Instead of a review this week, I’d figured I’d write a top ten list of my personal favorite Studio Ghibli films. I must point out that the Studio Ghibli movies I haven’t watched (yet) are “Only Yesterday”, “Ocean Waves”, “Pom Poko”, “My Neighbors the Yamadas”, “The Wind Rises”, “The Tale of Princess Kayuga” and “When Marnie Was There”. After I watch those movies, I will do an updated version. I hope you enjoy reading this list…
10.) The Cat Returns
Remember that Cat Baron in “Whispers of the Heart”? Apparently they made a spin-off movie starring that character and it’s awesome. It’s the closest thing to an animated version of “The Princess Bride” we have (Cary Elwes voices the titular Baron in fact). The reason why it’s not higher on the list is because of its rather short runtime of 75 minutes.
9.) The Secret World of Arrietty
Based on a fairly popular children’s novel, “Arrietty” manages to take its intriguing premise and make it larger than life (pun intended). I really liked the friendship between Arrietty and Shawn. I’m glad that I managed to watch this particular movie in theaters.
8.) My Neighbor Totoro
I’m quite aware this is a favorite of Studio Ghibli fans. Heck, Totoro is pretty much the mascot for Studio Ghibli. The reason that this movie isn’t higher up on this list is because it lacks a plot. Whatever it lacks in plot, it makes up for in situations. This film is a perfect example of a typical childhood Saturday.
7.) Kiki’s Delivery Service
It’s another great example of a coming-of-age story by Studio Ghibli. Like My Neighbor Totoro, it makes use of situation instead of conflicts. It’s a very unique that witches aren’t seen as outcasts but as gifted individuals.
6.) Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
Although it was made a year before Studio Ghibli was founded, it is retrospectively referred to as one by fans. Even Studio Ghibli considers it to be an honorary Ghibli film. It’s a well-animated post-apocalyptic tale with strong characters. Not only that, “Nausicaa” has a surprisingly subtle environmental message.
5.) Porco Rosso
Out of all the movies on this particular list, “Porco Rosso” may be the most underrated Studio Ghibli film. This film deserves more attention. Michael Keaton is perfect as the titular character with his abrasive yet lovable personality. Out of the more humorous Studio Ghibli movies, this may be the best one.
4.) Grave of the Fireflies
This is a very emotional movie. It’s a great film that contains great animation and a very mature script dealing with how people can get desperate in a bad situation and how pride could get the best of us. It’s not the type of movie you would watch over and over again but it’s special in its unique way.
3.) Castle in the Sky
Considered the first “official” Studio Ghibli film, it is a great old-school adventure film in the vein of such classics like “Indiana Jones”. Not only it has a great story, it also has some great action scenes that are also very comedic in nature. It also has some very memorable characters such as band of pirates led by their mother (played by the always awesome Cloris Leachman) and the antagonist Muska (played by Mark Hamill…yes that one).
2.) Princess Mononoke
This may be Hayao Miyazaki’s most mature work to date. The best part about this film is its great characters. The film eschews the traditional good vs. evil plotline in favor of character development instead. For example, we have the character of Lady Eboshi. In another movie, she would be an outright villain if it weren’t for the fact that she provides not only employment but also refuge for the outcasts of society such as prostitutes and lepers. Like Nausicaa, it has a very subtle environmental message.
1.) Spirited Away
This is the movie that won Hayao Miyazaki the Oscar. It is very imaginative movie with very imaginative characters. It may be the “Alice in Wonderland” of the 21st century. Not only that, it also serves as a great coming-of-age story in which Chihiro becomes a more mature individual because of the experience she had in the movie.