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 Elna
    November 20, 2012
    03:08 AM

    Great List. However, it is missing my all-time favorite film, Red Beard by Akira Kurosawa. Maybe you've seen it already?
  • By Bryan_Y
    November 21, 2012
    11:38 PM

    I really encourage you to watch Ozu, Naruse, Kinoshita, Teshigahara and Shinoda. Some specific recommendations would be: Early Summer - Ozu When a Woman Ascends the Stairs - Naruse Twenty-four Eyes - Kinoshita The Face of Another - Teshigahara Pale Flower - Shinoda You will be impressed, emotionally moved, and intellectually stimulated.
  • By giovanni robbiano
    November 22, 2012
    02:04 PM

    and how about imamura, both pornographers and venegance is mine are masterpieces.
  • By Andrew D.
    November 24, 2012
    12:27 PM

    Seijun Suzuki is a great director and you should check out more of his work, Tokyo Drifter is one of my favorite films but check out Branded to Kill I personally think it's Suzuki's best.
  • By MrDude_o_o
    November 24, 2012
    01:50 PM

    Nice picks. I believe soon Mizoguchi will be in this list too. ;)
  • By Marcus Hambright
    November 25, 2012
    10:29 PM

    Woman in the Dunes is amazing. I'd recommend the whole Teshigahara box. and Ugetsu. so good...
  • By Sleestak
    November 26, 2012
    05:02 PM

    Nice one! Be sure to check out Gate of Flesh, In the Realm of the Senses, I Hate but Love and Crazed Fruit. Also Kurosawa kicked ass with Drunken Angel.
  • By nondiatonic
    November 26, 2012
    09:09 PM

    Ikiru is one of the most overrated films of all time.
    • By nondiatonic
      November 26, 2012
      09:13 PM

      That's too harsh. But, it definitely gets undue praise.
  • By ethan2
    November 28, 2012
    02:12 AM

    i saw a b&w japanese film recently but neither know the name or the director's. it concerned a woman who was cast out by a lord. finally accepted by a family, then the lord wanted her returned. many of the family wanted her returned for its honour. she decided not to go. warriors were sent to take her. her decision was defended by the head of the family. she thrust a one of the warrior's blades into her as he held it. anyone know the name of the film or director?
    • By Voglersama
      November 30, 2012
      04:39 AM

      I think it's Samurai Rebellion that your thinking of.
    • By Voglersama
      November 30, 2012
      04:40 AM

      It's directed by Masaki Kobayashi.
  • By Maverick
    December 02, 2012
    03:05 AM

    Wow! The 'So far' seems quite far to me. Can't add anything but, as reinforcement for total newbies, 'Rashomon' is iconic. The topic here is timeless, from 12th century Japan to current day. Others at the top of my list (a huge tie) are 'Woman of the Dunes', 'Ran', & 'The Human Condition'. Also please don't overlook 'Grave of the Fireflies'. By the 2nd viewing those characters will no longer be animated. They will be living, breathing, suffering human beings!
  • By Richard Trondsen
    December 23, 2012
    05:16 PM

    Excellent list. Some great ones that are missing; Vengeance Is Mine, Onibaba, Gate of Flesh, Youth of the Beast, Branded to Kill, Fires On the Plain, In the Realm of the Senses, and Three Outlaw Samurai. And yes, Harakiri is absolutely amazing.
  • By Bryan_Y
    January 27, 2013
    12:35 AM

    I must say, you've received some excellent advice here (some of which is mine in an earlier comment), but your wish list isn't reflecting it! Seriously man, you need to add Late Ozu, Floating Weeds, An Autumn Afternoon, Early Summer, Late Spring, Naruse's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Kinoshita's Twenty-four Eyes, Kobayashi's The Human Condition, Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another, Postwar Kurosawa (No Regrets for our Youth, The Idiot...), and others... Start plumping up that wish list!
  • 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 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 Ozuphile
    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 _Peter_
    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 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.
  • By nicc
    December 24, 2014
    12:42 PM

    Good list, but missing some greats, most of which were listed previously. Criterion wise, I recommend Twenty-Four Eyes by Kinoshita, Equinox Flower, and the Noriko Trilogy by Ozu, Sing a Song of Sex, Empire of Passion, and In the Realm of the Senses by Oshima, basically any Mizoguchi, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs by Naruse, any Teshigahara, Zatoichi, and Onibaba by Shindo. If you are interested in Japanese cinema as a whole, I would recommend (these are non criterion, and some are damn near impossible to find) Funeral Parade of Roses by Matsumoto (all four of his movies are fantastic) , Eros + Massacre by Yoshida, Sukida by Ishikawa, and Night and Fog in Japan by Oshima to list off a few.
  • By futurestar
    March 05, 2015
    03:51 AM

    you can do no wrong by acquiring every Japanese title whether under the Criterion or Eclipse labels. It's all great and one needs it all to learn and value how tremendous their films were in lieu of WW II circumstances. . No joke.
  • By Lulu
    July 08, 2016
    01:31 PM

    Kwaidan, Kuroneko (Black cat) all of the post war Japanese films by Kurosawa: I Live in Fear, Drunken Angel, Scandal, The Burmese Harp (My Mom, who was a Japanese college student in Japan during the post war years, was very affected by this film, released the year i was born, in Japan), Ugetsu, Kagemusha..