The sol-gel synthesis of Co–RE (RE=Ho, Er, Tm, Yb, Lu) ferrite nanocrystalline films was accomplished on monocrystalline silicon substrates, and the influence of RE ions on structure, magnetic, and magneto-optical (MO) properties of the resultant ferrites was examined. The results obtained reveal that, when x≤0.2, the CoFe2-xRExO4 ferrite films have pure spinel phase with slightly enlarged cell constants and lattice distortion due to the large radii of RE ions. The RE ions tend to decrease the room-temperature magnetization as well as the Curie point of products, and may have a certain contribution to coercive force except for a nonmagnetic Lu3+ ion. For the present optical structure in which MO layers are substrated on silica, Co–RE ferrite films show the peak Kerr rotation at a shorter wavelength than the CoFe2O4 film, and Er or Tm doped samples exhibit an interesting enhancement of the MO effect. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.