The Best Japanese Films Ever Made

by Voglersama

Created 07/30/12

Edit List

I'm sure I may be omitting some truly great films from my list, but these are the greatest Japanese films I've seen.


  • By fluffhead
    March 02, 2013
    04:07 PM

    You're off to a great start! Seven Samurai was the first Criterion I purchased in Blu-ray. I recently saw the Japanese version of Godzilla (Gojira) for the first time, and must say I have a brand new respect for it, I wouldn't put on my best Japanese film list, but it definitly has some merit. I would pretty much echo what's been recommended by the others, especially the Teshigahara trilogy; Pitfall, Woman in the Dunes & Face of Another! Esp. Woman in the Dunes! They are about as far from "traditional" Japanese films as you can get. Also Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp and Fires on the Plain. I really liked Nagisa Oshima's Empire of Passion, even more than his Realm of the Senses. Oh, I also loved Ikiru, it is one of my favorite Kurosawa films, although not everyone agree's.
    • By Jonathan
      July 14, 2014
      06:53 AM

      "Ikiru" was a gem - completely agree.
  • By Sam Rasnake
    March 02, 2013
    04:40 PM

    Good list. Rashomon is one of my ten favoirte films. I would suggest any of the films by Ozu and Mizoguchi. You'll enjoy their works.
  • By Eric
    March 16, 2013
    09:32 AM

    Good list (and you freely admitted these were the films you had seen so far). "Throne of Blood" is my favorite Kurosawa film --- I LOVE the atmosphere of it and the blend of Shakespeare and Noh Theater elements. Also, some excellent suggestions from people who obviously have a wide knowledge of Japanese cinema. Did I miss something or did no one mention "Ugetsu"? Generally considered the greatest by Mizoguchi and also one of my favorite Japanese movies. Thanks to all of the above for their recommendations. This website visit WILL boost up my Netflix queue.
  • By Marc
    June 18, 2013
    08:08 AM

    Good list! I prefer more Ozu or Mizoguchi films's style than samurai pictures, anyway
  • By Derek
    August 06, 2013
    11:58 PM

    You need to see some Ozu, you would probably like Twilight Samurai, and you should add some more modern films to the list, such as The Taste of Tea or Nobody Knows, which are two amazing films.
  • By MDHendrickson
    August 21, 2013
    12:54 PM

    You need Ozu. Also if you liked Mifune in High and Low definitely check out Stray Dog and Drunken Angel. But the list is at a great start!
  • By Boudu Saved
    January 03, 2014
    09:09 PM

    Wow, wow, wow!!! You left out a lot. Like... Woman in the Dunes The Face of Another Pitfall Dersu Uzala Dodes'kaden Onibaba Grave of the Fireflies Akira The Ballad of Narayama Sansho the Bailiff The Burmese Harp Floating Weeds In the Realm of the Senses
  • By Peter_Wilson
    January 05, 2014
    03:57 PM

    An absolutely fabulous list. Although, I'd add a little Ozu and Mizoguchi. You might also like "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs" by Naruse. -- -- If you have the time check out my lists.
  • By Zeke
    February 09, 2014
    11:01 AM

    My 3 favorites are: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. There are also others which include 'The Sword of Doom, Throne of Blood, Harp of Burma, or Burmese Harp, Ugetsu, 47 Ronin, Harakiri, Gate of Hell, Shogun Assassin ( Lone Wolf-baby cart series).
  • By pratik mitra
    March 19, 2014
    01:27 AM

    nothing from mizoguchi,ozu,oshima or even kitano!
  • By Milton Crawdge
    March 21, 2014
    10:14 PM

    More recent, but I thoroughly enjoyed "Rampo" (aka the Mystery of Rampo). I compare it somewhat to the German film, "Last Year at Marienbad."Superbly acted, directed and the background music was enchanting. IMHO Michiko Hada is the most beautiful woman on the planet. This movie, Rampo, is not to be confused with Rampo Noir which was a bit gut twisting and not one you'd want to watch right after breakfast.
  • By Jane
    March 30, 2014
    03:37 PM

    There are many great Japanese films that are not on this list. The fact that there is not one Ozu film on here seems ludicrous!
  • By lad
    April 12, 2014
    05:39 AM

    You should also check out Yoji Yamada's Samuria trilogy(Twilight Samuria,The Hidden Blade and Love and Honour,plus of course Ozu's Late Spring,Early Summer and Tokyo Story.
  • By Devan
    April 19, 2014
    05:51 AM

    Hi Everyone. I am not Japanese, but a huge fan of Japanese movies. I have been looking for a movie which I saw in parts, without completing it. In that movie, A man is in Love with a woman, who ages from old to young (reverse ageing). The lady starts of old, then mature, adolescence and a little girl. Great original movie. Anyone know the title of that movie? Thanks in advance. By the way, I think 24 Eyes is a great movie, which should be amongst one of the all-time greats...
    • By Joseph
      July 19, 2014
      03:48 AM

      Ummm.... Curious case of Mrs. Benjamin button. Lol
  • By Barry Moore
    June 05, 2014
    09:19 PM

    As others here have commented, Yasujiro Ozu is absolutely essential in any assessment of the best of Japanese cinema. My own favorites among his works I have seen are 'I Was Born, But...' (1932), 'Passing Fancy' (1933) [these two are silents], 'Late Spring' (1949), and 'Early Summer' (1951), with 'Tokyo Chorus' (1931) [another silent] and 'Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice' (1952) following quite closely. Kenji Mizoguchi is also absolutely indispensable in this area, though Mizoguchi strikes me as having been an uneven artist. My favorites among his films I have seen are 'The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums' (1939), 'The Life of Oharu' (1952), and 'Sansho the Bailiff' (1954).
  • By Julio Jesús Jiménez
    June 16, 2014
    07:25 PM

    Where is "Ugetsu" and "Sanjuro" ?
  • By Jimmy
    June 26, 2014
    02:39 AM

    Zataochi is one awesome watch too!
  • By boogieman
    July 12, 2014
    11:07 AM

    the innocence of spirited away, my neighbour totoro, and ponyo!!!
  • By John
    October 21, 2014
    02:57 AM

    Yes, without Ozu and Mizoguchi this list is off balance. And Miyazaki's 'Spirited Away' must be the greatest animated film ever made -- a work of genius.
  • By Barrett L.
    November 12, 2014
    08:48 AM

    Predictably, a lot of samurai movies, which seems to be the only Japanese cinema westerners pay any attention to. Kurosawa also seems to be the only Japanese director westerners pay any attention to. But these are great films! I suggest adding some Ozu and Mizoguch, which should probably be a given on any list of Japanese best films, at least a few titles from these guys. But also look at Teshigahara, Oshima, Shinoda, and Imamura; they seem to be overlooked by the West for the most part.