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Hayao Miyazaki Movies You Must See Immediately!

Hayao Miyazaki MoviesHayao Miyazaki Movies take animation beyond the beautiful princess with a goofy sidekick. They prove that a “cartoon” can be engaging, thoughtful, lovely and fantastic… a work of art come to life. Watching these Studio Ghibli films can transport you into another place and time. The stories are engaging, and the characters are real, almost as if they were flesh and blood. These are films that make you laugh and cry, and they might even teach you a thing or two.

But the best part of  Hayao Miyazaki movies? I can sit down with child, my mother, or my best friend, and know that we will all enjoy these magical films.

Here is a list of Hayao Miyazaki movies that you MUST SEE IMMEDIATELY! Then you will know and understand just what an animated film can be.

Hayao Miyazaki Movies

My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is the story of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to a country house with their father while their mother is in the hospital recovering from an illness. Father is a professor, and is busy, but not so busy that he isn’t a good parent. The girls are kind and polite, but interesting and imaginative.

While exploring the area around the house, Mei finds the nest of Totoro… the forest protector… who also watches over the girls.

This movie has a lovely enchanted feel to it. The girls feel like real people… not smart mouthed or overly sassy. The forest is beautiful, and the creatures in it are magical. The Catbus seems a bit odd, but he’s a friend of Totoro’s, and helps the girls visit their mother. I love the little Soot Sprites! They hide in the walls, and when Mei finds them they leave…

This movie has a lovely enchanted feel to it. The girls feel like real people… not smart mouthed or overly sassy. The forest is beautiful, and the creatures in it are magical.

A Movie for all ages.


Spirited Away

Chihiro is 10 years old, and a bit spoiled. While she and her parents are moving to a new home, they stop at some ruins and decide to do some exploring. When her parents are caught in an enchantment, where they are turned into pigs, and Chihiro must figure out a way to break the spell.

The ruins disguise a mysterious Bath House for the Spirit World that fills up every night. A boy named Haku tries to help her escape, but in the meantime finds herself working in the bath house, and trying to stay out of the way of the witch Yubaba.

The fairy tale aspects of working through tasks and growing emotionally and spiritually combine with fabulous animation and creative story telling. There are loads of twists and turns to keep you fascinated. I’ve seen it a dozen times, and always find something new.

This may be a bit scary for the under 7 set, but otherwise it is great for kids and adults.


Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

The world has been devastated by hundreds of years of war, and only a few bits of nature are left. Nausicaa sees how important the remaining forest is to her people. Like many of Miyazaki’s stories, Nausicaa is a strong female character, and she learns that there is more than black and white, good and evil. That sometimes good must protect itself.

Nausicca’s  village is still fertile, but they are forever at risk of losing their land to the spreading toxic forest. Her visit to the toxic forest is incredible… and the creatures amazing. One day a ship crash lands in the fields, bringing soldiers and war to the village… along with a giant flesh covered Robot desginged to take over the world.

There are so many eye popping scenes in this movie. The beauty of the toxic creatures, the devastation brought on by battle, and the tenderness and love of Nausicca’s people.  It really is an amazing film.
This movie is rated PG, so maybe not the best for the very young.



Castle in the Sky

The opening scenes of  Castle in the Sky, a young girl, Sheeta, on a flying transport that is under attack. She falls, and floats to earth, where she is found by an engineer’s apprentice, Pazu. Sheeta has a crystal that connects her to the legendary land the Floating Island of Laputa.

Sheeta wants to get back home, but she is being chased. she has the help of Pazu and a fun band of Sky Pirates  help her get there before her evil Uncle Muska takes over the world.

There is a steam punk feel to this movie… air ships, steam trains and amazing machinery fill the world.

This movie is great for ages 8 and up…. it’s a great story with fabulous animation.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki is a young witch who, as is traditional among witches in her world, leaves home at 13 to become an apprentice Witch, and discover more about herself and her powers. . She settles in a seaside city with her cat Jiji, voiced by the late Phil Hartman. Since the only thing she really does well is fly, she starts a delivery service on her broom.

Kiki is strong and independent, and works hard to be a successful witch. But it’s not easy starting a business, and being on your own. She meets Tombo, who is excited about flying, but Kiki is unsure about her feelings towards him.

Because of doubts about herself and her abilities, Kiki actually loses her powers. She’s devastated, and goes on a journey with a friend to rediscover what she lost, and to find out more about herself. The film sends home a strong message about being true to yourself.
Flying plays a central role in this film, Tombo, Kiki’s friend, build a flying machine of sorts, and in a climactic scene, Kiki must come to his rescue when he is suspended from a zeppelin!

This is a movie for all ages. Strong story, great animation, and Kiki is a great female character.

Howl’s Moving Castle

All of Miyazaki’s films come with a message, and in the case of Howl’s Moving Castle there is a strong message about aging, and perceptions of beauty. It’s a story filled with magic.

Sophie is a plain looking hat maker who  is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to look like 90 year old woman. When she goes off in search of a cure, she finds Howl’s Moving Castle, and it lets her in.

It doesn’t seem like it at first, but his is an anti-war film. Beautiful Howl the wizard has been called, along with other wizards, to fight in the ongoing wars. Howl doesn’t want to fight, and the constant battle against the darkness is causing him to come apart bit by bit.

There is a bit of comic relief in Calcifer, the fire spirit.

Very young children might be frightened by some of the movie, but it is a movie for adults as well as kids. This is a movie filled with magic and fantastic imagery. The world is very Steampunk, the scenery beautiful, and the story has many twists and turns. I’ve seen it a few times, and find something new, or a new understanding of the story, every time.



Ponyo is loosely based on the story of the Little Mermaid (not the Disney one, the other one by Anderson). She is a special Goldfish, and the daughter of a the Sea Queen. After she escapes from her Father’s care, she is found by a little boy named Souske… and she wants to become human and stay with him.

To leave the ocean and live on land requires great magic and commitment. It disturbs the balance nature, and causes great flooding and catastrophe. Will Souske care for Ponyo? Can she stay on land, or should she go back to the ocean with her sisters.

This movie is about the balance of humans and the sea… about pollution… but mostly, it’s about a friendship.

Ponyo is perfect for all ages. Little ones will delight in Ponyo… as a mom, I could tell that Miyazaki knows kids, he really nailed their behaviors. This is a sweet movie for kids, but also a feel good movie with a message for adults.


From Up On Poppy Hill

This heartfelt and beautifully animated film is engaging and entertaining. From Up on Poppy Hill is set in 1963 Japan, where a country is emerging from World War 2 destruction by preparing to host the 1964 Olympic Games.

Every morning Umi raises signal flags to signal to her sailor father who was lost at sea. Her signals are seen by someone else, and the lives of, Umi Matsazuki and Shun Kazama become entwined. Why do both of them have the same photo? Is it possible that Umi and Shun have the same father?

But this is much more than a teen angst film. The kids are involved in trying to save their club’s tumbledown “headquarters” while the government works to clean up Yokahama by tearing down the old and broken.

Remembering the past is an important theme in this film, as is love and family.

It’s a movie appropriate for all ages, although the little ones may not understand some of the concepts.

Princess Mononoke

In simplistic terms, this movie is about good vs evil… but that is too simple to describe this movie. Set in medieval Japan, it is a movie about man’s interactions with nature, and how nature reacts.
Ashitaka is cursed by a boar-god-demon, and he tried to find a way to lift the curse. On his journey, he comes upon a war between the Forest Gods and the Modern Iron Workers…. The film shows the good and bad of both sides in this battle. The good and the ugly… and lets you draw your own conclusions.

This is not a movie for young people… it’s violent and bloody. Also, the plot is a bit difficult to follow. Stick with it.

The Wind Rises

The last film Hayao Miyazaki made was also one of the best. Jiro is a boy enamored by flight. His childhood dream is to design and fly airplanes like his hero, the Italian Airplane designer, Caproni. Unfortunately,  since he is nearsighted, he can’t fly himself… but he can design beautiful flying machines.

Set in Japan, just prior to, and then during the war, we follow Jiro as he goes through school and works hard to achieve his life’s ambition. Sadly, when the war begins, his beautiful designs become agents of war.

The Wind Rises is so lavishly animated, and so well told, that it doesn’t feel like a cartoon. Thanks to Miyazaki’s attention to the smallest details he characters behave the way real people do. And the backgrounds and landscapes are achingly beautiful. Visually, this movie is stunning.

This is a movie for all ages, although the youngest viewers may not always comprehend what is going on.

Hayao Miyazaki Movies

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