Japanese cinema can’t be defined by any one genre, but it has been quite influential in terms of producing genre-defining titles. From horror to sci-fi, animation to period drama, Netflix has a sampling of some of the best of Japanese cinema. Here are the best Japanese movies on Netflix right now.
The best Japanese movies on Netflix
Yes, there’s another movie called Tag, in which several adult men continue an exhausting game of tag from their childhoods. The 2015 movie Tag is much better. A young girl named Mitsuko survives a horrific (and stunningly filmed) bus crash within the first five minutes of the film and finds herself inhabiting different characters as she tries to escape a malevolent force in a world inhabited by women. Tag is a horror movie, but director Sion Sono also asks some big questions about the feminism, misogyny, and identity. —Audra Schroeder
2) 13 Assassins
Takashi Miike’s samurai epic 13 Assassins, a remake of a 1963 film of the same name, is one of the Japanese master’s best films. It’s about a group of assassins (as you could guess from the title) who team up in an attempt to kill the odious Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu. The first half of the film is restrained as the team comes together and forms its plan, but the film’s climactic battle pays off the buildup and rewards the audience’s patience tenfold (thirteenfold?). It’s roughly 40 minutes of immaculately staged action mayhem. It’s pure spectacle that will take your breath away. —Eddie Strait
3) Battle Royale
Some viewers may have been introduced to the horror of teenagers being forced to kill one another by the government in The Hunger Games, but Battle Royale covered that territory more than a decade prior. Here, a classroom of students are gassed and transported to a remote island and told that only one of them will live at the end of the third day in a fight to the death that makes Panem’s violence look tame. Some of them kill—gladly even—but some of them are putting up a fight of their own to get off the island alive. —Michelle Jaworski
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4) Miss Hokusai
You’ve likely seen The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai’s famous Edo-period print. This animated documentary looks at his life through his daughter and fellow artist, O-Ei. It’s a sweet, meditative look at a complicated relationship—and an important part of art history—and the animation stretches from traditional to more experimental. —Audra Schroeder
5) Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the kind of documentary that was meant to be on Netflix. Though it was well-received upon theatrical release, it often takes the accessibility of streaming services for stories with such specified subject matter to reach a wider audience. Sushi master Jiro and his relationship with son Yoshikazu make for a fascinating portrait of the pursuit to do one thing really well. Caution to sushi fans, though: Your mouth will be watering through much of the 1:20 runtime. —Chris Osterndorf
6) In This Corner of the World
This animated 2017 film, adapted from Fumiyo Kouno’s 2007 manga, tells the story of Suzu, a young wife trying to make ends meet during World War II. Set mostly in Hiroshima in 1944 and 1945, we see the war through Suzu’s eyes, but we also see her dream life, and how she takes moments of pain and uncertainty and turns them into moments of wonder. —Audra Schroeder
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7) Mifune: The Last Samurai
Toshiro Mifune is perhaps best known for his role in Rashomon, but this documentary gives his filmography a deeper look. Featuring interviews with directors like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, as well as Mifune’s castmates, colleagues, and family, the doc shows the scope of his work, as well as the unconventional ways some of the films were shot. For example, the final death scene in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood features Mifune being shot with real arrows, and the production didn’t have insurance. —Audra Schroeder
8) Fullmetal Alchemist
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Despite its flaws, the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist manages to capture the right aesthetics with its cinematography and costumes. The acting is decent, despite a few cringe-worthy moments. Fullmetal Alchemist is admittedly a complex work and a bold choice for a live-action adaptation. But the narrative is completely thrown out of whack by poor storytelling decisions that pull plot points from all over the timeline with little explanation. —Danielle Ransom
Blame! is a dark science-fiction tale that takes place in the distant future. In this future, humanity struggles to survive in a dilapidated city where dangerous machines called “Safeguards” aim to wipe out what’s left of the human race. As a result of constantly getting hunted, humanity has resorted to surviving in small, isolated groups. Killy is like a retro-futuristic version of The Gunslinger from Stephen King’s Dark Tower. He doesn’t say much, but he’s an imposing figure with a ridiculously large gun that proves to be highly effective against the Safeguards. —Dan Marcus
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10) The House of Small Cubes
In this 2008 animated short film, a man in a slowly flooding house looks back at his life. We see the old man swim, remember first blushes of love, and try to keep building up to avoid the flood. We don’t get much about the characters, but human emotion is the connector. —Audra Schroeder
Still not sure what to watch tonight? Here are our guides for the absolute best movies on Netflix, must-see Netflix original series, documentaries, docuseries, and movies.
Need more ideas? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, LGBT movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
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