Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest animation filmmakers in history.
His movies have charmed and entertained millions of kids worldwide. But he also did something even tougher. Keeping the parents that went to the theater and watched along at home hooked to the story at the same time.
So I figured, why not bring together a list of where to stream Miyazaki movies? And if it’s not readily available, is it worth buying the Blu-Ray disc?
I don’t want this to be a ‘Why I love Miyazaki’ type of deal. There are many posts out there that say it better written by people who’ve been watching him longer.
This post will be more of a highlight reel of this genius and his work. And after talking a little bit about each, I’ll drop the details of where you can stream them if at all.
Edit: So major news came through on the 18th of October regarding Studio Ghibli movies. HBO Max got the rights to stream all of Studio Ghibli’s creations.
So this will not include some of Miyazaki’s pre-Ghibli work like Lupin III. But from the spring of 2020, all of Miyazaki’s best work will be on a service that is not live yet. Hurray?
Once the service is up and the movies are available, I will link the right sections to the movie. Until then, it’s Blu-Rays for us.
Edit 2: Netflix just piled on with their own bit of news concerning Miyazaki. They confirmed on 19th January, that they will begin streaming of 21 Studio Ghibli movies.
They will release the first bunch on February 01, another on March 01, and the last of the 21 on April 01.
The catch, it doesn’t apply to the USA, Canada, and Japan regions. If you’re in the US, you’ll still be following HBO MAX for updates.
Where to stream Miyazaki movies
- My Neighbor Totoro
Click here to stream the best Miyazaki movie on Prime
- Spirited Away
Click here to stream the Oscar-winner on Amazon Prime
- Howl’s Moving Castle
Click here to stream the story about wizards and aging
- Princess Mononoke
Click here to stream the clash between nature and human settlements
- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Click here to stream the story about a princess in a post-apocalyptic world
- Castle in the Sky
Click here to watch 2 kids take on an aerial invading force
- Kiki’s Delivery Service
Click here to stream the story of a young witch’s internship away from home
- The Wind Rises
Click here to watch the WWII story of a Japanese aeronautical engineer
Click here to stream Miyazaki’s take on the mysterious world of oceans
- Porco Rosso
Click here to stream the story of an ace pilot who is also a pig
- Lupin the Third
Click here to stream Miyazaki’s first-ever hit on Netflix
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro
Let’s start with Miyazaki’s first hit as a director. The movie is based on an existing character Lupin the third, who had his show run successfully in Japan.
It is well before Miyazaki brought his distinctive art style to the screen through the legendary Studio Ghibli. More on Ghibli later.
Like with many masters of cinema, the first didn’t get the attention it probably deserved. But after a few re-releases, it did get classified as a hit.
The protagonist, unlike his most iconic ones, is a master thief and let’s say PG-13 playboy. He’s the lovable (sort of) vagabond.
You can check out the movie on Netflix. It is a fun watch but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone I’m trying to get into Miyazaki.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
This I would say, is the first look at the breathtaking worlds Miyazaki has come to be known for. It had a couple of elements synonymous with Miyazaki films.
It had a strong female protagonist and anti-war themes. Two things that Miyazaki has championed constantly through his movies.
Nausicaa is the princess of the Valley of the wind in a world 1000 years after a very destructive war that realigned everything mankind previously knew.
This also smacks of another signature of his. A love of nature. But future movies would cover this more intimately.
The movie has beautiful art with huge war-machines and gigantic insect creatures inhabiting it. He was able to show the scale of these creatures even in 1984.
This movie is also known to be the rock on which Studio Ghibli is built.
Now for those not familiar with the legendary studio, it is one of the major reasons the Japanese animation industry has the global following it has today.
Since its inception, it has come up with masterpieces like Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s delivery service, Spirited away and more.
It has become known for its beautiful animation style. Nothing that challenges the luxurious style of Disney animated movies from that same era or even the modern Japanese animation movies.
The characters looked cartoonish but had as many emotions as any live-action character could hope for.
Their work had a freshness that burst through the screen to its viewers. And the movies tackled serious issues in a way that doesn’t overload kids.
This is why it is hugely entertaining for kids and still a solid watch for adults. Plus, it has an amazing quality of transporting people to the world created by the maker.
It is in that elite level of animation studios, sharing it with the likes of Disney and Pixar.
Its art style has influenced future animators working in movies, anime, and games.
Laputa – Castle in the Sky 1986
The first feature film from Studio Ghibli had 2 little kids fighting off mean adults in a variety of floating locations in the sky.
The pictures feel like a Manga come to life with the sketches of the artists clearly visible. But instead of making it look shoddy, it brought a personality to the images on the screen.
With big mechanical contraptions looking menacing and a little fun at the same time. By now you can see a trend of child protagonists fighting off adults being set in their ways.
Miyazaki is very much aware of how media we consume early on in our lives impact our minds. And he takes that responsibility and runs with it.
This is also not on major streaming sites but can be owned through Blu-Ray.
My Neighbor Totoro
AKA Tonari no Totoro. The second Ghibli film directed by Miyazaki was released in the same year as another Ghibli classic, Grave of the Fireflies.
It also happens to be my absolute favorite from the Ghibli roster. It has two of the most adorable young girls moving from the city to a remote location with their father.
I rate this up with there with the absolute best the West has come up with, including Pixar classics like Toy Story, Wall-E or Up.
These two girls are excited about their new surroundings and start exploring. They come into contact with Forest spirits, a huge part of Japanese mythology, and befriends them.
Their interactions are a joy to watch. They start off being afraid, rightfully so. But then realizes these are gentle creatures despite their appearance.
It has iconic scenes like the one where the younger girl falls asleep after tiring herself out chasing after the spirits.
Then the one that should be instantly recognizable to Ghibli fans. The picture of the large spirit shielding himself from the rain using a tiny leaf to mimic the girls with their umbrella.
At some point, they get into a cat bus. That’s right, the Night bus in Harry Potter is not the freakiest mode of transport in kids’ media.
This is an absolute must-watch for animation fans and I don’t know a kid who didn’t immediately want to watch it again.
Its movie poster lives up to the quality set by the rest of the production. This one captures the aura of mystery and adventure from the movie.
Kiki’s delivery service
Continuing with the themes of adorable young protagonists, Miyazaki’s next was about a young witch in training.
When a witch reaches a certain age in this wondrous world, she has to leave her parents’ home and do her apprenticeship in a faraway town.
So she flies away on her broomstick with her trusty, but useless, cat companion to a new town. Then she goes about helping the townsfolk as part of her adventure.
Miyazaki movies are not exactly known to inspire a lot of costumes, but Kiki’s look is quite popular.
This too is on Blu-Ray.
This was a departure from the others, in that it has a more aggressive heroine.
This movie has princes, wolf spirits, boar spirits, fatal curses and the theme of towns expanding into forests and threatening the animals there.
The spirits are initially evil, but then we come to know they’re simply trying to protect their home. Again a case of serious issues taught through beautiful art and storytelling.
This one has more scenes of blood that you would see in an average Miyazaki movie. But certainly not the gory kind we associate with Japanese animation.
You can find it on Blu-Ray.
Spirited away is yet another masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. Mainly due to its ability to transport the audience to a magical and mysterious place far, far away.
It even won the 2003 academy award for Best Animated Feature. A major achievement for Japanese film, that hasn’t been done since.
It is still the only one not from the West to have won the award by the way, which is a damn shame considering the stuff to have come from Japan.
The protagonist is the kind, strong-willed girl that Miyazaki has mastered by now. She, due to circumstances, is forced to work in a bathhouse owned by a witch. Already better than Hansel and Gretel.
The art saw a significant change as the surroundings that the protagonist, Chihiro, is transported to is more detailed and eye-grabbing than ever.
There are witches and spirits whose appearance balances that line between creepy and amusing perfectly.
This is a major strength of Miyazaki and nowhere is it more obvious than in Spirited away.
You can find the movie on Blu-Ray and if the art really grabbed you as it did me, there’s a book companion you can get.
The art alone is worth investing in. The book of Spirited away art became a very popular commodity after the picture’s release.
This is #2 on my list of Miyazaki movies after Totoro, and you’ll see why after you sit through this movie.
It also has a kick-ass poster that’ll look great on an anime fan’s wall.
Howl’s Moving Castle
This 2004 was one of those movies that I always found a bit tough to categorize. It always felt like I was taking a look into a time in the life of a few characters in an imaginary world.
Probably why it has stuck with me for so long. I don’t know if it’s my #3 but it is certainly strong in my memory.
This particular world again sees a weird co-existence between magic and technology. What with people with magical abilities riding around in giant mobile castles, hence the name.
It felt like Miyazaki’s fantastical version of Oz, and the viewers and the protagonist, are dropped into a magical conflict they can’t understand but still has a role to play in.
Wouldn’t you know it, this one’s not on major streaming services. But you can buy the Blu-Ray on Amazon.
Ponyo and Wind Rises
I haven’t got around to watching 2008’s Ponyo and 2013’s Wind rises yet. But suffice to say, the artwork and tone of the movie haven’t disappointed critics and audiences.
Wind Rises, from its synopsis, seems to tackle more grown-up themes and may not be as enjoyable a watch for the kids as the others. But make sure that doesn’t stop you from getting a copy.
I’ll be sure to amend this section once I do watch them. But if you have thoughts on them, share it with me in the comments.
Edit: I did watch Ponyo after writing the post. It’s similar to the more mainstream kids’ movies, in that it was made for them specifically.
It is also the only marine-themed Miyazaki I can think of (See how I phrased it like he’s an artist and his movies are paintings).
There is a message to save marine life, but it kinda gets lost in the story. The art is still great but it may not be the viewing experience for the entire family, the way his earlier films are.
One of the highlights is a scene where the heroine Ponyo, is running on very peculiar ocean waves.
Edit 2: Watched Wind rises. Definitely more for grown-ups than kids. Outside of the visuals, I don’t think kids will get much out of it. That, or I’m severely underestimating them.
It’s about Japan during WWII (not a popular topic I know), and how a Japanese aeronautical engineer tackled this very tricky time.
The visuals are pretty mellow too since it is set in the real world. There are no flights (literally) of fantasy outside of some dream sequences (which were amazing).
The point I wanted to make through this post is that you owe yourself this viewing pleasure if you haven’t already.
I don’t want to make it sound like kids’ movies made just for kids is less or anything. It’s just that Miyazaki is one of those filmmakers, like Pixar studios, that have figured out how to do more with it.
There’s also just the animation side of it. The way he captures children’s movement for instance. The slightly off-balance way they run or walk.
There are movies that belong to a more detailed list, that are not on here. Like Porco Rosso from the year 1992. An aerial ace turned into a pig that can still fly a plane.
That’s a post all its own. But suffice to say, his movies fall squarely in the must-watch category.
Another thing that I want to touch upon is how most of these are not streamable. That’s rare. But in terms of movies, you would like as Blu Rays, Miyazaki movies rank high.
Do let me know how this viewing list worked out for you in the comments below.