Top 10 Movies from Japan



Top 10 Movies from Japan

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Peter Sotiriou.

One of the oldest and largest film industries in the world features animation, samurais, period pieces and giant monsters, with action and drama sprinkled all over. Join as we count down the Top 10 Japanese Films. For this list, we've chosen what we felt are the best, most memorable or iconic films to be made and produced in Japan, with the majority of their spoken language being Japanese.

Special thanks to our users Miroljub Milisavljevic, Charles Parisé, Jimmy McKee, Georgina Bransfield, perryhigh, Jerome Magajes, Matthew Buonaccorsi, Oakley.24, agonstark, Mara Steinhardt and for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Peter Sotiriou.

Top 10 Movies from Japan

One of the oldest and largest film industries in the world features animation, samurais, period pieces and giant monsters, with action and drama sprinkled all over. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Japanese Films.

For this list, we’ve chosen what we felt are the best, most memorable or iconic films to be made and produced in Japan, with the majority of their spoken language being Japanese.

#10: “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)

Hayao Miyazaki’s name is synonymous with quality Japanese cinema, more specifically in the animation department. “My Neighbor Totoro” tells the story of Satsuki and Mei as they move with their dad to the country in order to be closer to their sick mother. Mischief and adventures ensue as they start to interact with the forest spirits that live nearby. With great direction, beautiful artwork and a magical atmosphere, the driving force of the film is not only the charming interactions with the endearing character, but also its lack of a major antagonist and the way it breaks the mold of what’s expected from a movie.

#9: “Tokyo Story” (1953)

Yasujiro Ozu’s thoughtful tale on the transitory nature of life centers on an elderly couple visiting their children in Tokyo. With their own busy lives to attend to, the children ship their parents off to a resort, showing us the rift that grows between generations. This quiet family drama reflects the reserved nature of the Japanese, detailing multiple events of a family’s life rather than just a single dramatic occurrence that causes the breakdown in relationships. With great camerawork and fantastic performances, “Tokyo Story” resonates today just as it did over 60 years ago.

#8: “Battle Royale” (2000)

This action thriller film pits high school students against each other in a deadly game where only a single person will come out with their life. Critical and financial success followed the controversial movie, despite its concept of a ludicrous “Battle Royale” act that served as a way for the government to discipline the youth. Seeing adults kill each other is one thing; seeing children do it is a whole other disturbing ball game. Your views on childhood innocence will surely change after seeing this mesmerizing, unsettling film.

#7: “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)

Get the tissues ready: “Grave of the Fireflies” is a tragic film set during WWII, where a boy and his younger sister struggle to survive in Japan. The film boasts stylised yet realistic animation and a haunting soundtrack that paints a somber picture. This tale of sibling love not only serves as a criticism against the effects of war on civilians and on society, but also as a story of loss and heartbreak that echoes in the hearts of viewers. This is the best film you’ll never want to see again, offering an emotionally-draining yet rewarding movie experience.

#6: “Princess Mononoke” (1997)

The conflict between industry and nature is the central theme of Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke.” When the young warrior Ashitaka gets cursed after killing a possessed boar god, he must venture to the western lands and find help from the Great Forest Spirit. Along the way, he becomes a mediator between the forces of humans cutting down forests and the nature gods trying to protect them. Well-rounded characters, stunning animation and an awesome soundtrack anchored by this dark and mature storyline, make this film a standout among Studio Ghibli titles.

#5: “Rashomon” (1950)

This highly original and bold film from master director Akira Kurosawa sees the murder of a samurai being recounted by four differing and contradictory perspectives. Intense storytelling, unorthodox camera techniques and editing, and dynamic cinematography bring these powerful characters to life, as the bandit, the woodcutter, the deceased samurai himself and his wife each provide us with their own version of what happened. The period drama questions our actions and our humanity, and how the truth can affect everyone. In “Rashomon”, however, the truth is never told, and the viewer is left contemplating.

#4: “Akira” (1988)

Set in the futuristic world of Neo Tokyo following World War III, “Akira” relates the dark story of Tetsuo, a biker gang member who loses his mind when he develops psychic powers. This complex and twisted narrative is filled with intense action and mature content as Kaneda, Tetsuo’s best friend, teams up with a group of anti-government activists to stop the secret military project endangering Neo Tokyo. Wonderful animation and a standout, original soundtrack of traditional Japanese instruments mixed with synthesized electronica make this cool, neon-filled film a cult classic.

#3: “Godzilla” (1954)

The one that started it all: the king of Kaijus, “Godzilla”, rampages through Tokyo as nuclear weapons testing has affected this dinosaur-like creature’s habitat, giving it radioactive powers. This walking incarnation of the atomic bomb blasts away at the city with its deadly breath, toppling over buildings as civilians flee. The love triangle between the leads adds to the thrilling action as they frantically try to stop the horror. With superb performances, outstanding special effects for its time and a stirring musical score, “Godzilla” grabs the audience’s attention, showing the grave consequences of nuclear testing.

#2: “Spirited Away” (2001)

Magical, engaging, quirky: the world created by Miyazaki in “Spirited Away” is a marvel to behold. During the move to the suburbs with her family, 10-year-old Chihiro wanders into a fantastical world filled with mythical creatures and monsters and gets a job working at the majestic bathhouse run by the witch Yubaba. What follows is masterful storytelling and characterization, creating memorable characters with wonderful animation and vivid images. “Spirited Away” is the largest grossing film in Japanese history, and with good reason: this moral tale for children and adults alike bombards the senses with a heartfelt journey into the dream worlds and fantasies of Miyazaki.

Before we reveal our number one Japanese film, here are some of our honorable mentions:

- “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004)
- “Ghost in the Shell” (1995)
- “Harakiri” (1962)
- “Ran” (1985)
- “Yojimbo” (1961)

#1: “Seven Samurai” (1954)

In 16th century Japan, villages are being ransacked by a group of bandits. One poor village recruits seven samurai warriors without a master to aid them in their defense. So simple yet so masterfully executed, this cinematic epic was orchestrated by Kurosawa with a wealth of remarkable characters that left their impression on the viewer. Terrific action and impeccable performances, coupled with a fine score and striking cinematography, lead the way as the “Seven Samurai” deal with the bandits and the distrust of the villagers. Not a single second is wasted in this lengthy work: all the elements are woven together to forge an unforgettable masterpiece.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite Japanese film? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to
I like culture films in forgein movies
Onibaba should be included on this list. It is a masterpiece.