Hayao Miyazaki is probably the most prolific and beloved anime director of all time, and Studio Ghibli makes fans so emotional.
Hayao Miyazaki is probably the most prolific and beloved anime director of all time. For anime fans who have grown up on Studio Ghibli films, Miyazaki’s have touched them and stayed with them even into adulthood.
With themes of environmentalism, anti-war messages, and coming of age stories, the stories have stuck with viewers and shaped the way they view the world. All of those themes combined with the cute and memorable characters and amazing hand drawn animation have raised everyone’s expectations of animated movies for children. Here are all the films Hayao Miyazaki has directed, ranked by how many feels they gave viewers.
11. Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro
Lupin III is a well-regarded and well-loved anime all on its own. Adding Hayao Miyazaki to the mix makes for a fun and goofy film that has the amazing animation and heart that Miyazaki films are so well-known for. It’s a more cheerful, child-focused take on Lupin, the famous womanizer and thief, but definitely keeps the adventure that Lupin is known for.
10. Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind
Nausicaa is one of Miyazaki’s most well-known works. It’s an original story about a young woman who’s trying to stop a kingdom that wants to use an ancient weapon to destroy a jungle full of giant insects. The animation shows all of the innovation and devotion to craft that Miyazaki values so much. It’s also incredibly ambitious, a long movie by even today’s animation standards at almost two hours.
Castle in the Sky is the story of a princess who is trying to protect a crystal from pirates and a government agent. She befriends a young boy, who tries to help her keep the pendant, which can show the way to Laputa, a city in the sky, away from them.
The story is one of friendship and understanding of humans’ place on Earth, particularly that they were meant to live on the land and not in the sky. It’s a lovely coming-of-age story of people finding their place and working together and also of showing respect for the world around them.
Princess Mononoke is one of Miyazaki’s best-know films and also possibly the one that best describes his feelings about environmentalism. The story follows a young man and a young woman who must work together to figure out how nature and humans can live side by side, working together to find a compromise that gives them both what they need, without all of the destruction currently happening in the name of progress.
Ponyo is essentially The Little Mermaid, except that Ponyo is a young girl who befriends a young boy and decides to become human to be with him. The two go through a lot in order to stay together, trying their best to overcome all of the people who want to tear them apart. They promise to look out for and take care of each other, a real show of true love, the innocent kind of love that only children can feel for each other.
My Neighbor Totoro follows two young girls who have just moved to the country. They explore the woods near their house and discover Totoro, a large, furry woodland creature who becomes their friend.
The story is sweet and heartfelt, with the girls running and playing with their new friend, but also dealing with the illness of their mother, who is kept in a hospital far away, and how the specter of death can darken even the most magical play.
Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the most beloved Miyazaki films among American audiences. Its focus on magic, and on the ways that adults can still feel and experience magic, has stuck with audiences. Plus, the characters, who are both lovable and deeply flawed, are incredibly easy to relate to, making their relationships feel important and authentic.
4. Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso has a pretty silly premise. It stars an Italian pig, named Porco Rosso, who is a famous pilot and hero from World War I. He now refuses to fly for the Italian army during World War II and is on the run from the military who deem him a traitor. The film deals with themes of PTSD and the responsibility of those who fight in terrible wars, with the implication being that Porco is cursed to be a pig because of his participation in horrible deeds.
3. The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises is Miyazaki’s most recent film. It veers away from the more fantastical elements of many of his earlier films, and it is clearly meant to be a metaphor for his career. The film follows a plane designer who is just interested in making them for the beauty of their design and flight, but ultimately, they are used for evil by becoming war planes. Miyazaki’s feelings that his films have been used for pure capitalist means and removed from the art he was trying to make are on display in this film, and the melancholy with which the film ends is hard not to feel.
Spirited Away is, surprisingly, the only film on this list to have won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature (Miyazaki did not show up to accept), and for a long time, it was the highest-grossing film in Japan in history (before being dethroned by Your Name). The film follows a young girl who is moving from her hometown; she feels melancholy about this change and is sad and angry that she has to leave her friends behind. Through a shortcut that her parents take to arrive at their new home, Chihiro ends up in a bathhouse for spirits and has to earn her way to freedom, learning valuable lessons about her own sense of identity and what it means to take responsibility for her actions.
Kiki’s Delivery Service similarly follows the story of a young girl who has to learn to grow up. Kiki has just turned 13, which means that her witch training has to begin, so she takes off on her own to make a name for herself in another city. She learns difficult lessons about the unkindness of people, while also learning to rely on people who want to be her friends. Her issues with self-esteem and confidence in her own abilities are major themes that any child and young adult would definitely relate to.