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. 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." 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.
Howl's Moving Castle had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on the 5th of 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.