Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Adventure, Animation
  • 1997
  • 133 mins

Princess Mononoke

Film4 Princess Mononoke


A young warrior prince gets involved in the conflict between magical beasts and ruthlessly progressive humans in this mature, complex, epic anime from Hayao Miyazaki

Critic's Review

Like pretty much all anime, Princess Mononoke builds toward cataclysm. It's understandable that mass destruction is a recurrent theme - after all, Japan is the only country to have suffered the atomic bomb first hand. However, whereas most anime films feature high-tech battles in modern cities, Princess Mononoke's climactic destruction has a refreshingly different setting - a mythologised 14th century landscape.

This setting is brought to life with utter magnificence by anime master Hayao Miyazaki - who has been praised in no uncertain terms by the likes of Toy Story creator John Lasseter ("Not a day goes by that I do not utilize the tools learned from studying his films").

Despite the period setting, the themes of the film are pertinent and modern: the effects of the human drive to better ourselves through technology, and the environmental repercussions of such ambition.

The hero of the piece is Ashitaka (voiced in Neil Gaiman's English translation by Billy Crudup), a young warrior prince who contracts a terminal infection while protecting his village from a horrifying marauding demon. Ashitaka discovers that a war is being waged between humanity and nature when he meets Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver), a matriarch who has founded a city to smelt iron and manufacture firearms. Eboshi's chief enemy is San, or Princess Mononoke (voiced with inappropriate brattiness by Claire Danes), the adopted human daughter of Moro (Gillian Anderson), a wolf god, whose clan, along with the boar clan and the other forest creatures, is suffering from Eboshi's ruthless deforestation.

Avoiding pastoral sentimentality and a simple condemnation of human technological progress, Princess Mononoke is a complex, intriguing moral tale. With her reliance on iron and gunpowder, Eboshi exemplifies human drive at the expense of the environment. But even she has a moral dimension - her employees are women she liberates from a life in brothels, lepers and other outcasts, whose dignity she restores. Her actions and ambitions challenge the supremacy of the traditional feudal overlords. Even the hero, Ashitaka, is ambivalent - he's loyal to neither the humans nor the magic animals, instead he tries to mediate ("What I want is for the humans and the forest to live together in peace," he says with earnest simplicity.)

Despite the familiar cartoon look of the characters, the film's overall artistry - which merits comparison with Terrence Malick and Akira Kurosawa in places - matches the sophistication of its story.

In a nutshell: All Miyazaki's films are masterpieces, but Princess Mononoke may just have the edge. One of the greatest anime films ever made.

By Daniel Etherington

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Gillian Anderson, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Claire Danes, Keith David, Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Crudup
  • Director: Hayao Miyazaki
  • Screen Writer: Hayao Miyazaki, Neil Gaiman, Jack Fletcher
  • Producer: Toshio Suzuki
  • Photographer: Atsushi Okui
  • Composer: Joe Hisaishi

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4


    Katell Quillévéré's family-based drama follows Suzanne, a teenage mother who falls for a gangster

  • Film4

    The Purge

    Ethan Hawke stars in James DeMonaco's drama about a sanctioned night where all crime is legal

  • Film4

    Me and You on Film4

    Premiere of Bernardo Bertoluccis drama about a boy and his half-sister who run away together.

  • Film4

    Philadelphia on Film4

    Denzel Washington and Oscar-winning Tom Hanks star in Jonathan Demme's powerful drama.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    BIFA brings 2015 nominated films to cinemas

    BIFA-nominated films including the Film4-backed 45 Years, The Lobster, Macbeth, Amy and Ex Machina will be available in cinemas nationwide from 23 November in a special public screenings event. The

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4-backed films receive 41 nominations at the BIFAs

    Film4 has received a total of 41 nominations for the films it has backed at this year¿s British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs), with the nomination lists for the Best British Film and Best Director a

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

  • Film4 Studio Ghibli

    Studio Ghibli

    All you need to know about Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

  • Film4

    Saoirse Ronan

    On lending her voice to the English-language version of Arrietty