Top 20 Amazing Japanese Movies That You Must Watch

Japanese cinema has produced some amazing films. From thrilling samurai epics to deeply moving dramas, fans of all genres can find something to love. Discover the heart and soul of Japan through its cinema.

This post will take a look at a few of the best Japanese movies ever made. Whether you’re a fan of classic cinema or modern masterpieces, you’re sure to find something unforgettable on this list.

1. Seven Samurai

In feudal Japan, farmers of a small village are terrorized by bandits who plan to return after the harvest. Desperate, the villagers hire seven samurai for protection.

The samurai, led by the wise Kambei, train the villagers and strategize defenses. In a fierce battle, they defeat the bandits but at the cost of four samurai’s lives. The surviving three reflect on the victory, realizing it’s the farmers who have truly won.

2. Tokyo Story

Shukichi and Tomi, an elderly couple from a small coastal village, visit their grown children in Tokyo, expecting a warm reunion. Instead, they find their children too busy with their lives to spend time with them.

Only their widowed daughter-in-law, Noriko, shows them genuine kindness. Disheartened, they return home. Soon after, Tomi falls ill and dies, prompting the family to confront their selfishness and the fleeting nature of life.

3. Bright Future

Yuji and his friend Mamoru work in a towel factory in Tokyo, sharing a dream of a brighter future. Their mundane lives take a dark turn when Mamoru kills their boss and is sentenced to prison.

Yuji inherits Mamoru’s poisonous jellyfish, symbolizing their unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. Struggling with isolation and society’s indifference, Yuji seeks connection and meaning in a world that seems to offer none.

4. Throne of Blood

In this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” samurai warrior Washizu, inspired by a witch’s prophecy, is driven by ambition to become the lord of Spider’s Web Castle.

Encouraged by his manipulative wife Asaji, he murders his lord, only to be consumed by guilt and paranoia. His rule is marked by fear and violence, leading to his inevitable downfall, fulfilling the witch’s ominous predictions.

5. Shoplifters

A makeshift family in Tokyo, led by Osamu and Nobuyo, live on the fringes of society, relying on shoplifting to get by. They take in Yuri, a young girl they find outside in the cold, welcoming her into their unconventional but caring family.

Their happy existence is threatened when a shoplifting excursion goes wrong, revealing deep secrets and challenging their bonds, ultimately leading to their separation by the authorities.

6. Be with You

Takumi is a widower struggling to raise his young son, Yuji, after the death of his wife, Mio. Mysteriously, Mio returns during the rainy season, with no memory of her past life or her family.

Together, they relive their love story, making new memories until Mio must leave once again, fulfilling a miraculous promise to return and be with them for a brief, precious time.

7. Memories of Matsuko

After the death of his aunt Matsuko, Shou uncovers the story of her tragic life. Once a beloved teacher, Matsuko’s life spiraled into chaos after a series of romantic misadventures and personal downfalls.

Despite her hardships, Matsuko’s endless search for love and acceptance paints a poignant picture of resilience and the human condition, as recounted by those she touched.

8. We Made a Beautiful Bouquet

Mugi and Kinu’s relationship begins with a chance encounter and quickly blossoms into love. Over five years, they navigate the ups and downs of life together, experiencing the joys and challenges of young love, career struggles, and personal growth.

Their story is a testament to the beauty and complexity of relationships, capturing the essence of youth and the journey of growing up together.

9. A Story of Yonosuke

Yonosuke, a cheerful and somewhat naive young man from Nagasaki, moves to Tokyo for college in the 1980s. His openness and genuine kindness have a profound impact on everyone he meets, from his girlfriend Shoko to his friends Kato and Yui.

Despite the passing of time, Yonosuke’s influence remains a cherished memory, reflecting on the joy and light he brought into their lives.

10. Drunken Angel

In post-war Japan, Dr. Sanada, an alcoholic doctor, and Matsunaga, a tubercular yakuza, form an unlikely friendship. Sanada sees potential for redemption in Matsunaga and urges him to give up his dangerous lifestyle.

Their bond deepens as Matsunaga’s health worsens, highlighting the struggles of living in a society ravaged by war and the possibility of redemption through compassion and understanding.

11. Shall We Dance?

Shohei Sugiyama, a middle-aged accountant, feels trapped in a mundane life. Intrigued by a mysterious woman he sees in a dance studio window; he impulsively signs up for ballroom dancing lessons.

As Shohei secretly pursues his new passion, he discovers a newfound zest for life, which helps him reconnect with his wife and daughter, proving it’s never too late to follow one’s heart and find happiness.

12. Love Letter

After the death of her fiancé Itsuki, Hiroko finds old letters addressed to him by his childhood friend, also named Itsuki.

She begins a correspondence with the friend, leading to a series of exchanges that help Hiroko process her grief and learn more about her fiancé’s past. Through the letters, both women find solace and a deep connection, bridging the gap between loss and memory.

13. Dark Water

Yoshimi and her daughter Ikuko move into a rundown apartment amidst a custody battle. They are haunted by eerie disturbances and a persistent leak from the apartment above, leading them to uncover the tragic story of a little girl who disappeared years ago.

As supernatural events escalate, Yoshimi fights to protect Ikuko and solve the mystery, revealing the heartbreaking reality of neglect and loss.

14. Confessions

Yuko Moriguchi, a middle school teacher, enacts a calculated revenge against two students she believes are responsible for her daughter’s death.

Through a series of confessions, she exposes the dark underbelly of youth and society, revealing deep-seated psychological issues. Her actions set off a chain of events that confront the nature of justice, revenge, and the human psyche.

15. Love and Honor

Shinnojo, a low-ranking samurai, is left blind after a food poisoning incident. Feeling helpless and dependent, his relationship with his wife, Kayo, is tested when she seeks assistance from a powerful clan chief, leading to an affair.

When Shinnojo learns of the betrayal, he must confront his own feelings of love, honor, and vengeance, navigating the complexities of samurai duty and personal integrity.

16. The Taste of Tea

The Haruno family’s life in a quirky rural town is filled with surreal experiences. Sachiko is haunted by a giant version of herself, her brother Hajime struggles with adolescent love, and their grandfather embarks on whimsical projects.

Their stories weave together to form a tapestry of life’s oddities, celebrating the uniqueness of individual dreams and the beauty of family connections.

17. 13 Assassins

Set towards the end of the samurai era, a group of 13 samurai, led by Shinzaemon Shimada, is assembled for a suicide mission to assassinate Lord Naritsugu, a tyrant threatening peace.

They prepare an elaborate trap in a village, leading to an epic showdown. Their struggle against corruption and tyranny highlights themes of sacrifice, honor, and the relentless pursuit of justice in the face of overwhelming odds.

18. Like Father, Like Son

Ryota, a successful businessman, and his wife Midori face the unimaginable when they learn their son Keita was switched at birth.

The revelation forces them to make a heart-wrenching decision: keep the boy they raised or switch him for their biological son. This dilemma explores the nature of parental love, the societal pressures of blood ties, and the realization that family extends beyond genetic bonds.

19. Audition

Aoyama, a lonely widower, is persuaded to hold auditions for a non-existent film to find a new wife. He becomes enamored with Asami, a mysterious and seemingly perfect candidate.

However, his romantic fantasy quickly turns into a nightmare as Asami’s dark past and twisted obsessions come to light, leading to a harrowing and unforgettable climax that explores the dangers of illusion and the depths of human psychosis.

20. Departures

Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist, moves back to his hometown after his orchestra disbands, where he stumbles upon work as a “nokanshi,” a traditional Japanese undertaker.

Through his encounters with death and the families of the deceased, Daigo confronts his own fears and prejudices, finding beauty and dignity in the ritual of death. His journey is a profound exploration of life, death, and reconciliation.

This small list is just a peek at what Japanese cinema has to offer. These must-watch movies are a great place to start your exploration of the amazing and moving world of Japanese film.

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Sankalp
Sankalp

Hi, Sankalp here! I love to watch all kinds of movies and on this blog, I recommend the best movies around the world for you. My favorite movie is Interstellar.

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