8th December 2010 – I love animation and I have a vast collection of animation on display on my media shelves at home but on there you won’t find the sugary sweet world of Disney Cinema (apart from Pixar collaborations!) but a huge collection of Japanese anime. I’ve been hooked on anime since I was very young. I think the first experience of anime was Castle in the Sky and Akira.

In this post I wanted to show my love and appreciation of the magnificent Studio Ghibli who have been making some of my all-time favourite animations.

Studio Ghibli, Inc. (株式会社スタジオジブリ, (Kabushiki-Kaisha Sutajio Jiburi) was founded in 1985 and is headed by Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki and Isao Takahata. Prior to the founding of the studio Miyazaki and Takahata already had established careers in Japanese film and TV animation. The studio was founded after the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind which was released in 1984 and written and directed by Miyazaki.

Studio Ghibli’s company logo is the lovable tree spirit character Totoro from the 1988 animated movie My Neighbor Totoro and their headquarters are located on Kogenei, Tokyo.

Several of Studio Ghibli features have won the Animage Anime Grand Prix award, these features include: Castle in the Sky, in 1986; My Neighbor Totoro, in 1988; and Kiki’s Delivery Service, in 1989. Spirited Away won an Oscar in 2002 for Best Animated Feature and it remains the only film made outside the English-speaking world to have done so and is the top grossing film in the history of Japanese cinema.

I like Studio Ghibli films because they are so magical and provide an escape. They never sugar coat and talk down to the audience like Disney do and aren’t afraid to make an animation that runs for more than 90 minutes. So here is my favourite Ghibli Features


Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓, Hotaru no Haka) – 1988

This animation is set toward the end of World War II in Japan; Grave of the Fireflies is the tale of the relationship between two orphaned children, Seita and his young sister Setsuko and is considered to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. This is not a film I could watch over and over because it is so sad but the story is so powerful that it deserves to be seen by any anime fan.


Porco Rosso, known in Japan as Crimson Pig (紅の豚, Kurenai no Buta) – 1992

This is a story about an Italian World War I fighter ace Porco Rosso, who now makes a living as a freelance bounty hunter capturing air pirates. Porco who was once a man called Marco Pagot has been cursed and is transformed into a pig.

English dubbed voice talents include Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes. The sequel – Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie is in production as we speak.


Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便, Majo no Takkyūbin), translated “Witch’s Delivery Service”) – 1988

Story about Kiki a young witch who travels to the big city with her beloved cat Jiji in a tradition where young witches have to spend a year alone and in order to support herself she sets up a delivery service.

English dubbed voice talents include Kirsten Dunst and the late Phil Hartman.


Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ, Gake no Ue no Ponyo), “Ponyo on the Cliff”), initially titled in English as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea2008

Basically the plot is about a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a human boy, Sōsuke, and wants to become a human girl.

English dubbed voice talents include Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey and Matt Damon. Although this is the most recent in the top 10 I don’t think the animation was as good as Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away. This movie did inspire me to call my goldfish Ponyo though!


Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, Kaze no Tani no Naushika) – 1984

Although this film was released prior to Studio Ghibli it is considered the beginning of the Studio and is included in their collection of works. Set in a post-apocalyptic world with giant bugs and a deadly poisonous pollen wind threatening humankind this film also has an environmental message.

The re-released uncut English dubbed version included the voice talents of Patrick Stewart and Shia LaBeouf.


My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ, Tonari no Totoro) – 1988

Featuring the Ghibli mascot Totoro, the film follows two young daughters of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in 1950’s rural Japan. Who could forget the loveable catbus?! Totoro recently made an appearance has a cuddly toy in Pixar’s great Toy Story 3.

The English dubbed version features the talents of Tim Daly, Dakota & Elle Fanning. You can buy this DVD here.


Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫, Mononoke-hime) – 1997

A period drama set specifically in the late Muromachi period of Japan but with numerous fantastic elements. The story concentrates on involvement of the outsider Ashitaka in the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans of the Iron Town who consume its resources and this is another Ghibli film which has an environmental message.

English dubbed voice talents include Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Clare Danes, Gillian Anderson, Minnie Driver and Keith David.


Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) – 1986

Laputa is one of my all-time favourites from the studio. The story follows Sheeta and Pazu pursued by Dola’s family of sky pirates and Colonel Muskas army as they try and find the floating city of Laputa.

English dubbed voice talents include Mark Hamill, Anna Paquin and James Van Der Beek. The Laputa floating city in the sky is so beautiful and I love the robot guardians that protect it.


Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), literally, Sen and The Spiriting Away of Chihiro) – 2002

This story follows Sen a young girl who is moving to a new town and school and leaving her old friends behind. On the way her family come across an old abandoned fun park which at night is transformed into a world of spirits and monsters where Sen becomes trapped in this fantasy where she cannot escape.

Okay a lot of people probably won’t agree on my choice for…


Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城, Hauru no Ugoku Shiro) – 2004

Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones which allows Miyazaki to combine a plucky young woman and a mother figure into a single character in the heroine Sophie. She starts out as a young hat maker, but after a chance meeting with Howl, a jealous witch’s curse transforms her into a 90-year-old woman. Sophie is horrified by the change at first. Nevertheless she learns to embrace it as liberation from anxiety, fear and self-consciousness. The change might be a blessed chance for adventure. Along the way she meets and moves in with the wizard Howl, Calcifer and Marco a wizard apprentice in their amazing walking castle.

English dubbed voice talents include Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall and the late Jean Simmons. It was very hard to choose this feature over Spirited Away but I really adore everything about this film. The animation is superb, the story is so magical and the voices are really well chosen for the characters.


=============== UPDATE ===============


Had to update this post to include the most excellent latest Ghibli animation…

If I was to redo the top ten then this would feature as No.5!

Arriety – (借りぐらしのアリエッティ Kari-gurashi no Arietti) – 2010

The Secret World of Arrietty, known in Japan as The Borrower Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ Kari-gurashi no Arietti?) and in the UK and Australia as Arrietty, is a 2010 Japanese animated fantasy film based on Mary Norton’s juvenile fantasy novel The Borrowers.

Published by Kimmie

Guest post by Kimmie Kinsella. Formelly a graphic artist and now working as a 'Business Angel' and spending her time between England & France.

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  1. I have only seen a couple of these and love them. I love Howl and Spirited away gonna go through this collection as soon as I can Gonna be watching Laputa next. Thanks

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  3. Yes – i also think Howl is superb – especially visually. The only problem i had was the ending – as though it should have gone on for another half hour or so, but they were forced to cobble together some rushed ‘happy ending’ conclusion a day or so before the deadline. A bit of a shame that!!

  4. Totoro is my fav! But The new dub with Dakota Fanning is horrible. The original dub is much better and the only one I will watch.

    Studio Ghibli films are always amazing!

  5. I have to generally agree with the order of your list 🙂 Howls and Spirited are my top two as well!
    I read the original Howls Moving Castle after seeing the movie for the first time, and I have to say the movie really is far better. The book is still worth reading for fans of the movie, but I find it so amazing how Miyazaki reimagined it.
    I have yet to see a few of Studio Ghibli movies, though. Proco Rosso, Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko (I’ve half-watched it, but never really paid attention), and I’ve never seen all of Kiki’s. Every time it was on TV, I’d tune in at the same part so I’ve never seen the begining :/
    The only one I haven’t been extremely fond of was Castle in the Sky. I just couldn’t get into it for some reason. And Ponyo was good, but it’s not great. I know it’s based on the Little Mermaid, but it felt like a shadow of the original. Though, I did love Fujimoto’s character.

    I remember watching Totoro as a child, before I ever knew what anime was. It remains a classic, and I still love watching it, but when I watch it now I feel like although it’s still great, it lacks a solid plot; I feel like if I had never seen it before now and started watching it, I probably wouldn’t think it was that good (two of my friends had seen it before I made them watch it and they had that kind of reaction).

    Anyway, sorry to rant. Great list 🙂

  6. Don’t worry, Howl was my favourite as well, though I love the crap out of the others, too.

    I think I might be one of the only people to openly make a line from the Lavos Spawn in Chrono Trigger to the Ohmu (the big bug types) in Nausicaa. 😡

  7. … doesnt really prove that you love anime… it just proves you love Hayao Miyazaki, i know lots of people who detest anime but make an exception for mitazaki

  8. Well I love most anime and in this post I was just showing Studio Ghibli’s great films that I like. I will be doing a follow up with more anime films that I love in the future 🙂

  9. Great list… Though it lacks my personal favorite, “Whisper of the Heart”. I haven’t watched most of these in a while, though – might have to have a viewing marathon or something.

  10. i certainly agree with the order but for me i would switch spirited away and princess mononoke around. but i love these films and anyone who can appreciate these amazing animated movies

  11. Oh yes! I love so many of those listed, but I definitely fist pumped when I saw my all time favourite, Howl’s Moving Castle, claim Number 1. <3

  12. I would’ve exchanged the position of Mononoke Hime and Howl’s Moving Castle but eh, everyone is entitle’s to his own opinion.

  13. I’m pretty sure that my version of Princess Mononoke had Jada Pinkett Smith as one of the voice actors…

  14. I agree with your list. Probably the exact order I would have put it in.

    Howl’s Moving Castle is an anime I can watch over and over and over.

    There is no denying the minds at Ghibli are genius.

  15. For Howls Moving Castle I actually preferred the book as, though I LOVE Miyazaki, my imagination of the characters in the book were more realistic and not so rounded kiddy like.The thing I really hated/loved about the movie vs the book was Calcifer. I had imagined him more fiery looking, and they made him so rounded blobbly comical that it was a disappointment and I found it hard to imagine that this was really a fire demon who’s power ran the entire castle… up until the point when he flared up. I jumped off my couch and had a fit, it startled me so much, because that was EXACTLY what I had pictured Calcifer as looking like! That patched things up for me in my opinion of the chosen art style. I wouldn’t put Howls as my favorite #1 Miyazaki though. I’m stuck between Sen to Chihiro, Mononoke Hima, and Hotaru no Haka, but I have to say the most fun one to watch over and over is definitely KiKi!!!

  16. I had that luck to watch all except “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, and “Crimson Pig” and I 100% agree with your choice. Will confirm it still after I see the rest.. 🙂

  17. I just have to say that I haven’t seen all of these movies on this list, but my favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle. The first time I saw that movie, I fell in love with it. I watch it as much as I can!

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