Japanese movies are unique to Japan, they hold the ideology, philosophy, and spirit of the land of the rising sun. A movie is a work of art just a painting or a song, and a lot of the time it’s the story in and around the art that makes it valuable.
No counties movies are better than another’s, just like no nation's music or paintings are better. It's all subjective.
For me, watching a movie gives me a clear look into what the creators are thinking and the life they live. Movies are the ultimate expression of visuals and sound, and they cost a lot of money to make so a lot of time movies share the views of large corporations and governments. As a result a movie easily expresses what a culture looks like, and is thinking.
In a suppressed society, if there even is any art, it's usually sad in tone, cryptic, or propaganda. A free society is usually brash, overly happy, or challenging. Japan is a free society. What im trying to say is movies reveal a lot about a person or group.
Anyway I’m from New Jersey, USA, and here are a few Japanese movies that blew my mind.
Battle Royal (2000)
This movie is about a group of “bad” high school students who are chosen, against their will, for a competition, to fight to the death. The movie is amazing. They are giving a time limit, each giving a random weapon, from a frying pan to a machine gun, and are trapped on an island until only 1 remain. It’s a crazy movie, with a lot of action, mellow drama, love, suspense, and action. This is not confirmed or admitted but it does feel a little like “Hunger Games (2012)”
Who doesn’t want to see Giant Monsters fight each other and destroy a city? However arguably the very best Godzilla movie is the first one from 1954. What makes it good is the story. I know it's black and white and the monster effects are super fake looking and you have to read subtitles but if you force yourself to watch it you won't be disappointed.
The movie is actually a scientist that creates a weapon called the “Oxygen Destroyer” that does just that it destroys oxygen in the blast area making any life choke to death. The problem arises when nuclear bomb testing awakes Godzilla who now is destroying Tokyo and “normal” weapons won't work. The scientist doesn’t want to give up his invention because he fears that the leads of the world will use it to cause more destruction.
By the end of the film, you start to understand that Godzilla is a metaphor for the atomic bomb Japan faced during World War ll. Cities in flames, overstuffed hospitals, irradiated children, people running and screaming are constant images throughout the film. Don’t watch the American version they re-edited it to make it less sad.
Later Godzilla movies are more commercial and silly, not as heavy in tone as the first, but still very good. Personal favorites, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) Godzilla Final Wars (2005).
Ghost In The Shell (1995)
This Manga and later the movie inspired “The Matrix (1999)” and “Blade Runner (1982)”. Especially the movie is a crime police drama set in an alternate future where the line between robot and human is very very very thin. It's about a special operation police officer who questions her existence and identity as a cyborg.
Her body is 90% robotic and only her brain is the only thing human about her. And it is possible for her brain to become robotic too, but then is she human? What is a human? Memories? Independent thought? Free will? A soul? On top of that, she fights bad dudes and computer hackers terrorists that have ties to the government, FUN STUFF!!
The animation is draw and animated in a realistic way and the action is very cool, setting this series apart from other anime. If you like Noir movies, cop and robber crime movies, action movies, or sci-fi movies you will love this. Don’t watch the American live-action version it sucks.
This is an EPIC SAMURAI by the big daddy of Japanese cinema, Akira Kurosawa. It’s a long movie, it starts kind of slow, and there is a lot of talking but if you like Historical movies, period pieces, War movies, Dramas, or epic battles Lord Of The Rings style, you will like this.
The cool thing about this movie is that it’s a good story about a king that loses it all. Similar to Scarface he is at the top but by the end is weak and is no one. On top of that the Cinematrophy, the costumes the bloody battles, the volume of actors and extras, it's visually very exciting.
The story is epic, meaning that there is a lot going on. A dying king gives his lands to three sons and the three sons end up fighting and killing each other over the land. They end up burning their father's castle to the ground and in a bizarre turn of events, the king escapes and wonders the land a lost and broken man. While this is happening the king's young wife, fans the feud between the brothers in an attempt to keep her position as the Queen.
The actress that plays the Queen is played by Mieko Harada and she steals the show. Her performance is amazing. It's hard to take your eyes off of her, she's always up to something, you want her to die, and she's crazy, her performance is incredible.
All in all an amazing movie, if you like Samurais in any way, you will like this movie.
Ichi The Killer (2001)
One of the more disturbing movies I've ever seen, honestly I do think I will watch it again but it is worth noting because it did shock the shit out of me when I saw it. It is extremely violent and graphic. This Director Takashi Miike has directed hundreds of movies since he started and has gained a large cult following.
The movie is about sadomasochism and the characters in the movie try to kill people as painfully as possible. I watched it not knowing what I was getting into and didn’t stop watching, thinking that this must all have a point. But to the movie's credit, it is sort of unrealistic and partly dark humor.
The lack of a story or anything “fun” makes it hard for me to get into, but there is something about this movies' low budget, uncompromised, unapologetic, renegade, punk rock style that does touch me. This type of movie comes close to Loydd Koffman style of film in that it, completely independent and free.
There is also something to be said about “dark films” like A Serbian Film (2010), The Human Centipede (2009) or Irreversible (2002), or exploitation films in general. They exist for a reason, humans are capable of horrible things, and works of art like movies are a release of these thoughts. As long as they are fiction…..
13 Assassins (2010)
The same Director as Ichi The Killer, this is a possibility the best samurai action movie I've even seen. Samurai movies can be their own topic but to keep things simple ill say that this is the best. It's about 13 samurai, assassins, and bounty hunters that team up to save Edo from a sadistic king who rapes, tortures mutilates, and murders nobles and commoners at will.
This is an action movie and it’s a damn good one. It's realistic enough that you feel the danger the characters feel and no feels overpowered or like a superhero. However, at the same time is clever in ways to give the “Heros” the advantage.
The movie is similar to 300 where a few men take down an entire army and also like Seven Samurai, where guns for hire work together for a common goal. In matter of fact, this movie is so well done that it's in the same league as Ran (1985) and other best Samurai films of all time.
The Story, the action, the acting, the editing, the costumes are perfect. It is truly a modern masterpiece.
The Punishment Room (1956)
A little-known movie I found online from a list of movies titled, 20 essential Japanese New Wave films. This movie is about a bad kid, an anti-hero, a disrespectful young angry young man.
The kid in this movie is rude and disrespectful to everyone around him and does things his way. He tricks his father into giving him money, steals money from a party his friends threw, gets in fights all the time, drugs his classmate and rapes her, he sets up a heist with his friends and double-crosses them, he talks back to everyone, you can't wait for this character so bite it.
The movie has a lot of energy and is about youth. The main character reminds me a lot of Alex from “A Clock Work Orange (1971)”. In the end, the main character ends up cornered by a gang of boys he ripped off. They seat him in a chair and torcher him. The film ends with the main character's enemies surrounding him beating him up and stabbing him. He is last seen crawling away in an ally way, left for dead, it is unclear whether he will live or die.
It's an honest movie, we all know this kind of person who does what they want with no regard for others and acts untouchable. This movie is a good look into what these kinds of people think and say, and the life they live. It's not pretty but you can't look away.
OH MY GOD. STORY 0% ACTION 1000% Do you like martial arts? Do you like guns? Do you like zombies? Do you like badass shit!? Watch this movie now!
This movie combines gunplay, martial arts action, sword fighting, zombie horror, and comedy. It's about a Samurai prisoner that has to save a girl from the Yakuza. That’s it.
This movie is fucking awesome, the fighting and the way it's shot are so cool. It's like a Quentin Tarantino movie meets one of the Evil Dead movies on speed. You honestly have never seen anything like it.
It's crazy good.
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of the Wind (1984)
It's hard to talk about Japanese movies without talking about Studio Ghibli. They arguably make better-animated movies than Disney but that’s a different topic. This film is one of their first.
Nausicaä is about a steampunk-style girl in a post-apocalypse princess that explores the jungle and uninhabited parts of the world in order to communicate with its creatures, in hopes to understand them and find a way for them and humans to co-exist.
In other words, the movie is about the balance and exploitation of nature, anti-war, and respect for the environment.
What makes a lot of Ghibli films great is the fact that there is no big evil bad guy that wants to take over the world. Instead greed and fear are what drives the antagonists to harm nature and the hero.
It's one of my favorite movies of all time, the music is good, the animation and action are awesome, and the story is the best. The part where she almost dies gets me every time.
The movies I like tend to have good action or fighting, are unusual, unique, out there, good story and characters. I like stories about heroes, villains, overcoming a problem I have in my own life, and most people do. These Japanese movies are some of my favorite and I always come back to them. Use these movies as a reference for your movie and if you need Tokyo Camera Rentals be sure to contact Temple Studios Japan. What’s your favorite Japanese Movie?