You go on Netflix to check out the fuss about Studio Ghibli. As a first-time film watcher, you asked your friends what their favorite movie from Studio Ghibli is. They gave you different titles and now you’re scouring the internet looking for where to start. Don’t worry, this guide is precisely what you’re looking for! Here are the essential top five (5) Studio Ghibli movies for first-time watchers.
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Studio Ghibli has a lot of movies in its collection. The studio is best known for catering to a wide range of audiences with its extensive film collection. With its fascinating animation style, beautiful stories, and soothing soundtrack, the studio was able to capture the world’s attention with its collection. The popularity of Studio Ghibli‘s films can be traced back to their distinct animation art style. The studio currently has twenty-four (24) movies and three (3) television shows under its belt. As a cult favorite among Gen-Zs and other older generations, the studio was able to establish itself as one of Japan’s top studios.
Here are five (5) Studio Ghibli movies that can help you ease your way into the rest of the Ghibli collections.
1. Spirited Away
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Duration: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Synopsis: Spirited Away follows a 10-year-old girl Chihiro and her adventure within an unknown realm. On a ride to their new house, Along with her parents, Chihiro stumbled upon a tunnel leading to an abandoned amusement park. After her parents turned into pigs by being lured by food, Chihiro embarks on a journey to find a way to cure her parents.
Wandering about the eerie park is where she met a boy named Haku who noticed that she was a human. Upon learning her situation, Haku informed her that she was actually at a hot spring resort for spirits. He instructed her that if she wished to revert her parents to normal, she must work at the resort. The story shares lessons about courage, resilience, kindness, and more. Chihiro started as someone who acted arrogant and selfish at the start. In the end, she learned the value of hard work, life, and friendship.
Why This is a Must-See Film: Spirited Away is on top of the list as it displays the fascinating world-building the studio offers in its films. It’s a movie for artists and art enthusiasts alike. The design from the landscape to the details of the spirits contained elements from Japanese mythology. The film also features one of the studio’s best original soundtracks, which will bring back fond memories of the film. This makes Spirited Away the first film on the must-watch list.
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Howl’s Moving Castle
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Duration: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Synopsis: Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of a girl named Sophie along with her mundane way of living by working at her family’s hat shop. On a trip to meet her sister, she encountered soldiers who cornered her in an alley. Stunned and scared of the situation, she tried to run away. A man suddenly appeared and helped her escape the situation. The man started to flee himself, dragging Sophie along with him. Successfully arriving at her sister’s workplace, she suddenly cannot believe what has happened. The man turned out to be the wizard Howl.
After getting involved with an escaping Howl, the Wicked Witch of the Waste’s henchmen saw them together. The witch assumed that Sophie was involved with Howl in a romantic sense. The witch wanting Howl for herself followed Sophie. This leads the witch to cast a curse upon Sophie by turning her into an old woman. Unable to stay in the hat shop with her condition, she decided to traverse the plains to find a way to revert back to her original self.
Why This is a Must-See Film: Lessons about living your life to the fullest and knowing that nobody can truly escape life’s problems were the main themes of the story. This movie is fitted for those who thrive off romance stories that have a tinge of child-like wonder incorporated in them. Songs like “Merry-Go-Round of Life” will make you wish you were like Sophie. The whole premise of the story resonates with all ages making it a must-watch for beginners and romantics alike.
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My Neighbor Totoro
Genre: Fantasy, Animation
Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Synopsis: My Neighbor Totoro follows the story of a girl named Satsuki and her family. Satsuke, along with her father, and her younger sister Mei moved to an old house in the country. The reason that they moved was for them to be closer to their confined mother’s hospital. Suddenly there were Sootballs, dust-like creatures, infesting the house. Mei and Satsuki, who were intrigued by their new surroundings, decided to track down the Sootballs in their home.
Mei goes off exploring the next day as her sister went to school. She comes across a pair of bunny ears poking out of the bushes. Curiosity got ahead of her and she decided to follow it. There she encountered playful spirits that lead her deeper into the forest where the rest of the spirits live. She stumbled upon a bigger version of the bunny-eared spirits she followed. The huge creature let out huge roars to identify itself, which Mei interprets as “Totoro”.
Why This is a Must-See Film: The movie explores the childlike wonder that we all wish to rediscover. Sad themes in the plot included Mei’s longing for their mother and their struggles with growing up. This is a must-see for anyone who wants to relive their childhood wonder and innocence.
Totoro, one of the film’s main characters, is also the studio’s lovable mascot. We all want a furry, cuddly companion who will help us in times of need.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Genre: Adventure, Family
Duration: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Synopsis: Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a young witch named Kiki and her cat Jiji as they travel to a location away from their home. As a young witch, she is required by tradition to train alone in a village. She comes across a beautiful seaside town that piqued her interest. However, upon closer inspection, she discovered that the town was not what she had expected it to be. Due to the town’s development, she had difficulty finding a suitable job for her training in the area. She came across a nice bakery owner who advised Kiki to try providing a delivery service after seeing her in action with her broomstick.
In return, Kiki started her delivery service and volunteered at the bakery. She met Tombo, a guy who was obsessed with befriending a witch during a commission. He tried to get closer to her by inviting her to a party and introducing her to his friends. Kiki eventually warms up to him, but his friends, who look down on her, make her feel very intimidated. She became even more depressed when she realized she could no longer understand Jiji. She also realized she was losing her powers.
Why This is a Must-See Film: The story dealt with depression and a lack of self-confidence. As Kiki’s powers faded, she began to question her identity and who she was. This is a story about discovering and believing in oneself. Many of us can relate to Kiki’s experience of feeling insignificant in the presence of her peers and not knowing who she truly is. Most of us are still dealing with those issues in our daily lives and can relate to Kiki.
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Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Duration: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Synopsis: A plot adapted from The Little Mermaid by Hans Cristian Andersen, Ponyo tells a story of an encounter between a goldfish princess and a little boy. During an outing, she becomes separated from her goldfish siblings. She washes up on the beach and becomes trapped in a glass jar. A young boy named Sosuke eventually saw and rescued her. Sosuke named her Ponyo because he thought she was just a regular goldfish. Fascinated by Sosuke, Ponyo decided to stay by his side.
They spent so much time together that Ponyo decided she wanted to be human. Ponyo’s human-like qualities gradually grew as their friendship grew stronger. Her father, on the other hand, wishes to return her to the ocean, but the strong-willed Ponyo refuses. They soon discover that her desire to stay on land with Sosuke threatens to disrupt the balance of nature.
Why This is a Must-See Film: The main lesson we can take away from Ponyo’s story is about humanity’s relationship with nature. That we should love and care for the earth’s bounty. We must protect and cherish what we take from nature, and we must never destroy it. It also teaches us about unconditional love, as Sosuke is unconcerned about whether Ponyo is a fish or a girl. It demonstrates that true love and pure friendship have no boundaries.
Now that you’re all set to traverse the rest of the Ghibli selection, what movie would you like to check out next?
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