All of the best Studio Ghibli films are now available on Netflix. In January 2020, Netflix acquired the rights to the 21 Studio Ghibli anime classics, making it a Ghibli bonanza right now for Netflix subscribers in the UK, Europe and all other regions apart from the US, Canada and Japan.
Five of Studio Ghibli’s films have picked up Academy Award nominations, including the Oscar-winning Spirited Away as well as a plethora of other gongs and a host of recognition from other film festivals. If you’ve already dipped into this Japanese animation studio’s oeuvre, then there really is no better time. Sign-up to Netflix (opens in new tab) and away you go.
Known for its beautiful style and resonant themes, Studio Ghibli has kicked out hit after hit since its debut feature film, Castle in the Sky in 1986. The only tricky part is to know where to begin. Ultimately, we’d say that all the Studio Ghibli films are well worth your time but below are our favourite five to get you going.
Sadly, the Studio Ghibli films are not available to Netflix subscribers in the USA, Canada or Japan. The reason Netflix couldn't extend the agreement to those three countries is that there are pre-existing rights deals in those zones. If you’re away from home or in one of these countries then you can head straight to how to watch Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix in the US, Canada and Japan.
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Best Studio Ghibli films to watch on Netflix
Now that you've got your Netflix subscription sorted, it's time to get watching your Studio Ghibli movies, but where to begin? It's not a company known for many anime stinkers, so the good news is that any of the 21 current Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix should make an excellent two hours of entertainment.
That said, these are our favourite five and, if you're not already seen them, they're as good a place to start as any.
Spirited Away (2001)
Obviously. Where else to begin but with the Studio Ghibli Oscar-winner? Spirited Away tells the story of a young girl who moves with her family to a new neighbourhood. On the way there, however, she gets trapped in the spirit world of Japanese Shinto folklore while her parents are turned into pigs. What plays out is a beautiful and touching adventure with a typically imaginative cast of characters who help the young girl out on her quest to get hers and her parents' lives back.
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Influenced by writer/director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, and his feelings of opposition to the USA's invasion of Iraq in 2003, the story is very loosely based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. It follows a young girl who is transformed into an old woman by a witch. Seeking to break the curse, the girl begins working for a wizard named Howl but gets caught up in a war between kingdoms despite the the wizard's hatred of conflict.
Porco Rosso (1992)
Possibly the most underrated of the Studio Ghibli films, it centres on an Italian ex-World War I fighter pilot ace who has suffered a strange curse which has rendered him half-man, half-pig. Undeterred, the brash Porco Rosso continues his adventures as the bounty hunter nemesis of any sky pirates who dare to take the air over the Adriatic Sea. Duals, aerobatics and talking pigs - what more could you want?
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Studio Ghibli's first also happens to be one of its best. It's a steampunk fantasy adventure set some time in the 1800s which follows Sheeta and Pazu, a girl and boy, who travel to Laputa, a flying island, in search of a long-lost floating castle. With its strong sense of narrative purpose as the pair are pursued by pirates attempting to steal Sheeta's mysterious amulet, there's rarely a dull moment. The two hours will race by in a flash.
Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Another early Ghiibli, Kiki's story is about the tricky transition to adulthood. As is tradition for trainee witches, 13-year-old Kiki leaves home for a new city in search of her independence along with her talking black cat Jiji. Kiki's intention is to use her flying skills to earn and living and she manages to do just that when she starts up a witch delivery business. Her first delivery does not go well, however, and all is not as easy in this new life as Kiki had expected.
How to watch Studio Ghibli in the US, Canada and Japan
In the North America, it's subscription streaming service HBO Max that owns the exclusive rights to stream the Studio Ghibli films. That's fine for those in the US who can simply sign-up to HBO Max (opens in new tab) for $14.99 per month. Sadly, there's no HBO Max service north of the border which leaves Canadians out in the cold, Ghibli-wise. Similarly, there are no streaming rights to Studio Ghibli films in the animation company's home country of Japan.
If you happen to be stuck outside your own country, and in one of these regions, when you want to watch a Studio Ghibli movie on Netflix or HBO Max. Those with UK Netflix rights travelling in the States, for example, will find themselves geo-blocked from their normal Netflix library. Similarly, Americans with an HBO Max subscription will run up against a wall when trying to watch a Studio Ghibli movie when in Europe or elsewhere.
The way round this issue is by using a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) can spoof an IP address which is local to the server you’d like to access. That way your service provider will think you’re in the correct country to do so and allow you to watch the Studio Ghibli films on your Netflix or HBO Max subscription as if you were back home.
VPNs are also as useful for banking as they are at trying to watch video content or accessing websites which people in your location are not supposed to do. They encrypt the data passing between you and the server, so that the information remains private.
So, whether you want to watch anime or just keep your browsing data private, then a VPN is well worth considering.
There are many VPN providers out there, with some more reliable and safe than others. As a rule, we’d suggest a paid-for service and would recommend the following:
You can get three months free when you sign up to a year-long plan, bringing VPN access to smart devices including the Amazon Fire TV Stick, laptops, TVs and both Android and iOS mobiles and tablets. Express also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Which comes in at as little as $2.99 (£2.29) per month and features 24/7 assistance
Once you’ve made your choice, all you need to do is sign in to your VPN service through whichever device you’d like to use to watch the match. When prompted to select a server, you need to pick one which is based in the country whose content you’d like to access. Then navigate to the relevant video streaming app or website and you’re in.