Movies From My Childhood That Are Not Disney Movies

Like most other children my age now, I grew up watching Disney movies. But I also grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies, which were probably more my favorite to watch at the time. If you’ve never heard of them, that’s totally okay. Studio Ghibli, Inc. is a Japanese animation film studio based in Japan. The studio is best known for its anime feature films and is headed by Hayao Miyazaki. Though these are Japanese movies, Walt Disney studios produces them movies in English (makes for not having to read subtitles) in the United States.

One thing I really like about these movies is that a majority of them have a young female as the leading role. While each of these young females are the heroines of their own stories, they also have male counterparts, who, while not necessarily playing a leading role, ultimately lend themselves to the story in a productive and positive way.

Another thing I really like about these movies is that Miyazaki doesn’t write his male leads as macho or stoic, unless they’re the villains; he simply fills them with the same emotional capacities, hopes, dreams, and willingness for sacrifice that are portrayed in the female characters. Realistically, Miyazaki has his heroines argue with, bond with, and enjoy the company of the young men they come in contact with.

Even if you’re not into anime, I still highly recommend watching them. This list is of the Studio Ghibli movies I have watched over the years.

1. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki’s Delivery Service follows the story of a young witch, Kiki, who leaves home and settles in a new town, using her flying abilities to earn a living. Through the ups and downs of navigating a new town, Kiki makes new friends and learns to believe in herself.

2. Castle in the Sky (1986)

This movie follows the adventures of a young boy, Pazu, and girl, Sheeta, trying to keep a magic crystal away from a group of pirates and a group of military agents, while searching for the legendary floating castle known as Laputa.

3. Spirited Away (2001)

The movie tells the story of 10-year-old Chihiro, whose family just moved to a new place, and how she enters and discovers the spirit world of Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore. After her parents are cursed by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job at Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents in order to return to the human world.

Fun fact: In the English version, the voice actor of Chihiro also voices Lilo from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch.

4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

The movie tells the story of two young daughters, Satsuki and Mei, of a professor, and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in postwar rural Japan.

5. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

This movie is set in a fictional world where magic and 20th-century technology are prevalent, against the backdrop of war with another kingdom. The story follows a hatter named Sophie, who is cursed by a witch; she turns into an old woman. She encounters a wizard named Howl and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting the king. Follow Sophie as she learns to believe in herself.

6. Ponyo (2008)

The plot of the movie centers around a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old boy, Sosuke, and wants to become a human girl.

Fun fact: Noah Cyrus (Miley Cyrus’ sister) voices Ponyo, and Frankie Jonas (The Jonas Brothers’ brother) voices Sosuke in the English version.

7. The Cat Returns (2002)

This story follows a 17-year-old girl named Haru, who after helping a cat, finds herself involuntarily engaged to a cat prince in a magical world where her only hope of freedom lies with a dapper cat statuette come to life.

8. Tales from Earthsea (2006)

This film is based off a combination of plot and character elements from Ursula K. Le Guin’s book series Earthsea series, and the manga The Journey of Shuna by Hayao Miyazaki. The movie tells the story of an archmage (or wizard), Sparrowhawk, and a young prince, Arren, and their investigations of a series of unusual occurrences.

9. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

This movie is based off the children’s book The Borrowers by Mary Norton, which is about a family of tiny people who live secretly in the walls and floors of a typical household, borrowing items from humans to survive. This film is about a young Borrower named Arrietty, who befriends a human boy named Sho.

Fun fact: The voice actor of Arrietty in the English version is Bridgit Mendler from Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie, and the voice actor of Sho is David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place.

These are not the only Studio Ghibli movies out there though. There is also Princess Mononoke (1997), Whisper of the Heart (1995), The Wind Rises (2013), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013), When Marnie Was There (2014), and so many more.