Welcome to The Best Movies I’ve Never Seen! This is the part of the blog where I work my way through 100 films I’ve never seen that are generally considered to be great. You’re invited to watch along with me if you can find a copy or find it streaming. So grab some popcorn and let’s get started!
Howl’s Moving Castle
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Quick synopsis… Teenager Sophie works in her late father’s hat shop in a humdrum town. But things get interesting when she’s transformed into an elderly woman by the evil Witch of the Waste. Determined to reverse the spell, Sophie seeks the help of a wizard.
I’m pretty sure this is the third Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen thanks to this Top 100 list I put together. And, so far, it’s my favorite by far. And I feel like that’s saying something.
Prior to this, I watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (which I just realized is not actually from Studio Ghibli, but was directed by Miyazaki) and My Neighbor Totoro. I thoroughly enjoyed both of those, especially Totoro. But Howl’s Moving Castle leaves those other two in the dust.
While the art and animation remain on par with the aforementioned films, it’s the story that really drew me in with this one. That’s not meant as a knock against the other films’ stories. Both had obvious fantasy elements. But with Howl they really leaned into the fantasy of it all. Wizards, witches, living flame, magical transformations, warring kingdoms… It’s a fantastic world to find yourself lost in.
Apparently, at the time of developing the film, Miyazaki was vehemently opposed to America’s war against Iraq, which definitely shows up in the movie’s pacifist themes, as the characters take a stand against what they repeatedly refer to as a ridiculous war. Another, somewhat unusual, aspect of the film is its portrayal of the elderly in a positive light. This is something that isn’t necessarily a common trait in movies. But having the teenaged Sophie “cursed” to become an elderly woman actually allows her to feel more empowered as she finds her new place in the world.
I highly recommend this one if you get a chance to see it. It’s on HBO Max if you have that particular streaming service. After seeing Howl’s Moving Castle, it now ranks at 431 out of 2,294 movies on my personal Flickchart list.
Have you seen Howl’s Moving Castle? Where does it rank for you? How do you think it compares to other anime features? Let me know what you think down in the comments!