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Where to watch (almost) all the Studio Ghibli films
Studio Ghibli is one of the most renowned animation studios in the world. It has pushed the boundaries of animation since its inception in 1985 and has given us masterpieces like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and many more. The studio’s catalog consists of 23 feature-length animated films, nearly all of which are now available on streaming services for the first time ever. But where can one watch the Studio Ghibli movies?
Read more: Best Netflix animated movies
Pretty much all Ghibli movies are wonderful and moving in their own way, and you should watch all of them if you have the time. We let you know where you can watch the Studio Ghibli movies available for streaming, plus a list of all films you can stream at home, along with brief summaries.
Where can I watch the Studio Ghibli films?
Netflix lets users in every country except the US and Japan watch the Studio Ghibli movies. HBO Max has the right for people to watch Studio Ghibli movies in the US. Oddly, the studio’s home country of Japan does not have a streaming deal yet to let its residents watch the Studio Ghibli movies.
Which movie is missing?
There is one movie not included in the Netflix and HBO Max Studio Ghibli streaming film agreements. That is the 1988 film Grave of the Fireflies. The reason is the publishing rights are not owned by the studio’s normal publishing partner, Tokuma Shoten. They are owned by another company, Shinchosha, and as of this writing, that film is not available to stream anywhere.
The Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix and HBO Max:
Editor’s note: Not all movies on the list are suitable for young viewers. Please, check their rating in your respective country for more information.
A wrong turn on a country road leads Chihiro and her family into what seems like a derelict theme park. Among the eerie empty buildings, her parents stumble onto an abandoned food stall. They gorge themselves on the freshly cooked meals despite their daughter’s protests, which suddenly transforms them into pigs. It soon becomes apparent that the family has wandered into the realm of the kami. As spirits and gods emerge at dusk, determined to find help for her parents, Chihiro follows them into the unknown.
Spirited Away is surreal, enchanting, and vivid. It is a masterpiece of both animation and storytelling. Every frame is full of meticulous detail, spiriting you away into this otherworldly realm. But the film is not just an exercise in style and technical mastery. It is a touching coming of age tale full of strange but charming characters. It is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, works of legendary director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It’s perhaps the best of the Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix and HBO Max.
It is easy to paint the world in broad black and white brush strokes, but it is much harder to portray two different groups’ struggles for survival with empathy and understanding. Nevertheless, this is exactly what Hayao Miyazaki achieved with Princess Mononoke. The balance between the human world and nature has been disrupted. A mining town is rapidly industrializing and cutting down forests, which angers the gods and spirits that reside within. Protagonist Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of this conflict, as he tries to see with “eyes unclouded by hate.”
Princess Mononoke is leagues above the typical animated movie with an environmentalist message. It is not preachy. Rather, it is a morally complex tale with ambivalent characters. Just like many other Ghibli films, it blends Japanese mythology and Miyazaki’s own imagination to create a magical world that nevertheless speaks to our present reality. This is easily one of the best Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Sophie lives the quiet life of a hat maker until one day she crosses paths with both a wizard and a witch. But while Howl is kind and protective, the Witch of the Waste curses her. Sophie is transformed into a 90-year-old woman, and the spell prevents her from telling anyone about the fate that has befallen her. Yet, Sophie doesn’t give in to desperation. She heads out of town, slowly but surely making her way up the surrounding hills in search of Howl’s mysterious castle.
Howl’s Moving Castle is one of Ghibli’s most fairy tale-esque movies. Loosely based on a Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name, the movie evokes a child-like sense of wonder. Its sprawling landscapes, grand magical architecture, and steampunk castle are each masterpieces in their own right. Admittedly, the plot can be a bit hard to follow at times, but the cast of colorful characters more than makes up for it. It is a magical experience full of imagination and adventure.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Not every story has to be an epic adventure to be captivating. Kiki is a 13-year-old witch who leaves home to live on her own for a year. Accompanied only by her cat, she chooses the beautiful seaside city of Koriko as her new home. We follow her as she settles in, gets to know the residents, and sets up her own delivery business. But even though Kiki is excited and quickly makes some friends, being isolated and away from home is not always easy.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a charming slice-of-life movie. It tells a relatable and moving coming of age story that is made even better by its simplicity. It explores the struggles and self-doubt we all experience when making our first steps into the real world and how we can overcome them. It’s definitely one of Ghibli’s most wholesome movies — despite some of its sad and quiet moments, by the end it exudes optimism that is sure to be contagious.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Before Princess Mononoke and even before Studio Ghibli was officially created, there was Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. It is one of Miyazaki’s first animated films, adapted from his own manga of the same name. It has many of the same anti-war and environmentalist themes present in Princess Mononoke. However, it is distinctly different thanks to its dystopian sci-fi setting that is reminiscent of the Dune novels.
The titular heroine Princess Nausicaa lives in the Valley of the Wind but often wanders to the nearby Toxic Jungle. The forest and everything in it seems to be poisonous to humans, while its depths are swarming with gigantic insect-like creatures. It soon becomes apparent that the Toxic Jungle exists because of a devastating past war that has poisoned the landscape. Nausicaa is not afraid, however. She tries to find the best in both people and beasts. The plot can be a bit convoluted at times because the multiple chapters of the manga had to be squeezed into a feature-length film, but Nausicaa is a stunning and emotional movie regardless.
My Neighbor Totoro
There are few animated characters as iconic as Totoro — an enormous but cuddly woodland spirit. He is discovered and befriended by sisters Satsuki and Mei. Their family has recently moved to an old countryside cottage, so their mother can receive treatment for an unknown illness at a nearby hospital. The house and surrounding area prove to be magical from the moment the girls step in. The cottage seems to be inhabited by tiny soot spirits. Curious, Mei follows them into the forest one day only to find the strange but amiable Totoro. They form an unlikely friendship that can only lead to enchanting adventures.
My Neighbour Totoro is yet another Studio Ghibli classic. It doesn’t follow the typical three-act structure but rather lets its story unfold naturally. This might not be to everyone’s liking, but it is one of the movie’s greatest strengths. My Neighbour Totoro lets us see through the eyes of a child — with a sense of innocence, curiosity, and wonder.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
If there is one film that stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the Ghibli catalog, it’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, the film has a very distinct experimental art style. It is quite minimalist, resembling a sketch painted with watercolors — a choice Takahata purposefully made as to not distract from the emotional story.
Kaguya is a mystical miniature girl. She is discovered in a shining bamboo stalk by a childless bamboo cutter. He instantly believes she is of divine origin and brings her home, where he and his wife take her in and raise her as their own. Kaguya grows rapidly and is soon almost indistinguishable from the other children in her village. However, her adoptive parents believe she is destined to be a princess. As she grows, Kaguya is forced to reluctantly abandon her previous carefree life and try to fulfill her role.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is stunning both visually and narratively. Its animation flows like a painting in motion, while its devastatingly emotional story reminds us of the transitory nature of human life. It is an awe-inspiring work of art, which everyone should see at least once.
Castle in the Sky
Steampunk flying machines, air pirates, and wild sky chases — Castle in the Sky is one of Studio Ghibli’s most straightforward adventure films. It all begins when Sheeta literally floats down from the sky, saved by the magical powers imbued in her amulet. She is discovered by a young boy named Pazu who graciously takes her in while she recovers. Pazu then shares the legend of an ancient floating city with his visitor. But before they can embark on a journey in search of it, they are attacked by air pirates who are after Sheeta’s mystical pendant.
Castle in the Sky is a lively and enthralling adventure. It might not be as allegorical or mysterious as other Miyazaki works, but it still features Studio Ghibli’s signature gorgeous visuals, a wildly imaginative story, and fun characters. It’s all you would want from an adventure movie about discovering a lost civilization, and it will keep your attention with every frame.
When Marnie was There
Anna is a lonely 12-year-old girl who finds it hard to connect to others, including her foster parents. After a worrying asthma attack, she is sent to live with relatives in the countryside on the recommendation of her doctor. Even in this small community, however, her introverted and withdrawn nature makes it hard to form friendships and trust new people. Until she meets Marnie — a lively girl who lives in a mansion across the town’s lake.
When Marnie was There is written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi who also brought us another recent Ghibli film, The Secret World of Arrietty. It is a sentimental tale of self-discovery and friendship, imbued with elements of mystery and fantasy. Although it is not a Miyazaki film, it bears all the telltale signs of an immersive and captivating Studio Ghibli adventure. It will keep you emotionally invested from beginning to end. It’s definitely one of the best films to watch in the Studio Ghibli movies list.
Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is a lot more grounded in reality than most Studio Ghibli films, but that is its strength, not its weakness. It follows 14-year-old student Shizuku — an aspiring writer and book lover who visits the library quite often. One night, she discovers that all of the books she borrows have been previously checked out by a boy named Seiji. He turns out to be a classmate of hers, and although she finds him annoying at first, they soon discover they have more in common than expected.
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Whisper of the Heart is an unpretentious coming-of-age Ghibli classic. It depicts teenage life and its trials honestly and without condescension. It gives us a glimpse into the everyday life of Japanese students, but its themes cross-cultural barriers. The film delicately explores teenage romance but focuses on dreams and aspirations and the real work required to achieve them. It is a must-watch for both Ghibli fans and first-time viewers.
My Neighbors the Yamadas
There are no fantasy settings or storylines in this film. Instead, this 1999 movie is all about regular life centering on a regular family in modern-day Japan. It also has an art style that’s very different than the norm.
This 1992 film takes place in an Italy run by a fascist government, and it’s up to a bounty hunter, who happens to look like a pig, to take down sky pirates. This is a movie that takes on hard subject matters with some fanciful execution.
The Wind Rises
The 2013 movie is a look at the real life of the Japanese early aviation engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who helped to design the famous WWII fighter plane the Zero. It definitely an unusual choice for an animated movie’s plot.
A young woman takes a train into the country to visit relatives, but she soon experiences flashbacks to her childhood in this 1991 movie. As you might imagine this has a kind of dream-like look to it.
Similar to The Little Mermaid, and more recently the Disney Pixar film Luca, this 2008 movie is about a goldfish who wants to become human. It an interesting take on the “fish out of water” type of storyline (no pun intended).
This 1993 movie focuses on two long-time friends from high school who have their bond tested due to the arrival of a new female transfer student. It’s a teenage soap opera but it’s also very well executed.
Magical tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) are being forced out of their homes by human development so they try to fight back with their shape shifting powers in this 1994 movie. This is obviously a parable of how we should be mindful of nature and try to stay in balance with it.
The Cat Returns
A young person who can talk to cats rescues one in this 2002 movie. It turns out that this particular feline is the Price of the Cats. This is perfect watching for the young and young at heart.
Tales from Earthsea
This epic fantasy film from 2006 is based very loosely on the Earthsea novels and stories from the late American author Ursula K. Le Guin. While the finished work doesn’t really resemble the source material that much, it’s still a fun adventure.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Here’s another film, made in 2010, based on the works of a Western author (in this case, The Borrowers from Mary Norton). A group of very small human-looking creatures try to stay hidden as they “borrow” things from normal sized humans in order to survive, but one such borrower strikes a friendship with a larger human.
From Up on Poppy Hill
Set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, this film shows two high school kids who are trying to keep a WWII clubhouse from being destroyed. Once again we get some teenage soap opera action.
Earwig and the Witch
The most recent of the Studio Ghibli films to watch is this 2020 entry. It’s also the first movie from the studio to be a fully 3D CGI production. Set in England, it centers on an orphan girl who discovers she has magical powers when she’s adopted by a witch.
That’s a look at all of the films along with where one can watch the Studio Ghibli movies. In 2023, a new movie, How Do You Live?, is scheduled to be released. We will update our “where to watch the Studio Ghibli movies” list if that film pops up on streaming.