Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films

Today we’ll be taking a look at what we think are the Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films that have been released.

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio that has made multiple memorable and heartfelt animated movies throughout the years. Often directed by co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, the films the studio made have heavily influenced both pop culture and mainstream cinema.

The fantastical characters and enchanting settings have left a mark on both viewers and critics alike. So today we here at Spiel Times will be looking through all the movies, spanning decades of production. Now let’s dive in!

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Spiel Times: Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films

10.) Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Number 10 - Kiki's Delivery Service
Image Courtesy of IMDB – Number 10 – Kiki’s Delivery Service Official Poster.

For number 10, we decided to start off with Kiki’s Delivery Service. This is a story that focuses on a young witch and her struggles as she works as a courier in a sweet coming-of-age story. A story that fills one with inspiration and warmth as one sees Kiki try her best.

Compared to others on this list, it does not try to be as big or as fantastical as others. Instead, it shows the simplicity of daily life as and coming to terms with growing up in a new place.

During this movie, you can’t help but feel supportive of her during her journey as she grows into a more mature person who can handle responsibilities. We all experience the struggles of growing up and the difficulty of finding a place in our world. It is a story of hope and of maturity. It’s the ideal family movie to show to your kids who are also experiencing the changes in life.

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9.) Whisper of The Heart (1995)

Number 9 - Whisper of the Heart
Image Courtesy of IMDB – Whisper of the Heart Official Poster.

Next up is Whisper of the Heart, a movie released in 1995. It is a musical, romance, and drama about a love story between a book-loving girl and a boy who had checked out the books that she likes. While the story progresses we see the struggles of pursuing goals and passions in life. A struggle we all face at one point in life. This film also focuses on the main character’s journey of self-discovery and carving out one’s path in life.

Studio Ghibli’s Yoshifumi Kondō was the director for this project, making it the only film directed by him before his passing in 1998. This film has a very solid message that even ties to the title itself, “Whisper of the Heart”. It is meant to be an animated film that can touch the hearts of those who are also still looking for themselves.

8.) The Wind Rises (2013)

Number 8 - The Wind Rises
Image Courtesy of IMDB – The Wind Rises Official Poster.

One of Studio Ghibli’s later releases, The Wind Rises was released in 2013 is a story that is actually inspired by a real-life figure, Jiro Horikoshi, an aeronautical engineer. While being loosely based, the movie follows certain real-life events and periods of history through the eyes of the characters, Jiro and his wife. It covers the accomplishments and trials Jiro must face, exploring the duty and successes of manufacturing aircraft to be used for war and his role in it.

The Wind Rises is a simple and honest movie that provided a glimpse into the life of those who lived decades ago in Japan. It also provides an interesting perspective of war, not from the frontlines but from the back instead.

The movie was quite controversial on release due to its coverage of World War II, but it was still a commercial success and has won many awards. If you are looking for a more grounded drama movie, this is definitely worth checking out.

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7.) The Cat Returns (2002)

Number 7 - The Cat Returns
Image Courtesy of IMBD – The Cat Returns Official Poster.

The Cat Returns is a fun and enchanting movie that follows a bored high school student Haru, as she is pulled into a magical adventure filled with cats. She is introduced to the secret world of these feline friends where she slowly turns more into a cat the longer she stays. If you are a fan of cats, this most definitely would be a fun movie to watch with all the cute feline characters that you would meet along the way.

This magical and furry film about a girl’s self-discovery is a fun watch and resonates with the hearts of many that have watched it. Despite its whimsical tone, it is very much a  simple movie with an inspiring main message to believe in yourself. Furthermore showing that the key to one’s success lies in oneself.

6.) Ponyo (2008)

Number 6 - Ponyo
Image Courtesy of IMBD – Ponyo Official Poster.

This film, released in 2008, follows the titular character Ponyo, an adventurous little goldfish, as her life becomes intertwined with a 5-year-old boy named Sousuke. A heartwarming fish-out-of-water story that also tells a message regarding humanity’s effects and responsibilities over the environment. The bond that Ponyo and Sousuke share is an adorable one that shows the innocence and honesty of young love.

This story shares similar elements with Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” such as a sea-dwelling main character that longs to explore the land and their connection to a human. However, much less focused on romance, this movie focuses on bonds between people.

A story of empathy and understanding, both displayed by the characters Ponyo and Sousuke. It is a story fitting for younger audiences to enjoy surely.

5.) Grave of The Fireflies (1988)

Number 5 - Grave of the Fireflies
Image Courtesy of IMDB – Grave of the Fireflies Official Poster.

The next movie in line is one that is heavy and tragic. Grave of the Fireflies is a film that takes place in 1945, after the conclusion of World War II. It follows two siblings, Seita and his sister Setsuko, who try to continue living in a land ravaged by the brutal war by the bombings of America. Having lost both their family and home, they travel across the countryside facing incredible hardship along the way. The heartbreaking ending perfectly completes this masterpiece of a movie and will be remembered for years to come.

Grave of the Fireflies won multiple awards both locally and internationally. While not recommended for everyone, we would hope that anyone who watches it is left with a reminder of the harrowing consequences of war. If you are in the mood to cry, then this film is the one for you.

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4.) Princess Mononoke (1997)

Number 4 - Princess Mononoke
Image Courtesy of IMDB – Princess Mononoke Official Poster

A visually and artistically impressive experience, Princess Mononoke is a movie that has won multiple awards. The story tone here is quite different from those of the other movies catering more to adults than kids. The film follows the main character, a prince as he is thrust into the conflict between two sides. He attempts to find harmony between the two, whilst dealing with a curse inflicted on him by a wild beast.

Having a mythological approach to storytelling it uses this to complement its themes on technology and the environment. With a message that promotes environmental consciousness and the threats of wanton industrialization, Princess Mononoke leaves a lasting mark in our minds.

3.) My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Number 3 - My Neighbor Totoro
Image Courtesy of IMDB – My Neighbor Totoro Official Poster.

The next film on the list is a classic! This is probably a favorite as well for many others due to its cozy and fuzzy titular character. This is none other than My Neighbor Totoro, a heartwarming animated movie that’s surely a great watch with the family.

The story is about two girls who recently moved into the countryside. While exploring the new scenery, they encounter a friendly nature spirit name Totoro in the nearby forest. The girls go on an adventure alongside Totoro, exploring the magical intricacies of the forest unknown to man.

The film presents Totoro and the girl’s adventure with him in a very innocent and lighthearted way. It successfully achieves its goal of presenting how a child would see the world in an innocent and whimsical manner. It’s a perfect comfy movie to watch on a nice day.

2.) Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Number 2 - Howl's Moving Castle
Image Courtesy of IMDB – Howl’s Moving Castle Official Poster.

Second to the last is another fan favorite of many people. Howl’s Moving Castle, based on the 1986 novel sharing the same name, is the 14th animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is about a woman named Sophie, who is transformed into an old lady by a spiteful witch. She realizes the key to breaking the spell lies in a young self-indulgent wizard by the name of Howl who lives in a walking castle with his companions.

Additional themes that weren’t included in the original novel were added to the second half of the film. The included themes of war in the film very much create a more interesting and conflict-rich plot good for a movie.

While being a good enjoyable watch, it is also a wonderful romance movie. The romance portrayed by both Sophie and Howl shows a bond that is beyond superficial features and words. A love born of courage that defies even destiny. If you are in the mood for a nice romance with great chemistry and a fantastical magical world, this may be the one for you!

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1.) Spirited Away (2001)

Number 1 - Spirited Away
Image Courtesy of IMDB – Spirited Away Official Poster.

And of course, the number 1 Studio Ghibli Film for us here at Spiel Times is…Spirited Away!

The story of Spirited Away revolves around a spoiled and naive 10-year-old Chihiro who gets stranded in another world. She had crossed over to the world of spirits with her parents who in the process get turned into pigs. Without anyone to depend on, young Chihiro must gather her courage as she encounters more obstacles along the way. Now, She must learn to work alongside the spirits in order to save her parents, help her new friends, and escape back to the human world.

One of the strongest points of the movie lies in the colorful and interesting characters. These characters take a life of their own in the film. Each is so memorable and unique, even for Studio Ghibli standards. You get to meet characters like the enigmatic and sometimes cold Haku, the silent and iconic No-Face, and of course the terrifying Yubaba.

Spirited Away is a memorable and fun adventure that is able to both make you laugh and cry. The way it tackles its themes of fears and anxieties is so relatable it rocks you to your core. It is a film that is can be watched by all ages, with you being able to relate and get something different out of it at every age. A classic film that will always be timeless.

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Final Thoughts

Studio Ghibli Films are a staple for many fans and animated movie enthusiasts. There are many movies not listed in the top ten above that still very much deserve watching such as Only Yesterday (1991) or The Red Turtle (2016). So at the end of the day, all of this is just purely subjective and up to preference.

Do you agree with our list? Do you think we didn’t include the right movies? Comment down below what you think! We would like to hear your thoughts and maybe even your own top ten ranking as well!

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If you have any questions regarding Studio Ghibli and any new animated films to be released, feel free to drop them in the comments below. For more content, stay with us, here at Spiel Times.

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