Studio Ghibli has gifted the world with numerous beautiful films over the years, and director/Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki has created some of the most magical worlds ever put on screen. Nearly the entire Ghibli catalog is well worth watching, but if you had to choose one film to watch from Ghibli, it would just have to be the incomparable Spirited Away. It has everything you could want out of a Ghibli movie, and it’s currently streaming on Max.
It’s very hard to choose one of Studio Ghibli’s movies, almost every single one is an anime classic, but Spirited Away is a perfect movie.
Spirited Away follows the ten-year-old girl Chihiro, who is whisked away into a spirit world after her parents are turned into pigs by a witch. Chihiro takes a job in the witch’s bathhouse as she tries to find a way to free herself and her parents from this new, strange world. Hayao Miyazaki directs and wrote the screenplay for the film.
Spirited Away has all of the hallmarks of a Ghibli film, such as beautiful hand-drawn animation, a fantastical world, gorgeous music, themes of environmentalism and consumerism, and a story rich with nuance while also being incredibly accessible for all ages. While it’s easy for me to sing the praises of this film all day, you don’t have to just take my word for it. Not only is this movie considered one of the best animated films of all time, but it’s also often considered one of the best films of all time, period.
Spirited Away was a success in every sense of the word for Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film, becoming the first and only (so far) hand-drawn and non-English-language film to win the award. It also held the title of the highest-grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years until it was very recently unseated by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train in 2020.
Spirited Away‘s record is perhaps still a bit more impressive since it wasn’t based on an existing IP, whereas the Demon Slayer movie already had a fairly large built-in audience. Not to mention the fact that anime has become more mainstream than ever in recent years. The fact that Ghibli had such a massive reach in 2001 is still impressive.
Spirited Away is the only non-English film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Film.
Disney even snapped up the North American film distribution rights for Spirited Away back in the day after Miyazaki’s friend, Pixar animator John Lasseter, convince the company to do it. This also means that the dub for the film is very good, so you can’t go wrong watching the film either subbed or dubbed. Both versions are available on Max, so you have your choice.
The original Japanese-language version of Spirited Away features the voice talents of Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tsunehiko Kamijō, Takehiko Ono, and Bunta Sugawara. The performances are predictably fantastic, and the subbed version is definitely something you should watch on Max. But if you watch the dub version first, you’ll get great performances as well from the cast, which includes Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers, and John Ratzenberger.
If you loved Spirited Away, some other great films to follow it up with would be My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke
Needless to say, Spirited Away is not only an amazing film, but it has also had a massive and far-reaching cultural impact on the world of animation. Many have cited it as a highly influential film, so it’s more than worth taking the time to stream it on Max if you haven’t seen it yet. Plus, it will be a great way to introduce yourself to the world of Studio Ghibli.
Don’t be surprised if Spirited Away inspires you to take down a whole weekend-long marathon of Studio Ghibli films on Max. If you loved Spirited Away, some other great films to follow it up with would be My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke. Really, you can’t go wrong with any Ghibli film, but the Miyazaki-directed ones do always seem to stand out from the rest.
Now is as good of a time as ever to watch Spirited Away and all of Miyazaki’s other greatest films on Max. Miyazaki released his latest film, The Boy and the Heron, in Japan earlier this year, and the film is set to get a US release before the end of the year as well. This is reportedly Hayao Miyazki’s final film, and it would be fascinating to watch his entire body of work.