My Favorite Japanese Films: A List

A friend asked if I had posted my favorite Japanese films on my blog, so I decided to go ahead and try to come up with some kind of a top ten list out of the hundreds of movies I’ve seen since I became obsessed in the early 2000s. But instead of one top ten list, I’ll do several in various categories.

Top Ten Classic Japanese Films (pre-1980s)

1. Woman in the Dunes (砂の女, dir. Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1964)
2. Yojimbo (用心棒, dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1961)
3. The Man Who Stole the Sun (太陽を盗んだ男, dir. Hasegawa Kazuhiko, 1979)
4. Rashomon (羅生門, dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1950)
5. The Pornographers (エロ事師たちより人類学入門, dir. Imamura Shohei 1966)
6. Onibaba (鬼婆, dir. Shindo Kaneto, 1964)
7. Seven Samurai (七人の侍, dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1954)
8. Sansho the Bailiff (山椒大夫, dir. Mizoguchi Kenji, 1954)
9. Pastoral — To Die in the Country (田園に死す, dir. Terayama Shuji, 1974)
10. Harakiri (切腹, dir. Kobayashi Masaki, 1962)

Top Ten Modern Japanese Films

1. Eureka (dir. Aoyama Shinji, 2000)
2. The Ballad of Narayama (楢山節考, dir. Imamura Shohei, 1983)
3. The Taste of Tea (茶の味, dir. Ishii Katsuhito, 2004)
4. Nobody Knows (誰も知らない, dir. Koreeda Hirokazu, 2004)
5. All About Lily Chou-Chou (リリシュシュのすべて, dir. Iwai Shunji, 2001)
6. Noriko’s Dinner Table (紀子の食卓, dir. Sono Sion, 2005)
7. Confessions (告白, dir. Nakashima Tetsuya, 2010)
8. Sonatine (dir. Kitano Takeshi, 1993)
9. Memories of Matsuko (嫌われ松子の一生, dir. Nakashima Tetsuya, 2006)
10. A Snake of June (六月の蛇, Tsukamoto Shinya, 2002)

Top Ten Anime Films

1. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (王立宇宙軍 オネアミスの翼, dir. Yamaga Hiroyuki, 1987)
2. Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊, dir. Oshii Mamoru, 1995)
3. Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫, dir. Miyazaki Hayao, 1997)
4. Paprika (dir. Kon Satoshi, 2006)
5. Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, dir. Miyazaki Hayao, 2001)
6. Akira (dir. Otomo Katsuhiro, 1988)
7. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (人狼, dir. Okiura Hiroyuki, 1999)
8. Angel’s Egg (天使の卵, dir. Oshii Mamoru, 1985)
9. Tekkonkinkreet (鉄っこん筋クリート, dir. Michael Arias, 2006)
10. Cat Soup (ねこぢる草, dir. Sato Tatsuo, 2001)

Top Ten Japanese Feel-Good Movies

1. Ping Pong (dir. Sori Fumihiko, 2002)
2. Linda Linda Linda (dir. Yamashita Nobuhiro, 2005)
3. Hana and Alice (dir. Iwai Shunji, 2004)
4. Swing Girls (dir. Yaguchi Shinobu, 2004)
5. Solanin (dir. Miki Takahiro, 2010)
6. Sawako Decides (川の底からこんにちは, dir. Ishii Yuya, 2010)
7. Kikujiro (菊次郎の夏, dir. Kitano Takeshi, 1999)
8. Kamikaze Girls (下妻物語, dir. Nakashima Tetsuya, 2004)
9. The Great Yokai War (妖怪大戦争, dir. Miike Takashi, 2005)
10. Hula Girls (dir. Lee Sang-il, 2006)

Top Ten Weird Japanese Films

1. The Taste of Tea (茶の味, dir. Ishii Katsuhito, 2004)
2. Noriko’s Dinner Table (紀子の食卓, dir. Sono Sion, 2005)
3. Pastoral — To Die in the Country (田園に死す, dir. Terayama Shuji, 1974)
4. Funky Forest: The First Contact (ナイスの森 〜The First Contact〜, dir. Ishii Katsuhito, Ishimine Hajime, and Miki Shunichiro, 2005)
5. Visitor Q (dir. Miike Takashi, 2001)
6. Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani (dir. Aoyama Shinji, 2005)
7. House (dir. Obayashi Nobuhiko, 1977)
8. Rampo Noir (乱歩地獄, dir. Jissoki Akio, Kaneko Atsushi, Sato Hisayasu, and Takeuchi Suguru, 2005)
9. Pitfall (落とし穴, dir. Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1962)
10. Karaoke Terror (昭和歌謡大全集, dir. Shinohara Tetsuo, 2003)

And finally, although they’re not films,

Top Ten Anime Series

1. Cowboy Bebop
2. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
3. Paranoia Agent
4. Kemonozume
5. Mushi-shi
6. Texhnolyze
7. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
8. Mononoke
9. The Tatami Galaxy
10. Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

Disclaimer: These lists will fluctuate. Ask me again tomorrow and they might be surprisingly different.


6 thoughts on “My Favorite Japanese Films: A List

  1. Lists are always difficult but these are great, one that I might add to the animation list is Masaaki Yuasa’s – ‘Mind Game’ – ‘The Man Who Stole the Sun’ -such a brilliant film.

    • Good pick. I saw Mind Game a couple of years ago for the first time, and it was good. It could certainly edge its way onto the “Weird” list, and I could see it beating out Cat Soup on the “Anime” list, too, perhaps, on the right day. The problem with lists is in their nature — a lot of good things always get left off.

  2. Awesome list, a couple of my favourites are in there as well so I’l gonna check some others out! Now I am curious as to what your favourite Japanese books and mangas are!

    • Thank you for stopping by. I’ve gone ahead and added a post with some lists of my favorite Japanese literature, too. Please check it out.

  3. Great choice of categories, by the way. You’ve got all your basic food groups… except for maybe 怪獣, but I’ve never been much a fan of those beyond the kitsch factor, anyway. =]

    I saw The Man Who Stole the Sun again and totally agree with the protagonist’s resemblance to our old schoolmate.

    • Yeah, honestly, I haven’t seen enough 怪獣 films to have a top ten yet, although the original ゴジラ almost made my top ten classics list.

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