Link Copied

Every Studio Ghibli movie, ranked according to critics

Every Studio Ghibli movie, ranked according to critics
  • Since the 1980s, the Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli has released some of the world's most beloved animated films.
  • Almost all of the Ghibli films are now available to stream on HBO Max, giving international viewers the chance to easily access them together.
  • To help viewers decide which movies to watch, Insider ranked all of the Studio Ghibli films, according to critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • The studio's lowest-rated film is "Tales of Earthesea," while its highest-rated films are "Only Yesterday" and "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya."

Since Studio Ghibli was officially founded by directors Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki in the 1980s, the Japanese animation giant has released some of the world's most beloved, enthralling animated films — such as "My Neighbor Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service," and the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away."

Now that almost all their movies are streaming on HBO Max (1988's "Grave of the Fireflies" isn't on the site yet), it's easier than ever for international viewers to experience the studio's fantastical, emotionally resonant stories for themselves.

To help you get started, Insider has ranked all 22 Studio Ghibli movies according to critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. When the critic ratings were the same, we used the number of reviews to break the ties.

Note: All scores were current on the date of publication and are subject to change.

Read the original article on Insider

22. The lowest-rated Studio Ghibli film is the 2006 fantasy movie "Tales from Earthsea."

22. The lowest-rated Studio Ghibli film is the 2006 fantasy movie "Tales from Earthsea."
"Tales from Earthsea" takes place in a mythical world plagued by dragons and famine. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 43%

Synopsis: "Tales from Earthsea" was Miyazaki's son Gorō's film debut, and takes place in a mythical world of Earthsea. There, a wizard and a runaway prince set out to investigate the mysterious force that has caused crops to dwindle, and dragons to resurface and attack people.

The animated fantasy is the only Studio Ghibli film with a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes.

"If this starchy, nearly two-hour allegory about human hubris bluntly addresses a historical moment when global warming threatens the planet and pollution is fouling the seas, its chilly, formal tone keeps you at an emotional distance," wrote Stephen Holden for The New York Times.

Advertisement

21. The 1999 film "My Neighbors the Yamadas" was Studio Ghibli's first digitally animated movie, and follows the characters of a popular comic strip.

21. The 1999 film "My Neighbors the Yamadas" was Studio Ghibli's first digitally animated movie, and follows the characters of a popular comic strip.
"My Neighbors the Yamadas" is based on the Japanese manga comic "Nono-chan." Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Synopsis: While many Ghibli movies take place in otherworldly, fantastical settings, "My Neighbors the Yamadas" tackles a more everyday, grounded story. Based on a popular Japanese comic strip of the same name, the studio's only digitally animated movie recounts the misadventures of the eccentric Yamada family in a series of vignettes.

"Anyone expecting the soaring beauty of a typical Studio Ghibli production will probably be a little bemused by the mundanity of the Yamadas' existence, but there's a soothing calm to their daily struggles, a haiku-like sense of tranquillity," wrote Ryan Lambie for Den of Geek.

Advertisement

20. The 1994 fantasy comedy "Pom Poko" follows a group of Japanese mythological creatures called tanuki, who fight to save their home from deforestation.

20. The 1994 fantasy comedy "Pom Poko" follows a group of Japanese mythological creatures called tanuki, who fight to save their home from deforestation.
The tanuki are badger-like figures from Japanese mythology. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

Synopsis: In "Pom Poko," a group of badger-like, fun-loving Japanese mythological creatures called tanuki live in a forest that's being rapidly targeted by housing developers near Tokyo.

The tanuki all decide to rally together and use their unique abilities to trick the developers into leaving their home as it is.

"['Pom Poko's'] ecological concerns, nuance and occasional lyricism place it squarely within the Ghibli oeuvre but not among its masterpieces," wrote New York Times critic Andy Webster.

Advertisement
Advertisement

19. In 2011's "From Up on Poppy Hill," a group of teenagers try to save their school's clubhouse from being destroyed in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

19. In 2011's "From Up on Poppy Hill," a group of teenagers try to save their school's clubhouse from being destroyed in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
"From Up on Poppy Hill" takes place during Japan's post-World War II reconstruction period. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Synopsis: "From Up on Poppy Hill" takes place in 1963, as Japan prepares to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. But when a group of local teenagers' school clubhouse is scheduled to be demolished in preparation for the event, they attempt to save it.

"While this story might've been just as engaging in live action, Miyazaki's animation does clear away the extraneous detail, re-creating the world of 50 years ago and instilling it with the poignancy of a family snapshot," wrote Noel Murray for The A.V. Club.

Advertisement

18. "Howl's Moving Castle" is a 2004 fantasy film based on a classic children's novel.

18. "Howl's Moving Castle" is a 2004 fantasy film based on a classic children's novel.
"Howl's Moving Castle" follows a cursed girl and a wizard. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

Synopsis: Based on Diana Wynne Jones' beloved children's book of the same name, "Howl's Moving Castle" tells the story of Sophie, an insecure young woman who befriends Hal, a moody wizard who lives in a magical castle. When an evil witch takes issue with their relationship and transforms Sophie into an old woman, she and Howl seek to defeat the witch and undo the curse.

"There are times when the intricate complexity of Wynne Jones's British-fantasy tradition clashes with Miyazaki's career-long impulse to follow the unpredictable whims of dream logic wherever they may take him," wrote New York Magazine critic Ken Tucker. "[...] The director is an independent filmmaker unbound by American animation's often corporate traditions and formulaic storytelling."

Advertisement

17. The 1993 romance "Ocean Waves" focuses on a brief love story between two teenagers preparing to enter college.

17. The 1993 romance "Ocean Waves" focuses on a brief love story between two teenagers preparing to enter college.
"Ocean Waves" is Studio Ghibli's shortest film, with a runtime of 73 minutes. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

Synopsis: "Ocean Waves" opens as a young man returns home after his first year of college. While there, he reminisces on his senior year of high school, and how his romance with a headstrong girl shaped his future.

"['Ocean Waves'] spreads its paper-thin story across a stodgy 72 minutes, but there's a warmth to it that prevents the film from ever feeling as two-dimensional as it looks on screen," wrote David Ehrlich for IndieWire.

Advertisement

16. The 1984 fantasy epic "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" was Studio Ghibli's first film.

16. The 1984 fantasy epic "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" was Studio Ghibli's first film.
"Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" is based on a 1982 manga. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

Synopsis: In Ghibli's first film, "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind," the warrior princess Nausicaä tries to prevent warfare between two nations in a futuristic world ravaged by an apocalypse.

"'Nausica' is in some ways a grim and serious film, but it mixes a sweet optimism into its horror-filled lessons," wrote Tasha Robinson for The A.V. Club.

Advertisement

15. The 2013 biopic "The Wind Rises" provides a look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

15. The 2013 biopic "The Wind Rises" provides a look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
"The Wind Rises" is director Hayao Miyazaki's most recent movie. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

Synopsis: "The Wind Rises" recounts the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

"'The Wind Rises' is a thing of sensual, contemplative poetry, from the pearlescent cloudscapes and verdant countryside of Horikoshi's youth to the hulking gray factories he visits in prewar Germany as a young man," wrote Ann Hornaday for The Washington Post.

Advertisement

14. In 1995's "The Cat Returns," a schoolgirl is introduced to a magical world populated by cats.

14. In 1995's "The Cat Returns," a schoolgirl is introduced to a magical world populated by cats.
"The Cat Returns" was adapted from Aoi Hiiragi's manga of the same name. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Synopsis: When 17-year-old "The Cat Returns" protagonist Haru saves an ordinary cat's life one day on her way to school, she's swept into the magical Kingdom of the Cats, where the king tries to arrange a marriage between her and his son. Meanwhile, Haru's only hope of escape is a sympathetic cat statuette who has recently come to life.

"[Director Hiroyuki] Morita has a slightly cruder, more realistic sense of the world and its looniness than does Miyazaki, and you can see where 'The Cat Returns' moves on a different track even as it pays homage to Japan's current animation master," wrote The Denver Post.

Advertisement

13. The 2014 drama "When Marnie Was There" follows an isolated young girl who is sent to the seaside and makes a mysterious new friend.

13. The 2014 drama "When Marnie Was There" follows an isolated young girl who is sent to the seaside and makes a mysterious new friend.
"When Marnie Was There" was adapted from Joan G. Robinson's young adult novel. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

Synopsis: In "When Marnie Was There," lonely, 12-year-old Anna is sent to stay with relatives by the sea one summer. She finds an unlikely close friend in a mysterious local girl named Marnie, but as their days together begin to blur the lines between fantasy and reality, Anna finds that there's more to her than meets the eye.

"The gentle, unforced charm of the animation feels like the very best of book illustration come to miraculous life, but with a strong, almost Hitchcockian streak of excitement and danger," wrote The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw.

Advertisement

12. The 2008 film "Ponyo" centers on the friendship between a young boy and a magical goldfish who wishes to be human.

12. The 2008 film "Ponyo" centers on the friendship between a young boy and a magical goldfish who wishes to be human.
"Ponyo" features a goldfish princess who becomes human. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Synopsis: "Ponyo" tracks the friendship that grows between a young boy named Sosuke, and a magical goldfish princess named Ponyo, who longs to be human. When she transforms into a girl, the balance between land and sea becomes off-kilter, and the two turn to the ocean for a solution.

"The underwater scenes are as rich and teeming as Miyazaki's boundless imagination; little Ponyo in her human form, joyfully wobbling around on her newly sprouted legs, is a pure delight," wrote The Times critic Wendy Ide.

Advertisement

11. The 1997 fantasy epic "Princess Mononoke" recounts the conflict between a mining village and the rebellious local forest gods.

11. The 1997 fantasy epic "Princess Mononoke" recounts the conflict between a mining village and the rebellious local forest gods.
Princess Mononoke is a warrior girl who was raised by wolf gods. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Synopsis: In "Princess Mononoke," a boy called Ashitaka is inflicted by a deadly curse and seeks a cure. Along the way, he discovers a violent conflict between the local forest gods (particularly the wolf god Moro, and his human companion, Princess Mononoke) and a nearby mining village.

"Beautifully constructed and painstakingly written, ['Princess Mononoke'] is about as close to a perfect animated epic as you're likely to get," wrote Melanie Mcfarland for The Seattle Times.

Advertisement

10. In 1995's "Whisper of the Heart," a teenage bookworm is inspired by the boy who has checked out all of her favorite library books.

10. In 1995's "Whisper of the Heart," a teenage bookworm is inspired by the boy who has checked out all of her favorite library books.
"The Cat Returns" writer Aoi Hiiragi also wrote the manga that inspired "Whisper of the Heart." Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Synopsis: "Whisper of the Heart" tells a love story about Shizuku, a teenage girl who loves reading, and her blossoming relationship with Seiji, the boy who has previously checked out all of the library books she chooses. Inspired by his dreams to build violins in Italy, she writes a story about a nearby antique cat statue coming to life.

"The strength of 'Whisper of the Heart' is the way it speaks to the viewer. Many animated films are pitched at kids and, as such, often seem condescending," wrote James Berardinelli for Reel Views. "There's nothing of that sort here. The movie draws images and sensations from our memories with such precision that we may find ourselves reliving parts of our own childhood as we watch the story unfold."

Advertisement

9. The 1988 family fantasy "My Neighbor Totoro" is about two sisters who move to the countryside and discover friendly forest spirits.

9. The 1988 family fantasy "My Neighbor Totoro" is about two sisters who move to the countryside and discover friendly forest spirits.
Totoro is a fictional Japanese forest spirit. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Synopsis: "My Neighbor Totoro" follows two sisters, who move with their father to the countryside to be closer to their ailing mother's hospital. While coping with adjusting to their new home and understanding their mother's absence, the girls discover a kindly forest spirit named Totoro, and his similarly magical friends.

"['My Neighbor Totoro'] is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself," wrote Roger Ebert. "It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need."

Advertisement

8. In the 1992 film "Porco Rosso," an Italian World War I pilot is cursed to look like a pig.

8. In the 1992 film "Porco Rosso," an Italian World War I pilot is cursed to look like a pig.
The protagonist of "Porco Rosso" is a pig-like pilot. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Synopsis: "Porco Rosso" takes place in 1930s Italy, where a veteran World War I pilot-turned-bounty hunter is cursed to resemble a pig. He meets his opposite in spunky, 17-year-old Fio, an aspiring airplane designer who helps him battle sky pirates terrorizing passing cruise ships.

"The plot is hardly the point here — the animation is delightful, colourful and detailed and the flying sequences in seaplanes as old-fashioned as this style of animation are exhilarating," wrote Rob Mackie for The Guardian.

Advertisement

7. The 2010 family film "The Secret World of Arrietty" follows a 4-inch-tall family that secretly lives in a human family's suburban home.

7. The 2010 family film "The Secret World of Arrietty" follows a 4-inch-tall family that secretly lives in a human family's suburban home.
Arrietty develops a forbidden friendship with a human in "The Secret World of Arrietty." Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Synopsis: In "The Secret World of Arrietty," the lives of a 4-inch-tall family (who discreetly live in another family's home) are thrown in disarray when their teenage daughter, Arrietty, is discovered by a human boy.

"['The Secret World of Arrietty'] pulses with feeling for childhood and nature and develops a surprising amount of suspense considering it takes place around a single suburban home," wrote Ben Sachs for The Chicago Reader. "[...] Emotionally moving in the Ghibli tradition, the movie conjures a utopian world in which everyone acts with compassion and even a crawl space can be a site of awesome mystery."

Advertisement

6. In 1986's "Castle in the Sky," two children dodge secret agents and pirates in search of a legendary floating castle.

6. In 1986's "Castle in the Sky," two children dodge secret agents and pirates in search of a legendary floating castle.
"Castle in the Sky" is one of Studio Ghibli's most action-packed films. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

Synopsis: "Castle in the Sky" centers on a young boy and a girl with a magic crystal, who evade pirates and secret agents in hopes of finding a legendary floating castle filled with riches.

"Miyazaki's world, so full of color and life, is always just across the borderline of imagination, its acute details softened by clouds and shadows, its principles revealed by actions more than words," wrote Richard Harrington for The Washington Post. "['Castle in the Sky' is] full of 'Star Wars'-style confrontation, but it's also nice to see it handled on equal terms by male and female protagonists."

Advertisement

5. The 1989 film "Kiki's Delivery Service" centers on a young witch, who sets off on a year-long apprenticeship in a strange new city.

5. The 1989 film "Kiki's Delivery Service" centers on a young witch, who sets off on a year-long apprenticeship in a strange new city.
Kiki runs a delivery service with the help of her cat, Jiji. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Synopsis: In "Kiki's Delivery Service," 13-year-old witch Kiki sets out on her mandatory, year-long apprenticeship. She lands in an unfamiliar coastal town and establishes a flying delivery service to support herself and her black cat, Jiji, but struggles to find her larger place in the world.

"Even by Hayao Miyazaki's elevated standard, 'Kiki's Delivery Service' is a singularly charming film," wrote Charles Solomon for IndieWire. "[...] Much of 'Kiki's' charm comes from Miyazaki's understated approach to the material. Instead of grabbing the viewer by the lapels and insisting everyone's having a great time, Miyazaki leads the audience into the story with unobtrusive grace. "

Advertisement

4. In the 2001 fantasy adventure "Spirited Away," a young girl is whisked away to a dangerous world filled with monsters and spirits.

4. In the 2001 fantasy adventure "Spirited Away," a young girl is whisked away to a dangerous world filled with monsters and spirits.
"Spirited Away" won best animated feature at the 2003 Oscars. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Synopsis: At the beginning of "Spirited Away," 10-year-old Chihiro moves to the suburbs with her family and soon wanders into a fantastical world where humans are turned into beasts, and gods, spirits, and witches rule the land. After her parents are transformed into pigs, she journeys through the strange realm in search of a way to save her family and return to the normal world.

Miyazaki's Oscar-winning story is also one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time.

"['Spirited Away'] initially seems like a Through the Looking-Glass fantasy, but rapidly picks up a resonance, weight and complexity that make it all but Shakespearean," wrote Time Out.

Advertisement

3. The 1988 movie "Grave of the Fireflies" tells the story of two Japanese children fighting for survival during the last days of World War II.

3. The 1988 movie "Grave of the Fireflies" tells the story of two Japanese children fighting for survival during the last days of World War II.
"Grave of the Fireflies" takes place in World War II-era Japan. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Synopsis: Often considered one of the most devastating war movies of all time, "Grave of the Fireflies" follows two young Japanese children as they attempt to survive during the final days of World War II.

"['Grave of the Fireflies'] is so good it hurts," wrote Charlotte O'Sullivan for The London Evening Standard. "[...] We're so used to seeing the human spirit triumph. Here, we're allowed to understand how it might fail."

Advertisement

2. The 1991 drama "Only Yesterday" follows a 27-year-old woman as she travels from Tokyo to the countryside, and reflects on coming of age.

2. The 1991 drama "Only Yesterday" follows a 27-year-old woman as she travels from Tokyo to the countryside, and reflects on coming of age.
"Only Yesterday" was released in 1991, but didn't debut in the US until 2016. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Synopsis: In "Only Yesterday," a 27-year-old woman at a crossroads in her life decides to leave Tokyo to visit relatives in the countryside. During her journey, she reflects on growing up and muses on whether she has fulfilled her childhood self's ambitions for her future.

"['Only Yesterday' is] both an important part of Ghibli's history and a gem in its own right," wrote Village Voice critic Sherilyn Connelly. "[...] It's in [...] Slices of life, most of them more mundane or painful, where 'Only Yesterday' truly shines."

Advertisement

1. The 2013 film "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" is based on one of Japan's most famous folktales.

1. The 2013 film "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" is based on one of Japan's most famous folktales.
"The Tale of Princess Kaguya" follows a nymph princess with a dark, predestined fate. Studio Ghibli

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Synopsis: Based on a well-known Japanese folktale, "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" opens as an elderly bamboo cutter and his wife discover a tiny nymph princess inside a bamboo stalk. She rapidly grows into a young lady who enchants everyone she meets, but eventually reveals that she has a predestined fate, which is a punishment for her secret past crimes.

"A devastating and deceptively simple tale adapted from 10th-century folklore, [director] Isao Takahata's 'The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya' distills a millennium of Japanese storytelling into a timeless film that feels both ancient and alive in equal measure," wrote Ehrlich for The A.V. Club.

Studio Ghibli films are available to watch as part of an HBO Max subscription. You can sign up here for $14.99 per month. (When you subscribe to a service through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners.)

Advertisement
COVID-19IndiaCases: 719kDeaths: 20.1kRecovered: 439k
COVID-19WorldCases: 11.32MDeaths: 532kRecovered: 6.28M
COVID-19USACases: 2.83MDeaths: 129kRecovered: 924k