How To Watch The Boy And The Heron



  • The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is based on a novel and draws from the director’s own childhood experiences.
  • The film will have a wide U.S. theatrical release on December 8, 2023.
  • While there is no official word on its arrival on digital or streaming, it is likely that the film will be available digitally in early 2024 and will eventually be added to Studio Ghibli’s library on Max.



Long-time fans of Studio Ghibli’s animated movies might be wondering how to watch The Boy and the Heron, the studio’s latest feature-length film. Written and directed by Japanese film legend Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and the Heron (Kimitachi wa Dō Ikiru ka) is based on Genzaburō Yoshino’s 1937 novel of the same name, with the original title loosely translating to, “How Do You Live?” Despite announcing his retirement from film-making a decade ago, Miyazaki has continued to helm some of animation’s best projects. The Boy and the Heron, which is allegedly the most expensive film ever produced in Japan, draws from Miyazaki’s childhood in a refreshing way.

After co-founding Studio Ghibli in the mid-80s, Miyazaki went on to direct numerous artistic, critical, and commercial successes, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away. Following the success of the 2013 Oscar-nominated The Wind Rises, Miyazaki seemed ready to hand over the Studio Ghibli reins, but, after working on shorts and other projects, he returned. The Boy and the Heron, Miyazaki’s personal masterpiece, is also the twelfth animated feature he’s directed, making it a must-see for Studio Ghibli fans and cinephiles alike.

The Boy And The Heron’s US Theatrical Release Explained

Mahito in The Boy and the Heron

Released in Japan on July 14, 2023, The Boy and the Heron‘s U.S. theatrical debut didn’t coincide with that initial run. While the film has played at film festivals across the world following its Japanese premiere, many viewers in the U.S. are wondering when The Boy and the Heron will be more readily available. The story of The Boy and the Heron centers on Mahito Maki, a 12-year-old child who loses his mother, Hisako, as the result of a tragic hospital fire. When Mahito’s father remarries Hisako’s younger sister, the family moves from Tokyo to a secluded countryside estate.

Mahito’s tense relationship with Natsuko, his step-mom, only becomes more challenging when she shares her pregnancy news. However, Mahito finds an unexpected distraction when he’s pestered by a heron, which leads him to a ruined tower deep in the woods. In a story that blurs the lines between imagination and reality, The Boy and the Heron sees the titular bird taunting Mahito, suggesting his mother is alive in the tower. For U.S.-based viewers who want to see how Mahito’s story pans out, The Boy and the Heron will see a limited theatrical release and preview events starting November 22, with a wide release on December 8, 2023.

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When Will The Boy And The Heron Be Available On Digital?

The heron's other form taunts Mahito in The Boy and the Heron

With reviews dubbing it Studio Ghibli’s best movie in years, The Boy and the Heron can’t come soon enough. For viewers who would rather watch at home, there’s no official word yet on when The Boy and the Heron will be available on digital. Typically, a movie’s digital release — be it for rent or purchase — hinges on its theatrical success. While The Boy and the Heron has performed well overseas, there’s no reason to think it will play in U.S. theaters longer than a few weeks. That said, a digital release in early 2024 is likely and, based on recent release plans, will probably occur before the film is available on streaming.

When Will The Boy And The Heron Arrive On Streaming?

The Boy And The Heron's Mahito encounters a heron

Much like the film’s availability on digital, The Boy and the Heron‘s arrival on streaming remains unclear. Again, the streaming release will follow its theatrical run and, more likely than not, happen a few weeks after the movie has been made available to rent or buy on digital. While rights vary from film to film, Max is the U.S. home for Studio Ghibli’s streaming releases, so it’s incredibly likely that The Boy and the Heron will follow suit and join Miyazaki’s library of films on Max.