Must-Watch Japanese Movies and Anime

by gteeuwisse | created - 24 Feb 2016 | updated - 1 month ago | Public
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1. Akira (1988)

R | 124 min | Animation, Drama, Sci-Fi

A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath who can only be stopped by two teenagers and a group of psychics.

Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo | Stars: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Tesshô Genda

Votes: 141,488 | Gross: $0.55M

2. Paprika (2006)

R | 90 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

81 Metascore

When a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients' dreams is stolen, all Hell breaks loose. Only a young female therapist, Paprika, can stop it.

Director: Satoshi Kon | Stars: Megumi Hayashibara, Tôru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, Tôru Furuya

Votes: 61,615 | Gross: $0.88M

3. Perfect Blue (1997)

R | 81 min | Animation, Horror, Mystery

A retired pop singer turned actress' sense of reality is shaken when she is stalked by an obsessed fan and seemingly a ghost of her past.

Director: Satoshi Kon | Stars: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Ôkura

Votes: 44,551 | Gross: $0.44M

4. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Not Rated | 83 min | Animation, Action, Crime

76 Metascore

A cyborg policewoman and her partner hunt a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.

Director: Mamoru Oshii | Stars: Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka, Kôichi Yamadera

Votes: 116,132 | Gross: $0.52M

5. Battle Royale (2000)

Not Rated | 114 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

81 Metascore

In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act.

Director: Kinji Fukasaku | Stars: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto, Takeshi Kitano

Votes: 159,765

6. Lady Snowblood (1973)

Not Rated | 97 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

A young girl is born and raised to be an instrument of revenge.

Director: Toshiya Fujita | Stars: Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon, Miyoko Akaza

Votes: 10,693

7. Spirited Away (2001)

PG | 125 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

96 Metascore

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.

Directors: Hayao Miyazaki, Kirk Wise | Stars: Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Miyu Irino, Rumi Hiiragi

Votes: 563,338 | Gross: $10.06M

8. Still Walking (2008)

Not Rated | 115 min | Drama

89 Metascore

A family gathers together for a commemorative ritual whose nature only gradually becomes clear.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Hiroshi Abe, Yui Natsukawa, You, Kazuya Takahashi

Votes: 11,071 | Gross: $0.16M

9. Fireworks (1997)

103 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

Nishi leaves the police in the face of harrowing personal and professional difficulties. Spiraling into depression, he makes questionable decisions.

Director: Takeshi Kitano | Stars: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima

Votes: 24,940 | Gross: $0.23M

10. The Taste of Tea (2004)

143 min | Comedy, Fantasy

77 Metascore

A spell of time of a rural family's slightly surreal life.

Director: Katsuhito Ishii | Stars: Maya Banno, Takahiro Satô, Tadanobu Asano, Satomi Tezuka

Votes: 5,322

11. Departures (2008)

PG-13 | 130 min | Drama, Music

68 Metascore

A newly unemployed cellist takes a job preparing the dead for funerals.

Director: Yôjirô Takita | Stars: Masahiro Motoki, Ryôko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki

Votes: 45,052 | Gross: $1.50M

12. Nobody Knows (2004)

PG-13 | 141 min | Drama

88 Metascore

In a small Tokyo apartment, twelve-year-old Akira must care for his younger siblings after their mother leaves them and shows no sign of returning.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Yûya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu

Votes: 21,691 | Gross: $0.68M

13. Ringu (1998)

Not Rated | 96 min | Horror, Mystery

A reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed video tape that is rumored to kill the viewer seven days after watching it.

Director: Hideo Nakata | Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi, Hitomi Satô

Votes: 58,773

14. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

G | 86 min | Animation, Family, Fantasy

86 Metascore

When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live nearby.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Hitoshi Takagi, Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi

Votes: 240,802

15. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Not Rated | 89 min | Animation, Drama, War

A young boy and his little sister struggle to survive in Japan during World War II.

Director: Isao Takahata | Stars: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Akemi Yamaguchi, Yoshiko Shinohara

Votes: 199,416

16. Princess Mononoke (1997)

PG-13 | 134 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

76 Metascore

On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka, Billy Crudup

Votes: 297,422 | Gross: $2.38M

17. Castle in the Sky (1986)

PG | 125 min | Animation, Adventure, Drama

78 Metascore

A young boy and a girl with a magic crystal must race against pirates and foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill

Votes: 128,974

18. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

PG | 119 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

80 Metascore

When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Chieko Baishô, Takuya Kimura, Tatsuya Gashûin, Akihiro Miwa

Votes: 285,030 | Gross: $4.71M

19. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

PG | 117 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

86 Metascore

Warrior and pacifist Princess Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Sumi Shimamoto, Mahito Tsujimura, Hisako Kyôda, Gorô Naya

Votes: 129,112 | Gross: $0.50M

20. Your Name. (2016)

PG | 106 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

79 Metascore

Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart?

Director: Makoto Shinkai | Stars: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryô Narita, Aoi Yûki

Votes: 137,664 | Gross: $5.02M

21. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

TV-PG | 63 min | Animation, Drama, Romance

Told in three interconnected segments, we follow a young man named Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to test the delicate petals of love.

Director: Makoto Shinkai | Stars: Kenji Mizuhashi, Yoshimi Kondou, Satomi Hanamura, Ayaka Onoue

Votes: 44,242

22. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

Not Rated | 98 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

A high-school girl named Makoto acquires the power to travel back in time, and decides to use it for her own personal benefits. Little does she know that she is affecting the lives of others just as much as she is her own.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda | Stars: Riisa Naka, Takuya Ishida, Mitsutaka Itakura, Ayami Kakiuchi

Votes: 52,950

23. To the Forest of Firefly Lights (2011)

45 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

Hotaru is rescued by a spirit when she gets lost in a forest as a child. The two become friends, despite the spirit revealing that he will disappear if he is ever touched by a human.

Director: Takahiro Ômori | Stars: Koki Uchiyama, Ayane Sakura, Shinpachi Tsuji, Izumi Sawada

Votes: 10,399

24. The Wind Rises (2013)

PG-13 | 126 min | Animation, Biography, Drama

83 Metascore

A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Miori Takimoto, Masahiko Nishimura

Votes: 61,411 | Gross: $5.21M

25. Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Not Rated | 121 min | Drama

73 Metascore

Ryota is a successful workaholic businessman. When he learns that his biological son was switched with another boy after birth, he faces the difficult decision to choose his true son or the boy he and his wife have raised as their own.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yôko Maki, Lily Franky

Votes: 18,361 | Gross: $0.28M

26. Mind Game (I) (2004)

103 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

66 Metascore

After a deadly encounter with two yakuza, a loser with a crush on his childhood girlfriend goes to heaven and back, embarking on a psychedelic self-discovery experience with her and his friends.

Directors: Masaaki Yuasa, Kôji Morimoto | Stars: Kôji Imada, Sayaka Maeda, Takashi Fujii, Seiko Takuma

Votes: 7,488 | Gross: $0.04M

27. Moon & Cherry (2004)

82 min | Drama

When an alluring young woman joins an erotic writing class, she begins a game of sexual cat and mouse with a naive college student. As they venture into more and more unpredictable ... See full summary »

Director: Yuki Tanada | Stars: Yoshikazu Ebisu, Noriko Eguchi, Akira Emoto, Misako Hirata

Votes: 104

28. After the Storm (2016)

Not Rated | 118 min | Comedy, Drama

84 Metascore

After the death of his father, a private detective struggles to find child support money and reconnect with his son and ex-wife.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Hiroshi Abe, Yôko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Lily Franky

Votes: 7,384 | Gross: $0.27M

29. The Garden of Words (2013)

TV-14 | 46 min | Animation, Drama, Romance

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

Director: Makoto Shinkai | Stars: Miyu Irino, Kana Hanazawa, Fumi Hirano, Gou Maeda

Votes: 26,150

30. All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)

146 min | Crime, Drama, Music

73 Metascore

The problematic lives of teenager students for whom the singer Lily Chou-Chou's dreamy music is the only way to escape an alienating, violent and insensitive society.

Director: Shunji Iwai | Stars: Hayato Ichihara, Shûgo Oshinari, Ayumi Itô, Takao Ohsawa

Votes: 7,290 | Gross: $0.02M

31. The Twilight Samurai (2002)

129 min | Drama, History, Romance

82 Metascore

As the feudal Japan era draws to a close, a widower samurai experiences difficulty balancing 2 young daughters, an aged mother, clan loyalties, and the sudden reappearance of his childhood sweetheart.

Director: Yôji Yamada | Stars: Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa, Nenji Kobayashi, Ren Osugi

Votes: 20,631

32. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005)

PG | 107 min | Drama

73 Metascore

A Japanese father travels to China's Yunnan province in the place of his ailing son to film a famous folk-opera star.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Ken Takakura, Kiichi Nakai, Shinobu Terajima, Ken Nakamoto

Votes: 4,663 | Gross: $0.25M

33. I Wish (2011)

PG | 128 min | Drama

80 Metascore

Twelve-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents' divorce, hears a rumor that the new bullet trains will precipitate a wish-granting miracle when they pass each other at top speed.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Kôki Maeda, Ohshirô Maeda, Masami Nagasawa, Kirin Kiki

Votes: 5,302 | Gross: $0.15M

34. Like Someone in Love (2012)

Not Rated | 109 min | Drama

76 Metascore

In Tokyo, a young sex worker develops an unexpected connection with a widower over a period of two days.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami | Stars: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Ryo Kase, Denden

Votes: 9,187 | Gross: $0.22M

35. Kikujiro (1999)

PG-13 | 122 min | Drama, Comedy

44 Metascore

A young, naive boy sets out alone on the road to find his wayward mother. Soon he finds an unlikely protector in a crotchety man and the two have a series of unexpected adventures along the way.

Director: Takeshi Kitano | Stars: Takeshi Kitano, Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayoko Kishimoto, The Great Gidayû

Votes: 17,046 | Gross: $0.20M

36. Kabei: Our Mother (2008)

Not Rated | 133 min | Drama

Based on childhood days of Teruyo Nogami.

Director: Yôji Yamada | Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Mayumi Tanaka, Denden, Mirai Shida

Votes: 1,120 | Gross: $0.01M

37. Memories of Matsuko (2006)

130 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

When Matsuko dies of murder, her nephew Sho gets to progressively unveil many details of her mysterious past, discovering she wasn't only a forgotten outcast but led a very interesting yet bizarre life.

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima | Stars: Miki Nakatani, Eita, Yûsuke Iseya, Mikako Ichikawa

Votes: 5,634

38. Tokyo Sonata (2008)

PG-13 | 120 min | Drama

80 Metascore

An ordinary Japanese family slowly disintegrates after its patriarch loses his job at a prominent company.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa | Stars: Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyôko Koizumi, Yû Koyanagi, Kai Inowaki

Votes: 8,098 | Gross: $0.28M



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