What it’s about: Satsuki and Mei have moved to the a new home with their father while their mother recovers in hospital from a chronic illness. It doesn’t take them long to begin exploring the surrounding countryside. Mei soon runs into a series of odd creatures, including a bus-sized cat and a monstrously-sized but friendly spirit she names Totoro.
Why you should watch it: This is a classic Ghibli film in the truest sense. Totoro manages to capture that sense of wonder, innocence, and the beauty of childhood with no apparent effort. There’s no fighting, no evil villain or manipulative stepmother, but the narrative flows from one beat to another without losing your interest for a moment or employing any of the cliches of the medium. It’s widely regarded as one of the greatest family films of all time even outside of the anime community, as well it should be.
Caveats: While I quite like the 80s animation aesthetic, I acknowledge that it’s not for everyone. This is also the lightest and most ‘fluffy’ of Miyazaki’s films. It’s deeper than it looks, but it’s still at its heart a children’s movie.
Themes: The beauty and wonder of nature. Childhood and family.