TOP 10: Zoë's Favorite Films from Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli

In honor of today being renowned director and writer Hayao Miyazaki’s 71st birthday, here is my list of my Top ten Favorite Studio Ghibli films. All of these films Miyazaki either director, wrote or produced.

Even though fans typically prefer the original Japanese versions of the films accompanied by English subtitles, I personally think that Walt Disney Pictures has done a fantastic job translating these beloved stories into my native tongue; which is why I am using the American versions of these films for my list.

The main reason why Miyazaki has become such an icon in this industry is because of his truly unique and exquisitely detailed animation. Yes, the stories are pretty weird and the art is rather quirky, but thats what makes them iconic. Coupled with some of the best names in voice acting, including the Christian Bale, Liam Nesson and the legendary Mark Hamill, Studio Ghibli films are all masterpieces in their own right.


10. Princess Mononoke

When I talk to every fanboy in a Japanese toy shop, GameStop, comic book store or even sitting next to me in class, their number one favorite Miyzaki film is always about the human girl adopted by wolves. The story line is suspenseful and I love the English dub featuring Claire Danes as the voice of San with Minnie Driver as Lady Eboshi. But the scenes with the maggots still made my skin crawl!

Directed by renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki, this anime has broken a number of box office records in its native Japan. Essentially a statement on the ecological devastation brought on by human advancement, the story follows the battle between Princess Mononoke and a mining village.

Theatrical Release: Oct 7, 1999 Home Release: Dec 19, 2000


9. Porco Rosso

Having your main character be cursed with the face of a pig is rather unsettling but, as all Miyazaki films prove with their protagonists, Porco becomes so charming you soon forgive this oddity. Michael Keaton does a wonderful and job infusing Porco with loads of quirky humor and one of my favorite actresses of all time Susan Egan (who played Belle on Broadway in Disney's Beauty and the Beast musical) gives her voice to Gina.

Master animator Hayao Miyazaki directs this tale about a former World War I flying ace who is also a pig. Slouching toward middle age, Porco Rosso makes his living by flying about in his bright red bi-plane and fighting sky bandits who prey on cruise ships sailing the Adriatic. When he's not engaging in dogfights, this porcine pilot lives on a deserted island retreat. Porco Rosso was once a strapping young man, but after his entire squadron was wiped out, he was mysteriously transformed into a pig. Rosso is defeated in a dogfight against a dashing American rival, who has been hired by the dastardly bandits. With his plane damaged, he finds a repair hangar near Milan run by an aging mechanic named Piccolo, and his spunky granddaughter Fio. Initially skeptical of her mechanical prowess, Rosso is amazed when she and a legion of local women fix his plane. Soon, Porco Rosso is ready to battle his rival.

Theatrical Release: Oct 9, 2003 Home Release: Feb 22, 2005


8. Pom Poko

Let's get this out of the way: There are raccoons with balls; I’m serious. Figuratively and literally. Raccoons are fighting humans to save their homes in the forest -- which is awesome enough in and of itelf -- but these tall, sword-wielding raccoons have balls between their legs. That is reason enough to watch it.

Aside from that, the film is poignant and endearing and carries a nice environmental message woven well into the story.

A community of magical shapeshifting raccoons desperately struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.

Theatrical Release: Jan 1, 1994 Home Release: Aug 16, 2005


7. Ponyo

This modern retelling of The Little Mermaid is incredibly charming. Tina Fey voices the mom of a boy who finds and falls in love with a little girl on the beach that turns out to be much more than he expected. Compared to other Miyazaki films, this is geared mainly towards children. It is undeniably adorable, and having Liam Nesson as Ponyo’s tyrant father makes it so much more enjoyable.

Acclaimed anime master Hayao Miyazaki returns for his ninth animated feature with Ponyo, which deals with a friendship between a five-year-old boy and a goldfish princess who yearns to be human. The daughter of the king of the ocean, Ponyo is no ordinary goldfish -- she has all the magic of the sea at her disposal. But when five-year-old Sosuke befriends the spunky little fish near the seaside home he shares with his mother and father, a special connection sparks between the two children, and Ponyo becomes determined to become human. Transforming into a little girl, Ponyo shows up at Sosuke's doorstep, delighted to make herself at home with her new land-dwelling family. But having a magical fish princess walking around on dry land begins setting the mystical balance of the world off kilter, and even though the innocent love Ponyo feels for her dear friend is strong, it will take some help from the greatest powers in the ocean to make things right again

Theatrical Release: Aug 14, 2009 Home Release: March 2, 2010


6. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Another beautiful and sweeping adventure story of a young princess trying to stop a neighboring kingdom from using a horrid weapon. This is often considered the start of the Studio Ghibli company as it was released before the company officially started but given honorary inclusion into it's ranks. The legendary Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill give their voices for the English dub, sending fans across the globe into geekdom overdrive.

This impressive work from acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki represents a significant departure from traditional anime. Centuries after war has devastated the earth, Princess Nausicaa leads the people of the Valley of the Wind. Feuding clans fight with planes and tanks as well as swords in a world that is both primitive and futuristic. In addition to her people's conflicts with other factions, Nausicaa must also contend with the insects of the jungle including the Ohmu, a race of giant, intelligent bugs that poisons the surrounding atmosphere - and is spreading rapidly. The setting of this 1984 animation owes much to the post-apocalypse genre spawned by Mad Max and other films, and the political subplot is often compared to Frank Herbert's Dune. However, the heroine here has more in common with the female protagonists of the Disney musicals such as Pocohantas and Mulan; Nausicaa is more concerned with harmony and communication than with conquest and revenge. Sympathetic to the Ohmu, she learns she must approach them with understanding to achieve peace and restore the dying world.

Theatrical Release: Jan 1, 1984 Home Release: Feb 22, 2005


My Neighbor Totoro.jpg

5. My Neighbor Totoro

Totoro, the relatively silent but charming forest spirit, is Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s most iconic character. Honestly it's a very slow paced film and the animation is not as enaging as other properties from the company, but the characters of Totoro, his little sidekicks and their young new friends are lovable in every way. Being that the film is very kid friendly, you can enjoy this one over and over with even the youngest members of your family.

This superbly animated children's tale follows Satsuke and Mei, two young girls who find that their new country home is in a mystical forest inhabited by a menagerie of mystical creatures called Totoros. They befriend O Totoro, the biggest and eldest Totoro, who is also the king of the forest. As their girls' mother lies sick in the hospital, O Totoro brings the sisters on a magical adventure but also helps them to understand the realities of life. Like most films released by Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, this family-oriented feature has a powerful ecological theme.

Theatrical Release: Jan 1, 1988 Home Release: Mar 7, 2006


4. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki is one of the most recognized Miyazaki characters in America due to its popularity with children when it was released. An uncoordinated young witch trying to find her place in the world has connected with generation after generation of children (and those of us who will always be children at heart). Her exasperated talking cat Jiji acts as comic relief, eerily similar to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but adorable just the same.

Veteran animator Hayao Miyazaki directs this buoyant children's adventure yarn about a young witch striking out on her own. At her mother's behest, 13-year-old Kiki sets out on a year-long apprenticeship with her black cat in tow. With a shaky command of her broom, she ends up in a charming little coastal town that looks like a cross between the French provincial and San Francisco. Unfortunately, the local hotels have a strict "no witches" policy and the police have taken a dim view of her recent aerial mischief-making. She's saved from the street by a kindly baker's wife, who offers her room and board in exchange for her delivering by broom the baker's wares. Soon she befriends a college-aged artist, an old women who fusses over her, and a boy her same age who is nursing a massive crush. All is well until she wakes up one day and realizes that she can't make her broom levitate nor can she talk to her cat. What will Kiki do?

Theatrical Release: Jul 29, 1989 Home Release: Apr 15, 2003


3. Laputa: Castle in the Sky

When a group of children are somehow forced to take on a tremendous amount of responsibility to save the day, we are drawn into their world of wonder. The star-studded English dub cast is once again my favorite part, featuring Anna Paquin and James Van der Beek as the two main characters while Mark Hamill, Jim Cummings, Richard Dysart, Andy Dick and Mandy Patinkin star as both friends and enemies they meet in their journey.

The story is a bit weaker than most are used to with this company, but the performances of the cast make up for it. They manage to create memorable characters you wish lived in our world.

A young boy and a girl with a magic crystal must race against pirates and foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle.

Theatrical Release: Apr 1, 1989 Home Release: Apr 15, 2003


2. Spirited Away

This was the first Miyazaki film I watched, and still the weirdest film I have ever seen in my life. The animation in this breathtakingly haunting tale is the strongest out of all Studio Ghibli films so far. The story is weird and convoluted, and it will take you a while to figure out exactly what the hell is going on. But somehow in the midst of creepy spirits and the creepy, silent villain No Face, you fall in love with the world of Chihiro. The soot sprites and mice certainly don’t hurt either. It deserved every award it won, and is must see for every fantasy film fan.

Master animation director Hayao Miyazaki follows up on his record-breaking 1997 opus Princess Mononoke with this surreal Alice in Wonderland-like tale about a lost little girl. The film opens with ten-year-old Chihiro riding along during a family outing as her father races through remote country roads. When they come upon a blocked tunnel, her parents decide to have a look around -- even though Chihiro finds the place very creepy. When they pass through the tunnel, they discover an abandoned amusement park. As Chihiro's bad vibes continue, her parents discover an empty eatery that smells of fresh food. After her mother and father help themselves to some tasty purloined morsels, they turn into giant pigs. Chihiro understandably freaks out and flees. She learns that this very weird place, where all sorts of bizarre gods and monsters reside, is a holiday resort for the supernatural after their exhausting tour of duty in the human world. Soon after befriending a boy named Haku, Chihiro learns the rules of the land: one, she must work , as laziness of any kind is not tolerated; and two, she must take on the new moniker of Sen. If she forgets her real name, Haku tells her, then she will never be permitted to leave.

Theatrical Release: Sep 20, 2001 Home Release: Feb 22, 2005


1. Howl’s Moving Castle

The story a bookish, anti-social young woman who falls in love with a vain but kind hearted magician is not only my top Miyazaki film but one of my favorite films of all the time. It is a retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale with a twist: our heroine Sophie is the one under a horrid curse. The difficult, conceited Howl is unexpectedly epic as you venture further into this world consumed by war. It’s a fairy tale for adults with some of the best writing, animation, music and story telling I have ever seen. Christian Bale and Emily Mortimer went against type casting, giving outstanding performances as Sophie and Howl with Billy Crystal as the remarkable Lucifer. This film perfectly captures the whimsical yet haunting magic that has made Miyazaki irreplaceable in this business, and an icon for generations to look up to.

Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director who wowed audiences worldwide with his award-winning film Spirited Away, brings another visually spectacular tale of imagination to the screen. Sophie is an 18-year-old girl who toils in the hat shop opened years ago by her late father. Often harassed by local boys, one day Sophie is unexpectedly befriended by Howl, a strange but flamboyant wizard whose large home can travel under its own power. However, the Witch of the Waste is displeased with Sophie and Howl's budding friendship, and turns the pretty young woman into an ugly and aged hag. Sophie takes shelter in Howl's castle, and attempts to find a way to reverse the witch's spell with the help of Calcifer, a subdued but powerful demon who exists in the form of fire, and Markl, who protects the four-way door which can instantly take visitors to other lands and dimensions.

Theatrical Release: Jun 17, 2005 Home Release: Mar 7, 2006


New and old fans of these wonderful films are in luck because this year a brand new Studio Ghibli feature will debut in theaters on February 17th!

From the creators of Ponyo and Spirited Away comes an animated feature film based on Mary Norton's novel The Borrowers: Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all. Featuring the voice talents of Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, David Henrie and Moises Arias, The Secret World of Arrietty is the directorial debut of Hiromasa Yonebayashi.





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