About a month ago, I saw the film Princess Mononoke for the first time, and was absolutely blown away. It told a story about 3 different arguments made about how to use the environment, and how those 3 different paradigms conflicted with each other, while set in a fantasy setting and genre. It was incredibly thought-provoking and epic.
I really wanted to see more films by the creators of Princess Mononoke, because I was so impressed. The only other I had seen was their most famous work, Spirited Away, and I had only seen that as a kid. It probably deserved another viewing.
So each weekend for the past month, I have watched more Studio Ghibli movies, and at this point have seen 12 out of 22. That’s one hell of a repertoire. I am really excited for the film Only Yesterday, being released this upcoming July.
Anyway, here’s my take on the 5 best Studio Ghibli films:
5. Castle in the Sky
The first “official” Studio Ghibli movie, this is seriously one of the absolute best adventure films of all time. It is perfectly paced and has the most lovable characters and settings ever. This is a film that everyone who likes fun should watch. Also, the villain is voiced by Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke Skywalker and who voices The Joker in (almost) every animated Batman movie or TV show. And it’s really great to hear The Joker manically trying to stop the protagonists of this movie.
4. Princess Mononoke
An epic fantasy world that tells a story about environmentalism. I know I started this blog post out by raving about how good this movie is, but it just isn’t quite the very best. There are 3 that I liked more, so it takes 4th place.
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service
A hybrid film that flawlessly blends a slice-of-life story of a young girl coming into her own, who also happens to be a witch. You know, someone with a broomstick who can fly around and who makes potions and stuff. It is absolutely charming and precious, and its themes are represented in a very powerful, impacting way that won’t leave you. It’s an unforgettable piece of art.
2. Whisper of the Heart
ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It is nothing more than a slice-of-life film, and it’s handled even more flawlessly than Kiki’s Delivery Service. You will be grinning from ear to ear the whole time, and it is unbelievably compelling. The story revolves around a young teenage girl who goes to school and talks about boys and is
trying to write a song for some upcoming school event (and that song is Country Roads, for some reason. Why do characters who live in Japan sing about West Virginia? It doesn’t matter, it’s a great movie!). This is a movie that doesn’t seem like it would even be entertaining at all, but holy crap, it really is. The characters are all incredibly likable and develop in realistic ways as the story goes on. So go watch it! Super fun fact: the main
character is voiced by Brittany Snow, who is not only a wonderful person, but created the Love is Louder movement, which I am actively involved with.
1. Grave of the Fireflies
Get ready to cry! But seriously, while this film is unquestionably a tear-jerker that will make even the most stoic person feel genuine sorrow… the themes of loss are beyond needed in our society and today’s world. This film was made in the 1980s, and is still highly relevant today. It takes place during World War II in Japan, when air raids were very common on Japanese towns. There are stories contained in this film about homelessness, war, famine, money, child neglect, societal demands and expectations, the pressure to be perfect, the difficulty of fitting in with “mainstream” society– and they are all important for the world to hear. Please, watch this film. It has so much to say about how we need to move society forward, and it literally changed my life.
My Neighbor Totoro
A story about two little girls whose youth, imagination, and innocence protects them from something very grim that just sort of lingers in the background the whole time. It’s a fantastic film, but goes a little long, and I think Totoro and Cat Bus are kind of terrifying.
The most famous Studio Ghibli film has one the most-realized fantasy settings ever created, and it’s absolutely awesome. A young girl and her family end up getting seamlessly transported to a nightmarish world of crazy monsters who all work at a bathhouse. It’s definitely worth seeing if you haven’t before. The characters and the world they inhabit are extremely memorable. And it has a great message about how horrible capitalism is.
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
An environmentalist film that takes place in a fantasy setting, and feels like a precursor to Princess Mononoke, yet was made about 20 years earlier. The story of a princess who has to protect her city and its surrounding forest from an invading kingdom, it’s almost as much fun as Castle in the Sky, and has a very similar feel to that movie. Also, the main character turns out to be Jesus. Spoiler alert. I’m not kidding. Well, I kind of am. Watch the movie to see what I mean. And it is definitely worth watching.