Total Recall: Hayao Miyazaki's Best Movies


Hayao Miyazaki's last three films (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle) platformed in America to mild success. For his 10th and latest movie, Ponyo (the story of an ocean goldfish and her quest to become human), Disney will be granting it a more confident, nationwide release this Friday. Frankly, the more opportunity America gets to see a Miyazaki movie, the better: they expertly breach multiple genres and fulfill the visual promise of hand-drawn animation. But they also feel deeply personal. Always directing from his own scripts, Miyazaki can take any story and mold it to his likeness, creating across 10 films a thematically consistent, rich and rewarding universe. This week's Total Recall explores the career of Hayao Miyazaki, animation's grand auteur. Back to Article


Robert A.

Robert Anderson

I've seen all of Miyazaki's films, including Ponyo. He's one of the greats; just ask the creative personnel at Pixar. He somehow instills this magical something into all his films that makes them uniquely his, even the "weaker" ones like Howl.

My first Miyazaki experience was my VHS copy of the above mentioned Warriors of the Wind that I had since probably before the age of 10. I didn't know it was a horrible hack job, and I absolutely loved that movie. Knew nothing about Miyazaki. My second was, while living in Japan as a young child, flipping through the channels on my TV and catching Laputa about 15 minutes into it. I was hooked instantly. Thought it was just amazing, even if it was in Japanese, which I didn't understand at all. I caught a lucky break when I found it again at a local video rental shop months later. Didn't discover until years later the same guy created both films.

I highly, highly recommend his Nausicaa manga, especially to Miyazaki fans. Possibly my favorite work of graphic literature. It's really something special.

Aug 13 - 08:30 PM


Graham Stratford

Jebus, doesn't the sense of smug superiority get tiring after a while? The animation for Grave of the Fireflies was done by Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, and I bought it in a set with Miyazaki movies.

If I might make a suggestion, you might be more comfortable without that stick up your rear.

Aug 13 - 08:35 PM


Roci Stone

I think you've all had to much sake. Once again, some subjective author (Who's Japanese language and cultural skills are--what--again?) has stung together a list of movie titles in no particular order it seems. Oy Vey! Will someone please tell these list making "reviewers" to stop adding apples and oranges, and put some serious thought into their work? Oh, This Is RT, nothing is serious around here.

For sheer application of film medium and technical animation- Nausicca
For Character and plot-Castle of Cagliostro- with a tip of the hat to Monkey Punch(Not that the one who put this "article" together would know who he is.)
Best Romance- Laputa (Hat tip again to "Future Boy Conan")
Best "Message" film-(bittersweet ending category)(Tie) Porco Rosso and "Mononoke"
Best "Meca" film- Howl's Flying Castle
Best Comedy with a Heart- Totoro :)

Since the passing of Tezuka Sensei, Miyazaki has kept up a quality standard of both film and technical excellence that even modern Day Disney has no hope of matching. It's a shame that Disney looked at all of his work, dubbed it (under tight control) and still managed to learn absolutely nothing at all about that which Miyazaki knows so well-The fine art of animation.

Oh, and as far as your backhanded review of "Spirited Away" goes, it also happens to be one of the top grossing animated films of all Japanese History. Besides winning an OSCAR,when is the last time you can say that 1/6th of the US population has seen an Animated film? Why don't you use the Net when you write these half baked "Lists" anyhow?

Do yourselves a favor, dear readers.

Print out this "article". Make two copies. Take one into the bathroom (and NOT as reading matter) and the other to your local store. Buy or rent each of these movies both in subtitled Japanese and English. Watch both versions. Listen, enjoy, learn, and delight in the works of a true national treasure as well as a master craftsman and his artisans.


Aug 13 - 10:08 PM




Aug 14 - 01:58 AM


James Nirenberg

My favorite Miyazaki Film is the last temptation of the christ... i think that robert redford as richard nixon/the messiah in that film was one of the all time great film preformances

Aug 13 - 11:17 PM


christopher cantos

my favorite is Kiki's Delivery Service... it is such a wonderful movie to watch. the animation is great, plus the story is simple. it's one of those places that i wish were real. Spirited Away was inventive, but i still didn't feel the connection between Chiriho and the dragon boy. well, mayb e it was because i saw the "subtitle" version thats why i didn't really connect as oppose to Kiki which i saw on English Dubbed. it's hard to see the beauty on screen while you are also looking at the subs. i also saw Howl's. the beginning of the film was wonderful, then it becomes very confusing. i love the moving house. i wish Miyazaki just did a simple story rather than "Epicying" it up. Mononoke is a masterpiece. the story is so complicated that you forget you're watching animation.

still, for me, simplicity is Beauty. Kiki's is still the best. well, i think that may change if i watch Spirited Away on English

Aug 14 - 12:47 AM


christopher cantos

wow! he did a Lupin film? thats one of my favorite Television series as a kid. I didn't know Miyazaki was a Lupin kind of guy... this just shows how versitile Miyazaki is.

Aug 14 - 12:48 AM




Aug 14 - 01:58 AM

Josh W.

Josh Walter

I saw the Japanese version of Ponyo, back when it was called, "Ponyo On The Ciff By The Sea."

Id like to state, without revealing too much, that it is his most family orientated film. Meaning, its a necessary film for the younger age group. In addition, it isnt as genius as Nausicaa, Mononoke or his previous work, but still well worth the watch for any Miyazaki fan.

As for the list, I disagree with the number one slot. Kiki is wayyy overrated...

My top 3 would consist of:

1. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
2. Princess Mononoke
3. Sprited Away

Aug 14 - 03:01 AM


Charlene Varry

I've seen all of Miyazaki's films and love each and every one. What beautiful drawings and animation. I fell in love with Spirited Away first and then had to see what else he had done. I've never been disappointed. I have bought a few and want them all, so I will certainly be in line to see the latest. And since I work in a Library where these are available for the patrons I am always recommending these to anyone who asks, and even those that don't. Everyone has been impressed with these. They are wonderful.

Aug 14 - 04:02 AM

David H.

David Hansen

This is fantastic that his movies are ranked so highly, but I'm confused as to how KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE beat SPIRIED AWAY. Sprited Away is usually reffered to as his greatest master piece, but I rarely hear about Kiki's Delivery Service. My favorites are Spiritd Away (First Hayao Miyazaki Film I Saw) Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa. I'm glad Ponyo did well too considering I just read my newspaper review and it gave 2 / 4 stars saying you need to be "under an influence to enjoy the film". Screw the courier post, GO MIYAYZAKI!

Aug 14 - 04:25 AM


Eddie Chan

Porco Rosso is my most favourite of the films by Studio Ghibli ...
It is original and funny, and does not have the common fairy tale elements present in most of the other movies ...

Aug 14 - 05:27 AM


Theodor Chokhonelidze

I like Hayao Miyazaki moovies ,but i dont think that they are moovies
they are more than moovies ,they are anime with moovie elements
my favorite is ``Spirited Away`` and ``Howl's Moving Castle`` is cool too

Aug 14 - 05:32 AM


David Ferrell

I'm a recent Miyazaki lover. It all started when I got Princess Mononoke from the library and had some friends over to watch it. My goodness! Such a stirring and beautiful film. After that I've seen Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro. The next on my list is Howl's Moving Castle and then probably Kiki's Delivery Service. Of course, I will also probably see Ponyo this weekend. My number 1 is either Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke right now. I'd probably have to go with Mononoke.

Aug 14 - 05:37 AM


Adam Manuel Javellana

To anyone mentioning it, Grave of the, Fireflies is not a Miyazaki movie. Just remember that Ghibli movie doesn't automatically mean Miyazaki movie but some people might still think that.

Aug 14 - 05:42 AM


Thomas Krul

NimChimpsky, I thought I was the only one pining to see "whispers of the heart" added to this list. I loved that movie; some moments were so beautifully realized that it felt like watching someone's personal dream come to life. Also have to add props to the ending of PomPoko (so sad) and throw in my 2cents that Kiki's Delivery Service definitely deserved the top spot.

Guess everyone takes away something different from each Miyazaki film!

Aug 14 - 06:34 AM


First Last

I just wanted to say that I was fortunate enough to see an early screening of Ponyo last month, and Miyazaki was present to introduce the film. While I felt Ponyo is not one of Miyazaki's best films, visually it is stunning. After the movie was over, I came out of the theater smiling.

One reason I think I enjoyed it was because the whole film was 100% hand drawn in the old traditional way of animating. From what Miyazaki said in his introduction of the film, he noted that he wanted to make a film that did not use PCs, because we're so lost in technology we sometimes forget the traditional means of animating. And one of the best compliment [according to Miyazaki] that he got from Ponyo was from a little girl who felt the drawings looked like something a kid can draw [given the hand drawn nature of the film, and some of the techniques aimed for a more kid-friendly fare]. And I would have to agree. The film seems more stunning when it's hand-drawn because you know it's much much more difficult to hand draw all the details in the film, rather than using a computer to assist in the animation.

Aug 14 - 07:45 AM

Mercado M.

Mercado Mercado

Out of all his movies I would have to say I prefer Princess Mononoke. Nazaka of the valley of the wind was one of his earlier movies with a deep, adult plot and falls into my second favorite. Totoro seems to resound with my two children, but the oldest is not leaning towards spirited away which deals with ideas that a teenager must face.

Whats so magical about his movies is that they resound with not just adults, but with kids as well. When 7-12 year olds watch spirited away they can relate to the fear of change that eminates from the film and draws you in.

Howls moving castle is my fourth favorite and kiki's delivery service ranks up at fifth. There is one of his films I haven't seen yet, about the racoons. I don't know if there is an english version because the racoons all have oversized testicles.

I have to say that the video (which i never knew existed) made me cry at the story line.

Aug 14 - 08:25 AM


Someone Someone

@Zeiram D

Stop being so pretentious.

Aug 14 - 11:16 AM


Someone Someone

My favourite films are:

5)Porco Rosso (newly added/discovered)
3)Catch Me If You Can
1)Spirited Away

Aug 14 - 11:18 AM


Rob PJ

Remember that Hayao Miyazaki doesn't speak English. Him approving the English dubs for all of his movies, even if he had the help of a bilingual listener, is like you approving of the Japanese voice acting in the originals: you have nothing to base quality on as you can't understand the losses through translation or the fine qualities in the recordings. That being said I thought that the translation and dubbing of Mononoke-hime was excellent, as was the job on Spirited Away. That being said, the Japanese versions are far superior in my books. As a bilingual English-Japanese speaker I have to say that while the Disney versions are good about losing as little as possible, the Japanese scripts are richer, as is to be expected.

That being said my favourites are:

1: Naushika
2: Spirited Away
3: Mononoke
4: Totoro
5: Castle in the Sky
6: Kiki's Delivery Service
7: Porco Rosso
8: Howl's Moving Castle

The reason I put Howl's last is that, while I felt the first two thirds were amazing, the last third spirals into a nonsensical, idiotic mess (and yes I get that it is because of war and this is a large part of Miyazaki's message in the film). In terms of pure film-making genius I don't think it can be argued that the top three deserve to be there, though I could understand a different film being someone's favourite (these three still happen to be mine).

Aug 14 - 12:49 PM

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