From animated movies to old samurai flicks, there is an abundance of Japanese movies good enough to watch more than once. Nay, more than twice. We asked our readers what titles they could watch again and again, and these are the top 10 answers.
10. The Seven Samurai (1954)
A favorite for classic Japanese cinema lovers, The Seven Samurai is a must-watch. The movie tells a simple story of a band of ragtag samurai brought together by a veteran who had been paid in rice to protect a poor village from an incoming horde of bandits. The story isn’t anything new by today’s standards (especially considering the roaring success of a certain superhero group) but this three-and-a-half-hour-long epic can be seen as the origin of such franchises.
9. Akira (1988)
Released in 1988, Akira tells the story of a biker gang making their way through a futuristic dystopian Tokyo. This must-watch movie has been described by some as their “gateway into anime”, leading them away from more approachable titles such as Pokémon and into a much darker animated universe.
8. Only Yesterday (1991)
Based on the 1982 mange of the same name, this film is the epitome of a “slice of life” animated movie and follows salary women Taeko Okajima as she takes her first trip outside Tokyo to the countryside of Yamagata Prefecture. Okajima reminisces about her past the simple joys of childhood, the bitter lessons one must learn along the way, and how it compares to her now-stressful adult life.
7. Nobody Knows (2004)
Based on a 1988 Sugamo child abandonment case, this film follows the story of four children abandoned in a house in Tokyo and left to fend for themselves as their mother, finding a new boyfriend and moving out, doesn’t return home. Well received by critics and audiences with many, many good reviews, it was particularly praised for shedding light on a darker side of Japan.
6. Spirited Away (2001)
This movie needs no introduction, as one of Ghibli’s most iconic productions. The movie was only recently beaten at the box office by sleeper hit Demon Slayer (Kimetsu No Yaiba) but as much as fighting demons can draw a crowd, there is a special place in everybody’s heart for this little lost girl and her adventures in a strange land.
5. Shoplifters (2018)
This Oscar-nominated movie focuses on a non-biological family living just below the view of society doing what they can to survive in a life of poverty. Getting into details might spoil this rewatchable masterpiece, but rest assured that the story will unapologetically tug at your heartstrings.
4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
A classic animated feature that is holding up the test of time. My Neighbor Totoro tells the adventures of a fluffy friendly cat befriending two little girls in the Japanese countryside sounds like a fantastical movie that is fun for all ages. The movie, while seemingly simplistic on the surface, offers a message of hope and optimism despite hardships – a signature Ghibli structure that feels nostalgic and heartwarming.
3. Memories of Matsuko (2006)
Based on a Japanese novel by Muneki Yamada, Memories of Matsuko is a dive into the life of Matsuko, an estranged aunt of our main character Sho as he shifts through her belongings after her untimely death. Tacking gruesome adult themes like drug use, prostitution and domestic violence, this surrealist film is unique in that it offers an unfiltered look into a stranger’s life.
2. Departures (2008)
After buying an expensive cello, Daigo Kobayashi learns that his orchestra is disbanding, leading him to return back to his hometown with his wife in northern Japan. Somehow landing a job at a morgue he slowly comes to understand the traditions and rituals of traditional Japanese funerals. The story takes an unapologetic look at death and while this concept may seem heavy for some audiences, the film balances it out with well-written comedic scenes.
1. Tampopo (1985)
A TW favorite. After stopping to eat some underwhelming ramen at a roadside noodle restaurant, two truck drivers, Goro and Gun, decide to help the owner create her own delicious ramen. The story then follows the trio as they attempt to improve the restaurant in various ways. This movie is a must-watch if you not only love Japanese cinema but also Japanese food. It is a classic, infinitely rewatchable, and with many interesting characters popping up along the way, you better have some kind of snacks to munch on.
Do you agree with these popular picks? What other Japanese movies could you watch again and again?