In days gone by, anime cartoons were enjoyed by a fairly niche market, mainly within Japan alone. But then Studio Ghibli came along with major films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke that were popular in mainstream channels around the world. Since then, the Ghibli animations have a following across the globe. Here are some of the most popular films made by the Studio Ghibli production company (according to their ratings on the famous review website, Rotten Tomatoes.)
Film: Kiki’s Delivery Service
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Box Office Earnings: $18 million
Description: A plucky young girl, training to be a witch, prepares for her first year away from home to learn the tricks of the trade. Along with her sidekick, Jiji the cat, Kiki learns that it’s not as easy as she had hoped to make it on your own in a foreign place. But with the help of some trusted friends, Kiki manages to find her feet and become independent. A coming-of-age type film.
Film: Spirited Away
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Box Office Earnings: $330 million
Description: Chihiro is a moody ten-year-old, feeling hard done by at having to move to a new place. Along with her inattentive parents, she stumbles on a magical world full of spirits and monsters. When her parents get themselves turned into pigs, Chihiro is forced to work in a public bath house while trying to discover how to turn her parents back and return to reality. Only with the help of the dragon spirit Haku and a hard-working, level-headed colleague called Lin can Chihiro unlock the secrets of the alternative world she has found herself a part of.
Film: Grave of the Fireflies
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Box Office Earnings: $5 million (combined total with My Neighbor Totoro)
Description: The Grave of the Fireflies is a film noticeably different from other Ghibli movies. Unlike the light-hearted, humorous favourites such as Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Grave of the Fireflies is a serious, heart-wrenching tale of a young brother and sister trying to survive in desperate times. Set at the end of WW2, it is based on the semi-autobiographical book of the same name, by Akiyuki Nosaka.
Film: Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Box Office Earnings: $8.1 million
Description: A Laputean descendent, Sheeta is the owner of the Laputean crystal, a gem of immense power. Both Colonal Muska and Dola the pirate are after her, but with the help of a young mining boy called Pazu, Sheeta hopes to learn the secrets of her heritage, and of the mysterious floating castle which is now thought to be nothing but a legend.
Film: Porco Rosso
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Box Office Earnings: $34 million
Description: Porco Rosso was turned into a pig from an unusual curse, but in a previous life he was a fighter pilot for the Italians in WW1. These days he keeps himself entertained in the Adriatic Sea, working as a bounty hunter and capturing pirates. Wanted by the government, Porco must hatch an escape plan, while at the same time trying to work out what to do about Gina, a childhood friend who has always hoped she could be something more.
Film: My Neighbor Totoro
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Box Office Earnings: $5 million (combined total with Grave of the Fireflies)
Description: Satsuki and Mei have just moved to a new home to be closer to their Mum, who is in hospital after having had a long illness. In the forest next to their house, they encounter the wood spirits who fill their lives with mystery and magic.
Film: Princess Mononoke
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Box Office Earnings: $159.4 million
Description: Like many Ghibli films, there is an integral environmental issue throughout the movie. Princess Mononoke tells the tale of an ongoing battle between the Spirit Gods of the forest and the humans who are encroaching upon the once sacred ground. Caught in the middle is San, the human girl raised by Spirit Wolves who hates mankind, and of Ashitaka, who is trying to keep the peace and stop further destruction.
There are so many wonderful films by Studio Ghibli, and while these are arguably the most popular, there are many other potential favourites to choose from. Despite their success, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, two of the most well-known Ghibli’s in the West, don’t feature in my own top favourites. Aside from those listed above, my personal collection of best ever Ghibli films would also have to include Ponyo (because it’s so cute) and Whisper of the Heart (because it’s realistic, relate-able and heartfelt) and Howl’s Moving Castle (because it’s exciting, funny and honest)… but that’s just me. What’s your favourite Ghibli film?