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Where to watch Studio Ghibli films online: Netflix and HBO Max split explained

watch studio ghibli films like my neighbor totoro
(Image credit: Disney)

If you want to watch Studio Ghibli films, it's about to get a whole lot more complicated. Co-founder/director Hayao Miyazaki is a legend of his field — fans have been buying his movies outright — so we're incredibly happy these films are finally coming to streaming services.

And because licensing rights always differ around the world, the rules for streaming Miyazaki movies will differ if you're inside of outside of the United States. Unfortunately for American audiences, classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke won't be on Netflix. 

Co-founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli is a feature-length animation studio that has produced some of the most imaginative films of all time. It's also where some of the most iconic characters, including the floofy Totoro, the mystifying Kaonashi and the high-spirited Kiki originated. Those personalities populate lush, hand drawn universes and inspire countless fans to think of what's possible, rather than just what's marketable.

Ghibli's also won its fair share of awards, too. For example, Princess Mononoke was the first animated film to win the Japan Academy Film Prize association's Picture of the Year award. And Spirited Away isn't just critically beloved — winning the Best Animated Feature Academy Award in 2003 — but it also stole the title of Japan’s highest-ever grossing film from no less than Titanic.

The first piece of Ghibli streaming news came in October, when Variety detailed that HBO Max, the upcoming WarnerMedia-owned service, would be the exclusive streaming house Studio Ghibli films in the United States. Up until then, you had to buy these films individually. 

On January 20, Netflix announced it was bringing the Studio Ghibli library to audiences around the world:

That said, figuring out how to watch Studio Ghibli films isn't as simple if you're in the states. Here's our complete guide to watching these popular animated movies.

How to watch Studio Ghibli films online outside of the US

Those outside of the U.S. have it really easy -- if they're Netflix subscribers that is. The service is already home to tons of animated classics, but the Ghibli movies arguably make Netflix complete for parents looking for animated films that aren't total pablum, as Netflix's Children and Family section is filled with brightly colored characters going on empty tales. 

We've got the full breakdown of which Ghibli movies are on Netflix now, and which won't arrive til April 1, 2020. View Deal

How to watch Studio Ghibli films online with a VPN

International Netflix members on holiday in the U.S. don't need to wait til they get home. A VPN (virtual private network) can help your computer look like it's in a region of your choice.

We've evaluated many VPN services, and our top pick is ExpressVPN. It meets the VPN needs of the vast majority of users, offering outstanding compatibility with most devices and impressive connection speeds.

ExpressVPN can access more than 3,000 servers spread out across 160 locations in 94 countries. The service performed reliably in our testing, and we found customer service responsive.View Deal

How to watch Studio Ghibli films online in the US

Americans will have one choice and one choice only for where to stream Ghibli movies: HBO Max. Yes, WarnerMedia acquired the complete Ghibli catalogue, and is going to use it as a prestigious reason to sign up when it drops in May 2020.

And personally, this is a top reason for me to sign up for HBO Max. You, dear reader, might be swayed by news of the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel, or the Friends reunion special, but I'm fine without both of those. 

Pre-orders haven't started yet for HBO Max, and we'll update this story once they have. 

When does Netflix gets the Studio Ghibli films?

The majority of the Ghibli movies hit Netflix already, split between February 1 and March 1. The last batch arrives on April 1. Details are as follows:

Available now (arrived in February and March 2020)

— Arrietty

— Castle in the Sky 

— The Cat Returns

— Kiki’s Delivery Service

— My Neighbor Totoro 

— My Neighbors the Yamadas

— Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

— Ocean Waves 

— Only Yesterday 

— Porco Rosso 

— Princess Mononoke

— Spirited Away

— The Tale of Princess Kaguya

— Tales from Earthsea

APRIL 2020

— From Up On Poppy Hill 

— Howl’s Moving Castle 

— Pom Poko 

— Ponyo 

— The Wind Rises 

— When Marnie Was There 

— Whisper of the Heart