If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, then you know that I’m a pretty big Studio Ghibli fan. One my first posts was a review of what might possibly be Studio Ghibli’s last film: When Marnie Was There. I personally thought that the film was an amazing piece and if it really is the last film from the studio, it’s a fantastic high note to end on. With that said, I always think to myself whenever I watch a Ghibli film “where does it stand with the others?”
I’ve seen every film that the studio has made and while most of them are gems in the world of animation, there are some that are truly masterpieces. I thought I would compile what I think to be the top 5 Studio Ghibli films, in no particular order. It was hard to narrow it down, to say the least.
For many, this was the film that introduced them to the world of Ghibli and the name Hayao Miyazaki. Before his award-winning opus Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke showed us not only what Studio Ghibli was capable of, but what animation could bring to the silver screen. While other Studio Ghibli works were mostly family friendly affairs, Princess Mononoke was dark, violent, and grim with it’s story of nature vs civilization. Miyazaki’s works are known for their environmentalist messages and themes, but Mononoke definitely takes the cake in representing industry as evil, in a good way (if that makes sense). A true classic by Ghibli, Princess Mononoke is a timeless tale that any fan of animation needs to watch.
If Citizen Kane can be considered the greatest film of all time, then Spirited Away could be considered to be the greatest animated film of all time. That’s saying a lot considering the other films vying for the title, many of them also Ghibli pieces. But there’s something incredibly special about Spirited Away that make you believe in it. Perhaps it’s the incredible detail in every scene, perhaps it’s the wonderful cast of of characters each with their own personalities and quirks. Or maybe it’s the story, Chihiro growing up and overcoming the challenges of the spirit world to save her parents. There’s so much to love about Spritied Away, and even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of anime or animation in general this film will change your mind.
Whisper of the Heart
I’m not going to repeat myself as to why you should see Whisper of the Heart if you haven’t already seen it, I already wrote about that on the blog. But I will say again that not only is it an incredibly underrated Ghibli film, it’s a fantastic film for those looking for inspiration in following their dreams. It’s not going to tell you that dreams will always come true like some Disney bullshit, but what it will tell you is that if you work hard you may just get there some day. I’ll say it again, If you haven’t seen Whisper of the Heart you need to see it asap.
My Neighbour Totoro
Oh Totoro, what’s not to like about you. You’re a giant forest spirit that looks like a cross between a bear and a bunny, you fly around on a top, and when you need to go across town, you just take the cat bus. Of course. If the charm and sweetness of My Neighbour Totoro doesn’t win you over then you seriously have no heart. Seriously, the guy is the studio’s mascot that’s how much everyone loves him. Unlike a lot of other Ghibli films that have some deeper meaning or message, Totoro is movie you watch when you’re feeling down and need something to brighten your day. Because that’s exactly what Totoro does in the movie. When things are down for sisters Satsuki and Mei, who’s there to save the day? Totoro! The film is just gooey heart-warming goodness. Yum.
Grave of the Fireflies
So you know how the last film was gooey heart-warming goodness, this is not that. Not in the slightest. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact not many can say that one of the best war films is not only one of the best anti-war films but also one of the best animated films of all time. While Hayao Miyazaki is considered to be the main name behind Studio Ghibli, it wouldn’t exist without co-founder Isao Takahata and similarly incredible works. Grave of the Fireflies is another fine example of the power of animation, in this case showing us some of the true horrors of war’s impact on civilian life. Taking place in Kobe over the course of the last year of WWII, we follow siblings Seita and Setsuko as they struggle to survive admist the death and devastation that surrounds them. To say that it doesn’t end well is putting it mildly. I always think that if more people watched films like Grave of the Fireflies, they’d think twice before going to war. The film is simply that powerful and must watch for fans of animation and cinema alike.
There are so many more Studio Ghibli films to see. In fact as I was writing this I realize that I might have to do another list just for the other must watches. So you can expect that in the near future. In the meantime I won’t ramble on about how great Ghibli is, hopefully you know that already, I’ll just say go see these movies if you haven’t already. Or watch them again if you have.