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10 Miyazaki Films You Should Watch At Least Once In Your Life

10 Miyazaki Films You Should Watch At Least Once In Your Life

Nippon’s Studio Ghibli is beloved the world over for producing extraordinary animated films. They have captivated tens of millions of people, inspired imaginations, won Oscars, and yet at the heart of the majority of their catalogue is one man – the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki films are special as he wrote, directed, and even helped animate many of them during a career spanning over 30 years. As a result, they have his distinctive touch throughout; his merger of compelling plots, endearing characters, breathtaking animation, and a sense of imagination places him on a creative genius level. He has now, unfortunately, retired (although he’s currently designing a nature park for children) and Studio Ghibli will forge on without him, but his legacy will ensure the animation specialists continue to thrive.

For fans of the films, people who haven’t heard of Studio Ghibli, or parents looking to inspire their children, the following are 10 of Miyazaki’s finest feature films. If beautifully hand drawn, fantastical, and dramatic stories are your thing, then Miyazaki has provided works which will leave an impression on you for years to come.

1. Princess Mononoke to Get Started

Princess Mononoke

    This is arguably Miyazaki’s outright masterpiece, so it’s a great place to start! Released in 1997, Princess Mononoke is a a beautiful and sweeping classic. During its complex plot, protagonist Ashitaka becomes fatally cursed, and ventures into the wider world to find help. Ultimately, he gets drawn into something far more dramatic in a sprawling adventure. Miyazaki plays on Japanese folklore throughout, with several memorable scenes involving kodama (tree spirits).

    2. Spirited Away  to Focus on Themes of Love and Loss

    Spirited Away

      This Oscar winner really woke Western moviegoers up to the spectacular nature of Miyazaki’s films. Written and directed by the great man, it centres around schoolgirl Chihiro Ogini as she’s transported to a bathhouse in the spirit world. An astonishing work of the imagination, its themes of love, loss, solitude, and maturity make it vital viewing for all ages.

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      3. Howl’s Moving Castle for Its Masterful Writing

      Howl's Moving Castle

        Adapted from Dianna Wynne Jones’ novel, Miyazaki displayed his mastery again by writing the screenplay, and directing, this epic. When young Sophie is transformed into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, she is left to search for a possible solution to her dilemma. This leads her to a spectacular castle owned by the enigmatic Howl, and her adventure begins. It’s a wonderfully animated and, as always, charming film crammed full of imagination, humour, and drama.

        4. Ponyo for Children

        Ponyo

          Arguably Miyazaki’s most environmentally conscious film. Ponyo centres on the life of the eponymous central character, a goldfish princess, finds herself taking on human characteristics as she strikes up an unusual friendship with a young boy. Ponyo boasts some of Miyazaki’s most vivid and exhilarating scenes, and is particularly well suited for children.

          5. Porco Rosso for Being a Classic

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          Porco Rosso

            This unusually titled, often forgotten classic from 1992 may be hidden behind Miyazaki’s grander efforts, but it’s still a fantastic film. The eponymous character, who has somehow been mysteriously turned into a pig during World War I, is a flying ace who dares to challenge sky pirates who are besieging a local community. Once more, Miyazaki’s fascination with flight takes center stage.

            6. Castle in the Sky for Being the First Studio Ghibli Film

            Laputa Castle in the Sky

              This is, officially, Studio Ghibli’s first film – Miyazaki put his abilities to the test with a spectacular start for the company! Castle in the Sky is about two orphans searching for treasure in Laputa, a legendary floating city. Released in 1986, and in typical style written and directed by Miyazaki, it set the scene for what was to come.

              7. My Neighbour Totoro for All Ages

              My Neighbour Totoro

                Another fine example of how Miyazaki could craft a film to be accessible for all ages. My Neighbour Totoro was written and directed by Miyazaki, and launched in 1988. It’s essentially a simple tale of two schoolgirls in rural Nippon who interact with local friendly woodland spirits. The now iconic Totoro (a large, lethargic cat creature) adorns Studio Ghibli’s logo, and has been something of a cultural phenomenon.

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                8. The Wind Rises for Adventure

                The Wind Rises

                  Hayao Miyazaki’s final film. The Wind Rises (2013) focuses heavily on his fascination with flying, and is one of the more poignant stories from his catalog. It features many of his familiar tropes (love, life, aviation, youth, ageing, the environment) but is typically crammed full of humor and is an absolute joy to watch.

                  9. Kiki’s Delivery Service for a Cool Cat

                  Kiki's Delivery Service

                    One of the lesser known Miyazaki films as it has been dwarfed by his more dramatic efforts. Adapted from Eiko Kadono’s novel, it follows the exploits of a young witch called Kiki. She essentially comes of age after moving to a new town, accompanied by Jiji the talking cat (who is, quite possibly, the coolest cat in movie history). It’s for all ages, but children should particularly love it.

                    10. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind for Its Polish

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                    Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

                      Based on Miyazaki’s manga from 1982, he adapted the plot for the big screen and directed it for a 1984 release. Studio Ghibli hadn’t been founded by this point, but the film can be considered canon. Even in 1984 his work was highly polished, and this sprawling tale about Nausicaä, a young princess, who battles to restore order to her land, is riveting.

                      And Finally…

                      The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki

                        Whilst he may have retired, the special edition Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki gathers together his work (obviously!) into one fantastic set. If you’re a Studio Ghibli super fan, this fitting tribute to Miyazaki’s creative input is a must.

                        Featured photo credit: Studio Ghibli via ghibli.jp

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                        Last Updated on December 2, 2018

                        How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

                        How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

                        Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

                        The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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                        The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

                        Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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                        Review Your Past Flow

                        Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

                        Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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                        Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

                        Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

                        Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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                        Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

                        Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

                        We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

                        Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

                          Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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