Top 5 underrated Studio Ghibli movies

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As StudioCanal continue their ongoing plan to release the entire Studio Ghibli catalogue in high definition on Blu-ray, we celebrate this week’s release of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Grave of the Fireflies with a look at our five favourite underrated Ghibli movies…


Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s film received a rather sniffy response on its release, many citing a poor English-language voice cast and lack of real drive in the story but Arrietty is all about whimsy – something Ghibli is the perfect conduit for. Based on the classic children’s book from Mary Norton, The Borrowers, the film saw the youngest director ever for a Ghibli release (at that time).

Interestingly, Arrietty received a warm and lauded response in its native Japan, winning awards and sweeping up at the box office easily, and it’s not hard to see why. Filled with beautiful and incredibly evocative animation, complemented by a luscious score from French composer Cécile Corbel, Arrietty is a delight whose sights and sounds live long in the mind after viewing.

The Cat Returns

In the huge shadow of one of Ghibli’s true masterpieces (and certainly one of cinema’s true masterpieces), Spirited Away, came this more humble, delicate and, dare I say, more fanciful feature.

Acting as a sequel, of sorts, to Whisper of the Heart (from Yoshifumi Kondō in 1995), The Cat Returns sees the, erm, return of a cat – namely the Baron, from the aforementioned movie as he is tracked down by young girl Haru. It’s not as weighty or even as meaningful as most of the Ghibli fare but director Hiroyuki Morita brings neatness to proceedings whilst the locations and characters are as beautiful as ever.

Grave of the Fireflies

For some Ghibli aficionados this is most definitely not underrated. Not by any stretch of the imagination. For those in the know, this beauty from Isao Takahata is a powerful, powerful piece of animation and storytelling. So powerful is this story, in fact, that two live action versions have also been produced.

Based on a 1967 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, Grave of the Fireflies deals with Japan in World War II, and never pulls any punches when it comes to reality or, indeed emotions. With its release on Blu-ray, it’ll find a whole new audience who, like late critic Roger Ebert, will rank it in their Top 100 films of all time.

Porco Rosso

Michael Keaton voices a flying pig? What more could you want? Hayao Miyazaki gives Ghibli another war piece (this one post-WWI), based on a fifteen-page manga strip. And, as you would expect in a film about an ex-Italian fighter pilot turned bounty hunter living in the Adriatic, his Europhile flourishes are wondrous – though you’ll find that it’s the excellent voice work from the former ‘Batman’ actor that steal the show.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Again, for many, this piece is another greatly appreciated Ghibli flick. Due to its lightness and childlike feel (no bad thing), it does sometimes get overlooked but there’s so much to love in this perfect piece of paradise. Kiki is an amazing role-model for girls and boys alike with her business-like savvy and go-get-’em spirit. AND she’s got an equally amazing cat – Jiji (voiced in the English language version by the late Phil Hartman).

The King of Ghibli, Miyazaki, showed off all his European love in the exquisite locale and surroundings and made being a witch an utterly COOL thing to be. So, don’t be put off by its colourfulness and joie de vivre, dive in and swim in the sheer exuberance that is Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Who’s your favourite underrated Studio Ghibli movie? Let us know below…

Watch the trailer for Arriety