5 Hayao Miyazaki Films To Watch

Hayao Miyazaki celebrates his 81st birthday today; lets take a look at five of the talented animator’s greatest films from Studio Ghibli.

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Today on January 5th we celebrate the 81st birthday of the ingeniously creative and talented Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is the famed Japanese animator, director, and co-founder of Studio Ghibli. Since 1985, Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most creative and critically acclaimed animated films in the world. With Miyazaki and Isao Takahata (he passed away in 2018) serving as the directors and co-founders of the studio, Ghibli has stood against time and their films have become iconic classics for every age to enjoy.

Studio Ghibli’s decision to tackle heavy subjects like death, war, grief, loneliness, and enviornmentalism have set them apart from many other great animation studios. Miyazaki’s films in particular utlilize the art of animation to take us along on magical journeys. His films, although beautiful and often deal with childhood, handles these heavy subject matters that stay poignant to us long after we’ve watched it.

So to celebrate the genius and talent of Hayao Miyazaki on his birthday, here are five of his films from Studio Ghibli that you should watch if you’ve never seen them before.

The Wind Rises (2013)


Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni. Nearsighted and unable to be a pilot, he becomes one of the world’s most accomplished airplane designers, experiencing key historical events in an epic tale of love, perseverance and the challenges of living and making choices in a turbulent world.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)


It is tradition for all young witches to leave their families on the night of a full moon to learn their craft. That night comes for Kiki, who follows her dream and embarks on the experience of a lifetime.

With her chatty black cat, Jiji, she flies off to find the perfect spot in a faraway city. There, a bakery owner befriends Kiki and helps her start her own business: A high-flying delivery service.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)


Sophie, an average teenage girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. After this chance meeting she is turned into a 90-year old woman by the vain and conniving Witch of the Waste. Embarking on an incredible adventure to lift the curse, she finds refuge in Howl’s magical moving castle where she becomes acquainted with Markl, Howl’s apprentice, and a hot-headed fire demon named Calcifer.

As the true power of Howl’s wizardry is revealed, and his relationship with Sophie deepens, our young grey heroine finds herself fighting to protect them both from a dangerous war of sorcery that threatens their world.

Princess Mononoke (1997)


While protecting his village from a rampaging boar-god, the young warrior Ashitaka becomes afflicted with a deadly curse. To find the cure that will save his life, he journeys deep into sacred depths of the Great Forest Spirit’s realm where he meets San (Princess Mononoke), a girl raised by wolves. It’s not long before Ashitaka is caught in the middle of a battle between iron-ore prospecting humans and the forest dwellers. He must summon the spirit-powers and all his courage to stop man and nature from destroying each other.

Spirited Away (2001)


Chihiro thinks she is on another boring trip with her parents. But when they stop at a village that is not all that it seems, her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, and Chihiro is whisked into a world of fantastic spirits, shape-shifting dragons and a witch who never wants to see her leave. She must call on the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world.

If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in this article about the Hayao Miyazaki Museum at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles.