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The 6 Best Studio Ghibli Films of All Time


Who's a fan of Studio Ghibli films by Hayao Miyazaki? (raises hand!)


Miyazaki's movies are like reflections of the real world, filled with imaginative wonders, captivating dreams, breathtaking visuals, and pure storytelling. They often carry profound meanings and insights, revealing a world of enchantment hidden beneath the veil of ordinary life. Many children enjoy watching Miyazaki's films, but some scenes and their deeper meanings are truly appreciated only by adults, adding an extra layer of delight. That's one of the reasons why I love Miyazaki's works! 

It's time to rewatch these classic animated films. If you haven't seen them yet (really?), I suggest starting with those of our favourites!!!!! 

6. 千と千尋の神隠し SPIRITED AWAY

Ageing, the scary transition between childhood and adulthood.

Chihiro, female protagonist in Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, 2001) heeds t

Premiering in Japan on July 20, 2001, "Spirited Away" follows the journey of ten-year-old Chihiro, who, along with her parents, gets lost and must find her way back through trials and tribulations. In 2001, Chihiro symbolized the "Lost Generation" of Japan's "Lost Decade" from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.


Miyazaki uses her story to convey Japan's quest for self-discovery amidst societal turmoil. The title "Spirited Away" signifies Japan's exploration at the turn of the century. While subject to various interpretations, "Spirited Away" primarily serves as an allegory for Japan's societal disorientation, exploring themes of finding direction in contemporary Japan.


"Spirited Away," was released twenty years ago, continues to enchant audiences and held the top spot at the Japanese box office for years. However, it was surpassed by "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train" at the end of 2020, reigniting interest. Ranked fourth in the BBC's "21st Century's Greatest Films" in 2016, it maintains high acclaim overseas.

Jiufen, Taiwan, the so-called famous village pictured in the Japanese animation film “Spirited Away,” is no less than a dream.

Big News! Spirited Away Musical in London! 

Get ready to dive into the whimsical world of Studio Ghibli's Oscar-winning "Spirited Away," now hitting the stage in a spectacular makeover by John Caird, the wizard behind Les Misérables. Picture this: the original Japanese cast bringing the magic to life and a live orchestra belting out Joe Hisaishi's iconic score. It's a show that's not just an adventure—it's a rollercoaster ride through imagination!

Spirited Away - Officail Trailer

5. 天空の城ラピュタCastle in the Sky 

environmentalism, humanity x nature x technology

"Castle in the Sky" is a work by Hayao Miyazaki created in 1986. It tells the adventurous story of a young girl named Sheeta, and a boy named Pazu, as well as pirates, military forces, and the people of Laputa, as they search for the legendary floating city of Laputa. Laputa, an airborne city, once possessed advanced technology and treasures but gradually fell into decline. 

Regarding this floating city, some sought to plunder it, some sought to rule it, while others only wished to protect it, such as the robots, Sheeta, and Pazu, who were willing to sacrifice themselves to defend their ideal country. Sheeta and Pazu, after enduring separation and peril, develop a deep and genuine love for each other, even willing to sacrifice themselves together, perhaps the most sincere form of love. It's pure admiration and love at first sight, without any impurities.

Additionally, this work serves as a warning to humanity. No matter how rapidly we develop, ruthless exploitation of nature will inevitably lead to dire consequences. We must not forget our roots, our foundation for survival.


The narrative was highly entertaining, you'll easily find ourself enamoured with every character, regardless of their roles.  Even the supporting characters, like the pirate crew and the Laputa robots, were richly developed.

That said, it's evident that this film targets a more mature audience compared to some of Ghibli's more lighthearted productions.

Castle in the Sky - Officail Trailer

4. となりのトトロ My Neighbor Totoro

being at the present, tenderness, serenity, humour


"My Neighbor Totoro" (となりのトトロ) is an incredibly whimsical and charming story, making it one of Miyazaki's most iconic works.


Set against the backdrop of 1958 Japan during the Showa era, the film follows the story of Professor Tatsuo Kusakabe, who moves with his two daughters to the countryside after his wife got sick and hospitalized. Unexpectedly, his daughters encounter a series of legendary adventures with the friendly forest guardian, Totoro, in the rural countryside.

It focuses on the beauty of nature in Japan before its rapid economic development, highlighting the wondrous and imaginative world that only children can see, as well as exploring themes such as animism, Shinto symbolism, environmental conservationism, and the joys of rural life. Due to its ability to evoke nostalgia in audiences, the film has gained widespread popularity.

At the end of the illustrations, Hayao Miyazaki intentionally avoids placing Mei, Satsuki, and Totoro in the same frame. He explains, "As long as they believe in the existence of Totoro, they are not alone. But if they remain there for too long, they will be unable to return to the human world." This implies that Mei and Satsuki never see Totoro again. After gaining courage and hope from Totoro, they must find the courage to move forward on their path. "Because once you've encountered Totoro in your life, it's enough."

My Neighbor Totoro- Officail Trailer

3. ハウルの動く城 Howl's Moving Castle

creation, value of compassion, family relationship 


The 2004 film "Howl's Moving Castle" is adapted from Diana Wynne Jones's 1986 novel. The core of the story, even after nearly sixteen years, remains relevant today. Despite advancements in film special effects, they can never replace the 140,000 hand-drawn colour sketches that contributed to its creation.


After being cursed by the Witch of the Waste and turning old, Sophie quickly accepts her new reality. She realizes that true change comes from within and not from external forces or special abilities. Despite her old appearance, Sophie's youthful spirit shines through, showing that age is just a number. Her journey teaches us that bravery and strength come from within, no matter how old we are.

Classic Scene: Walking in the Air

In "Howl's Moving Castle," love is depicted in two forms: romantic and familial. Romantic love reflects our vulnerability, as seen in Howl's initial reluctance to let Sophie clean the castle, out of fear of hurting her. Turnip-head's selflessness highlights the depth of love, prioritizing others' happiness over his own. Familial love provides shelter and belonging, symbolized by the ever-changing "door" that leads to stability for Howl and his companions. "Home" becomes more than a place; it's a feeling of being awaited.

A mysterious moving castle, several pure yet lonely souls, searching for someone important. This is a story about courage, a story that influences us from childhood to adulthood. Perhaps Studio Ghibli films truly possess magic, as we are healed in those fleeting moments.

Howl's Moving Castle - Officail Trailer

2. 魔女の宅急便 Kiki's Delivery Service

beauty of life, independence, growing up 


Ranked second, "Kiki's Delivery Service" follows the story of a 13-year-old trainee witch named Kiki who leaves her hometown to embark on an independent life in a new city as per family tradition, aspiring to become a true witch. Initially filled with aspirations of independence, she encounters a series of setbacks upon arriving in the big city, leading to self-doubt and a gradual loss of her magical abilities.

"Kiki's Delivery Service" stands out as a film that closely depicts the struggles and uncertainties of adolescence. Through Miyazaki's meticulous portrayal, the movie reveals that the journey to independence during adolescence is not just about innocence and romance but also entails unfamiliar worries, melancholy, and inevitable setbacks.


However, despite the loneliness that often accompanies growth, the film reassures viewers that possessing power doesn't mean we can't be vulnerable.

Nervous Hayao Miyazaki

As Kiki states in the movie, "Even if things don't go well sometimes, I'm doing fine." Even in moments of pain, it's crucial not to cease loving and believing in oneself as one strives to overcome obstacles.

Kiki's Delivery Service - Officail Trailer

1. もののけ姫 Princess Mononoke

gods, nature, war, relation between human and environment


"Princess Mononoke" was selected as the best-animated film by "Collider", and is the angriest and most mature work of Studio Ghibli. It not only outlines the issue of nature conservation but also explores how humans can coexist with it. There is almost no "pure villain" in the film, especially the Black Hat who takes the lead in destroying the forest. The motivation behind it is based on humanity and feminism, you just can not dislike her from the bottom of their hearts, instead,  a sense of pity and admiration.

When an Emishi village is attacked by a demonic boar, the young prince Ashitaka risks his life to defend his tribe. With its last breath, the animal curses the prince's arm and gives him demonic powers as it gradually sucks the life out of him.

As an anime first released 24 years ago, "Princess Mononoke" is still a groundbreaking work with a deep theme and narrative that is still beyond the reach of many creators in the future. Winning the championship of Ghibli’s best-animated film is worthy of the title. 

As the opposing forces of nature and humanity clash in a desperate struggle for survival, Ashitaka tries to create harmony between the two while battling the latent demon within him. Princess Mononoke is a fairy tale that depicts the connection between technology and nature while showing the path to harmony that can be achieved through mutual acceptance.

Princess Mononoke - Officail Trailer


All right, perhaps this post is a bit biased, but great movies are meant to be shared and highly recommended!

For more help mastering communication skills while watching films, you can look for a Japanese lesson with one of our professional teachers. We also run tons of cultural experiences so get ready to immerse yourself in the Japanese world!  

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