Over the weekend, since the new movies all looked awful, I decided to buckle down and finally finish off the legendary Studio Ghibli’s filmography. Technically I still need to watch Tales from Earthsea but, as I’m reading the book series, it will have to wait. This also comes in perfect timing for their new, and possibly last, When Marnie was There. If you’re a fan of animation in any capacity then Ghibli is essential viewing. Here are the first 5 you should seek out!
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Starting off with my absolute favorite film from Ghibli, Princess Mononoke has been an important film for me in my years of watching. It’s one that got me more interested in Japanese animation at a younger age. It features two outstanding lead characters along with important themes about mankind’s relationship to nature. There is very little for me to complain about on this one. It’s appropriate for all ages and deserves to be seen immediately. This is also a great starting point for those unfamiliar with the studio.
Spirited Away (2001)
Next up is arguably Studio Ghibli’s crowning jewel. I don’t consider too many films essential viewing for all audiences, but Spirited Away fit into that category from the first time I saw it. It’s imaginative, unique, beautifully animated and full of true to life themes and messages. This is one that’s best to go in with a little knowledge of the plot, so just look it up asap and give it a watch. Guaranteed you won’t be disappointed.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Warning you now. Grave of the Fireflies is depressing. Don’t let that scare you off, though, because this is one of the most deeply affecting films I’ve ever seen, animated or otherwise. It follows two brothers struggle to survive the end of World War 2. It’s an intense argument for the idea that animation can successfully tell an unembellished story in the way any live action film could. There are no wild fantasy worlds or creatures, and it’s all a very true to life take on one of the darkest times in world history. This may be the least well known from the list but it’s more than worth seeking out.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2014)
Last year had it’s fair share of great films but only one truly great animated film. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is nothing short of a magical experience. It is done in some of the loveliest hand drawn animation I’ve ever seen, and is full of heart, wonder and melancholy. The Tale of Princess Kaguya was probably the single biggest surprise from last year, and ended up being among my top 5 from 2014. I’ve seen it twice so far and plan on watching it again soon. This one also has a fantastic english dub for people uncomfortable with subtitles. In fact, most of Ghibli’s films do incredible jobs dubbing through Disney so don’t be afraid to watch them in English!
When Marnie was There (2015)
Truth be told, I was not expecting this film to be as emotionally investing as it was. The story of this young girl starts off a little slow, but soon becomes so endearing I honestly teared up by the film’s end. It’s one of Ghibli’s sadder films but it’s so resonant that I know I need to see it again. This one may be a little difficult to track down at the moment but it should be getting a proper American release in the next month or two so I highly suggest keeping an eye out. It’s early in 2015, but this is already a front runner for my top 20.