One of the founders of Studio Ghibli, which needs no introductions, and probably the best director in the animation industry. Hayao Miyazaki made some of the most popular Japanese movies and maybe at least one that pierced your heart. Even people who don’t like anime follow Ghibli, its productions, and collabs; it’s hard not to be a fan of it and Miyazaki.
He directed a few shorts and 11 feature films, with a new one coming in 2023 called How Do You Live? If you want to know more about it and his other works, you came to the right place.
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Miyazaki’s feature-length directorial debut before even founding Studio Ghibli. Lupin the Third is a popular franchise, and The Castle of Cagliostro sees its title character trying to steal the treasures in the Castle of Cagliostro (and rescuing a runaway princess) after being tricked and only finding counterfeit bills in a previous robbery.
It’s the most popular and well-regarded installment in the franchise, and it influenced a whole generation of animators. It couldn’t be a better start.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Princess Nausicaä explores the jungle and talks with its creatures hoping to find a way that humanity and Earth can coexist. Peace, ambientalism, and anti-war perspectives are all intertwined, and this movie makes it even clearer. Nausicaä has to fight Tolmekia, a kingdom that wants to use a bioweapon Giant Warrior to destroy a jungle filled with mutated insects.
Nature’s captivating beauty is always a great theme for movies, and now, with Avatar: The Way of Water, people surely are starving for more of that. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a great pick for you.
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Also known as Laputa: Castle in the Sky, the first movie produced by Ghibli sets itself in the 19th century and follows two kids trying to protect a crystal while searching for a legendary floating castle. Not only a great movie for pirate lovers, but it’s also partially responsible for the popularity of the steampunk genre (if you haven’t realized by now, Miyazaki’s movies are a big influence for a bunch of different things).
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
One of the most beloved creations ever, Totoro is our favorite gentle giant and the symbol of the studio. Two sisters have to move to the country to be closer to their ill mother; when one of them disappears, Satsuki, the older sister, has to find her with the help of Totoro. It’s a good one for you to start your Ghibli adventure.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a soothing and heart-warming coming-of-age. Kiki moves to a new town in her year of independence, but soon loses her ability to fly and understand her cat’s speech. Even so, the movie is mostly a peaceful slice of life in which almost nothing major happens, and that’s its biggest strength. You get pulled into the daily lives of the characters and wish to just spend your time with them.
Porco Rosso (1992)
Based on The Age of the Flying Boat, a manga also created by Miyazaki, Porco Rosso follows Marco Pagot, an Italian World War I fighter ace, now known as “Porco Rosso” after suffering from a curse that transformed his head into the one of a pig. Porco summarizes the film’s plot and message: “I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.”
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Journeying west to find a cure after having been cursed by a demon, Ashitaka finds San, a young woman fighting Lady Eboshi to protect the forest. We don’t have to state how close the plot and message are to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Miyazaki loves to discuss how important nature is and the way we treat it; you can see it in almost all of his movies, even if it’s not one of the main themes.
Spirited Away (2001)
Revered as the greatest animation ever made and also one of the best movies in general. Spirited Away is a coming-of-age telling of Chihiro’s tale, who finds herself trapped in a place she doesn’t know and has to fight to save her parents and her new friends. Everyone has at least one friend who loves it with all their heart; it might even be you.
It’s difficult to explain how Studio Ghibli, mainly Miyazaki, affects us. Everyone has a favorite movie by it, and Spirited Away takes the cake for being the most responsible for that. Ghibli has many masterpieces, but Chihiro’s story just is special for so many people.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
You had a hard day and everything is making you more tired. Howl’s Moving Castle is the movie to watch. It takes being relaxing to the next level, not to mention it’s Ghibli’s funniest feature. Sophie is honest and shows love and concern for many things and people around her, it’s a delight to watch. When the movie starts to depict more the violence and horror of war and Howl’s curse, your heart aches as you only want to see the cast happy, strolling around fields, and eating their breakfast.
As it wants to give you that feeling, the movie makes the perfect choice to use the trope of found families. If My Neighbor Totoro makes you want to hang out and take your evening nap with a kind spirit, Howl’s Moving Castle makes you want to be with those characters for the rest of your life.
Sosuke finds a goldfish trapped in a bottle on the beach and rescues her. But he finds out Ponyo, his new goldfish, is the daughter of a wizard and can transform herself into a young girl. Both will deal together with the dire situations brought about by Ponyo`s desire to be a human girl.
The Wind Rises (2013)
A biographical film of Jiro Horikoshi, the creator of the A-6M World War II fighter plane, adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name. It gathered the attention of many fans, not only because it’s a Miyazaki movie but also because it would be the director’s last movie.
How Do You Live? (2023)
10 years after The Wind Rises, Miyazaki will direct a feature film again. How Do You Live? is based on a novel of the same name by Yoshino Genzaburo. The masterpiece tells the story of Junichi Honda as he deals with poverty, growth, and humanity. Miyazaki’s movie will follow its protagonist and how the novel How Do You Live? affects his life.
- This article was updated on January 18th, 2023