Adventure Movies

All 12 Hayao Miyazaki Movies, Ranked

December 11, 202312 Mins Read

First thing’s first: all 12 movies directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki are very good at “worst,” and untouchable animated classics at best. Miyazaki’s more than earned a reputation for being one of the greatest filmmakers of the past 50 years, and looking at his entire body of work, it’s remarkable how consistent it is. There are no movies directed by Miyazaki that come anywhere near to being bad, and all are essential watches for fans of animation.

That being said, though all of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are at least good, some are even better than others. What follows is a potentially controversial attempt to rank those films as carefully as possible. This includes what could potentially be his final film, released in 2023, though Miyazaki has backtracked on plans to retire before… time will tell if this ends up being his true swansong.

12 ‘Porco Rosso’ (1992)

Starring: Shūichirō Moriyama, Tokiko Kato, Akemi Okamura

An Italian ex-fighter pilot - cursed to be transformed into a pig - orders a drink at a seaside restaurant.
Image via Toho

Sorry, Porco Rosso. One Hayao Miyazaki movie has to be declared the “worst” when it comes time to rank everything he’s directed. Truth be told, the easiest way to pick a “bottom” film of his might be picking its name from a hat. Maybe Porco Rosso is last because it was unluckily picked from a hat. Porco Rosso shouldn’t sting too bad; the movie featuring a flying pig as its protagonist is still a very good watch, after all.

The title is Italian for “Red Pig,” with that also being the nickname of the film’s protagonist: a World War I fighter pilot whose head has been changed to that of a pig’s because of a curse. The narrative shows his various adventures as a bounty hunter in the years following the war, with its emphasis on comedy and dogfight-heavy action ensuring it remains a memorable animated movie.

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11 ‘Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro’ (1979)

Starring: Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi

Lupin III_ The Castle of Cagliostro - 1979
Image via Toho

Lupin III is a well-known franchise in Japan, spanning manga and anime series, and featuring films both animated and in live-action. The best known of these is probably 1979’s Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro, given it was the first feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki (though its age ironically makes it arguably Miyazaki’s least well-known movie).

Its animation is a little less detailed than what’s seen in his later movies, but it’s still got plenty of style and looks great, considering it’s more than 40 years old. It’s one of Miyazaki’s most comedic movies, also featuring plenty of adventure and crime movie elements, following the titular thief attempting to pull off a risky robbery that could get him a huge amount of treasure.

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10 ‘Ponyo’ (2008)

Starring: Tomoko Yamaguchi, Kazushige Nagashima, Yūki Amami

Image Via Toho

A good number of Miyazaki’s films are family-friendly, but for better or worse (mostly better), Ponyo feels like it’s easily one of the most child-friendly of the lot. It’s a fantasy movie that’s pretty colorful and breezy, following a five-year-old boy in a seaside town finding what he believes to be a goldfish, only for her to actually be a magical creature.

The creature – who he names Ponyo – ends up being involved in a large-scale story where she has the power to change the world, or potentially (and accidentally) spell its doom. Ponyo never gets too heavy, thankfully, and handles its narrative in a way that’s always fun, charming, and quite delightful to watch. There’s a good argument to be made that Ponyo is the best choice Hayao Miyazaki-wise for younger viewers to appreciate and enjoy.


Release Date
July 19, 2008

Yuria Nara , Hiroki Doi , Jôji Tokoro , Tomoko Yamaguchi , Yûki Amami , Kazushige Nagashima


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9 ‘The Boy and the Heron’ (2023)

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Aimyon


The Boy and the Heron was a long time coming, being Miyazaki’s first film in 10 years. It’s a sweeping and hugely ambitious blend of fantasy, drama, and adventure that shows the great filmmaker behind it has lost none of his creative spark or imagination as the director entered his 80s. If anything, Miyazaki seems even more willing to take great risks and engage with some truly unexpected themes and ideas as he’s gotten older, because The Boy and the Heron certainly isn’t one of his most accessible.

Its core story involves a young boy going on a kind of adventure through a strange fantasy realm, but the film is equally concerned with looking at mortality, the idea of legacy, and ways in which people can process grief. It’s visually dazzling and beautifully scored, meaning it can satisfy on a fairly straightforward level, but it’s also clearly a film with a great deal under its surface, and it could well take years to mine everything The Boy and the Heron has to offer. For now, it might be hard to love as much as some of his others, but The Boy and the Heron is very easy to appreciate, and it will likely grow in reputation as the years go on, perhaps even becoming better with age.

The Boy and the Heron

Release Date
December 8, 2023

Soma Santoki , Masaki Suda , Takuya Kimura , Aimyon

124 minutes

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8 ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013)

Starring: Hideaki Anno: Miori Takimoto: Hidetoshi Nishijima

The Wind Rises,jpg
Image via Studio Ghibli

Though it once looked like The Wind Rises would be Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, that’s no longer the case since the announcement and release of The Boy and the Heron. Still, it’s easy to see how this could’ve served as a final entry in the filmmaker’s body of work, given it’s a little more serious than many of his other films. It’s also suitably emotional and feels nostalgic in some ways, which seems fitting coming from a director in his 70s.

It works as both a loose biopic and something of a war/drama film about Jiro Horikoshi, who was a chief engineer responsible for designing numerous fighter planes for the Japanese Army during World War II. The Wind Rises is a more serious film from Miyazaki that does away with the fantasy genre completely, yet still feels distinctly like one of his films, mainly owing to its emotional depth, beautiful animation, and well-balanced storytelling.

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7 ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ (1989)

Starring: Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Kappei Yamaguchi

Kiki and a black cat looking through an open window in 'Kiki's Delivery Service'
Image via Toei Company

Kiki’s Delivery Service mixes fantasy with a coming-of-age narrative to expert effect. The titular Kiki is a young witch who begins living independently for the first time in her life, only to find the world isn’t always an easy place to navigate, even if you are blessed with magical powers and a flying broom.

For anyone who’s struggled with life during the early stages of adulthood – especially after graduating from high school – Kiki’s Delivery Service stands as a relatable and heartfelt watch. It keeps things breezy and fun without shying away from the drama inherent to a narrative like this, and the experience as a whole makes for an endearing and rewarding viewing experience.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Release Date
March 1, 2014

Takashi Shimizu

Rie Miyazawa , Machiko Ono , Fûka Koshiba , Michitaka Tsutsui , Hiroshi Yamamoto , Ryohei Hirota


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6 ‘Castle in the Sky’ (1986)

Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui

Laputa Castle in the Sky.jpg

It’s already become clear that Miyazaki likes castles (demonstrated by The Castle of Cagliostro) and things that are airborne (demonstrated by Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Wind Rises, and Porco Rosso). So the fact there’s a Miyazaki movie that combines both of those things by having a Castle in the Sky shouldn’t be too surprising.

It’s one of Miyazaki’s very best adventure/fantasy films, and also one of the best movies of 1986, telling a story about various people searching for a famed castle that floats. It’s incredibly entertaining, very briskly paced, and features animation that still looks incredible, making Castle in the Sky an undisputed classic, and also arguably one of the most overlooked among all the films Hayao Miyazaki has made.

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5 ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’ (1984)

Starring: Sumi Shimamoto, Gorō Naya, Yōji Matsuda

Teto on Nausicaa's shoulder in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
Image via Toei Company

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was the first feature film Hayao Miyazaki directed that fit squarely within the fantasy genre, making it a significant entry in his filmography. The imagination on display here was matched (and sometimes exceeded) in the films that followed it, which ensures Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is naturally a good film to watch for those who are new to the world of Miyazaki.

It’s also a movie with a noticeable environmental message, following the conflict between various groups who are inhabiting the Earth following a destructive global war that ended life as people once knew it. It’s an ambitious and exciting fantasy film, featuring one of Miyazaki’s most compelling protagonists – the titular Nausicaä – and an overall message that remains relevant to this day.

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4 ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (1988)

Starring: Chika Sakamoto, Noriko Hidaka, Hitoshi Takagi

Totoro and the children sitting in a field in My Neighbour Totoro
Image via Toho

A short and sweet movie that deservedly stands as one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most famous works, My Neighbor Totoro is an animated film that’s beyond legendary at this point. Even those who haven’t seen the movie are likely familiar with the titular character, given Totoro has become the mascot for Studio Ghibli, which is the animation company Miyazaki co-founded in 1985.

The narrative here is quite straightforward, focusing on two young girls who move to a house in the countryside with their father, and while there, end up meeting various spirits who live in a nearby forest. It’s filled with child-like wonder and incredibly memorable characters, with its simplicity being its ultimate strength, ensuring it’s hard to imagine anyone truly disliking My Neighbor Totoro.

My Neighbor Totoro

Release Date
April 16, 1988

Noriko Hidaka , Chika Sakamoto , Shigesato Itoi , Sumi Shimamoto , Tanie Kitabayashi , Hitoshi Takagi

86 Minutes

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3 ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ (2004)

Starring: Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa

Howls Castle walking along hills in Howl's Moving Castle.
Image via Toho

The third Hayao Miyazaki movie to feature the word “Castle” in its title, Howl’s Moving Castle is another animated classic within the great director’s filmography, and an all-around extremely strong blend of fantasy and adventure genres. The plot follows a young woman on a quest to break a curse placed upon her, which has her befriending an unusual young wizard who lives in a castle that has legs.

The title does not lie; the castle does indeed move, and there are plenty of other strange and deeply imaginative sights to marvel at within this film. It was released following the two titles that are arguably Miyazaki’s greatest and most acclaimed (more on them just below), and more or less lived up to the pair. The heart-touching Howl’s Moving Castle is up there with the best almost 20 years on from its release.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Release Date
November 19, 2004

Chieko Baisho , Takuya Kimura , Akihiro Miwa , Tatsuya Gashûin , Ryûnosuke Kamiki , Mitsunori Isaki

119 minutes

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2 ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997)

Starring: Yōji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yūko Tanaka

Princess Mononoke riding her wolf and holding a spear in 'Princess Mononoke'
Image via Toho

Princess Mononoke is Hayao Miyazaki’s longest – and perhaps most epic – film to date. Like other films from his body of work, its main plot revolves around a mysterious curse that the main character needs to rid themselves of, and it also ties in a similar environmental message to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, with it perhaps being even more explicit in that regard (it’s also pretty intense/full-on when it comes to violence and action, too).

This makes it both a powerful and emotionally exciting film, with the scale of the story on offer here being the thing that most notably differentiates it from other Miyazaki movies that sit within the fantasy genre. Princess Mononoke is one of the greatest animated films of its decade, and is deservedly considered one of Miyazaki’s best, too.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Release Date
July 12, 1997

Yôji Matsuda , Yuriko Ishida , Yûko Tanaka , Kaoru Kobayashi , Masahiko Nishimura , Tsunehiko Kamijô

134 minutes

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1 ‘Spirited Away’ (2001)

Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Chihiro and No-Face wait on the train in 'Spirited Away'
Image via Studio Ghibli

The filmography of Hayao Miyazaki is difficult to rank until one gets to the #1 spot, because it’s hard to argue it should be something other than Spirited Away. It enchanted audiences in Japan upon its 2001 release, and then proved similarly popular internationally when it came out in other countries during 2002 and 2003.

Spirited Away is a monumental achievement within the fantasy genre, transporting its protagonist, Chihiro, and the audience to a strange cinematic world unlike any other. The plot sees Chihiro having to rescue her parents and make it out of the unusual realm alive, making Spirited Away another Miyazaki movie that works as an unusually relatable coming-of-age film. The world can be both a scary and wondrous place when viewed through the eyes of a child, and Spirited Away understands that well, in the process providing viewers with one of the most imaginative and entertaining animated movies of all time.

Spirited Away (2001)

Release Date
July 20, 2001

Rumi Hîragi , Miyu Irino , Mari Natsuki , Takashi Naitô , Yasuko Sawaguchi , Tatsuya Gashûin

125 minutes

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NEXT: The Best Anime Movies of All Time, Ranked

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