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The Best Studio Ghibli Films to Watch Right Now on Netflix

Words by Jane Pipkin

[Image:, 2021]

It has been roughly a year since Netflix introduced the Studio Ghibli collection onto its platform. Although many of the Ghibli films are popular amongst younger audiences, watching the films as an adult brings to light many of the thought-provoking and serious issues which Miyazaki implements in his storytelling. Ranging from environmental issues, friendship, family to society in general, after watching any of these films, you will definitely see life in a different way.

In honour of the recent announcement about the Netflix anime scholarship, which will allow budding animators to be taught by Hitomi Tateno, a major player from Studio Ghibli, now is a good time to revisit some of the studio’s best works. This list consists of the films which are most suitable for first time Ghibli-watchers and serve as the perfect form of escapism as we all countdown the days until the end of lockdown.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

“Painting and magical powers seem very similar to me.” - Ursula

If you are looking for a good way to ease yourself into the world of Ghibli, look no further than Kiki’s Delivery Service. The wholesome story focuses on trainee witch Kiki, and her pet black cat Jiji, while she faces triumphs and errors in her newfound role, delivering post to the town. What is so wonderful about this film is it’s themes of self-compassion, the difficulties of becoming an adult and following your dreams. It’s a great film to lift spirits and to remind yourself that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

Whisper of the Heart

"You're wonderful. There's no need to rush. Please take your time to polish your talent." - Shirou Nishi

A refreshing and endearing coming of age film which showcases the beauty of everyday life, Whisper of the Heart centres around junior highschool girl, Shizuku Tsukishima, and boy, Seiji Amasawa. Shizuku dreams of pursuing her passion in creative writing whilst Seiji goes off to Italy to pursue his dream of becoming a violin maker. In the process, the two characters learn to value not only their own interests but the connection they share. Despite it being primarily set in Tokyo, the film implements fantasy element scenes. If you end up falling in love with Whisper of the Heart, you’ll need to watch The Cat Returnsas the two stories are connected.

Howl’s Moving Castle

“They Say That The Best Blaze Burns Brightest When Circumstances Are At Their Worst.” - Sophie Hatter

This film, based on the fantasy novel with the same name and written by English author Diana Wynne Jones, is a solid fan favourite. The plot focuses on the developing relationship between the two main characters; Sophie, a young milliner who is desperately trying to break the curse she has been put under, and Howl, a handsome wizard known for his vanity and wicked ways. Each character’s unique personality and development throughout makes this film one of the most exciting watches whilst the bigger themes of growing old and love create a sense of melancholy.

My Neighbor Totoro

“Everybody, try laughing. Then whatever scares you will go away! ” - Tatsuo Kusakabe

I’m may be a little bit biased, given this was one of my favourite films growing up, but My Neighbor Totorois one of Ghibli’s best and most lovable films. Although, on the outset it appears to be aimed more towards a younger audience, its themes and characters make it suitable for any age. Even though the narrative may not be as complex as some of Ghibli’s other films, it still creates a beautiful sense of nostalgia and offers a reminder of the importance of family. The film begins with two sisters, Mei and Satsuki moving into a new house next to a large forest where they eventually meet the adorable and mythical creature, Totoro. The story follows their adventures together and the magic of childhood and the imagination. The English dub of the film features Elle and Dakota Fanning as the sisters.

Spirited Away

"Once You've Met Someone, You Never Really Forget Them." - Zeniba

Internationally renowned and praised, Spirited Awayis one of Ghibli’s most fantastic works of art and film. Honestly, I didn’t care too much for this film growing up but, having rewatched it as an adult, it meant so much more. Chihiro, the main protagonist, finds herself entering the spirit world and working in a magical bath house after her parents are turned into pigs. During her time working at the bath house, she becomes close to Haku. The story focuses on Chihiro’s quest to free her parents and protect her new friends, alongside her own journey to becoming a more confident individual.

Spirited Away beautifully depicts aspects of traditional Japanese culture and religion in a way that is accessible and easy to understand. The film also comments on the impact of environmental and other social issues whilst highlighting the imbalance which exists between the traditional and the modern.

With a theatre production of the show starting its run at the Tokyo Imperial Theatre next year, it is certain this film will forever hold its place as one of the Studio Ghibli most legendary films.

Which one will you be watching first?

All images from, 2021

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