The 10 Best Japanese Movies on Netflix (Learn Japanese with Movies!)
Learning Japanese and wondering, “Are there any Japanese movies on Netflix?” Great question! There are actually a lot of good Japanese movies on Netflix to choose from!
Table of contents
- Japanese Movies
- Ruroni Kenshin: The Final
- Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro
- In This Corner of the World
- A Family
- Full Metal Alchemist
- The Door Into Summer
- How Do I Find Japanese Movies on Netflix?
- How Can I Watch Netflix in Japanese?
- How Can I Watch Japanese Movies (Besides on Netflix)?
- How to Learn Japanese by Watching Movies
- Learn with Japanese Movies on Netflix
Sometimes, as a Japanese learner, it can be frustrating to find native Japanese entertainment. Especially if you look over at Korean learners, who get to bask in KPop idol culture and watch unlimited K-dramas on every streaming service.
Japan tends to not like to share its content as much. While anime is nowadays really easy to access, Japanese dramas and movies are incredibly hard to find.
That’s because Japan cracked down on copyrights and regulations on dramas, movies, and music, except for anime. So while Korean entertainment has been distributed worldwide, Japanese entertainment hasn’t.
Plus, it’s streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+ that dominate in Japan. So it has less push for its own high-quality content like Korean streaming services do.
But rest assured – Netflix has some great options for learning Japanese with movies. Especially because they have so many of their own shows globally now!
So here’s a list of 10 killer Japanese movies on Netflix you can enjoy and level up your skills. Plus, stick around to the end – I’ll share the best ways to learn with Japanese movies!
Japanese: るろうに剣心, Ruroni Kenshin
Director: Keishi Ohtomo
Genre: Action, drama
IMDb Rating: 7.3/10
Wondering if there are any samurai movies on Netflix? Of course, there are.
There’s The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise, but it doesn’t have Japanese audio. There are series like Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan, the Korean drama Kingdom (which has Japanese audio), and the anime Yasuke.
But if you’re looking for the best Japanese movies on Netflix and you want to watch one with a samurai… You have to watch Ruroni Kenshin.
Ruroni Kenshin is based on the popular manga and anime by the same name. And it’s widely considered one of the only live-action adaptations of an anime done well.
The movie takes place during the Meiji era and follows Himura Kenshin. He used to be an assassin by the name of Hitokiri Battousai, but he vows to never kill again. Instead, he offers protection to those who need it to ease his guilt over his past.
There are five parts to the film series, but Netflix only has The Final and The Beginning. For the first three movies, you can find them on Amazon Prime.
Japanese: ブリーチ, Buri-chi
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Genre: Fantasy, adventure
IMDb Rating: 6.4/10
Based on the super-popular manga and anime, Bleach is the life-action adaptation. It follows Ichigo, a 15-year-old high schooler who has spiritual energy and can see ghosts. This leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who helps guide souls to the afterlife and purify demons called Hollows.
Ichigo gains the same reaper powers and starts his journey of guiding and reaping souls.
Japanese: ルパン三世 カリオストロの城, Rupansansei Kariosutoro no Shiro
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Animated adventure, comedy
IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
An oldie but a goodie! If you’ve never seen Lupin the 3rd, then you’re missing out on some classic anime. Plus, it’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki – need I say more?!
Lupin is a charming thief who uncovers a counterfeit money scheme after robbing a casino. He follows the source of the counterfeit bills to Cagliostro, where he discovers a princess being kept captive by the evil count. Lupin brings in his buddies and his archnemesis Inspector Zenigata to bring down the count and save the princess.
Japanese: ガンツ：オー, Gantsu: o-
Director: Keiichi Sato
Genre: Animated sci-fi, action
IMDb Rating: 7.1/10
Based on the manga series by Hiroya Oku, this award-winning CGI sci-fi flick follows a boy who wakes up after being murdered. He finds out he was resurrected by a computer, Gantz, and now must fight aliens invading Osaka.
It has subtitles in so many languages, so you can use them to your advantage to learn. (Especially if you’re already fluent in more than one language to practice two at the same time!)
Japanese: この世界の片隅に, Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Genre: Animated drama
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
Get ready for something of a tear-jerker: this animated film will make you feel all the feels.
The story follows Suzu, who lives near Hiroshima during World War II. She gets married and is adjusting to her new life when the war places intense struggles on her and her family.
The movie is fiction, but it’s based on real events and life in Hiroshima around the time of the atomic bombing.
Japanese: ヤクザと家族, Yakuza Kazoku
Director: Michihito Fujii
Genre: Crime, drama
IMDb Rating: 7.0/10
Also called, “Yakuza and the Family,” it follows Kenji Yamamoto. When his father dies, he is taken in by the yakuza as a young boy. Kenji and the yakuza boss, Hiroshi, end up having a father-son-like relationship.
Even as times change and Kenji has a family of his own, he’s still sworn to his yakuza family’s code.
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Genre: Thriller, horror
IMDb Rating: 5.6/10
There are usually quite a lot of scary Japanese movies on Netflix. But at the moment, there are mostly Japanese and Korean horror shows rather than movies, like Ju-On Origins (based on The Grudge).
But, there is this movie: Homunculus. It’s a thriller and horror movie based on the manga by the same name.
A homeless man named Susumu Nakoshi undergoes an experimental treatment. It allows him to see homunculi, or “distortions” of people and their innermost trauma.
Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Genre: Fantasy, action
IMDb Rating: 5.2/10
While this movie received some very mixed reviews, it’s still making it on the list. Why? Because if you already know the Full Metal Alchemist story, you’ll have an easier time learning Japanese from watching the movie.
The story follows Edward Elric as he tries to restore his brother Al’s body after their attempted resurrection of their mom goes wrong. Meanwhile, the government is watching and there’s lots of danger standing between them and getting the Philosopher’s Stone they seek.
Japanese: 夏への扉 キミのいる未来へ, Natsu e no Tobira Kimi no Iru Mirai e
Director: Takahiro Miki
Genre: Sci-fi, romance
IMDb Rating: 6.4/10
Based on the American sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein. A roboticist is betrayed by his girlfriend and business partner and sent into cryogenic sleep.
After 30 years, he wakes up and tries to get back to the past he knew with the help of a robot he had created. He tries to go back to his adopted sister and fix the past.
Japanese: Flip a Coin: ONE OK ROCK ドキュメンタリー, dokyumentari-
Director: Naoto Amazutsumi
Genre: Documentary, music
IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
A documentary about one of my favorite Japanese bands, ONE OK ROCK (who wrote the theme songs for the Ruroni Kenshin movies, by the way!). They weren’t able to tour all during 2020 due to the pandemic, so they decided to put together an online concert.
The documentary shows their struggles to match their energy for their live shows (which are INSANE) in an online setting and their journey to the concert.
The band members are super cool, and Taka’s voice and style are heavily influenced by artists like Linkin Park and Foo Fighters. I highly recommend checking them out!
If you like music documentaries and concerts, there’s also Arashi, Utada Hikaru, and others on Netflix.
Netflix has a whole section dedicated to Japanese movies and TV shows, and they remove and add things all the time.
So if you’re reading this and wondering what else there is or maybe what new Japanese movies are on Netflix this month, check out their main category page.
If you’re wondering what you can watch on Netflix Japan instead, well, a lot actually. Netflix Japan actually has a larger catalog of movies and shows than US Netflix does. And, of course, there are a lot more Japanese content options.
But to watch Netflix Japan, you’d have to use a VPN because it’s geo-restricted.
If the movie or show is from Japan, the audio should automatically begin with the original Japanese.
But you can adjust the audio and subtitles in the Language & Subtitles settings. This way you can remove subtitles or change them to a different language (when available).
Some Japanese shows and movies have subtitles available in Japanese, which can be really helpful for beginners.
But keep an eye out for Japanese dubs too! Some shows (especially Netflix originals and cartoons) may have a Japanese dub option. The best way to check is to look at the language options for your favorite shows.
But pro-tip: If you also have Disney+, a ton of their shows and movies have Japanese dubs.
If you love samurai movies and/or Star Wars, I highly recommend watching the Japanese dub of The Mandalorian Season 2, Chapter 13: The Jedi. The episode is heavily Japanese-samurai inspired and since most of the characters wear masks, the dub is nearly unnoticeable.
It was a fantastic watch as a Japanese language learner (who also happens to be an insane Star Wars nerd).
Netflix doesn’t have what you want and you don’t wanna snag a VPN for Netflix Japan? No worries!
You can also watch Japanese movies on sites like:
- Rakuten Viki
- Amazon Prime
- Asian Crush
- Midnight Pulp
- HBO Max
- Pluto TV
Watching Japanese movies, even passively, is great for learning:
- The cadence of the language
- Cultural insights and customs
- Body language and mannerisms
But as for actually learning how to speak Japanese? You’ll probably only pick up a few words here and there unless you have a strategy.
So here are the best ways to learn Japanese with movies:
- Put in some prep work before you start watching. Look up words related to the theme and topic of the show. For instance, if you’re going to watch the One Ok Rock documentary, then learn some words related to music. Things like “perform,” “concert,” “live,” “instruments,” and so on. It’ll help you start to grasp some of the language right away when you watch.
- Watch the movie through so you can enjoy it and know what to expect. Then watch it again, this time in smaller chunks. Rewatch scenes and see what you can understand. Note what you can’t, and try to look up new words and grammar.
- Practice the grammar and words you learn by making practice sentences. And don’t forget to add them to your flashcard app for review later!
- Watch things you actually enjoy, on topics you care about. It’ll help you learn the language around things you would actually like to talk about!
- Try using the browser extension Language Reactor by Language Learning with Netflix. It adds Japanese subtitles with English in time with the movie so you can follow along easier and learn. They also have a whole list of what’s on Netflix in Japanese.
There are more tips to learning with movies in this article here if you really want to master using movies as a study tool!
There’s plenty to enjoy in Japanese cinema, and this just touches the tip of the iceberg.
If you want more recommendations, I also wrote this article about great Japanese movies, not just on Netflix. I cannot recommend enough the movie Departures if you haven’t seen it yet.
Now that you’re learning with movies, let’s take your Japanese to the next level, shall we? Here are some other great articles to keep learning Japanese: