TOP 30 JAPANESE MOVIES

1

IKIRU – 生きる

This beautiful movie was directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1952. The movie shows us the story about a middle aged man with a boring job. The moment he learns that he has cancer and is about to die, he starts to think about his last days. How should he fill his last days? The film ends with a beautifull scene in which he sings the song “Gondola no Uta” (Fumiyo Hayasaka).

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Main cast: Takashi Shimura, Shinichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka,…

Edited: 1952


2

SHOPLIFTERS – Manbiki Kazoku 万引き家族

Hirokazu Kore-eda – master of contemporary Japanese cinema- tells us the story of a shoplifting family who adopts a abandoned girl. It’s wonderful how Kore-eda lets us get acquainted with all family members. It makes you question yourself. What is ‘family’? What is ‘education’? What do you want to learn your childeren? etc.

Winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival 2018.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Main cast: Lily Franky, Mayu Matsuoka, Kairi Jyo, …

Edited: 2018


3

SPIRITED AWAY – Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

千と千尋の神隠し

This anime was the first movie of Hayao Miyazaki that conquered the world. The fantastic storyline was guided by the beautiful music of Joe Hisaishi.

During a family trip, a ten year old girl enters a world of ghosts, spirits and witches. In this world humans are turned into beasts…

Miyazaki directed the movie in 2001 and won the Golden Bear of Berlin Filmfestival in 2002 and an Academy Award in 2003.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Main cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki,…

Edited: 2001


4

DEPARTURES – Okuribito おくりびと

Directed in 2008 by Yōjirō Takita. A devoted cellist called Daigo decides to move back to his hometown after his orchestra has been dissolved. In his quest to find a job, he answers an ad called ‘Departures’. He thinks he’s about to work for a travel agency but he’s expected to work as an encoffineer…

Academy Award winner 2008 – Best Foreign Language Film

Director: Yōjirō Takita

Main cast: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, …

Edited: 2008


5

HANA-BI (Fireworks) –

花火

Hana-bi tells the story of an older detective Nishi, having been forced into retirement. Nishi digs himself deeper and deeper into danger under pressure of the constraints of society. The wellknown contemporary director Kitano Takeshi plays the role of Nishi himself.

Winner of a Golden Lion at the 54th edition of the Venice Filmfestival.

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Main cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, …

Edited: 1997


6

NOBODY KNOWS – Daremo Shiranai 誰も知らない

The second movie in this list form director Hirokazu Kore-eda. This is the shocking story of child neglect and abandonment as an attacking comment on Japanese society. Tokyo is known as the world’s largest and safest city but hardly nobody seems to notice the dark side of it’s middle class society. The film is based on the true story of the “Sugamo Child Abandonment Case”.

Winner of the Best Actor Award at the Film Festival of Cannes in 2004.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Main cast: Yūya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu, …

Edited: 2004


7

SEVEN SAMURAI – Shichinin no Samurai

七人の侍

Another movie from the hand from Akira Kurosawa. This movie from 1954 has been the inspiration for ‘The Magnificent Seven’ in 1960, ‘The Invincible Six’ in 1970, ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ in 1980 and ‘The 7 Magnificent Gladiators’ in 1983. The film screens life in Japan in the 16th century. Farmers hire ‘Ronin’ (unemployed Samurai) to protect them against bandits who try to steal their crops after harvest.

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Main cast: Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Inaba, Daisuke Katō, Seiji Miyaguchi,…

Edited: 1954


8

YOUR NAME – Kimi no Na wa 君の名は

The second anime in this list dates from 2016 and comes from the hand of Makoto Shinkai. It is regarded as one of the best anime of all time. Shinkai has put everything he experienced as a teenager in this movie. Shinkai’s complex narrative reflects on the simplest and most recognizable things: online dating and the distance between mental and physical contact, the desire to know a loved one completely, a desire for the true, dealing with loneliness. (De Morgen – 27/11/2017)

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Main cast: Ryonusuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara,…

Edited: 2016


9

RINGU – リング

The honor for the first Japanese horror (J-Horror) movie in the list is for director Hideo Nakata with his famous film: Ringu.

Teenagers die after watching a ‘cursed video’. When also her niece dies after watching it, Reiko investigates the case. It comes so far that also she and her child watch the movie…

Director: Hideo Nakata

Main cast: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Ōtaka, Miki Nakatani,…

Edited: 1998


10

KIKUJIRO – Kikujiro no Natsu 聞く字路の夏

What a feel-good road movie… Director Kitano Takeshi released this beautiful movie in 1999. Together with the grumpy, knuckle crook Kikujiro the boy Masao goes looking for his mother. Alternately country-like, warm and witty road movie by Kitano (plays Kikujiro himself), who keeps the violence reasonably under control and instead lets a procession of strange characters trot on, including two crazy bikers. Please also pay attention to the wonderful soundtrack made by Joe Hisaishi!

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Main cast: (Beat) Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Yusuke Sekiguchi, Yūko Daike, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, …

Edited: 1999


11

AFTER LIFE – Wandafuru Raifu ワンダフルライフ

Another movie from Kore-eda edited in 1998. In a waystation for souls of the deceased counselors need to help the deceased to find their most valuable memory. Once the newly-dead have identified their happiest memories, workers design and replicate each person’s chosen memory, which is staged and filmed. Once the person sees his chosen memory, he or she vanishes in eternity with nothing but that one memory.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Main cast: Arata (Iura), Erika Oda, Susumu Terajima, Takashi Naito, …

Edited: 1998


12

RASHOMON – 羅生門

A film from Akira Kurosawa based on the story of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. The movie was edited in 1950 and tells us the story of a crime: the rape of a lady and the murder on her husband. This masterpiece tries to convince us of the fact that it is impossible to reconstruct an event purely based on testimonials of different people. The truth seems to lie in the eye of the beholder…

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Main cast: Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaka, Kichijiro Ueda, …

Edited: 1950


13

HARMONIUM – Fuchi ni Tatsu 淵に立つ

A film from 2016 by Kōji Fukada. Toshio and Akié are living a boring life. They become alienated from each other. Suddenly a former prisoner comes in their life. With him they let the calamity in their family…

Director: Kōji Fukuda

Main cast: Tadanobu Asano, Mariko Tsutsui, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, …

Edited: 2016


14

LATE SPRING – Banshu 晩春

One of the first Japanese directors that gained respect overseas for his wonderful movies (rather late) is Yasujirō Ozu. Films as Tokyo Story, Early Summer, Good Morning, The End of Summer and Late Spring are one by one masterpieces. ‘Late Spring’ is classified as Shomingeki and tells us the story of the unmarried daughter of a widower struggling with the issue of marriage and remarriage…

Director: Yasujirō Ozu

Main cast: Chisū Ryū, Setsuko Hara, Yumeji Tsukioka, Haruko Sugimura,…

Edited: 1949


15

BLACK RAIN – Kuroi Ame 黒い雨

Shohei Imamura directed this movie in 1989 and based the storyline on the eponymous novel of Ibuse Masuji. The story is about a girl visiting Hiroshima accidentally on the day of the bombing. Miraculously she doesn’t get hurt but she returns immediately back to her village near the bay of Hiroshima. In the years that followed, more and more people in her environment appeared to be infected by the ‘black rain’…

Director: Shohei Imamura

Main cast: Yoshiko Tanaka, Kazuo Kitamura, Etsuko Ichihara, Shoichi Ozawa, …

Edited: 1989