One of the premier animation studios, Studio Ghibli, since its founding in 1985 has changed the style of anime. Studio Ghibli projects have beeen the highest grossing films at the Japanese box office and going on to win international awards in the animation categories. The newest film by Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and the Heron is playing in theaters now.  Here are our some of our favorite Studio Ghibli films.

Spirited Away (2001)


The most well known film of Studio Ghibli and the winner of the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Spirited Away follows a young girl, Chihiro as she explores a fastasy world and save her parents.  A prominent theme in the film is the transition of childhood into adulthood. In the beginning scenes where Chihiro and her parents walk into the “abandoned amusement park” she is constently holding on to her mother and staying close. By the end, Chihiro runs across the bridge that opens signifies that she is ready for the next stage in life. Spirited Away is the only hand drawn animated movie to ever with the Oscar and has gone on to inspire filmmakers such as Wes Anderson and Guillermo del Toro.

Princess Monoke (1997)

The ninth film by studio ghibli is Princess Mononoke. This is the first film to be distributed by the Walt Disney company after signing an exlcusive deal with the Studio in 1996 and feautres a screenplay by Neil Gaiman. The film follows Ashitaka, a young warrier who leaves his secluded home to find a cure for his cursed arm in the West. He soon finds himself caught in a conflict between Lady Ebsoshi and Princess Mononoke as the later tries to save her forest from Lady Ebsohi’s people. A true passion of Miyazaki is showcasing the complex relationship of man and nature.


Castle in the Sky (1986)

This is the first official film created by Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki was inspired by the 1984 Wales Miners Strike and made frequent trips to sketch buidlings and observe the working conditions.  Pazu sees a girl, Sheeta floating from the sky one evening working in the mine. Together, the duo goes off in search for the legendary Laputa, a floating castle.  Laputa itself is a contrasting where the top is rich and full with growing nature, while the bottom is a techinological achievement. Castle in the Sky shows themes of the role of technology and the involvement in our lives and the environment.


Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle follows Sophie Hatter, a young woman who is cursed by the Witch of the Waste. She goes on a quest to break the curse and joins Howl and his companions as war looms overthem. The film through Howl is very anti war, due to Miyazaki’s view against the Iraq War. Howl doesn’t want to fight even though he has too as well and tells Sophie that the affects of war impact eveyone.


My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

The movie that gave Studio Ghibli its icon, King Totoro. My Neighbor Totoro follows two sisters Mei and Satsuki as they adjust to a new house close to their mother’s hospital. Mei shortly encounters a forest spirit Totoro and his friends and soon the girls have many new adventures. Miyazaki adds in a small autobiographical nod to his mother’s long tuberculosis recovery, though the girl’s mother’s illness is never said. 

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

One of the movies we recommend to those first starting the Ghibli catalog. This film follows Kiki, a witch, who on her 13th birthday is required to leave her community and to find a place to practice her special magical skill. Kiki upon finding a town opens her own delivery service. Kiki grows throughout the movie as she learns to rely on herself and become more confident.