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The Best Studio Ghibli Movies, From A Die-Hard Fan

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

Animated films have a special place in my heart, and at the core of that lies Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation studio known for its completely hand-drawn movies, which are becoming ever rarer with the rise of 3-D animation. The director and co-founder of the studio is Hayao Miyazaki, who is internationally regarded as a masterful storyteller and filmmaker. The Boy and the Heron absolutely deserved to win “Best Animated Feature” at the Oscars.

Miyazaki chose the name “Ghibli” from the Italian noun ghibli — an Italianization of the Libyan Arabic name for a hot desert wind (qibliyy) and nickname of the Italian Caproni Ca.309 aircraft — to show his passion for aviation, which is reflected in many of his films, and the idea that the studio would “blow a new wind through the anime industry.” I think the studio brought a storm of innovation through the industry.

If you have never seen a Studio Ghibli movie — first of all, how could you? — and second, now is a great time to start. Studio Ghibli Fest is starting soon, in which some of the films are rereleased in theaters, and I wanted to share my recommendations for the ones to see.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a fantastical coming-of-age film and my personal favorite. A young girl, named Chihiro, travels with her parents to their new home, much to her disdain. Her father decides to take a shortcut through a tunnel that leads to a seemingly abandoned amusement park, where he insists on stopping. Chihiro’s family finds an empty stall stocked with food, and her parents immediately begin to eat, despite her protests. Chihiro decides to explore further and finds an enormous bathhouse, where she meets a mysterious boy named Haku who warns her to leave the place before sunset. Upon returning to the stall, Chihiro discovers her parents have turned into pigs, and night falls. Spirits begin to fill the park, and Chihiro learns that it is actually a resort for supernatural beings. Determined to free herself and her family, Chihiro must work at the bathhouse if she wants any chance of returning to the human world.

While being a story with magical creatures, spirits with no faces, and a bathhouse full of oddities, Spirited Away is also about growing up and taking responsibility to move forward in one’s life. Idleness and complaining have no place in Chihiro’s life at the bathhouse, in which she must work hard if she wants to save her family.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle follows Sophie, a hatmaker who has a fateful encounter with the wizard Howl Pendragon. Jealous of this budding relationship, the evil Witch of the Waste turns Sophie into an old woman. Sophie leaves home to break her curse and ends up at Howl’s flying castle. With her new companions — the talented yet cowardly Howl, Howl’s young apprentice Markl, and a fire demon named Calcifer — Sophie journeys to break her curse, but secrets are uncovered and Sophie realizes that the key to saving everyone might lie in Howl’s past. A love story exploring themes of beauty, identity, and humanity, paired with stunning visuals and a moving soundtrack, this movie is a must-watch for all.

A heart’s a heavy burden.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki is a witch, and as all witches-in-training must do, she moves to a new town to spend a year alone — except for her talking black cat, Jiji. Kiki searches for work in this seaside town, wondering what her special skill is. She encounters a bakery, owned by a lovely couple who invite her to live and work there. Kiki learns to control her broomstick and decides that she will begin a delivery service, helping the people of the town deliver and receive packages. Kiki’s delivery service becomes a hit in the town, and she is flooded with customers. However, after one job, Kiki gets sick and depressed, and she realizes that she has lost her magic. She can’t understand Jiji anymore or fly her broom. Kiki must learn to overcome her insecurity in order to get her powers back.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a touching film about the loss of passion and appreciating the present. Kiki’s situation reflects creative block and burnout, and the movie discusses how to regain one’s spark, even if life isn’t exactly the same afterward.

It’s not really important what color your dress is. What matters is the heart inside.

There you have it. Not only my favorite Studio Ghibli movies but also three of my favorite movies ever. I highly recommend watching them in theaters if you can — it’s a rare opportunity — but at home with sweets and a warm cup of tea also sounds wonderful.

Halima Niazi

Rutgers '26

Halima is the Social Media Director of Her Campus at Rutgers. She is a sophomore, majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and minoring in Creative Writing. She loves writing stories (and has aspirations to publish her own novel), dressing up, and eating sweets.