Narrowing down the top 5 Studio Ghibli films


Courtesy of Studio Ghibli

Howl and Sophie from the film “Howl’s Moving Castle” flying over a village. Studio Ghiblie’s 2004 release “Howl’s Moving Castle” is one of the five films featured on this list of the top five Studio Ghibli films © 2004 Studio Ghibli – NDDMT

By Sarah Rose, Senior Lifestyle Writer

Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation company, has produced 23 films that are full of magic, nature and love. Choosing the best films from Ghibli’s almost 40 years of work is an intense debate. In no particular order, here are the top five best Studio Ghibli movies. 

“Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004)

Released in 2004, “Howl’s Moving Castle” follows Sophie who, after being turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, is on a mission to restore her youth. She goes to the handsome wizard Howl for help who takes refuge in a moving castle from the outside world. Howl’s home is shared with Markl, a young boy who’s training to become a wizard, and Calcifer, a fire demon who’s more suspicious of Sophie than excited about her presence. 

Throughout the film, the viewer follows Sophie as she explores the magic and evil that encompasses her world. The movie also hints at parallel worlds containing vile creatures such as where the Witch of the Waste is from. Love, friendship and ancient curses are themes of this gift of a film.

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (2013)

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is not like other Studio Ghibli films. The animation is minimalistic and uses an “absence of presence” to create what looks like thousands of hand drawn watercolor paintings. The art style is not all colorful and doesn’t crowd the screen with background details and bright images. 

The film is based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, an old Japanese folktale. Okina and his wife Ouna take in an infant who appears out of a bamboo shoot. The movie follows Kaguya’s life as she grows up, much faster than an average human, and then as she starts to attract suitors. She becomes Princess Kaguya once her family moves from their small village to the capital and her real, divine identity is a plot twist within itself. 

“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)

Anyone who has seen Studio Ghibli’s logo knows that Totoro is their iconic symbol. The loving, furry creature steals the show in “My Neighbor Totoro,” a poetic story about human connection. Satsuke and Mei are two girls who move to the Japanese countryside with their father to be close to their ill mother who’s in the hospital. While off exploring, they come across forest sprites and little totoros who share the girls’ childlike wonder and demeanor. Viewers cannot do anything but smile throughout the whole film as they are taken back to their childhood and wish they had a totoro to befriend. 

“Spirited Away” (2001)

“Spirited Away” is Studio Ghibli’s most successful film and won an Academy Award for Best Animation for a reason. The film surrounds Chihiro, a girl who mistakenly enters a spirit world which is filled with spirits, witches, goblins and magic. Chihiro is a strong female protagonist who is thrust into a quest to save her parents who got turned into pigs. Chihiro meets several strange creatures and though she may come off as a sullen character, her curiosity and brazen actions make the film an enjoyable watch. The animation mixed with Hayao Miyazaki’s riveting tale is quite stunning. “Spirited Away” remained Japan’s highest grossing film in history for over a decade, according to TIME.  

“The Secret World of Arrietty” (2010)

Discover the world of Borrowers, a tiny race of people, in “The Secret World of Arrietty.” Arrietty is a Borrower, a tiny human who is simply trying to survive alongside humans. Her family lives under the floorboards of a human home and steals items such as leaves and sugar cubes to live. Arrietty’s parents feel as if they are the only borrower family left and are therefore protective of their daughter going on dangerous quests. 

The film centers around the family trying to survive unnoticed and Arrietty’s friendship with Sho, the human boy who lives above her. Arrietty and Sho’s friendship is portrayed as a pure connection, and by the end, the viewer will realize that both of them needed each other to keep on living, not just simply surviving. The movie is very colorful and adventurous and might make viewers shed a few tears.