Mafia with oriental flavor: 16 films about the yakuza

Organized crime in Japan is known as the yakuza and is known for its harsh code of honor and harsh punishments. A feature of organized crime groups from the Land of the Rising Sun is openness – mafiosi do not hide connections in political and economic circles and officially register their organizations. The best yakuza movies allow you to comfortably immerse yourself in the creepy atmosphere of Asian crime without risking your own life.

First love (2019)

In the criminal backyards of Tokyo, two lonelinesses met. The unfortunate boxer Reo, who has just found out that he is mortally ill, inadvertently saves a haunted prostitute Monica and falls in love with her. A member of the yakuza and a corrupt policeman simultaneously attempt on the girl , but the unexpected intervention of the guy violates their plans and unleashes a bloody massacre of everyone with everyone.

What do you think, is it worth filming a sequel, and what should be in it?

Original title:
Hatsukoi

Genre:
Crime, action

Actors:
Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Nao Omori…

Country:
Japan, UK

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.5, IMDb – 6.8

Age limit:
16+


Debt/shame (TV series 2019)

Sometimes the action of films about the Japanese mafia sometimes moves to other countries, as in this series. Japanese detective Kenzo Mori arrives in London on assignment from the Yakuza to investigate the murder of a Tokyo mobster’s nephew. Kenzo is vitally interested in finding the true killer, as his brother fell under suspicion, and mortal danger hung over the whole family.

Original title:
Giri / Haji

Genre:
Crime, detective, thriller, drama

Actors:
Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald, Yosuke Kubozuka …

Country:
United Kingdom

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.3, IMDb – 7.9

Age restrictions:
18+


Dark (2018)

The prisoner , nicknamed Dark, would have spent his days behind bars for a long time if not for the Interpol agent who offered him a deal. In exchange for his release, the guy must infiltrate the ranks of the Japanese mafia and find the kidnapped daughter of Interpol. The offer does not inspire enthusiasm in Dark until he learns that he gets a chance to take revenge on the murderers of a mother who worked as a prostitute in Japan and died in front of her young son.

Original title:
Darc

Genre:
Action, thriller, crime

Actors:
Tony Sheena, Armand Assante, Kippei Sina …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 5.4, IMDb – 5.8

Age restrictions:
16+


Stranger (2017)

A movie about the yakuza is filmed not only in the Land of the Rising Sun. US-produced crime drama tells the story of the fate of an American soldier, played by popular singer and Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto. Nick was captured by the Japanese and did not hope to get out of there alive. But in prison, he happened to save a member of the gangster organization Kiyoshi from death, and he, in gratitude, achieved the release of the gaijin. At large, Nick performs the tasks of a criminal group and masters the rules of life of the Japanese mafia.

Original title:
The Outsider

Genre:
Crime, drama

Actors:
Jared Leto, Tadanobu Asano, Kippei Sina …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.2, IMDb – 6.3

Age restrictions:
16+


Ryuzo and the Seven Fighters (2015)

Action with comedy elements from the famous director Takeshi Kitano with the main character in his own performance. The former ruthless member of the Japanese mafia, Ryuzo, has long retired and leads the measured life of a venerable pensioner. While looking after his son’s house while he is away, Ryuzo nearly falls victim to a 5 million yen phone scam. The mask of a good-natured grandfather flies off the offended yakuza and he gathers old friends and associates to teach young swindlers a lesson .

Original title:
Ryuzo to 7 nin no kobun tachi

Genre:
Comedy, crime

Actors:
Tatsuya Fuji, Masaomi Kondo, Akira Nakao …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.4, IMDb – 6.2

Age limit:
16+


Ouroboros (mini-series 2015)

The list of the best films about the yakuza continues with a crime series whose characters resemble an ouroboros – a dragon biting its own tail. Orphans Ryuzaki Ikuo and Danno Tatsuya witnessed the murder of their beloved orphanage teacher and vowed to avenge her death. Having matured, the guys went different ways, and 20 years later they are forced to hide their acquaintance, because one of them became a policeman, and the second became a mafia boss. But they are united by the same goal – to find and punish Yuiko’s killers.

Original title:
Ouroboros

Genre:
Action, crime, detective, drama

Actors:
Toma Ikuta, Shun Oguri, Juri Ueno …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.6, IMDb – 6.7

Age restrictions:
16+


Mayhem (trilogy, 2010, 2012, 2017)

Crime trilogy by the famous Japanese director Takeshi Kitano, who traditionally played the main role in his film. The middle-aged yakuza Otomo knew better times when disagreements between mafia clans were resolved with a simple but convincing massacre. Modern criminals do not follow the laws of gangster honor, preferring to act by blackmail and bribery. Otomo is saddened by this decline in gangster morals, but he himself is not yet ready to quit the game.

Original title:
Autoreiji

Genre:
Crime, drama, thriller

Actors:
Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Sina, Ryo Kase, Fumiyo Kohinata…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.1, IMDb – 6.8

Age restrictions:
18+


Shinjuku Incident (2009)

Among Japanese films about the yakuza, this drama stands out because it was filmed in Hong Kong and starred Jackie Chan , who played an unusual dramatic role for himself. His hero, a Chinese nicknamed Iron Head, went to Tokyo in the 1990s to find his girlfriend, who had disappeared in the Japanese metropolis. Overcoming the hardships of immigrant life, a stranger wins the respect of the local mafia. But will he be able to find his beloved and has she retained her former feelings?

Original title:
Xin Su shi jian

Genre:
Action, drama, crime

Actors:
Jackie Chan, Naoto Takenaka, Daniel Wu…

Country:
Hong Kong

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.3, IMDb – 7.0

Age limit:
18+


Dragonlike (2007)

The events of the Japanese-Korean film take place in the center of Tokyo, melting from a record heat. After serving ten years in prison, the yakuza Kazuma Kiryu tries to find his first love Mizuki and childhood friend Akira. When he succeeds, a long-standing rivalry resurfaces and the men engage in a fierce battle that ends in reconciliation. But the situation is complicated by the fact that Kazuma and Akira belong to different clans, claiming a large amount of money, inexplicably disappeared from the bank.

Original title:
Ryû ga gotoku: Gekijô-ban

Genre:
Action, drama, crime

Actors:
Kazuki Kitamura, Goro Kisitani, Shun Shioya, Saeko…

Country:
Japan, South Korea

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.1, IMDb – 6.1

Age limit:
16+


Yakuza Horror Theater: Gozu (2003)

A bloody action movie about the journey of two members of the yakuza to the mysterious city of Nagoya. A guy named Minami has recently joined the gang, but has already managed to impress his comrades-in-arms with strange antics. Colleagues consider his eccentricity to be mental disorders , and the boss decides to send him out of sight, appointing Aniki, who once saved Minami’s life, to accompany him. A pair of gangsters hit the road, unaware of the incredible challenges ahead.

Original title:
Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu

Genre:
Horror, thriller, drama, crime, detective

Actors:
Hideki Sone, Kimika Yoshino, Shohei Hino…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.8, IMDb – 7.0

Age limit:
18+


Yakuza: Graveyard of Honor (2002)

A modest kitchen worker, Ishimatsu, washes dishes at a favorite yakuza restaurant. One day, an armed bandit bursts in and opens fire on visitors. While those present are coming out of their stupor, the dishwasher unexpectedly knocks out the raider. Gangsters are imbued with respect for the savior and invite him into their ranks. The hero in a short time masters the basic foundations of crime – knocking out debts and eliminating competitors. However, he is characterized by an independent character, which becomes a problem in a group with a rigid clan hierarchy.

Original title:
Shin Jingi no Hakaba

Genre:
Action, thriller, crime

Actors:
Ryo Amamiya, Narimi Arimori, Yoshiyuki Daichi …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.6, IMDb – 7.0

Age limit:
18+


Yakuza Brother (2000)

The action of one of the best films about the Asian mafia takes place not in Japan, but in America, where the main character flees after the defeat of his clan by competitors. Aniki Yamamoto, nicknamed Big Brother in his homeland, is not used to being on the sidelines and is not going to serve his American colleagues. In a new place, a foreign mafioso establishes his own rules, acting in the most ruthless way.

Original title:
Brother

Genre:
Drama, crime, thriller

Actors:
Takeshi Kitano, Omar Epps, Kurodo Maki …

Country:
USA, UK, Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.6, IMDb – 7.1

Age restrictions:
18+


Fireworks (1997)

Police officer Nishi retired after a mission that ended in the death and injury of fellow officers. His friend is paralyzed as a result of a wound, the widow of one of the murdered colleagues is in need of a livelihood, and Nishi himself’s wife is diagnosed with leukemia. Wanting to help his loved ones, the hero borrows money from the yakuza, but they quickly run out. The former law enforcement officer is forced to commit a crime in order to take his wife on his last trip to Japan.

Original title:
Hana-bi

Genre:
Thriller, drama, melodrama, crime

Actors:
Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.9, IMDb – 7.8

Age restrictions:
18+


The boys are back (1996)

Once upon a time, Shinji and Masaru went to the same school together , where far from childish pranks were staged. Taking money from classmates, disrupting a lesson, and even setting fire to a teacher’s car was a matter of course for them. No wonder they are still talked about with a shudder at school. The guys themselves, on the contrary, when they meet with nostalgia, recall past fun, reluctantly returning to the realities of the present, where one makes money in the boxing ring, and the second builds a career in the yakuza gang.

Original title:
Kizzu ritân

Genre:
Drama, crime, sports

Actors:
Ken Kaneko, Masanobu Ando, ​​Reo Morimoto…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.4, IMDb – 7.5

Age restrictions:
16+


Crying Assassin (1995)

The cold- blooded assassin Freeman, played by martial artist Mark Dacascos, knows no pity and does not make mistakes. The only manifestation of his weakness is a tear running down his cheek after completing a task. The contract killing of the son of the yakuza boss did not portend problems if a random witness had not been on the spot. According to the rules, Freeman must kill a young artist , but the ideal killer unexpectedly falls in love.

Original title:
Crying Freeman

Genre:
Action, thriller, crime

Actors:
Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Ray Don Chong…

Country:
France, USA, Japan, Canada

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.0, IMDb – 6.5

Age restrictions:
18+


Sonatina (1993)

Another crime saga from the master of the genre, Takeshi Kitano, who played the main role in the film. A representative of the Yakuza clan Murakawa is sent with several associates to Okinawa, where a conflict broke out between the gangs. The gangster does not like the role of a peacemaker, since such a mission once already ended in the death of three of his people. Arriving on the island, Murakawa and his comrades decide to wait out the disassembly of the locals by the sea, but the resort idyll cannot last long.

Original title:
Sonatine

Genre:
Action, thriller, drama, melodrama, comedy, crime

Actors:
Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.5, IMDb – 7.5

Age restrictions:
18+


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Jared Lambert/ author of the article

I’ve been writing about movies, TV shows and anime for over 3 years, and you may have seen my reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

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