If it’s enchantment you’re looking for, few things can compare to the magic of Japan’s Studio Ghibli. As one of the most celebrated animation studios in the world, Studio Ghibli has introduced us to some of the most breath-taking worlds, numerous films we love and revere. Many have reached cult classic levels and continue to capture hearts everywhere. For anyone keen on exploring anime, Ghibli is a fantastic place to start! Here are our recommendations for the top Studio Ghibli movies that beginners can watch.
My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is the perfect introduction to the Ghibli universe. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the film traces the story of Satsuki and Mei, two children who encounter friendly forest spirits in rural Japan. Together with Totoro, a gigantic but endearing sprite, the children embark on fantastic adventures. The film is arguably one of the most beloved Ghibli films of all time.
Spirited Away is an Academy award-winning film that’s one of the edgiest Ghibli productions yet. The film portrays the coming-of-age story of a young girl. She’s on the cusp of two worlds – remain who she is or take responsibility for herself. As a physical extension of this conflict, she stumbles into an alternative world full of danger and seemingly sinister spirits that shape her journey. There’s plenty of Studio Ghibli magic, but this one can be dark for very young viewers.
The charming Ponyo is a tale about the friendship between a goldfish princess (Ponyo) and a five-year-old boy. Ponyo dreams of life as a human and finds his way to dry land, where she meets Sosuke. As their friendship grows, Sosuke is stunned to find that Ponyo becomes more human with each passing day. Things take a turn when Ponyo’s father decides to intervene.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
First released in 1989, Kiki’s Delivery Service features Kiki – a girl with witch’s blood who flies off alone on her broomstick to start a new life in a strange town. But she soon discovers she may need to reinvent herself to survive and find happiness. The film portrays Kiki’s journey of self-realization – where she need not compromise her identity as a witch to fit her new life. Kiki trains hard and starts a flying delivery service. She learns to overcome self-doubt and recognize where her power truly lies.
Princess Mononoke was a global success and the highest-grossing movie in Japan when it was released. This enchanting film is about Ashitaka, who embarks on a quest to find a cure for an animal attack. On his way, he experiences a rapidly transforming world where nature and man are in discord. The conflict is enough to warrant the anger of the Wolf God and his human companion, Princess Mononoke. Princess Mononoke exemplifies the strong female characters in the Studio Ghibli world and why we love her so much. She’s fierce and formidable – a force Ashitaka needs to contend with.