Top Five Studio Ghibli Anime Films Streaming on HBO Max

For the first time ever, Studio Ghibli films are streaming on HBO Max. Discover the top five, how to watch for free and why AfterBuzz TV and Jaimi Gray love Anime.

Jaimi Gray

AfterBuzz TV Host & Writer
Posted On: May 27th, 2020 2:50pm pst

Maria Menounos
Keven Undergaro
AfterBuzz TV Founders

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.

ABTV Loves Anime: Studio Ghibli

Are you that anime fan that still has their Studio Ghibli films on DVD and VHS? Well, you’re in luck because Studio Ghibli films are now streaming exclusively on HBO Max. The official launch date is May 27th, 2020 and viewers in the U.S. will have access to all 21 studio films.

Studio Ghibli is widely known for producing some of the best critically-acclaimed animated films, and it is in large part due to its co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, the late Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki. We also can’t forget the musical genius of Joe Hisaishi who composed music for 14 of the studio’s movies. For the past 35 years, their magical films have inspired us with heart-warming stories, enchanting music, and stunning visuals for viewers of all ages. 

For those of you without an HBO Max subscription, there is still a way you can watch for FREE. The streaming platform provides free access for new users with a 7-day free trial before paying the standard monthly rate of $14.99. Seven days is more than enough time to binge-watch your favorite Studio Ghibli films during quarantine. As a fun guide, we’ve created a list of our Top 5 Ranked Studio Ghibli films:

  1. Castle in the Sky

Credit: Studio Ghibli

Castle in the Sky is where it all began for Studio Ghibli in 1986. In the studio’s first feature film, we meet a 13-year-old heiress named Sheeta. Her royal family also happens to rule a neglected, floating castle in the sky called Laputa. An orphan boy named Pazu joins her to save her kingdom, but not without some turbulence along the way with the Dola Gang who are also after Sheeta’s precious jewel necklace. This movie takes its characters and its viewers on a wild ride filled with mystical turbulence, action, and adventure. 

  1. Kiki’s Delivery Service        

Credit: Studio Ghibli

In this whimsical film, we meet a young, headstrong witch-in-training named Kiki. By the way, I always loved that her name is Kiki. The young witch decides to leave home to start her training in a new city, which would be her new home for the next year. Despite her tenacious efforts, Kiki is still just a teenager that finds it hard to fit in the big city, yet that is where the magic truly begins.

Kiki’s Delivery Service was unknowingly my first introduction to Studio Ghibli films. I found Kiki more relatable as a character than I did the characters in Studio Ghibli’s film My Neighbor Totoro. The pacing is much quicker and you learn to admire Kiki’s boldness as a young teen in this beautiful coming-of-age story.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle

Credit: Studio Ghibli

Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones and was later adapted into the anime film we know today. We meet a young woman named Sophie who lives a dull life running her family’s hat shop. After meeting a young wizard named Howl, the jealous Witch of the Waste casts a spell on Sophie and turns her into a 90-year-old woman. Determined to break the curse, Sophie finds Howl’s castle and makes a mutual deal with Calcifer, the fire demon, as their new cleaning lady. This charming film shows us how each character evolves—Sophie learns to find her voice and Howl finds his heart.

  1. Spirited Away

Credit: Studio Ghibli

I’m sure some of you were thinking this film would make the number one spot, and it wasn’t an easy decision. Spirited Away is one of the most popular movies of Studio Ghibli. The film won multiple awards, and was the first anime film to win an Oscar (Best Animated Feature). Main character Chihiro is not thrilled to move to a new town away from her friends, and to be honest, her attitude can be very annoying, but this changes over time. 

Chihiro and her parents make a pit stop at a tunnel and find an isolated theme park on the other side. 

Upon discovering a restaurant with some of the best-looking food in all of animation history, Chihiro’s parents decide to sit and eat—a lot. Their gluttony turns them into literal pigs, and suddenly, Chihiro notices the world around her changing. When a mysterious boy named Haku comes to her rescue, Chihiro is thrust into a new world, forced to get a job, a new name (Sen), and is also bound by contract under the evil witch, Yubaba in order to get her parents back to normal. This animated classic brings us unforgettable characters and is filled with magic and life-lessons. After watching this film once, you may find it hard to not look back.

  1. Princess Mononoke

Credit: Studio Ghibli

Our number one pick deservingly goes to the epic fantasy film Princess Mononoke. I still have this movie on VHS—yes…VHS. Who would’ve thought that a movie seemingly about wildlife conservation, demons, and forest gods would be so fascinating?

Also, we have to acknowledge the all-star English voice cast—-Keith David, Jada Pinkett Smith, Minnie Driver, and Claire Danes. I told you—this film is an epic work of art. Not only are there prostitutes and mountain god hunting, but you’ll see people get their heads and arms chopped off too—this film is not for the squeamish. As a pre-teen, I was immediately blown away by the animation style and storyline—I was hooked and began watching more Studio Ghibli films ever since.

Credit: Giphy

The story follows an Emishi prince named Ashitaka. While saving his village from the demon boar god, Ashitaka is cursed with a demon mark giving him superhuman abilities. Ashitaka must leave his village permanently and rise to meet his fate. On this journey, he arrives in Irontown and learns of Lady Iboshi’s plans to destroy the forest; however, San, the human princess raised by wolves, is committed to destroying all humans. In a mission to protect the forest and the Forest Spirit, Ashitaka strives to get both sides to see with eyes unclouded by hate. This film is a must-watch and you will not be disappointed.

The following films from Studio Ghibli’s acclaimed catalog will stream for the first time in the U.S. on HBO Max:

Castle in the Sky

The Cat Returns

From Up On Poppy Hill

Howl’s Moving Castle

Kiki’s Delivery Service

My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbors the Yamadas

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Ocean Waves

Only Yesterday

Pom Poko


Porco Rosso

Princess Mononoke

The Secret World of Arrietty

Spirited Away

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

Tales From Earthsea

When Marnie Was There

Whisper of the Heart

The Wind Rises

Do you agree with our list? Tweet us your favorite Studio Ghibli films! You can find us on Twitter: @itsjaimigray @abtvanime @afterbuzztv. 

If you love Studio Ghibli and anime like ABTV Loves Anime,  share this article with a friend.  Tune in daily to AfterbuzzTV for articles, aftershows, and all the latest news on the world of entertainment.

About The Author:

Jaimi Gray hails from Richmond, Virginia and received her BA in Broadcast Journalism at Hampton University, one our nation’s top HBCUs. Jaimi has since taken her talents to Los Angeles to continue working as an on-camera host and voice actor.

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence

“We don’t just celebrate and cover the top shows, content and stars, we celebrate and cover ALL the shows, content and stars.”

Maria Menounos

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