Top Japanese movies



Japanese movies to watch at home

Image adapted from: Warner Bros. Pictures, Bitters End, and Xanadeux Company

COVID-19 is still relentlessly spreading throughout the world, but we can all do our part to slow it down by practising good hygiene and staying indoors. In fact, there’s no better time than now to catch up on live-action Japanese movies

With that in mind, we have gathered 20 Japanese movies to help you pass time while you’re stuck at home. The list is arranged according to these genres – Drama/Romance, Action/Adventure, and Horror/Thriller/Mystery – for your easy reference. 


– Drama/Romance –


1. Like Father, Like Son そして父になる (2013)



If you’re getting tired of playing
Mobile Legends or scrolling through TikTok while you’re quarantined, we know just the thing to keep you entertained. 

Like Father, Like Son is a thought-provoking film that embodies the age-old saying of “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”. Two sons were mistakenly switched at birth and the truth was uncovered 6 years later. Now both families have to decide if they want their biological sons back. 

This film won the Jury Award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and for good reason – it’s an intense tearjerker and will have you questioning even your most deep-seated morals.

Genre: Drama
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


2. Whistleblower 七つの会議 (2019)



Whistleblower
dives deep into the life of a regular businessman and a corrupt corporation based in Japan. There’s plenty of dark humour and suspense as a rebellious salaryman exposes his company’s wrongdoings. 

Genre: Mystery/Drama
Available on Amazon Prime


3. Death Note デスノート (2006)


Death Note Japanese movie
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Death Note took the world by storm when the manga and film adaptation were first released. Spearheaded by the director behind Godzilla and the Gamera trilogy, Death Note tells a tale of a notebook which has the power to kill anyone whose name is written inside.

The protagonist, Light Yagami, was fed up with the judicial system and saw an opportunity to take things into his own hands when he acquired a Death Note. The film toys with the idea of justice and what’s right, and what’s not. 

There are two sequels: Death Note 2: The Last Name and Death Note: Light Up the New World.

Genre: Crime/Drama/Fantasy
Available on Amazon Prime and Microsoft Store


4. Orange オレンジ (2015)



It’s hard to know when the COVID-19 pandemic
will blow over. We can’t time travel to find out the answers ahead of time, but in Orange, that’s technically possible – you can receive letters from your future self. 

One day, Naho Takamiya receives a letter from her future self, who drops an unexpected bomb – her friend will take his own life. Now it’s up to her and her friends to navigate through the complexities of friendship, love, and trust to save a life.

Genre: Drama/Romance
Available on Amazon Prime


5. Your Lie In April 四月は君の嘘 (2016)



Your Lie In April
is an emotional teen drama featuring classical music pieces that will strike a chord with viewers. The story revolves around a pianist, who has to overcome a traumatic incident, as he falls in love with a terminally ill violinist.

Be warned – you will cry when you get to the emotional bits, so get your tissues ready.

P.S. Make sure to dispose of all used tissues and wash your hands with soap afterwards.

Genre: Drama/Romance
Available on Amazon Prime


6. Tokyo Story 東京物語 (1953)



Tokyo Story
is an acquired taste. The cinematography is drastically different from what you usually see on screen – the camera remains still and takes on a show-and-tell style, rather than a normal storytelling approach. Silent shots dominate the movie so that emotions between a parent and a child are best conveyed.

In the film, an ageing couple decides to travel to Tokyo to visit their adult children, only to be treated coldly by them. This is contrasted with the kindness of their widowed daughter-in-law. The movie explores the theme of filial piety, loneliness, selfishness, and death.

Genre: Drama
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


7. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas 君の膵臓をたべたい (2017)



Let Me Eat Your Pancreas
isn’t just a comical case of bad translation – the title is central to the plot. Haruki, the protagonist, hopes that his classmate Sakura will recover from a terminal pancreatic illness. They set off on an adventure to tick off Sakura’s bucket list before, well, she kicks the bucket.

Or so you thought. Stay tuned to the end for another unexpected emotional whiplash.

Genre: Drama/Romance
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


8. Blue Spring Ride アオハライド (2014)



Apart from Masahiro Higashide’s
sharp cheekbones, this romantic film is also blessed with stellar actors and actresses like Tsubasa Honda. The star plays a teenage girl who sets out to uncover the truth behind her first love’s disappearance. 

Genre: Drama/Romance
Available on Amazon Prime


9. Asako I & II 寝ても覚めても (2018)



Asako I & II
stars Masahiro Higashide, the same gorgeous hunk in Blue Spring Ride, and tells a story of what it’s like when Asako falls in love with 2 identical-looking men with different personalities. 

Befitting of its name, the movie also comes with 2 heartthrobs, dual climaxes, and heartbreaks that will leave your heart bruised the first time round – and shattered after a second blow. 

Genre: Drama/Romance
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


– Action/Adventure –


10. Battle Royale バトル・ロワイアル (2000)



Battle Royale
is like a grotesque version of Hunger Games – a group of junior high school students were kidnapped and forced to kill one another under the Battle Royale Act.

Despite concerns over legal issues and controversies, the movie became an instant hit and a cultural phenomenon worldwide. ‘Battle Royale’ is now a term to describe a killing spree until a sole survivor emerges.

Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure/Drama
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


11. Parasyte 寄生獣 (2014)



Parasyte
may not have gotten the same attention as the similarly-named Oscar-winning film, Parasite, but it’s still worth a watch. It tells a story about parasitic creatures invading Earth and even stars Japanese heartthrob Shota Sometani. Check out the trailer for its sequel – Parasyte: Part 2

Genre: Action/Drama/Horror
Available on Amazon Prime


12. Rurouni Kenshin るろうに剣心 (2012)



Rurouni Kenshin
eschews hackneyed CGI scenes in favour of practical effects and bad-ass fighting. Based on the manga of the same name, the movie follows an ex-assassin who swore to turn his life around.  

Genre: Action/Drama/History
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


13. Crows Zero クローズZERO (2007)



Crows Zero
is a throwback to the early 2000s, where young punks roamed the street and fights were aplenty. The film revolves around a transfer student’s ambition to unify the most violent school in the country. Critics were impressed with the well-choreographed fight scenes and the cast’s superb acting skills.

Genre: Action/Thriller
Available on Amazon Prime and Google Play


– Horror/Thriller/Mystery –


14. Ring リング (1998)


Ring horror Japanese movie
Image credit: Toho

Many horror masterpieces were born in Japan and Ring is indisputably a top contender. The nightmarish film centres on a spike in teenage deaths and a mysterious videotape. It eventually gained traction worldwide and was even remade by Hollywood. 

If you can’t get enough of it, check out the sequel, Rasen.

Genre: Mystery/Horror
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


15. Noroi: The Curse ノロイ (2005)



Noroi:
The Curse
is praised for its life-like gory images and epic plot twists. The horror film kick starts with a paranormal investigator who loses his life while uncovering the truth about a supernatural demon. 

Mark our words, this is one stellar movie that will keep you awake long after the night has passed. 

Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller
Available on Amazon Prime and Apple iTunes


16. One Cut of the Dead カメラを止めるな! (2017)



One Cut of the Dead
made box office history by earning revenue thousands of times its budget. Filming was done in merely 8 days. 

With a zombie apocalypse taking the central theme, it tells the story of a director who had a tiff with his actors. The film truly begins when the director insists on keeping the cameras rolling while real zombies infiltrated the shooting location.

Genre: Comedy/Horror
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


17. Tomie Unlimited 富江 アンリミテッド (2011)



Fans of
Junji Ito’s works will be more than familiar with the titular Tomie Unlimited. 

Tomie Unlimited is chock full of bizarre scenes spliced throughout the 1-hour 25-minute film – from sudden death scenes to an unfiltered act of cannibalism, the scenes in this movie have the potential to gross you out.

Genre: Horror
Available on Amazon Prime


18. Stare シライサン (2020)



Exploding eyeballs, urban legends, and mysterious deaths
make for a holy trinity in Stare. The film shares a similar plot with Ring, albeit with more gimmicks. Fans of the 1998 hit film Ring should include Stare on their to-watch list.

Genre: Mystery
Available on Amazon Prime


19. Dark Water 仄暗い水の底から (2002)


dark waters Japanese horror movie
Image credit: Toho

Beneath the terrors of supernatural sightings and the persistent haunting of a spirit, Dark Water is a movie about a mother’s love. The director, Hideo Nakata, tactfully combines themes of horror with parental love, before ending on a heartfelt note. 

A mother and her 6-year-old daughter move into a new flat, and they soon encounter mysterious apparitions, as well as an apartment that floods for no reason. This iconic J-horror film will keep you on your toes with several spectacular water effects.

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Horror
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple iTunes


20. The Black House 黒い家 (1999)


the black house japanese movie
Image credit: Shochiku

The Black House is a true psychological thriller featuring a convincing psychopath on a rampage. The show focuses on a timid insurance agent, Wakatsuki, who receives an alarming call from someone who wanted to know if the insurance company pays out on policies if the cause of death is suicide. 

He visits the caller the next day, only to find the body of the caller’s son, who died by hanging. Soon, more suspicious deaths connected to the family start to crop up, and Wakatsuki has to avoid becoming the next victim.

Genre: Horror
Available on Amazon Prime


Japanese movies to watch at home


Being stuck at home with nothing to do is tough, but we’ve sussed out 20 Japanese movies to keep you entertained while we ride out the worst of COVID-19. Stay safe, stay indoors, and wash your hands!

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