I recently discussed an upcoming Studio Ghibli movie in an article, where I mentioned being a fan of Ghibli movies, which was true.
Many may be curious about Ghibli movies or want to revisit some wonderfully animated 2D gems created by the studio, so I have decided to make a list of my top Studio Ghibli animated movies that I want to recommend.
- Whisper of the Heart
One of the first Ghibli films I watched and one of my favorite movies in general. You may know the main character as the girl you see in videos for the LO-FI Hip Hop beats on YouTube.
It is based on the manga of the same title by Aoi Hiiragi. This coming of age romantic drama film was directed by Yoshifumi Kondo and was released 1995.
Unfortunately, this was Kondo’s only film as a director before he passed in 1998. Without a doubt, he brought forth a masterpiece.
The film follows a 14 year old student, Shizuku Tsukishima who is a bookworm, and is interested in creative writing. One day, she discovers that all the books she checked out in the library were previously borrowed by someone called Seiji Amasawa.
After chasing a large cat and encountering an antique shop, she meets Seiji and finds herself a goal. She decides to take her writing seriously and decides to write a book within two months.
The film is grounded and mature. There is a message given from the story and it is expressed well. It tells you that one must stay persistent and work hard to reach their goal. Shizuku had a passion and she wanted to give it a try after being inspired. She didn’t want to be left behind and yearned to be on the same level with the one she admired the most. It is relatable and never boring no matter how many times I watch it. The premise is so simple but the way they portray it warms the heart and will keep you locked in.
- Howl’s Moving Castle
As expected by one of the most popular Ghibli movies, it is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is based on a novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones (Earwig and the Witch, an upcoming movie, is also based on her book.)
It is set in a made up kingdom where both magic and 20th century technology are prevalent, against the backdrop of a war with another kingdom.
We follow the young and insecure Sophie Hatter whose life takes a fantastical turn when she encounters the handsome wizard Howl Pendragon. An evil witch takes great offence to their meeting and puts a curse on Sophie, turning her to an old woman.
The film takes us on the adventure with Sophie and we watch her grow and gain her confidence. We also see her bond with Howl and the other characters she meets in his moving “castle.” I would say that it is a tale of destined lovers.
This movie really represents the unlimited heights of Ghibli’s stunning animation. There is always action and flow and the expressions are nothing less than entertaining. Emotionally driven and enigmatic is how I would describe it. It never gives you the answer to questions directly but in the end I felt satisfied with what I got. The movie was like a dream.
From an addictive soundtrack to excellent world building, this film will keep your eyes locked on your screen for as long as it plays.
- The Wind Rises
This historical drama film is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese aviation engineer whose designs and aircrafts were used in World War II.
In the film, Jiro has an overt love for flight and pursues it from a young age. The film shows us his journey and gives us glimpses of Japan during the time of the war.
There is not much to say except it really opens your eyes to things you may not have known. As expected from a biographical film, it is a slow paced simple story that displays the life of a man with one goal: to make an amazing aircraft, the greatest that man has ever seen.
He gets a love interest at some point in the film, and the way their bond is portrayed is extremely entrancing. Their contact and dialogue make it feel like they are one. Their romance is one of my favorite parts of the film.
If you want to watch something to give you a unique perspective, this story is one I highly recommend.
- The Secret World of Arrietty
This fantasy film is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and based on the novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton.
Arrietty is a tiny human girl, approximately 4 inches tall to be precise. She lives with her parents under the floorboards of an isolated house. One day the owner’s sick nephew Shō comes to spend the week in the home because he needs to stay in a clean environment before his surgery. When Arrietty’s father takes her on her first “borrowing” quest, Shō sees her trying to take a tissue from the nightstand and this terrifies her. When trying to comfort her, she quickly leaves with her father and returns to their home under the floor.
The encounter forces her to take action and we see how she forms a bond with the sick boy.
This is another heartwarming film from the studio. The concept of tiny people having to live off normal sized humans whilst avoiding being discovered is fun and curious.
This exuberant film does well to always have you on your toes. I only wanted the best for Arrietty and her family, and felt dread alongside them when it seemed like they would get caught.
The colors in this film are stunning and most of the time it seems like everything sparkles. Arrietty’s home is full of greens with different plants arranged across every section of it. Many scenes of this movie took my breath away because of the beauty.
If you want to watch something exciting and gorgeous, this film will not disappoint.
What all these films have in common is the amount of attention they put into the details. I got immersed because of how real they make the different worlds feel and I never felt time passing. When it comes to Studio Ghibli films, you know you’ll always get marvelous orchestration and dreamlike storytelling that will inspire you to explore more of their catalog.