Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Studio Ghibli is well known for their beautifully animated movies that transport you into a completely different world. The majority of these films are directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday two weeks ago. 

Prior to quarantine, I only vaguely remembered watching a Studio Ghibli movie in my childhood. However, after watching more of the studio’s films recently, I understand how and why people loved Studio Ghibli movies so much. In the words of Miyazaki, “I would like to make a film to tell children ‘it’s good to be alive.’” These movies are like a breath of fresh air and transport you into an entirely new world.

So, in honor of Miyazaki’s 80th birthday, here are some of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies:

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

This movie follows Satsuke and her younger sister, Mai, as they move into rural Japan with their father and wait for their mother to recover from an illness in the hospital. However, as they explore the area, they discover friendly forest spirits. While the premise of this movie may seem childish, this movie brings up subjects such as animism, which is the belief that all things are alive and possess a soul. Moreover, the soundtrack of this movie really does make you feel like you’re a kid about to go on an adventure. “A Huge Tree in the Tsukamori Forest” is my favorite song out of all the Studio Ghibli movies. 

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

This movie, loosely based on the novel of the same name, is about hatter Sophie who lives a pretty uneventful life until a witch casts a spell on her, causing her to age prematurely. She then finds the wizard Howl and his moving castle, and he helps her through many adventures. This movie also has a lot of themes, particularly anti-war and pacifism. In fact, although the movie was meant to convey Miyazaki’s distaste for the 2003 Iraq war which the US was part of, it ended up getting nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Also, Christian Bale voices Howl in the movie, which makes the movie feel even more like a dream.

This movie, loosely based on the novel of the same name, is about hatter Sophie who lives a pretty uneventful life until a witch casts a spell on her, causing her to age prematurely. She then finds the wizard Howl and his moving castle, and he helps her through many adventures. This movie also has a lot of themes, particularly anti-war and pacifism. In fact, although the movie was meant to convey Miyazaki’s distaste for the 2003 Iraq war which the US was part of, it ended up getting nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Also, Christian Bale voices Howl in the movie, which makes the movie feel even more like a dream.

Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away is one of the most well known movies from the Studio Ghibli franchise, mostly because it won the Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, being the first foreign animated film to do so. This movie is about Chihiro who, after being separated from her parents, unknowingly steps into another world of supernatural beings. After being saved by Haku, one of the inhabitants, he tells her that she must work in order to save her parents. Since this movie was the first Studio Ghibli movie I saw, it holds a huge place in my heart. In addition, it also tackles subjects such as traditionalism, Western consumerism, and environmentalism. 

Ponyo (2008)

Ponyo is Studio Ghibli’s version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, which is about a goldfish princess named Ponyo who longs to become human and leaves her ocean home to live on land. There, she meets the human boy Sosuke, and as her friendship with him grows, she becomes more human-like. However, this becomes a problem when she unknowingly releases a collection of magical ocean creatures that endanger Sosuke’s village. This movie has many uplifting themes, especially ones regarding environmentalism, happiness, acceptance, and love. 

Feel free to take some time out of your schedule to watch one of these amazing movies. It’ll definitely be an experience you won’t forget!

Angelin Simon

UC Riverside '24

Angelin is currently pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience at UC Riverside. In her free time, she enjoys taking long naps, stargazing, and painting.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️