9. Whisper of the Heart
Ghibli’s most unabashedly romantic film is one of its most formulaic, but still among its best. The debut film by Yoshifumi Kondō, Miyazaki and Takahata’s proposed successor before he died just a few years after the movie’s premiere, is at once encouraging while also refusing to shy away from the melancholy experienced by children—and adults, too—when one doesn’t seem to have what it takes to become great. In joy and sadness, Whisper of the Heart lets the kids at the center of the film be kids. They are at times stubborn, silly, and immature, and by treating them that way, the movie never drifts into something banal (with the possible exception of the famously abrupt ending)—it’s a lovely lesson in growing up and meeting challenges, and a personal favorite.