19 Movies Like Spirited Away (2001) On Tubi

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Spirited Away ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Frequently considered one of the greatest animated movies of all times, and certainly the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, Spirited Away is Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at their very best. It was also the first non-English animation movie to win an Oscar. On the surface, it's a film about a Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned theme park with her parents. In a creepy spiritual world full of Shinto folklore spirits, she sees all kinds of magic and fantastic creatures, while having to find a way to save her parents and escape. In addition to the adventure, the coming-of-age theme, and the motifs of ancient Japanese lore, the film can also be understood as a critique of the Western influence on Japanese culture and the struggle for identity in the wake of the 1990s economic crisis. A deep, fast-paced, and hypnotizing journey.

Understated in budget but lavished with praise, this semi-autobiographical drama by Daniel Destin Cretton flings its audience into the chaotic lives and personal crises of at-risk youths and the passionate social workers that aid them. In his first feature film, the young director draws the viewers into the storm of events and the emotional ups-and-downs of social work in America, going from uplifting to depressing and back – and every emotion in-between.

Set in the real-life and eponymous group home Short Term 12, devoted but troubled foster-care worker Grace is played by Brie Larson, whose shining performance in her first leading role was lauded by critics. Fans will also recognize the supporting actors Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek, who broke out in this movie. Short Term 12 is now considered one of the most important movies of 2013 – some say of the decade – owing to its immaculate writing, intimate camerawork, and gripping performances.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Calloway, Angelina Assereto, Brie Larson, Diana Maria Riva, Frantz Turner, Harold Cannon, Joel P. West, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Kevin Hernandez, Lakeith Stanfield, Lydia Du Veaux, Melora Walters, Michelle Nordahl, Mohammad Shiravi, Rami Malek, Silvia Curiel, Stephanie Beatriz

Director: Destin Cretton, Destin Daniel Cretton

Rating: R

In a stunning and vivid (re-) introduction to the Black intellectual, author, and social critic, James Baldwin, this movie digs very deep into the American subconscious and racial history. It tells the story of America by telling the story of “the negro” in America, based on a book Baldwin started to write, which would have studied the famous assassinations of three of Baldwin's friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He wrote about 30 pages before he passed away in 1987. Haitian director and activist Raoul Peck picked up the project and made it into a movie, earning him an Academy Award nomination. Narrated by none other than Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro highlights, at the same time, Baldwin's genius, his unique eloquence, and the beauty of his soul as a human being. It is a sad truth that Baldwin's denouncements feel as relevant today as they did 50 years ago. As such, this movie serves as a sobering reminder of how far America still has to go. A mesmerizing experience!

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Bob Dylan, Dick Cavett, H. Rap Brown, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Joey Starr, Malcolm X, Marlon Brando, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Weiss, Ray Charles, Robert F. Kennedy, Samuel L. Jackson, Sidney Poitier

Director: Raoul Peck

Rating: PG-13

This tender, autobiographical coming-of-age story about a working class family in post-war Liverpool is Terence Davies’ masterpiece—evoking memories through a series of loosely connected scenes that highlight the joys and woes of growing up. It is comprised of two films shot two years apart. The first details the tribulations of a young family surviving an abusive father in the ‘40s. The second part follows the kids grown up and finding their way in the ‘50s, and the influence of music and cinema on their lives. Davies uses a series of beautifully composed tableaux to tell the tale, which bring the setting and the characters intimately to life. Distant Voices, Still Lives is regarded as one of the greatest British films of all-time.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Alan Bird, Andrew Schofield, Angela Walsh, Anne Dyson, Bill Moores, Carl Chase, Dean Williams, Freda Dowie, Ina Clough, Jean Boht, John Michie, Lorraine Ashbourne, Matthew Long, Michael Starke, Nathan Walsh, Pauline Quirke, Pete Postlethwaite, Roy Ford, Sally Davies, Susan Flanagan

Director: Terence Davies

Surreal, strange, yet wondrous, Penguin Highway never takes a straightforward approach to its story. Penguins pop up out of nowhere, leading the nerdy and precocious Aoyama to study them via empirical observation and logical deduction. These studies don’t end up with a feasible explanation– in fact, by the final act, the film abandons all laws of physics. But the journey to that act feels intuitively right. This journey feels like an indescribable formative experience. Aoyama may be obsessed with growing up and committing to the reasonable adult mindset, but he is still a child. From fending off bullies to forming connections with others, his childhood imagination served him better than science could. The film reveres this discovery as well as it should.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Kana Kita, Landen Beattie, Mamiko Noto, Megumi Han, Miki Fukui, Misaki Kuno, Naoto Takenaka, Rie Kugimiya, Winston Bromhead, Yu Aoi

Director: Hiroyasu Ishida

Rating: Not Rated

Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a drifter driving up to Alaska in hopes of finding work. When her car breaks down, she and her dog Lucy are stranded and forced to scrounge for food and repairs, hitting one roadblock after another on her path to an uncertain dream. This sympathetic and solemn look at poverty from director Kelly Reichardt serves as a reminder of how easy it is to fall through the fragile American safety net.   

Reichardt’s uncompromising approach paired with Williams’s restrained performance makes the experience authentic and intense, recalling the work of Ken Loach. This natural sharpness makes for an engrossing watch that builds in power until the emotional release of the film’s heartbreaking conclusion. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ayanna Berkshire, David Koppell, Deirdre OConnell, Gabe Nevins, Jeanine Jackson, John Breen, John Robinson, Larry Fessenden, M. Blash, Marilyn Faith Hickey, Michelle Williams, Wally Dalton, Will Oldham, Will Patton

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: R

The movie starts with Professor John Oldman packing his things to leave and start a new life. He invites his friends to say goodbye and decides to reveal the reason for his departure. The starting point of the narration is a simple question asked by Oldman to his friends: what would a man from the upper paleolithic look like if he had survived until the present day? As scientists, the protagonists play his game and investigate the question, not knowing whether the story is a bad joke or a genuine narration. One of the best movies I've watched and definitely one of the most under-rated.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alexis Thorpe, Annika Peterson, David Lee Smith, Ellen Crawford, John Billingsley, Richard Riehle, Robbie Bryan, Tony Todd, William Katt

Director: Richard Schenkman

Sunshine Cleaning is a great addition to that unidentified genre of grown-up comedies populated by other great entries like Your Sister's Sister and Enough Said. It is however, less of a comedy than it is a heart-warming emotional tale. Powered by outstanding performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, it ultimately evolves into a character study of failed potential and validation seeking. Sunshine Cleaning is enjoyable, satisfying to a fault, and provides an interesting peak into the lives of its characters.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Arkin, Amber Midthunder, Amy Adams, Amy Redford, Angelique Midthunder, Clifton Collins Jr., Emily Blunt, Eric Christian Olsen, Ivan Brutsche, Jason Spevack, Judith Jones, Kathy Lamkin, Kevin Chapman, Lois Geary, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Paul Dooley, Steve Zahn, Susie Yip, Vic Browder

Director: Christine Jeffs

Rating: R

, 2009

An award-winning American independent Fantasy, Ink has become a sleeper hit worldwide. The film portrays a struggle between the forces of good and evil over the soul of a man and a little girl caught in between. The film's deliriously realized dream sequences make clear that no matter what life throws at you, in the end the path you take is yours to choose, leaving the viewer with the simple message that, yes, there is hope.

Genre: Action, Fantasy

Actor: Christopher Soren Kelly, Eme Ikwuakor, Heath C. Heine, Jason Coviello, Jennifer Batter, Jeremy Make, Jessica Duffy, Marty Lindsey, Quinn Hunchar, Shelby Malone

Director: Jamin Winans

Rating: Unrated

Man on Wire is a true technical masterpiece. You can almost feel the director telling the cameraman what angle to choose, or thinking about the questions that will generate the most resounding answers. However, this does not diminish the story this documentary tells one bit. It’s one that is glorious, riveting, and fun. It’s one where you feel like an insider to a world lived on and below wires, with high-stake risks. Hopefully the edge of your seat is comfortable, because this is where the movie will keep you till the very end.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Annie Allix, David Forman, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Mark Lewis, Philippe Petit

Director: James Marsh

Rating: PG-13

Us and Them follows two former lovers who reminisce and reassess their decade-long relationship over one night. They both seem to be in better places, certainly financially if anything else, but their shared wistfulness for the past threatens to prove otherwise. 

The film was an immediate hit when it was first released in China, and it’s easy to see why. With just the right balance of realism, romance, and comedy, the movie makes for a simple but deeply moving and involving watch. You can’t help but root for the exes to get back together, even though you know as well as they do how minimal the chances of that happening are.

Genre: Drama, Reality, Romance

Actor: Andrew Tiernan, Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Jack Roth, Jing Boran, Liu Di, Qu Zhe Ming, Qu Zheming, Rene Liu, Shi Yufei, Sophie Colquhoun, Su Xiaoming, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tim Bentinck, Zhang Zixian, Zheming Qu, Zhou Dongyu, Zhuangzhuang Tian

Director: Rene Liu

Rating: Not Rated

Miso may be living day to day on her meager earnings as a cleaner, but she is decidedly content. She insists that all she needs to get by are cigarettes, whiskey, and time with her boyfriend, so when a spike in rent and prices invites her to reassess her priorities, she doesn’t budge. Instead of forgoing these luxuries, she gives up her tiny place and couch surfs with her old bandmates. What follows is a reunion of sorts, where darkly humorous epiphanies are had on both ends about adulthood, responsibilities, and what it really means to be happy in an increasingly indifferent, profit-oriented world.  

Microhabitat treads on very grave themes, and the images it conjures can be unsettling. But it is also surprisingly light on its feet, displaying sharp satire and sweet empathy for its unyielding protagonist. Miso is portrayed with a smartness and softness that evades rational judgment, and this endearment makes the story, especially the ending, all the more painfulul, poignant, and impactful.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, An Jae-hong, Cho Soo-hyang, Choi Deok-moon, Esom, Hwang Mi-young, Jang Sung-kyu, Kang Jin-ah, Kim Hee-won, Kim Jae-hwa, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Kuk-hee, Kim Yae-eun, Lee Seong-wook, Lee Sung-wook, Lee Yo-sup, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Ji-young, Woo Moon-gi

Director: Jeon Go-woon

Rating: Not Rated

Vivid, sweeping landscapes surround the simple beauty of a Mongolian family navigating the pressures of globalization while still practicing their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Ostensibly it's about the charming, captivating relationship that forms between a young girl, Nansal, and a dog that she finds. However, the magic of this slow, enthralling film is that it captures the brilliance of familial relationships and power of culture and stories through this simple backdrop. And it is a simple film; everything you can learn from this film comes through its gentle storytelling that invites you to recognize the beauty and profundity that exists in everyday lives.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Babbayar Batchuluun, Batchuluun Urjindorj, Buyandulam Daramdadi, Nansal Batchuluun, Nansalmaa Batchuluun

Director: Byambasuren Davaa

Rating: G

Jia Zhangke (who NPR critic John Powers once called “perhaps the most important filmmaker working in the world today"), directed this movie based on the story of a gangster he knew while growing up.

And he is far from being the only noticeable talent here. Actress Tao Zhao shines as a character called Qiao, a dancer who infiltrates the crime scene in Northern China by way of her boyfriend (the gangster). When a boss leader is assassinated, Qiao finds herself in jail after she refuses to incriminate her boyfriend. 

This is a gangster movie but it’s also about how Qiao processes her time in jail and what she does once she gets out. It serves more as a character study and a picture of modern-day China.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Casper Liang, Diao Yi'nan, Ding Jiali, Dong Zijian, Fan Liao, Feng Xiaogang, Jiamei Feng, Kang Kang, Liao Fan, Tao Zhao, Xu Zheng, Yi'nan Diao, Zhang Yi, Zhang Yibai, Zhao Tao

Director: Jia Zhangke, Zhangke Jia

Rating: Not Rated

Charming and easy to watch, The Painting is a simple morality tale with unique animation. The film is set in an abandoned painting, whose subjects are actually conscious, living beings. They have three distinct social classes: the Toupins (fully painted), Pafinis (lacking some colors), and the Reufs (sketches). Tired of the discrimination and wanting everyone to be fully painted, three of these beings leave the painting in search of the artist. While the lesson is seemingly simple, the film delves into some existential themes and makes them easy to understand for the younger audience. The film celebrates creating one’s self in an absurd world, rather than passively accepting other people’s definitions. But what stands out most about this film are the designs. Inspired by modernist art, director Jean-François Laguionie created colorful and distinct characters whose faces diverge from the usual bug-eyed Disney/Pixar style. If you’re looking for a different animated film, this might be a good start.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Céline Ronté, Chloé Berthier, Jean Barney, Jérémy Prévost, Julien Bouanich, Thomas Sagols

Director: Jean-François Laguionie

Rating: TV-PG

When a group of percussionists illegally carry out a city-wide performance act, it's up to policeman Amadeus Warnebring to stop them. The musical fugitives perform on stolen objects and disrupt public spaces, but Warnebring has his own reasons to pursue them so determinedly: he's tone-deaf for one and born into a family of snobby musical geniuses for another, making this case all the more meaningful and consequential to him.

Sound of Noise is more than reminiscent of Stomp, what with its playful symphonies subsisting on random borrowed objects, but it is livened up with the suspense of a caper, the dry wit of a Swedish comedy, and the abundant charms of a light romance.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Anders Jansson, Fredrik Myhr, Irene Lindh, Iwar Wiklander, Paula McManus, Peter Schildt, Ralph Carlsson, Sanna Persson, Sven Ahlström

Director: Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, Ola Simonsson

Rating: R