There are animated movies, and there are Studio Ghibli movies. These fairytale-like films appear to be intended for a younger audience at first appearance, yet the intricacy of the storytelling in each of these films make them suitable for older age groups. Studio Ghibli films make you yearn for places you’ll never visit. Studio From talking animals, to a living castle and a drama about a World War II aeroplane designer, Ghibli has a film for everyone. There are 23 feature films in the studio’s catalogue, but these are my top 10, ranked from good to amazing. 

1. When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There follows Anna, a  12 year-old foster child sent to a rural town to treat her asthma. She ends up meeting Marnie who may or may not be a ghost. It’s the most heartwarming thing. I’m still mad that it’s not a queer coming of age story, it’s also the only Studio Ghibli movie I liked enough to watch the dubbed version.

2. Ponyo

In Ponyo, a fish decides she wants to be human after meeting a human boy. It’s giving Little Mermaid realness, but for five-year-olds. Watching this, you fall in love with the boy, his hot mum, Ponyo’s weirdly hot dad that wants to destroy the earth looking for her, and even the annoying old women at her place of work. Everyone lowkey watches Ponyo for that one scene where they make noodles while it rains. 

3. My Neighbour Totoro

This film follows the story of two little girls who moved to a farmhouse with their dad and sick mum.  The girls have the time of their life hanging out with Totoro, a magical creature only kids can see and who makes space for them to escape the reality of life.  Let’s all just pretend like that cat bus was not scary as fuck, and say it’s for kids. 

4. Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart  is a tale  of 14-year-old aspiring writer, Shizuki., Shizuki spends her time wrapped in the fantastical world she’s created in her head, until she falls in love with a violin maker that pushes her to follow her dreams of being a writer.  This film had no magic about it, but it forces you to self reflect, especially as a creative person. People will always be better than you, but how willing are you to admit that and ‌still create art you like? The movie deserves all the flowers.

5. The Wind Rises

If you want to cry, this is the movie for you. The worst part is the fact that you never even expect the tears. Why should a simple story about the life of an aeroplane designer making plans for the war break your heart like this?  One thing is sure, you’ll become anti-war and fall in love with these two quotes from the movie: “Remember, aeroplanes are not tools for war, they are not for making money. Aeroplanes are beautiful dreams; engineers turn dreams into reality,” and “The wind is rising, we must try to live.”

6. Howl’s Moving Castle

You can’t watch Howl’s Moving Castle without falling in love with Calcifer’s annoying ass. This film is about Howl, a heartless magician — literally — and Sophie, a hatter that was cursed to look old, all thanks to Howl. 

The both of them end up falling in love even after seeing that man at his worst. Sophie has issues she needs to work out because why? My babe even cleaned after him for free, please abeg. It gave Nollywood vibes, which is exactly why it’s the best one, quote us anywhere. 

7. Spirited Away

Spirited Away was the first Studio Ghibli film to win an Academy Award, and rightfully so.  In Spirited AwayChihiro, a ten year-old girl who gets trapped in a resort full of supernatural beings after her parents ate food that doesn’t belong to them and turned into pigs. This babe became a maid at the worst resort ever just to free her parents. The best and worst thing about this movie is the No-Face character, and you’ll come out feeling like you aged ten years after watching this movie. Years later, you’ll still be able to hear Chihiro shouting “Okasan!” and “Otosan!” 

8. My Neighbours the Yamadas

My Neighbours the Yamadas stands out because of the comic strip-like art style. It follows the hilarious life of the Yamadas, which keeps you laughing throughout. It’s wild because they have the same energy as a typical Nigerian family. This movie takes slice-of-life anime to another level and I’m here for it.  

9. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Who doesn’t love a movie that talks about our favourite subject, depression? Kiki is a young witch that leaves home at 13 to hone her craft, with nothing but her stubborn ego and her talking cat, Jiji.  It’s a coming of age story about how lonely it can be growing up and how hard it can be to ask for help. Her closest companion Jiji had the audacity to fall in love with a regular cat, had kids with her and forgot how to talk. I’d be depressed too. Men of every species will disgrace and embarrass you. I’m just glad it still had a happy ending. 

10. Princess Mononoke

A recurring trope in most Studio Ghibli movies is a world where nature has taken over and humans are struggling to live in a world created by their lack of respect for the earth. Princess Mononoke is a coming of age movie about Ahitaka, a prince  who got cursed after an attacking a possessed boar by the spirit inside the boar. He goes on a quest to find a cure and has to deal with humans who still take advantage of nature for profit. It’s no wonder the gods of nature want to kill all humans. How princesses Mononoke and Ahitaka ‌find love in their dire situation is something that I’d never understand, but then, teenagers are not known for their good decisions.  If you enjoy this, you’d totally enjoy Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.


Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.