Ella’s Guide to the Best Studio Ghibli Movies

Written by Ella, Teen Volunteer
Halifax Public Libraries' Teen Blog is written by and for teens. Discover more posts here.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli and all their works. Their legendary creativity, unique plots, and stunning visuals have brought some of the most breath-taking animation to the world, and I’d like to introduce you to some of these movies!

To briefly talk about the film production company, Studio Ghibli was founded by Japanese animated film directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata in 1985. Studio Ghibli then produced 22 feature-length films, and its impacts have reached far beyond Japan, influencing animators and filmmakers all around the globe. The studio has also received numerous awards and critical acclaim.

My childhood was all about Totoro; I still remember the day I watched the movie for the first time with my family. Today, I’ll be talking about the best Ghibli movies of all time and I hope you will create unforgettable memories like I did! If you are a fan, you may have already watched them, and if you haven’t, I believe that this will be a great opportunity for you to discover a whole new genre. Keep in mind that this list was entirely based on the entertainment and quality values I saw, and that there are other hidden treasures worthy of attention.

Without further ado, let’s go to the movies!

1. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Not only the studio’s cute mascot, but this heartfelt film explores the pain of separation within a family. Two young girls Satsuki and Mei move into a house in the country and soon discover the nearby forest is full of magical creatures. After becoming friends with Totoro, the girls embark on a magical adventure full of wonder, heart, and the joy of loved ones finding each other. 

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2. Spirited Away (2001) 

The film is an influential coming-of-age story following a little girl, Chihiro, and her gruesome mysterious experience at an abandoned amusement park. She wanders into a world of gods, monsters, spirits and magic, eventually finding out about her own way of life; she transforms into a brave, competent, and confident girl. The movie profoundly impacts both young and old audiences. 

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3. Ponyo (2008)

This simplistic and sentimental movie tells the story of a goldfish, Ponyo, and a human boy, Sosuke. Ponyo lives under the sea and wants to become a human by using her father’s magic, but the use of such power causes a dangerous imbalance in the world. The friends then start their journey to find ways to save the world and to fulfill Ponyo’s dreams.

P.S. I really like the soundtrack Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea!

4. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

This tells a love story between Sophie, a girl cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, and Howl, the owner of the castle. However, there’s a lot more to the story: this is an anti-war film that shows the dark truth of war. There is no reason or justification for war. Moreover, the movie explores extreme fantasy and magic in reality.

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5. When Marnie Was There (2014)

This is a rewarding, sad, and joyful story about adolescence and identity. A young girl named Anna befriends Marnie at a nearby abandoned mansion, eventually learning the truth about her family and her foster care home. 

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6. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

The movie focuses on the friendship between Arrietty, a small creature in nature and Sho, the boy recovering from an illness. Arrietty and her family’s life completely change when humans discover them for the first time.

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7. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

A young witch, Kiki, and her sarcastic cat, Jiji, attempt to survive in a new world on their own by running an air courier service. Kiki is an inspiring character for both younger viewers and parents, delving into themes of confidence, adventure, and friendship.

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8. Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

The protagonists go in search of a castle behind the clouds. The movie has unusually straightforward antagonists but also gives an insight into ancient robots, magic, and airships that explore industry, greed, courage, and sacrifice. 

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9. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Set in the declining days of World War II, two young siblings rely on one another after being separated from their parents. They struggle to fight for survival in a harsh wasteland, and the consequences of blind unchecked nationalism and bitter end of those are also shown.

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10. Princess Mononoke (1997)

In 13th century Japan, Ashitaka, a prince from a minor tribe needs to lift the curse on his arm and also protect his village from demons. He is also the center of the film’s moral, pondering questions of balance between the forces of nature and humanity.

There we go! Now go enjoy all these movies, and feel free to leave a comment below about your favourite movie or any other Studio Ghibli movies you’d like to recommend to others. Lastly, here’s another tip for all the Studio Ghibli fans out there: visit the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, Japan, to explore all kinds of art and animation techniques. 

Learn more

Interested in learning more? Check out the website I used to source information:

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/best-studio-ghibli-films, opens a new window

About the writer

Hey there! My name is Ella (Sunghyun) Kang and I’m 16 years old. I’m interested in everything related to STEAM, and I hope to go into biochemistry or medicine in the future. In my free time, you’ll probably find me reading, binge-watching Netflix, or practicing Taekwondo.