STUDIO GHIBLI FILMS
WRITTEN BY CHRISTOPHER HENDERSON
THE WIND RISES (2013)
A very odd choice I'm sure but The Wind Rises absolutely floored me when I first watched it. Easily the most grounded movie in Ghibli's catalogue that isn't Grave of the Fireflies but still keeps a lot of the breathtaking animation without sacrificing even a small amount of the story. It's both a film about a man who has a dream and a tragic love story and both of these stories are done superbly. The voice cast led by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is maybe my favorite of all of their films and the ending will leave you in tears. A gorgeous film that I highly recommend. As perfect as animation can possibly be in my eyes.
PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997)
Ghibli's masterpiece in terms of world-building, characters, fantasy and action. For the longest time, Mononoke was my favorite of the Ghibli films. It easily tells it's captivating and brutal story that I feel could only be done in animation. The spirits, animals, humans, and mythology of Mononoke is one of my favorites in all of film. It's truly phenomenal.
SPIRITED AWAY (2001)
Ghibli's most popular film in America and for good reason. It's one of the most beautiful and inventive animated films you'll ever see. It's also absolutely charming with characters and a world that'll never be forgotten.
GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (1988)
Ghibli's darkest and most depressing film. It's one that is hard to rewatch and will leave you sobbing towards the end. That being said, it's still a beautifully done movie that must be seen with the Japanese dub for the full emotional experience. WW2 movies like this don't come along that often. I also recommend In This Corner of the World if you want to see how animation can really tell real stories like this.
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (2004)
A lot of people would consider HMC to be one of Ghibli's weakest (they obviously haven't seen Tales from Earthsea) but I found it to be absolutely phenomenal. While some of the voice acting is weak (looking at you Christian Bale), the visuals are some of the best from Ghibli and that's saying a hell of a lot. The Castle itself is stunning as is the animation as a whole.
PORCO ROSSO (1992)
One of the most underappreciated films in Ghibli's history. There's something about this story about an aviator that's cursed to look like a pig man that really makes me love it. A great cast of unique characters, superb world-building and some absolutely gorgeous animated cinematography really makes this one stand out.
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988)
Probably Miyazaki's cutest and more laid back film. Tons of wonder and imagination but I appreciated the calmer approach. Also Totoro may be the best creature character in the entire Ghibli catalogue...well...maybe next to the cat bus.
KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989)
I grew up with this one more than any of the other Ghibli films on this list. Another terrific cast of characters and voice actors with the late and great Phil Hartman stealing the show as Jiji the Cat. Kiki is also a strong female lead and you can expect more of those in the Ghibli lineup.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETY (2010)
Gorgeous retelling of the classic story with a game voice cast including Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. Arrietty is a perfect film for the entire family but especially for young girls that want a strong female lead which is exactly what you get with the title character.
CASTLE IN THE SKY (1986)
The first film under the Studio Ghibli name and what a way to start. While the characters aren't as lovable as future movies, the beautiful animation and wonderful creativity is at full display here.