Apart from excelling in their local industry, the Japanese movie industry has done a great job in producing classic Japanese movies of all time, that have achieved global recognition and success. From animes, action films, to J. horrors which are unofficial kings in the horror movie business worldwide.
The storylines in these movies not only explore Japanese culture and real-life experiences but also resonate with the emotions of people globally. Some have inspired popular movie franchises like the Godzilla franchise.
There are so many amazing Japanese movies but we have compiled a few both, old and recent for you. Here are some of the best Japanese movies of all time.
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1. Spirited Away
When you talk about Japanese movies, anime cannot be ruled out. With the accurate depiction of extremely detailed characters growing from childhood to adulthood, the intricate storylines, and emotional dialogues, some Japanese animes hold the title of best Japanese movies of all time.
Spirited away, happens to be one such movie. Released in 2001 and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is a classic that is most definitely popular worldwide. This movie follows the life and adventure of 10-year-old Chihiro whose parents were turned into pigs.
Chihiro now wanders into this world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits in order to save herself and her parents. This anime is original, unique, funny, scary, strange, mythical, and emotional as well.
Asian mythologies are in no way strange. In fact, they are quite similar to eastern myths and fairytales. While watching this movie, you will find yourself connecting with the characters and following aptly their unique journey.
What makes this movie stand out is the character development and the storyline. It is simply a unique movie. Haven’t watched spirited Away yet? Go do it now.
2. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train
Demon Slayer is a 2020 Japanese movie that also has taken on the title of best Japanese movie of all time, with a well-crafted plot sequence, in-depth storyline, and interesting character development. This movie is based on the manga series demon slayer.
It explores the journey of Tanjiro Kamado, a young boy, whose life is disrupted when a demon murders his family, sparing only his sister Nezuko’s life. Sadly, this came with a twist. Nezuko was turned into a demon.
Tanjiro Kamado has no other option but to become a demon slayer and go on a quest to save his sister. On his journey, he meets other fascinating characters and overcomes obstacles along the way.
When Demon Slayer was released, it received acclaim and praise from both critics and the audience for its faithfulness to the manga series as well as its emotional depth. You should know that this movie was the second highest-grossing film in 2020 and is one of Japan’s best movies to date.
Godzilla would most definitely not sound strange to you. It is one Japanese Kaiju film that has received global recognition over the years. Godzilla which was first released in 1954 has since become a successful franchise – the Godzilla franchise.
It is regarded as one of the best monster movies ever produced. The character Godzilla has become an iconic character and is often referred to as a titan in some films. It has also been adopted by game developments, literary pieces, and an inspiration for music.
The Godzilla movie is essentially about a monster who is named Godzilla by the Japanese people. He takes a dinosaur-like form and comes and goes from the ocean. This indestructible monster wreaks havoc on the Japanese people and the government looks for ways to defeat it.
When Godzilla was initially released, it grossed 183 million yens at the time and received global recognition which led to the Americanized version “Godzilla: King of Monsters” released in 1956.
4. Battle Royale
Battle Royale is an action film released in 2000. This Japanese movie brought to the limelight of the thriller genre in the Japanese movie industry. The gory nature of this film brought great influence and recognition to the industry.
What makes this film peculiar is the madness and violence deeply represented. The distribution of this film was even banned in some countries. Battle Royale has a unique plot and is the first of its kind.
The movie begins with an exciting scene where school children who were going for an excursion were having fun on a bus. And nothing prepares you for the next scene where these children are being captured and kept in a classroom on a deserted island.
With the harmful device on their necks, they are instructed to kill each other or be killed. The plot then develops to them killing each other so as to survive.
One salient thing about this movie is that it has a unique plot and is considered one of the most influential films of all time. It has been developed into several movies, games, and novels worldwide.
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5. Your Name
Released in 2016 and directed by Makoto Shinkai, Your Name is one Japanese film that is an absolute masterpiece when it comes to romantic fantasy. It is one of Japan’s top-grossing films that is a must-watch anime.
It tells the story of two teenagers Mitsuha and Taki who magically swap bodies. Their lifestyles and personalities are different as one is a country girl and the other a city boy. Living in Japan, they both do their best to shuffle these different worlds until things start getting complicated.
The plot navigates friendship, love, family pressure, and teenage social anxiety. It is an amazing story with a beautiful ending. As you watch it, you fall in love with the characters and follow them on their journey.
What’s more, real-life locations in Japan were used in the movie. All the more reason why you would love it.
The 1998 film is a cult classic that captured the world’s attention. It inspired the 2002 American remake “The Ring” as well as other aspiring Japanese horrors after its release. Ringu tells the story of a cursed videotape that haunts and kills anyone who watches it.
What follows this is the plight of Reiko Asakawa who tries to figure out the reason behind the cursed video and how to lift the curse. Seeking help from her ex-husband, they both embark on this journey to various parts of Japan, to find out how the video came to be and the history behind the tape.
What makes Ringu a classic, is that it represents the famous Japanese horror style in history. A grotesque-looking female figure in white, with black hair falling over her face, crawls out of the TV screen as the tape is played. This feature explores the great Japanese myth on Yurei – Japanese ghosts.
If you are looking for scary horror, then Ringu 1998 is just the right choice.
7. Nobody Knows
With Nobody Knows, you will experience the life of four underage children whose mother deserts them for her lover. It follows the events of the widely documented Sugamo child abandonment case in 1988.
Released in 2004, Nobody Knows explores the story of Akira, Kyoko, Shigeru, and Yuki, all between the ages of five and twelve years. Of which three are living in the house without the permission of the landlord, hence their inability to go outside.
When Nobody Knows was released, it grossed about US$11 million worldwide. It is most definitely on the list of best Japanese movies of all time.
8. High & Low The Movie
High and Low is popular among Japanese locals and around the world. This film is known for its gangster vibe. If you are looking for a Japanese action film, High & Low is your best bet. It was directed by Shigeaki Kubo and was released in 2016.
This Japanese film is the original of the High & Low franchise which gained massive followings worldwide. The nature of this film makes it one of a kind. It follows the storyline of the J’ Drama series High & Low: The Story of S.W.O.R.D.
This film tells the story of five gangs that control the SWORD town. It has many interesting themes but pride and glory are the themes that stand out most. When you watch this movie, you will notice this first hand from the many fights and heavy dialogue that occurs after a new gang appears from nowhere to seemingly challenge already existing gangs.
What’s more interesting, is continuity. It has five other sequels. It also grossed 2.1 billion yens and attracted 1.6 million audiences at the cinema.
The above-listed movies are some of the Best Japanese Movies of all time. They are intriguing, fun, scary, and will give you a run for your time. The storylines are fascinating and the characters are beautifully developed.
We hope you like these Japanese movies we compiled in this post. So if you haven’t seen any, you should do so as soon as possible. Make them part of your watchlist.