Hey! Hallie here!
I have recently been obsessed with cozy entertainment and I think most Studio Ghibli films fall under that category. Other than ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, every Ghibli movie I’ve watched has given off some sort of comforting, whimsical vibe that cheers me up after a bad day. That said, the more I’ve explored cozy content, the more I’ve realized that while any movie can be comforting, some movies hit certain criteria that truly make it feel like you’re being wrapped in a warm blanket. The movies on this list are the Ghibli movies I feel give off this comfort the most. To make it onto this list, I specifically looked at movies that held the whimsy I liked in films as a child, but with low stakes that feel focused on personal growth rather than a situation that could be dire for any of the characters. Let’s get into my personal list of the most comforting Ghibli films!
5. ‘The Cat Returns’. ‘The Cat Returns’, more than any other Ghibli film, feels like a movie I would have watched over and over as a small child. It follows a high schooler named Haru, who goes out of her way to rescue a cat who’s almost hit by a truck. After she saves the cat, he stands up on two legs and speaks to thank her. If that wasn’t weird enough, she’s later faced with a royal procession of cats led by the Cat King who wish to give her gifts. But things quickly turn sinister when the Cat King insists she’s now obligated to marry his son, the cat she saved from the truck. She’s forced to seek help from the Cat Bureau, led by a cat named the Baron, all while she slowly turns into a cat herself. It’s really lighthearted, with villains that are more silly than evil and the stakes lying in the main character trying to stop herself from fully becoming a cat. The film is also short, sitting at only an hour and fifteen minutes, making it perfect for those days where my attention span is causing me stress. And the best part? In the English dub The Baron is voiced by Cary Elwes! While this movie doesn’t have a smaller scale cozy feel, the fantastical land of the Cat Kingdom brings its own comfort, particularly because of the gorgeous animation. It’s hard not to want to join the Baron for tea in the beautiful Cat Bureau base or dance in the Cat King’s ballroom in the towering palace. This one’s highly recommended for those days where you just want something fun without a complicated plot.
4. ‘When Marnie Was There’. This one is somber in tone at first, but I feel this one turns wholesome very fast and manages to keep that warm feeling even while the dramatic mystery of the movie unfolds. This one follows a young girl named Anna who’s sent to live with her aunt and uncle to help her with a mix of asthma and depression. While there she stumbles across an abandoned mansion where she meets a girl named Marnie. Strangely, Marnie appears to live in the mansion that, at night, is suddenly full of people rather than abandoned. But in the morning the mansion appears abandoned again and no one knows who Marnie is. While Anna begins to open up thanks to her friendship with Marnie, she tries to unravel the mystery of who Marnie really is. This one is particularly comforting to me because it deals pretty seriously with mental health. While I wouldn’t say there’s anything triggering for anyone dealing with anxiety or depression, the main character struggles with both of those things in a way that’s relatable. And this movie goes through her healing process as she learns how to open up to new people, depend on her family, and love herself even during her bad days. It’s cathartic, and at times definitely emotional. But for the most part, the way that Anna is supported by the people around her, particularly Marnie, is so comforting. I especially love that the movie really romanticizes the every day experience of getting to know new people with the fantasy backdrop of the strange mystery around Marnie. Definitely watch this one if you want a comforting watch that feels personal.
3. ‘Ponyo’. ‘Ponyo’ is the perfect mix of fantasy and everyday coziness with characters that are way too cute not to love. ‘Ponyo’ follows a fish girl who lives in the ocean. Curious about the surface world, she swims to shore and meets a little boy named Sosuke who gives her the name Ponyo. Sosuke decides to care for her on land and as the two get older, Ponyo begins to turn more and more into a human. But Ponyo’s father feels she’ll be safer in the ocean and his desire to bring her home causes problems for Sosuke’s seaside town. Most of the comfort from this one comes from the innocent love between Ponyo and Sosuke. Both are extremely young children who like each other regardless of flaws and want to spend as much time together as possible. While the movie sets up their relationship to be possibly romantic at some point in the future, it really doesn’t mean their relationship has to be viewed as romantic at all to find it touching. Just the fact they can be so different and care for each other so much is enough. Plus, this movie is full of so many calm, lovely scenes. Including an entire montage where Sosuke and Ponyo sail in a small boat across the town while the town is partially underwater, and a scene where Ponyo first experiences eating a ramen bowl with egg on top. Seriously, those ramen bowls will never not look delicious. Though some parts of the movie are more intense, for the most part this movie is simply about kids moving through everyday life in a port town and all the more dramatic moments occur between family members who care deeply for each other. Plus, the port town in this movie is beautiful and so easy to get lost in.
2. ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. We’re getting to the two Ghibli movies best known for their comforting feel now. ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ is an excellent example of introducing fantastical elements into a world that’s otherwise just like ours. It follows Kiki, a young witch who must go out to make a way for herself on her thirteenth birthday. With her cat Jiji, she finds a seaside town with enough of a bustling population that she feels she can find success as a local witch. But with no other skills aside from flying, she decides to create a delivery service. She fortunately meets a kind woman named Osono who helps her get her business running, but running a business is harder than she thinks and her lack of self confidence quickly begins to get in her way. This movie is the perfect watch on a day where you just want to feel cozy. The port town is not just pretty, the cottage-like buildings and friendly population make it feel warm and welcoming. This movie also has plenty of baking, which myself and many other people feel adds an extra level of coziness to comfort media. Though admittedly one of the things baked in this movie is a herring pie, it somehow looks kind of appetizing. And Kiki spends lots of time in a bakery surrounded by delicious looking bread because baking is Osono’s profession. There’s also a huge message in this movie about being confident in your abilities and not beating yourself up when you begin to lose inspiration. As an artist, the in depth discussion of artists block, or blank page syndrome, always brings me a lot of relief. This one is definitely the movie that helps me most after a stressful day.
1.’My Neighbor Totoro’. There isn’t any other Ghibli movie that I could put at the top of this list. ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ will always appeal the most to my childhood love of fantasy and my current need to seek out lighthearted comfort. ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ begins with sisters Satsuki and Mei moving out to the countryside with their father. It’s revealed that they’re doing this so their sickly mother can live in a place that’s better for her condition once she gets back from the hospital. The two girls are very high spirited though, quickly deciding to wander around the foresty area that surrounds their new house. One day, Mei finds a mysterious tunnel within the trees and stumbles upon Totoro, a giant, fluffy, forest spirit who quickly joins in with the girls on their adventures. ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ is just adorable. You can’t really beat a movie that stars an irresistibly cute furry creature who freely gives out hugs. And unlike ‘Princess Mononoke’, all of the forest spirits in this one are cute. From small bunny-like fantasy creatures to the giant Catbus, there isn’t one character in this movie I wouldn’t want to be real. There’s also the lead characters to discuss. Mei and Satsuki are such realistic sisters and really comforting in their own ways. Mei, the youngest, is absurdly cute and acts so much like an actual child that she’s amusing to watch. Satsuki is older, and though she still enjoys playing around, there’s a wisdom to her that makes her instantly respectable. Even their father is a wholesome character you can’t help but want to know in real life. And even though the mother in this movie is sickly, there are no sad twists you have to worry about here. This movie is just so wholesome and captures the joy of being a child better than any movie I’ve ever seen.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!