Top 5 Hayao Miyazaki Films

You might not know who Hayao Miyazaki is, but I thought I’d write about my top five favorites of his movies.

That’s right, folks! It’s time for yet another Below Average list!

Hayao Miyazaki is the creator behind several wondrous animated films, each one brimming with detailed and immersive worlds and engaging characters. Miyazaki is a genius of the highest order. He knows how to tell one heck of a story.

The fact that his movies are animated might fool you into thinking they’re meant for kids, but you’d be dead wrong. The narrative appeals to people of all ages, dealing with morality and fantasy in equal measure.

Plus, all of his movies have insane replay value. Whether you’re looking for a movie to put on in the background while you do something else or a movie to intensely revisit in order to learn something new, Miyazaki’s films can satisfy both needs.

So, even if you’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki movie in your life or if you’ve seen them all multiple times, here are my top 5 favorite Hayao Miyazaki films!

5. Spirited Away

Spirited Away is the classic Hayao Miyazaki movie. It’s probably the one that most average moviegoers have heard of. It’s about a little girl named Chihiro whose parents turn into pigs due to an unfortunate case of the munchies. Chihiro then has to embark on a peril-infused journey through a fantastical ghost world in order to save herself and her parents. She makes a few friends along the way and learns about the strength she’s had inside the whole time. Spirited Away is a pretty vanilla story when you look at its bare bones, but the trappings surrounding the narrative are what make it so special. The ghost world is absolutely magical, and by “magical,” I do mean that magic is involved. I rewatch this movie about once a year. Feels new every time.

4. Ponyo

If my sister made a list about her favorite Hayao Miyazaki movies, Ponyo would be the number one for hers. She loves this movie so much, she actually stole my copy of it. Ponyo tells a version of the Little Mermaid story. A little girl falls in love with a little boy and abandons her watery home to live with him. It’s a very cute story, with a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere considering it’s about a phantasmic underwater world. It actually reminds me a lot of My Neighbor Totoro (another Miyazaki film that sadly did not make my top 5) because of how quaint and unique it makes the average character feel. Ponyo is the perfect rainy day movie. (Unless your sister then starts butchering the final song by only singing the word “Ponyo” over and over again.)

3. Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky is actually one of my favorites for reasons that are external from the movie itself. My mom bought me a DVD copy of the movie one day, completely out of the blue. She got it for me simply because she knew I liked Hayao Miyazaki movies, and she figured I didn’t have this one. The spontaneity of this act of love touched my heart so much that it made the movie hold a special place there. And funnily enough, this movie about a boy and girl who have to find a lost city in the sky is all about those random acts of kindness. Plus, it features Mark Hamill as the voice of the villain. You just can’t beat that.

2. Princess Mononoke

Okay, remember how I said Hayao Miyazaki makes animated movies that please both adults and children? Well…Princess Mononoke is a tad gruesome, so be wary when showing this PG-13 rated film to kids. But the story is truly epic! I love this movie so much! It deals with man’s destruction of nature, love, and integrity in the face of rising odds. The name of the movie initially put me off from watching it when I was younger because I thought it was going to be a weird “princess” movie. It’s not that at all. It’s an engrossing story, and what I like the most about it is how it has these two opposing perspectives and neither one of them are truly evil. It’s about compromising and realizing when you have to change and when you should hold to your ideals.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle

I’m a bit embarrassed that Howl’s Moving Castle is my number one Hayao Miyazaki movie because it is unabashedly a love story. But I like how unexpected a lot of it is. Sophie, the main character, is a quiet girl who meets the flamboyant wizard, Howl. As you might guess, they’re the romantic couple of the story. But get this: Sophie is cursed by a jealous witch at the beginning of the movie to be an old woman. This love story feels unconventional because it truly is about loving a person for what’s on the inside. I mean, say what you want about strong Disney princesses or whatever. You can’t deny that those chicks are gorgeous and that their looks are usually what garners them the attention of their romantic interests in the first place. Not so with Sophie. Her willpower, practicality, and dry sense of humor are what make her stand out from the other girls vying for Howl’s attention. Plus, Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal) is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best side characters.