While news of the demise of Studio Ghibli has been much exaggerated, rumors of the company shutting down, or even ending its original animation production, certainly unnerved the many of us who adore the studio’s films. Though Studio Ghibli perhaps hasn’t in a long time released a film that will one day be considered a “classic,” it continues to pour out films of high quality, most of which can be enjoyed by the entire family, and many of which extol virtuous themes and ideas.
In light of Ghibli’s restructuring, and perhaps the end of the studio in the way we now know it, our writers have graded and ranked the company’s films. Our grades might surprise you (they certainly did for me, as I discovered that I’m the Ghibli apologist in the group) – please feel free to chime in with your own comments and scores below. And note that while we did include Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind among the films (released before Studio Ghibli was founded), we did not include their latest movies, The Tale of Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There.
** 4.5 to 5 Stars **
1. Only Yesterday
Pretty much a perfect film by my memory, and I’m known for not liking icky romance stories. 🙂
2. The Wind Rises
Ambitious and patriotic, it reminded me of a more serious Porco Rosso.
** 4.0 to 4.5 Stars **
3. Grave of the Fireflies
Dinged score slightly because difficult to watch, but mandatory viewing for all anime fans, and rightly so.
4. Princess Mononoke
Probably the most violent and scary of all Ghibli films and I disliked it the first time I watched it. Though, with a break of 5 years, I re-watched it and it easily sits as one of my top favorites.
5. Whisper of the Heart
Lovely! Has any anime better captured the vibrancy and concern of youth?
6. Spirited Away
Yes, it’s over the top score [10+]. I would be here all day if I told you everything I loved about Spirited Away, because it is literally everything in the movie.
7. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
…even my younger self had her socks knocked off by this film and it’s fantastical story.
This movie gave me very fond memories of my childhood since one of my favorite books was The Borrowers.
9. Howl’s Moving Castle
A great take on Diana Wynne Jones’ book. I love the Witch of the Waste’s design and I still laugh every time I see the green goo scene.
10. My Neighbors the Yamadas
Cute, touching, and often hysterical.
11. From Up on Poppy Hill
Studio Ghibli’s knack of nostalgia is on full display in this wonderful film.
** 3.5 to 4 Stars **
12. The Cat Returns
I have a soft spot for cats already, but this movie was lovely, whimsical and a bit Alice in Wonderland-ish in some ways.
13. Kiki’s Delivery Service
I get goosebumps every time I see the first scene of Kiki taking off on her broom. I love the parts where Kiki is going through her slump and seeing her bright personality re-emerge as she conquers it.
14. Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso has a lot of things going for it, from its wonderful World War I era planes to its historical-fantasy setting, but while its serious themes are moving, its downright strange and somewhat unexplained premise holds it back from being anything more than “quite good”.
15. Castle in the Sky
Rollicking good adventure fun.
16. My Neighbor Totoro
Totoro was well made, but it was sadly never one of my favorites, despite it being so iconic for Ghibli.
** 3 Stars and below **
There were too many things they tried to put into one story; it didn’t flow as nicely as it could have.
18. Pom Poko
If Ocean waves is the most forgettable Ghibli film, Pom Poko is easily the strangest, from being presented as a children’s film, yet having a hugely environmentalist theme, to even featuring Tanuki with transforming testicles. Despite all this, it still remains a classic, albeit not one of the studio’s best.
19. Tales from Earthsea
I’ve heard that I was one of the few people who really enjoyed this movie. How can you not like something with a dragon in it?
20. Ocean Waves
Ocean Waves is probably Ghibli’s most forgettable feature, particularly as a high school slice of life drama, which is probably why it never made it to the West.