Our list moves into the top 10, where there are no cheapies — everything here got a whole bunch of support from the panel. Tomorrow: #8.
9) Spirited Away (4 votes, 233 points)
Chris: Studio Ghibli received a pretty large amount of love from our panel, with three movies represented among the top 28 and another two getting at least one vote as well. I would imagine that other countdowns like this one might not have had any, because although Miyazaki’s efforts are becoming increasingly well known, some folks (myself included) weren’t exposed to any of these films until after the turn of the millennium. I like that our list includes all sorts of movies and isn’t just a Disney Top 25 List.
Spirited Away is a difficult movie to pin down in terms of what in the world is happening. Trying to provide a synopsis for someone who hasn’t seen it before is an exercise in futility — you’re better off just saying “here, sit down and watch this, it’s good” than launching into an explanation of spirits and transformations and pigs. But where the movie excels is in its imagination. Chihiro and Haku’s adventure covers a lot of ground, particularly in how Chihiro’s character develops while she’s in her other identity in the spirit world.
Coupled with a phenomenal soundtrack and a surprisingly strong voice cast, Spirited Away is perhaps the strongest film Studio Ghibli has to offer. It’s a shame that it wasn’t supported all that well when it first released in America, or the proliferation of Miyazaki and Co.’s work might be even more widespread by now.
Michaela: The best of the Studio Ghibli films, Spirited Away is a very unusual movie, mostly due to the lack of a real plot at any point. First she’s trying to save her parents, and then she needs to find an old woman to return something. What? It hardly connects, but it’s because the plot meanders that the movie is so strong. The plot isn’t the main priority, and while that should be a concern in any other film, Spirited Away make up for it with strong character development. Chihiro’s character growth is the focus of the film, and it revolves around it. With every weird and strange thing she encounters, she gains a kind of courage and bravery she never had before. Her friendship with Haku is super cute as well, and the movie’s bittersweet ending leaves the audience with the hope that Chihiro will take what she’s learned from the Spirit World and apply it in her life. Spirited Away contains a strong message about strength and maturity, and that’s part of the reason why it’s the best Studio Ghibli film.
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