CIRCA 1993: Actor Takeshi Kitano on set of the movie "Sonatine" , circa 1993. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
The 15 Best Japanese Action Movies Of All Time
Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa's 1954 masterpiece, "Seven Samurai," is a near-perfect film, gripping the viewers for its entire three-and-a-half-hour runtime. The final, monsoon-soaked battle is mesmerizing — Kurosawa's innovative use of technology results in a beautifully composed film, with the visual layers making everything seem utterly cinematic.
Tokyo Drifter
1966's "Tokyo Drifter," Seijun Suzuki's unhinged yakuza delight, was light years ahead of its time, incorporating bursts of color, surrealism, and musical montages. The premise is simple, and the production design is imposing, with nightclub scenes lit up in a lavender glow and a Western-inspired saloon brawl that may be one of the most chaotic bar fights of all time.
Akira Kurosawa was a huge fan of Westerns, and viewers can definitely spot the John Ford influence in his lone hero wandering into a town and restoring order. The action sequences in "Yojimbo" are a meticulously choreographed feast for the eyes, and like all of Kurosawa's films, this 1961 samurai hit has a timeless theme.
Love Exposure
It's difficult to summarize this twisty action-comedy, but few movies that clock in at four hours are as exhilarating as Sion Sono's upskirt epic, "Love Exposure." The film uses its frenzied plot to deliver an emotional payoff at the end and to tackle challenging themes such as religious dogma, sexual abuse, familial trauma, and Japan's powerful patriarchy.
Ichi the Killer
One of the most violent action movies ever made, "Ichi the Killer" is so depraved it was banned in several countries after its 2001 debut. Dismissed by critics as misogynistic, exploitative, and brutal, the film doesn't take a moral stance on what's unfolding on screen but forces the audience to ask themselves what their attitude is towards this savage tale.