So here it is: a top ten ranking of Studio Ghibli’s films. The famed anime studio has produced more than 10 films, but I singled out the best. This list is based on personal preferences, story and character quality, and overall lasting impact. Part one features films number 10-6. Here we go!
10. Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is a very troubling film. On one hand, it is a very beautiful fantasy about the preciousness of youth, but on the other hand, it gets so wrapped up in its complex and dense labyrinthine story structure that it often feels bogged down and over-long. This might be the most gorgeous looking Ghibli film, containing stunning visuals and an emotional soundtrack. Howls contains some of Ghibli’s most memorable moments, namely Sophia and the Witch of Wastes’ journey up a deceptively endless staircase and the destruction of the moving castle. The fact that this amazing film is number 10 says a great deal about this studio.
9. Only Yesterday
This animated film by Ghibli’s second most famous director, Isao Takahata, is quite the curiosity. Take this in for a second: Only Yesterday is a drama about about a 27-year-old woman (Taeko) reflecting on her childhood while visiting her old friend’s farm. That must be the driest plotline for an animated movie ever. However, what makes it so memorable is Takahata’s ability to intertwine middle-school-age Taeko as a manifestation of 27-year-old Taeko’s depression and insecurities about her future. Also, can we not forget one of cinema’s most beautiful family-centric scenes in this film, which involves the puzzling task of eating a pineapple?
8. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Considered by many to be anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s best film, this film chronicles the battles between human tribes and the complications created by the dangerous sea of corruption: a toxic jungle with terrifyingly huge insects. This film proved Ghibli’s mastery of strong female protagonists and set the standard for environmental epics. Visually, the sense of motion in Nausicaa is breathtaking; there is always something moving in every frame. This is the opposite of a lazily animated film.
7. The Wind Rises
Miyazaki’s most recent film, The Wind Rises is as much a story about ambition as it is a story about the complexities of war. Miyazaki asks us: is Jiro (the protagonist) a bad person for designing planes that ended up killing thousands? After all, he was only doing what he loved– designing airplanes. Add a touching romance that strongly contributes to Jiro’s development as a great character, and you have yourself a Ghibli classic. Also, the music is arguably the most memorable since Howl’s Moving Castle.
6. Whisper of the Heart
This is a nearly flawless romance film and so much more. Like many Ghibli films, Whisper of the Heart is many different things: a romance, a school drama, and a story about the struggles of perfecting an art. Female protagonist Shizuku wants to write a fantasy novel and male protagonist Seiji wants to become a great violin craftsman; it is clear that both aspirations will require great sacrifices. Whisper of the Heart reminds us that sometimes there are clear answers in life after a path has been opened, whether in regards to crafting a novel, violin, budding relationship or whatever.