Howl's Moving Castle (film)

Howl's Moving Castle
Film poster depicting Howl's castle on its chicken legs against a sunset, with the title in kanji characters
Japanese release poster
HepburnHauru no Ugoku Shiro
Directed byHayao Miyazaki[1]
Produced byToshio Suzuki[1]
Screenplay byHayao Miyazaki[2]
Based onHowl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones[2]
StarringChieko Baisho
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa
Music byJoe Hisaishi[1]
CinematographyAtsushi Okui[1]
Edited byTakeshi Seyama[1]
Distributed byToho[3]
Release date
  • 5 September 2004 (2004-09-05) (Venice)
  • 20 November 2004 (2004-11-20) (Japan)
Running time
119 minutes[3]
LanguageJapanese [2]
Budget¥2.4 billion
US$24 million
Box office¥23.2 billion
US$235.1 million (worldwide)[3]

Howl's Moving Castle (Japanese: ハウルの動く城, Hepburn: Hauru no Ugoku Shiro) is a 2004 Japanese animated, fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film is loosely based on the 1986 novel of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones. The film was produced by Toshio Suzuki, animated by Studio Ghibli and distributed by Toho. The Japanese voice cast featured Chieko Baisho and Takuya Kimura, while the version dubbed in English starred Jean Simmons, Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall and Christian Bale.

The story is set in a fictional kingdom where both magic and early 20th-century technology are prevalent, against the backdrop of a war with another kingdom. The film tells the story of a young, content milliner named Sophie after she is turned into an old woman by a witch who enters her shop and curses her. She encounters a wizard named Howl, and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting for the king.

Influenced by Miyazaki's opposition to the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003, the film contains strongly anti-war themes. Miyazaki stated that he "had a great deal of rage about [the Iraq war]," which led him to make a film which he felt would be poorly received in the US.[5] It also explores the theme of old age, depicting age positively as something which grants the protagonist freedom. The film contains feminist elements as well, and carries messages about the value of compassion.

In 2013, Miyazaki said the film was his favorite creation, explaining "I wanted to convey the message that life is worth living, and I don't think that's changed."[6] The movie is thematically significantly different from the book; while the book focuses on challenging class and gender norms, the film focuses on love, and personal loyalty and the destructive effects of war.[7]

Howl's Moving Castle had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on 5 September 2004, and was theatrically released in Japan on 20 November 2004. It went on to gross $190 million in Japan and $235 million worldwide, making it one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The film received critical acclaim, particularly for its visuals and Miyazaki's presentation of the themes. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards, but lost to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, in 2006, and won several other awards, including four Tokyo Anime Awards and a Nebula Award for Best Script.


Sophie, a young milliner, encounters a wizard named Howl on her way to visit her sister Lettie. Upon returning home, she meets the Witch of the Waste, who transforms her into a ninety-year-old woman. Seeking to break the curse, Sophie leaves home and sets off through the countryside. She meets a living scarecrow, whom she calls "Turnip Head". He leads her to Howl's moving castle, where she enters without invitation. She subsequently meets Howl's young apprentice Markl, and a fire demon named Calcifer, who is the source of the castle's magic as well as its overall movement. When Howl appears, Sophie announces that Calcifer has hired her as a cleaning lady.

Meanwhile, Sophie's nation is caught up in a war with a neighboring kingdom, who is searching for their missing prince. The King summons Howl to fight in the war. However, Howl decides to send Sophie to the King (under the pretense of being his mother) to tell him that Howl is too much of a coward to fight. Before leaving, he gives Sophie a charmed ring that leads her to Calcifer. Sophie meets Suliman, the king's advisor and also the Witch of the Waste, whom Suliman punishes by draining all of her power, turning her into a harmless old woman. Suliman warns Sophie that Howl will meet the same fate if he does not fight and so Howl arrives to rescue Sophie. Suliman tries to trap him, but with Sophie's help they escape along with the former Witch of The Waste and Suliman's dog Hin.

Sophie learns that Howl's life is somehow bound to Calcifer's and that Howl has been transforming into a bird-like creature to interfere with both sides in the war, but each transformation makes it more difficult for him to return to human form. Howl then has the castle magically-linked to Sophie's home, parking the castle itself on the town's outskirts. A few days later, the town is bombed by enemy aircraft and Suliman's henchmen attack the house and Sophie's hat shop. Howl heads out to protect the group. Sophie then moves everyone out of the house and removes Calcifer from the fireplace, which collapses the castle. The Witch of The Waste realizes that Calcifer has Howl's heart and grabs the fire demon, setting herself on fire. Sophie panics and pours water onto the Witch, which douses Calcifer. The castle then splits in two; Sophie falls down a chasm and is separated from the group.

Following the charmed ring, Sophie wanders into a scene from the past, where she sees a young Howl catch a falling star – Calcifer – and give him his heart. Sophie calls for them to find her in the future as she is teleported away. She returns to the present, finds Howl, and they reunite with the others. The Witch returns Howl's heart, and Sophie places it back inside Howl, reviving him and freeing Calcifer, though he decides to stay. Sophie's curse is broken. After she kisses Turnip Head on the cheek, he returns to human form, revealing himself to be Justin, the missing prince from the enemy kingdom, who promptly heads for home. Suliman, watching through a crystal globe, decides to end the war. As the bombers fly away, Sophie, Howl and the others travel high in the air in a new flying castle.

Other Languages
Bahasa Indonesia: Howl's Moving Castle (film)
latviešu: Ceļojošā pils
norsk nynorsk: Det levende slottet
српски / srpski: Покретни дворац
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Howl's Moving Castle (film)
Türkçe: Yürüyen Şato
vepsän kel’: Haulan kävui zamk