

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When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival back in August, “The Wind Rises,” which hits theaters this week, was accompanied by the announcement that it would be the last feature film from director Hayao Miyazaki. It may be that that turns out to be premature—the filmmaker has said as much several times before—but if this truly is his last film, it’ll prove to be a monumental loss to cinema.

Over the last three decades, Miyazaki, and his company Studio Ghibli, have been behind some of the greatest masterpieces that animated film have ever seen, strange wonderful pictures that couldn’t have come from anywhere or anyone else, and have broken out of love from just the hardcore anime fans to enchant audiences and cinephiles the world over. Western audiences have caught on more recently thanks to the patronage of Disney and Pixar chief John Lasseter, perhaps the only figure who can stand alongside Miyazaki in the animated world.

We couldn’t let the release of the last Miyazaki film (for now…) pass by without celebration, and so to mark the occasion, we’ve decided to try a near-impossible feat: to definitively rank the director’s eleven feature-length features, from worst to best. Miyazaki never made a truly bad movie, and nothing here really ranks below a B- or C+, and most are much higher. But some great films are greater than others. Read on below to find out what we deemed to be the best of Hayao Miyazaki, and argue with our picks in the comments section below.

11. “The Castle Of Cagliostro” (1979)
Miyazaki’s first feature as director, and a rare non-Studio Ghibli film, is undoubtedly the least of his major works, a somewhat anonymous franchise caper, but one that does at least show the promise of the master filmmaker that was to come. Based on Manga artist Monkey Punch‘s enduringly popular character Lupin III (the grandson of Maurice LeBlanc‘s gentleman-thief Arsene Lupin), derived from an anime TV series for which Miyazaki had directed a number of episodes, it opens with Lupin and right-hand man Daisuke Jigen pulling off a successful casino robbery in Monte Carlo, only to discover that their haul is made up of counterfeit notes. This ends up pointing them in the direction of the sinister Count Cagliostro and the princess Clarisse, who is meant to marry him. It’s a rather convoluted and overstuffed plot, featuring ninja assassins, various associates and adversaries of Lupin’s, faked deaths, Roman ruins, terrible secrets and a “You Only Live Twice“-style autogyro, and can sometimes feel manic, gag-happy and, well, cartoonish, in a reality-breaking way that isn’t really the case with Miyazaki’s other work, which feels anchored no matter how fantastical it gets. On the animation scale, it’s definitely closer to Saturday morning cartoons than, say, “The Wind Rises.” But all that said, it is wildly imaginative and beautifully executed, with a number of action sequences that would put any live-action film to shame—there’s a cracking car chase early on, and things only improve from there. And while the production values are notably lesser than the Ghibli pictures, the trademark attention to detail of a Miyazaki film is very much present in the fantastical European setting, a gloriously romantic depiction of a world that never existed (one that would be returned to in spirit many times), that nods to classic French graphic novels, Bond and Tintin, among others. It’s definitely a minor entry in the canon, disposable in a way none of his other films really are, but it’s still a remarkably entertaining 100 minutes.

10. “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004)
What kind of a filmography can have a film as good as “Howl’s Moving Castle” nestle in the bottom half in terms of quality? But here it is, as splendid and beautifully imagined an animated film as we’ve seen, and yet low in our overall rankings. The reason for that is simple: while it’s a terrific film, it feels less pure, original Miyazaki than many of the others here, being loosely based on a book by English author Diana Wynne Jones, and featuring a steampunk-y vibe that, while well-realized, harkens back to the director’s “Laputa: Castle In The Sky” made nearly two decades earlier. Still, transforming rather than transcribing the original story (which was a contentious issue for some fans of the book), the Oscar-nominated ‘Howl’ is a treat and a tremendous visual achievement: the story of Sophie, a plain young milliner who has a spell cast upon her making her old and who falls in love with a handsome, troubled wizard, as so often with Miyazaki films, it is the backdrop that really gives the film its unique texture. Here it plays out during a time of war, a war even those waging it admit is “idiotic” and which yet wreaks havoc on villages and fills the skies with fighter-airships dropping bombs (most of which wear hats). Miyazaki publicly stated that the film was a reaction to the widely unpopular Japanese involvement in the Iraq War, and even Marco Mueller, Director of the Venice Film Festival where it debuted, called it “the strongest anti-war statement we have in the whole festival.” But of course it’s more than possible to enjoy the film without reading in all that subtext—in fact we’d suggest that this film, while it may not be the purest, or weirdest, iteration of the director’s filmmaking, could function well as a “starter Miyazaki” especially for children raised on Disney movies. The synthesis of fabulously imagined visuals (the castle design is stunningly intricate and jokey) and grotesque or ambivalent characters with more recognizably “Western” elements like the transformative power of true love and a couple of helpful magical sidekicks (notably a talking fire and an ‘Oz’-like scarecrow), make it an easy way to get your feet wet in the world of Miyazaki, before taking the plunge proper.

9. “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989)
How do you follow up “My Neighbor Totoro,” the film that truly put Miyazaki on the map? With a sweet, low-key coming-of-age story that happened to precede the coming mania over young witches and wizards ten years before the arrival of “Harry Potter” (and, happily, also proved to be a huge hit, Ghibli’s biggest up to that point). Miyazaki wasn’t even originally supposed to direct “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” an adaptation of the novel by Eiko Kadono—he was busy with ‘Totoro,’ and had passed on the duties to colleague Sunao Katabuchi. But he was unhappy with earlier drafts of the script, and with ‘Totoro’ now in the can, Miyazaki took over, and the result is a film that couldn’t be made by another director. Set in an alternate Europe (the imagery is based, at least in part, on Stockholm), it follows the titular Kiki, a 13-year-old witch in training, who, like other witches, has to spend a year living on her own before she can resume her training. With the help of her talking cat Jiji, she sets up shop delivering for a bakery, and befriends and falls for a local boy mad for aviation, but becomes depressed and starts to lose her power. Miyazaki’s always been a director in touch with his feminine side (“The Wind Rises” is rare among his films for not featuring a female protagonist), but even when compared to the others, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is easily his least testosterone-y: a quiet, little film about a young girl learning to believe in herself, and overcome her insecurities—a sort of magical “Frances Ha,” as it were. It’s utterly charming and very sweet-natured, but to the extent it can sometimes come across as bland: the conflict is so internal that it feels a little undramatic in places, and while typically beautiful (not least in the stunning flying sequences), it doesn’t come across as Miyazaki’s most distinctive act of world creation. It’s a lovely little film, of course, and a perfect jumping-on point to the director’s work for young girls, but there are richer and more resonant films as you’ll soon see.

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8. “Ponyo” (2008)
Inescapably and somewhat unfairly described as
one of the director’s “minor” efforts (the word means a lot less in a
catalogue as strong as Miyazaki’s) “Ponyo” is in fact a deliciously weird take on “The Little Mermaid,”
following a young fish-girl-thingy named Ponyo, who dreams of becoming a
human girl (or at the very least more human-ish), much to the chagrin
of her father, a formerly human scientist who now exists as a kind of
Neptune-ish lord of the sea. What makes “Ponyo” so fascinating, besides
how utterly bizarre it is (particularly towards the end), is that it’s from a
director who has long been obsessed with the transformative power and
enduring legacy of flight, dealing with a movie that is largely set
underwater. The result is one of the filmmaker’s more deliberately
trippy exercises, full of giant underwater fish and spirits that control
the wind and waves. (The seaside town where the human characters live
is so gorgeous and charming that you want to buy a house there). While
the movie looks, outwardly, like one of the director’s more kid-friendly
projects, it’s pretty complex, thematically, with the father/daughter
dynamics explored to their fullest, most emotional levels and the
relationship between man and nature (in this case, the sea) given
typical importance. It might not be the filmmaker’s best film, but it’s a
visual feast full of some of the most stunning animation Studio Ghibli
has ever produced, and is laden with deceptively nuanced storytelling.
If there’s a little one in your life obsessed with Ariel and Sebastian, show them this. It’s a lot weirder, but it might end up being just as beloved.

7. “Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind” (1984)
Miyazaki channeled Jim Henson for the 1984 adaptation of his own manga series “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” and not the Henson who created the Muppets but the one who was interested in the surreal, blackly tinged science fiction fantasy worlds of “The Dark Crystal” (released just two years earlier and a perfect companion piece). This is Miyazaki at his most sprawling and imaginative, set in a post-apocalyptic landscape where a toxic gas and creeping jungle (not to mention giant, carnivorous bugs that make the worms of “Dune” seem like a minor inconvenience) threaten to wipe out what little of humanity is left behind. Nausicaa is a young girl who is able to quell the angry insects and lives in a land protected by a natural wind barrier (she also, like a number of Miyazaki characters, is obsessed with flight), who finds herself caught in between warring factions as they struggle for survival. Although only his second feature as a director, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” represents a number of the themes and ideas that would grow to define his later work—an emphasis on pacifism as opposed to combat, an environmental message, a strong young female protagonist, and prolonged flight sequences. It’s a remarkably assured and complicated work that only occasionally gets bogged down in its own abundant mythology and occasionally knotty plot mechanics. The film deserves to stand alongside other ’80s science fiction landmarks and in many ways feels even more ahead of its time than the ones that are regularly heralded. While certainly not the best of the director’s lavish fantasy films, it’s still mind-boggling, made even more so by the fact that the director made it so (relatively) early in his career. 

6. “The Wind Rises” (2013)
Miyazaki’s last film is also one of his most quietly affecting. While peppered with fantasy sequences, “The Wind Rises” eschews the magical inclinations of many of Miyazaki’s most iconic films, instead presenting a relatively straightforward biography of Jiro Horikoshi, a real-life Japanese airplane designer who was responsible for the Japanese Zero Fighter in World War II. This subject matter has lent the film an undue amount of controversy, with many claiming that the movie sweetens and makes sympathetic a deadly warmonger who knowingly built killing machines. But this discussion misses the point entirely, since the movie is mostly about the limitless power of imagination and the way that designs can transcend their purpose, which, frankly, has been a recurring theme of Miyazaki’s for decades with less than a murmur of protest. The director has spent his entire career communicating his feeling for flight as a tantalizing, romanticized experience full of wonder and awe, and that impulse does perhaps reach its culmination here: the flight sequences in “The Wind Rises” might be his best ever. Jiro is so obsessed with flight and his designs that he imagines himself in the planes, or talking to famous figures in aviation, while there’s a love story too, at the heart of “The Wind Rises” that is equally as compelling as the story of the aviator’s quest for design perfection. If this truly is Miyazaki’s final film, he’s ended his filmography on a high note—one of sweeping beauty and historical importance that works just as well as a tiny, human story. “The Wind Rises” soars not because of its incredible flying sequences but because it lets you understand, so completely, how one man’s boundless imagination can be co-opted for outside purposes, and because we can’t help but see Miyazaki reflecting on his own creative life in the story.

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I love how you compare Kiki's Delivery Service to Frances Ha, two movies completely, altogether unlike. Is the collective memory/knowledge of the writers on this site so poor that no films older than a year and existing below a certain threshold of megahype cannot be called upon?


    Honestly, this list really does hurt me. I know it’s your opinion, and i respect it, but howl’s moving castle and spirited away shouldve made top 5 =( the animation and music was absolutely breath taking and always gave me so much emotion. They both also gave bitter sweet tingles in your heart! But i do agree that princess mononoke was defiantly amazing! it had a great story and was well animated, these movies are definitely my favorite, but the rest of the films are soso great, you can never go wrong with the classic totoro:):) also, i had a major crush on howl and haku XD


As a huge Miyazake fan, I applaud your efforts at ranking his work. I agree that even his "worst" is heaps better than most cinema (especially animated work) today. I would be amiss though if I didn't point out a few places where you got it wrong. I know it's among the most celebrated (stateside, at least) of his works, but Mononoke is not his best film. I would actually place it somewhere in the middle of the pack. It shares many of the same elements of his other works, but doesn't do so as purely. I would bump Spirited Away up to the second spot and stick his big adventure in the Valley of the Wind at number one. Nausicaa is one of the best characters ever created for film–it is impossible to watch her movie and not want to change your life for the better. Any story that can do that, deserves more recognition.


    i agree with you. it is incredible how many people adore princess mononoke while not even mentioning nausciaa. I dont know i the langht of the film made it less popular or just the fact that it is older. it is amazing and practicly the base of everything he ever done

Christina Schnabel



Love this list. Your rankings always feel very thought-through and well defended (Pixar one as well). Mononoke is probably among my 4 favorite movies and in my opinion his definite masterpiece.


Worst? What worst??


Although I love Princess Mononoke, I'd say it's a tad overrated. Porco Rosso on the other hand…what a beautiful film. That's my personal number 1.


During the past 2-3 years, my wife and I borrowed and watched all the movies in this list because we found we loved Miyazaki so much, but when it came down to buying some of them to have for ourselves, one Christmas we picked Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaa, Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Sky.

Our least favorite was definitely Princess Mononoke. Just didn't click for us.
To each their own.


The first Miyazaki film I watched was the "Americanized" Warriors of the Wind. The one with the flying unicorn in the VHS box cover and some He-Man type guy riding the mheve holing up a laser sword. Yes, the box cover was so bad I actually passed on this movie for a long time until my brother told me how great it was. So no flying unicorns and laser swords made me love the movie. The second movie I saw was Laputa which I really enjoyed more. Reading the Nausicaa manga though, I wish Studio Ghibli or Miyazaki would do the entire story as a tv series. A few people seem to know that Miyazaki had a great series called "CONAN: Boy of the Future" or Future Boy Conan. Great series that i wish would get a US subbed release.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes

It's really weird how so few Westerners are aware that Hayao Miyazaki actually had a career before Studio Ghibli was founded. You guys skipped out on half the man's career – which would go a long way towards connecting to a film like Castle of Cagliostro. We really ought to send you guys some DVDs and fansub copies of his 60s and 70s work.


There is an error for the Totoro entry – the man can be closer to his ailing mother.

She was the man's wife and the girls' mother.


I'm actually agree with your rankin without any doubt, his best film is Princess Mononoke :)


I knwe it!

Mononoke is teh best!! It's my favorite Ghibli Movie!! It's gorgeous!!!

Oim totally agree with this rank!


I would put spirited away second though


"10. Howl's moving casttle" really? And the second Totoro!?? please, it's good okey and the ranking is something very subjective but in fact is the most overrated film of studio ghibli. Ponyo, Nausicaa and Sipirted Away are better. You don't have judgment or something else.
But Mononoke obviously is the best.


Im going to have to disagree with this slightly, due to the fact that Grave of the Fireflies didnt make the list. That film broke my heart. It was so amazingly told and hardhitting. i really felt for the characters by the end and thats what made it so sad. I would have put that in over Howl's Moving Castle any day :/


    Grave of the Fireflies, as it says in the article, it isn’t really a Hayao Miyazaki film people, so it can’t be on this list


    Because Grave of the Fireflies is not a Miyazaki film… It was directed by Isao Takahata.


I'd swap #1 and #2 (I think Totoro is his masterpiece), but in general I'm on board with this ranking. Good stuff.


I saw an early print of Princess Mononoke in Japanese with English subtitles in Ann Arbor at a Manga film convention prior to the Weinstein deal. I was totally blown away. For me it is still his best work.


Loved this list. Hopefully one for Studio Ghibli films period can be found here.


This list is insane, Howl in 10th was a good sign that this list was far from reality, so I took it all with a grain of salt. Then Totoro getting number 2, that just made me laugh and sigh. That movie is horrendous with the exception of Totoro. I mean, there isn't even a bad guy, could've been amazing movie though.

Porco was great, but def not #4 material. Nausica and Castle in the Sky are my favorite least seen Ghibli movies for sure, glad they did well on the list. And as long as Mononoke got number 1, my nerd rage was able to be contained.

Wind Rises sounds terrible, and as a big Miyazaki fan I'm not going to watch it after the huge disappointment of the last two Ghibli movies and the boring premise. Still, glad he's going to get some more peace and relaxation in his life, he deserves it.


    I know this is old, but please consider watching The Wind Rises. Miyazaki wasn’t making this film for Disney. It’s a beautiful film with the amazing animation the people expect from a MiyazKi movie. It’s not the best, and the main character can seem a bit bland, but I have to say it’s one of my personal favorites. This was a movie Miyazaki made for him. It tells an interesting, history based story. It’s somewhat unfair to write it off immediatly. So Miyazaki had a couple less than satisfactory movie, but, come on, we all know he’s capable of making something amazing. A few flops is no reason to give up on the man. There’s no real villain, or action, it’s just the story of a man trying to make an amazing plane. If you watch it and don’t like it that’s you’re right, but you can’t fully judge something before actually seeing it.


it hurts me that you said howl's moving castle was worse than kiki's delivery service and spirited away


I agree that Mononoke is awesome… but Totoro was so boring for me I watched it only once, can't understand why it is in second place; sure, Tororo and Catbus are pretty characters and make lovely plushies but… really? O_O
My personal favorite is Howl's Moving Catle too.


Great list! Kiki ranks a tad higher for me personally. There's something so tender and sweet about that film that resonates with me. Let's say it's not a "best to worst" list, but rather, a "greatest to great" list. ;-)


Interesting list. The genius of Miyazaki is his ability to connect in different ways with so many, regardless of age, nationality or gender.

I feel the apex of this 'genius' was Spirited Away. Since than the tone and scope of his films has been very sedate and middling. Not bad, just not what we had come to expect in a "different world" kind of way.

Totoro is my personal favorite, along with Nausicaa (for personal reasons). But because his genius connects in so many ways, it's impossible to rate all the films. Kiki, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso…..they all have a beautiful otherwordly appeal that lets us escape our own worlds for a brief moment. One of the rare director's whose work I have no problem rewatching numerous times (which goes for a few of the Studio Ghibli work as well).


I am glad this list was based on personal opinion backed up with valid reason. Most lists would go by a poll of popular opinions or record sales and I liked to see the film looked at from different angles. It was also surprising to see Princess Mononoke at the top and most people wouldn't pick it (well at least everyone I have asked) and it is my all time favourite animated movie as well so I was doubly happy to see it at the top. The soundtrack always gives me chills especially when I imagine the world that was created for the backdrop.


In what universe is Princess Mononoke a kid's movie? It has tons of gore in it, which, as you can guess from a Miyazaki film, is terribly detailed. What makes it strong is that it is able to present fantasy and mythology in an intelligent and adult way. I strongly approve of this taking top spot on your list. I would have placed Nausica higher, but I like post-apocalyptic stuff.

I would have put Kiki's Delivery Service at the bottom, it was so ungodly boring and dumb compared to everything else. Though, Ghibli's most boring has to be Tales from Earthsea, which was somehow worse than the live action Earthsea. I only watched Ghibli's Earthsea because Timothy Dalton voiced the lead in the English version.

jimmie t. murakami

Hayao Miyazaki is a worthless pile of dog-shit, freshly excreted out of a mongrels arse.


This was a great list, thanks for sharing! My personal favorite is Spirited Away, which resonates with me a lot more than Mononoke or even Totoro, but I could understand why you ranked those two higher.

For me, everything about Spirited Away is amazing. One of my favorite films ever (not just animated films).


Great list! My top 3 are probably: 1. Castle in the Sky, 2. Spirited Away, 3. My Neighbor Totoro. Princess Mononoke isn't there because… well… I haven't seen it yet… It's the only Miyazaki movie I haven't seen besides the Wind Rises. I feel ashamed.


And why is that "Grave of the Firefly" is not included on the list? I think the author of this article was over-thinking things. Alice and Wonderland is very far different from Spirited Away because it has political agenda and the story is quite boring unlike Spirited Away that you will never ever get bored watching it for 2 hours. I am not really into fantasy movie genre but I can say that Spirited Away is one of the best anime movies I've watched,though its not realistic it still manged to entertain its audience/viewer. Love the flow of the story of this anime please make the season 2 of this. More power Ghibli~!:)


Mononoke was definitely his best. So happy to see it at number one. I love the story, and the messages behind it. Could watch it a million times. The soundtrack is amazing as well. Although, I would have put howls higher, as well as nausicaa.


Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie, I can't believe it was put as second worst out of all of them! :/


A good list. I don't agree with it, but then every Miyazaki fan would have a different list because his films work at such a subtle and personal level.

The only thing I disagree with terribly on this list is your comparing Spirited Away with Alice in Wonderland. The two aren't comparable. The world of spirited away represents the 2000 year old Shinto culture. Every strange creature is a recognizable part of traditional Japanese mythology.

If you haven't watched The Wind Rises yet then make sure you do at the soonest available moment. It's a very special film aimed at a very mature audience. Younger folk will appreciate it too, however some of the poetic, literary and historical references will be lost on a teen audience. I feel like The Wind Rises will age incredibly well and become regarded as the opus of Miyazaki's work in time.

I have a special place in my heart for Spirited Away though, the first studio Ghibli film I watched. The first time saw it I felt so high by the end that mainlining crack into my brainstem couldn't have matched the feeling.


You have a few mistakes in your Princess Mononoke description. Nowhere is it said or even hinted that the women were prostitutes – they even "hide" themselves in the presence of Ashitaka. Also, Ashitaka never EVER shows any demon side apart from the pain and strength he gets when his hand trembles. His moral compass is never affected by the curse.


Spirited aways should be #1 its the master piece of miyazaki to me.


Whaaat?! Why on earth is Howl's Moving Castle at the bottom? It's such an adorable film. But then aren't all of Miyazaki's? I guess I'm biased because I'm convinced Howl has stolen my heart ;)


Spirited Away is overated and a poor example of story telling.


Well, all of his movies are perfect. But after watching 'The Wind Rises', I completely forgot his former ones. It was just too perfect.


This list is biased and stupid, and really, shouldn't have been written. I abhor it.

Furthermore, you know nothing with your stupid snide Simpsons comment. Shut your stupid filth hole. The Simpsons has produced way more art in it's run, in its last decade even, than you retards ever will with your piss-pour articles…


Was recommended- so bought Nausicaa – Now completely hooked! Love Howl's Moving Castle and working my way through as many as I can get hold of.


The Wind Rises should have won the Academy Award


Whaaaaaaat!? Where's "The Cat Returns" ?! :O And I think "Spirited Away" or "Howl's Moving Castle" should be at 1st :D


And there's Princess Mononoke, right at the top where it belongs. Truly one of the greatest films ever made, at the top of animation as an art form. Case in point: two scenes. The attack on Iron Town, leading to Ashitaka intervening between Lady Eboshi (one of the great all-time animated antagonists) and San. And the Spirit of the Forest healing Ashitaka in a brilliantly executed moment. Stunning film, perfect ending! I hope critics and filmmakers see this film and properly place it by the time the next Sight and Sound poll comes along…it came out before Miyazaki became a worldwide sensation and wasn't as widely seen by the West as films following Spirited Away.

Miranda C Jones

I love all Hayao Miyazaki films


I can't really argue with one Miyazaki fans' opinions; but I will say that I would've ranked Nausicaa higher. I really enjoy that movie; more than any of the other movies including Mononoke.


hols moving castle is my favorite movie of all time so whoever ranked this has there numbers screwed up… hayao miyazaki best film maker of all time!


It’s suppose to be from best to very best… I know nothing of worst film he made.


I like lists and do agree with your list must of the way. However I do think you got two movies completely wrong. “Howl’s Moving Castle” is in my opinon maybe the best of them all and definitely in top 3. "My Neighbor Totoro" is a nice movie, however it is still a very simple movie and should be in the lower part of the list.


Top 5: Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Monoke,Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro


If you ask me heres my ranking, Generally Ghibli (not necessarily Miyasaki)
5. Not so appealing – Pom Poko, (My Neighbor the Yamadas), (Tales from the Earthsea)
4. Good but very mainstream – Ponyo, Arriety, The Cat Returns, Howls Moving Castle
3. Awesome Slice of Life – Only Yesterday, Whisper of the Heart, From Up on Poppy Hill, The Wind Rises, (Graves of the Fireflies)
2.5 Epic but not as epic as 2 – Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso
2. EPIC – Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa
1. The HAYAO MIYASAKI I KNOW – My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service


I am pleased that you rated Princess Mononoke at no.1 although I couldn’t actually say which Studio Ghibli film is my favourite. However I am surprised Howl’s moving castle isn’t higher up in the list because that would easily be in my top 3. Right so time for my list! (purely my own personal taste) Princess Mononoke, Spirited away and Howl’s moving castle are ALL my top 3. *In no particular order* and then 4. My neighbour Totoro. 5. Castle in the sky 6. Kiki’s delivery service 7. The cat returns 8. Nausicaa 9. Grave of the fireflies and 10. Whisper of the heart. Bear in mind even the films lower down in the list I absolutely love but this is purely my taste in films.


great list, Valley of the wind and Mononoke are my favorites personally although they are all great. hard to choose a number one but id say i like the action a little better in Mononoke


While Naussica is a good movie, it is far from as good as the others you put behind it. The story falls short on what’s it’s trying to deliver especially towards the end of the movie. The ending feels rushed and almost immature. The imagery is also just so so. Even at it’s time, it wasn’t ground breaking.

Also a lot of your reasoning behind movie placement is just silly. Howl’s Moving Castle, has a steampunk theme, so it reminds you of other steampunk themed movies, therefore it’s not good? "Kiki’s delivery Service" reminds me of "Clarissa the Teenage Witch" because there is a witch with a black cat, therefore I don’t like it… see what I did there.

If you are going to make a list of movies, you should set specific categories to base your reasoning on (i.e. art, music, story, character development, etc.). There is no real benchmark for your choices as they stand, therefore it’s impossible to make an accurate comparison.

Malin Asklander

Actually, when it comes to "Kiki…" the backdrop is majorly from Visby, the city of Gotland founded in the medieval times, complete with a ring wall, lots of ruins, streets of cobblestones as well as hills and narrow alleys.
From what I’ve heard, Studio Ghibli wanted to animate Pippi Longstocking and travelled to Sweden and started painting the backdrop before the deal was closed. When, eventually, a french animation studio got the deal (and did a terrible job, mind you), Studio Ghibli did not want to waste their drawings and merged them into "Kiki.." instead.
However, the litte quaint village that Kiki ends up in has several similarities to Visby. Picture google search and you’ll see what I mean.

(sorry for my bad english, as it is not my first language)


may i just put it out there how irrelevant this attempt (=ranking Miyazaki films) is. Each is different and perfect as it is. Your taste is your business xo

Dianna Wynne Jones is Welsh not English

Fact Checker

David Deas

I’d hardly call the Castle of Cagliostro, , "disposable" the movie has a high status among Lupin fans and it even tend to get referennce in other works like BatmanL The Animated Series or The Great Mouse Detective.

Nica G

I disagree with the entire list. It seems very well thought out however it’s lacking in truth. Most of these films are all ranked on the same levels. Each film fits the time period they came out in therefore each film is technically number one. One should not measure the value of another’s creation by their own yard stick but by the yardstick of the time in which the creation was created. This said strongly as an artist and creator or animated films and works.


Hmmm…The Secret World of Arrietty didn’t seem to make this list. Arriety was a bit dull (story wise) in some parts but I have to say that the animation is incredibly beautiful! I would have liked to see it on this list because of the artwork. :)

Donovan Olson

Shoutout to Joe Hisaishi for some of my favorite scores. Beautiful.


Anime fanbois.


Anime in general sucks, but Miyazaki is the one Nip who manages to make some Japanimation worth watching.

Alex Nubia

The "muppet" Jim Henson and the dark Crystal Jim Henson are the same man. Check your facts, please – or your wording, if you did not mean to imply they were different people. Go google it or wiki it.


i disagree, i think all ghibli movies are stunning


This made me cry… :’)


I personally enjoyed Spirited away and Howl’s moving castle, though I’ve only really watched those two. I was surprised to see it so low on your list.

John M.

I think I would’ve put Howl’s Castle at #8 or 7, and Ponyo at #10. Ponyo was a very nice "Feel-Good" movie that I think, like Tottoro, panders to a younger audience, but for that same reason and it having a lack of real "depth," I would rank it #10.


"perhaps the only figure who can stand alongside Miyazaki in the animated world." Let’s not forget Walt Disney and his animators!


Great list! I think Princess Mononoke is well deserving of the top rank. It’s such an amazing movie, and definitely one of my favourites. So beautifully written, animated and directed.

a real dum dum

Sacrilege! Miyazaki’s entire canon rises above all modern cinema and will inform our values and shape our dreams in the soon-to-come post-apocalyptic world. too much? i just love all his work so much it hurts to see them graded like some film students’ thesis projects. that being said, anything that promotes Miyazaki (although I doubt he follows this kind of internet stuff) will hopefully inspire him to pop out at least one more masterpiece before we lose him. He is truly a master of the medium and the form; if (god forbid) I ever have kids, they will be raised on his films.


For me the choice for number one can only be Spirited Away. A journey through someone else’s dream and you forget where and who you are. Priceless art.


kik mi frenchy fries


Thank you for adding all the trailers of the movies that you mentioned! And now I have to go back and look at all his films again! :) it was a good read, thanks!


Where’s the cat returns?


I can watch his ‘worse’ films several times and still think it’s awesome work! Love Hayao Miyazaki!!!!!!!!


Ponyo over Kiki? Laputa over Nausicaa? Totoro over Spirited Away? Priorities!


Yes, thanks for the effort… but maybe the magic of some of his works escapes the author ?
Spirited Away defintely deserves a top two spot, and Howl’s and Ponyo top five. On the other hand, The Wind Rises is an almost offensive war story, with a terribly weak plot.


You ranked Nausicaa below The Wind Rises and Porco Rosso? Seriously?

And everyone should watch Future Boy Conan, it’s one of the most amazing TV series ever made.


I agree with your #1 choice. Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle marked the end of my childhood, and thus have great significance to me, but Princess Mononoke will always be my favorite Miyazaki movie.


Howl’s Moving Castle worse than Ponyo? Did you WATCH Ponyo??!?!


    Howl’s deserves top 5 brah.


You should have mentioned the importance of Joe Hishaishi’s magical music which adds up to the beauty of his films

Siri Grace

I think mononoke was one of the best


Lupin was amazing! Better than princess Monoke – just a fantastic fun crime caper meets action and adventure with one of Japan’s greatest anti-heroes.


Your forgot the biggest stuff about "the Cagliostro castle" the movie "Le roi et l’Oiseau" Inspired him to become a movie maker and you can totally see he LOVED the movie. Don’t underestimate this movie


and no mention of Pom Poko? shame on you


I love this list, I would replace Totoro with From up on Poppy Hill though because I love that movie and haven’t seen Totoro, but that’s just my opinion.

John O

When will be able to download or stream via amazon itunes do you think


nah man howls moving castle is the best

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With great respect for all Miyaxzaki’s works, I cannot concede that any equals “Spirited Away”. Just because it tosses away the fetters of plot and character and entertainment, it reaches deeper into the mundane mysticism of human existence: of time slowly passing, and then faster; of characters whose motives are wholely inscrutable; of the engulfing astonishment of liquidity, both gross and limpid; of spirits who pass among us but have no part in our world, and on and on. Hard to find a comparison in free-falling imagination so rooted in dailiness. (Maybe Kafka?) From the first viewing I thought it may be the only film I know that will be commonly watched a hundred, two hundred, five hundred, years from now.


Seriously? Ponyo better than Howl’s? That’s ridiculous


I wasn’t expecting to get much out of this list after reading your ranking of Howl’s Moving Castle as number 10 on the list but all in all I like how thorough you describe the works of Mr. Miyazaki. All in all this was actually very helpful in my decision on which Miyazaki film to find next to watch as they are expensive to purchase I really wanted to find the best. I will agree that I’m glad Princess Mononoke is sitting proudly in my collection as my number one favorite of his, but Howl’s Moving Castle introduced me to Miyazaki’s work. Had it not been for that movie I might never have explored more of these fantastic films, and I love it I can’t get tired of watching it.


Very brave to make this list, and I appreciate that you acknowledge that none of his films are below a good grade. However, there are a few major things I would do differently in ranking this: (1) I would put Totoro much lower. Of course I love the movie, but it didn’t mesmerize me the way most of his movies have. (2) I would probably put Porco Rosso in last place. It was the only Miyazaki movie that ever out right disappointed me. TO BE FAIR, it did so because I had already come to expect so much after seeing all his other work. But it’s definitely one of his less incredible movies. (3) I would put Kiki’s delivery service ahead of Ponyo. I would also possibly put Castle of Cagliostro ahead of Ponyo, although that’s a tougher call to make. (4) I would never attempt this ungodly list because how do you rank perfection??


*sees Castle of Cagliostro in last place*
Hmm already wrong

1. Ponyo
2. My Neighbor Totoro
3. Spirited Away
4. Castle of Cagliostro
5. The Wind Rises
6. Kiki’s Delivery Service
7. Howl’s Moving Castle
8. Princess Mononoke
9. Porco Rosso
10. Castle in the Sky
11. Nausicaa

The TV show he created earlier in his career though, Future Boy Conan, might be better than all these. Also, I hear he’s making one more film !!!!!

An Entire Family of Miyazaki Fans

“Wrong! Conan, what is best in Miyazaki?”

1. Spirited Away
2. Castle of Cagliostro
3. Castle in the Sky
4. My Neighbor Totoro
5. Kiki’s Delivery Service
6. The Wind Rises
7. Porco Rosso
8. Howl’s Moving Castle
9. Nausicaa
10. Up on Poppy Hill
11. Mononoke
12. Ponyo
13. The Cat Returns


You left out three of his films, one of which I happen to love quite a bit. “Whisper of the Heart”, “The Secret World of Arrietty”, and “From Up on Poppy Hill”. Perhaps because he merely co-wrote them? Beside the fact that you left out these films, I believe the only appropriate way to list them is chronologically, because they are all stunning in their own way.
The magic of Miyazaki is that each film has a special place in someone’s heart. My first Miyazaki film was Spirited Away, then I saw Totoro, Kiki, Howl and Arrietty. I loved Porco Rosso, so I’m happy that one made it high in the list but still; Miyazaki’s work really can’t be given a number. Everyone has different feelings toward each film. You placed Nausicaa half way, for example, but I personally found the movie slow and difficult to watch through. I will admit I was much younger at the time (roughly 13) and I would like to try and watch it again, but it doesn’t hold a very important place in my heart.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the commentary, but I could have done without the ranking.


Spirited Away should be number 1, one of my all-time favorite movies


Castle in the sky should be number one, or at least in the top three. Castle in the Sky is by far the best movie I’ve ever seen. And where’s the secret world of Arrietty?


I dunno about the other movies, but I disagree with your take on Spirited Away and how it was a fulfillment of childhood dream. and how she “first enjoyed the magical realm” and all that.

It was actually a horror and shock for her the first time, and some succeeding scenes and that to be there, in the alternate world, and in suchh a situation.It was depicted when shed sat, crouched and head buried, when she couldn’t help finally tearing up as she ate the rice balls, and so on. Her enjoyment, and even that was mixed with the grim sense of purpose of saving her family, came second. There was a comment here by someone which described it more closely, as a depiction close to Shinto culture.

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