(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures, Magnolia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Certified Fresh Japanese Movies
Japan rose to almost immediate cinematic prominence with the one-two punch of Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 Tokyo Story and Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Seven Samurai, part of a creatively fertile post-war period that saw similar artistic strides in Italy, France, and Sweden. Ozu’s deeply human drama and Kurosawa’s action-genre big bang are both Certified Fresh, meaning they’ve maintained a 75% after at least 40 critics reviews. That’s the only Ozu movie on our guide to Japanese Certified Fresh films (though plenty of his movies are currently 100%, they don’t meet the minimum reviews threshold), while Kurosawa appears five more times with Rashomon, Ikiru, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, and Ran.
Others director featured in our guide to Certified Fresh films produced in Japan include Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), genre icon Takeshi Kitano (Zatoichi), Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno (Shin Godzilla), the impossibly prolific Takashi Miike (Audition, 13 Assassins), and Yojiro Takita, whose Departures took home the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 2008, a first for Japan.
Anime has been one of Japan’s greatest entertainment exports, with Hayao Miyazaki’s films (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke) at the forefront. Other prominent animation directors include Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, The Tale of Princess Kaguya), Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, Weathering With You), Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue), and Mamoru Hosada (Mirai).
Read on for our guide to 61 Certified Fresh Japanese movies! And let us know your favorite films from Japan (Certified Fresh or not!) in the comments.
Adjusted Score: 75.763%
Critics Consensus: Norwegian Wood is a poetic adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel that uses rapturous visuals to draw viewers in its exploration of young love and lasting death.
Tokyo, the late 1960s...Students around the world are uniting to overthrow the establishment and Toru Watanabe's personal life is similarly... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.758%
Critics Consensus: Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai adds an atypically restrained entry to the Takashi Miike filmography that loses little impact in favoring human drama over action.
From visionary auteur Takashi Miike comes the story of a mysterious samurai who arrives at the doorstep of his feudal... [More]
Adjusted Score: 80.473%
Critics Consensus: A whimsically engaging sex comedy.
Koji Yakusho -- who starred in Shoshi Imamura's Unagi, along with virtually every Japanese indie film of note in the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81.252%
Critics Consensus: Perfect Blue is overstylized, but its core mystery is always compelling, as are the visual theatrics.
Mima was a pop idol, worshipped by the masses until fashion dictated otherwise. In order to salvage her career, she... [More]
Adjusted Score: 80.648%
Critics Consensus: Outrage packs enough violent impact to satisfy - even if fans of writer-director Takeshi Kitano will find themselves familiar with many of its ingredients.
In a ruthless battle for power, several yakuza clans vie for the favor of their head family in the Japanese... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82.98%
Critics Consensus: If slow and predictable, Departures is a quiet, life affirming story.
Director Yojiro Takita and writer Kundo Koyama examine the rituals surrounding death in Japan with this tale of an out-of-work... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83.572%
Critics Consensus: Dragon Ball Super: Broly may seem like colorful chaos to newcomers, but for longtime fans, it represents this long-running franchise near its action-packed apogee.
A planet destroyed, a powerful race reduced to nothing. After the devastation of Planet Vegeta, three Saiyans were scattered among... [More]
Adjusted Score: 84.993%
Critics Consensus: An audacious, unsettling Japanese horror film from director Takashi Miike, Audition entertains as both a grisly shocker and a psychological drama.
Controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike creates this unnerving horror film about a widowed TV producer auditioning prospective wives. In his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 86.56%
Critics Consensus: Sweet Bean's deliberate pace demands patience, but the satisfying simplicity of its story -- and Kirin Kiki's absorbing performance -- yield an array of riches well worth the wait.
A lonely Japanese baker hires a 76-year-old woman to be his new assistant, and soon learns that she has a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.554%
Critics Consensus: Following its own brand of logic, Paprika is an eye-opening mind trip that is difficult to follow but never fails to dazzle.
A machine allows therapists to enter patients' dreams. When it's stolen, all hell breaks loose, and only a woman therapist... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.209%
Critics Consensus: A remarkable technical achievement, Metropolis' eye-popping visuals more than compensate for its relatively routine story.
Playing like a candy-colored hybrid of Fritz Lang's film of the same name and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Osamu Tezuka's... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.115%
Critics Consensus: Godzilla Resurgence offers a refreshingly low-fi -- and altogether entertaining -- return to the monster's classic creature-feature roots.
Make way for the ultimate homage to one of the most enduring legends of the big screen-Godzilla! The King of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.799%
Critics Consensus: Gentle and nostalgic, From Up on Poppy Hill is one of Studio Ghibli's sweeter efforts -- and if it doesn't push the boundaries of the genre, it remains as engagingly lovely as Ghibli fans have come to expect.
The setting is Yokohama in 1963, and the filmmakers lovingly bring to life the bustling seaside town, with its misty... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89.817%
Critics Consensus: The Third Murder makes satisfying work of its weighty themes, even if it doesn't quite stand with writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda's best efforts.
Leading attorney Shigemori takes on the defence of murder-robbery suspect Misumi who served jail time for another murder 30 years... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.279%
Critics Consensus: Blade of the Immortal highlights Takashi Miike's flair for balletic violence, making up what it lacks in strict originality with rich characterizations and kinetic thrills.
Samurai Manji has taken a lot of lives, both innocent and guilty, and now lives life in feudal Japan as... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.485%
Critics Consensus: Sensitively written, smartly directed, and powerfully performed, Like Father, Like Son uses familiar-seeming elements to tell a thought-provoking story.
Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a successful Tokyo architect who works long hours to provide for his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono)... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.278%
Critics Consensus: Colorful, rich with action and wonderfully choreographed, Takeshi Kitano takes on the classic samurai character with his own brand of cinematic flair.
A sightless samurai in 19th-century Japan helps two sisters get revenge on the gang that murdered their parents. Cult director... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92.987%
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely illustrated by master animator Miyazaki, Howl's Moving Castle will delight children with its fantastical story and touch the hearts and minds of older viewers as well.
Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director who wowed audiences worldwide with his award-winning film Spirited Away, brings another visually spectacular... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88.995%
Critics Consensus: Battle Royale is a controversial and violent parable of adolescence, heightening teenage melodrama with life-or-death stakes.
A long-unavailable underground hit that anticipated The Hunger Games novels by eight years, veteran director Fukasaku's epically violent, still-controversial and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89.944%
Critics Consensus: The Boy and the Beast combines familiar parts to create a gripping, beautifully animated adventure with inventive storytelling to match its visual appeal.
The latest feature film from award-winning Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children): When Kyuta, a young orphan living... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.826%
Critics Consensus: The Wind Rises is a fittingly bittersweet swan song for director Hayao Miyazaki.
In "The Wind Rises," Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92.139%
Critics Consensus: Mary and the Witch's Flower honors its creator's Studio Ghibli roots with a gentle, beautifully animated story whose simplicity is rounded out by its entrancing visuals.
From Academy Award (R)-nominee Hiromasa Yonebayashi - animator on Studio Ghibli masterpieces Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo, and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.853%
Critics Consensus: True Mothers uses an intractable conflict to explore the bonds of parenthood with director/co-writer Naomi Kawase's usual sensitivity and grace.
After a long and unsuccessful struggle to get pregnant, Satoko and her husband decide to adopt a child. Over the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.853%
Critics Consensus: My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising sends fans of the saga on an exhilarating adventure that ends the series on a beautifully animated high note.
The number one hero anime is back in theaters for a battle beyond anything fans have ever seen! Class 1-A... [More]
Adjusted Score: 93.677%
Critics Consensus: Belladonna of Sadness has more than enough brilliant visual artistry to keep audiences enraptured even as the film's narrative reach slightly exceeds its grasp.
This well-crafted Japanese animated feature adapts the novel Belladonna by Jules Michelet in a unique manner. The story concerns a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 91.363%
Critics Consensus: Akira is strikingly bloody and violent, but its phenomenal animation and sheer kinetic energy helped set the standard for modern anime.
One of the best-known examples of contemporary Japanese animation, this cyberpunk adventure takes place in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92.863%
Critics Consensus: The simplicity and colorful warmth of Mirai's animation is underscored by a story with surprising - and deeply affecting - depth and emotional resonance.
Fathom Events and GKIDS bring MIRAI, a daringly original story of love passed down through generations from acclaimed director Mamoru... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.339%
Critics Consensus: While not Miyazaki's best film, Ponyo is a visually stunning fairy tale that's a sweetly poetic treat for children of all ages.
Acclaimed anime master Hayao Miyazaki returns for his ninth animated feature with Ponyo, which deals with a friendship between a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.175%
Critics Consensus: When Marnie Was There is still blessed with enough visual and narrative beauty to recommend, even if it isn't quite as magical as Studio Ghibli's greatest works.
Sent from her foster home in the city one summer to a sleepy town by the sea in Hokkaido, Anna... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.401%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated and narratively engaging, Weathering with You further establishes writer-director Makoto Shinkai as a singularly talented filmmaker.
The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94.197%
Critics Consensus: The story of an aging movie actress' complicated personal saga unfolds in this sophisticated anime film that deftly blurs memory and make-believe into a meditation on the nature of cinema itself.
Chiyoko Fujiwara was once a major movie star who dominated the Japanese cinema world. Thirty years ago, she abruptly disappeared... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.12%
Critics Consensus: More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.
One of the longest-running series in film history began with Ishiro Honda's grim, black-and-white allegory for the devastation wrought on... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95.112%
Critics Consensus: Tragic and haunting, a beautifully heart-wrenching portrait of child abandonment.
Four siblings live happily with their mother in a small apartment in Tokyo. The children all have different fathers and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97.682%
Critics Consensus: With its epic story and breathtaking visuals, Princess Mononoke is a landmark in the world of animation.
Directed by renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki, this anime has broken a number of box office records in its native Japan.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97.62%
Critics Consensus: My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood.
This superbly animated children's tale is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan's most beloved animators. The story follows Satsuke... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.223%
Critics Consensus: Elliptical and deliberately paced yet steadily absorbing, I Wish presents a beguiling portrait of childhood that grounds its sweetly nostalgic glow with well-rounded characters and attention to detail.
Twelve-year-old Koichi lives with his mother and retired grandparents in Kagoshima, in the southern region of Kyushu, Japan. His younger... [More]
Adjusted Score: 96.28%
Critics Consensus: J-Horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa turns successfully to dramedy and gives a unique (and specifically national) perspective to the universal subjects of family and identity.
A typical household secretly teeters on the verge of collapse in this stark drama from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Businessman Ryuhei... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.706%
Critics Consensus: A career high point for Akira Kurosawa -- and one of the best film adaptations of a Shakespeare play.
This moody and violent drama is the Japanese version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Even translated into the Japanese language, the timeless... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99.029%
Critics Consensus: As effortlessly engaging as it is widely influential, Yojimbo represents Kurosawa at the peak of his powers -- and lays the groundwork for the modern American western.
Toshiro Mifune portrays a Samurai who finds himself in the middle of a feud-torn Japanese village. Neither side is particularly... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.729%
Critics Consensus: Takashi Miike's electric remake of Eiichi Kudo's 1963 period action film is a wild spectacle executed with killer, dizzying panache.
Cult director Takeshi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) delivers a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan's... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.32%
Critics Consensus: Visually lush, refreshingly free of family-friendly clatter, and anchored with soulful depth, The Secret World of Arrietty lives up to Studio Ghibli's reputation.
Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.826%
Critics Consensus: A stunning feat of modern animation, Ghost in the Shell offers a thoughtful, complex treat for anime fans, as well as a perfect introduction for viewers new to the medium.
In the year 2029, the world has become interconnected by a vast electronic network that permeates every aspect of life.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.776%
Critics Consensus: Akira Kurosawa's sprawling, epic take on King Lear should be required viewing for fans of westerns, war movies, or period films in general.
Ran is Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's reinterpretation of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The Lear counterpart is an elderly 16th-century warlord... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.281%
Critics Consensus: After the Storm crosses cultural lines to offer timeless observations about parental responsibilities, personal bonds, and the capacity for forgiveness.
Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) wastes the money he makes as a private... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.419%
Critics Consensus: First Love's blend of violence, comedy, and romance might seem disparate -- but for director Takashi Miike, it's just another wildly entertaining entry in a filmography full of them.
The film is the prolific auteur, Takashi Miike, at his most fun and anarchic, a noir-tinged yakuza film blending genres... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.392%
Critics Consensus: Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them.
Master animation director Hayao Miyazaki follows up on his record-breaking 1997 opus Princess Mononoke with this surreal Alice in Wonderland-like... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98.731%
Critics Consensus: Demon Slayer's visually stunning animation and masterful action set pieces serve a heartfelt plot that is sure to satisfy fans.
Falling forever into an endless dream... Tanjiro and the group have completed their rehabilitation training at the Butterfly Mansion, and... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.692%
Critics Consensus: Kiki's Delivery Service is a heartwarming, gorgeously-rendered tale of a young witch discovering her place in the world.
Veteran animator Hayao Miyazaki directs this buoyant children's adventure yarn about a young witch striking out on her own. At... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.678%
Critics Consensus: Ikiru is a well-acted and deeply moving humanist tale about a man facing his own mortality, one of legendary director Akira Kurosawa's most intimate films.
Akira Kurosawa's drama stars Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe, a government clerk who learns he has only months to live.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106.583%
Critics Consensus: One of legendary director Akira Kurosawa's most acclaimed films, Rashomon features an innovative narrative structure, brilliant acting, and a thoughtful exploration of reality versus perception.
This landmark Japanese masterpiece is Akira Kurosawa's cinematic examination of the subjective nature of truth. In feudal Japan, three men... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.28%
Critics Consensus: As beautifully animated as it is emotionally satisfying, Your Name adds another outstanding chapter to writer-director Makoto Shinkai's filmography.
From director Makoto Shinkai, the innovative mind behind Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, comes a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100.317%
Critics Consensus: Samurai epic as a touching drama.
Veteran filmmaker Yoji Yamada -- who is perhaps most famous for cranking out most of the 48 films of the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.976%
Critics Consensus: Beautiful, thoughtful, and engrossing, Jiro Dreams of Sushi should prove satisfying even for filmgoers who don't care for the cuisine.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world's greatest... [More]
Adjusted Score: 108.394%
Critics Consensus: Understated yet ultimately deeply affecting, Shoplifters adds another powerful chapter to director Hirokazu Koreeda's richly humanistic filmography.
After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold. At... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.487%
Critics Consensus: An achingly sad anti-war film, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli's most profoundly beautiful, haunting works.
Grave of the Fireflies opens on an evening in 1945, after Japan's surrender at the end of World War II;... [More]
Adjusted Score: 106.536%
Critics Consensus: Tokyo Story is a Yasujiro Ozu masterpiece whose rewarding complexity has lost none of its power more than half a century on.
Originally Tokyo Monogatari, Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story centers on a provincial Japanese family. The elderly parents and youngest daughter journey... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.805%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to director Juzo Itami's offbeat humor and sharp satirical edge, Tampopo is a funny, sexy, affectionate celebration of food and its broad influence on Japanese culture.
The tale of an enigmatic band of ramen ronin who guide the widow of a noodle shop owner on her... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.889%
Critics Consensus: Only Yesterday's long-delayed U.S. debut fills a frustrating gap for American Ghibli fans while offering further proof of the studio's incredibly consistent commitment to quality.
It's 1982, and Taeko (Daisy Ridley) is 27 years old, unmarried, and has lived her whole life in Tokyo. She... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.735%
Critics Consensus: Hirokazu Kore-eda's film may seem modest at first, but this family drama casts a delicate, entrancing spell.
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda writes and directs this family drama that unfolds over the course of a single summer day as... [More]
Adjusted Score: 111.631%
Critics Consensus: Arguably Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, The Seven Samurai is an epic adventure classic with an engrossing story, memorable characters, and stunning action sequences that make it one of the most influential films ever made.
Akira Kurosawa's epic tale concerns honor and duty during a time when the old traditional order is breaking down. The... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.221%
Critics Consensus: Boasting narrative depth, frank honesty, and exquisite visual beauty, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a modern animated treasure with timeless appeal.
Legendary Studio Ghibli cofounder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko) revisits Japan's most famous folktale in this gorgeous,... [More]