11 Best Hayao Miyazaki Movies of All Time

Top Studio Ghibli Movies Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Best Hayao Miyazaki Movies

An anime is becoming more familiar to international people who enjoy watching TV, movies and other contents. Studio Ghibli is one of the symbols of Japanese anime, offering lots of renowned anime films. Who has led the famous anime studio for a long time is the world’s famous anime director Hayao Miyazaki.

Here is the list of the best movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki including his latest work. Not all Studio Ghibli movies were not directed by Hayao Miyazaki (some popular movies were only written by him and directed by other directors). This best Hayao Miyazaki movies list only includes his directed titles.

If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli movies, you know which one is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, don’t you? For those who have not watched a Ghibli movie yet, you should start with the one directed by him.

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11. The Boy and the Heron (2023)

The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the Heron © 2023 Studio Ghibli

The Boy and the Heron (君たちはどう生きるか) is Hayao Miyazaki’s first anime movie of the 2020s and his first feature-length film in 10 years since The Wind Rises in 2013. The Japanese title, “Kimitachi wa Do Ikiru ka” (meaning “How Do You Live?”), is taken from Genzaburo Yoshino’s novel of the same name. While the novel is based on complete realism, The Boy and the Heron is an adventure fantasy. Opinions on the film may vary depending on one’s perspective, but there’s no doubt that it’s a must-see for us, living in an era when Miyazaki is actively creating works.

Set in Japan during the Pacific War, the protagonist is an elementary school boy named Mahito. He loses his mother at a young age, and his father remarries his mother’s sister, Natsuko, taking Mahito to her family home to live. Mahito has strange experiences in the mansion where he now lives. Guided by the message from a heron he frequently sees on the property, “You have not seen your mother’s remains. She is waiting for your help,” Mahito becomes determined to journey into another world.

10. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl's Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle from Amazon.com

Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城), released in 2004, is the Studio Ghibli film directed by Hayao Miyazaki with the second highest box office revenue in the Studio Ghibli movies. It is based on the British novel titled Howl’s Moving Castle written by Diana Wynne Jones.

The heroine Sophie is transformed into a ninety-year-old woman by the witch’s curse. Her adventure proceeds while she and the main character wizard Howl help each other to overcome a war.

9. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

The Castle of Cagliostro
The Castle of Cagliostro from Amazon.com

The Castle of Cagliostro (ルパン三世 カリオストロの城), the first full-length movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki, was released in 1979 before Studio Ghibli was founded. It is one of the few Ghibli films that are based on the existing popular franchises, which is also known as the second Lupin the Third anime movie.

The master thief Arsène Lupin III and his fellow Daisuke Jigen steal vast amounts of money for a casino but recognize that the money is counterfeit bills. Then, they head to the country named Cagliostro which seems to be the source of the counterfeit bills and see the heroine Clarisse.

8. The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises from Amazon.com

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ), written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, was released in 2013 as the final work of him who announced to retire from creating a full-length film. He has decided to come back to produce a brand new movie of Studio Ghibli, though. The Wind Rises was inspired by the biography of the aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi who existed until 1982 and the Tastuo Hori’s novel The Wind Has Risen published from 1936 to 1938.

The story is set in Tokyo around the Great Kanto earthquake that happened in 1923. The drama animation follows the main character Jiro who works as a fighter aircraft designer and the heroine Naoko. An aircraft is one of the themes that Hayao Miyazaki is the most interested in, and the flying scenes are beautifully depicted in the movie.

7. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind from Amazon.com

The classic Ghibli title Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ) is famous for the first full-length Studio Ghibli anime movie (it’s made by the Studio Ghibli’s predecessor animation studio Topcraft to be exact). Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind made Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki well-known to more people.

It was originally made by Hayao Miyazaki as a manga with 7 volumes between 1982 and 1994, and its anime movie adaption was released in 1984. However, only a part of the whole story of the manga(until the middle of vol.2) is depicted in the movie, actually.

The setting of the story is the world where 1000 years pass after the war Seven Days of Fire. Poisonous forests are created by the war, which are hazardous to humans. The main character Nausicaä exerts herself to ensure coexistence with both humans and nature including the toxic forests.

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service from Amazon.com

Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便) has been long loved by both adults and children all over the world since it was released in Japan in 1989. It is the first Hayao Miyazaki’s full-length movie that is inspired by the existing novel or manga written by someone else.

The main character is a 13 years old girl Kiki, who is an unmatured witch. The story starts when she leaves home for her independence with her pet black cat Jiji. Her grown-up story is depicted while she visits the unfamiliar towns, sees new friends and faces her personal problems.

5. Castle in the Sky (1986)

Castle in the Sky
Castle in the Sky from Amazon.com

Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ), released in 1986, is one of the most popular classic anime movies among the fans of Studio Ghibli. Officially, it is the first movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki just after Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985.

Castle in the Sky centers on the two main characters: a young boy named Pazu and a young girl named Sheeta. She is pursued by the air pirates and government agency, whose target is her crystal pendant. Her adventure with Pazu begins to run away from them.

4. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke from Amazon.com

Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), released in 1997, is one of the masterpieces of Hayao Miyazaki. It took 16 years for him to make the whole concept of the movie and about 3 years to create it. Princess Mononoke is also top-rated by international people as well as Japanese.

The main character Ashitaka, who is the last prince of the declining Emishi tribe, meets the princess Mononoke named San who lives in the forest with wolves. Ashitaka insists that they can live with each other in the same world and exerts himself for the realization of his dream.

3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro from Amazon.com

My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) is one of the best family anime movies in Japan and many foreign countries. It was released in the theater with the other Studio Ghibli title Grave of the Fireflies directed by Isao Takahata in 1988.

The main characters sister Satsuki and Mei move to the countryside with their father, where the hospital their mother is hospitalized in is located nearby. Mei and Satsuki meet the mysterious creature Totoro in the forest and encounter strange happenings.

2. Porco Rosso (1992)

Porco Rosso
Porco Rosso from Amazon.com

Porco Rosso (紅の豚), released in 1992, is a Ghibli movie written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki with his favorite theme aircrafts. Not a lot of Studio Ghibli fans pick up Porco Rosso as the best movie, but it is one of his Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces.

This Ghibli movie is set in the beautifully blue Adriatic Sea in the time of the Great Depression after the First World War. The main character pig, whose name is Porco Rosso (which means “Red Pig” in Italian), is originally a human being. He flies on the seaplane as a bounty hunter and fights with air pirates and an American ace named Donald Curtis.

1. Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away
Spirited Away from Amazon.com

Quite a few Studio Ghibli fans agree that Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) is the best movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki of all time. Spirited Away, released in 2001, is the top-grossing movie ever made in Japan and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, which means it is the most popular and famous Hayao Miyazaki’s film all over the world.

A 10-year-old girl named Chihiro entered a fantasy world, where her parents are transformed into pigs and she lost her name. However, she tries hard to keep her identity in the strange world and to help her parents. In addition to her, there are various unique characters in the fantasy film such as a young boy Haku who helps her all the time and the witch Yubaba who steals Chihiro’s name.

▽Here is the list of the best Studio Ghibli movies including the works directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Goro Miyazaki and so on!▽

Check out the new large Ghibli-themed facility Ghibli Park and Tokyo’s Ghibli Museum!

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