5 most underrated Studio Ghibli movies

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya /

The world of Studio Ghibli is full of amazing movies that we're fortunate to have with us in this lifetime. But with so many films being released, it's easy to get lost and lose track of which films they should pay attention to. What's more, everyone has their go-to film, making it all the more difficult to get out of the habit of staying within their Studio Ghibli comfort zone.

Fortunately for you, we have great recommendations for those who want a brand-new watch but don't know where to start. Each of these films is unique, entertaining, and, more importantly, gives you a great glimpse into the masterful minds of Studio Ghibli creatives. Without further ado, here are five underrated Studio Ghibli films that you should watch as soon as possible!

5. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Where to stream: Max

The Tale of Princess Kaguya tells the story of a beautiful princess who is wanted by all in the land. Five suitors, in particular, seek after her hand in marriage the most. While honored at the sight, she isn't quite ready to marry someone she doesn't know, so to prolong the process, she sends them on a lengthy journey to retrieve an item that is practically impossible to find.

Between the constant proposals and how normal citizens act very carefully around her, Princess Kaguya realizes that she will never live an ordinary life. What she yearns for is something so rare and precious. However, the only way she can acquire what she yearns for is by remembering who she really is.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a powerful story about recognizing what is and isn't love; a theme (or lesson) that will never grow old.

4. The Wind Rises (2013)

Where to stream: Max

The Wind Rises is one of the heavier films in Studio Ghibli's catalog because it explores the travesty and desolation that come with war. By no means is this a light-hearted topic to digest, so we don't blame most audiences for not wanting to watch it. However, we believe those who haven't seen it are missing out on one of Hayao Miyazaki's most important themes.

With this 2013 film, Miyazaki aims to persuade the audience that, in war, everyone suffers. Be it the crossing guard who puts their life on the line to help children navigate roads safely or the architect who witnessed his best creation fall to rumble after an explosion, no one truly leaves war unaffected. In the case of this film, the one who suffers is the very person who assisted in creating vehicles that inadvertently become weapons of mass destruction.

This is one of the few films where Hayao Miyazaki's anti-war sentiments are made explicit. Though a controversial movie to some, we implore everyone to give The Wind Rises a try.

3. Ocean Waves (1993)

Where to stream: Max

Love triangles aren't everyone's cup of tea. Even so, we think Ocean Waves covered this tried and true trope so well that it's hard to not view this film as a masterpiece.

At the heart of the story is a young student who is a complicated individual to be friends with. She borrows money she doesn't really need, she doesn't communicate her feelings as well as she should, and she's pretty confrontational. In many ways, her personality would repulse many people. Yet, two of her closest friends see beyond her flaws and fall in love with her all the more.

For many Studio Ghibli fans, Ocean Waves is a great introduction to the films that the animation studio makes that are more geared to younger audiences who are having their first introduction to romance. But don't let this fool you! Older audiences can learn a thing or two, too!

2. Only Yesterday (1991)

Where to stream: Max

Only Yesterday is a film that follows the life of Taeko Okajima, a young woman who most would label a "late bloomer" since she is single, unmarried, and without any kids. She feels a bit overwhelmed with her life as it is now, especially as she sees her sister married and living happily with her family. However, her anxieties about the current state of her life become the least of her worries when she is suddenly reliving her younger years.

In the past, Taeko recollects all the moments she lived as a young child. Her perspective as a young woman does make her cringe at some of the things that she said and did as a kid. Even so, seeing her past memories gives her the opportunity to change her outlook on life and learn some integral lessons that she might not have picked up on before.

Only Yesterday is perfect for those who may also feel a bit left behind in life. It will serve as a reminder that we don't have to rush ourselves to achieve everything we want to in a short matter of time; it's okay to stop and smell the roses from time to time.

1. My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)

Where to stream: Max

Every family has its quirks and its kinks. Some show it more than others, while others only occasionally let out their wild side. Either way, every family is a beautiful collection of different people who live different lives but still find a way to come together by the end of the day to spend some much-needed quality time with one another.

This is something that My Neighbors the Yamadas tells us very well.

The 1999 film does a profound job at showing the daily lives of the Yamada family. From silly moments that would make anyone laugh until they cry to more heartwarming moments that remind us that love will always be in the air, this family isn't strangers to the emotional rollercoaster ride that is life. Rather, they embrace the chaos with open arms.

From The Tale of Princess Kaguya to My Neighbors the Yamadas, these underrated films aren't necessarily what people expect when they watch a Studio Ghibli film since the most popular films are often full of imagination and take you on a crazy adventure. But every now and then, it's good to enjoy the realistic takes that Studio Ghibli can also tackle in a way that is mature but still goes down very easily.

If you feel the same way too, be sure to head to Max to begin streaming today!

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