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intoFilm

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For those of you who are new to or interested in Japanese film, here's a list of 30 classics to whet your appetite. The films listed are in no way to be consider all inclusive of "great" Japanese movies, nor are they enumerated in any particular order to show preference, or to give a ranking of best Japanese films. It is simply a list to give beginning guidance, or to suggest what one might consider viewing if interested in classic Japanese film. Of course, no list is definitive, or can be, and this enumeration, limited to 30 films as it is, will doubtless leave off many a favorite.

The "classic" period of Japanese film making is generally regarded as falling within Japan's postwar period, from 1945 to the mid-1960s. Many of the films listed are family or societal dramas, with the others being samurai tales, filmnoir, or those that resist easy categorization.

Most of the films (but not all) are available on DVD with English subtitles. A few can be expected to become available on DVD in the not too distant future, while others can be found on VCR. If you really want to see the vast majority, some legwork is probably in order to track the more obscure films down. Make sure, too, to stay abreast of touring Japanese film retrospectives.


1. Floating Weeds - Yasujiro Ozu, dir. (1959)
2. Yojimbo - Akira Kurosawa, dir. (1961)
3. Cruel Story of Youth - Nagisa Oshima, dir. (1960)
4. Late Spring - Ozu (1949)
5. Ugetsu - Kenji Mizoguchi, dir. (1953)
6. Seven Samurai - Kurosawa (1954)
7. Pigs and Battleships - Shohei Imamura, dir. (1961)
8. When A Woman Ascends the Stairs - Mikio Naruse, dir. (1960)
9. Tokyo Story - Ozu (1953)
10. The Burmese Harp - Kon Ichikawa, dir. (1956)
11. High and Low - Kurosawa (1963)
12. The Human Condition - Masaki Kobayashi, dir. (1959, 1959, 1961)
13. Twenty-Four Eyes - Keisuke Kinoshita, dir. (1954)
14. Rashomon - Kurosawa (1950)
15. Where Chimney's are Seen - Heinosuke Gosho, dir. (1953)
16. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums - Mizoguchi (1939) [prewar, but, hey, a great film!]
17. A Geisha - Mizoguchi (1953)
18. The Sun's Burial - Oshima (1960)
19. Throne of Blood - Kurosawa (1957)
20. Intentions of Murder - Imamura (1964)
21. Repast - Naruse (1951)
22. Harakiri - Kobayashi (1962)
23. The Ball at the Anjo House - Kozabura Yoshimura, dir. (1947)
24. Early Summer - Ozu (1951)
25. Stray Dog - Kurosawa (1949)
26. Crazed Fruit - Ko Nakahira (1956)
27. Woman in the Dunes - Hiroshi Teshigahara, dir. (1964) [yes, early "new wave" but classic, too]
28. Floating Clouds - Naruse (1955)
29. The Insect Woman - Imamura (1963)
30. Sansho the Bailiff - Mizoguchi (1954)
 

Pachipro

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I have seen most of them and they're an excellent glimpse into Japanese life and culture.Turner Classic Movies (TCM) recently showed 24 hrs of Kurosawa classics.

Are there any classics from the late 60's, 70's or 80's or did Japan's movie making skill suddenly change and there are no classics?
 
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MCS

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a good 70's japanese film is one called 'Lady snowblood' (73) ...it's such a classic.

the main song of the movie is also used in tarantino's kill bill and the story is also inspired by this movie.... i like Lady snowblood much more than kill bill though, the movie is a bit dull trying to be as baddass as pulp fiction or reservoir dogs but lacks a bit. well that's what i think.

they also refer to 'Shogun assassin' ...which is also a similar movie.


other movies from the 70's worth watching :

ai no corrida/in the realm of senses (a bit explicit, but good movie from 1976)
himiko
tampopo (80's)
guinea pig movies though not for those with a weak stomach


those are some of my favs from the 70's and 80's but most movies i like most are usually from the 90's and current, i really like films like tokyo sora, 19, nobody knows, su ki da...they are so weird...no real story or plot yet they totally demand your attention from start to end...so many details.



is gojira from 1957 in your list btw ? i think that's a pretty important movie, so much later godzilla is still popular. hahah
 

Pachipro

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Yes It was a good one if not a bit odd with the food sex and such.
 

ArmandV

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is gojira from 1957 in your list btw ? i think that's a pretty important movie, so much later godzilla is still popular. hahah
Godzilla was produced in 1954 and released the same year.

The Americanized Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released in 1956 with Raymond Burr.
 

MCS

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Godzilla was produced in 1954 and released the same year.
The Americanized Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released in 1956 with Raymond Burr.

you are totally right, i was talking about the first gojira of 1954 ! like that one much more.
 

ArmandV

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you are totally right, i was talking about the first gojira of 1954 ! like that one much more.
I agree, the 1954 Ishiro Honda original is by far the best, but if it wasn't for the Americanized version, we probably wouldn't be talking about Godzilla today. It was the American version that was distributed around the world that exposed people to kaiju.
 

MCS

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I agree, the 1954 Ishiro Honda original is by far the best, but if it wasn't for the Americanized version, we probably wouldn't be talking about Godzilla today. It was the American version that was distributed around the world that exposed people to kaiju.

i'm sure it helped people outside of japan discovering the orginal gojira like with so many remakes, people who like those will look a bit further and discover the originals but there's so many gojira movies, gojira vs. x etc that it must've been quite a succes from the start.

look at tarantino's 'kill bill' ...shogun assassin but even more; lady snowblood, were huuuge inspirations and i guess maybe younger people saw kill bill first and then checked out the japanese films but i think the older viewers and the filmgeeks let out a few 'sighs' when they saw the first trailers of the 'kill bill' hype. ;-) not that a remake or referring to other films in your movie instantly means 'less quality' though.
i guess it's a good thing with a bad thing, many purists will shed some tears with the ring, kill bill, godzilla etc but it also brings movies that might be 'missed' by the younger public some more succes.

not just with japanese movies, that one portuguese zombie flick 'Rec' .. the remake (Quarantine) was so shiiiiit.
 

Astroboy

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"The Yellow Handkerchief" is my most favorite.
The Yellow Handkerchief is a 1977 Japanese film directed by Yoji Yamada. It was the winner of the first Best Picture award at the Japan Academy Prize.


I like all the films directed by Yoji Yamada.
 

intoFilm

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I have seen most of them and they're an excellent glimpse into Japanese life and culture.Turner Classic Movies (TCM) recently showed 24 hrs of Kurosawa classics.
Are there any classics from the late 60's, 70's or 80's or did Japan's movie making skill suddenly change and there are no classics?
You bring up a good point regarding the use of the cinematic term "classics." Indeed, there are many wonderful Japanese films--classics, so to speak--from the 70s, 80s, and up to the present. But generally, the term is often used for movies that have stood a lengthly test of time, and which continue to elicit considerable interest from viewers.

The apex of Japanese filmmaking, according to Donald Richie, was the year 1960. After 1964, however, the industry in Japan began a steady decline, primarily due to the profound effect of television.

It was in the 1960s that the experimental, innovative Japanese cinematic "new wave" movement, lead by directors such as Nagisa Oshima, Yoshishige Yoshida, Susumu Hani, and Masahiro Shinoda, got underway. The eclectic output from these directors was generally welcomed by critics, but the viewing public was much less receptive, further contracting an already shrinking audience for Japanese movies. While this was occurring, some of the major studios began to explore new film genres, such as low budget yakuza flicks, roman-porno, and horror, i.e. Godzilla.

When the mid-1970s arrived, the Japanese film industry was a nothing less than just a shadow of what it once was just 10 or 15 years earlier. The '80s saw the beginnings of a rebound, a rebirth so to say, but it's been only since the 1990s that Japanese filmmaking gained renewed traction in the cinematic world, due especially to the world-wide hit Shall We Dance.

The list of Golden Era classics above was put together with the intention of giving those interested in classic Japanese cinema a place to begin. The films of Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Ozu tend to be more palatable to an audience of viewers accustomed to a regular diet of Hollywood escapism and European art house. There are indeed many wonderful contemporary Japanese movies, and list of them would be useful to give potential viewers some guidance as well.

As for the list above, any suggestions for additions or subtractions? Comments?
 
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tasida

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I'm always looking for more movies to watch. Thanks for this great list!
 

jayjay1

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A very worthy list but imsure it came as no suprise that you would queries as to those who didnt make your 30must see -i wouldhave picked many of the same movies ,infact manyof these could make its way into any top30list -i do have a few gripes the biggest being the exclusion of Kobayashi's Kwaidan -which imo is 1 of the finest movies ever made anywhere i,or Watanabe's chushingaru (1958),Inagaki's version of same story(1962) and last but not least the ghost of yotsuya(1959) any of these shouldve made thislist of 30...
 

caster51

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1. Floating Weeds - Yasujiro Ozu, dir. (1959)
2. Yojimbo - Akira Kurosawa, dir. (1961)
3. Cruel Story of Youth - Nagisa Oshima, dir. (1960)
4. Late Spring - Ozu (1949)
5. Ugetsu - Kenji Mizoguchi, dir. (1953)
6. Seven Samurai - Kurosawa (1954)
7. Pigs and Battleships - Shohei Imamura, dir. (1961)
8. When A Woman Ascends the Stairs - Mikio Naruse, dir. (1960)
9. Tokyo Story - Ozu (1953)
10. The Burmese Harp - Kon Ichikawa, dir. (1956)
11. High and Low - Kurosawa (1963)
12. The Human Condition - Masaki Kobayashi, dir. (1959, 1959, 1961)
13. Twenty-Four Eyes - Keisuke Kinoshita, dir. (1954)14. Rashomon - Kurosawa (1950)
15. Where Chimney's are Seen - Heinosuke Gosho, dir. (1953)
16. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums - Mizoguchi (1939) [prewar, but, hey, a great film!]
17. A Geisha - Mizoguchi (1953)
18. The Sun's Burial - Oshima (1960)
19. Throne of Blood - Kurosawa (1957)
20. Intentions of Murder - Imamura (1964)
21. Repast - Naruse (1951)
22. Harakiri - Kobayashi (1962)
23. The Ball at the Anjo House - Kozabura Yoshimura, dir. (1947)
24. Early Summer - Ozu (1951)
25. Stray Dog - Kurosawa (1949)
26. Crazed Fruit - Ko Nakahira (1956)
27. Woman in the Dunes - Hiroshi Teshigahara, dir. (1964) [yes, early "new wave" but classic, too]
28. Floating Clouds - Naruse (1955)
29. The Insect Woman - Imamura (1963)
30. Sansho the Bailiff - Mizoguchi (1954)
[youtube]zgLNUdyXcjo&NR[/youtube]
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caster51

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Harakiri



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caster51

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children in the wind 1937


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caster51

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Children of Hiroshimaツ 1953


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caster51

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Mr.Thank you

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thomas121

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1. Floating Weeds - Yasujiro Ozu, dir. (1959)
2. Yojimbo - Akira Kurosawa, dir. (1961)
3. Cruel Story of Youth - Nagisa Oshima, dir. (1960)
4. Late Spring - Ozu (1949)
5. Ugetsu - Kenji Mizoguchi, dir. (1953)
6. Seven Samurai - Kurosawa (1954)
7. Pigs and Battleships - Shohei Imamura, dir. (1961)
8. When A Woman Ascends the Stairs - Mikio Naruse, dir. (1960)
9. Tokyo Story - Ozu (1953)
10. The Burmese Harp - Kon Ichikawa, dir. (1956)
11. High and Low - Kurosawa (1963)
12. The Human Condition - Masaki Kobayashi, dir. (1959, 1959, 1961)
13. Twenty-Four Eyes - Keisuke Kinoshita, dir. (1954)
14. Rashomon - Kurosawa (1950)
15. Where Chimney's are Seen - Heinosuke Gosho, dir. (1953)
16. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums - Mizoguchi (1939) [prewar, but, hey, a great film!]
17. A Geisha - Mizoguchi (1953)
18. The Sun's Burial - Oshima (1960)
19. Throne of Blood - Kurosawa (1957)
20. Intentions of Murder - Imamura (1964)
21. Repast - Naruse (1951)
22. Harakiri - Kobayashi (1962)
23. The Ball at the Anjo House - Kozabura Yoshimura, dir. (1947)
24. Early Summer - Ozu (1951)
25. Stray Dog - Kurosawa (1949)
26. Crazed Fruit - Ko Nakahira (1956)
27. Woman in the Dunes - Hiroshi Teshigahara, dir. (1964) [yes, early "new wave" but classic, too]
28. Floating Clouds - Naruse (1955)
29. The Insect Woman - Imamura (1963)
30. Sansho the Bailiff - Mizoguchi (1954)
These both are amazing.
 

caster51

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Yujiro Ishihara (石原 裕次郎 Ishihara Yūjirō?, December 28, 1934–July 17, 1987) was a Japanese actor and singer born in Kobe. His elder brother, Shintaro Ishihara, is an author, politician, and the current Governor of Tokyo....

Crazed Fruit (狂った果実 Kurutta kajitsu?) is a 1956 Japanese Sun Tribe film directed by Kō Nakahira. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Shintaro Ishihara.

 
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caster51

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Japanese film retrospectives.
26. Crazed Fruit - Ko Nakahira (1956)
27. Woman in the Dunes - Hiroshi Teshigahara, dir. (1964) [yes, early "new wave" but classic, too]
)

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caster51

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Japanese girls in port(yokohama) in 1933



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caster51

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Humanity and Paper Balloons (人情紙風船, Ninjō kami fūsen?) is 1937 black and white film directed by Sadao Yamanaka. It is his last film. Largely unknown outside of Japan until recent years, the film has been hailed by critics (Tadao Sato, Donald Richie), and a number of other Japanese filmmakers (Akira Kurosawa among them) as one of the most influential examples of jidaigeki, or Japanese period films. The story is set in the 18th century, and dramatically depicts the struggles and schemes of Unno, a ronin, or masterless samurai in feudal Japan.

Yamanaka was drafted into the Japanese army, entering the service on the day Humanity and Paper Balloons was released theatrically, and died during the war at the age of 28, while stationed in Manchuria. With the exception of this film, and 2 others, Yamanaka's 30+ films were lost after the war.



 
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