Studio Ghibli Challenge: From Worst To Best
As of this writing, there are 23 films (The Red Turtle is not counted) by Studio Ghibli. While most are incredible films with fantastic storylines and mind-blowing world-building, one movie is often better than the other. So let's try to rank them from the worst to the best and give my thoughts on what is good and bad about each film:
23. Tales From Earthsea (2006)
The Good: The animation is good. Those incredible top-of-the-mountain shots are also unbelievable.
The Bad: Definitely, the weird storyline and very confusing character decisions are the ones that make this movie terrible. The pacing is awful. Ten minutes into the film, you want it to end quickly. I was in sleeper mode the whole time. If there is one film I want to erase from Studio Ghibli's history, Tales From Earthsea will be #1.
22. Earwig and the Witch (2020)
The Good: I genuinely love the soundtrack. Maybe if we are going to talk about the music alone, this film will definitely be in the top 10.
The Bad: In terms of animation, this is a step back. You cannot take away those lush landscapes, surreal worlds, and beautiful creatures when you talk about Studio Ghibli movies. If you take those away, it just doesn't feel right. The story is also awful until 10 minutes before the movie ends. The characters are unlikeable. I hate Earwig more than any other Ghibli heroines.
21. My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
The Good: The style is unique. The whole film feels like you are reading a comic book or manga. There are also some hilarious moments.
The Bad: The film starts and ends very quickly. As much as I wanted a particular central plot to transpire, it didn't happen. The animation is also not up to my taste.
20. Ocean Waves (1993)
The Good: I like the flow of the story. It's a straightforward teenage flick movie, so I didn't expect much of it. The last half of the film is quite good as well.
The Bad: The characters are unlikeable. The story is quite confusing, and I think if they spent more time finalizing or furnishing the plot, this would be good.
19. The Cat Returns (2002)
The Good: The movie is entertaining. Who doesn't want to pinch those cat cheeks? I like the characters as well. Even though this is just a spin-off movie of Whisper of the Heart, I think the plot is pretty solid. I enjoyed it from start to finish.
The Bad: The short runtime of 75 minutes. I want it to tell more about the Cat Kingdom and maybe some history, but it just didn't happen. The story also feels non-original.
18. Pom Poko (1994)
The Good: Definitely the story's message of taking care of the environment. At first, you think it's just about playful tanukis, but it's something more. It is also entertaining. I had a couple of laughs throughout the whole movie. The ending is not something you expect, but it has a taste of reality. A pretty good film, and I recommend it.
The Bad: Maybe from a personal perspective, I find them weird since I am unfamiliar with tanuki folklore. The plot is quite okay, and I expect it to be more direct and to the point.
17. Ponyo (2008)
The Good: The Devonian creatures! The chemistry between Sosuke and Ponyo is one that you cannot take away. I like that the whole film is very easy-going. There are a lot of cute moments that make you smile. The animation here is top-notch. I love it.
The Bad: It's very Little Mermaid-like. I want the story to be more original because it has a very high potential of being one of their best movies.
16. Castle In The Sky (1986)
The Good: Mayumi Tanaka (VA of Monkey D. Luffy). Although this film premiered in the 80s, it is very advanced. The chemistry between Pazu and Sheeta is incredible. Those incredible airplane shots are amazing. The world-building is truly majestic and will make your jaw drop.
The Bad: It would be great if they spent more time in Laputa, like exploring more and seeing its significance to the world and the story.
15. From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)
The Good: Considering how bad Tales From Earthsea was, I like that Goro Miyazaki redeemed himself with this movie. Overall, I like the film. The character development and story are very moving. I hope Hayao's son will produce more like this in the future.
The Bad: The weird twist. I am not saying it doesn't fit the plot, but adding something like a sibling-related twist in a teenage flick film is undoubtedly strange. Even if you remove it from the story, it will not lose much of its plot.
14. Arrietty (2010)
The Good: The animation, especially from the perspective of the Borrowers. The world feels massive, but to humans, it's normal. I like the plot. It's very simple and straightforward. I also like Arrietty as a character; she is strong-willed and a perfect protagonist.
The Bad: I wouldn't say I liked Sho initially because he seemed to have lost hope. The movie has a pretty short runtime of 95 minutes; that's why the pacing is swift. I hope the story took some time to explain things like the Borrowers' backstory.
13. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
The Good: It's entertaining. Totoro and the Cat Bus are very cute. No wonder their plushies are still being sold and purchased today. If I watched this film in 1988, I would definitely declare it an animation marvel because of the realistic design of the surroundings and the people. The story is quite okay. It is simple and can be readily appreciated.
The Bad: Maybe because I got used to the animation of the 2010s or 2020s, I think it's quite a step down from what I used to watch.
12. The Wind Rises (2013)
The Good: The overall concept of the film is incredible. I like that for us not born in Japan get introduced to a person we don't know much, even fictionally. The story is very emotional, and there are definite tear-jerker moments. Plus, you cannot forget those incredible airplane dream sequences. It's totally out of this world.
The Bad: The ending. I hoped for a more emotional climax, but it ended abruptly.
11. Only Yesterday (1991)
The Good: The way the story is told. The sequences going back and forth between the past and the current timeline are good. I like the character development as well. When Taeko realizes that the real problem she needs to deal with is accepting herself, it's authentic.
The Bad: I think the pacing of the film is quite bad. There are a lot of prolonged moments that make you want to forget.
10. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
The Good: The anti-war message. You can feel Hayao Miyazaki's anger about the war when watching this film. The characters are very likable, especially Sophie and Calcifer. The overall design of Howl's castle is terrifying to look at. The world-building is also tremendous. I cannot imagine how the animators moved that massive castle around.
The Bad: The movie started slow, but I am glad it picked up as soon as we saw Howl's backstory.
9. Porco Rosso (1992)
The Good: It may be fictional, but it has real-world elements tied with it. It's very action-packed, and the story is very moving. I love the characters, and some of them were really funny. The dogfight animation is marvelous. Overall, it's one of the most entertaining movies Studio Ghibli created.
The Bad: There's nothing wrong with this movie except that it is short.
8. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
The Good: The story, most definitely. There is no other Studio Ghibli film that tells us the reality of war than Grave of the Fireflies. It's tragic and sad, but it's real. If there is one film from the studio that I would watch separately, this is it.
The Bad: I can't bring myself to watch this movie multiple times because it's so traumatizing that it stays in your mind for some time. Also, it's not something that I would recommend watching, especially for children.
7. When Marnie Was There (2014)
The Good: Anna's character development. She starts as a timid young girl who wants to matter to everyone. But as the story progresses, she becomes more open to her feelings and everyone. There are quite a few tear-jerker moments, especially near the end.
The Bad: The story is quite okay. I am not totally moved by it.
6. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
The Good: The Japanese rendition of Take Me Home Country Roads may be sort of out of place, but I still love it. I love the characters and the simplicity of the story. It doesn't have mind-blowing twists, but the plot is very moving. It's a very inspirational film that I want to suggest to everyone who wants to find inspiration.
The Bad: It has some slow moments in the movie.
5. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
The Good: I mean, who doesn't love Kiki and Jiji. They are like the perfect duo. The characters in this film are so good. They are the ones that drive the story. Similar to Whisper of the Heart, the story is very inspirational. Watch this classic when you feel like you are in doubt of yourself.
The aesthetics in this film is also pleasing. It makes you want to ride with Kiki to experience the world's beauty.
The Bad: I don't know if there is something wrong with this movie. Maybe I need a little more of Jiji's love story.
4. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
The Good: Considering that it is the first Studio Ghibli film, it really aged very well. The plot's message is that humanity's wrongdoings destroy the environment. And on how we can coexist with others without destroying their habitat. Everything about this movie is a tad impressive. The aesthetics, character designs, and characters are among the best the studio has created. I absolutely love this marvel, and it's something that is a must-watch.
The Bad: I don't see anything wrong with this movie.
3. Spirited Away (2001)
The Good: Despite being the only Studio Ghibli movie to win the Best Animated Film at the Oscars, it still deserves the 3rd spot.
I love the film. The characters, the plot, the soundtrack, and even those exquisite character designs are marvelous. That few-minute train sequence where the movie lets the audience think and breathe because of the wild things that happened in the story is what filmmakers should learn. If there is a category of 100 movies you need to watch before you die, Spirited Away should be in it.
The Bad: Nothing.
2. Princess Mononoke (1997)
The Good: If you are looking for a movie that tells you directly not to destroy the environment, this film should be on your list. The message it delivers is one of the best.
The characters are a joy to watch. You definitely feel their emotions and pain as nature takes revenge for destroying its habitat. There is no good or bad in this movie. Everyone and everything in this movie is connected.
The Bad: Nothing.
1. The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya (2013)
The Good: I have never seen an animated movie that I got hooked on from the first minute to the last. If there is something called perfection, this is the definition of it.
You can't help but feel bad for the main character, Kaguya. She is innocent, and everyone wants to take advantage of that. In the movie, it's shown using different color contrasts, lighter shades to express happiness and freedom and darker shades to express anger, sadness, and doubt.
If you go to animation film school, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya should be something you should watch and learn.
The Bad: Of course, nothing.
There you go, 23 films done. I hope the new movie, "How Do You Live?" will live up to the best Studio Ghibli Films standards and not the worst.