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Foreign Film Fridays: 10 Japanese films you absolutely have to watch


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Japanese cinema has a rich cultural history, and transcends the barriers of language to have fans from all over the world. The Japan film industry has created many films that have gone down in history as some of the most interesting films of all time. Here are 10 films that come from Japan and that are an absolute must-watch. 

1. Battle Royale (2000)

This film is a classic of Japanese movie and an absolute must-watch. In the film, due to the unsustainable population in Japan, every year one class is chosen and taken to an island, where the students have to fight each other until there is only one survivor left. Surely Suzanne Collins watched this film before she wrote The Hunger Games trilogy, which is clearly inspired by this story. It is also Quentin Tarantino's favourite movie. 

2. Your Name (2016)

Your Name (Kimi no na wa) is one of the most successful Japanese films ever. In it, Taki and Mitsuha find out that when they’re sleeping, their bodies are swapped. They start communicating through notes to tell each other what they did while they were in the other’s body. They grow fond of one another but, when they try to meet in person, they discover that distance is not the only thing that separates them. The film is extremely gripping and funny, and the whole things is so beautifully drawn it's breathtaking. This movie is a true gem of anime, and there is no way you’re not going to absolutely love it.

3. Colorful (2010)

This film tells the story of a sinful spirit who is given the chance to prove that he is worthy of rebirth. To do it, he has to reincarnate in the body of a 14 year old student that has killed himself. This film is incredibly gripping and a true tear-jerker.

4. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

This heartbreaking film tells the story of a young boy and his little sister, who are trying to survive in Japan during World War II. It is one of the most famous Japanese films ever, and one of the most beautiful of those brought to us by Studio Ghibli.

5. Spirited Away (2001)

Another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, Spirited Away tells the story of a girl that accidentaly wanders into a world of gods, witches, and spirits. The film features so much Japanese folklore, as well as tackling some controversial topics. Both the animation and the narrative are brilliant, so it’s no surprise that it won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

6. The Flower We Saw That Day (2015)

The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana No Namae O Bokutachi Wa Shiranai, or simply AnoHana) is an adaptation of the anime TV show of the same name. It tells the story of five childhood friends that have grown apart after one of them, Menma, died tragically while they were playing in the woods. One day, the ghost of Menma comes back to ask Jintan, the leader of the group, to fulfill her childhood dream. Both the show and the film were incredibly successful and have become true classics of Japanese anime.

7. Tokyo Story (1953)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, Tokyo Story (or Tokyo Monogatari) is about the contrast between generations. In it, an aging couple travels to Tokyo to visit their grandchildren, who turn out to have little time for them.

8. Digimon: The Movie (2000)

If you were born in the late 80s or the 90s, Digimon was probably a huge part of your childhood. The movie follows the characters of the show while they try to save the world from a digital monster that’s trying to control the Internet. And it is just awesome.

9 Godzilla (1954)

An everlasting symbol of nuclear anxiety, Godzilla tells the story of a nuclear experiment gone wrong that results in the creation of a monster. The film has become an icon of Japanese pop culture, and the global cultural consciousness, and has been remade several times. The original is still the best, though!

10. Seven Samurai (1954)

And last but definitely not least, Seven Samurai, directed by none other than Akira Kurosawa, is an unquestionable must-watch if you like Japanese cinema. Set in 1586, the film tells the story of a village of farmers that hire seven samurai to fight the bandits that try to steal their crops. Countless films have been inspired by this masterpiece, including Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, and Lord of the Rings. This Kurosawa film is one of the most important in film history.

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