Raised by wolves, handy with spears and knives, and openly cynical about the goodness of humankind, “Wolf Girl” San is the kickass breakout character of Princess Mononoke, and also the person to whom the title refers. With her battle skills and affinity for nature, she ensures that Ashitaka, the film’s protagonist, successfully navigates the corrupt battlegrounds containing the cures he seeks. That, and imbuing him with the courage to confront the primary reason for his — by extension, his village’s — curse: a long and checkered history of politically-sanctioned environmental abuse. — Jedd
Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the few films in the studio’s repertoire that directly traces its conception to a singular political event: the 2003 Iraq War. When a girl is cursed by a witch to appear as though she has aged decades, she has to rely on a young wizard and his friends who live in (you guessed it) a moving castle.
Its primary message of pacifism, and its satirization of the global industrial military complex through the wealthy, sadistic, yet bumbling Madame Soliman, is sure to leave viewers as perplexed as they are mesmerized. The actual moving castles are as breathtaking as they are deliberately on the nose. — Jedd
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Put quite simply, Nausicaä is a pro-nature, anti-war epic masterpiece. The film follows the journey of its titular main character in a post-apocalyptic world, as she struggles against a totalitarian empire’s goal to wipe out giant mutant insects that roam the land.
Nausicaä herself is an incredible, strong protagonist, who goes on a cross-region adventure to protect her valley and the nature that she deems sacred, even when others don’t. We have many lessons to learn from Nausicaä’s drive to protect her beloved world — there is no better time to watch this movie than now. By the way, this is an unofficial Ghibli movie; it was the movie that kickstarted the founding of the studio itself, and still, after all these years and movies, it holds its ground as Ghibli’s seminal adventure-epic. — Anton
Grave of the Fireflies
Get your tissues ready. Grave of the Fireflies is one of Ghibli’s more infamous films — for a good reason. The movie explores the city of Kobe post-World War II, and the downright depressing effects of the war on a pair of siblings, Seita and Setsuko, in particular. Haunting and dark, with a few flickers of hope here and there, the full impact of the war bares its teeth. Starvation. Bombings. Sickness. This is a captivating, painstaking reminder of why a World War should never happen again. — Anton