In this major season we spotlight Japanese filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world
We have long carried a torch for Japanese film here at the BFI. Since the first BFI London Film Festival opened with Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood in 1957, we’ve played a vital role in bringing the cinema of this culturally rich nation to UK audiences through our festivals, seasons, theatrical distribution, books and video publishing. In this major season we spotlight filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world. We begin our story with Akira Kurosawa, and over the coming months we’ll present films from the Golden Age, a focus on Yasujiro Ozu, new wave rebels, the visionary creations of anime, the netherworlds of J-horror, and so much more from archive rarities to contemporary works and cult classics.
This landmark season will take place on BFI Player from 11 May onwards, with new online collections released each month, and we expect to present it at BFI Southbank and cinemas nationwide later this year.
Science Fiction2000114 minsDirector: Kenji Fukasaku
Before The Hunger Games there was Battle Royale, Kinji Fukasaku's magnificently twisted shocker in which tearaway teens are given three days to kill or be killed.
Drama2008131 minsDirector: Yôjirô Takita
A professional cellist gets a new job as an assistant mortician in this delightful and bittersweet drama, winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® in 2009.
Drama2003141 minsDirector: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Koreeda’s drama about four children left to fend for themselves is a heartbreaking study of childhood neglect.
Drama2016120 minsDirector: Koji Fukada
Kôji Fukada's mixture of slow-burn thriller and off-kilter family drama won Un Certain Regard Jury prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
Thriller2016130 minsDirector: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cuire, Pulse) makes a triumphant return to the horror genre with this macabre and deeply unsettling thriller.
Drama201438 minsDirector: Nagisa Isogai
After a schoolgirl is molested on the notorious 'groper train' in their town, a group a schoolgirls band together to emact revenge.
Drama200277 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto
Bizarre and unsettling sex fantasy from Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo), about a woman blackmailed by a stranger into enacting his wildest fantasies.
Drama1970106 minsDirector: Toshio Matsumoto
Toshio Matsumoto's kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most intoxicating films of the 60s.
Crime199394 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano
Takeshi Kitano's masterful and meditative gangster film, about a yakuza sent to the beautiful beaches of Okinawa where he has time to ruminate on his fate.
Drama199782 minsDirector: Sabu
Acclaimed Japanese director Sabu (Happiness, Miss Zombie) with this frenetic, kinetic action comedy set on the bustling streets of Tokyo, the story of three losers brought together by fate.
Drama1981145 minsDirector: Seijun Suzuki
Seijun Suzuki's enigmatic, sumptuously designed dream of 1920s Japan might, just might be a ghost story... Voted the best Japanese film of the '80s by Japanese critics.
Drama1995109 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda
Koreeda’s first fiction feature is an exquisite meditation on loss, loneliness, uncertainty, and coming to terms with the past.
Crime197287 minsDirector: Shunya Ito
The iconic Meiko Kaji's career-defining turn as 'Scorpion', an unjustly imprisoned young woman who must escape to exact revenge upon the man who betrayed her.
Horror197788 minsDirector: Nobuhiko Obayashi
An unforgettable mixture of bubblegum teen melodrama and grisly phantasmagoria, Obayashi’s deranged fairy tale House is one of Japanese cinema’s wildest supernatural ventures and a truly startling debut feature.
Drama196994 minsDirector: Teruo Ishii
Teruo Ishii's landmark ‘ero-guro’ film tells three stories of moral sickness set during Japan’s prosperous Genroku era.
Crime196786 minsDirector: Atsushi Yamatoya
A hitman is hired to track down a kidnapped girl in this hallucinatory mix of erotica and yakuza violence.
Romance200565 minsDirector: Daisuke Gotô
In this bizarre but bittersweet erotic comedy, a ventriloquist supplies the voice for his best friend when he begins dating a visually impaired girl. Daisuke Gotô
Action and Adventure2014116 minsDirector: Sion Sono
Sion Sono's unique brand of subversive cinema explodes onscreen once again with this ingenious hybrid of Yakuza gang action and hip-hop musical.
Drama1985154 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s visually spectacular epic transplants Shakespeare’s King Lear from Celtic Britain to feudal Japan.
Drama1954207 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.
Drama1952143 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Takashi Shimura is superb as a bureaucrat diagnosed with cancer in Akira Kurosawa’s lyrical and moving film about how we find meaning in our lives.
Drama1970140 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s first colour film is an eccentric and joyous account of a group of disparate people living in a city dump.
Crime1960151 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
The first film made by Akira Kurosawa's own production company is a dark tale of greed, corporate corruption and revenge.
Crime195088 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.
Drama1953136 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
A constant fixture in critics' polls, Yasujiro Ozu's most enduring masterpiece is a beautifully nuanced exploration of filial duty, expectation and regret.
Drama1952116 minsDirector: Yasujirō Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu’s beautiful domestic drama is piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone in post-war Tokyo.
Drama1960128 minsDirector: Yasujirō Ozu
Comedy turns to pathos in Yasujiro Ozu's tale of a group of businessmen who conspire to match-make for a widow and her daughter.
Comedy1958118 minsDirector: Yasujirō Ozu
Ozu's deft comedy takes an ironic look at the decline of paternal authority.
Drama1956145 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Shoji (Ryu Ikebe) and his wife Masako (Chikage Awashima), struggle with a family tragedy. When Shoji's interest turns to the office flirt, the couple's fragile peace is threatened.
Drama1941105 minsDirector: Yasujirō Ozu
After the death of her husband, Mrs Toda and her youngest daughter receive a frosty welcome from extended family, in Ozu's incisive satire.
Period drama1954125 minsDirector: Kenji Mizoguchi
Mizoguchi’s historical epic is among the greatest of all Japanese films, and a masterpiece of humanist cinema.
Period drama1963114 minsDirector: Kon Ichikawa
Kon Ichikawa's wildly melodramatic tale of a kabuki female impersonator who exacts a long-delayed revenge.
Drama1998119 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda
Koreeda's lyrical fantasy challenges the viewer to reflect on the experiences that most make life worth living.
Drama196097 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima
Nagisa Ôshima’s breakthrough portrait of alienated youth is a stinging castigation of an indolent, self-indulgent youth culture.
Crime196392 minsDirector: Seijun Suzuki
A mysterious loner plays off rival gangs against one another in Seijun Suzuki's outrageous, kaleidoscopic crime picture.
Drama195389 minsDirector: Teinosuke Kinugasa
Teinosuke Kinugasa’s sumptuous period drama astonished audiences with its dramatic force and spectacular colour cinematography.
Ghost cats, killer children and cursed videotapes comprise just some of the terrors that Japan has gifted our nightmares.
Modern classics that highlight the enduring strength of Japanese cinema.
From the samurai thrillers of Kurosawa to the beautiful melodramas of Naruse, this collection celebrates the extraordinary diversity of Japanese cinema.