15 best Japanese war movies

Banzai attacks, seppuku, kamikaze – for Europeans it sounds like exotic … But for the Japanese, behind these words are thousands of familiar faces from military chronicles, memoirs and family albums. How to see and understand the tragedy that took place on the other side of the front? There is nothing better than a movie for this. Japanese films about the war are another opportunity to realize the horror, absurdity and senselessness of war – from the perspective of another nation and another culture.

The Spy’s Wife (2020)

The film takes place in 1940. In the center of the plot is a young lady Satoko and her husband Yusaku – an entrepreneur , an amateur director, an opponent of the war. One day, a merchant on a business trip abroad becomes the owner of information that can not only harm the Japanese authorities, but also destroy his family. Yusaku brings dangerous documents and video files from Manchuria, which he considers it necessary to make public. Satok will have to make a choice between love for the motherland and devotion to her husband.

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

Original title:
Spy no Tsuma

Genre:
Drama, history, romance

Actors:
Yu Aoi, Issei Takahashi, Masahiro Higashide …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.1, IMDb – 6.5


Kingdom (2019)

The plot of the Japanese war film takes place in ancient China during the Zhangguo – Warring States period. The orphans Xin and Piao were sold into slavery to a farmer when they were young. Every free minute, friends train in martial arts , because this is their only chance to gain freedom and glory. And one day, Piao really has such an opportunity. The guy is taken to the palace of the ruler of the kingdom of Qin as his double . After a while, bloodied and wounded, he returns to the village and dies in the arms of a friend. Xin decides to avenge his fallen comrade.

Original title:  
Kingdom

Genre:
Action, military, history

Actors:  
Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa …

Country:  
Japan

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 6.6, IMDb – 6.5

Age limit:  
16+


The Great War of Archimedes (2019)

The plot of the film is based on the 2015 comic book and immerses the viewer in the behind-the-scenes games of Japanese military leaders during the construction of the Yamato ship, the largest battleship in the world before the war. The headquarters of the fleet intend to design and build a “supership”. However, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto does not like this decision. He is sure that before the war the country needs more maneuverable and combat-ready ships. He hires a genius mathematician to run the calculations, which will reveal inaccuracies that point to a massive conspiracy.

Original title:
Arukimedesu no taisen

Genre:
Detective, military, history

Actors:
Masaki Suda, Hiroshi Tachi, Jun Kunimura…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.3, IMDb – 6.3


Battle of Sekigahara (2017)

Before you is a war film produced in Japan, based on real historical events . The plot tells the background of the turning point battle at Sekigahara in 1600, when the Eastern army of Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated the Western army of Ishida Mitsunari. The viewer will be taken to the Japanese palace backstage, where the political intrigues of various vassals, members of high-ranking families and samurai are seething.

Original title:
Sekigahara

Genre:
Military, history, action

Actors:
Junichi Okada, Kasumi Arimura, Koji Yakusho…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 5.7, IMDb – 6.3


Eternal Zero (2013)

A young man, Kentaro, fails his final exam and goes into a deep depression. His sister, the writer Keiko, is trying to bring him out of his state of despondency. Together, the young people decide to find information about their grandfather, who died in wartime. According to his comrades in the fleet, the grandfather was a coward and infinitely loved life. So why did he voluntarily choose to be a kamikaze pilot? Gradually, Kentano and Keiko learn a shocking truth that has been hidden from view for 60 long years.

Original title:  
Eien no 0

Genre:
Action, drama, romance

Actors:  
Junichi Okada, Haruma Miura, Mao Inoue …

Country:  
Japan

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 7.3, IMDb – 7.3

Age restrictions:  
12+


A Boy Named Ha (2013)

The plot of the Japanese war movie follows the fate of a little boy named Hajima Seno. The child grows up with loving parents – a caring mother and father, the owner of a tailoring studio. However, since the beginning of World War II, the family will have to go through hard times. But despite all the difficulties, Hajima does not lose the curiosity inherent in a child and the sense of justice that is not inherent in all adults.

Original title:
Shônen H

Genre:
Drama

Actors:
Yutaka Mizutani, Ran Ito, Tatsuki Yoshioka …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.2, IMDb – 6.6


Emperor (2012)

The film tells a little-known, but very important part of world history. In post-war Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, who sought to prevent unrest in the country, takes over the board. Since many political and government figures had already been executed for war crimes, he had to decide the fate of Emperor Hirohito. The emperor, who did not leave his palace after the war, was a secretive and mysterious figure. MacArthur assigns General Bonner Fellers to covertly investigate Hirohito’s life to see if he is a war criminal.

Original title:
Emperor

Genre:
Drama, military, history

Actors:
Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune …

Country:
Japan, USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.4, IMDb – 6.5

Age restrictions:
12+


Both: The Last Samurai (2011)

This Japanese military thriller will take the viewer to 1944, when American troops entered the shores of Saipan. The garrison guarding the island was almost completely destroyed. Refusing to commit ritual suicide with his superiors and not wanting to be captured , Captain Oba Sakae leads a group of his soldiers into the mountains . They continue to resist and carry out guerrilla attacks against the Americans despite receiving reports of Japan’s surrender.

Original title:
Taiheiyou no kiseki: Fokkusu to yobareta otoko

Genre:
Drama, military

Actors:
Yutaka Takenouchi, Sean McGowan, Mao Inoue…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.8, IMDb – 6.5


Attack on Pearl Harbor (2011)

The famous Admiral Yamamoto is one of the few military leaders who openly doubted the positive outcome of World War II for Japan. But it was he who designed and carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, few people know what led the fleet commander to this decision. After all, initially Yamamoto tried to avoid a military conflict, which is why he is in danger – under the threat of assassination within his country. The film tells about the personality of a great man and his motives.

Original title:  
Rengô kantai shirei chôkan: Yamamoto Isoroku

Genre:
Drama, military, biography

Actors:  
Koji Yakusho, Hiroshi Abe, Shuichi Azumaya…

Country:  
Japan

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 6.6, IMDb – 6.8

Age limit:  
16+


Postcard (2010)

A touching Japanese war movie tells about the fate of soldiers and their families, waiting for the return of their loved ones from the front. By the end of the war, the turn to go to the battlefield came to ordinary middle-aged peasants. The night before the battle, one of the soldiers leaves Keita Matsuyama a postcard from his wife. A man asks a friend to inform his wife that he has received her last message. The war is over, now it’s time for the surviving Matsuyama to return home. However, no one is waiting for him there. Keita decides to find the wife of that dead soldier and fulfill the promise.

Original title:
Ichimai no hagaki

Genre:
Drama, melodrama, military

Actors:
Etsushi Toyokawa, Shinobu Otake, Naomasa Musaka …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.6, IMDb – 7.0


Battle of Orion (2009)

The events of the film develop in two time periods. During World War II, a Japanese submarine battles an American destroyer off the coast of Okinawa. This is not just a battle, but a real battle of two captains, two strong-willed personalities. And only one will get out of the fight alive. 60 years later, the granddaughter of a Japanese submarine captain receives the sheet music that the submariner’s wife sent to her beloved as a farewell gift.

Original title:
Manatsu no Orion

Genre:
Action, military

Actors:
Yoshikuni Dochin, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Mutsutoshi Furuhata …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.7, IMDb – 6.1


For those we love (2007)

The film tells about kamikaze – suicide pilots. In 1944, when Japan suffers one setback after another in the war, Vice Admiral Onishi decides to create a special detachment of young pilots. Their goal is to crash their planes into enemy ships. Volunteers from all over the country received a fateful one-way ticket. The story tells about their life, interests, love and dreams that were not destined to come true.

Original title:
Ore wa, kimi no tame ni koso shini ni iku

Genre:
Drama, military

Actors:
Ryohei Abe, Toru Emori, Katsutaka Furuhata…

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.9, IMDb – 5.9

Age limit:
16+


Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

The story, inspired by the real-life notes of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi of the Imperial Army, tells the story of the battle during World War II for the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. These bloody battles became one of the most stubborn land battles in the Pacific Islands. The film, which has earned a high rating and prestigious awards, tells about the military traditions of the Land of the Rising Sun, life on the island before and after the battle.

Original title:
Letters from Iwo Jima

Genre:
Action, drama, adventure

Actors:
Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Ryo Kase …

Country:
USA, Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.6, IMDb – 7.9

Age limit:
16+


Lorelei: Witch of the Pacific (2005)

A war film with elements of science fiction takes the viewer to the last years of the war. After the attack on Hiroshima, the Japanese have a new mission – to intercept American ships carrying nuclear weapons to Tinian Island. And the gift of the Nazi empire will help them in this – a submarine equipped with a secret weapon and the latest sonar. The task is given to Commander Masami. He burns with zeal to fulfill his duty, but does not know about the secrets hidden on board the gift ship.

Original title:
Lorelei

Genre:
Fantasy, Action, Thriller

Actors:
Koji Yakusho, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Toshiro Yanagiba …

Country:
Japan

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 5.5, IMDb – 5.3


Yamato (2005)

In search of information about her father, Makiko arrives at a port in Southern Japan. The girl – the daughter of an officer who served on the legendary ship “Yamato”, decides to go to the place where he drowned. Unexpectedly, she meets Camio – a man who got on a ship at a young age and lived there for more than 3 years during the war. He will tell Makiko the real story of the battle for Okinawa. The story of true friendship , courage and devotion to the Motherland, which sent thousands of sailors to certain death.

Original title:  
Otoko-tachi no Yamato

Genre:
Drama, military, history

Actors:  
Takashi Sorimachi, Shido Nakamura, Yu Aoi …

Country:  
Japan

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 7.3, IMDb – 6.5

Age limit:  
16+


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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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