Guide to Asian Cinema (directors)

by ChristofBronner | created - 28 May 2014 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

I'm not going to pretend that this list is complete. There is so much stuff out there that I haven't seen yet. This is more of a beginner's guide for anyone interested to delve deeper into Asian cinema. Recommendations for Asian directors and films that I should check out are always welcome.

A few words about the countries represented on this list.

China: has a state-controlled studio system with censorship producing lots of propagandistic and patriotic films made by directors who prefer to "play it safe". This list however concentrates on directors who work outside of this studio system, thus taking the risk of having their films banned or getting a ban on making films (e.g. Tian Zhuangzhuang who received a 10-year ban). The directors of the so-called Fifth Generation were famous for their art films and humanist dramas which they made during the late 80s/early 90s. These films, similiar to what Kurosawa's film Rashomon did for Japanese cinema in the 1950s, brought Chinese cinema to the attention of arthouse audiences in the West. Sadly most of these directors have moved into the mainstream now. Luckily new directors (Sixth Generation & New Documentary Movement) have emerged who are keeping the spirit of the Fifth Generation alive.

Hong Kong: best known for its stylish genre and action films, especially Kung fu, Wuxia and Heroic Bloodshed. Hong Kong cinema had a huge influence on modern Hollywood action films. Wuxia: subgenre of martial arts films, known for its use of wires to achieve highly stylized fight scenes which defy the laws of gravity, contains elements of fantasy and adventure, set in ancient China Heroic Bloodshed: subgenre of action films, known for its highly stylized gun fights with frequent use of slow motion, making the fights appear almost ballet-like and graceful, common themes are brotherhood, loyalty and honour, doesn't shy away from using melodrama and pathos

India: dominated by Bollywood (Hindi-language films) and the film genre Masala. Luckily for lovers of art cinema, there is a small opposition called Parallel Cinema. Masala: epic films that mix elements of action, comedy, romance and melodrama with LOTS of singing and dancing. Parallel Cinema: Indian art cinema, alternative to mainstream Indian cinema

Japan: one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world. I won't even try to categorize Japanese cinema. The sheer amount of diversity Japanese cinema has to offer is ridiculous. They produce pretty much everything and anything you can think of. Let's just say Japanese cinema is God. As you can see I'm biased towards Japanese cinema. It's probably my favorite film nation. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that this list is heavily dominated by Japanese filmmakers. But I'm trying to expand my knowledge of other Asian film nations as well.

South Korea: is, similar to Hong Kong, known for its excellent genre films. While Hong Kong cinema excels in action films, the expertise of South Korean cinema lies in Crime-Thrillers and Revenge films. South Korea has also its fair share of arthouse directors (Kim Ki-duk, Lee Chang-dong and Hong Sang-soo).

Taiwan: mostly known for its art cinema. While these films have no mainstream appeal whatsoever and aren't commercially successful, they are huge critical darlings and frequently shown on film festivals.

Thailand: similar to Taiwan known internationally for its art cinema. Prachya Pinkaew popularised with his films Muay Thai martial arts films.

PS: Since some people told me they would prefer a list that lists all the films instead of directors I made this alternative list:

1. Yimou Zhang

Director | Ying xiong

Yimou Zhang was born on November 14, 1951 in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. He is a director and writer, known for Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).


Fifth Generation, early films: humanist dramas, later films: Wuxia

recommended films: Raise the Red Lantern (1991) To Live (1994, banned in China) Hero (2002) Ju Dou (1990)


recommended film: Kaili Blues (2015) Long Day's Journey Into Night (2018)

3. Bo Hu

Director | Da xiang xi di er zuo

Born in Jinan, Shangdong, China, He studied Film Directing at the Beijing Film Academy. Following two short films and several novels, An Elephant Sitting Still was his first feature-length film. This is a four-hour portrait of a society of egoists. Tragically, it will also be the final chapter in ...


recommended film: An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

4. Bing Wang

Director | Jiabiangou

Bing Wang was born in 1967 in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. He is a director and cinematographer, known for The Ditch (2010), Three Sisters (2012) and Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2002).


New Documentary Movement, Direct Cinema

recommended films: Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003) 'Til Madness Do Us Part (2013)

5. Jiayin Liu

Director | Niu pi

Jiayin Liu was born on August 20, 1981 in Beijing, China. She is a director and actress, known for Oxhide (2005), Oxhide II (2009) and The Keyholder (2011).


Docudrama, New Documentary Movement

Oxhide (2005) Oxhide II (2009)

6. Kaige Chen

Director | Ba wang bie ji

Kaige Chen was born on August 12, 1952 in Beijing, China. He is a director and writer, known for Farewell My Concubine (1993), Yellow Earth (1984) and Together with You (2002). He has been married to Hong Chen since 1996. They have two children.


historical dramas, Fifth Generation

Farewell My Concubine (1993) Yellow Earth (1984)

7. Mu Fei

Director | Xiao cheng zhi chun

Is mentioned in Centre Stage (1992).


Spring in a Small Town (1948)

8. Wen Jiang

Actor | Rogue One

Wen Jiang was born on January 5, 1963 in Tangshan, China. He is an actor and director, known for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Devils on the Doorstep (2000) and Hidden Man (2018). He has been married to Yun Zhou since 2005. They have two children. He was previously married to Sandrine ...


Devils on the Doorstep (2000, banned in China) In the Heat of the Sun (1994)

9. Wenguang Wu

Director | 1966, wo de Hongweibing shidai

Wenguang Wu was born in 1956 in Yunnan, China. He is a director and producer, known for 1966, My Time in the Red Guards (1993), Dance with Farm Workers (2002) and Jiang Hu: Life on the Road (1999).


Cinéma vérité, New Documentary Movement

Fück Cinema (2005) Bumming in Beijing (1990)

10. Xiaoshuai Wang

Director | Di jiu tian chang

Wang Xiaoshuai (Director, Writer, Producer)

Wang Xiaoshuai is one of very few masters who remains true to his art in spite of rampant commercialism in the Chinese film market. Evoking the trauma of ordinary Chinese people caught in extraordinary times, his works span different eras, yet consistently...


Sixth Generation

Beijing Bicycle (2001, banned in China) Shanghai Dreams (2005)


The Goddess (1934, silent film)

12. Zhangke Jia

Director | Tian zhu ding

Zhangke Jia was born on May 24, 1970 in Fenyang, Shanxi, China. He is a director and producer, known for A Touch of Sin (2013), Mountains May Depart (2015) and Ash Is Purest White (2018). He has been married to Tao Zhao since January 7, 2012.


Arthouse, Sixth Generation

Platform (2000) Still Life (2006)

13. Zhuangzhuang Tian

Director | Lan feng zheng

Tian is a former cameraman and graduate of the Beijing Film Academy. Due to controvery caused by some of his films, post-production on The Blue Kite (1993) had to be completed outside his homeland China.


Fifth Generation

The Blue Kite (1994, banned in China) The Horse Thief (1986, banned in China)

14. Fruit Chan

Director | Na yeh ling san, ngoh choh seung liu Wong Gok hoi mong Dai Bou dik hung Van

Fruit Chan was born on April 15, 1959 in Guangdong, China. He is an actor and director, known for The Midnight After (2014), Made in Hong Kong (1997) and Three Husbands (2018).

Hong Kong

Handover Trilogy: Made in Hong Kong (1997) The Longest Summer (1998) Little Cheung (1999)

15. Jackie Chan

Actor | Ngo si seoi

Hong Kong's cheeky, lovable and best known film star, Jackie Chan endured many years of long, hard work and multiple injuries to establish international success after his start in Hong Kong's manic martial arts cinema industry.

Jackie was born Kong-sang Chan on April 7, 1954, on Hong Kong's famous ...

Hong Kong

Action, Martial Arts, Comedy

Police Story (1985) Drunken Master (1978, directed by Yuen Woo-Ping) Project A (1983)

16. Cheh Chang

Director | Bao chou

Chang Cheh was the leading Martial Arts director in Hong Kong in the 1970s, now with close to 100 films to his name. His has influenced other directors such as John Woo and Liu Chiau Liang, and made famous such Hong Kong stars as Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok, Fu Sheng and Lung Ti. Chang has declared ...

Hong Kong

Kung Fu, Wuxia

Five Deadly Venoms (1978) The One-Armed Swordsman (1967) Crippled Avengers (1978)

17. Siu-Tung Ching

Stunts | Ying xiong

Siu-Tung Ching was born in 1953 as Xiaodong Cheng. He is known for his work on Hero (2002), Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) and The Warlords (2007).

Hong Kong


A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) Duel to Death (1983)

18. Hark Tsui

Producer | Wong Fei Hung

Tsui Hark recently became the fourth Chinese film director to join the board of judges for the 57th Cannes Film Festival in the feature films category this year.

An internationally acclaimed visionary director, Hark started making experimental movies with 8mm film when he was only 13. After ...

Hong Kong


Once Upon a Time in China (1991) Peking Opera Blues (1986)

19. Ann Hui

Director | Nu ren si shi

Born in China in 1947, Ann Hui moved to Hong Kong when she was still in her youth. After graduating in English and Comparative Literature from Hong Kong University, she spent two years at the London Film School. Returning to Hong Kong, she worked as an assistant to director King Hu before joining ...

Hong Kong

A Simple Life (2011) Boat People (1982)

20. Chang-hwa Jeong

Director | Yuhokui geori

Chang-hwa Jeong received the third Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award at the screening of his film King Boxer (Five Fingers of Death) at the New York Asian Film Festival on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

Hong Kong

Kung Fu

Five Fingers of Death (1972)

Hong Kong

Kung fu splatter

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991, cult film)

22. Ringo Lam

Director | Go do gaai bei

Ringo Lam was born in 1955 in Hong Kong as Lin Lingdong. He was a director and writer, known for Full Alert (1997), City on Fire (1987) and Wild City (2015). He died on December 29, 2018 in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

Action, Heroic Bloodshed

City on Fire (1987) Prison on Fire (1987)

23. Andrew Lau

Cinematographer | Mou gaan dou

Andrew Lau Wai-Keung was born in Hong Kong in 1960, and has been fond of photography as a child. He joined Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd. after secondary school graduation. The first film he participated in as a semi-skilled worker in cinematography was Legendary Weapons of China directed by Chia-Liang Liu...

& Alan Mak

Hong Kong

Crime, Thriller

Infernal Affairs (2002, remade by Martin Scorsese as The Departed) Infernal Affairs 2 (2003)

24. Bruce Lee

Actor | Meng long guo jiang

Bruce Lee remains the greatest icon of martial arts cinema and a key figure of modern popular media. Had it not been for Bruce Lee and his movies in the early 1970s, it's arguable whether or not the martial arts film genre would have ever penetrated and influenced mainstream North American and ...

Hong Kong

Action, Martial Arts

Fist of Fury (1972, directed by Lo Wei) The Way of the Dragon (1972)

25. Chia-Liang Liu

Actor | Jui kuen II

Chia-Liang Liu was born on August 1, 1936 in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. He is known for his work on Drunken Master II (1994), Legendary Weapons of China (1982) and My Young Auntie (1981). He was married to Jing-Jing Yung and Hsiu-Hsia Ho. He died on June 25, 2013 in Hong Kong, China.

aka Lau Kar-leung

Hong Kong

Kung fu films

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984) The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

26. Johnnie To

Producer | Cheung foh

With over thirty directing and producing credits to his name, Johnnie To enjoyed international breakthroughs with Election (2005), Election 2 (2006) (aka "Triad Election") and Exiled (2006); those films enjoyed multiple international film festival appearances and were separately sold to more than ...

Hong Kong

Gangster Film, Action, Crime

The Mission (1999) Election (2005) & Election 2 (2006)

27. Kar-Wai Wong

Writer | Yi dai zong shi

Wong Kar-wai (born 17 July 1956) is a Hong Kong Second Wave filmmaker, internationally renowned as an auteur for his visually unique, highly stylised, emotionally resonant work, including Ah fei zing zyun (1990), Dung che sai duk (1994), Chung Hing sam lam (1994), Do lok tin si (1995), Chun gwong ...

Hong Kong

Arthouse, Romance

Chungking Express (1994) In the Mood for Love (2000) Fallen Angels (1995) Happy Together (1997)

28. John Woo

Director | Ying hung boon sik

Born in southern China, John Woo grew up in Hong Kong, where he began his film career as an assistant director in 1969, working for Shaw Brothers Studios. He directed his first feature in 1973 and has been a prolific director ever since, working in a wide variety of genres before A Better Tomorrow ...

Hong Kong

Action, Heroic Bloodshed

The Killer (1989) Hard Boiled (1992) A Better Tomorrow (1986)

29. Woo-Ping Yuen

Wo hu cang long

Woo-Ping Yuen was born on January 1, 1945 in Guangzhou, China as Yuen Woo Ping. He is known for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Kung Fu Hustle (2004) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).

Hong Kong

Kung fu films, fight choreographer for Matrix & Kill Bill

Drunken Master (1978) Iron Monkey (1993)

30. Guru Dutt

Actor | Pyaasa

Considered to be a man ahead of his time, Guru Dutt was one of the greatest icons of commercial Indian cinema. Although he made less than fifty films, they are believed to be the best to come from Bollywood's Golden Age, known both for their ability to reach out to the common man and for their ...


Pyaasa (1957) Paper Flowers (1959)

31. Ritwik Ghatak

Director | Meghe Dhaka Tara

Ritwik Ghatak was born on November 4, 1925 in Dacca, Bengal Presidency, British India as Ritwik Kumar Ghatak. He was a director and writer, known for The Cloud-Capped Star (1960), Madhumati (1958) and Reason, Debate and a Story (1974). He was married to Surama Ghatak. He died on February 6, 1976 in...


Parallel Cinema

The Cloud-Capped Star (1960) The Golden Thread (1965)

32. Ashutosh Gowariker

Writer | Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India

His passion for cinema immediately draws your attention, making you realize that Ashutosh Gowariker would not have been anywhere except behind the camera, however tempting the choice. An actor who took to film direction after almost a decade in front of the camera, Ashutosh has acted in Hindi films...



Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

33. Rajkumar Hirani

Writer | PK

Rajkumar Hirani was born on November 20, 1962 in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. He is a writer and editor, known for PK (2014), Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. (2003) and 3 Idiots (2009).



3 Idiots (2009) Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)

34. Raj Kapoor

Producer | Prem Rog

Raj Kapoor was the son of well-known Indian actor Prithviraj Kapoor, who acted both in film and on stage. After apprenticing in the Bollywood production studios of the 1940's, at 24 years of age Raj Kapoor produced, directed and acted in Aag (1948), with his new company, RK Films. His next ...


Awaara (1951) Shree 420 (1955)

35. Mani Kaul

Director | Duvidha

Mani Kaul was born on December 25, 1944 in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. He was a director and writer, known for Duvidha (1973), Naukar Ki Kameez (1999) and Uski Roti (1970). He died on July 6, 2011 in New Delhi, India.


Parallel Cinema

Our Daily Bread (1970) Duvidha (1973)

36. Mira Nair

Director | Monsoon Wedding

Accomplished Film Director/Writer/Producer Mira Nair was born in India and educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. She began her film career as an actor and then turned to directing award-winning documentaries, including So Far From India and India Cabaret. Her debut feature film, Salaam ...



Salaam Bombay! (1988) Monsoon Wedding (2001)

37. Satyajit Ray

Writer | Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta on May 2, 1921. His father, Late Sukumar Ray was an eminent poet and writer in the history of Bengali literature. In 1940, after receiving his degree in science and economics from Calcutta University, he attended Tagore's Viswa-Bharati University. His first movie ...


Parallel Cinema

Pather Panchali (1955) The Unvanquished (1956) The World of Apu (1959) The Music Room (1958) Charulata (1964) The Big City (1963)

38. Ramesh Sippy

Director | Sholay

Ramesh Sippy was born on January 23, 1947 in Karachi, Sind Province, British India as Ramesh Gopaldas Sipahimalani. He is a director and producer, known for Sholay (1975), Saagar (1985) and Shaan (1980). He is married to Kiran Juneja.



Sholay (1975)



Haibane Renmei (2002, Mini-Series) Serial Experiments Lain (1998, Mini-Series) (character designer)

40. Hideaki Anno

Director | Shin Gojira

Hideaki Anno was born on May 22, 1960 in Ube, Yamaguchi, Japan. He is known for his work on Shin Godzilla (2016), The Wind Rises (2013) and Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007). He has been married to Moyoco Anno since March 26, 2002.



Neon Genesis Evangelion (TV Series, 1995-96) Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997) Ritual (2000)

41. Shinji Aoyama

Director | Yurîka

A director known for the thematic and visual bleakness of his work, Aoyama often sets his films in the Kyushu region from which he hails. He graduated from Rikkyo University and became known in 1996, but it was Eureka in 2000, which won him prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. Aoyama would continue ...



Eureka (2000) My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? (2005)

42. Toshiya Fujita

Director | Kaerazaru hibi

Toshiya Fujita was born on January 16, 1932 in Pyongyang, Korea. Following graduation from Tokyo University Fujita joined the Nikkatsu studio in 1955. Toshiya initially worked at Nikkatsu as a publicist, screenwriter, and assistant director prior to directing his first film in 1967. His debut ...


Lady Snowblood (1973)

43. Kinji Fukasaku

Director | Batoru rowaiaru

Kinji Fukasaku was born on July 3, 1930 in Mito, Japan. He was a director and writer, known for Battle Royale (2000), Fall Guy (1982) and Crest of Betrayal (1994). He was married to Sanae Nakahara. He died on January 12, 2003 in Tokyo, Japan.


Yakuza film, Action

Battle Royale (2000) Battles Without Honor and Humanity (series of five films, 1973-74)



Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (1999, video)

45. Hideo Gosha

Director | Goyôkin

Hideo Gosha was born on February 26, 1929 in Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan. He was a director and writer, known for Goyokin (1969), The Geisha (1983) and Onimasa (1982). He died on August 30, 1992.

samurai films

Three Outlaw Samurai (1964) The Wolves (1971) Goyokin (1969)

46. Kazuo Hara

Director | Yuki yukite, shingun

Kazuo Hara was born on June 8, 1945 in Yamaguchi, Japan. He is a director and cinematographer, known for The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987), A Dedicated Life (1994) and Goodbye CP (1972).


Cinéma vérité documentaries

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987) Sayonara CP (1972)

47. Ishirô Honda

Director | Gojira

Influential Japanese film director born May 7th, 1911, often credited as being the father of Godzilla. His name is a combination of "I" (or Ino), meaning "boar" and "shirô," meaning fourth boy in the family. Originally, the young Honda had aspirations of becoming an artist. However, as he moved ...


Giant monster films

Godzilla (1954) Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964)

48. Mamoru Hosoda

Director | Toki o kakeru shôjo

Mamoru Hosoda is a Japanese film director and animator. Formerly employed at Toei Animation, he went to work at Madhouse from 2005 to 2011. Hosoda left Madhouse in 2011 to establish his own animation studio, Studio Chizu. He first came to public attention in the early 2000s with the first two films...



The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) Wolf Children (2012)

49. Kon Ichikawa

Director | Inugami-ke no ichizoku

Kon Ichikawa has been influenced by artists as diverse as Walt Disney and Jean Renoir, and his films cover a wide spectrum of moods, from the comic to the overwhelmingly ironic and even the perverse. Ichikawa began his career as a cartoonist, and this influence is apparent in his skillful use of ...


anti-war films

The Burmese Harp (1956) Fires on the Plain (1959) An Actor's Revenge (1963)

50. Shôhei Imamura

Director | Kuroi ame

Shohei Imamura's films dig beneath the surface of Japanese society to reveal a wellspring of sensual, often irrational, energy that lies beneath. Along with his colleagues Nagisa Ôshima and Masahiro Shinoda, Imamura began his serious directorial career as a member of the New Wave movement in Japan....


Japanese New Wave

Profound Desires of the Gods (1968) Vengeance is Mine (1979) Black Rain (1989) The Ballad of Narayama (1983) The Insect Woman (1963) The Pornographers (1966)

51. Tatsuya Ishihara

Art_department | Suzumiya Haruhi no yûutsu

Tatsuya Ishihara was born on July 31, 1966 in Maizuru, Kyoto, Japan. He is known for his work on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006), K-On! (2009) and Air TV (2005).


The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006-09, anime series ) The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010)

52. Gakuryû Ishii

Director | Yume no ginga

Gakuryû Ishii was born on January 15, 1957 in Hakata, Fukuoka, Japan. He is a director and writer, known for Labyrinth of Dreams (1997), Angel Dust (1994) and Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001).

aka Sogo Ishii


Cyberpunk, began his career making underground films (see also Shinya Tsukamoto)

The Crazy Family (1984) Labyrinth of Dreams (1997) 1/2 Man (1986) Burst City (1982)

53. Katsuhito Ishii

Director | Cha no aji

Katsuhito Ishii was born in 1966 in Niigata, Japan. He is a director and writer, known for The Taste of Tea (2004), Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005) and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).



The Taste of Tea (2004) The Funky Forest (2005)

54. Jûzô Itami

Writer | Osôshiki

A tragic end belies a life led with purpose. The son of a successful filmmaker, Juzo Itami made his name acting in television and films before making a late career shift into screenwriting and directing at age 50. Known to choose the subjects of his films through everyday observations, he often ...


Comedy, Satire

Tampopo (1985) A Taxing Woman (1987)

55. Shunji Iwai

Writer | Vampire

Having received his education at Yokohama National University, Shunji Iwai started out in the entertainment industry by directing music videos and television dramas, including the likes of Maria, Lunatic Love and Fireworks, for which he received the award for Best Newcomer from the Japanese ...


All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001) Swallowtail Butterfly (1996)


Japanese New Wave

This Transient Life (1970)

57. Naomi Kawase

Director | An

Naomi Kawase was born on May 30, 1969 in Nara, Japan. She is a director and writer, known for Sweet Bean (2015), Suzaku (1997) and Still the Water (2014). She was previously married to Takenori Sentô.


Drama, Documentary

Shara (2003) Suzaku (1997)

58. Keisuke Kinoshita

Writer | Nijûshi no hitomi

Keisuke Kinoshita was born on December 5, 1912 in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan. He was a writer and director, known for Twenty-Four Eyes (1954), The Ballad of Narayama (1958) and The Garden of Women (1954). He died on December 30, 1998 in Tokyo, Japan.


Ballad of Narayama (1958) Twenty-Four Eyes (1954)

59. Teinosuke Kinugasa

Director | Jigokumon

Former female impersonator who entered films in 1917 as an actor, turned to directing in 1922 and made some of the most formally brilliant Japanese films of the following decades. The few of Kinugasa's early works to have reached the West betray a highly mature, sophisticated talent. His best-known...


known for A Page of Madness, a surreal experimental film made three years (!) before Bunuel's An Andalusian Dog (1929)

A Page of Madness (1926, silent film) Gate of Hell (1953)

60. Takeshi Kitano

Actor | Zatôichi

Takeshi Kitano originally studied to become an engineer, but was thrown out of school for rebellious behavior. He learned comedy, singing and dancing from famed comedian Senzaburô Fukami. Working as a lift boy on a nightclub with such features as comic sketches and striptease dancing, Kitano saw ...


Fireworks (1997) Sonatine (1993) Kikujiro (1999)

61. Masaki Kobayashi

Director | Seppuku

Masaki Kobayashi was born on February 14, 1916 in Hokkaido, Japan. He was a director and writer, known for Harakiri (1962), The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961) and Samurai Rebellion (1967). He died on October 4, 1996 in Tokyo, Japan.


Samurai films, anti-war films

Harakiri (1962) The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959) The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1959) The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961) Samurai Rebellion (1967) Kwaidan (1964)

62. Satoshi Kon

Writer | Tôkyô goddofâzâzu

Satoshi Kon was born in 1963. He studied at the Musashino College of the Arts. He began his career as a Manga artist. He then moved to animation and worked as a background artist on many films (including Roujin Z (1991) by 'Katsuhiro Otomo'). Then, in 1995, he wrote an episode of the anthology film ...


surreal anime

Perfect Blue (1997) Paprika (2006) Millennium Actress (2001) Tokyo Godfathers (2003) Paranoia Agent (Mini-Series, 2004)

63. Yoshifumi Kondô

Director | Mimi wo sumaseba

Famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki had intended Kondo to be his successor as Studio Ghibli's film director. Unfortunately, Kondo was only able to direct a single Ghibli film before his untimely death in 1998, Whisper of the Heart (1995).



Whisper of the Heart (1995)

64. Hirokazu Koreeda

Director | Manbiki kazoku

Born in Tokyo in 1962. Originally intended to be a novelist, but after graduating from Waseda University in 1987 went on to become an assistant director at T.V. Man Union. Snuck off set to film Lessons from a Calf (1991). His first feature, Maborosi (1995), based on a Teru Miyamoto novel and drawn ...


Nobody Knows (2004) Maborosi (1995) Still Walking (2008) After Life (1998) Like Father, Like Son (2013)

65. Koreyoshi Kurahara

Director | Nankyoku monogatari

Koreyoshi Kurahara was born on May 31, 1927 in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. He was a director and writer, known for Antarctica (1983), Eight Below (2006) and Kaitei kara kita onna (1959). He was married to Yumiko Miyagino. He died on December 28, 2002 in Yokohama, Japan.


Japanese New Wave

The Warped Ones (1960) The Thirst for Love (1966)

66. Akira Kurosawa

Writer | Kakushi-toride no san-akunin

After training as a painter (he storyboards his films as full-scale paintings), Kurosawa entered the film industry in 1936 as an assistant director, eventually making his directorial debut with Sanshiro Sugata (1943). Within a few years, Kurosawa had achieved sufficient stature to allow him greater...


chambara (samurai films), jidaigeki (Japanese historical dramas)

Seven Samurai (1954) Rashomon (1950) Ikiru (1952) Ran (1985) Yojimbo (1961) High and Low (1963) Throne of Blood (1957) Stray Dog (1949) Red Beard (1965) Hidden Fortress (1958) Drunken Angel (1948)

67. Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Director | Tokyo Sonata

Kiyoshi Kurosawa was born on July 19, 1955 in Kobe, Japan. He is a director and writer, known for Tokyo Sonata (2008), Pulse (2001) and Journey to the Shore (2015).


J-Horror, Psychological Thriller

The Cure (1997) Tokyo Sonata (2008) Pulse (2001)

68. Yasuzô Masumura

Director | Daichi no komoriuta

Born in Yamanashi, Japan, Yasuzô Masumura would become known as a maverick director whose main legacy was films portraying and promoting individualism, which was the opposite of the norm in Japanese society. He earned a law degree towards the end of World War II from Tokyo University, yet joined ...


Blind Beast (1969) Red Angel (1966)

69. Toshio Matsumoto

Director | Shura

A 1955 graduate of Tokyo University, Toshio Matsumoto is a pioneer of avant-garde experimental movies, multimedia, and video in his homeland and abroad. His first experimental short was _Song of the Stones (1963)_. His most famous work is 1969's wildly experimental _Funeral Parade of Roses_, ...


Japanese New Wave

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) Demons (1971)

70. Kenji Misumi

Director | Okami yo rakujitsu o kire

Kenji Misumi was born on March 2, 1921 in Kyoto, Japan. Misumi was the illegitimate child of a geisha mother and originally wanted to be a painter, but his father disapproved. Kenji attended Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. During this time Misumi met future Daiei studio head Kan Kikuchi, ...


Samurai films with 70's exploitation style

Lone Wolf and Cub (series of six films, 1972-74) The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice (1972)

71. Hayao Miyazaki

Director | Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi

Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan's greatest animation directors. The entertaining plots, compelling characters, and breathtaking animation in his films have earned him international renown from critics as well as public recognition within Japan. The Walt Disney Company's commitment to introduce the ...


Coming-of-age anime with strong female characters

Spirited Away (2001) Princess Mononoke (1997) My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Castle in the Sky (1986) Howl's Moving Castle (2004) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

72. Takashi Miike

Director | Koroshiya 1

Takashi Miike was born in the small town of Yao on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan. His main interest growing up was motorbikes, and for a while he harbored ambitions to race professionally. At the age of 18 he went to study at the film school in Yokohama founded by renowned director Shôhei Imamura, ...


lots of disturbing and fücked up films

Audition (1999) Gozu (2003) 13 Assassins (2010) Fudoh: The New Generation (1996)

73. Kenji Mizoguchi

Director | Saikaku ichidai onna

Coming from a lower class family Mizoguchi entered the production company Nikkatsu as an actor specialized in female roles. Later he became an assistant director and made his first film in 1922. Although he filmed almost 90 movies in the silent era, only his last 12 productions are really known ...


Ugetsu (1953) Sansho the Bailiff (1954) The Life of Oharu (1952) The Crucified Lovers (1954) The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939) Street of Shame (1956)

74. Hiroshi Nagahama

Director | Detoroito Metaru Shiti

Hiroshi Nagahama is known for his work on Detroit Metal City (2008), Big Windup! (2007) and Memories (1995).



Mushishi (TV Series, 2005-06)

75. Tetsuya Nakashima

Director | Kokuhaku

Tetsuya Nakashima was born on September 2, 1959 in Fukuoka, Japan. He is a director and writer, known for Confessions (2010), Memories of Matsuko (2006) and Kamikaze Girls (2004).


Confessions (2010) Memories of Matsuko (2006)

76. Hideo Nakata

Director | Honogurai mizu no soko kara

Hideo Nakata was born on July 19, 1961 in Okayama, Japan. He is a director and writer, known for Dark Water (2002), Ringu (1998) and Ringu 2 (1999).



Ring (1998) Dark Water (2002)

77. Mikio Naruse

Director | Ukigumo

Came from a poor background and worked his way up from prop man at the Shochiko company in 1920, to full director ten years later. Had his best period in the 1950', becoming known for his depiction of contemporary social problems, particularly the role of women in Japanese society.


When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) Repast (1951)

78. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi

Director | Hausu

Nobuhiko Ôbayashi was born on January 9, 1938 in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. He is a director and editor, known for House (1977), Turning Point (1994) and The Discarnates (1988).


House (1977, cult film)

79. Kihachi Okamoto

Director | Dai yûkai

Okamoto belonged to what one colleague called "the generation where most of them got killed": the leagues of university graduates who were drafted into and sacrificed to the last years of Japan's war in the South Pacific. Okamoto was drafted during the very worst of it, in 1943, but almost alone ...


Samurai films

The Sword of Doom (1966) Kill! (1968)

80. Mamoru Oshii

Director | Innocence

Mamoru Oshii is a Japanese filmmaker, television director and screenwriter. Famous for his philosophy-oriented storytelling, Oshii has directed a number of popular anime, including Urusei Yatsura (1981-1984), Angel's Egg (1985), Patlabor: The Movie (1989), Ghost in the Shell (1995), and Ghost in ...



Ghost in the Shell (1995) Angel's Egg (1985)

81. Nagisa Ôshima

Director | Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

Nagisa Oshima's career extends from the initiation of the "Nuberu bagu" (New Wave) movement in Japanese cinema in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to the contemporary use of cinema and television to express paradoxes in modern society. After an early involvement with the student protest movement in ...


Japanese New Wave

Death by Hanging (1968) Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)

82. Katsuhiro Ôtomo

Writer | Akira

Katsuhiro Ôtomo is a Japanese manga artist, screenwriter and film director. He is best known as the creator of the manga Akira and its animated film adaptation.

In 1979, after writing multiple short-stories for the magazine Action, Otomo created his first science-fiction work, titled Fireball. ...



Akira (1988) Memories (1995)

83. Yasujirô Ozu

Director | Tôkyô monogatari

Tokyo-born Yasujiro Ozu was a movie buff from childhood, often playing hooky from school in order to see Hollywood movies in his local theatre. In 1923 he landed a job as a camera assistant at Shochiku Studios in Tokyo. Three years later, he was made an assistant director and directed his first ...


quiet family dramas

Tokyo Story (1953) Late Spring (1949) Early Summer (1951) Tokyo Twilight (1957) I Was Born, But... (1932, silent film) An Autumn Afternoon (1962) Floating Weeds (1959) Early Spring (1956) There Was a Father (1942)

84. SABU

Director | Miss Zombie

Japanese director/writer/actor whose often kinetic, cyberpunk style is much imitated. He expressed appreciation over the similarity of the international hit German film "Run Lola Run" (1998) to his first film as a director/writer, "Dangan Runner" (1996). When asked at the Chicago International Film...


Black Comedy

Monday (2000) Postman Blues (1997)


Survive Style (2004)

86. Hiroshi Shimizu

Director | Kanzashi

The director was the subject of a retrospective when ten of his films were screened at the 2003 Tokyo Filmex. The event coincided with what would have been Shimizu's hundredth birthday.


Mr. Thank You (1936) Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933)

87. Akiyuki Shinbo

Director | Gekijouban Mahou shojo Madoka magika Shinpen: Hangyaku no monogatari

Is a freelance director but frequently works with Studio Shaft.


anime series (2011)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

88. Kaneto Shindô

Writer | Ichimai no hagaki

Kaneto Shindô was born on April 22, 1912 in Hiroshima, Japan. He was a writer and director, known for Postcard (2010), A Last Note (1995) and The Naked Island (1960). He was married to Nobuko Otowa and Miyo Shindo. He died on May 29, 2012 in Hiroshima.


Jidaigeki with elements of horror

Onibaba (1964) The Naked Island (1960) Kuroneko (1968)

89. Masahiro Shinoda

Director | Shinjû: Ten no Amijima

Masahiro Shinoda was born on March 9, 1931 in Gifu, Japan. He is a director and writer, known for Double Suicide (1969), Silence (1971) and Ballad of Orin (1977). He has been married to Shima Iwashita since 1967. They have one child.


Japanese New Wave

recommended films: Pale Flower (1964) Double Suicide (1969)

90. Shinji Sômai

Director | Taifû kurabu

Shinji Sômai was born on January 13, 1948 in Morioka, Iwate, Japan as Jirô Sugita. He was a director and assistant director, known for Typhoon Club (1985), Ohikkoshi (1993) and Wait and See (1998). He died on September 9, 2001 in Isehara, Kanagawa, Japan.


Coming-of-age & teen films

Ohikkoshi (1993) Typhoon Club (1985)

91. Sion Sono

Director | Ai no mukidashi

Shion Sono is a Japanese director, writer and poet. Born in Aichi Perfecture in 1961 he started his career working as a poet before taking his first steps in film directing. As a student he shot a series of short films in Super 8 and managed to make his first feature films in the late 80s and early...


next to Miike the other enfant terrible of contemporary Japanese cinema

Love Exposure (2008) Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013) Cold Fish (2010)

92. Seijun Suzuki

Director | Tsigoineruwaizen

Seijun Suzuki was born in Nihonbashi, Tôkyô, on May 24, 1923. In 1943, he entered the army to fight at the front. In 1946, he enrolled in the film department of the Kamakura Academy and passed the assistant director's exam. For the next few years, he worked as an assistant director at several ...


Yakuza films

Branded to Kill (1967) Youth of the Beast (1963)

93. Isao Takahata

Director | Hotaru no haka

Isao Takahata was born on October 29, 1935 in Ise, Mie, Japan. He was a director and writer, known for Grave of the Fireflies (1988), The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013) and Only Yesterday (1991). He died on April 5, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.



Grave of the Fireflies (1988) The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) Only Yesterday (1991)

94. Shûji Terayama

Writer | Saraba hakobune

Terayama Shuji was born the only son of Terayama Hachiro and Terayama Hatsu in Hirosaki City, Aomori on December 10th, 1935; but his birth and name were officially registered on January 10th, 1936. His father, an officer in the "thought police", leaves for the Pacific War in early 1941. He dies in ...


Surrealism, experimental films

Pastoral Hide and Seek (1974) Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (1971) Grass Labyrinth (1979)

95. Hiroshi Teshigahara

Director | Suna no onna

Hiroshi Teshigahara was born the son of Sofu Teshigahara who was the founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana (flower arrangement). In 1950, he graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in oil painting. In 1958, he became the director of Sogetsu Art Centre and took a ...


Japanese New Wave

Woman in the Dunes (1964) The Face of Another (1966) Pitfall (1962)

96. Shin'ya Tsukamoto

Actor | Tetsuo

Shin'ya Tsukamoto was born on January 1, 1960 in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. He is an actor and director, known for Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), Ichi the Killer (2001) and Vital (2004).


Cyberpunk, began his career making underground films (see also Sogo Ishii)

Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989) A Snake of June (2002) Tokyo Fist (1995) Kotoko (2011)



FLCL (2000, mini-series)

98. Kôji Wakamatsu

Director | Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun: Asama sanso e no michi

The pioneering Kôji Wakamatsu (born Ito Takashi) was a contemporary of Oshima Nagisa and equally controversial, yet not as famous. The man was born in Miyagi Prefecture in the north of Japan before dropping out of agricultural school, some say following a physical altercation, moving to Tokyo at ...


Pink Film, Japanese New Wave

Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (1969) The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1966)

99. Shin'ichirô Watanabe

Director | The Animatrix

Shin'ichirô Watanabe is known for his work on The Animatrix (2003), Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001) and Samurai Champloo (2004).


anime series

Cowboy Bebop (1998) Samurai Champloo (2004–2005)

100. Yôji Yamada

Writer | Tasogare Seibei

Yamada Yoji graduated Tokyo University in 1954, the year he joined Shochiku as an assistant director. In 1969, he launched the popular "Tora-san" series, the world's longest theatrical film series. "The Twilight Samurai" (The Twilight Samurai (2002)) marks his 77th film as well as his 41th year as ...


started making samurai films in his late career, also known as the director of the Tora-san film series, with nearly 50 films one of the longest film series ever made

The Twilight Samurai (2002) The Hidden Blade (2004)

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