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10 best Studio Ghibli movies of all time

A classic image from The Wind Rises, easily among the best Studio Ghibli movies ever made
A classic scene from The Wind Rises, easily among the best Studio Ghibli movies ever made

Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli, one of the world’s most famous production companies, in June of 1985 in Tokyo.

Studio Ghibli has experienced great success in domestic and international film markets, with nine of their films amongst the twenty highest grossing anime films of all time in Japan.

In 2013, the famous director, writer, and producer Hayao Miyazaki retired. As a result in 2014, Studio Ghibli announced that they were temporarily halting any production.

However, that recently changed with the release of their new co-produced film, The Red Turtle.

In early 2016 it was also announced that Miyazaki was also coming out of retirement to make one last production, turning a 12-minute short he was working on called Boro the Caterpillar into a full-length feature.

Check out this list of the 10 must-see Studio Ghibli movies. You will not be disappointed. Seriously.

1 Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke
San, who was raised by wolf spirits, in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke follows the story of Ashitaka, a prince of his village who is infected by a cursed demon boar while trying to protect his village.

His quest for a cure leads him north to Irontown, which is led by Lady Eboshi. That is when he discovers San, a human woman who was raised by a pack of wolf spirits, who is trying to kill Lady Eboshi.

When a plot to kill the Great Forest Spirit arises, it is up to Ashitaka and a reluctant San to save the forest. This magical story is a movie you don’t want to miss!

2 Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle has Miyazaki’s trademark stunningly beautiful animation

Howl’s Moving Castle centers on a young girl named Sophie, who is transformed into an old woman by a witch.

After seeking a cure, Sophie discovers Howl’s castle and its crew. The country is currently fighting a war and tries to enlist Howl, a powerful wizard.

When Howl rescues Sophie from the clutches of the King, the witch is saved as well and all hell breaks lose.

This movie has themes exploring personal loyalty, love, and the destruction of war.

The beautiful animation of this movie is classic Miyazaki, and a must-see.

3 Spirited Away

Spirited Away
Chihiro, left, and Haku as he helps her on her journey in the incredible Spirited Away

Chihiro is a ten-year-old girl who is moving to a new home with her parents.

Or, that was supposed to happen, but after a wrong turn, she ends up trapped in the spirit world and an evil witch named Yubaba turns her parents into pigs.

A boy named Haku helps her on her journey to free her parents and herself from the curse. The rest you have to watch for yourself!

This film is the highest-grossing film in Japanese history. It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature — the only hand-drawn animated film and Japanese animated film to ever do this.

4 My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro
The spirit Totoro, left, and Satsuki and Mei in My Neighbor Totoro

Satsuki and Mei are two sisters who move to a house in the country, in order to be closer to their hospitalized mother.

There they discover the forest is filled with friendly spirits, one of them a delightful creature quickly dubbed Totoro.

This cute story follows their adventures as they learn about their new home, and run away to visit their mother.

While this movie was created and released in 1988, Totoro is still a very prominent figure in Japanese culture.

This sweet movie is one that you don’t want to miss, and is perfect to watch with the whole family!

5 Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of the brightest and most colorful of all the Studio Ghibli movies

Kiki’s Delivery Service follows the tale of thirteen-year-old Kiki, a witch in training.

Kiki moves to the port town of Koriko with her black cat, Jiji, and sets up a “Witch Delivery Service” in order to make a living.

A local boy named Tombo is obsessed with aviation, and instantly takes a liking to Kiki and her flying abilities.

Watch this movie and follow the tale of a girl learning what it is like to be independent in a town so different from her home.

This bright and colorful animated film is great to watch with friends while curled up on the couch.

6 Ponyo

The titular character Ponyo under a jellyfish as her adventures begin

Brunhilde is a goldfish who lives with her father and sisters underwater. When she escapes one day, she meets a human boy named Sōsuke, who rescues her from a glass jar.

He renames her Ponyo and their bond is created. Her father retrieves her from Sōsuke, causing Ponyo and him to be heartbroken.

This story revolves around the power of love and friendship, and a goldfish that wants to be human — with an ending that will bring on the water works.

If you are looking for a cute movie to watch with your family, look no further!

7 The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Tale of Princess Kaguya has a completely different look and feel to other Studio Ghibli movies

One day while cutting bamboo, a modest man named Miyatsuko discovers a small girl inside an illuminated bamboo shoot.

Miyatsuko and his wife begin to raise the girl, who grows rapidly, earning the nickname “little bamboo”.

The man and his wife believe she is a princess, and she is relocated to the capital. The little bamboo girl is surrounded by fine clothes and servants, where they try and tame her into something she is not.

This tale is about a mysterious girl whose life is out of her control, and her fight to overcome it.

The animation in this movie is wholly different to Studio Ghibli’s usual style — you do not want to miss it!

8 Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky
Lupita, the Castle in the Sky, and the subject of Sheeta and Pazu’s quest

Castle in the Sky follows Sheeta, a young girl who has no family left. She is captured by a government agent for an unknown reason, but manages to escape.

A boy named Pazu finds her and shares her dream of finding the last flying city, Laputa. They find out that her amulet is made of a stone that helped keep the flying cities aloft, before they all mysteriously fell.

Sheeta and Pazu fight to survive as they try to uncover the secrets of Laputa, and the evil trying to seize it.

This wholly unique and action-packed movie is great for all ages.

9 Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso — the Italian for Red Pig — in his plane flying over the Adriatic Sea

Porco Rosso follows an ex-WWI fighter pilot turned anthropomorphic pig who flies as a freelance bounty hunter in the Adriatic Sea.

While flying to Milan to have his plane serviced, Curtis — a hotheaded American ace — shoots Porco down, claiming him to be dead.

Piccolo, his mechanic, promised to repair the plane with one catch — his young granddaughter Fio is the head mechanic on the project.

A showdown between Porco and Curtis later ensues once his plane is repaired, when they discover the Italian air force is on the way — turning the enemies into allies.

This movie demonstrates Miyazaki’s love for airplanes and good story telling. If you are a fan of planes and great movies, check it out!

10 The Wind Rises

Jiro and paper airplanes in one of the beautiful scenes from The Wind Rises
Jiro and paper airplanes in one of the stunningly beautiful scenes from The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is loosely based on Jiro Horikoshi, an airplane engineer who designed many of the planes used in World War II.

The movie follows him on his journey to design planes, though he is met with failure many times before he succeeds.

He falls in love with a girl named Naoko, who is terminally ill. Despite it all, Jiro and Naoko marry and try to live their lives as much as possible on borrowed time.

This touching tale is the last movie Miyazaki created before retiring in 2013, and again demonstrates his love for airplanes.