10 Best Hayao Miyazaki Movies of All Time

Hayao Miyazaki’s impeccable animating, directing, and producing skills have made him one of the most exquisite creators in the world of anime and manga. Hayao has been perfecting his craft for well over half a century and is currently sporting 35 animation credits, 29 directing credits, 12 producing credits, 6 soundtrack credits, and 38 writing credits.

With such a vast array of titles under his name, picking the best movies from his catalog is no small feat. Today we’ve ventured to pick ten of his most popular, best-received anime and manga titles, so let’s start from the top.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru No Ugoku Shiro)

One of the latest works from Miyazaki’s catalogue, the infamous Howl’s Moving Castle, is if not his finest movie, then at least his most popular title. From the gorgeous animation work, over phenomenally designed characters, to the fact that the movie’s dub (synchronization) features Christian Bale as one of the main protagonists speaks volumes about its quality.

At its core, the story revolves around the wizard Howl who takes Sophie, the main female protagonist, literally under his wings and into his glorious moving castle, where the charming duo faces a series of challenges presented by the jealous With of Waste. This is a must-watch for all anime lovers, especially this is to be your introduction to Miyazaki’s movies.

2. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi)

Newer generations were introduced to Miyazaki through Spirited Away – one of his most recent masterpieces. This is a movie that encompasses his genius, outstanding animation skills, as well as tremendous producing abilities. All anime lovers who are searching for a title characterized by exceptional graphics and an even better storyline should definitely give it a whirl.

3. My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)

Miyazaki’s graphical illustration skills peaked years before Totoro’s release, but it was with this movie that he actually cemented his unique style. Tonari no Totoro showcases his impeccable work on facial details of the characters, both human and bestial, and it’s just another testament to his tremendous creative genius.

My Neighbor Totoro is on par with both Spirited Away and Howl’s Flying Castle in terms of fan adoration and popularity, and despite the fact that it was released a decade earlier, it’s still aesthetically as enjoyable and vivid.

4. Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)

Princess Mononoke tells a tale of humans destroying the forests and our mother Earth, and the Earth fighting back by unleashing spirits, wisps, talking boars, behemoth wolves, and a human nursed by behemoth wolves.

Ashitaka, the main male protagonist, is cursed when trying to help the locals fend off the attack from cursed boars, ever since he’s been torn between humans and the realm of spirits. After being rescued by Princess Mononoke, the two set to save the world and make amends between the warring parties.

5. Tales from Earthsea (Gedo Senki)

Another early-blooming gem from Miyazaki’s catalogue is Gedo Senki – The Tales from Earthsea. Hayao seldom moved away from mythical and fantastical concepts, and this particular movie title is all about fairytale dragons, beasts, and towering castles.

This movie revolves around Ged, a blacksmith’s son who ventures to become the most powerful and renowned sorcerer across the Earthsea. Ged encounters a plethora of obstacles, friendships, and otherworldly creatures in his quest for power and renown.

The characters are beautifully designed and animated, although the dragons themselves certainly take the cake in that respect. Tales from Earthsea is another bucket list title for lovers of fantasy and mystique.

6. The Invention of Imaginary Machines of Destruction (Kuso no Kikatach no Naka no Hakai no Hatsumei)

Hayao was tasked with the screenplay for The Invention of Imaginary Machines of Destruction; the story was originally created by Hideaki Anno, who had also directed the film. Despite being a bit shorter in comparison to most anime movies Hayao had worked on, it seamlessly intertwines numerous titles.

Die-hard fans would recognize the Imaginary Flying Machines in this movie, as well as characters that resemble Valley of the Wind’s fabled God Warriors.

Miyazaki is remarkably experienced with digital brushes and pens (as well as actual ones), which he demonstrates in The Invention of Imaginary Machines of Destruction, although this time around within the realms of more ruinous influences rather than atmospheric.

7. Laputa Castle in The Sky (Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta)

Popularly referred to as Castle in the Sky, Laputa is a magical journey that mixes pirates and celestial powers into a perfect blend of excitement and adventure. Hayao both wrote and directed Laputa – Castle in the Sky in collaboration with Jonathan Swift in 1986.

Although the animation technologies available at that time were a bit different, Hayao’s unique style is exceptionally recognizable still.

8. Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo sumaseba)

Although he had previously delved into the realms of Romance, one of Miyazaki’s undisputed titles in this field is Whisper of the Heart. It’s actually one of the few manga-based anime movies that he wrote and directed, and even though its plot is almost straightforward, it’s a gorgeous piece of art that promises an unforgettable experience.

9. Giant Warrior God Appears in Tokyo (Kyoshinhei Tôkyô ni arawaru)

Most anime artists try to avoid the fields of 3D editing, but not Miyazaki. With the Giant Warrior God Appears in Tokyo, Miyazaki proved that his ideas are grander than sketches processed by a computer. This was a massive project with dozens of real-life actors, and it’s a phenomenal piece of art that most anime enthusiasts would enjoy.

10. Conan the Future Boy: The Big Giant Robot’s Ressurection (Mirai shonen Konan Tokubetsu-hen: Kyodaiki Giganto no Fukkatsu)

This anime film is, perhaps, even more relevant now than it was during the time when it was created. The plot of Conan the Future Boy revolves around building a space vessel to flee Earth, although it winds up crashing into an island ultimately.

The concept of abandoning our planet with the intent of discovering new faraway places, possibly even astral bodies, asteroids, and even other solar systems, wasn’t particularly new at the time, but Hayao’s take on it was gloriously brought to life with Conan the Future Boy.

We hope that this rundown was useful to you and that you’ve learned something new today. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!

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Tom Smith

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