If you haven’t heard of Studio Ghibli, suffice to say they are the Disney of Japan. Majoring in beautifully rendered scenes, they are legendary for their heart-wrenching storytelling. The company is massively successfully now, but it has humble origins dating back to 1984. With an international partnership with none other than Walt Disney, it has found immense success with the following films, as well as several others. Speaking of those films; please do not take my short amalgamation as an unabridged and comprehensive guide to what movies are good and those that aren’t. I’ve yet to see a Ghibli film I didn’t enjoy. However, the follow stand out to me, and I encourage you to watch them if you haven’t had the chance prior.
5. Howl’s Moving Castle
This one was a toss-up and almost went to My Neighbor Totoro which is an excellent, warm film that will pull you back into your childhood and leave you with a soft sense of nostalgia. However, Howl’s Moving Castle is just a touch more imaginative, complex (in a good way) and memorable. You’ll fall in love with Sophie, be entranced by Howl, and immediately grow attached to Calcifer. This film is a touch more harrowing than most Ghibli films, though I wouldn’t exactly classify it as serious.
4.Grave of the Fireflies
Speaking of harrowing, I don’t know where to begin with this movie. This may be my personal favorite on the list, simply for the striking contrast it presents against other lighthearted films by Ghibli. Grave of the Fireflies is a wartime survival film, that follows an older brother and younger sister in their quest to find small semblances of normalcy after their home is devastated by the battle. If you’re in a good mood when you watch this, you won’t be afterward. Still watch it though, it’s absolutely worth every minute.
3.Kiki’s Delivery Service
Quintessential Ghibli, Kiki’s Delivery Service is an all around perfect movie. With all of the great dramas on TV nowadays, it’s sometimes hard to remember that films don’t need overarching conflicts, cliffhangers and nail-biting action scenes to be great. In Kiki’s Delivery Service, we watch an otherwise normal girl tackle relatively small challenges and explore the beautiful setting that was drawn and animated for our viewing pleasure. It’s a cinematic achievement, and it can be enjoyed by anyone, any time of year.
2.Castle In The Sky
Okay, So this is the oldest movie on the list, dating back to 1988, but has wonderfully excellent animation and an inventive plot. Castle in the Sky is the Studio Ghibli film that you forget just how great it is; at least I did. It drops you into a world without warning and yet somehow it’s smooth and you feel a part of the journey immediately. It’s not as upbeat and light as Totoro or Ponyo, but it retains a sense of childlike wonder. There is a message as well, and it comes across less as political and more an admonishment.
1. Spirited Away
This is, unarguably, one of the most enchanting and beautiful movies ever made. The animation was before it’s time, the story telling is flawless, and there is something about it that effortlessly pulls you into the world they’ve created. If you haven’t ever seen it, I won’t go into too much detail; just know that this is one of those movies that is subtly marvelous. It’s very subdued and humble; it doesn’t announce its triumphs like some others do. I’d expect nothing else from a film that won more than a dozen awards. Consider this movie your homework, and whatever you do, don’t look back.