Japanese directors have changed the face of film by bringing movements like anime to worldwide recognition and acclaim. Planning a movie night but want to break away from watching another predictable Hollywood blockbuster? We’ve compiled a few iconic Japanese films for you which showcase the characteristic innovation of Japanese cinema that viewers around the world enjoy. All movies are available on Netflix or Youtube.
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) | 2001
This animated drama by esteemed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki follows a young girl’s journey into a bewitched world. Called “a masterpiece of animation” by The New York Times, Spirited Away has picked up many awards, including the 2003 Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Okuribito (Departures) | 2008
In this drama, an unemployed cellist finds work as a mortician. Departures was the unexpected winner of the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and its release created considerable impact both in and out of Japan. Village Voice observed that Departures “gently nudges Japan’s alienated new generation to find meaning in the performance of age-old domestic rituals,” thus differentiating it from other key Japanese films of its age.
Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai) | 1954
A poor village that is frequently looted by a gang of bandits asks seven samurai to protect them from the thieves, which doesn’t turn out to be as simple of a request as it would seem. According to Time Out, “the epic action scenes involving cavalry and samurai are still without peer.” An Oscar nominated classic, Seven Samurai is still lauded as a stellar action movie that sits especially well with Western fans. In fact, memorable characters continue to command a loyal fanbase.
Soshite Chichi ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son) | 2013
When a family learns that the child they’ve been raising was switched at birth with their biological son, a couple must make the difficult decision: which child should they keep? According to Rotten Tomatoes, this film was “sensitively written, smartly directed, and powerfully performed.”