ByRosalyn Lim 林惠美, writer at Creators.co
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Rosalyn Lim 林惠美

Love Studio Ghibli but not sure which of the 21 movies to watch first? Here we have the complete review of Studio Ghibli movies by yours truly, for anime beginners and loving fans!

Studio Ghibli is well known for its beautiful animation, especially with its Academy Award-winning anime feature, Spirited Away. However, what other movies from the much loved studio are just as awesome? Read on and find out! You can also find my Top 5 at the end of this post!

To read a full length review of each movie, click on the movie titles!

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Review: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is otherworldly. This film is also quite beautiful for a 1980s animated film and it has strong harmony and an ecological concern message. If it has a chance to be reproduced and remade on a large scale, I think it could be as epic as the Lord of the Rings series!

Studio Ghibli brought the standard for anime movies to another level with this film and it deserves a lot of respect. This anime film is certainly one of the best I have ever seen in its specific genre!

Rosalyn's Rating: 4 Stars!

Castle in the Sky (1986)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Review: Castle in the Sky is a beautiful hand-drawn animated feature with excellent art and great music. The film is sweet, interesting and comedic at times. All of the scenes keep me glued to the screen!

If you love steampunk and fantasy, you will certainly enjoy watching this film! However, I must warn you that there are plenty of things that don't make sense. Then again, awesome stuff usually doesn't make sense!

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Director: Isao Takahata
Genre: Drama, War

Review: Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most heartbreaking films ever made. With superb cinematography, brilliant utilization of colors and a fantastic depiction of the simple joy of life (as well as tragedy) in high precision, this film is certainly one of my top favorite animated features of all time.

This anime film also teaches us to never ever underestimate the power of story telling through animation and the importance of film making. Consider watching this tragic film if you can - it may change your life!

Rosalyn's Rating: 5 Stars!

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Supernatural

Review: I was a little constrained to review this movie, but nevertheless, I like to be honest. My Neighbor Totoro is imaginative yet so realistic in a way so original that its naivety and novelty still captivates its audiences to date. It preaches us to believe and respect nature and the spiritual world!

However, if I had to choose the best 1980s animated feature from Studio Ghibli, I would certainly pick (the lesser known) Grave of the Fireflies.

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Review: Despite Kiki's Delivery Service's lovely traditional hand drawn animation, charming setting and interesting characters, it is quite sad to say that this good-natured film disappoints and bores me.

To be honest, I do not like to criticize films as I believe each film out there have their own unique selling point and charm to it. Numerous efforts have been used, and there's a lot of procedure prior completion of the film so, hate to be frank - this film is sweet but not bewitching for a witch fantasy film.

Rosalyn's Rating: 2 stars

Only Yesterday (1991)

Director: Isao Takahata
Genre: Drama, Romance

Review: Only Yesterday follows the story of a woman who rediscovered herself. It is nostalgic, funny and delightful to watch this slice of life film. If you watch this, you will be able to catch a glimpse of the Japanese fast-paced life and feel the tranquility of Japan's countryside life!

A real life drama in animation, this anime film certainly shows that animation isn't just for children! It's also about to be released in the US (25 years after its release in Japan!)

[[jwplayer:7A5wUKEG]]

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Porco Rosso (1992)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance

Review: If you love aviation, you should totally watch Porco Rosso. What captivates me the most are the elements of this film especially the people and the culture in the World War era. Although it could also be a bizarre anime film, it has a lot of depth. It is truly complex, just like human society is.

You should watch this if you haven't because it is quite fun and interesting to watch!

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Pom Poko (1994)

Director: Isao Takahata
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Supernatural

Review: Pom Poko is a slightly obscene but amusing anime about Tanuki and supernatural folklore. They are quite entertaining to watch and it will only get more amusing after you have found out the source of their supernatural shape-shifting powers.

Be warned that it may be weird and obscene as you will be seeing testicles frequently shown and used in this film. The depiction of raccoon dogs here are in accordance to the Japanese folklore so it is normal in Japanese culture. However, even if it is hilarious and adorable to watch; one sad fact learned from this film is that nothing can stop humans selfish acts.

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Director: Yoshifumi Kondou
Genre: Drama, Family, Romance

Review: What I have written in my full review of this film may indicate that Whisper of the Heart is a depressing film at first, but honestly it is truly a happy, inspiring anime film that everyone should watch!

If you watch this, you may be able to learn something invaluable from all of the characters. It can be nostalgic and it shows realistic depictions of Japanese lives and dreams! (Certainly one of my favorites, even though I do not like the last few minutes of the final scene).

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Epic, Fantasy

Review: Princess Mononoke is vivid, imaginative and well thought out. Although there are strong element of hatred and ruthlessness shown in this anime film, it also has endearing creatures of both existing and supernatural worlds - which is truly delightful to watch!

This beautiful fantasy adventure is skillfully narrated and realized just like other classic epics. It is certainly a great classic and epic animation film!

Rosalyn's Rating: 4 Stars!

My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)

Director: Isao Takahata
Genre: Comedy, Family

Review: My Neighbors the Yamadas has unique visual style that is not just different from most Studio Ghibli productions, but it is also different to most of the animated features produced around the world. Following the simple yet comical lives and adventures of the adorable family of five, this beautiful pastel-colored film full of family gag is never shy to depict the antics of the characters and the daily crisis of family lives which are quite funny most times.

It's really amazing to watch how short and simple comic strips can turn into a feature film by a series of vignettes. However, it lacks a vital point to connect all of them which may feel lengthy for some of us. Recommended to watch if you love 'slice of life' films!

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Spirited Away (2001)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Review: Spirited Away is one of those films no matter how many times you have watched it, in your childhood or present time, that is always enchanting as it would never fail to captivate you. If you are not familiar with strange tales, you may find this film overwhelming but it is truly nothing short of breathtaking and hopefully you will eventually come to love it.

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This feature is a brilliant realization of fantasy and imagination!

Rosalyn's Rating: 5 Stars!

The Cat Returns (2002)

Director: Hiroyuki Morita
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Review: The Cat Returns can be adorable but to me, it is a huge disappointment. The concept is precious and amusing but the overall quality of the film made me think; is this really Studio Ghibli's production? The ridiculous and amateurish visuals make it looks like an experimental cartoon from decades ago - which it's not. It is too far from what I expected from a spin-off of one of my favorite animated feature and from one of the world's most renowned studio.

I may be harsh here but honestly the art is not as beautiful and the storyline is not as meaningful as earlier films. Thankfully, it's a pretty short film with a sweet ending.

Rosalyn's Rating: 2 stars

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Romance

Review: Howl's Moving Castle is stunning. Although the film could use more scenes and screen time for a much comprehensible story, it would still be difficult to believe that anyone who enjoy anime and fantasy films not to like this; especially because it is an original fantasy work. It is certainly a mysterious film that will remain mysterious even after the film ends!

[[jwplayer:wMM7GXBQ]]

An unusual adventure infused with romantic conundrums, I gave up questioning the love here as love is a mysterious existence that should not be questioned!

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

Tales from Earthsea (2006)

Director: Gorou Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Review: While Tales from Earthsea was a box office success, this animated feature is certainly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The art is okay but the screenplay is beyond terrible. It is so terrible that I almost don't want to review this and I was extremely tempted to write several paragraphs of dots instead of sharing any of my analysis on this film.

Watching this was truly an unpleasant experience as it spoils my mood so badly (took an eight months break from reviewing Studio Ghibli movies) but I am glad that I've painfully endured and watched the whole film. At least I have learned a little about this director, known a little more about this studio, seen one of the worst movies ever and be able to warn you all that you might not want to watch this film.

Rosalyn's Rating: 1 star

Ponyo (2008)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Supernatural

Review: Ponyo is immensely lovely and fantastically magical. This is certainly what happens when imagination meets creativity and animation. It reminds us how difficult it is to not love Studio Ghibli productions. An unusual tale of romance and serendipity, two children from different worlds met and their lives changed forever. It might be unconventional but all of the scenes will only leave us think that the precious entity called life is equally strange and beautiful.

Although it has a simplistic ending which I usually do not like, I am sure you will find yourself liking this anime film. I know I sound a bit contradicting, but you can trust me on this as I am not an easy to please person even though I might appear to be lenient in writing movie reviews. As this anime film is terrifyingly good, it is one of my top favorite now!

Rosalyn's Rating: 4 Stars!

The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Review: I have not read the book but The Secret World of Arrietty has an awesome concept that includes tiny humanoid creatures called The Borrowers. Although the animated feature is not entirely realistic, it is still quite beautiful and entertaining. The short adventure and friendship can be satisfying if you are genuinely interested in fantasy!

When compared to other previous directorial debuts, this is certainly one of the better ones from Studio Ghibli (unlike Tales of Earthsea and The Cat Returns) even though there are some illogical scenes.

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 Stars

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Director: Gorou Miyazaki
Genre: Drama, Family, Romance

Review: A dramatic slice of life and coming of age kind of film with several serious themes and unexpected twists which can be funny or lovely at times, From Up on Poppy Hill is one film by Gorou Miyazaki with box office success that I can accept because it is generally nice and pretty enjoyable. I watched the original Japanese version.

In brief, it is not bad, although I believe many of the scenes could have been developed better. The twists confuse me at first but when those complicated scenes sort out themselves, they are actually quite hilarious.

Rosalyn's Rating: 3 stars

The Wind Rises (2013)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance, War

Review: It is unbelievable even for me to write this. The Wind Rises is a boring, overrated movie. If we truly analyze it, this piece is inferior even compared to much lower budget foreign animated features - especially in the storytelling department. Despite the fact there are some deep messages, both the storyline and characters are very dull even with decent music and animation.

Perhaps this is not intended for everyone and not everyone will enjoy this but as a record, I watched this with an open mind, genuine interest and patience until the very end; it is sad to report that I believe I am watching a poor attempt at a biographical film filled with the littlest dose of drama, romance and war. A weird and disappointing movie indeed.

Rosalyn's Rating: 2 stars

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Director: Isao Takahata
Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Review: As expected of Studio Ghibli's co-founder director Isao Takahata; The Tale of Princess Kaguya is unique in its own charm. The watercolor-like visuals are beautiful, the characters' expressions are genuine and the whole feature is just so captivating. Not only will you be able to observe Japanese culture, you will also watch helplessly hilarious and sometimes depressing traits of human beings. If we understand the underlying message of this Japanese folktale, we can learn invaluable life lessons.

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Overall, you may find watching this anime film a haunting experience due to the nature and the style of the this animated feature. I have seen the original Japanese version, and I am pleased to report that this animated feature is definitely not your average flick. One of my favorite animated feature of all time!

Rosalyn's Rating: 4 Stars!

When Marnie Was There (2014)

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Genre: Drama

Review: I was quite disappointed with When Marnie Was There due to its misleading story progression. Nonetheless, it does have the ability to make us wonder about people from the past and everyone's unique story. There are some sad scenes and the ending is a little satisfying because a mystery is solved but all that cannot make up for rest of the time wasted on something that ends up feeling underdeveloped.

I want to love this anime film but I just can't!

Rosalyn's Rating: 2 Stars

Top 15: Best Studio Ghibli Movies!

Which other Studio Ghibli movies must you see other than Spirited Away? I know this is a long list but I can assure you that these are the top 15 from Studio Ghibli arranged chronologically! I listed this many because most of them do not have the same genre or category. Every one of us have different preference but if you know which is your favorite genre, I am sure you could easily find your top favorite Studio Ghibli movie on this list! ;)

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - 4 Stars!
  • Castle in the Sky - 3 Stars
  • Grave of the Fireflies - 5 Stars!
  • My Neighbor Totoro - 3 Stars
  • Only Yesterday - 3 Stars
  • Porco Rosso - 3 Stars
  • Pom Poko - 3 Stars
  • Whisper of the Heart - 3 Stars
  • Princess Mononoke - 4 Stars!
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas - 3 Stars
  • Spirited Away - 5 Stars!
  • Howl's Moving Castle - 3 Stars
  • Ponyo - 4 Stars!
  • The Secret World of Arrietty - 3 Stars
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya - 4 Stars!

Bottom 6: Worst Studio Ghibli Movies!

These are the list of Studio Ghibli movies I think you might not want to see. However, some of you may love them as each of these are different in their own ways!

  • Kiki's Delivery Service - 2 stars
  • The Cat Returns - 2 stars
  • Tales from Earthsea - 1 star
  • From Up on Poppy Hill - 3 stars
  • The Wind Rises - 2 stars
  • When Marnie Was There - 2 Stars

A quick guide to Rosalyn's Rating for Studio Ghibli Reviews:
1 star: Strongly advised to avoid at all cost!
2 stars: Certainly not good but some may love it!
3 stars: Quite good, generally recommended to all!
4 stars: Awesome, near perfect. Highly Recommended!
5 stars: No questions allowed, you must watch this!

My Top Five In No Particular Order!

This top five thing is so difficult to decide but I am happy that I have my own verified top five list now. Here's my top five (in no particular order) and highly recommended Studio Ghibli films!

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
  • Grave of the Fireflies
  • Spirited Away
  • Ponyo
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Ending this post, I truly hope you enjoyed reading this because it took me quite a while to review all of these movies and write this post for you!

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