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Japanese Classics

From the samurai thrillers of Kurosawa to the beautiful melodramas of Naruse, this collection celebrates the extraordinary diversity of Japanese cinema.

While little known in the west until Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon won the Golden Lion at Venice in 1951, Japanese cinema is now regarded as one of the great canons of world film.

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RanRan

Drama1985154 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s visually spectacular epic transplants Shakespeare’s King Lear from Celtic Britain to feudal Japan.

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After LifeAfter Life

Drama1998119 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda

Koreeda's lyrical fantasy challenges the viewer to reflect on the experiences that most make life worth living.

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Tokyo StoryTokyo Story

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.

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Mifune : The Last SamuraiMifune : The Last Samurai

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.

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100 Years of Japanese Cinema100 Years of Japanese Cinema

Documentary199652 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima

Archive propels argument in this fascinating exploration of the social and cultural importance of Japan's film heritage.

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Tokyo-GaTokyo-Ga

Documentary198592 minsDirector: Wim Wenders

Profiling one of the great directors of World Cinema, Wim Wenders delivers this moving portrait of Japanese auteur Yasujiro Ozu.

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Seven SamuraiSeven Samurai

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.

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The Hidden FortressThe Hidden Fortress

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.

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Throne of BloodThrone of Blood

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.

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Good MorningGood Morning

Comedy195994 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu's cheerful comedy about the silliness of everyday chatter

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I Was Born, But...I Was Born, But...

Comedy193287 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu's silent masterpiece follows two brothers as they try to outwit the local bully.

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Equinox FlowerEquinox Flower

Comedy1958118 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu's deft comedy takes an ironic look at the decline of paternal authority.

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An Actor's RevengeAn Actor's Revenge

Period drama1963114 minsDirector: Kon Ichikawa

Kon Ichikawa's wildly melodramatic tale of a kabuki female impersonator who exacts a long-delayed revenge.

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Youth of the BeastYouth of the Beast

Crime196392 minsDirector: Seijun Suzuki

A mysterious loner plays off rival gangs against one another in Seijun Suzuki's outrageous, kaliedoscopic crime picture.

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Cruel Story of YouthCruel Story of Youth

Drama196097 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima

Nagisa Ôshima’s breakthrough portrait of alienated youth is a stinging castigation of an indolent, self-indulgent youth culture.

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When a Woman Ascends the StairsWhen a Woman Ascends the Stairs

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.

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Floating CloudsFloating Clouds

Drama1955123 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse

Mikio Naruse’s masterpiece about a wandering woman trying to find her identity amid the devastation of post-war Japan.

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Late ChrysanthemumsLate Chrysanthemums

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.

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AuditionAudition

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.

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Tetsuo: The Iron ManTetsuo: The Iron Man

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.

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Tetsuo II: Body HammerTetsuo II: Body Hammer

Horror199181 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto

Shinya Tsukamoto's sequel has the Iron Man transforming into a cyberkinetic gun when a gang of vicious skinheads kidnap his son.

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High and LowHigh and Low

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.

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Stray DogStray Dog

Crime1949122 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s masterful mix of film noir and police thriller set on the sweltering mean streets of occupied Tokyo.

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The Bad Sleep WellThe Bad Sleep Well

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.

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Late AutumnLate Autumn

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.

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Tokyo TwilightTokyo Twilight

Drama1957141 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Abandoned by their mother, sisters Akiko (Ineko Arima) and Takako (Setsuko Hara) live with their father Shukichi (Chishu Ryu). When Akiko falls into desperate trouble, she turns away from her family.

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The Flavour of Green Tea Over RiceThe Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice

Drama1952116 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu’s beautiful domestic drama is piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone in post-war Tokyo.

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KwaidanKwaidan

Horror1964183 minsDirector: Masaki Kobayashi

This stunningly beautiful anthology of Japanese ghost stories is one of the most meticulously crafted supernatural films ever made.

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Woman of the DunesWoman of the Dunes

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.

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OnibabaOnibaba

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.

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RashomonRashomon

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.

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IkiruIkiru

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.

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Dodes'Ka-DenDodes'Ka-Den

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.

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Late SpringLate Spring

Drama1949108 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu's influential masterpiece is a tender meditation on family politics, sacrifice and the status quo.

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Early SummerEarly Summer

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.

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An Autumn AfternoonAn Autumn Afternoon

Drama1962113 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu's elegiac final film charts the inevitable eclipse of older generations by irreverent youth.

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YojimboYojimbo

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.

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SanjuroSanjuro

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.

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Red BeardRed Beard

Drama1965180 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s episodic, poignant story of a 19th-century doctor (Toshiro Mifune) working in a clinic for the poor and his tumultuous friendship with young intern.

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Gate of HellGate of Hell

Drama195389 minsDirector: Teinosuke Kinugasa

Teinosuke Kinugasa’s sumptuous period drama astonished audiences with its dramatic force and spectacular colour cinematography.

More Japanese films on our Japan 2020 landing page