Best new Japanese Movies in 2018 & 2017 (Netflix & Cinema List)

The Vore's Film staff selects the top best Japanese movies of 2018 in cinema, DVD and Netflix. Are Hirokazu Koreeda, Naomi Kawase & Hitoshi Matsumoto Japan's biggest directors?

Ever since the days of Ozu and Kurosawa, Japan has a film tradition that differs in many ways from both Europe and America. Which is why Japan as a film country is so damn interesting. Check out our recent favorites!

Logically, a list of the best Japanese films of the 2010s is a must at every proper film site that takes itself seriously. Focusing on the more arty films (and there are plenty of experimental, innovative films out there) we have tried to frame Japanese cinema as best as we could, and as diversely as possible.

(Films not in the list, but still worth the mention: Miss Zombie (2013) by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Helter Skelter (2012) by Mika Ninagawa and I’m Flash (2012) by Toshiaki Toyoda.)

New Japanese movies in 2018

Top movies up for release in 2018


Best Japanese movies of 2017

Top rated 2017 Japanese movies

  • Hikari

    DIRECTOR: Naomi Kawase
    CAST: Masatoshi Nagase Ayame Misaki

    A young woman who works as a voice-over copywriter falls in love with a visually disabled photographer. Read more

    RATING: /100

    RELEASE DATE: May 27th, 2017

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  • Survival Family

    DIRECTOR: Shinobu Yaguchi
    CAST: Fumiyo Kohinata Eri Fukatsu Yuki Izumisawa

    When electricity stops working in Tokyo, the whole city is about to collapse. Yoshiyuki Suzuki and his family have only one option; leave the city in order to survive. Read more

    RATING: 75/100

    RELEASE DATE: February 11th, 2017

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Best Japanese movies on Netflix or DVD in 2018

2010's best rated Japanese movies out on DVD, Bluray or streaming on VOD (Netflix, Amazon).

  • Like Father, Like Son

    DIRECTOR: Hirokazu Koreeda
    CAST: Masaharu Fukuyama Machiko Ono Yôko Maki

    Director Koreeda is unparalleled in contemporary cinema when it comes to honestly portraying family life. In tone, he shifts from deeply tragic (Nobody Knows, 2004)) to light hearted (I Wish, 2011) but his significant style is always easy to recognize. Like Father, Like Son tells the gripping story of a businessman who finds out his son was swapped with another boy right after birth in the hospital. He is faced with a horrible dilemma; ‘adopt’ his true son or carrying on with the boy he raised as his own? Read more

    RATING: 78/100

    RELEASE DATE: September 29th, 2013

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  • Umi yori mo mada fukaku (After the Storm)

    DIRECTOR: Hirokazu Koreeda
    CAST: Hiroshi Abe Yôko Maki Satomi Kobayashi

    It's amazing how Japanese helmer Koreeda keeps up this pace. After The Storm is yet another beautiful, patient little gem. The films tells the gripping tale of once famous writer trying to connect with his estranged and reluctant son during a stormy summers night. Read more

    RATING: 76/100

    RELEASE DATE: May 21st, 2016

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  • The Kirishima Thing

    DIRECTOR: Daihachi Yoshida
    CAST: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Ai Hashimoto Suzuka Ohgo

    The Kirishima Thing is a very nice film to watch, and also at the same time a film only Japanese people seem to able to make. The film itself is not that different, but there’s something about the atmosphere that’s really strange here and makes this one of the best films set in high school I’ve seen. It opens very mysterious with a lot of scenes getting repeated from a couple of different viewpoints, as the film keeps following other characters in the same time period. The great opening of this film creates a feel reminiscent of Gus van Sant’s masterpiece Elephant (2003). If you saw Elephant, don’t be scared. I didn’t spoil anything, as The Kirishima Thing tells a whole different story. The film is an interesting depiction of hierarchies in high school, the roles adolescents are forced into and what happens when a leading figure stops accepting his. Read more

    RATING: 74/100

    RELEASE DATE: August 16th, 2018

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  • Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

    DIRECTOR: Sion Sono
    CAST: Jun Kunimura Fumi Nikaidou Shin'ichi Tsutsumi

    The best Japanese film of these past two years is directed by probably the most playful filmmaker in Japan, called Shion Sono (Suicide Circle (2001), Love Exposure (2008), Cold Fish (2010)). After a couple of rather disappointing films (Guilty of Romance (2011) and The Land of Hope (2012) were both not that special), Sono came back with, in my opinion, his best film up-to-date (I admit I haven’t seen all of his films, but I’m getting there). It’s just so much fun to watch this. As usual with the greatest of Sono’s films there’s so much happening, you cannot possibly keep track. You just have to go along for the ride and never try to look back or even take a pause to get some breath, there’s just no time. Read more

    RATING: 72/100

    RELEASE DATE: November 7th, 2014

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  • The Drudgery Train

    DIRECTOR: Nobuhiro Yamashita
    CAST: Mirai Moriyama Kengo Kôra Atsuko Maeda

    Probably the most conventional Japanese film in this list. So for people who are not that comfortable with both extremes of Japanese cinema, often defined as a cinema of on the one hand very crazy ‘fucked up’ films and on the other hand very contemplative and slow films wherein “nothing ever seems to happen”, The Drudgery Train should be a good recommendation. It’s a nice japanese drama with a cool main character and some good dialogue. Actually, there’s not much to complain about this film. So if you’re kind of bored with all the European or American faces you see all the time, you should try this one. Read more

    RATING: 69/100

    RELEASE DATE: July 14th, 2012

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  • Still The Water

    DIRECTOR: Naomi Kawase
    CAST: Nijirô Murakami Jun Yoshinaga Miyuki Matsuda

    Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water was met with mixed results at Cannes last year, which actually only made us more curious. Kawase’s herself stated that this film is her ‘masterpiece’. Kawase’s films balance at the edge of soulful contemplation and kitschy esotericism. Still the Water, a patiently told story about a blossoming love between to troubled teenagers at a remote Japanese island is both, but nonetheless a satisfying viewing experience altogether. Read more

    RATING: 68/100

    RELEASE DATE: April 18th, 2015

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  • Lesson of the Evil

    DIRECTOR: Takashi Miike
    CAST: Takayuki Yamada Shôta Sometani Fumi Nikaidou

    Famous Japanese director Takashi Miike (Audition (1999), Visitor Q (2001), Ichi The Killer (2001)) is perhaps the most prolific film director in the world. Being a filmmaker since 1991, the guy has already directed more than 70 films (on the other hand, you could count his screenwriting credits on one hand). And he’s still keeping himself busy, only in 2012 and 2013, Takashi Miike already directed no less than 5 films. But unfortunately, only Lesson of the Evil was actually worth something. For Love’s sake (2012) definitely had its moments, but overall it was way too kitschy for my taste. Ace Attorney (2012), a film adaptation of the video game of the same name, was way too childish, and Shield of Straw (2013) (incomprehensibly nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year) was nothing more than a dumb action movie with a very weak and ridiculous story. His latest, The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (2013), I haven’t seen yet, but sure will, as I think of Miike as one of the most interesting film directors out there. Although I’m not the greatest fan of his work. Lesson of the Evil is one of his most fun films I’ve seen, as it is one hell of a morally twisted movie. You start out thinking it’s very sweet and gentle, as it follows a good-natured teacher in high school. But later on, you notice the character of the teacher is not as kind as you initially thought, and the movie itself gradually begins to get more like its title suggested in the first place. Read more

    RATING: 67/100

    RELEASE DATE: June 26th, 2013

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  • Outrage Beyond

    DIRECTOR: Takeshi Kitano
    CAST: Toshiyuki Nishida Tomokazu Miura Takeshi Kitano

    Takeshi Kitano is, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest Japanese director of the last 20 years. His films like Sonatine (1993), Fireworks (1997) and Kikujiro (1999) are simply masterpieces. It is true, however, that Outrage (2010) and its sequel Outrage Beyond are nothing compared to his work in the 90s. Still, these two yakuza films are great pieces of entertainment. With its tight editing, sophisticated cinematography and its unpretentious and simple plot, you’re in for two quite nice films. And there’s even a third Outrage film on the way (Not that I’m really looking forward to a second sequel, but still). Just like Outrage, Outrage Beyond is mainly about people killing each other off until there’s almost no one left standing. All yakuza’s seem a bit paranoid and because of this the film’s portrayal of yakuza life feels a bit sad. It’s that melancholic feel to it that makes it better than your average kind of gangster movie and at the same time makes you remember you’re watching a Takeshi Kitano film. Read more

    RATING: 67/100

    RELEASE DATE: September 22nd, 2013

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