21st-century Japan

Modern classics that highlight the enduring strength of Japanese cinema.

The 21st-century has witnessed a remarkable resurgence of Japanese cinema, both in terms of domestic audiences and international recognition. At the star of the 2000s Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa spearheaded a new generation of directors whose provocative works reached sizable UK audiences. 

Simultaneously, more respectable figures like Hirokazu Koreeda became favourites on the festival circuit, while Yōjirō Takita’s Departures became the first Japanese production to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The growing plurality of voices in Japanese cinema also saw Naomi Kawase win the Grand Prix at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival for The Mourning Forest. And through it all Anime continued its advance into the global mainstream.

Characterised by two competing strains – a respectful adherence to cinematic heritage alongside an anarchic subversion of all that’s gone before – contemporary Japanese cinema continues to surprise, delight and provoke.

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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.

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Nobody KnowsNobody Knows

Drama2003141 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda

Koreeda’s drama about four children left to fend for themselves is a heartbreaking study of childhood neglect.

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Still WalkingStill Walking

Drama2008115 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda

Koreeda’s subtle, moving account of the tensions within a family is his most Ozu-like film.

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The Mourning ForestThe Mourning Forest

Drama200797 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase

A beautiful and contemplative portrait of grief from Cannes-winning filmmaker Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean, Still the Water).

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Sweet BeanSweet Bean

Drama2015113 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase

A struggling street food vendor accepts help from an elderly lady with a sensational recipe up her sleeve, in Naomi Kawase's bittersweet drama of culinary redemption.

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The Lust of AngelsThe Lust of Angels

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.

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Thriller2016130 minsDirector: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cuire, Pulse) makes a triumphant return to the horror genre with this macabre and deeply unsettling thriller.

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Journey to the ShoreJourney to the Shore

Drama2015128 minsDirector: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

The living and the dead coexist in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cannes-winning meditation on love and loss.

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Horror2001119 minsDirector: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's dark and apocalyptic J-Horror foretells how technology serves to isolate us as it grows more important to our lives.

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Wolf ChildrenWolf Children

Animation & Artists Moving Image2013118 minsDirector: Mamoru Hosoda

Single mother Hana must bring up her wolf children away from the prying eyes of the neighbours in this stunning anime.

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Summer WarsSummer Wars

Science Fiction2009115 minsDirector: Mamoru Hosoda

A student sets in motion a series of events that could result in the earth colliding with the parallel world.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through TimeThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Animation & Artists Moving Image2006100 minsDirector: Mamoru Hosoda

Breathtaking, multi-award-winning feature about a girl with a special power… Makoto Konno's life changes after a brush with death, when she discovers she has the ability to jump backwards in time.

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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.

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Ghost in the Shell 2: InnocenceGhost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Animation & Artists Moving Image2004100 minsDirector: Mamoru Oshii

Mamoru Oshii's stunning sequel to the 1995 anime classic explores issues around identity, existence and what exactly defines our humanity.

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A Snake of JuneA Snake of June

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.

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Mitsuko DeliversMitsuko Delivers

Comedy2011109 minsDirector: Yuya Ishii

An eccentric, pregnant young lady returns to her hometown to help her downtrodden old neighbours, in Yûya Ishii 's strange, whimsical comedy.

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Sawako DecidesSawako Decides

Comedy2010112 minsDirector: Yuya Ishii

Sawako tries to save her father's ailing clam-packing business, but it's an uphill struggle, in Yuya Ishii's joyous, nuanced, comic drama.

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The Woodsman and the RainThe Woodsman and the Rain

Comedy2011128 minsDirector: Shûichi Okita

A redneck lumberjack is recruited to work on a rookie producer's inane zombie movie, in this hilarious movie-making satire.

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Battle RoyaleBattle Royale

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.

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Tokyo TribeTokyo Tribe

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.

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Love ExposureLove Exposure

Comedy2008237 minsDirector: Sion Sono

Japanese cinema's enfant terrible, Sion Sono, unleashes this demented, whirlwind tale of cults, love, violence and perversion.

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The Happiness of the KatakurisThe Happiness of the Katakuris

Comedy2001113 minsDirector: Takashi Miike

The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead in Takashi Miike's deranged mix of grotesque stop-motion animation, surreal musical numbers, and zombie melodrama.

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For Love's SakeFor Love's Sake

Musical2012134 minsDirector: Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike's awesome riff on Romeo and Juliet, done as a pop musical stuffed with golden oldies from the 60s.

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Comedy2003130 minsDirector: Takashi Miike

Surreal and hilarious yakuza horror from the dependably unhinged Takashi Miike, concerning an assassin's increasingly strange quest to find a missing corpse.