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.
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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.
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.
Drama1960128 minsDirector: Yasujiro 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.
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.
Drama2018120 minsDirector: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Do we ever really get over our first love? Asako is about to find out, in this quirky romantic drama with a dash of the uncanny.
Drama2015318 minsDirector: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
A group of thirty-something women find their friendship tested by their differing attitudes to work, love and sex in the city of Kobe, Japan.
Documentary199652 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima
Archive propels argument in this fascinating exploration of the social and cultural importance of Japan's film heritage.
Documentary198592 minsDirector: Wim Wenders
Profiling one of the great directors of World Cinema, Wim Wenders delivers this moving portrait of Japanese auteur Yasujiro Ozu.
Documentary201680 minsDirector: Steven Okazaki
The on and off-screen character of Toshiro Mifune, Japan’s first international movie star, is explored in this illuminating documentary exploring the life and legacy of this mercurial icon.
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.
Crime196786 minsDirector: Atsushi Yamatoya
A hitman is hired to track down a kidnapped girl in this hallucinatory mix of erotica and yakuza violence.
Comedy2008237 minsDirector: Sion Sono
Japanese cinema's enfant terrible, Sion Sono, unleashes this demented, whirlwind tale of cults, love, violence and perversion.
Drama1970106 minsDirector: Toshio Matsumoto
Toshio Matsumoto's kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most intoxicating films of the 60s.
Documentary1987121 minsDirector: Kazuo Hara
Kazuo Hara’s infamous and audacious documentary follows Kenzo Okuzaki, an ageing Japanese WWII veteran on a mission to uncover the truth about atrocities committed during the war in the Pacific.
Animation & Artists Moving Image192668 minsDirector: Teinosuke Kinugasa
A haunting, silent, modernist classic, visibly influenced by The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
Drama1955123 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse
Mikio Naruse’s masterpiece about a wandering woman trying to find her identity amid the devastation of post-war Japan.
1960111 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse
Mikio Naruse’s best-known film is a masterful study of Ginza hostess struggling under constant pressures to compromise her honour.
Drama1954101 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse
The story of four ageing geishas as they struggle to make ends meet in post-war Japan, from acclaimed filmmaker Mikio Naruse.
Drama2017102 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase
A passionate writer of film versions for the visually impaired meets an older photographer who is slowly losing his eyesight, in this luminous love story from Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean).
Drama200797 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase
A beautiful and contemplative portrait of grief from Cannes-winning filmmaker Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean, Still the Water).
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.
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.
Film noir194898 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Part gangster film, part melodrama and part social critique, Akira Kurosawa's first critical success follows the troubled friendship between a disillusioned doctor and a young yakuza.
Drama196994 minsDirector: Teruo Ishii
Teruo Ishii's landmark ‘ero-guro’ film tells three stories of moral sickness set during Japan’s prosperous Genroku era.
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
Drama200361 minsDirector: Daisuke Gotô
In this bizarre erotic family drama, a young widow pretends to be a cow for her senile father-in-law, who's a farmer.
Drama1951125 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu's wonderfully poised ensemble work presents the intricacies and contradictions of three generations who have lived through the end of an era and are looking towards the new.
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.
Horror199796 minsDirector: Hideo Nakata
A journalist sets out to uncover in urban legend about a supposedly cursed videotape, in Hideo Nakata's chilling and highly influential tale of technological terror.
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.
Drama1957110 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
A master of period-drama, Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) recasts Macbeth as a Japanese warlord in one of the greatest Shakespearean adaptations.
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.
Crime1963143 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s procedural crime masterpiece, from Ed McBain’s gritty novel, follows an industrialist who faces an agonising choice as a result of a botched kidnapping by ruthless criminals.
Drama1995109 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda
Koreeda’s first fiction feature is an exquisite meditation on loss, loneliness, uncertainty, and coming to terms with the past.
Horror1999115 minsDirector: Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike burst to international prominence with this deeply disturbing tale of a deadly young woman who turns the tables on her middle-aged suitor.
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.
Fantasy198867 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto
Shinya Tsukamoto's wild cyberpunk tale of a businessman's agonising transformation into a walking scrap heap is a jaggedly dehumanised vision of the future.
Drama1952116 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu’s beautiful domestic drama is piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone in post-war Tokyo.
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.
Drama1962113 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu's elegiac final film charts the inevitable eclipse of older generations by irreverent youth.
Horror1964183 minsDirector: Masaki Kobayashi
This stunningly beautiful anthology of Japanese ghost stories is one of the most meticulously crafted supernatural films ever made.
Period drama1964102 minsDirector: Kaneto Shindo
Stylish, symbolic and erotically charged Japanese horror in which the fortunes of a murderous mother-and-daughter team are upended by a strangely masked samurai.
Animation & Artists Moving Image1964147 minsDirector: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Hiroshi Teshigahara's mystifying, serene and provocative fable about an entomologist who becomes trapped in a young widow’s desert shack.
Crime1933100 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
A seemingly ordinary typist moonlights as a fun-loving gangster's moll in one of Ozu's most enduring silent films.
Comedy1929103 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu’s earliest surviving film follows students Watanabe and Yamamoto as they unknowingly compete for the same girl.
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.
Crime1989103 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano
In his brutal directorial debut, ‘Beat' Takeshi Kitano plays a renegade cop who frequently resorts to violence and unethical methods to get results.
Crime199097 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano
A young baseball player becomes mixed up with a psychotic yakuza, in Takeshi Kitano's hilarious and twisted crime tale.
Martial arts1958139 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s thrilling mix of fairy story and samurai movie - a story of rival clans, hidden gold and a princess in distress - was famously a key inspiration for George Lucas’ Star Wars.
Crime196296 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
In Akira Kurosawa's comedy of manners, a ronin runs rings around nine young, clean-cut samurai while cleaning up a spot of corruption in local government.
Crime1961111 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Kurosawa’s classic about a drifting samurai who plays two gangs off against each other, famously remade as A Fistful of Dollars.
Period drama1963114 minsDirector: Kon Ichikawa
Kon Ichikawa's wildly melodramatic tale of a kabuki female impersonator who exacts a long-delayed revenge.