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Top 10 Best Studio Ghibli Movies – Best of WatchMojo

VO: Derek Allen
Script Written by Arschel Morell They set the standard for Japanese Animation. Join as we count down our picks for the Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films We’ll keep it pretty straight forward for this list, we’ve accepted the somewhat difficult task of choosing the most beloved of the films from the legendary Anime studio, whether they’re Miyazaki directed or otherwise. Special thanks to our users theblooddragon92, daniellejones, KHNumber1FanPlease, Esteban Tomás Guirao, ninou78, jessyagyeman, Tais Ivanna, CookieDoughChannel, and Daniel Burnett for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script Written by Arschel Morell

Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films

They set the standard for Japanese Animation. Welcome to where today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films. We’ll keep it pretty straight forward for this list, we’ve accepted the somewhat difficult task of choosing the most beloved of the films from the legendary Anime studio, whether they’re Miyazaki directed or otherwise.

#10: “Whisper of the Heart” (1995)

Set in modern day Japan, this film follows Shizuku and her blossoming romance with violin-maker Seiji. Whisper of the Heart is a deeply personal story about creativity and the ups and downs of teenage love, with a few dream sequences for extra fun. This film is a notable entry as it was one of the first Studio Ghibli films to be directed by someone other than Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. It’s a gorgeous film that showed the promise of director Yoshifumi Kondo, who sadly passed away shortly after the films’ completion. The movie’s dream sequences also inspired a spin off film, 2002’s The Cat Returns, centering on minor fantasy character, The Baron.

#9: “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (2013)

When a bamboo cutter named Miyatsuko and his wife discover a tiny girl within a stalk of bamboo, their lives and the lives of their village change forever. The first thing that comes to mind with The Tale of Princess Kaguya is how undeniably gorgeous the film is. Boasting an impressive art direction by utilizing the ink-washing style, it’s clear that this is some of the best animation Ghibli has put out to date, courtesy of long time director Isao Takahata. It’s no wonder this film went on to join the ranks of Studio Ghibli masterpieces that have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s criminal it didn’t win.

#8: “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” (1986)

This was where it all began. The story of Pazu and Princess Sheeta’s quest to find the fabled flying castle, Laputa, was the first official release from Studio Ghibli. Many of the creative teams core elements are on full display: a deeply imaginative world, endearing main characters, and excitement and danger at every turn. Plus it’s got Hayao Miyazaki in the director’s seat. This was the film that set the course for Studio Ghibli’s resume’ for the next thirty years and it still holds up even against modern Anime of today. Many call this a perfect adventure film and who are we to argue?

#7: “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)

Set during the tail end of World War II, Grave of the Fireflies follows siblings Seita and Setsuko as they try to survive in a war torn Japan. Many consider this film to be one of the most heartbreaking Anime of all time. The film is a harsh, realistic look at youth struggling to get by in the darkest of times. It may bring tears to many eyes, however the films dedication to its tone, in animation no less, has earned it considerable praise. Much like Whisper of the Heart, Grave of the Fireflies showed that Studio Ghibli could not just churn out great fantasy, but also heart tugging tragedy and truth at the same time.

#6: “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)

When Satsuki and her younger sister, Mei, move out to the country side, the last thing they expect to see is a giant, furry beast with a wide eyed smile. That same, loveable monster, known as Totoro, has been Studio Ghibli’s mascot ever since the film debuted in 1988. While the film doesn’t have a lot of conflict, it’s not really needed to make a great story. Much of that is left to the enjoyable bond between the two sisters and the unexpected adventures they get into with Totoro and his companions. This makes My Neighbor Totoro an Anime for all ages. Plus it has Catbus. Everybody loves Catbus. Everybody needs Catbus in their lives, alright?

#5: “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984)

So this one is a little bit of a cheat. Nausicaa was released just prior to the founding of Studio Ghibli. It still showcases the studio’s high quality animation and dedication to fleshing out characters. Featuring themes of environmentalism and empowering young girls to save the day, Nausicaa has been a title beloved by animation fans worldwide. Despite appearing before Ghibli’s inception, Nausicca is still regarded as one of their films. As such, it has been re-released several times on DVD and Blu-ray under the Studio Ghibli banner. Makes sense, as without this film, the studio might not have been created in the first place.

#4: “Kiki's Delivery Service” (1989)

In this coming of age classic, the young witch Kiki heads off to the big city to learn her craft. She ends up using her slowly developing powers to run a delivery service for the town she resides in. Kiki is an instantly likeable character with a drive and optimism that makes her a true role model for girls of all ages. The film also boasts a great amount of humor, particularly from Kiki’s adorable sidekick Jiji, and some heart racing action sequences, once Kiki really kicks her broom into high gear. Seeing Kiki overcome all challenges, personal and external, is part of what makes this comfy, little film a treat for all audiences.

#3: “Howl's Moving Castle” (2004)

Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, this fantasy flick follows Sophie, a beautiful girl turned into an old woman by a wicked witch. Searching for a cure, Sophie comes across the wandering castle of Howl and soon finds herself joining a motley crew of eclectic characters. As one of Studio Ghibli’s follow-ups to Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle boasts some of the best quality animation the studio has to offer. There’s still plenty of room for good story, featuring themes of building confidence and, of course, innocent love. Howl was so brilliant it even netted a nomination for Best Animated Feature after its release.

#2: “Princess Mononoke” (1997)

In a land where humans are in constant battle with forest spirits, Ashitaka teams up with a wolf princess to bring balance to the land and save himself from a dreaded curse. Majestic, powerful, exciting, and gorgeous. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when talking about Princess Mononoke. With stellar animation quality, a story of a grandiose scale, and strongly developed characters, it’s no wonder that many consider this Studio Ghibli film to be one of the greatest Anime films of all time. The film’s also noteworthy for being one of the studios more violent films and we’re talking a hefty amount of blood here…

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few Honorable Mentions:

“Only Yesterday” (1991)

“The Cat Returns”(2002)

“Ponyo” (2008)

“The Wind Rises” (2013)

“The Secret World of Arrietty” (2010)

“Porco Rosso” (1992)

#1: “Spirited Away” (2001)

This Miyazaki masterpiece is one of legend in the world of animation. Following young Chihiro’s journeys through a supernaturally populated bathhouse, Spirited Away is a triumph of the imagination. There are so many creatures and working parts to this world, that every single frame is something of beauty. Spirited Away’s brilliant storytelling made it an accessible film to even those not familiar with the Anime genre. And it went on to become the only Anime in history to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Not even Akira could pull that off. But like we said, this film is legendary.

Do you agree with our list? Which Studio Ghibli film has a special place in your heart? For more time honored Top 10’s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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