It seems like more and more people are opening up to watching movies and television in other languages. With extreme hits like Parasite and Roma as just a couple of examples, there are plenty of places to find something new and fantastic to watch.

In particular, Japanese movies are really underappreciated. While many of the country’s films are based on pre-existing manga and anime, as you’ll quickly notice on this list, there’s clearly a reason for that. When you already have an amazing story in your hands, why not adapt it for the screen? Because of the fantastic anime coming out of Japan, where the medium originated, there are many beautiful animated films to watch, while it appears that there is also an abundance of great thrillers and dramas.

With Netflix becoming more and more known for its international offerings — just look at Squid Gameand Money Heist— it should be no surprise to learn that the streamer has many amazing Japanese movies on offer. But which ones do you need to check out right now?

For more recommendations, check out our lists of the best movies on Netflix, best Korean movies on Netflix, and best Hindi movies on Netflix.

Editor’s note: This article was updated December 2022 to include Love Like the Falling Petals.

RELATED: ‘Alice in Borderland:’ the Differences Between the Manga and the Netflix Series


Bleach (2018)

via Warner Bros. Pictures

Run Time: 1 hr 48 min | Genre: Action Fantasy | Director: Shinsuke Sato

Cast: Sota Fukushi, Hana Sugisaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Erina Mano

Like with many other films on this list, Bleach is based on a popular pre-existing manga of the same name. A live-action adaptation, the 2018 film does justice to the original story for the fans, while also doing a fantastic job with worldbuilding and introducing the characters so that those who know nothing about Bleach can also enjoy it. The fantasy story follows Ichigo Kurosaki, played by Sota Fukushi, a teenage boy who sees ghosts. He lives a (relatively) normal life, until one day, when he accidentally becomes a Soul Reaper, or someone who fights off evil spirits and transfers those who pass over to the Soul Society. Basically, he’s a new Grim Reaper, given the powers by a woman with a katana named Rukio (Hana Sugisaki) during an attack. The movie is an example of a great live-action anime adaptation, and a truly enjoyable action film on its own.

Watch on Netflix

Love Like the Falling Petals (2022)

love like the falling petals
Image via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hrs 8 min | Genre: Romance | Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa

Cast: Kento Nakajima, Honoka Matsumoto

A beautifully haunting love story, Love Like the Falling Petals, is based on a novel by Keisuke Uyama. Love Like the Falling Petals is the story of a young couple who meets and falls in love before unexpected circumstances threaten to tear them apart. Through harsh realities, director Yoshihiro Fukagawa captures the grace and beauty of the main characters, as well as the vibrant world in which they live. Starring Kento Nakajima and Honoka Matsumoto, Love Like the Falling Petals explores the challenges that test the strength of love, like sickness and secrets. With a title so gracefully poetic, Love Like the Falling Petals is a splendid romance worth savoring. – Yael Tygiel

Watch on Netflix

Asakusa Kid (2021)

asakusa kid
Image via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 2 min | Genre: Biographical Drama | Director: Gekidan Hitori

Cast: Yo Oizumi, Yuya Yagira, Mugi Kadowaki

From writer/director Gekidan Hitori and based on the memoir of Takeshi Kitano comes a touching drama about a hilarious comedian. Taking place in Japan during the late 1960s, Senzaburo Fukami (Yo Oizumi) was a comedian and entertainer who ran a theater troupe out of the strip club he also owned. Inspired, young Takeshi Kitano (Yuya Yagira) drops out of school and begins apprenticing at the legend’s club, learning from the best how to capture the attention of an audience. As Takeshi’s star begins to rise, his mentor deteriorates. In a poignant story about mentorship, perseverance, and passion, Hitori provides a loving tribute to Takeshi’s mentor, allowing Oizumi and Yagira to truly shine. – Yael Tygiel

Watch on Netflix

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie (2021)

Image via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 40 min | Genre: Action Fantasy | Director: Chiaki Kon

Cast: Kotono Mitsuishi, Hisako Kanemoto, Rina Satō, Ami Koshimizu

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie is the latest installment in the never-ending Sailor Moon anime series. The two-part film came out in 2021 as a sequel and sort of fourth season of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series, which aired three seasons between 2014 and 2016. Both the series and the film are well-loved by the fans, with many appreciating how closely it follows the original manga. Whether you are already a Sailor Moon fan or not, Sailor Moon Eternal is a great anime movie, and perfect for anyone looking for an adventure-filled, emotional story of teenage girls who moonlight as superheroes guarding the solar system from evil. No biggie, right?

Watch on Netflix

A Family (2021)

via Netflix

Run Time: 1 hr 32 min | Genre: Drama | Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Kenichi Endō, Kojiro Hongo, Koichi Iwaki, Taishu Kase, Ryuji Katagiri

Family, also known by the original title Yakuza and The Family, is a character drama like no other. The movie focuses on a man named Kenji Yamamoto (Gô Ayano) through three periods of his life. Beginning in 1999, Kenji’s father’s death inevitably drives him to join the yakuza and become embroiled in violence, before moving to 2006, when Kenji is at the center of the gang. After an incident sends him to jail for more than a decade, the last section of the film brings the story to 2019. During this time, an older, weary Kenji attempts to reconnect with his fellow yakuza members and the woman he used to like, only to find the world a much different, anti-yakuza place. A Family takes a very unique approach to the presence of yakuza in Japan, portraying the shifting landscape of gangs in a country slowly transitioning away from them.

Watch on Netflix

Homunculus (2021)

Image via Avex Pictures

Run Time: 1 hr 55 min | Genre: Psychological Thriller | Director: Takashi Shimizu

Cast: Gô Ayano, Edward Bosco, Amber Lee Connors

Another movie based on a manga, Homunculus is a live-action thriller about a 34-year-old man down on his luck and with memory loss who volunteers to participate in a trepanation procedure to open his “third eye.” Directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also directed the original Japanese The Grudge movie, the movie stars Gô Ayano as Susumu Nakoshi, the male protagonist. After the procedure, Nakoshi begins to see visions of everyone’s “homunculus,” which is thought to be the manifestations of their personal stressors or desires, and he tries to help them overcome these issues. But all the while, Nakoshi is facing his own mysterious past, and once he regains his memories, he is forced to face the truth of what caused his amnesia. While fans of the original Homunculus didn’t really like the adaptation, it’s still a great Japanese thriller for those looking for a psychological mystery.

Watch on Netflix

A Whisker Away (2020)

Image via Netflix

Run Time: 1 hr 44 min | Genre: Fantasy Romance | Director: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama

Cast: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi

Directed by Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama, A Whisker Away is a 2020 animated film about a young girl named Miyo Sasaki, voiced by Mirai Shida, who finds a reprieve from her troubles of a new stepmother and a crush who doesn’t like her back by becoming a cat named Tarō through a magical Noh mask she is sold by a stranger. With her cat identity, Miyo gets closer to the boy she likes, finding out more about his anxieties and cares while also escaping her own. Eventually, she is convinced to give up her human life and become a cat completely, but will she regret it? A Whisker Away is a sweet, honest movie about friendship, family, and appreciating what you have, not what you don’t. Definitely one of the best anime films Netflix has to offer.

Watch on Netflix

Ride or Die (2021)

Image via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 22 min | Genre: Romance Drama | Director: Ryuichi Hiroki​​​​​​​

Cast: Kiko Mizuhara, Honami Sato, Yoko Maki, Shunsuke Tanaka, Anne Suzuki, Shinya Niiro, Tetsushi Tanaka, Setsuko Karasuma

If you are looking for an emotional drama with queer characters, Ride or Die is for you. Written by Nami Sakkawa and directed by Ryuichi Hiroki, the movie focuses on the relationship between a gay 20-something woman named Rei Nagasawa (Kiko Mizuhara) and her former classmate, Nanae Shinoda (Honami Sato), who is in an abusive marriage looking to escape. In order to show how much she cares for Nanae, Rei murders her husband, and the two run off together. As the women try to navigate this new stage of their life, Rei and Nanae are forced to face the complicated, intertwined emotions of their shared trauma and love for one another. The movie is based on the manga series Gunjō by Ching Nakamura and came out on Netflix in 2021.

Watch on Netflix

Mother (2020)

mother netflix
via Kadokawa Pictures

Run Time: 2 hr 6 min | Genre: Drama | Director: Tatsushi Ohmori

Cast: Masami Nagasawa, Daiken Okudaira, Sadao Abe, Kaho, Sarutoki Minagawa

Released in 2020 and directed by Tatsushi Omori, Mother is the story of a boy’s unbreakable love for his mother, no matter how much she puts him through. Daiken Okudaira plays the son, Shuhei (played by Sho Gunji as a young boy), while Masami Nagasawa plays Akiko Misumi, his mother. The story follows Shuhei from his early years being raised by his inattentive single mother, through to his teenage years. Despite constantly facing struggles, whether emotionally, economically, or physically, Shuhei is unable to separate himself from the mother he loves so much. Even when a social worker finds him and his younger sister, offering them a new, better life, he just can’t leave Akiko behind. While a lot of the film is focused on the son, Mother also puts a spotlight on Akiko’s issues, and how her mental illness is only amplified by the fact that she was never taught how to be a good mother or responsible human.

Watch on Netflix

37 Seconds (2019)

via Films Boutique

Run Time: 1 hr 55 min | Genre: Drama | Director: Hikari

Cast: Mei Kayama, Misuzu Kanno, Shunsuke Daitō, Makiko Watanabe

Starring Mei Kayama in her acting debut as Yuma Takada, 37 Seconds is an honest tale about a young woman with cerebral palsy (Kayama also has the condition) who has a clear talent for art and creating manga, but doesn’t exactly know how to move forward in her career. Part of what holds her back — at least according to a magazine editor she submits her work to — is her lack of romantic experience, specifically sex. Deciding to follow the editor’s advice, Yuma goes out into the world to gain more relationship and sexual experience, finding out a lot about herself in the process. 37 Seconds is a wholly original and moving story, and it’s a definite must-watch on Netflix.

Watch on Netflix

Mirai (2018)

Image via GKIDS

Run Time: 1 hr 38 min | Genre: Fantasy Adventure | Director/Writer: Mamoru Hosoda​​​​​​​

Cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso

The Academy Award-nominated and Annie Award-winning film Mirai is an animated fantasy adventure about a young boy’s journey throughout time to learn about his family, realizing just how special those around him really are. Specifically, the film focuses on the boy, a four-year-old named Kun (Moka Kamishiraishi), and his newborn sister, Mirai (Haru Kuroki), who appears from the future to help him learn from the experience. Mirai came out in 2018 and was absolutely adored by audiences. In fact, with its Oscar nomination, it is the first non-Studio Ghibli anime movie to be nominated, produced by Studio Chizu. Over the years, Mirai is destined to become an essential anime movie alongside other well-known hits like Spirited Away and Your Name.

Watch on Netflix

Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop (2021)

Image Via Netflix

Run Time: 1 hr 27 min | Genre: Romance Comedy Drama | Director: Kyōhei Ishiguro​​​​​​​

Cast: Ichikawa Somegorō, Hana Sugisaki, Megumi Han, Natsuki Hanae

A recent anime film release as well, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop came out in 2020 and is set in a rural Japanese town in which the social scene is centered around the local shopping mall. There, two awkward teenagers with low self-esteem meet, sparking a sweet relationship as they learn from one another and become more comfortable in themselves. The two main characters are Yui “Cherry” Sakura (Ichikawa Somegorō VIII), a boy who tends to only express his feelings through haikus, and Yuki, also known as “Smile,” a bright influencer who constantly hides her braces behind a mask. Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop also features a lot of intriguing supporting characters, and it’s a quintessential slice-of-life style story.

Watch on Netflix

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final and Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021)


Run Time: 2 hr 18 min / 2 hr 17 min | Genre: Action | Director: Keishi Ōtomo

Cast: Takeru Satoh, Kasumi Arimura, Issey Takahashi, Nijirō Murakami

These two films — Rurouni Kenshin: The Final and Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning — are actually the fourth and fifth movies in a live-action series based on the popular Rurouni Kenshin manga written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The franchise is all about a deadly samurai named Himura Kenshin, played by Takeru Satoh, who decides to change and be a protector of the innocent, never to kill a person ever again. It seems like Netflix used to host the whole series, but right now the streaming platform only has the final chapter of the main character’s story, as well as the most recent movie, which happens to be a prequel. Both films were released around the same time in 2021, and despite being later movies in a franchise, they are still fantastic, action-packed films. Even if you don’t want to find and watch the first three movies, these are still great picks worthy of checking out.

Watch on Netflix

We Couldn’t Become Adults (2021)

we coudnt become adults netflix
via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 4 min | Genre: Romance Drama | Director: Yoshihiro Mori​​​​​​​

Cast: Mirai Moriyama, Sairi Ito, Masahiro Higashide, Sumire, Atsushi Shinohara

Based on the popular novel of the same name by Japanese author Moegara, We Couldn’t Become Adults is about a 40-something man named Makoto Sato (Mirai Moriyama) who is looking back at various stages of his life, from the present to all the way back in 1995. At a low point in his life with no real meaning to what he’s doing, Sato revisits all of his past experiences, no matter how inconsequential they seem, to see how they brought him to where he is in the present. We Couldn’t Become Adults is more of a subtle, introspective romantic drama, perfect for those who like movies like Before Sunrise or Chungking Express.

Watch on Netflix

Flavors of Youth (2018)


Run Time: 1 hr 15 min | Genre: Romance Drama | Director: Li Haoling, Jiaoshou Yi Xiaoxing, Yoshitaka Takeuchi

Cast: Taito Ban, Mariya Ise, Takeo Otsuka, Ikumi Hasegawa, Minako Kotobuki

Flavors of Youth is a Japanese-Chinese co-production anthology drama released in 2018, which features three stories: “The Rice Noodles,” “A Little Fashion Show,” and “Love in Shanghai.” The first tale of the anime is about a man and his relationship with his grandmother told through their love of San Xian noodles, while the second story follows a successful model as she loses confidence in her career and personal talent, leading those around her to come together in support. For the third chapter, this is about a young couple who fall in love through cassette tape messages they send one another, only for miscommunication to drive them apart. Like other more grounded, reality-based anime, Flavors of Youth is beautiful and extremely poignant, portraying intimate narratives that explore relatable aspects of the human experience.

Watch on Netflix

Hikaru Utada: Laughter in the Dark (2019)

Hikaru Utada
via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 21 min | Genre: Concert

Going in a completely different direction, Hikaru Utada: Laughter in the Dark is the tour concert of Japanese-American singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru. The filmed version available on Netflix captures the final performance of the pop star’s fourth tour of Japan, and it’s genuinely one of the best concert films out there. At the time of the tour, in 2018, Utada was celebrating 20 years since she first debuted on the Japanese music scene. If you are interested in exploring new music or love concert movies, Hikaru Utada: Laughter in the Dark, is a fascinating watch. The concert includes the performance of songs from her seventh Japanese album, Hatsukoi, as well as many of her past hits. The movie also got fantastic reviews, so why not risk it and watch?

Watch on Netflix

via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 15 min | Genre: Action | Director: Fumihiko Sori

Cast: Ryosuke Yamada, Tsubasa Honda, Dean Fujioka, Ryuta Sato

The 2017 live-action fantasy action film Fullmetal Alchemist is an adaptation of the fan-favorite manga and anime. Written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa, the original manga was released from 2001 to 2010, with 27 volumes total. The narrative follows two brothers, Edward Elric (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse Elric (Atomu Mizuishi), whose loyal relationship keeps them alive (literally). At the beginning of the movie, the two brothers attempt a prohibited form of magic, and it doesn’t go well. As a result of the experiment, Alphonse is transported to the Gate of Truth (basically the afterlife), and so in order to save him, Edward binds Alphonse’s soul to a big suit of armor, sacrificing an arm in the process. Together again, the brothers embark on a new journey to develop their alchemy, widely studied in this world, and find the legendary philosopher’s stone so that they might return to their normal states. The Fullmetal Alchemist movie does a good job of staying faithful to the original story, although some fans were a little disappointed. Despite that, it’s still a very fun and action-packed story with an emotional relationship at the center.

Watch on Netflix

The Forest of Love (2019)

via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 31 min | Genre: Thriller Crime | Director/Writer: Sion Sono

Cast: Kippei Shiina, Kyoko Hinami, Shinnosuke Mitsushima

First, to get this warning out of the way, The Forest of Love is not for the faint of heart, or anyone who can’t handle extreme violence on screen. The film, which is directed by Sion Sono, came out in 2019 and is based on a brutal Japanese con man, torturer, and serial killer who committed a series his crimes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. To put it bluntly, this man committed some of the most horrific crimes I’ve ever read about, and I’m a major fan of true crime. In The Forest of Love, Sono presents a fictional story inspired by the original crimes about a group of students who decide to make an amateur film with a stranger they meet. But soon enough, the strange man is in total control of them, pushing them to do whatever he wants, even murder. If you can handle the violence and dark themes, The Forest of Love is a true psychological crime thriller that explores how people are able to so deftly manipulate each other to the extreme, with amazing performances from the main cast.

Watch on Netflix

The Fable (2019)

the fable
via Netflix

Run Time: 2 hr 3 min | Genre: Action Comedy | Director: Kan Eguchi​​​​​​​

Cast: Fumino Kimura, Yurina Hirate, Mizuki Yamamoto, Junichi Okada

The Fable is a live-action adaptation of the manga series of the same name by Katsuhisa Minami, all about a well-known, capable assassin, played by Junichi Okada, who is known in the business as Fable. After another successful assassination mission, Fable’s employer tells him that he has to take an entire year off and relax in Osaka with his handler (Fumino Kimura). Seems simple enough, right? The only catch is that Fable is told that if he kills anyone over the course of the one year, he will die. So at the beginning of The Fable, the eponymous assassin adopts the identity Akira Sato, while his handler poses as his sister, Yoko Sato. As you might expect, staying out of trouble isn’t so easy, but Akira does his best to keep him hands clean, even when Yoko is put in deadly danger. The Fable was apparently a huge success, so much so that a sequel, called The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill, came out in 2021.

Watch on Netflix

Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll (2019) and Violet Evergarden: The Movie (2020)

Image via FUNimation Films

Run Time: 1 hr 31 min / 2 hr 20 min | Genre: Fantasy Drama | Director: Haruka Fujita / Taichi Ishidate​​​​​​​

Cast: Yui Ishikawa, Minako Kotobuki, Aoi Yūki, Takehito Koyasu, Kouki Uchiyama

Netflix happens to have both films from the Violet Evergarden anime series —Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll and Violet Evergarden: The Movie — which came out in 2019 and 2020, respectively. If you aren’t already familiar with the story of Violet Evergarden, it focuses on the titular character (Yui Ishikawa), a young woman who returns to normal life after working as a highly-skilled soldier, feeling lost and without purpose. She then decides to try to become an Auto Memory Dolls, or someone employed to write letters for people who are unable to, in order to bring the client’s thoughts to paper in an illustrious way. After some trial and error, Violet becomes quite good at her new career, finding happiness and connection through the experience. The first film follows Violet as she goes on an assignment and attempts to reconnect sisters through a letter, while the second film is a final chapter for Violet and her love, Gilbert Bougainvillea (Daisuke Namikawa), who are separated by the ongoing war. Both the anime and the accompanying films are beautiful, touching stories, really focusing on human connection over anything else, and you can definitely jump right in and watch the movies before the show.

Watch on Netflix

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :