I grew up as a Disney kid.
I watched every movie, had all the toys, and sang along to each song (I still do). Due to this animated movie obsession, my father rented a film from our local Blockbuster (I feel old) for family movie night. We all settled into our living room in our adorable Californian mountain home, and got ready to watch. What played on the screen left me with a feeling of confusion and I was highly unimpressed.
This film was Spirited Away.
I was about 7 or 8 at the time, which explains why I could not truly appreciate the art of a Studio Ghibli film. It was not until high school when I decided to give it another chance after I heard a few of my fellow students raving about it. After watching it again, I fell in love. I could see the artistic beauty of the animation and I learned to appreciate the meaningful stories.
As an adult I have seen almost every Studio Ghibli film and I encourage everyone to give them a chance. They bring back a lot of my personal childhood memories of exploring the mountain trails around my home. Not only are the films nostalgic, they are hand drawn which adds to the unforgettable magic that the films create. Almost every Ghibli film has a strong female character leading the way which is very refreshing. Studio Ghibli shows that females can be strong, creative, and independent which leaves you with a feeling of empowerment and confidence as the credits roll.
There are different versions of each film, some with subtitles and Japanese voice actors and the others are dubbed with English and no sub titles. Either one is fine in my opinion, although others may disagree.
To get you started, I have thought long and hard about my top 5 favorites from the animation studio for you to check out!
5. Secret World of Arrietty
Have you ever had a desire to build a miniature home or collect tiny things? Then this is the film for you! The Secret World of Arrietty is an adorable story that highlights childhood imaginations of “fairies” or “borrowers” living under your house or in the garden. It is highly creative with the animation of the tiny home and it leaves you longing to go outside to look for these little people living among us! You may even put a fairy house in your garden to make it easier on them.
4. Kiki’s Delivery Service
Next on the list is perfect for Halloween! It is about a young witch who goes off to learn about her powers, as all young witches do in their teens. She moves to an adorable town and even though the film has magical touches, it is truly about a young girl going through typical teenage struggles. We get to watch her navigate this new stage in her life and it is a wholesome, feel-good movie! Not to mention her cat is adorable!
3. Howl’s Moving Castle
This is a long one. I am warning you now there is a lot to this movie as it is highly complex. It has a bit of a Beauty and the Beast vibe due to a curse and magical castle, but it is so much more than that. This is probably one of the most visually stunning films on this list since it is clear a lot of work went into making the details of the “castle.” There are also many different towns and locations that the characters travel to which gives a taste of the vast animation style that Studio Ghibli provides. So settle in, put on some comfy pajamas, grab your popcorn, and get ready for a visually and mentally stimulating movie night!
2. My Neighbor Totoro
I had to include this amazing film on this list since it is the ultimate tribute to childhood imagination and appreciation of nature. It reminds me of when I was a little girl, I would always play outside searching for mythical creatures in the forest. This movie leaves you with an appreciation for nature and a feeling of nostalgia. To top it all off, the house featured in the film is absolutely stunning! It is the perfect countryside getaway and I wish I could actually live there.
1. Spirited Away
Last but not least, I had to include the film that started it all. It will always hold a special place in my heart due to my initial denial of its beauty. Out of all the films, I would have to say that this storyline is probably the most confusing out of them all. It is the story of a young girl who is trapped in a spirit world while her parents are held captive as… well you have to watch to find out. After you have seen several Studio Ghibli films it becomes much easier to understand how the stories flow. It is nothing more than getting used to this style of film and you will be so happy that you made the decision to give them a try!