Fans of master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki, founder of Studio Ghibli which has produced iconic Japanese animated classics like Totoro and Spirited Away, would have been thrilled with the release of the maestro’s latest film The Boy and the Heron.
But for those new to Miyazaki’s works, which are visual feasts all on their own, you can expect a real treat waiting for you. Here are some must-watch Ghibli gems – complete with heartwarming values – that are perfect for family movie nights.
Image source: IMDB
1. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
If it’s one show that made Miyazaki a household name worldwide, it’s got to be My Neighbour Totoro. Satsuki and Mei are two young sisters who moved with their father to the countryside to be near their sick mother. Their magical encounters with its lovable resident forest spirit Totoro and his quirky friends have been charming audiences since. The film celebrates the heartwarming love of a family and community that support each other through tough times.
Image source: Dogo Movies
2. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
This animated fantasy based on a novel follows Kiki, a young witch who starts a flying courier service when she moves to a port city with her talking black cat Jiji. There, she loses her magical abilities but meets a new friend Tombo who helps her regain her flying power. The film traces Kiki’s coming-of-age journey as she overcomes personal crises and self-doubts to find confidence and maturity.
Image source: Film at Lincoln Center
3. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Ashitaka is a prince caught in the struggle between the forest gods, or kami, and the humans who consume its resources. He meets the wolf goddess Moro and San, a human girl also known as Princess Mononoke, who is part of the wolf clan. Together, they race against time to stop the decimation of the forest and land. With its strong environmental theme, Miyazaki explores the many nuances between Man’s relationship with Nature, offering us much food for thought when watching the film.
Image source: Fixwatch
4. Spirited Away (2001)
One of the most well-loved works in Miyazaki’s repertoire is the tale of Chihiro, also known as Sen in the story, who is spirited away into the realm of the kami when she comes across an old, abandoned amusement park when travelling with her parents. Set in a traditional Japanese bathhouse, Chihiro encounters a fascinating variety of supernatural creatures inspired by Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore. Accompanied by the soul-stirring musical score by composer Joe Hisaishi, the film is a breath-taking work of imagination for audiences of all ages.
Image source: Personal blog - Top 15 Studio Ghibli Films
5. Ponyo (2008)
A huge family favourite with its wholesome storyline and adorable characters, Ponyo tells the story of a five-year-old boy named Sōsuke who befriends a fish princess he names Ponyo. Set in a picturesque seaside town, Miyazaki explores the themes of friendship, family and the balance of Nature in this modern-day fairytale.