The 30 Best Japanese Movies of All Time, Ranked According to IMDb [Updated for 2024]

Japanese movies have gone through many phases throughout history.

In this post, you’ll embark on a journey of the best Japanese films of all time—from the “Golden Age” of the 1950s (including heavily war-influenced flicks) and all the way up to anime (and beyond). 

Take a seat and enjoy as we go through some of the most influential and important classic Japanese movies of all time. We’ve ranked them from the lowest to the highest according to their IMDb ratings, so stick around to see which movie made it to the top!


30. “Tag” (2015)

IMDb rating: 6.1/10

Genre: Action, horror

Summary: “Tag” is a splatterfest of increasingly absurd deaths and gore that center around one school girl as she finds her place in a strange world.

Directed by: Sion Sono

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV

Sion Sono’s works are known for being bizarre and surreal with a generous serving of violence and eroticism. His movies often focus on outcasts and odd characters, and usually leave you thinking “what the heck did I just watch!?”

“Tag” is no different. It’s a trippy, hyperviolent movie that starts with a school field trip that goes terribly awry when a freak accident beheads everyone on the bus except the main character. It’s equal parts horrendous and hilarious—and things only escalate from there.

29. “Shin Ultraman” (2022)

IMDb rating: 6.4/10

Genre: Action, adventure, drama, sci-fi

Summary: In this reboot of the famous 1960s franchise, an alien named Ultraman joins forces with earthlings to battle against giant monsters.

Directed by: Shinji Higuchi

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV

Shinji Higuchi is the emerging leader of kaiju (films characterized by huge monsters) and tokusatsu (films that use heavy special effects). Higuchi is at the helm of a trilogy of retellings: “Shin Godzilla,” (2016), “Shin Ultraman” (2022) and “Shin Kamen Rider” (2023).

In “Shin Ultraman,” an alien comes to Earth to help Earthlings fight against impending doom in the form of kaiju and cosmic horrors. Together with a special force (the SSSP), humans and alien band together to protect the Earth and everything on it.

28. “Ju-on: The Grudge” (2002)

IMDb rating: 6.7/10

Genre: Horror, supernatural

Summary: “The Grudge” features a curse born out of a woman’s intense rage, throwing everyone unfortunate enough to come within it into an ever-present nightmare with seemingly no way out.

Directed by: Takashi Shimizu

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play

Along with “Ringu” (which we’ll talk about later), Shimizu’s original “Ju-on: The Grudge” is arguably one of the pillars of early 2000’s Japanese horror.

Like all of its iterations, “The Grudge” is pinned on the belief that, should a person die a violent death or with extreme negative emotions, they will return to torment the living as a malevolent spirit.

In this case, the aforementioned spirit is Kayako Saeki (and, to a lesser extent, her son Toshio), who remain in a seemingly ordinary house in Tokyo and torment everyone brave or clueless enough to move into their vicinity.

Chances are you’ve already seem some memes inspired by this movie, including Kayako’s trademark creepy gurgle. If you somehow managed to get through the past few decades without seeing a single entry from “The Grudge” series, I think it’s high time you give this one a whirl!

27. “Dark Water” (2002)

IMDb rating: 6.7/10

Genre: Psychological horror, supernatural thriller

Summary: “Dark Water,” directed by Hideo Nakata, is a haunting exploration of the psychological toll on a broken family set against a backdrop of supernatural suspense.

Directed by: Hideo Nakata

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV

The film takes us into the life of Yoshimi Matsubara (played by Hitomi Kuroki), a mother grappling with the recent end of her marriage. To add to her woes, she is embroiled in a custody battle for her daughter, Ikuko (played by Rio Kanno).

In an attempt to start anew, Yoshimi and Ikuko move into a run-down apartment with a leaky ceiling. As Yoshimi fights for custody, strange and eerie events begin to unfold.

Nakata, renowned for his work on “The Ring,” masterfully builds tension through a slow-burning narrative that delves into the complexities of motherhood and the supernatural.

26. “Kimba the White Lion” (1966)

IMDb rating: 6.9/10

Genre: Anime, adventure, family

Summary: “Kimba the White Lion” depicts the age-old struggle between humans and the animals whose territory they encroach on.

Directed by: Eiichi Yamamoto

Find it on: Funimation, Pluto TV

This movie is about an orphaned white lion cub who survives against all odds with the help of other animals. He’s taken in by some humans, who take care of him and teach him about human culture.

But, unlike many other films on the topic which take the stance that “man bad, animal good,” Kimba realizes that humans aren’t all evil, and comes to understand that the only way to achieve peace is to promote cooperation between humans and animals.

Beyond the environmental themes and Disney parallels, this movie is important because of its original series creator, the one and only “father of anime” and “Walt Disney of Japan” Osamu Tezuka.

25. “Ringu/Ring” (1998)

IMDb rating: 7.2/10

Genre: Horror, psychological thriller

Summary: “Ringu” is a horrifying psychological thriller that will creep under your skin and into the recesses of your mind—leaving you shaken and stirred indefinitely.

Directed by: Hideo Nakata

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Tubi

Based on a book by Koji Suzuki, “Ringu” (Ring) popularized Japanese horror around the world and led to countless remakes and spinoffs. The movie fuses horror with technology—in fact, you’re probably familiar with its iconic scene where a creepy girl crawls out of a TV set.

In the movie, a reporter investigates some mysterious deaths and finds a strange VHS recording associated with the deaths. After watching the tape, a phone call informs her that she has seven days to break the curse—or she’ll die, too.

24. “Sweet Bean” (2015)

IMDb rating: 7.4/10

Genre: Drama

Summary: A burned-out dorayaki seller slowly warms up to life and his career when he hires an older lady with deformed hands to teach him how to make homemade sweet bean paste.

Directed by: Naomi Kawase

Find it on: Apple TV, Amazon Prime

Based on the book by Durian Sukegawa, “Sweet Bean” follows the story of a man who makes dorayaki—sweet buns filled with red bean paste. He struggles to find meaning in his life and work, which he doesn’t particularly enjoy, when an old lady appears to give him a new red bean recipe—and a new outlook on life.

Director Naomi Kawase had her start in family documentaries, and this is evident in her work, which humanizes her characters in a realistic way. Note that, sadly, Kawase is the only female director mentioned in our list. For a more in-depth look at the women disrupting the mostly male landscape of Japanese cinema, have a read through this Hollywood Reporter article.

23. “Battles Without Honor and Humanity” (1973)

IMDb rating: 7.4/10

Genre: Crime, drama

Summary: A former Japanese soldier falls into a life of crime and ends up in prison, where he befriends an inmate.

Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Tubi

Yakuza films often feature action, honor and bloody deaths, and “Battles Without Honor and Humanity” was among the first of these kinds of flicks. The movie has been compared to “The Godfather,” which came out a year earlier and similarly influenced the pop culture of the time. 

In “Battles Without Honor and Humanity,” an ex-soldier is placed in the middle of shifting powers and evolving conflicts, taking a very challenging route to the top. The film—based in part on real people—takes place over the course of over 10 years following WWII. 

22. “An Actor’s Revenge” (1963)

IMDb rating: 7.4/10

Genre: Drama

Summary: “An Actor’s Revenge” follows the story of a kabuki actor’s determination to avenge the deaths of his beloved parents.

Directed by: Kon Ichikawa

Find it on: Amazon DVD/Blu-ray, Amazon Prime, Criterion

In “An Actor’s Revenge,” a kabuki actor who specializes in portraying women encounters the three people who caused his parents’ death. Naturally, he begins to plot his revenge.

While the movie mostly follows a traditional style of filmmaking, it has hints of the more experimental and avant-garde nature of the New Wave cinema that was starting to emerge in the 60s. It makes some unconventional choices—chief among them the use of colors in a bold, new way that makes actors and certain background elements pop.

21. “A Page of Madness” (1926)

IMDb rating: 7.4/10

Genre: Drama, suspense

Summary: True to its name, this low-budget silent film takes an uncomfortably close look at madness.

Directed by: Teinosuke Kinugasa

Find it on: Amazon DVD/Blu-ray, Amazon Prime

When his wife is imprisoned in a mental institution, a man takes a job as a janitor at her asylum hoping to break her out. However, his every attempt to “free” her from her confinement is thwarted, eventually leading him down his own path to insanity. 

This surreal film marks the true start of the age of movies in Japan. Japanese films really took off in the 1920s, and “A Page of Madness” is an excellent example of this experimental stage in Japanese film history.

The result is unsettling and haunting, exploring the fine line between madness and sanity.

20. “Death by Hanging” (1968)

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

Genre: Crime, drama

Summary: A young Korean man is sentenced to death by hanging (hence the title) after being convicted of the violent rape and murder of two girls.

Directed by: Nagisa Oshima

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Criterion, Google Play

In “Death by Hanging,” a Korean man is sentenced to (you guessed it) death by hanging. But—surprise!—the hanging doesn’t go as expected, and the man doesn’t actually die. Instead, he only loses his memory. This poses a huge problem for his would-be executioners. After all, you can’t kill a man for his crime if he has no memory of committing the crime, can you? 

In a satirical mockumentary style of presentation, the officials charged with his execution proceed to try different ways to get the Korean to remember his crimes, including a reenactment that gets just a bit too real.

19. “Godzilla” (1954)

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

Genre: Horror, sci-fi

Summary: Nuclear weapons testing awakens a giant, radioactive dinosaur-like monster from his slumber in the sea, wreaking havoc on Japan.

Directed by: Ishiro Honda

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Criterion

Post-WWII Japanese media was heavily influenced by the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And one of the most famous examples of this influence can be found in a title that’s become known the world over: “Godzilla.”

As the Japanese military and navy try to figure out how to kill Godzilla, one man wants to study it to avoid the same kind of mistake in the future. Will science or violence win? Let’s face it: You probably already know the answer.

18. “Battle Royale” (2000)

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

Genre: Drama, horror, action

Summary: A cult classic and highly celebrated film, “Battle Royale” depicts an extremely violent and controversial battle between high school students.

Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku

Find it on: Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime

In this gorefest of a film, 42 high school students are brought to an island, armed with weapons and told that only one of them can survive. If anyone breaks a rule, their special collar explodes, taking their head with it. Allegiances are forged and broken as the teens tackle the predicament in their own ways, and it’s not long before blood starts spilling.

At its most basic level, “Battle Royale” is an incredibly fun movie to watch. A closer look reveals the theme of a stark generational divide, an issue that Japan has struggled with over the years. 

It might be worth noting that although this violent kids-against-kids storyline might sound familiar, Suzanne Collins insists that it didn’t influence her YA dystopian “The Hunger Games” trilogy.

17. “13 Assassins” (1963)

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

Genre: Action, drama 

Summary: A classic chanbara/chambara (samurai sword fighting) movie about corruption and honor, and where the two diverge.

Directed by: Eiichi Kudo

Find it on: Amazon DVD/Blu-ray

“13 Assassins” begins, fittingly, with a death. When a lord of high standing commits a terrible crime, it’s immediately hushed up to protect his good name. A plot to assassinate the lord is hatched, and the conflict begins in earnest.

On one side, a brilliant man is appointed to protect the lord—despite hating him. On the other side, a skilled assassin is tasked with the suicidal mission of killing the lord—and then himself. The assassin recruits 12 others to help him and together, the “13 assassins” go up against the lord’s small army using only their wits, skills and a couple of strategically laid traps.

The movie uses samurai as an allegory for the cultural turmoil of the 60s, when Japanese people started to question the concepts of blindly following tradition and cultural norms.

16. “Lady Snowblood” (1973)

IMDb rating: 7.6/10

Genre: Action, crime, drama

Summary: A young woman undertakes a quest for revenge in this visually stunning film set in Meiji-era Japan.

Directed by: Toshiya Fujita

Find it on: Amazon Prime

If you’re looking for “Kill Bill”-meets-“Meiji-era samurai film,” look no further. This action-drama starring the inimitable Meiko Kaji will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat.

Like “Kill Bill,” “Lady Snowblood” has stylized violence, mixed in with a bit of period drama and Yuki’s enigmatic charisma. You’ll enjoy the arresting choreography of the action sequences, not to mention the beauty of the snowy landscapes against the brutality of the sword fights.

Be warned, though: This film is not for the faint of heart. You can look up the heroine’s tragic backstory for yourself online, but I suggest going in blind when you’re immersing yourself in her blood-soaked yet beautiful world.

15. “Millennium Actress” (2001)

IMDb rating: 7.8/10

Genre: Anime, fantasy

Summary: A beautiful anime based on the past, present and future of a retired actress—intertwining reality with fiction.

Directed by: Satoshi Kon

Find it on: Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime

When a movie studio shuts down, two documentary makers set out to make a film about the studio’s most well-known actress. After years of retirement both from acting and the public eye, the actress agrees to an interview to tell her life story. What follows is a trip through the past, seen through the different roles and genres the actress has starred in since her debut just after WWII.

“Millenium Actress” features director and mangaka Satoshi Kon’s signature blending of reality with fiction and dreams until you’re not sure where one ends and the other begins.

14. “The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums” (1939)

IMDb rating: 7.8/10

Genre: Drama, romance

Summary: This is a film about forbidden love that takes a critical look at the way women in Japanese society were expected to sacrifice their own lives and ambitions for men.

Directed by: Kenji Mizoguchi

Find it on: Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Criterion, Google Play

In this film, we watch the adopted son of a famous kabuki actor try to make a name for himself. As he struggles with his acting and home life, the actor turns to his brother’s nurse for comfort.

The movie heavily features a theme that was very important for the director: the role of women in society. When Mizoguchi was a child, his teenage sister was forced to become a geisha, an experience that influenced many of his works.

The “Story of the Last Chrysanthemums” marks the beginning of his rise to mastery, and beautifully represents movies of that time period. 

13. “Tampopo” (1985)

IMDb rating: 7.9/10

Genre: Comedy, western

Summary: “Tampopo” throws American westerns and ramen noodles into a blender and spits out a snarky, hilarious celebration of food.

Directed by: Juzo Itami

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Criterion, Google Play, YouTube

In “Tampopo,” two truck drivers teach a ramen restaurant owner how to actually make good ramen. It’s absurd, ridiculous and absolutely wonderful. It’s actually subtitled A Ramen Western—a silly nod to the “spaghetti western” genre. 

The comedy plays with stereotypes, riffing on both American and Japanese customs and traditions. Beneath a funny exterior, “Tampopo” takes a look at the influence that Western culture has had on Japan, and how it’s often met with reluctance. 

12. “Akira” (1988)

IMDb rating: 8.0/10

Genre: Anime, cyberpunk

Summary: A young boy develops powerful and dangerous telekinetic abilities after being part of a secret government project.

Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo

Find it on: Amazon Prime

When a member of a biker gang in post-apocalyptic Tokyo is injured in a crash, he’s whisked away by the government to be studied. As it turns out, this biker now has telekinetic powers, and he doesn’t plan to use them for good. Now it’s up to a bunch of teens to stop him. Surely nothing can go wrong!

The movie sparked a sci-fi and cyberpunk revolution, influencing not just other movies in the two genres, but also thoroughly infiltrating the Western world and opening the door for subsequent anime like “Pokémon” and “Dragon Ball Z” to become childhood classics outside of Japan.

11. “The Hidden Fortress” (1958)

IMDb rating: 8.1/10

Genre: Adventure, drama

Summary: “The Hidden Fortress” is an action-filled adventure film featuring one of the strongest female characters of its time.

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Find it on: Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Criterion

The movie begins with two companions traveling through a desert, constantly bickering with each other. They get captured and split up, then eventually reunited and charged with escorting a princess and her older male companion back to her home. Along the way, they encounter many perils, including a ruthless slave trader. At the end of their journey, the group faces off against a villain with a scarred face. 

Sound familiar? If it sounds like I’m describing the first “Star Wars” film, you’d be right: George Lucas has cited “The Hidden Fortress” as an inspiration for his iconic movies, especially in the way both stories are told from the point of view of the lowest people on the social ladder.

10. “Tokyo Story” (1953)

IMDb rating: 8.1/10

Genre: Drama

Summary: “Tokyo Story” follows an aging couple’s journey to visit their grown children in postwar Tokyo.

Directed by: Yasujiro Ozu

Find it on: Apple TV, Criterion, Google Play, Amazon Prime

“Tokyo Story” introduces two elderly parents who decide to pay their adult children a visit. Almost invariably, they’re met with reluctance, instead of the love and deference they expected. Their hosts—with the exception of one daughter—are just too busy to entertain these geezers who suddenly appear in their lives! 

It’s only after the elderly couple head home that their children realize how important it is to spend more time with their family. But at that point, it may just be too little, too late.

“Tokyo Story” will remind you that, no matter how swamped with work and life you might be, you should never be too busy for your family.

9. “Rashomon” (1950)

IMDb rating: 8.2/10

Genre: Drama, psychological thriller

Summary: “Rashomon” is a riveting psychological thriller that investigates the nature of truth and the meaning of justice.

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Criterion

“Rashomon” loosely draws inspiration (and its name) from two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and is the movie that put Akira Kurosawa on the map as a director. It also introduced the West to Japanese films in earnest, becoming the first Japanese movie to be picked up by a major studio for release in North America

The movie opens with a crime in a forest: A female noble is assaulted and her samurai husband is murdered. From there, we see the events of the crime as they happened from the point of view of the violated woman, a woodcutter, a bandit and even the ghost of the samurai. Yet, even though all four characters witnessed the crime, none of their stories match up—and each claims responsibility for the crimes.

8. “Late Spring” (1949)

IMDb rating: 8.2/10

Genre: Drama

Summary: “Late Spring” shines a spotlight on women and their place in Japanese society as caretakers and wives.

Directed by: Yasujiro Ozu

Find it on: Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Criterion

“Late Spring” tells the story of the 27-year-old daughter of an elderly man, torn between her familial duties to take care of her father and his (and society’s) pressure for her to marry. It’s a melancholy story of love, family and searching for a balance between personal desire and society’s expectations.

The legendary Yasujiro Ozu was one of Japan’s most beloved directors, and his works lifted movies from the realm of realism and sculpted them smoothly into a form of art. The movie completely omits crucial moments, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps, while placing a huge importance on seemingly insignificant events, giving it a dreamy quality.

7. “Princess Mononoke” (1997)

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Genre: Anime, action, adventure, fantasy

Summary: One of the darker and more mature of Miyazaki’s films, “Princess Mononoke” explores the conflict between human industrialization and the natural world in a way that’s more nuanced than you’d expect from most animated films.

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV

When Prince Ashitaka, an Emishi prince who lived during the Warring States Period of Japan, gets cursed by a dying god, he journeys to the west to find a cure for his curse. Along the way, he gets dragged into a war between the forces of nature and man, and resolves to find a way to mediate between the two. However, that’s no easy task when you have iron-willed human leaders on one side, and stubborn centuries-old gods (in the form of giant, formidable animals) on the other.

Like many of Miyazaki’s animated films, “Princess Mononoke” is an absolute feast for the eyes. Before you take your young child to watch this, though, be aware that there are some very graphic scenes of human dismemberment. (In fact, it has a “PG” rating.) That aside, just like “Kimba the White Lion,” this is one of the most thoughtful depictions of the “man vs. nature” conflict ever brought to life on screen.

6. “Your Name” (2016)

IMDb rating: 8.4/10

Genre: Anime, fantasy

Summary: A boy attending high school in Tokyo and a girl living in the countryside suddenly switch bodies in this poignant animated film.

Directed by: Makoto Shinkai

Find it on: Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Shinkai is quickly becoming a household name around the world. The director’s beautiful animations are known for being poignant and touching movies that explore emotions and humanity with a side of fantasy.

“Your Name” introduced the director to the world with the story of a boy and a girl who suddenly switch bodies. The film explores themes of belonging and finding your place, as well as the importance of meaningful connections.

If you’re learning Japanese, this is a great movie for learning natural, modern Japanese, as the characters are mostly school-aged. Even the trailer is worth adding to your list of Japanese resources, especially when you watch it on the language learning platform FluentU.

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5. “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)

IMDb rating: 8.5/10

Genre: Anime, drama

Summary: “Grave of the Fireflies” tells the heartbreaking story of two young siblings in WWII-era Japan.

Directed by: Isao Takahata

Find it on: Amazon DVD/Blu-ray

“Grave of the Fireflies” was directed by the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka.

The movie follows a young boy and his little sister caught in the middle of WWII. Their father is deployed in the war, their mother is dead from a bombing and their aunt doesn’t want them. Alone in an abandoned bomb shelter, the girl becomes sick from malnutrition.

The opening scenes make it clear that this movie doesn’t have a happy ending, yet it’s still worth watching from start to finish.

4. “Woman in the Dunes” (1964)

IMDb rating: 8.5/10

Genre: Drama, suspense

Summary: This erotic nightmare portrays a surprising and unnerving connection between an amateur entomologist and a young widow.

Directed by: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Criterion

A bug-loving man visits the middle of a desert to study a new kind of beetle, but he misses the bus home. He agrees to spend the night with a woman who lives at the bottom of a giant sand pit, providing sand to the villagers above (because, clearly, they don’t have enough of it).

The man climbs down a ladder to join her—and the next day, wakes up to find the ladder gone. This marks the beginning of his new life, completing the daily Sisyphean task of shoveling sand with the woman in their sandy pit of despair.

Based on the novel by Kobo Abe (and using a script also written by the author), “Woman in the Dunes” has strong psychological and erotic threads running throughout it. 

3. “Spirited Away” (2001)

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

Genre: Anime, fantasy

Summary: This critically-acclaimed film is an adventurous, animated film filled with bravery, mythology and lore that will whet your imagination.

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play

“Spirited Away” follows a young girl whose parents are inexplicably turned into pigs in a little abandoned village on the way to a new house. To get them back, she begins working in a bathhouse that serves monsters and spirits, taking on powerful witches and forming an unlikely bond with a dragon. And, in the process, she might just find herself, too.

Studio Ghibli films are often based on books, but “Spirited Away” is a completely original creation. The movie draws inspiration from Japanese mythology and lore, as well as Hayao Miyazaki’s own childhood experiences. 

2. “Harakiri” (1962)

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

Genre: Action, drama, mystery

Summary: “Harakiri” shines a light on how a symbol of honor and bravery can be twisted by corrupt authority figures.

Directed by: Masaki Kobayashi

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Criterion

“Harakiri”—touted as one of the best samurai films of all time—follows a ronin (wandering samurai with no master) in the 17th century, after fighting has ceased. The ronin travels to a feudal lord to request the only honorable way to end his career as a samurai: the ceremony of harakiri, also known as seppuku—disemboweling himself before other samurai, then having his lifeless body beheaded.

However, the ronin learns that, shortly before he arrived, his son-in-law had been forced to take his own life via harakiri with a dull bamboo sword. This understandably upsets the ronin and instead of ending his life, he turns his sword against opponents once again.

Fun fact: The kanji that make up “harakiri” and “seppuku” are the reverse of each other, with seppuku using the onyomi reading (切腹 / せっぷく) and harakiri using the kunyomi reading with okurigana (腹切り/ はらきり).

1. “Seven Samurai” (1954)

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

Genre: Action, drama

Summary: The premise of this movie may seem simple (the titular group of seven samurai defending a village against bandits), but its scope and themes are anything but.

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Find it on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play

“Seven Samurai” is arguably one of the biggest standouts in Kurosawa’s filmography. True to its title, it’s about a group of unlikely heroes—seven samurai who end up getting enlisted by a group of desperate villagers to protect the home they hold dear.

As expected from a movie that features samurai, there’s a lot of action. But it’s definitely more than just a bunch of men slicing at each other with katanas. It’s also, at its heart, a not-so-heavy-handed commentary on the wide gaps between the social classes at the time, which arguably continue to exist to this day in some form.


Thus ends our journey through the years with classic Japanese movies. These 30 picks will serve as a great introduction into the history of Japanese cinema and the path it’s taken to get to where it is today.

Whether you’re into experimental surrealism, extreme realism, social commentary, taboo breaking, emotional poignancy, gorgeous animation, hyperviolence or some combination of all of the above that somehow works, you’re sure to find your new favorite among these!

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