Every Studio Ghibli movie on Netflix ranked from worst to best
Let's start with this: I love them all.
Ranking Ghibli movies is difficult because, well, they're all amazing. Yes, there are a few outliers, yes, there are a few that perhaps didn't meet the mark that we'd expect from a Ghibli movie. But I honestly love every single one of them (maybe even you, Tales From Earthsea).
Of course, movie taste and opinion is very personal, so these opinions are very much my own and I'm sure some people will be outraged with the order here. But, hey, opinions are opinions.
Now, before we kick off, I'm sure you'll notice the glaring absence of one of Ghibli's most famous movies, Grave of the Fireflies. The reason this has been left out is because the rights to it are owned by another publishing company and it's not actually available on Netflix. Which, while still terrible, is probably good news for our mental wellbeing because, damn, that movie is bleak. Fantastic, but bleak.
So, leaving Grave of the Fireflies aside, let's get to it.
21. Tales From Earthsea
Okay, look. For a general animation movie, this is visually pretty magnificent, it has some interesting characters, and an interesting storyline. As a Ghibli movie, it's a bit meh. And as an adaptation of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea book series, it's heartbreaking. It's not a bad movie, it's just the worst of the bunch. So that's all I'm really going to say about that.
20. Ocean Waves
Ocean Waves is a calm, nostalgic movie centring around a love triangle between two friends and a new girl at school. The story is told in flashback and is a slower pace than most of Ghibli's other works. The movie was an attempt by the studio to give their young staff members a chance to make a film reasonably cheaply and, in my opinion, it shows. While still an enjoyable movie to watch, it doesn't meet the extremely high standards of most of Studio Ghibli's other works. However, at just over an hour long, it is one of the shortest Ghibli movies so still very watchable.
19. From Up on Poppy Hill
This is a sweet romance by Goro Miyazaki but it doesn't quite fit the genius shoes of his father's movies (and we don't blame him - that's a hard feat). This movie is set in the 1960s, when Japan is still dealing with the aftermath of World War II. Yokohama, where the city is set, is preparing for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which is giving a lot of people the chance they need to move life forward and leave the memories of war behind. While it doesn't hit as hard as some of the other Ghibli movies, this story does still have depth to it and it's a moving experience to see how the two main characters come together.
18. The Wind Rises
I admit that this is potentially too low a spot for what had been Hayao Miyazaki's last movie before going into retirement (but he's back out now and is reportedly working on a new movie called How Do You Live? so that's exciting as hell). If you watch all of the Ghibli movies, you'll quickly learn that Miyazaki is obsessed with flight and all kinds of flying machines. War, aeroplanes, and the environment are his three main points of interest and you'll see them coming up over and over again in his works. The Wind Rises is ALL about planes and, in some ways, it's fascinating and fantastic, and I loved a lot of it but I also found myself getting a bit tired with it as it went on.
17. Only Yesterday
Another movie told in flashbacks, this story follows 27-year-old Taeko as she moves to the country to get away from the stress of city life. The film moves back and forth between the present and her past when she was a child cooped up in the city, living what she felt was a pretty mundane life. Not a whole lot happens in this movie but it's still very enjoyable to simply be taken along for the ride. Plus the movie also does a good job at looking at the women's role in Japanese society.
16. Porco Rosso
We see Hayao Miyazaki's favourite themes of war and flight come to the fore again in this movie. Porco Rosso is a world-class pilot who has the face of a pig. He's cynical, dry-humoured, and actually a very likeable character - he fights pirates, is kind to kids, and won't stand for injustice. This whole movie plays on the idea that war turns men into pigs but the reality of the film is more complex than that. This is a fun movie to watch if you're looking for something a bit more action-packed.
15. When Marnie Was There
I really loved this movie when I watched it initially but I've found that it hasn't stuck with me much, which is why it's fairly low on the list. It tells the story of Anna, a quiet and introverted 12 -year-old who moves to a seaside town so that the fresh air can help with her asthma. While there, she meets a girl called Marnie and the two strike up a friendship and quickly form a strong bond. This is a wonderful story about friendship, adolescence, and having to grow up.
14. The Cat Returns
This was one of the first Ghibli movies I ever saw, so it admittedly holds a special place in my heart. This is a fun and light movie about Haru, a girl who can talk to cats. One day she saves a cat from being hit by a truck and gets invited to the Kingdom of Cats where she meets the Baron, a cat who first appears as a statue in Whisper of the Heart. This movie is all about identity and being yourself and it's got some real Alice in Wonderland vibes.
13. My Neighbours the Yamadas
This movie broke away from the familiar Ghibli art style to a lukewarm reception. It was Ghibli's only flop and is one of their least well-known features. However, My Neighbours The Yamadas is such a fun time that I implore you not to judge it on its simplistic animation style. Directed by one of Ghibli's most successful directors, the late Isao Takahata, this comic strip adaptation is a lighthearted take on family life and all the amusements that go along with it. It's wonderfully done and really doesn't get the credit that it deserves.
12. Pom Poko
Here we have a movie that brings one of Ghibli's main messages to the fore: protect the environment. Pom Poko is a comedy but its theme is actually a very real and unfunny issue in our world today. The main characters in this movie are racoon-dogs, shapeshifters from Japanese folklore, who are living on the outskirts of Tokyo. The story is set in one suburban development where the human world is threatening to overtake the natural world and these raccoon-dogs have to protect it. The comedy is pretty Japanese and very whimsical but the movie is a really good time - just make sure you're in the mood for something a bit more ridiculous.
11. The Secret World of Arrietty
If any of you are familiar with the book or movie The Borrowers, this is that, just a Ghibli version. Going into this, I was worried about comparing the two because The Borrowers was a favourite childhood movie, but I think it is actually improved in the Ghibli version. The animation style adds a whole extra layer of magic to the story. Arrietty is a borrower who befriends Shō, a human boy who is staying at his great aunt's house. It's a story about friendship and adventure and it's utterly enchanting.
10. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Yes, I know, technically not a Ghibli movie, but everyone counts it and we're counting it. And because we're counting it, we're listing this as the first ever Ghibli movie made. It encapsulates all of Hayao Miyazaki's three main themes: flying, war, and the environment to make what really is a stunning piece of work. Nausicaä is a princess who is living in a post-apocalyptic world, a thousand years after the war that destroyed civilisation. When a swarm of giant mutated insects threaten to destroy her home, she must fly her glider against them in order to save her people. Nausicaä is the ultimate badass woman character.
If this were purely up to opinion, I'd have placed Ponyo lower on the list because I didn't love this movie. However, a lot of that is down to it being one of Ghibli's youngest-aimed movies and the childishness of it does stand out next to the others. Allowing for the age that it was created for though, this is a cute and wholesome movie about a friendship between a little boy and a fish. After meeting the boy, Ponyo the fish wishes to be human and gets her wish. It's cute and the animation is spectacular but it is significantly more childish than any of the other Ghibli movies.
8. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Studio Ghibli's second breakaway from their usual style. Led again by Isao Takahata, this watercolour animation would end up being his final film as well as the most visually stunning piece of work to ever come out of the studio. It's nothing short of mesmerising. It's based on an old Japanese tale about a moon girl who grows up too quickly. The movements, both of nature and the characters, are wild and dazzling and unlike any other animation I've ever seen before. Its uniqueness by itself makes this a must-watch.
7. Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Here we really start getting into the top, top tier Ghibli films, in my opinion. And very fitting as this was the very first official Ghibli movie. The story follows Sheeta and Pazu as they try to find a magic crystal and a castle in the sky. When they find the floating castle, they encounter giant robots completely covered with leaves and fauna. This movie combines all the best elements of fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk to make a movie that gave everyone a perfect introduction to Studio Ghibli and set a high bar for the rest of the animations to come.
6. My Neighbour Totoro
A classic, an absolute classic. This is the movie that gave Ghibli its face, its image, its mascot. It's easy to see why this movie has become so beloved the whole world over; with the odd but friendly giant forest spirit of Totoro, the love between two sisters, the whimsical Catbus, and an undercurrent of tension about the girls' hospitalised mother, this movie has everything that people love about Ghibli. It will bring you fun, joy, amusement, and that all-important extra layer too. A good time all round.
5. Kiki's Delivery Service
This was the second Ghibli movie I ever saw as a child and it was while watching this that I realised I had found a new favourite group of movies. There's not a whole lot of definite plot in Kiki's Delivery Service but that doesn't affect how enjoyable the movie is at all. It's all about Kiki, a young witch, who is leaving home to find her own way in the world. She's a child but she's also learning to be independent. Kiki remains, to this day, one of my favourite Ghibli characters. She's determined, independent, kind, fun, and pretty much everything else you look for in a wholesome character. This is the perfect adventure movie for kids but it's a wonderfully captivating movie for adults too.
4. Howl's Moving Castle
This story of how war and violence can destroy both land and a person's soul is one of Ghibli's most popular movies to date. Both Sophie and Howl are, in my opinion, two of Ghibli's best characters and they work perfectly together. Howl is entirely complex while Sophie is straightforward but strong and thoughtful. I loved how their characters interacted and I also loved the relationship between Sophie and Markl. If I had to pick a Ghibli movie with my favourite cast of characters, this would probably be it. The movie is dark but hopeful, tense but amusing. I've seen it tens of times now and I'm not even a little tired of it.
3. Spirited Away
Here it is - my first ever Studio Ghibli movie, and I'd guess quite a lot of yours' as well. What to say about Spirited Away that hasn't already been said? When I first watched this, I was blown away by all the different fantasy creatures in one movie. Scratch that, in one bathhouse. Spirited Away is a bewitching fantasy that is probably unlike any other movie that you've seen before. It has the strongest atmosphere of all Ghibli movies - the soundtrack sucks you into this completely unfamiliar world filled with with strange creatures and other oddities and it somehow makes it familiar. It always leaves me with a bit of a movie hangover when it's finished.
2. Whisper of the Heart
This was so nearly number one. I'd honestly probably rate this as my favourite Ghibli movie of all time but I do think that the actual number one movie has those extra layers that give it an extra edge. Whisper of the Heart, though, is one of the most lovely movies you'll ever watch in your life. It's a simple story about a budding friendship between two teenagers with some magic, music, and love thrown in. There's not a whole lot else to it and I don't quite know what makes it so perfect but I'll be forever grateful to Yoshifumi Kondo for creating that perfection and bringing Whisper into my life.
1. Princess Mononoke
There we have it. The best. The number 1. Three cheers for Princess Mononoke. In this movie, we have the more personal story of Ashitaka and Mononoke and then we have the bigger story of the fight between the animal gods and the humans who want to cut down the forest. This movie is Ghibli's most adult movie with pretty graphic scenes throughout, earning it a PG-13 audience rating, the only Ghibli movie to be rated higher than PG. This movie has strong philosophical teachings at its core, a well-structured and well-told story on its surface, and stunning visual imagery being used to tell that story. Miyazaki struck the perfect cord between all three of those elements in Princess Mononoke and gave us the best Studio Ghibli movie to date. If you haven't already watched and loved this movie, go, go now and experience it in all its glory.