My top 50 Japanese movies

by fletchers_paradox | created - 03 Mar 2013 | updated - 03 Mar 2013 | Public

Some classics, some new wave, some sun tribe, some anime, some docs, some pinku, and a fair number that defy genre or movement classification.

*=theatrical

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1. Eureka (2000)

217 min | Drama

78 Metascore

The traumatized survivors of a murderous bus hijacking come together and take a road trip to attempt to overcome their damaged selves. Meanwhile a serial killer is on the loose.

Director: Shinji Aoyama | Stars: Kôji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Masaru Miyazaki, Yôichirô Saitô

Votes: 3,152 | Gross: $0.05M

2. In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

NC-17 | 109 min | Drama, Romance

A passionate telling of the story of Sada Abe, a woman whose affair with her master led to a sexual obsession which then came to a violent end.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima, Yasuko Matsui

Votes: 16,774

(aka In the Realm of the Senses)

3. Sad Vacation (2007)

136 min | Drama

Kenji, abandoned by his mother, scrapes out a meager existence doing odd jobs including driving bar hostesses and their customers home. Besides this he takes care of the sister of an old ... See full summary »

Director: Shinji Aoyama | Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Kaori Fujimitsu, Eri Ishida, Yuka Itaya

Votes: 351

*

4. The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961)

Not Rated | 190 min | Drama, History, War

His ideals challenged by life as a conscript in war-time Japan's military, a pacifist faces ever greater tests in his fight for survival.

Director: Masaki Kobayashi | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Tamao Nakamura, Yûsuke Kawazu

Votes: 4,234

*

(aka The Human Condition) (This is for all three, I don't have a separate enough memory of them to list them separately, but I liked the third one the most.)

5. The Catch (1961)

105 min | Drama, War

Towards the end of WWII, a black American pilot is captured and imprisoned by rural Japanese villagers, who await official instructions as to how to proceed with their "catch."

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Rentarô Mikuni, Akiko Koyama, Yôko Mihara, Masako Nakamura

Votes: 154

*

(aka The Catch)

6. Shinjuku Mad (1970)

65 min | Drama

A man comes to Tokyo searching for his son's killer. He ventures into the deep underground of the city where he finds out that the untraceable killer is a mysterious revolutionary gang leader called Shinjuku Mad.

Director: Kôji Wakamatsu | Stars: Toshiyuki Tanigawa, Yûko Ejima, Makiko Harada, Akiko Hirooka

Votes: 399

*

(aka Shinjuku Mad)

7. The 47 Ronin (1941)

241 min | Action, Drama, History

In 1701, Lord Takuminokami Asano has a feud with Lord Kira and he tries to kill Kira in the corridors of the Shogun's palace. The Shogun sentences Lord Asano to commit suppuku and deprives ... See full summary »

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi | Stars: Chôjûrô Kawarasaki, Yoshizaburo Arashi, Utaemon Ichikawa, Kan'emon Nakamura

Votes: 1,767

(aka 47 Ronin)

8. Princess Mononoke (1997)

PG-13 | 134 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

76 Metascore

On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka, Billy Crudup

Votes: 303,697 | Gross: $2.38M

(aka Princess Mononoke)

9. Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Not Rated | 123 min | Drama, Thriller

An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara | Stars: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui

Votes: 15,346

(aka Woman in the Dunes)

10. Demons (1971)

134 min | Drama, Horror

After being robbed by a geisha, a ronin warrior carves a bloody path to seek revenge.

Director: Toshio Matsumoto | Stars: Katsuo Nakamura, Juro Kara, Yasuko Sanjo, Masao Imafuku

Votes: 1,562

*

11. The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987)

Not Rated | 122 min | Documentary, War

A documentary following Kenzo Okuzaki, a 62-year-old WW2 veteran notorious for his protests against Emperor Hirohito, as he tries to expose the needless executions of two Japanese soldiers during the war.

Director: Kazuo Hara | Stars: Kenzo Okuzaki, Riichi Aikawa, Masaichi Hamaguchi, Toshio Hara

Votes: 1,315

(aka The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On)

12. United Red Army (2007)

Not Rated | 190 min | Crime, Drama

67 Metascore

A story about the rise and fall of United Red Army, a real life 70s short-lived Japanese armed revolutionary communist movement similar to more famous Red Brigades in Italy or ... See full summary »

Director: Kôji Wakamatsu | Stars: Maki Sakai, Arata Iura, Akie Namiki, Gô Jibiki

Votes: 631 | Gross: $0.00M

*

(aka United Red Army)

13. Taboo (1999)

Unrated | 100 min | Drama, History, Thriller

75 Metascore

The new member of a samurai militia unit causes disruption as several of his colleagues fall in love with him, threatening to disturb the rigid code of their squad.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Takeshi Kitano, Ryûhei Matsuda, Shinji Takeda, Tadanobu Asano

Votes: 6,739 | Gross: $0.05M

*

(aka Taboo aka The Code)

14. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

Not Rated | 151 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

A vengeful young man marries the daughter of a corrupt industrialist in order to seek justice for his father's suicide.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Kyôko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi

Votes: 9,782

(aka The Bad Sleep Well)

15. Ugetsu (1953)

Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Fantasy, War

A tale of ambition, family, love, and war set in the midst of the Japanese Civil Wars of the sixteenth century.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi | Stars: Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyô, Kinuyo Tanaka, Mitsuko Mito

Votes: 18,524 | Gross: $0.01M

16. Death by Hanging (1968)

Not Rated | 117 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

A Korean man is sentenced to death by hanging, but he survives the execution. For the following two hours, his executioners try to work out how to handle the situation in this black farce.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Kei Satô, Do-yun Yu, Fumio Watanabe, Hôsei Komatsu

Votes: 1,929

*

(aka Death by Hanging)

17. Love Exposure (2008)

Unrated | 237 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

78 Metascore

A bizarre love triangle forms between a young Catholic upskirt photographer, a misandric girl and a manipulative cultist.

Director: Sion Sono | Stars: Takahiro Nishijima, Hikari Mitsushima, Sakura Andô, Yutaka Shimizu

Votes: 10,388

*

(aka Love Exposure)

18. Boy (1969)

97 min | Drama

A young boy reluctantly aids his swindling father in a threatening scam.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Fumio Watanabe, Akiko Koyama, Tetsuo Abe, Tsuyoshi Kinoshita

Votes: 1,246

*

(aka Boy)

19. Seven Samurai (1954)

Not Rated | 207 min | Adventure, Drama

98 Metascore

A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiko Shimazaki

Votes: 291,896 | Gross: $0.27M

(aka Seven Samurai)

20. Pitfall (1962)

Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Fantasy

A man wanders into a seemingly deserted town with his young son in search of work. But after a bit of bad luck, he joins the town's population of lost souls.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara | Stars: Hisashi Igawa, Sumie Sasaki, Sen Yano, Hideo Kanze

Votes: 3,166

(aka Pitfall)

21. Sing a Song of Sex (1967)

103 min | Drama

Four high school students preparing for their university entrance exam fantasize about a classmate, and meet up with thier inebriated teacher, while singing bawdy drinking songs.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Ichirô Araki, Kazuko Tajima, Jûzô Itami, Akiko Koyama

Votes: 611

*

(aka A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs aka Sing a Song of Sex)

22. Shôjo geba-geba (1969)

66 min | Crime, Horror

A bunch of violent hippies kidnap and humiliate a young romantic couple, while a nearby yakuza gang observes the situation.

Director: Kôji Wakamatsu | Stars: Eri Ashikawa, Toshiyuki Tanigawa, Miki Hayashi, Atsushi Yamatoya

Votes: 506

*

(aka Violent Virgin)

23. Noriko's Dinner Table (2005)

Not Rated | 159 min | Drama, Horror

59 Metascore

A teenager called Noriko Shimabara runs away from her family in Tokoyama, to meet Kumiko, the leader of an Internet BBS, Haikyo.com. She becomes involved with Kumiko's "family circle", ... See full summary »

Director: Sion Sono | Stars: Kazue Fukiishi, Tsugumi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Shirô Namiki

Votes: 3,849

(aka Noriko's Dinner Table)

24. Antonio Gaudí (1984)

Not Rated | 72 min | Documentary

The work of Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí, as seen by Japanese New Wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara | Stars: Isidro Puig Boada, Antoni Gaudí, Seiji Miyaguchi

Votes: 1,206

*

(aka Season of the Sun)

26. Ran (1985)

R | 162 min | Action, Drama

96 Metascore

In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryû

Votes: 102,132 | Gross: $3.52M

27. The Warped Ones (1960)

Not Rated | 75 min | Action, Crime

A juvenile delinquent gets out of the pen and causes reckless mayhem, mostly directed at the girlfriend of the journalist who helped send him up.

Director: Koreyoshi Kurahara | Stars: Tamio Kawaji, Yuko Chiyo, Eiji Gô, Hiroyuki Nagato

Votes: 665

*

(aka The Warped Ones)

28. A Sun-Tribe Myth from the Bakumatsu Era (1957)

110 min | Comedy, Drama

In the last days of the Shogunate, a resourceful grifter seeks to outwit competing prostitutes, rebellious samurai and other inhabitants of a brothel in order to survive the hardened times.

Director: Yûzô Kawashima | Stars: Furankî Sakai, Sachiko Hidari, Yôko Minamida, Yûjirô Ishihara

Votes: 574

*

(aka Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate)

29. The Incorrigible (1963)

Not Rated | 95 min | Drama

A teenager is dismissed from school for misconduct. Still violent, he falls in love with a pupil of his new establishment.

Director: Seijun Suzuki | Stars: Ken Yamauchi, Masako Izumi, Midori Tashiro, Yoko Ozono

Votes: 87

*

(aka The Bastard aka The Young Rebel)

30. Oatsurae Jirôkichi koshi (1931)

80 min | Action, Drama

The only completely preserved silent film directed by Daisuke Ito, this film relates the life of a legendary thief, Jirokichi the Rat in an exquisite original story and through the ... See full summary »

Director: Daisuke Itô | Stars: Denjirô Ôkôchi, Naoe Fushimi, Nobuko Fushimi, Reizaburô Yamamoto

Votes: 97

*

(aka Jirokichi the Rat aka Made to Order Cloth)

31. Spirited Away (2001)

PG | 125 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

96 Metascore

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Miyu Irino, Rumi Hiiragi

Votes: 576,362 | Gross: $10.06M

(aka Spirited Away)

32. Suzaki Paradise Red Light (1956)

81 min | Drama

A couple stand indecisively on a bridge in Asakusa. Tsutae and Yoshiji have lost confidence and passion for their future as they get on the bus for Tsukishima and get off at Suzaki. Across ... See full summary »

Director: Yûzô Kawashima | Stars: Michiyo Aratama, Yukiko Todoroki, Seizaburô Kawazu, Tatsuya Mihashi

Votes: 196

*

(aka Suzaki Paradise: Red Light District)

33. Fighting Elegy (1966)

Not Rated | 86 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

During the 1930s, a teenager yearns for a Catholic girl, whose only desire is to reform his sinful tendencies. Hormones raging, the young man channels his unsatisfied lust into the only outlet available: savage, crazed violence.

Director: Seijun Suzuki | Stars: Hideki Takahashi, Junko Asano, Yûsuke Kawazu, Chikako Miyagi

Votes: 1,231

*

(aka Fighting Elegy)

34. 13 Assassins (2010)

R | 141 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

84 Metascore

A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.

Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya, Ikki Sawamura

Votes: 58,936 | Gross: $0.80M

*

(aka 13 Assassins)

35. Ecstasy of the Angels (1972)

89 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

The movie focuses on the actions of a revolutionary movement.

Director: Kôji Wakamatsu | Stars: Ken Yoshizawa, Rie Yokoyama, Yuki Aresa, Masao Adachi

Votes: 865

*

(aka Ecstasy of the Angels)

36. Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (2001)

119 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

69 Metascore

A down-and-out businessman travels to a seaside town, where he meets a woman with unusual sexual powers.

Director: Shôhei Imamura | Stars: Kôji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baishô, Mansaku Fuwa

Votes: 2,410 | Gross: $0.06M

(aka Warm Water Under a Red Bridge)

37. Empire of Passion (1978)

R | 105 min | Drama, Horror, Romance

A married woman and her lover murder her husband and dump his body into a well. After a while, his ghost comes to haunt them while the local gossip grows stronger.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Tatsuya Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takahiro Tamura, Takuzô Kawatani

Votes: 3,299

(aka Empire of Passion)

38. The Ballad of Narayama (1983)

Not Rated | 130 min | Drama

In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.

Director: Shôhei Imamura | Stars: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Tonpei Hidari, Aki Takejô

Votes: 6,480

(aka Ballad of Narayama)

39. Helpless (1996)

80 min | Crime

Yasuo is a gangster just released from jail. Believing his boss double-crossed him, enraged Yasuo is on his way to find the boss. But before setting out for the dangerous trip, Yasuo asks ... See full summary »

Director: Shinji Aoyama | Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Ken Mitsuishi, Yôichirô Saitô, Hiroko Isayama

Votes: 187

40. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

PG | 117 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

86 Metascore

Warrior and pacifist Princess Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Sumi Shimamoto, Mahito Tsujimura, Hisako Kyôda, Gorô Naya

Votes: 131,763 | Gross: $0.50M

(aka Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds)

41. Night and Fog in Japan (1960)

107 min | Drama

Long takes and a highly theatrical visual approach combine to form a tense and confrontational look at the decline of a socialist student activists' movement in Japan.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Miyuki Kuwano, Fumio Watanabe, Masahiko Tsugawa, Hiroshi Akutagawa

Votes: 539

*

(aka Night and Fog in Japan)

42. Century of Cinema (1995–1998)
Episode: 100 Years of Japanese Cinema (1995)

60 min | Documentary

Nagisa Oshima explores the first century of Japanese cinema.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima | Stars: Nagisa Ôshima, William B. White

Votes: 278

*

(aka 100 Years of Japanese Cinema)

43. Branded to Kill (1967)

Not Rated | 91 min | Action, Crime, Drama

After a badly done assignment, a hitman finds himself in conflict with his organisation, and one mysterious and dangerous fellow-hitman in particular.

Director: Seijun Suzuki | Stars: Jô Shishido, Mariko Ogawa, Annu Mari, Kôji Nanbara

Votes: 7,179

(aka Branded to Kill)

44. The Cat Returns (2002)

G | 75 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

After helping a cat, a 17-year-old girl finds herself involuntarily engaged to a cat prince in a magical world where her only hope of freedom lies with a dapper cat statuette come to life.

Director: Hiroyuki Morita | Stars: Chizuru Ikewaki, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Aki Maeda, Takayuki Yamada

Votes: 40,379

(aka The Cat Returns)

45. Fires on the Plain (1959)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, War

In the closing days of WWII remnants of the Japanese army in Leyte are abandoned by their command and face certain starvation.

Director: Kon Ichikawa | Stars: Eiji Funakoshi, Mantarô Ushio, Yoshihiro Hamaguchi, Osamu Takizawa

Votes: 4,043

(aka Fires on the Plain)

46. All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)

146 min | Crime, Drama, Music

73 Metascore

The problematic lives of teenager students for whom the singer Lily Chou-Chou's dreamy music is the only way to escape an alienating, violent and insensitive society.

Director: Shunji Iwai | Stars: Hayato Ichihara, Shûgo Oshinari, Ayumi Itô, Takao Ohsawa

Votes: 7,398 | Gross: $0.02M

(aka All About Lily Chou-Chou)

47. Kagemusha (1980)

PG | 162 min | Drama, History, War

84 Metascore

A petty thief with an utter resemblance to a samurai warlord is hired as the lord's double. When the warlord later dies the thief is forced to take up arms in his place.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken'ichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu

Votes: 29,319

(aka The Shadow Warrior)

48. Battle Royale (2000)

Not Rated | 114 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

81 Metascore

In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act.

Director: Kinji Fukasaku | Stars: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto, Takeshi Kitano

Votes: 161,402

(aka Battle Royale)

49. Suicide Club (2001)

R | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Horror