When it was released in 2009, no one could have guessed Up would so quickly become a beloved classic not just among kids but moviegoers across ages. The audience laughed, wept and travelled along with the characters to the bright world of Paradise Falls. The relationship between cranky Carl Fredericksen and adorable Russell made the film a perfect mix of adventure and lessons on life, loss and letting go. All these years later, it’s still a fan favourite. If you enjoyed watching Up as much as we did, chances are you will find the following films just as delightful.
1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
There is perhaps no other artist who has left as much of an indelible mark on animation and storytelling as Hayao Miyazaki. Howl’s Moving Castle is a dazzling story of Howl, an eccentric wizard, and Sophie, a young girl who is cursed by the wicked Witch of The Waste to appear as an old woman. When she seeks out Howl to reverse the condition, adventures ensue, with one very adorable fire demon, a scarecrow and the titular moving castle. Miyazaki has repeatedly stated that the film represents his anti-war sentiments in general, and his views against the US invasion of Iraq in particular.
2. Whisper of the Heart (1994)
One of the best romance anime movies, Yoshifumi Kondo’s Whisper of the Heart is the most grounded work among Ghibli Studio films. Two pre-adolescents on the cusp of graduating middle school, Shizuku and Yuko are tied together through their shared love of books; Shizuku discovers that the books that she checks out from the library have all been previously checked out by the same boy, Yuko. As their friendship develops, they are faced with the prospect of being separated, with a slim possibility of being reunited as well. All of this unfolds in the background of very real teenage worries – good grades, future prospects and following one’s calling. Watch as the two very cute cat figurines accompany them as they go through the ups and downs of coming of age and young love together.
3. Spirited Away (2001)
What was supposed to be a shortcut turns into a whimsical adventure when Chihiro is literally spirited away. When her parents take an unknown road on the drive to their new house, chaos unfolds. They undergo an unexpected metamorphosis and she is spared, free in a world of witches and spirits. Along the way she meets Haku, and it is up to the two of them to rescue Chihiro’s parents and themselves. Spirited Away has been touted as one of Studio Ghibli’s best films. The unique elements from Japanese mythology such as kami, Shinto shrines and river guardians, with a fantastical concept make the film worth watching.
4. Monsters Inc (2001)
Mike Wazowski and his one giant eye are not the only fun takeaway of this Pixar feature. The film features lovable and chaotic monsters who work at the titular factory and generate energy by scaring children, as they believe that children are inherently harmful. However, meeting Boo, a little girl who sneaks into the factory changes all that. Gradually, Mike and his friends, most notably Sully, warm up to her. And in the process, come to discard their ideas about humans being toxic. Watch the film for lovable hijinks and the core message — laughter is always more potent than fear.
5. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
A young witch, her broom and a world full of possibility. This is merely one way to describe the beauty that is Kiki’s Delivery Service. Kiki is a young witch who must decide on her apprenticeship, and to do so she moves to a nearby town to live independently without her parents. Accompanying her on this journey is her lovable little cat, Jiji. In the process she meets new friends, and even finds a new occupation with an affectionate baker and her quaint little bakery. Don’t we all wish we could too? The film’s reassuring take on the pressures of growing up makes it relatable and a must-watch.
6. Boy and the World (2013)
Nominated for an Academy Award, Boy and The World is a Brazilian film that follows the quest of a boy named Cuca to find his father. When his father leaves to find work, Cuca sets out on a journey that will end with him doing the same thing. The film’s most unique aspect is that it is told through little or no dialogue. It utilizes real footage of deforestation and pollution to create a narrative that prioritizes loss of innocence, growing up, and nostalgia. The lovely message at the heart of the film seems to be one of impermanence — we have what we have, when we have it.
7. Long Way North (2015)
After her grandfather’s ship is declared missing on the way to the north pole and her family is disgraced, a young aristocrat named Sasha must trace the same path that her grandfather traversed and locate his missing ship. Things are further complicated by Tomsky, a prince who belittles her grandfather and seeks to tarnish his legacy. Thus, she must brave danger, harsh weather and uncharted territory to not only prove her grandfather right, but discover herself as well. The classic coming-of-age film is further enhanced by Sasha’s affinity for fearless adventure. Along the way she makes friends with a rowdy ship crew, and one very lovable husky. Come for the adventure, stay for the tear-jerking found family.
8. Mary and Max (2009)
A stop motion adult animated comedy drama, Mary and Max wears many hats; it follows the strange story of two unlikely pen pals, a lonely Australian girl, and a man with Asperger’s syndrome. Lonely and isolated from their peers, Max and Mary begin to write to each other. While Mary has an unusually prominent birthmark on her forehead, Max is morbidly obese and has problems bonding with people. They find a kindred spirit in one another and form a friendship that influences them for the rest of their lives. Based on a true story, the film draws from the relationship between the writer of the film Adam Elliot and his pen pal in New York City of over twenty years.
9. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962)
The eponymous Baron Munchausen was a fictional gentleman created by Rudolf Erich Raspe in his book Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. The film is inspired by the same character, and is a Czechoslovakian romantic adventure that follows the titular Baron as he accompanies an astronaut who he later names Tony, in various adventures. Tony falls in love with Bianca, a prisoner of a Sultan and thus begins a series of events, where Tony is transformed into a hero of the Baron’s stature — indeed, a modern-day Don Quixote and his Sancho Plaza. The film is fabulously quirky and endlessly delightful, with small moments of oddball humor and genuine warmth that will make you want to set sail on an adventure yourself.
10. The Little Prince (2015)
Based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella of the same name, The Little Prince follows the story of a Prince who comes to Earth from Asteroid B-612, and becomes friends with an aviator, a playful rose, a sentient fox and many more. He is found by a little girl who has grown up with his stories. Together, they go on an intergalactic adventure to save his younger self and restore his memory. The film is a quest to discover the unnoticed pleasures of an innocent childhood. With an impressive cast of actors providing the voice work, from Marion Cotillard to Paul Rudd, The Little Prince is a joyful reminder to stop once in a while and see the best in people, and in ourselves too.
11. April and the Extraordinary World (2015)
In an alternate timeline of strange events, the world faces a lack of fuel and modern technology after prominent scientists mysteriously go missing. It is then up to a quirky family of inventors and scientists, the Franklins, to find a way out. But when the family is separated, April, the daughter and her cat Darwin cross paths with a petty thief. The answer to saving the world, or destroying it, may lie in her ancestors’ past. Meanwhile, the obsessive Pizoni hunts the family, intent on making them pay. Goofy, eccentric and thoroughly wild, April and The Extraordinary World is escapism at its best. Komodo dragons, mad scientists and one immortal cat make the film memorable.
12. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
It’s a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme. Need we say more? This Disney musical is adapted from a popular 1756 French fairy tale. Belle is a curious girl with an eccentric inventor father. She loves to read, but feels suffocated in the provincial life of her small village. When her father meets with an accident on a trip, Belle crosses paths with the reclusive inmate, The Beast, of a nearby castle. As she is drawn into the enchanted world of the castle, time is running out for the Beast; Belle is his only hope. Charming and refreshing, Beauty and the Beast is one for the ages. The catchy songs and wholesome energy of the film will not let you down.
There we are! These are 12 movies like Up that are going to be totally worth your time. Certain stories defy limits, be it age, preference, geography or identity. Stories with sentiment, laughter and resolve for adventure at heart have always appealed to people, making them want to be someone free and joyous. Up had all of the above. A joy for life, a somber message at the core, and the reassurance that with people who one loves, and in return who love them, things shall always fall into place. This sentiment, too, is at the heart of the films in this list. An unsaid hope that yes, things will never be perfect, and loss is a part of life, but with care, kindness and friends, it shall all be alright. Someday!
An avid reader and a life-long lover of blue skies, I like to spend my time with obscure poetry and dissecting films. Currently besotted with Maupassant, art history and all things Nolan, you can find me spacing out to Queen while I look for new things to obsess with.