“I would like to make a film to tell children ‘it’s good to be alive.'”- Hayao Miyazaki
People call him the father of anime, the Japanese Walt Disney. This is the man who creates worlds which belong to fairy tales; colorful, imaginative, inspiring and his films are known for their compelling stories, brave female leads and great atmospheric soundtracks mostly composed by Joe Hisaishi. These movies give us lessons about friendship, about love, about nature, about courage, about standing up straight no matter what. He can bring complexity and maturity to a child’s world and sometimes childishness and sweetness to an adult’s world.
He is the co-founder of one of the most successful animation studios, Studio Ghibli. He won a competitive Oscar for ‘Spirited Away’ and an honorary Oscar for his lifetime achievements. He is like a grandfather to many children who saw his films and who likes him for them. Although it’s hard to rank Miyazaki films, just because all of them are awesome at nearly the same level, I ranked his feature films from the least favorite to the most, please enjoy..
11. The Wind Rises (2013)
Of course Miyazaki’s last feature film was going to be about airplanes and aviation. We’re talking about a man, a director who somehow had this theme attached to almost every film of his. This one is about the life of Jiro Horikoshi who designed the fighter planes of Japan. From his childhood dreams of designing planes, being an engineer in a plane firm and his love for the girl who he helped in a big earthquake in the past, this is the life of a man who realized his dreams and made difference for himself and for his country. The Wind Rises has one of the most beautiful love stories of any Miyazaki film. The director stated that this film’s first screening was the first time that Miyazaki cried at.
Confessing love and marriage proposal scene
Caproni: “Inspiration unlocks the future.”
10. Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Lupin is a thief, one of the best in the business. He looks for a new challenging adventure for himself and his partner and goes to a small country named Cagliostro. He thinks there is a mysterious counterfeiting work going on there. He meets a girl in a bridal suit who seems like she needs a helping hand. He tries to help her just for the entertainment of it but then he realizes that he met her already in the past. Now she means so much more to him and he decides that he will save her from the bad guy, Kont, the owner of the Castle of Cagliostro, the place where this man makes counterfeit money for all around the world.
This bad guy wants to marry her just to find a family treasure, but of course she isn’t willing to do it. While he tries to help the girl, lady Clarisse, he will also find the family secret in the castle. This is like an animated heist movie, entertaining and action packed. Miyazaki started his career by directing Lupin the 3rd TV series and after that this became his first feature animated film.
Lupin and Inspector Zenigata’s escape from the dungeon full of water by the help of skeletons of dead people.
Inspector Zenigata: “Lupin managed to steal something again!”
Clarisse d’Cagliostro: “No, he didn’t steal anything. All he did was fight for me.”
Inspector Zenigata: “No, he stole something quite precious.. your heart.”
09. Ponyo (2008)
Sosuke, a child who lives with her mother next to the ocean, someday finds a goldfish and saves her life. This goldfish is actually a special one, the daughter of a sea goddess and a wizard. She loves and adores Sosuke and uses her powers to become a human just like him. But this causes a disturbance in the balance of the earth and then they try to help the people in need. It’s a beautiful family story which includes very sympathetic child characters who persevere in very tough circumstances on their own.
Ending scene which Ponyo becomes human.
Lisa: “So what’s your Mother like, then?”
Ponyo: “She’s big and beautiful, but she can be very scary!”
Sosuke: “Just like my Mom.”
08. Porco Rosso (1992)
A fighter Pilot, Marco loses all of his friends in a fight in World War 1 and he finds himself turned into a pig. He leaves the army and becomes the best of the bounty hunters, a hero named Porco Rosso, against the air pirates who became stronger than ever in the great depression years. He makes a rival in half American Curtis who is a really talented pilot and is infatuated with women who have a crush on Porco Rosso. He also wants to be famous by flying better than Porco. After his plane’s engine is broken Porco goes to Piccolo firm. The chief engineer of the firm, a 17 year old young girl named Fio designs the new plane and with the help of her relatives, all women, she produces a better plane for Porco and also becomes the mechanic of this new plane. After an encounter with the air pirates who are so angry to Porco, a fight has been settled with Curtis. If Curtis wins he will marry with Fio and if Porco wins Curtis will pay his debts to Fio’s firm.
There is also Gina, who is a beautiful singer in Hotel Adriano who all the pilots are in love with. But her heart is already stolen by our main character. There is love, friendship, action, fight, war, hot blooded Italians, Italia’s strongly depicted women and Miyazaki’s love for planes and flying in this 90s anime. Even in today’s world, I mean almost 30 years later, engineering is still seen as a man’s job rather than a woman’s job. So like always, Miyazaki won the hearts of girls all over the world with the characters Fio and all the women in the film who worked for the plane’s production. Miyazaki has a thing for flying and he reveals this in most of his films, but like he was going to do with The Wind Rises years later, this time he makes this passion his film’s theme. Years later he said about this film it was foolish of him to make an adult movie for children. If only all the foolishness would be like this..
Porco Rosso’s plane’s design and production scenes in Piccolo firm.
Arms Dealer: “If you make money from war, you’re scum. If you can’t make money from bounty hunting, you’re an idiot!”
07. Castle in the Sky (1986)
The film opens with a very action packed zeppelin scene which immediately demands your attention. After that a girl, Sheeta with a crystal necklace falls from the sky and a boy, Pazu notices her. We understand that the girl is the owner of the necklace and the bad guys are after this crystal. Bad guys consist of two groups, one of them is a gang of thieves another is the army. What follows after that is an intense hunt for the crystal and a floating castle called Laputa of a lost civilization. This film is an early work of the master and has a straight up villain in Muska. The gang of thieves we are first afraid of at the beginning of the film then becomes more likable through it.
Union of the gang and the lead characters at the end of the film.
Sheeta : “This is a song from my home in the valley of Gondoa that explains everything. It says, ‘Take root in the ground, live in harmony with the wind, plant your seeds in the winter, and rejoice with the birds in the coming of spring.’ No matter how many weapons you have, no matter how great your technology might be, the world cannot live without love.”
06. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Kiki is a witch, or tries to be a real witch with the help of her black talking cat, Jiji. She leaves her parents and try to gain independence from them because a girl can only be a real witch if she does that. She finds herself a new beautiful town, makes some new good friends and settle in. This story can come as a slightly familiar one for all the young boys and girls who just leaves their family homes and tries to make a living on their own. Anyone can identify with Kiki, and that’s a good sign of a successful story line right there.
Flying together on a new invented bike with Tombo.
Kiki: “We fly with our spirit.”
05. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
First it was a manga series written by Miyazaki and then he turned this beautiful story of Princess Nausicaä into an epic film. Nausicaä is the Princess of the Valley of the Wind. She is a peace-loving girl who is fond of nature although the nature after a thousand years from now on is mostly toxic to human beings. Ohmu (the big insects) live in forests and normally they are harmless but sometimes they can get angry and make harm to people, and because of this people want to kill them and take on their lands to themselves. Princess Nausicaä will be at the center of a big war to come between people and Ohmu. She is a special girl who can influence Ohmu and talk to them because she is full of love for all kinds of living things not just for humans.
Miyazaki is known for his strong female characters, but Nausicaä leaves from this bunch of great characters because she has it all. She is an environmentalist and also a warrior princess, full of love and compassion, she really is one of the greatest characters of Master Miyazaki and she gives some lessons to all the people who are characters in the film and to humanity who watches the film. She also has one of the cutest side-kicks, a fox-squirrel Teto.
The ending, Ohmu bringing the dead Nausicaä into life scene accompanied by the beautiful “The Days Long Gone” music (Lalala song) composed by Joe Hisaishi. This is one of the songs that when you listen to it once, it will stuck on your mind forever and you never really forget it.
Nausicaä: “Every one of us relies on water from the wells, because mankind has polluted all the lakes and rivers. But do you know why the well water is pure? It’s because the trees of the wastelands purify it! And you plan to burn the trees down?”
04. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Prince Ashitaka realizes a demon god is coming to his village and he fights with him, he kills the demon but that brings a curse upon him. To save himself from this deadly curse, he leaves his village and goes to a place where people and forest gods are fighting. He meets characters like Lady Eboshi who tries to kill the forest spirit and Princess Mononoke who is a girl raised by wolf-god of the forest and lives like a wolf herself. He tries to prevent the war between them while he starts to get attention for supporting both sides. Will he make enemies or friends while he only wants peace for everyone?
Ashitaka is one of Miyazaki’s best male lead characters. An epic war film between nature and humans and their guns, this one is an animation mostly for the adults. ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’ was like the predecessor of Princess Mononoke, their themes are alike. With the help of Miyazaki’s attention to details for both the drawings and major and minor characters alike, this is one of the greatest victories for animation genre. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of it for even one second.
Ending scene, hopeful beginnings for all the characters.
Jigo: “These days, there are angry ghosts all around us – dead from wars, sickness, starvation – and nobody cares. So you say you’re under a curse? So what? So’s the whole damn world.”
03. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
This one is a children favorite and rightly so. The title character is one of the most used one in commercial products like cups, notebooks, pens, T-Shirts etc. My Neighbor Totoro is a story of a family, especially of two sisters whose mother is ill and in a hospital. With their father they move into a new house, here they meet some new characters, one of them being Totoro, a forest creature (a very cute one) who is only visible to children. With Totoro’s and nature’s help, they find the strength to get through these tough times. Mei, the little sister is an adorable character who you can’t help but love her.
Tatsuo Kusakabe : “Everybody, try laughing. Then whatever scares you will go away!”
02. Spirited Away (2001)
Everybody’s number one Miyazaki film is probably Spirited Away. I love it as much as the next person but Howl’s Moving Castle is my personal favorite for the reasons I couldn’t exactly put into words, so this one is my number two. This is the most awarded film of the master’s career including an Oscar. Chihiro is a young girl who seems like a child which is fed up with life because her parents decided to move into a new town. On the way to their new home, they come across to a place where nobody lives but with delicious looking meals. Her parents decides to taste those meals and then eats all of them. In the meantime Chihiro who has not eaten any meal, starts to go sightseeing and when she turns back to their parents, she realizes that her parents turned into a pair of pigs.
And then she finds herself in a mysterious environment with full of spirits, creatures and wizards. She makes a deal with a bathhouse owner named Yubaba, a witch and takes a new name of Sen. Sen who tries hard to make a living in this new bizarre place, also tries to save her parents and not to forget her own name. An old acquaintance will come and be a very helpful friend to her in this spectacular journey. Will she be prevailed and save herself and her parents ? Only the ones who watch the film will know.
Journey on a mystery train with No-Face and the others and their interaction with the witch, Zeniba.
Zeniba : “Once you meet someone, you never really forget them.”
01. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
I watched all of the Miyazaki movies when I was in high school, and Howl’s Moving Castle instantly became my favorite. I think I just wanted to be Sophie and live in this Moving Castle with Calcifer, Markl, old Witch of the Waste, the dog, Prince Turnip and of course with Howl who is a character that is so beautifully written and driven that can make people fall in love with an animated character. This film is based on a book by Diana Wynn Jones. Sophie is a young woman who inherits a hat shop. Some day she meets a young man named Howl who makes her fly through the air, literally. Then a witch (Witch of the Waste) comes to her hat shop and casts a spell on her that instantly turns her into a very old woman.
She leaves her home and starts a journey. Her path crosses with a castle that moves with a spell of a fire demon named Calcifer. She later understands that the owner of the castle is the wizard Howl, who she met before in an unusual way. She works as a cleaner in this castle and becomes friends with the household. In the meantime, there is a war coming and Howl would be an important part of it. The story resolves beautifully with the help of the young lovers, young Sophie and human Howl. It’s a heartwarming and inspiring film full of sweet and funny moments.
Flying on the air with Howl (the first scene Sophie and Howl met) accompanied by the beautiful music which is composed by the wonderful Joe Hisaishi.
Howl: “I feel terrible, like there’s a weight on my chest.”
Young Sophie: “A heart’s a heavy burden.”