Ghibli Movies Ranking and Analysis

I watched anime on TV quite religiously on weekend morning during my primary school years but moved away from it during my teens. That is until I came across this one studio called Ghibli. My brother took me to watch a movie called Princess Mononoke. It was amazing, with the combination of flawless animation and exciting action and story telling. I wanted more. This godt me to researching what other films the director has done and that led me to Spirited Away. At that point, the film still has 100% record on rotten tomatoes and I really made it my mission to track this down and watch it. I got a hold of a bootleg copy and was blown away by the film. It remains one of my favourites to this day. I also started to pay more attention to anime and the rest is history.

A decade on, Studio Ghibli still remains my favourite studio, anime or not. The movies from the studios are also among the first I would recommend to anyone that show the vaguest interest in anime. This particular post is my homage to the studio an a guide for those reading it to find out what the rankings of each movie based on all the English sources on the internet I can think of. This includes

Source Type Weight Comment
IMDB Rating 10% Votes from global movie goers
Rottentomatoes Review 5% Compilation of many Wester reviews
MRQE Review 4%
DVD Talk Review 3% General theatrical and dvd review site
DVD Verdict Review 3% General dvd review site
Anime Academy Review 4% Used to be my main source of reviews back when it updated more regularly
THEM Review 4%
Anime Planet Rating 12%
Anime Source Rating 4%
ANN Rating 12% Anime News Network
MAL Rating 15% MyAnimeList – Most votes among anime sites
AniDB Rating 10% Anime DataBase. Vote compilation sites with demographic breadown
AnimeNfo Rating 4%
Blogs Ranking 10% Including Canne’s Anime Review, Kitsune’s Thought, Omohide, wa-pedia, Herons! Make blogs and Japan Cinema

Rating methodology

  1. Collect all data: scour through the internet for al available information from various websites and blogs. I am only interested in those that contain at least half of the 21 films I made by Ghibli. Miyazaki or Takahata (MRQE and DVD Verdict has the fewest at 12. 5 sources (MAL, ANN, AniDB, Anime Planet and Blog) have the full compliment of 21
  2. Convert the scores from each into scores ranging from 0 to 10, e.g. 96% is 9.6, 4 stars out of 5 is 8.0. Note that for ranking-based sites, I converted them into scores (the lower the rank the higher the score) and fit them into the same 0-10 score range
  3. For blogs that give rankings instead of scores, I use the same methodology that I did for the 2000s anime ranking and convert rankings into composite scores. I then convert these scores into a rating 0 to 10, which means it can be used alongside othersources
  4. Assign weight to each source The weights are based on a combination of how many raters/reviews each source has and how important I subjectively feel they are. For example, I prefer to weigh the anime-centric websites (ANN/MAL/AniDB) higher than more general sources (IMDB/Rottentomatoes) and also since MAL has the highest number of raters, I gave it the highest weight among the three
  5. Sum weight to get the ‘Average rating’

For my analysis, I will include all pre-1986 films directed by either Miyazaki or Takahata, including ‘Lupin: Castle of Cagliostro’ and ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of WInd’ in there. Even though they are not made by Studio Ghibli (which only was formed in 1985 following the commercial success of Nausicaa), the mere fact that they are directed by the two founders of the studio should warrant their inclusion alongside other Studio Ghibli Classics.

Title: Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (千と千尋の神隠し)

Average rating: 8.99

Rating comments:

  • Putting the score in perspective, most sources vote or rate this film at 90%
  • Out of 14 different sources, only Anime Academy (13) and Anime Source (7) rate this anime outside of the top 3 of all ‘Ghibli’ films.
  • Comes first in the most number of sources (7): IMDB, MRQE, DVD Talk, THEM, ANN, MAL, Blog – more popular among rating-based sources than review-based sources
  • Based on the previous article I wrote on anime film award, Spirited Away is the most awarded anime in history. Most awards only came into existence since 1995, so that may not say say a whole lot, but it is still a pretty impressive tag to have

Awards won:

  • 2002 Best Animation Feature – Academy Awards
  • 2002 Best Animation Feature Winner – Annie Award
  • 2002 Academy Prize Picture of the Year Winner – Japan Academy Prize
  • 2002 Animation of the Year Winner – Tokyo Anime Award
  • 2001 Animation Grand Award – Mainichi Film Award
  • 2001 Grand Prize (Animation) – Japan Media Art Festival Award
  • 2001 Feature Film Award – Animation Kobe Award

Released: 20-Jul-2001

Length: 125 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: A girl got stranded in a magical land and forced to work in a bathhouse for gods in order to free her parents who got turned into pigs as punishment for eating the food meant for the gods


  • This is the first film to gross USD 200 MM before opening theatrically in the US
  • The most awarded Japanese Animation film ever, both domestically and internationally
  • Only Anime Oscars winner
  • It has the longest running time of all winning films in the Animated Feature category
  • Miyazaki crafted the film when he met his friend’s 10-year old daughter. He wanted to create something for her. What a mature film to aim at children!
  • Chi (first character in the word Chi-hi-ro) and Sen both use the same Japanese Kanji, which means 1,000 but are different readings of the same character.
  • More trivias here

In my own words: One of my favourite movies, anime or else. I just love everything abou it; the character, the atmosphere, the animation, the music. This is probably the first Ghibli film I would recommend to my friends. It helps the convincing that the film actually won an oscars also:)

Title: Princess Mononoke / Mononoke Hime (もののけ姫)

Average rating: 8.84

Rating comments:

  • Comes first in 4 sources – THEM Anime, Anime Planet, Anime Source and AniDB
  • This is the only movie that is able to keep pace with Spirited Away. The main differentiators between the two are scores from MRQE and more significantly blogs. Spirited Away is rated so well that it completely outshines even the 2nd place Princess Mononoke


  • 1998 Picture of the Year – Japan Academy Prize
  • 1998 Animation Grand Award – Mainichi Film Award
  • 1997 Grand Prize (Animation) – Japan Media Art Festival Award
  • 1997 Feature Film Award – Animation Kobe Award

Released: 12-Jul-1997

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Spirits, wolves

Length: 133 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: A prince traveled to a faraway land to find the source of a poison that he contracted from a monster that attacked his village. He met the mining town, a wolf girl and the forest gods and was involved in a struggle to decide the destiny of all involved


  • To date, I believe this is the only Miyazaki film that does not involve a flight scene (Miyazaki’s obsession with flying means he tried to stick at least a flight scenes in all his films.)
  • Miyazaki had meant for this to be his last film before retiring. He made three films after that and counting
  • With a runtime of 133 minutes (2 hour and 13 minutes), it is the third longest animated film ever made after The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010) (163 minutes) and Uchû senkan Yamato: Kanketsuhen (1983) (165 minutes) [thanks kadian1364 for the correction!]
  • More trivia here

In my own words: I actually thought the English dub (the first version I watched in theatre) is pretty good. I still have to go watch it in Japanese again at some point.

Japanese title: Grave of the Fireflies / Hotaru no Haka (火垂るの墓)

Average rating: 8.76

Rating comments:

  • Comes 1st in four different sources (MRQE, DVD Verdict, Anime Academy and THEM Anime) – Interestingly all these seem to be review-based sources
  • Only Anime Sources (6) and DVD Talk (10) rank it out of the top five Ghibli films
  • This is the only film by Takahata in the top 10 of my list (despite his producing about a quarter of movies). I believe this speaks to both the quality of the movie as well as the generally less accessible nature of Takahata’s films to non-Japanese audience. His theme tends to me more Japanese-centric vs. Miyazaki who worked with more universal theme

Released: 11-Oct-1988

Genre/Theme: Drama, Historical, Military, War

Length: 88 minutes

Director: Isao Takahata

Synopsis: A boy and his 3-year-old sister tried to survive in a WW2 Japan with constant US bombings and famine all around


  • This is the only Ghibli film not to be part of the Disney-Tokuma deal
  • This film was initially distributed with Tonari no Totoro (1988) because it was the only way that Miyazaki could have been able to make “Totoro.” The reason being that the original film pitch for that film was rejected, so they pitched a double feature with “Grave of the Fireflies,” and the project was eventually backed financially by the original writer of the book on which “Grave” is based. It often was overlooked as a film because whenever “Totoro” was screened first, people were left happy and did not wish to be saddened by “Grave” afterward
  • The movie was originally intended as a sort-of double feature with another Ghibli movie,My Neighbour Totoro. Ghibli’s parent company reasoned that Totoro’s tie-in with a movie with more educational merit would guarantee its inclusion in the list of summer’s recommended movies for school children
  • More trivia here
In my own words: I really wish everyone could watch this film at least once, but personally, I do not want to watch it again! My least favourite Ghivbli film, but that is because I hate sad films.

Japanese title: Laputa: Castle in the Sky / Tenkuu no Shiro Ryaaputa (天空の城ラピュタ)

Average rating: 8.57

Rating comments:

  • Ranks 4 to 6 (Laputa, Totoro and Nausicaa respectively) are separated by only about 0.02 points. The margin in qualities for these three are pretty razor-thin

Released: 03-Jul-1986

Genre/Theme: Adventure, drama, fantasy, romance,science fiction

Length: 124 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: A young boy, Pazu, found a girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky. The two set out on a journey to find the illusive castle in the sky, while being chased by bandits and a sinister organization


  • English-distributed name is only ‘Castle in the Sky’, as Laputa means ‘son of a bitch’ in Spanish. Miyazaki could have changed the spelling of the word to something like ‘Raputa’ (‘R’ and ‘L’ are indistinguishable in Japanese anyhow) and get around this but either he wants to stay faithful to the original Gulliver’s Travel novel or a sense of dark humour, he let the name remains
  • Pazu and Sheeta bare resemblance in both traits and appearance to Conan and Lana, two characters from Hayao Miyazaki’s earliest directorial work, Future Boy Conan
  • Hayao Miyazaki did the screenplay, original story, and directing for Laputa.

In my own words: I feel like this anime is the only one that contains the only truly evil villain among all Ghibli works. The story itself is just a brilliant, edge-of-your seat action movie

Japanese title: My Neighbour Totoro / Tonari no Totoro (となりのトトロ)

Average rating: 8.57

Released: 01-Apr-1988

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Comedy, Supernatural, Magical creatures

Length: 86 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: While settling in to a new home with her father, two girls find themselves exploring the new town and neighbourhood and meet Totoros, the friendly mountain spirits.


  • The distributor thought that releasing a show about two kids discovering monster would not sell, so what did they go and do? They paired it up with Grave of the Fireflies a s double-bill.
  • Ghibli’s company logo is based off the titular character
  • Mei and Satsuki were voiced by the Fanning sisters, Elle and Dakota accordingly. Pretty neat casting if you ask me
  • Film was not a commercial success at launch, but it became a big hit on the merchandise from and is what keeps Ghibli profitable. If you go to any Ghibli gift shop, chance is that 90% of the merchandises is Totoro-related stuffs!
  • The film is partially autobiographical. When Hayao Miyazaki and his brothers were children, his mother suffered from spinal tuberculosis for nine years, and spent much of her time hospitalized. It is implied, yet never revealed in the film, that Satsuki and Mei’s mother also suffers from tuberculosis. He once said the film would have been too painful for him to make if the two protagonists were boys instead of girls.
  • More trivia here

In my own words: The ending song is one of the catchiest ever! It also proves to me that when a director is at the top of their game, plots, conflicts or bad guys are not necessary

Japanese title: Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind / Kaze no Tani no Naushika (風の谷のナウシカ)

Average rating: 8.55

Released: 06-Mar-1984

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Fantsy, Post-apocalyptic

Length: 116 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: Nausicaa is a princess of the peaceful valley kingdom. She grew up in the world ravaged by toxic waste. The invasion of the warring Tolmekian to the kingdom triggered a chain of event that threatens to destroy the whole world.


  • Miyazaki and Takahata managed to generate enough profits from this feature to start Studio Ghibli
  • The movie was adapted from the first two volumes of Nausicaa manga, which continued until 1992 and produces 7 volumes in total. If Ghibli is going to make a proper sequel to a film, I would love it to be Nausicaa!
  • The first English-licenced version of Nausicaa was called ‘Warriors of the Wind’. Miyazaki was so horrified with the extreme butchering done to the film that he insists on a no-edit clause to any future licence given out
  • More trivia here

Japanese title: Whisper of the Heart / Mimi wo Sumaseba (耳をすませば)

Average rating: 8.48

Released: 03-Jun-1995

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Romance, Slice-of-Life

Length: 111 minutes

Director: Yoshifumi Kondou

Synopsis: Whisper of the Heart tells a story of a young girl, Shizuku, and her quest one summer to finish a novel she has started, work through various relationship issues and grow up.


  • This is the first Japanese film in Dolby Digital
  • Shown with ‘On Your Mark’ during its theatrical release
  • Miyazaki was involved only in storyboarding and directing of the fantasy sequences
  • This is Kondou’s first and only directorial feature. He passed away from aneurysm in 1998, 3 years after the film was released. His death was thought to have been caused from excess work and apprarently has influenced Miyazaki to work at a more relaxed pace after. It was also a huge loss to Studio Ghibli as many people speculated that the studio had earmarked him as the successor to the aging Miyazaki and Takahata. A decade on and any other suitable successor has not been found
  • More trivia

In my own words: This is my co-favourite alongside Spirited Away. I had a Ghibli marathon at one point to watch all films after I watched Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away (Have never seen so many good films in a row before or since!). Whisper of the Heart was on the top of my want-to-watch list and it remains my favourite after. It is just so heart-warming and I love the ‘chamber music’ scene in the middle. One of the best sequence in all Ghibli films!

Japanese title: Howl’s Moving Castle / Howl no Ugoku Shiro (ハウルの動く城)

Average rating: 8.44


  • 2005 Animation Feature Nominee – Academy Awards [1]
  • 2005 Excellence Prize (Animation) – Japan Media Art Festival Award [1]
  • 2005 Best Animation Feature Nominee – Annie Award [1]
  • 2004 Animation of the Year Winner – Tokyo Anime Award [2]

Released: 05-Sep-2004

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Length: 118 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: A young hatter named Sophie has her life changed when an evil witch transforms her into an old woman. She runs away in search of a way to become young again. Along the way, Sophie met a turnip headed scarecrow, a wizard’s apprentice Markl, a fire demon Calcifer, and eventually, Howl the Wizard himself. Sophie then becomes the castle’s cleaning lady in an effort to not only find the solution to her problem but to save Howl from his own terrible secrets as well.


  • Mamoru Hosoda was slated to direct this originally but creative differences (or plain old Japanese Studio politics) forced him to leave the project and Miyazaki took on the mantle). He went on to other critical and box office successes including ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ and ‘ Summer Wars’. I would have loved for him to have succeeded as the studio’s next-in-line but we will have to wait again for someone else to emerge
  • Upon seeing Spirited Away, Christian Bale immediately agreed to play any role in this film
  • More trivia here

In my own words:I enjoyed watching this in cinema quite a lot when it came out in the UK back in September 2005. After Princess Mononoke about 5 years earlier, all my Ghibli fixes have been through dvd so it is really awesome to watch this on a big screen again!

Japanese title: Kiki’s Delivery Service / Majo no Takkyubin (魔女の宅急便)

Average rating: 8.32

Rating comments:

  • Scorings for Kiki is very similar to Porco Rosso. Both are rated top equals by Rottentomatoes and THEM, but has average scores outside of those two (perhaps the score rating of 0 to 5 employed by THEM Anime just does not differentiate the films quite as much)

Released: 17-Jul-1989

Genre/Theme: Adventure, drama, fantasy, supernatural, growing up, witches

Length: 103 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: When an apprentice witch turns thirteen, she must leave her home in order to hone her craft. Kiki sets out for adventure with her cat Jiji. They settle in a charming seaside town, where Kiki establishes her own delivery service. As Kiki learns to balance independence with responsibility, her kind heart wins her many new friends in this coming-of-age tale.


  • Kiki and Ursula are voiced by the same voice actress
  • During the production phase, Hayao Miyazaki and his artists traveled to Sweden to research for the film. The photographs they took of Stockholm and Visby, formed the basis of the fictional city of Koriko. The city also contains elements of Lisbon, Paris, San Francisco, and Milan
  • The story takes place in an alternative 1950’s Europe where WWI and WWII never happened
  • At first, Miyazaki was only a producer for the film. The first script was written by Nobuyuki Isshiki, and Sunao Katabuchi was scheduled to make his debut as a director. But Isshiki soon left the project, as Miyazaki wasn’t satisfied with his script. Miyazaki then re-wrote the script, and eventually directed the film, with Katabuchi as an assistant director (why does this story sounds very familiar for many other Ghibli films?)
  • More trivia here

Japanese title: Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro / Rupan Sansei: Cagliostro no Shiro (ルパン三世 カリオストロの城)

Average rating: 8.21

Released: 15-Dec-1979

Genre/Theme: Adventure, comedy, thief

Length: 100 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: Tracking the legendary counterfeits known as “Goat Bills,” international thief Arsene Lupin III arrives at the Duchy of Cagliostro. Once there, he nearly rescues a damsel in distress from the Regent’s guards. Following his failure, Lupin takes it upon himself to save her from captivity.


  • Film was produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha
  • The film is usually advertised as containing one of SPeilberg’s favourite car-chase sequence, though the actual source that is based on has never been evident

Japanese title: Porco Rosso / Kurenai no Buta (紅の豚)

Average rating: 8.20

Rating comments:

  • Rottentomatoes rates this their number one film (alongside Kiki; admittedly the 100% is only based on 12 reviews, the third lowest numbers after Cagliostro and Yamadas. In comparison, average number of reviews is 41 and Spirited Away, the no. most reviewed, has 155
  • Other than this and THEM anime, other sources put this film in the 9-13 ranges quite consistently

Released: 12-Jun-1992

Genre/Theme: Adventure, comedy, aircraft, historical, military

Length: 92 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: During the beginning years of the Great Depression, life in the Mediterranean has become difficult. Aerial pirate raids are gaining in frequency, thus requiring the need for capable “bodyguards”. One of the best is a pig known as Porco Rosso. Once a human and an ace pilot during World War I, he now freelances his services to those in distress. The fascist regime that has taken over the Italian Air Force has grown tiresome of his exploits and places a bounty on his head. On top of that, a hotshot flyer from the United States arrives and not only wants to steal Porco Rosso’s glory, but also the woman he loves so dearly.(ANN)


  • Was originally planned as a 30-45 minute in-flight movies for Japan Airlines. Director Hayao Miyazaki eventually expanded it into a feature-length production
  • Hayao Miyazaki has stated that he prefers the French language cast (in particular Jean Reno as Porco Rosso) over the Japanese cast
  • More trivia here

Japanese title: Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea / Gake no Ue no Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ)

Average rating: 8.07

Rating comments:

  • This is the worst-rated Miyazaki film in the Ghibli era. Here is hoping that this is not a sign of future quality to come (at least statistically)…
  • Any fim below Ponyo has scores that are below the average scores of all Ghibli films


  • 2009 Animation of the Year Winner – Tokyo Anime Award
  • 2009 Animation of the Year Winner – Japan Academy Prize
  • 2008 Oofuji Noburou Award – Mainichi Film Award

Released: 19-Jul-2008

Genre/Theme: Adventure, comedy, magic, mermaids

Length: 101 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: A young boy, Sōsuke, befriends a strange looking goldfish whom he names Ponyo. Unbeknownst to Sōsuke, Ponyo is a magic fish who has decided that she wants to live with Sōsuke and the other humans. Unfortunately, Ponyo’s decision to give up her underwater life creates a crack in an ancient magic spell, and places the world in danger. Together, Sōsuke and Ponyo must set things right. (ANN)


  • This was the first animated film to be nominated for and win the Best Film Score prize at the Japanese Academy Awards
  • Hayao Miyazaki stated at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con that he was inspired to create the film after watching Disney’s animated adaptation The Little Mermaid
  • Hayao Miyazaki drew most of the sea and wave imagery himself, experimenting with making it as expressionistic as possible. John Lasseter said that he had never seen water animated so beautifully before.
  • This received the widest release for a Studio Ghibli in the US when it ran in 927 theaters. Spirited Away opened in 26 theaters, Howl’s Moving Castle 36 and Princess Mononoke 38
  • The titular song, sung by an adorable 8-year old girl and a folk group, was released 7 months before the movie. It reaches #3 in the oricon chart, spending an entire year in it, and was widely remembered by all who was in Japan at that time with its destructively catchy chorus
  • More trivia here

Japanese title: Only Yesterday / Omoide Poro Poro (おもひでぽろぽろ)

Average rating: 7.86

Rating comment:

  • This is the highest ranking series with the most number of sites without scores (4: Rottentomatoes, MRQE, DVD Talk, DVD Verdict). This definitely shows a lack of recognition for this little gem among the non-Japanese crowd. This is no surprise considering its very Japanese them and setting

Released: 27-Jun-1991

Genre/Theme: Drama, romance, slice of life

Length: 118 minutes

Director: Isao Takahata

Synopsis: Taeko, a middle-age office lady, took time off to visit her aunt in the countryside. During the trip, she reminisced about her childhood and comtemplated about her future


  • Although the Walt Disney Company paid for the US distribution rights as part of its deal with Studio Ghibli, executives later decided that it could not release “Only Yesterday” in the US because the film contained references to menstruation (a clause in Ghibli’s distribution contract prohibited Disney from altering the scene to remove the references).

In my own words: I tend to see this film as a change of pace for studio Ghibli, a proof that it can also do a quiet, poignant film (outside of Totoro) and succeed. The most memorable part about this film is the ending. Very touching and perfectly wraps up the whole story. Although the theme is very Japanese, I really hope more people will watch this as it contains a lot of nostalgia and growing pain of adulthood which is all too familiar for everyone.

Japanese title: On Your Mark

Average rating: 7.80

Released: 15-Jul-1995

Genre/Theme: Action, Science-fiction, angels, police

Length: 7 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Synopsis: Set in the future, a police force raided a cult and found an angel chained inside. Seeing that she would again be imprisoned by the government, two polices set out to rescue her and free her once and for all


  • This is the first Miyazaki’s anime to include CG ‘cels’

In my own words:You will most likely have to download this as I don’t remember seeing this being part of any extra for any legitimate dvd releases in the east

Japanese title: The Cat Returns / Neko no Ongaeshi (猫の恩返し)

Average rating: 7.78

Released: 20-Jul-2002

Genre/Theme: Adventure, fantasy, catgirls

Length: 75 minutes

Director: Hiroyuki Morita

Synopsis: A young girl, Haru-chan, saved a stray cat from being overrun by a truck. The cat who turns out to be a prince of the cat kingdom. She ended up having to marry the prince and has to team up with the Baron to prevent her marriage.


  • This is a pseudo-sequel to Whisper of the Heart (Baron and co. returns for their second gig)
  • The director went on to direct an anime series called ‘Bokurano’, whose theme is completely different from The Cat Returns (Think Grave of the Fireflies vs. Totoro difference)
  • The film started when Studio Ghibli received a proposal from a Japanese theme park to make a twenty minute animation starring cats.
  • This was originally going to be a short straight-to-video project, but Toshio Suzuki, Ghibli’s main producer, was so impressed with the director’s storyboard, and especially the main character of “Haru”, that he encouraged Miyazaki to give this cinematic release.

In my own words: This is a nice little story. Not quite on the level of Spirited Away (the film that came out before this) but pretty good compared to any other non-Ghibli films nonetheless. I remember this film pretty well because it is the first film that I got to have actual anticipation of whether it will be good or not. I got into Ghibli at around 2001 and any films before that I can get my hand on and read how whether they are any good online.

Japanese title: My Neighbours the Yamadas / Houhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun (ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん)

Average rating: 7.40

Rating comment

  • The gap in average rating between The Cat Returns (at 15) and Yamadas is the second largest between two consecutive ranks (0.37). This is the first big drop in ranking

Released: 17-Jul-1999


Length: 104 minutes

Director: Isao Takahata

Synopsis: This is a story about a family that expresses various themes about living with father and mothers, husbands and wives, daughters and sons, and brothers and sisters. And sharp grandmas. The story is presented as a series of vignettes.


  • This is the first 100% digital movie created by Studio Ghibli. no traditional ‘cels’ were used in the production. The studio wanted to experiment with the medium and it wzs incorporated in a few scenes in later films including Spirited Away

Japanese title: Ocean Waves / Umi ga Kikoeru (海がきこえる)

Average rating: 7.34

Released: 10-Apr-1993

Genre/Theme: Drama, romance, slice of life, school

Length: 72 minutes

Director: Tomomi Mochizuki

Synopsis: Ocean Waves is a high school love story between two best friends, Taku and Yutaka and Rikako, a girl who recently got transferred to their school.


  • This is Ghibli’s only movie TV production

Japanese title: Pom Poko / Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko (平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ)

Average rating: 7.30

Rating comments

  • Only Anime Academy gives it a decent rating (ranked 8, versus all other average of 17)

Released: 13-Jun-1994

Genre/Theme: Adventure, drama, comedy, magic, tanuki, yokai

Length: 118 minutes

Director: Isao Takahata

Synopsis: Faced with the destruction of their habitat due to the growth of Tokyo, a group of tanuki try to defend their homes. They decide to use their transforming talents to try to hold back the new development. Two of them, especially skilled at transforming, are sent to Shikoku to enlist the help of three sages. Meanwhile, the rest of them do their best to disrupt the construction site, at first causing accidents, and then actually haunting the site. However, the humans are very persistent, and soon the tanuki are forced to use more and more extreme measures to save their home. (ANN)

Japanese title: Panda! Go, Panda! (パンダ・コパンダ)

Average rating: 6.61

Rating comments:

  • The gap between no. 18 and 19, at 0.68, is the largest. This shows a significant ‘drop-off’ in perceived quality from here on
  • Only THEM anime rates this outside the bottom three


  • Predictably, this film has the most missing scores with only 5 sources giving any scores for the film (AA, THEM, Anime Planet, MAL and Blog)

Released: 17-Dec-1972

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Comedy, Slice-of-life, Family

Length: 30 minutes

Director: Isao Takahata

Synopsis: Mimiko lives with her grandmother beside a bamboo grove. One day Mimiko’s grandmother goes away for a while, leaving Mimiko to herself. A baby panda appears in the garden along with it’s father, Papa Panda. Mimiko asks if Mr. Panda could be her father too, and he agrees. (ANN)


Japanese title: Tales From Earthsea / Gedo Senki (ゲド戦記)

Average rating: 6.59

Rating comments

  • All sources put this film in the bottom half of the Ghibli films with only being so kind as to put it 12th. The film fares much worse among anime-based sources, with ranking in the 17-20 range (out of 21)
  • This film actually fares worse, though only marginally, than Panda! Go Panda!, the debut film of Goro’s dad, Hayao. Is it too much to hope that he sticks around in the anime industry and have as illustrious a career 30 years on like his dad?
  • Only Anime Academy gave it a decent acore (8.40). I wonder whether there will be another review for the film just to determine whether that original score is an anomaly

Released: 29-Jul-2006

Genre/Theme: Adventure, drama, fantasy, magic

Length: 116 minutes

Director: Goro Miyazaki

Synopsis: Something bizarre has come over the land. The kingdom is deteriorating. People are beginning to act strange… What’s even more strange is that people are beginning to see dragons, which shouldn’t enter the world of humans. Due to all these bizarre events, Ged, a wandering wizard, is investigating the cause. During his journey, he meets Prince Arren, a young distraught teenage boy. While Arren may look like a shy young teen, he has a severe dark side, which grants him strength, hatred, ruthlessness and has no mercy, especially when it comes to protecting Teru. For the witch Kumo this is a perfect opportunity. She can use the boy’s “fears” against the very one who would help him, Ged. (ANN)


  • The movie marks the first Disney (produced or distributed) animated film to receive a PG-13 rating
  • Hayao Miyazaki first wrote author Ursula K. Le Guin about adapting her book into a film. LeGuin at the time was unfamiliar with Miyazaki’s work and associated animation to be similar to Disney animation and turned the offer down. After she saw My Neighbour Totoro she loved it and decided to allow the movie to be made
  • Hayao Miyazaki wanted to direct the film but was busy filming Hauru no ugoku shiro at the time. Producer Toshio Suzuki choose Goro Miyazaki to direct since he was impressed by Goro’s talent of making decisions quickly and properly while working in the Ghibli Museum, and his ability to draw pictures. Hayao was against Goro directing which made the subsequent production very tense

Japanese title: The Little Norse Prince / Taiyou no Ouji – Hols no Daibouken (太陽の王子 ホルスの大冒険)

Average rating: 6.37

Rating comments

  • This ranks in the bottom 3 at best among the six sources that bother to rate/review/rank this film
  • This contains the worst individual rating score among all films and sources (4.20 from rottentomatoes)

Released: 21-Jul-1968

Genre/Theme: Adventure, drama, fantasy, magical creatures

Length: 82 minutes

Director: Isao Takahata

Synopsis: As a baby, Horus was saved by his father from their burning northern village, after the village was attacked by a powerful demon. Several years pass, and on his deathbed the father bids Horus to return to his people. Horus goes on a journey to save a village from monsters and a girl from the force that kept her imprisoned

In my own words: I actually felt a bit bored watching this film. The very old animation style put me off slightly and the stories just do not have the excitement or grand battles of the likes of Laputa

That is it for now. The next post will delve more into any other trend or analysis with regards to Ghibli data I have collected (films that are over- or underappreicated, how each sources compare to each other), which will hopefully be posted online at a much quicker interval than this and the last one!

29 Comments on “Ghibli Movies Ranking and Analysis”

  1. Canne says:

    Glad to be part of this ranking 🙂
    Nevertheless, there are few surprises for me; I was expecting to see Only Yesterday, Ponyo and Kiki ranked higher and. And I didn’t know that Howl’s moving castle was that critic-favorite.

    • Reading your ranking was actually one of the reason I decided to do this ranking in the first place:)

      With regards to Howl’s Moving Castle, it is actually MyAnimeList and Anime Planet, two fan-voted sites, that give it the best ratings (8.67 and 8.99 respectively; both good for 3rd in the list). Can’t quite pin point what that really means… I thought Kiki would rank a lot higher too but it is just averagely ranked across the board compared to other films. Same for Only Yesterday. Perhaps it’s more the case of how strong other films are. I may have to ponder that one a little bit more…

  2. I have just finished watching almost all the Ghibli films I haven’t seen before (the last 2 are Earthsea, and My Neighbors the Yamadas), in a massive marathon over 3 days, and here’s the order how I watched them:

    1, The Borrower Arrietty
    2. Whisper of the Heart
    3. The Cat Returns
    4. Only Yesterday
    5. Heisei Tanuki Wars Pom Poko

    Here’s how I’d rank them:

    1. Whisper of the Heart
    5. The Borrower Arrietty
    7. Only Yesterday
    8. The Cat Returns & Heisei Tanuki Wars Pom Poko

    To rank my Ghibli Experience

    1. I Can Hear The Sea (Ocean Waves) & Whisper of the Heart
    2. Mononoke Hime & Spirited Away & My Neighbor Totoro
    3. Kiki’s Delivery Service & Porco Rosso
    4. Laputa: Castle in the Sky & Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
    5. The Borrower Arrietty, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo
    6. Lupin: The Castle of Cagliostro
    7. Only Yesterday
    8. The Cat Returns & Heisei Tanuki Wars Pom Poko
    9. Grave of the Fireflies

    If I have to make tie-breakers…

    1. I Can Hear The Sea
    2. Whisper of the Heart
    3. My Neighbor Totoro
    4. Mononokie Hime
    5. Spirited Away
    6. Kiki’s Delivery Service
    7. Porco Rosso
    8. Laputa: Castle in the Sky
    9. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
    10. The Borrower Arrietty
    11. Ponyo
    12. Howl’s Moving Castle
    13. Heisei Tanuki Wars Pom Poko (I say this is the Legend of the Galactic Heroes for rodents)
    14. Grave of the Fireflies

    I dropped the Panda flick.

    • Thanks for sharing your ranking. If I ever get to update this list in the future, I will be sure to include your ranking among the sources:)

      It’s good to see that you are a romantic at heart, looking at the top two titles in your list! Interesting to see your clusters too. Apart from the top 2, you have nearly all Miyazaki films in a row after.
      1 = high-school romance
      2 = Miyazaki masterpiece
      3 = early 90s Miyazaki
      4 = first two of the nature trilogy
      5 = new-age Ghibli
      6 = all others
      I had this discussion with my brother two with regards to Grave of the Fireflies. I would rate it very highly on a best ranking, but on a ‘Ghibli Experience’ (or favourite) ranking, it will definitely come in the bottom quartile. This begs a question to me: when people rate a film or series on a website, do they do it based on how good it objectively is or how much they enjoy it? I tend to think the latter but wonder if there is a way of separating them.

      • Ranking Ghibli films is a unique thing, because I already establish a baseline for quality (a few cuts above). Therefore, I work with an emotive, and very subjective method.

        I didn’t want. to rank high school romances the highest, nor Totoro so high, but to do otherwise would be inauthentic. I know how much I was moved by Kiki’s Delivery Service. No point in crafting a ranking based on ‘objective’ qualities that make me look like some respectable film expert.

        Allow me to share this post:

        It’s a bit old but relevant to this sub-discussion.

      • I definitely hear you on that. You did label your ranking to be based on your experience afterall:) Come to think about it, with that reason, I should realy separate the rankings between review websites (THEM, AA, Rottentomatoes, DVD Talk) and voting or ranking sites (IMDB, MAL) since they probably rate films on perhaps two different basis (former on how much they like it and latter on how good they are). This may not be so clear cut but it might be fun to see if there is any difference in the ranking from both groups.

        Your post looks really fascinating. I will definitely post a comment on there once I have a bit more time to really digest what you wrote.

  3. Theowne says:

    Found your site linking to mine, and glad I did – very interesting list and undertaking. I’m not surprised that Spirited Away took the top honours, although a part of me believes that this is only because it was the first one that was truly marketed well overseas and garnered international recognition (Princess Mononoke tried, but did not entirely succeed).

    Anyways, great post, and you’ve convinced me to write my own proper ranking of Ghibli films someday…

    • Thanks a lot:) I came across your website again the other day too while looking for Arrietty’s review. I will be sure to go through all your Ghibli reviews in more detail. I love what I have read so far though! Will comment more on that at later time.

      The film still has to be good to get good rating. If more people see it but do not rate it well, then it won’t do quite well on the ranking. Do you think the popularity effect also helps the film, that because it has good rating, people are influenced to vote highly for it to follow the norm? I have also done some analysis to compare popularity ranking (Ghibli ranking but on the number of ratings/reviews) and score ranking. There are some interesting results in that one too.

      I remember now that I used your top anime ranking and only pick the Ghibli ones for my analysis. I would love to see your actual ranking at some point:)

  4. kadian1364 says:

    Ghibli movies were also one of my gateway shows to the greater world of anime series. I saw Mononoke first (on VHS!), but nothing captured my fancy as much as Laputa. My sister and I watched it 3 times in a row when we got the DVD. Oh, Ghibli rankings!

    1 – Laputa
    2 – Nausicaa
    3 – Whisper of the Heart
    4 – Porco Rosso
    5 – Princess Mononoke
    High-mid – Kiki’s, Totoro, Grave, Arrietty, Cagliostro, Spirited Away, Ocean Waves
    Low-mid – Howl’s, Cat Returns, Only Yesterday, Ponyo
    Hate – Pom Poko, Tales of Earthsea

    One niggling detail: Princess Mononoke can’t be the 2nd longest animated film anymore. I mean, Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
    had a run time of infinity.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I have made the appropriate adjustment. Pulled that trivia out from IMDB who obviously has not updated the content since 2010. Should have done my due diligence on it! It is also always nice to see Whisper of the Heart coming in so high in many people’s Ghibli ranking:) Laputa on the other hand is just awesome. It just has the perfect blend of action, drama, great music and gorgeous animation. The theme is pretty universal too so it is as good a gateway anime to bring people in as any!

  5. TWWK says:

    What an amazing resource! Thank you for putting this post together – I had a lot of fun reading and browsing through it!

    • Thanks a lot:) Glad you like it. Still could have added and edited a few things but if I keep doing that, it will probably take another month being I end up posting it:)

  6. Kitsune says:

    Thank you for putting this together 🙂

    “all the English sources on the internet” sounds a bit too ambitious, given your list, don’t you think?

    Interesting weighting… THEM is one of the oldest anime review sites, and I tend to agree with many of their reviews, but that’s just me. As with any meta-rating analysis, it is interesting to see what people prefer, but we should be careful not to confuse popularity with quality, and keep in mind that personalized recommendations are the best in most cases.

    • Well, I try my best to look for as many sources as I can! I also want to keep a lot of them relevant. If there is any source that I outright miss, please let me know and I will include their information into the ranking and edit this post:)

      With regards to the weighting, as you say a lot of it is pretty subjective. I lean towards giving sources with raters (e.g. MAL) higher weight. I feel that individual site reviews are important but they only capture one person’s opinion (objective or not) of the film, so I have not placed too high a weight on any of them (THEM and AA got higher weight than Anime Talk etc. because of its anime-centric nature). One limitation for THEM rating when I was doing the analysis is that it only gives film on 1 to 5 stars with at best half a start in between to separate titles. This does not give a lot of granularity that I look for. On the other hand, perhaps I should not look to make it so granular. Who really knows why a film should get 88% or 89% right?

      As far as my analysis is concerned, I only keep to the votes/rating/ranking/review that people have given and assume they equal quality. Another element is the ‘popularity’ which I typically define by how many people participate in rating/voting for each film. Each person’s preference is obviously going to be different and this is just a fun exercise for me to see what the ‘consensus’ around the English-based internet is, with regards to how much they like/value Ghibli films.

      I totally agree also that personalized recommendation si best. However, I would still like to make recommendation to watch ‘Godfather’ or ‘Shawshank Redemption’ if a random person comes to me asking for one. This list strives to give that level of ‘objectivity’ to all the Ghibli films.

      • Kitsune says:

        This is my old and by no means comprehensive list that includes some of the review sites They are mostly by individual reviewers though and some of them might be defunct by now. Of course, I don’t want you to redo the whole analysis – this is just something to read if you are interested.

        I see your logic behind the weighting. The percent system works only if it is well-calibrated, but I doubt reviewers actually take their time.

        Also, in addition to point estimation, it would be interesting to see some measures of variability as well.

        I wonder if by analogy in that last paragraph you mean that you would recommend let’s say top three films on this list to a random person.

        This work has merit, we just have to be careful how we interpret and use the results.

      • Thanks for sharing. I will go back and pull up more information from those sites I have missed so far and make this analysis hopefully more comprehensive.

        I guess that’s when I am assuming that the wisdom of the masses will point us towards the right results. When you say variability, do you mean variability / standard deviation between sources or how consistent each sources get rated their average scores? I have tried to do that but am not yet happy with the method I have so far come up with. That is definitely something I will spend more time working on and improving.

        Yes, if they want to get into Ghibli or anime, I would be very comfortable in recommending Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies. Throw Totoro into the mix and I really believe this gives the best chance of convincing the said person of the range and awesomeness of Japanese animation:) Then again, it is pretty easy to recommend any of the films. At least I can say that on my ranking, the many well-known sites give this conclusion!

      • Kitsune says:

        You’ll rerun the analysis? You really enjoy it heh.

        “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”

        You can take into account both between- and within-source variability, but you will either not have data or within-source variability will be zero due to the nature of the source. Thus, you could at least look at the between-source variability.

        It is fun to explore and try to improve things, but some wheels may have already been invented. Consider reading some books on formal meta-analysis. Borenstein et. al. (2009) and Hartung et. al. (2008) are some of the recent ones that cover both theory and application.

        I would have reservations on recommending Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies, especially to younger audience. An alternative could be Spirited Away, Totoro, and Kiki. But then again, I don’t like blind recommendations. Also, although the majority seem to dislike Horus, it is a very important film in terms of animation techniques.

      • I will get around to doing it once I have a bit more time. It is always good to try to make the ranking as complete as possible. It’s not that much more work anyway, considering there is only 21 data points at most from each source I need to collect. Time permitted, I should definitely check out those two books you recommended. Will be good to find out what other people have done and try to replicate it here.

        Grave of the Fireflies was released as a double-bill with Totoro and was included so it can be screened in the list of that summer’s recommended movie list for children, based on its historical merit. How can you say it’s not suitable for children! 🙂

  7. tom4p1 says:

    Great work!

  8. alua says:

    Will you be adding Arrietty stats at some point in the nearer future? I imagine you’re still waiting for the US-run to finish (if it hasn’t yet, I’m not quite sure).

    Too soon for Up from Poppy Hill, although I recently had the fortune to the see the UK premiere. It’ll actually screen again soon, a special preview, which makes me think that wider release must be around the corner (at leas t in the UK).

    • I might have a look to see how populated the reviews for Arrietty is. My guess is that it might make it around 10th in the list. What’s yours? I was originally going to wait for Up from Poppy Hill to get reviewed first before doing it but that might actually be quite a while. Will keep you updated!

      I saw your review of Up from Poppy Hill. I was so hoping that you like it and it seems that you do. It’s nice to know that Goro can direct, after the slight disappointment that is Tales from Earthsea. I hope there will be a festival with this showing here in Boston at some point…

      • alua says:

        I imagine there should be quite a few Arrietty reviews out there by now, but I guess the real gap is that there won’t be too many scores from DVDs. Well, there is a UK DVD, but nothing released in the US officially yet I imagine. Looking at what precedes and follows the #10 spot, yeah, that seems about right. I scored it high, but I think long term I should probably lower my score (to 8/10 or at least 8.5) – the ‘memorability’ factor isn’t quite there for Arrietty.

        Which partially applies for Up from Poppy Hill as well – the two lead characters aren’t really memorable, although I could argue that the all of the students together are. Will have to think about that (and probably rewatch before I can make a real verdict). But, yes, there’s definite improvement on the part of Miyazaki junior.

        Boston wouldn’t seem to be a too bad location for film screenings, you must get at least some film festivals. I’m predicting the UK cinema release of Up from Poppy Hill will follow soon (there’s a “Preview” screening in London in early June hinting at that), but you’ll probably have to wait a zillion years longer in the US, just as with Arrietty…

      • True about Arrietty. I like this more low-key film by Ghibli but cannot wait for them to come up with another epic offering. I know it is a pipedream but I am praying so hard for them to do a Nausicaa sequel at some point!

        I’m also putting my bet on a few film festivals to show some animes too, though being at school afforded me depressingly little time to go watch a film. There was a Ghibli festival 3 months back and i did not manage to watch a single film:( I’ll forget about it and next thing I know (probably sometime next year), Up from Poppy Hill should be released in the theatre here:)

  9. […] One thing I sometimes wonder is how movies from all the great directors stack up. Over the last decades, the four directors whose films consistently come up on the best of list are Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, Satoshi Kon and Makoto Shinkai. I also want to add Mamoru Oshii in to the mix as well. To judge which films are better than others, I look at their rating across the websites listed below. Note that the methodology is similar to the one I used to measure the Ghibli films: […]

  10. Hi there to every , as I am genuinely eager of reading this website’s post to be updated daily. It consists of pleasant information.

    • Thank you very much. That is very kind of you to say. Sorry also for a very late reply. I have been very delinquent when it comes to updating this blog. I would love to update this thing on a more regular basis but just have been swamped with school works the past two years. I’m finishing school and hope to get back to this soon. Daily is most likely out of the window (too much time compiling the data!) but I do hope to go back to at least do a once-a-month update:)

  11. Can I just say that after finding Ghibli Movies Ranking
    and Analysis | Blue Sweater Story on jCore, what a comfort to see somebody who truly understands
    what they’re talking about when it comes to this. You seriously grasp how to bring a problem to light and make it crucial. A lot more people should look at this and have an understanding of this side of the story. It’s surprising you’re not more well-known, since you most certainly possess the gift.

    • Thank you so much and I appreciate and I really appreciate your kind words. I hope to write many more articles that you might find interesting very soon. My plan is to update this more regularly starting next month.

      Let me know if there is any anime topic you might be interested in finding out! Happy to get some opinion on that front.

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