By Hannah Yamato
Studio Ghibli, a company founded by two longtime friends: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, remains one of the most successful film-producing companies not only in their home country of Japan, but also across the world. These movies have a certain quality that no other Disney movie has, that I cannot exactly put into words. However, Studio Ghibli’s intentions behind their films tie back to the connection between empathetic storytelling—allowing both children and adults to experience the love and adventure that comes with each of these stories. While all of these films are equally as amazing, here is my list and recommendations based on what I have watched so far.
Best Overall: Spirited Away
Follow along Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl stuck in a fantasy world, accompanied by fanciful characters and spirits.
Saddest: Grave of the Fireflies
Set in World War II, this film follows the journey of a brother and a sister determined to survive amidst the afflictions of hunger, disease, and loss. This movie, also known as the saddest film ever, will have you crying.
Best to Feel Nostalgia: My Neighbor Totoro
One of the most iconic Ghibli films ever made, My Neighbor Totoro is a tale about two young girls meeting a giant, friendly, cat-like creature called Totoro upon moving to the countryside.
Best to Feel Joy: Kiki’s Delivery Service
One of my personal favorites, this film features a 13-year-old witch and her black cat, Jiji, when they move to a seaside town to spend a year alone.
Best Artistic/Musical Detail: Howl’s Moving Castle
A young woman named Sophie gets cursed by the wicked witch, turning her into an old woman. However, upon meeting Howl, a wizard, they go on an eventful journey showcasing sacrifice and the fantasies of love. The visuals in this film are absolutely stunning, specifically the titular castle. We also cannot forget about the iconic theme song entitled, “The Merry-Go-Round of Life.”
Best Message/Takeaway (Tie): Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind & Princess Mononoke
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a story about Princess Nausicaa, who must save the world’s ecosystem and restore peace to the ravaged planet.
Princess Mononoke, a story which takes place in the 14th century follows a young prince called Ashitaka, who is infected by a deadly animal attack. On a quest to find a cure for this curse, Ashitaka finds himself conflicted amongst the struggle between humanity and nature.
Most Lighthearted: Ponyo
During a forbidden excursion to see the surface world, Ponyo, a magic goldfish, encounters a human boy named Sosuke. This film is simply a childhood classic, and has all the elements of love and friendship.
Best for Beginners: Castle in the Sky
Taking place somewhere in Europe, a young boy and a girl with a magical etherium crystal must combat pirates and agent kidnappers in a search for Laputa, a legendary floating castle.
Best Romance Story: Upon the Poppy Hill
Set in 1963 during the postwar era, Japan is in the midst of modernisation, trying to leave behind the painful memories associated with the war. This movie mainly follows high school students Umi and Shun, on their mission to save their school’s clubhouse against destruction in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Best Comedy: Porco Rosso
Taking place in Fasicst Italy during the 1930s, a veteran World War I pilot is cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig.