In this post, we'll take you through the 9 best Japanese movies on Netflix for learning the Japanese language.
These movies were chosen because they are gripping, well-written, and utilize useful vocabulary and phrases for Japanese learners.
Japanese movies on Netflix cover many genres and themes. So, you will definitely find something to your taste.
Learning languages from watching movies on Netflix is beneficial in several ways. Hearing native speakers will help with pronunciation and auditory comprehension. You will also learn about Japanese culture and mannerisms, formalities, and societal rules.
Don't forget that with Lingopie's dual subtitle feature, you can use Japanese and English subtitles simultaneously to help you understand the dialogue.
So, let's get started!
1. Shin Godzilla
This movie is a live-action adaptation of the popular story about a giant lizard monster taking over the city.
In this case, it is Tokyo Bay that is the epicenter of the attacks. Shin Godzilla is a very popular action movie, receiving recognition worldwide.
The movie was directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, and stars Hiroki Hasegawa, who plays Rando Yaguchi, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary.
Yaguchi and his team of Japanese Government officials use code cracking, origami, and clever scientific reasoning to try to save the city of Tokyo.
Your first sight of the monster, Godzilla, will have you at the edge of your seat rooting for our modest heroes in their boiler suits.
What You'll Learn
Shin Godzilla is a fun-filled action movie. However, it does feature a lot of scientific language and politics, as several of the main characters are high-ranking officials.
For this reason, you will very likely pick up a lot of new - and niche - Japanese vocabulary. You can use the Netflix subtitle feature when watching the movie to help you follow the dialogue.
2. Rurouni Kenshin
This movie is an example of a truly excellent anime film and is based on a manga series of the same name. Samurai movies are very common in Japanese cinema, and this is a well-loved example.
The story of Rurouni Kenshin begins in 1878 in Japan. The protagonist is a former assassin known as Hitokiri Battosai.
However, he decides to change his life and become Himura Kenshin: a wandering swordsman whose mission is to protect the people of Japan and never take another life.
Japanese manga artist Nobuhiro Watsuki wrote the Rurouni Kenshin series to express themes of atonement, peace, and romance.
Watsuki wanted Rurouni Kenshin to be different from other manga, and more serious in tone.
What You'll Learn
Those who watch Rurouni Kenshin will not only pick up some great Japanese vocabulary but will also learn about the culture of honor, responsibility, and redemption.
Viewers will also learn how these themes are dealt with in Japanese cinema.
This Japanese movie was hugely popular in its release year in 2013. In fact, Rurouni Kenshin and its mesmerizing animations led many learners to gain a better grasp of the Japanese language, through total immersion into its gripping world.
3. Battle Royale
Battle Royale is set in a dystopian society in which the government is forcing young people to battle to suppress the population of juvenile delinquents.
Forty-two 9th graders are sent to a desert island with just a map, food, and various weapons.
Each child is fitted with an explosive collar around their neck. If they break a rule, the collar will explode.
The children’s mission in Battle Royale is to kill one another and be the last one standing. When there is only one survivor, that child is allowed to leave the island. If there is more than one survivor, the collars will explode and kill them all.
This thriller, whose release year was 2000, has inspired several cult classics, such as Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and Suzanne Collins' sci-fi book The Hunger Games.
What You'll Learn
Battle Royale makes the list of one of the best Japanese movies on Netflix for its thrilling plot but also its well-written script and potential to be a great teaching tool for the Japanese language.
The teenage boy protagonist, Shuya Nanahara, played by Tatsuya Fujiwara, is a peacekeeper and a compassionate high school student who wants to end the violence.
He speaks clearly and is relatively easy to follow for intermediate learners, or even beginners, with the help of Netflix subtitles.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist
This Japanese movie is an adaptation of a fan-favorite manga series and anime of the same name.
It was written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa and tells the story of two brothers who experiment with magic until one of their souls ends up bound to a suit of armor.
The loyal brothers embark on a journey to develop their alchemy and find the legendary philosopher's stone so that they can return to their normal states.
This live-action film is entertaining, moving, and gripping, with elements of sci-fi mixed in with fantasy.
What You'll Learn
This movie tells the story of brotherly love and magical worlds.
It is worth watching on Netflix for the specific fantasy and magical vocabulary that you will pick up.
On top of this, you can study formality in the Japanese language and how family members speak to one another compared to strangers.
5. A Whisker Away
This anime movie follows a middle school student in Japan, Miyo Sasaki, as she struggles with a high-school crush that does not like her back.
One day, Miyo meets a mysterious stranger who gives her a cat-shaped Noh mask. Miyo discovers the mask gives her the power to transform into a cat. She uses this to spend time with her crush without him knowing.
Director Mari Okada cast Mirai Shida as Miyo. This sweet story was released on Netflix during the pandemic, as its release year was 2020, and has been received very positively despite having no cinema debut.
What You'll Learn
This great anime movie is one of the sweetest Japanese films on Netflix and is very useful for high school-age students who want to learn colloquialisms and study how young people talk in Japan.
This anime movie, with its beautiful, well-written dialogue and lovely animations, inspired a manga story to be written with the movie's original title.
6. Asakusa Kid
This drama film is based on a true story.
In Japan in the late 1960s, Senzaburo Fukami was a comedian who ran a theatre troupe out of the strip club he owned.
He inspired the young boy Takeshi Kitano to drop out of school and begin apprenticing at the legend’s club.
As his star rises, Takeshi’s mentor finds his fame deteriorating. It is a poignant story about mentorship, strength, and passion in a fast-developing world.
What You'll Learn
Put on this fun and beautiful Netflix film set in Japan to pick up on some Japanese humor and be moved by the sweet relationships that unfold.
In the 1960s, Japan was experiencing a fast-changing world and a boom in technology. Asakusa Kid provides a fascinating insight into this world that suddenly transformed into one full of TVs and bright lights.
This film teaches viewers to follow their dreams. Think back to your high school or even elementary school self and the big dreams you had. Maybe it isn't too late!
7. 37 Seconds
This 2019 Japanese drama film, written and directed by Hikari, tells a moving story about a young woman with cerebral palsy on a journey to self-discovery and sexual awakening.
Hikari cast amateur actress Mei Kayama, who has cerebral palsy in real life, to play the lead role.
We follow Yuma Takada on her life-changing journey to better understand who she is and how she wants to express herself.
The incidents involving her sexual discovery can be difficult to watch, but overall the story is that of a beautiful life journey in a world that isn't built for her.
What You'll Learn
This film, whose release year was 2019, has faced mixed reviews, with some critics stating it does not portray sex in a convincing way.
However, what you can learn from this movie is the attitude towards disabled people in society in Japan and the world.
Many disabled people in Japan have a limited voice when it comes to sharing their life stories. Moreover, the disability and sex-specific vocabulary might appeal to some learners.
8. The Forest of Love
The Forest of Love is a Japanese crime-thriller film by Sion Sono.
The movie was inspired by the real-life murders, torture and extortion committed in Japan from in the 90's and 00's by serial killer Futoshi Matsunaga.
Sion Sono cast Kippei Shiina as the lead in the film, and his performance is gripping, chilling and thrilling. Whether or not you regularly watch scary films, be warned, this movie is not for the faint-hearted.
What You'll Learn
This terrifying but incredibly well-written and acted Netflix movie will shake you to your core, but it is undeniably a brilliant film and well worth the watch.
You can use this story of life and death as an opportunity to learn a bit of Japanese crime history and note down interesting new phrases you hear, but mostly, just sit back and let the horror unfold.
This film tells the story of a young single mother whose turbulent relationships with different men are a desperate cry for validation, but cause problems for her family at home.
This Japanese movie is a story of toxic parenting, emotional abuse and an overwhelmed mother’s control over her unstable family.
The film deals with issues of abandonment and neglect, as well as family relationships and what we owe our families and ourselves.
What You'll Learn
Mother is a tough film to watch, but does offer an insight into how a single mother might struggle with self-identity and raising a family solo in Japan.
The Netflix movie is a good opportunity to hear informal and colloquial Japanese language. The film is also an interesting look into Japanese morals and values when it comes to a woman's choices and the consequences she faces.
Honourable Mentions: Japanese Movie and TV Magic
If you are a big anime fan, remember that any and all anime films and TV shows are great for learners of Japanese.
They often use a lot of colloquial language and teach you how regular people speak to one another informally, sometimes even with cursing.
So, if this is your preferred genre, stick with it and you'll do just fine in your Japanese language progression.
A Silent Voice (2016)
As well as our top 9 best Japanese movies, we will also give a shout out to A Silent Voice, which is an anime film about high school relationships and bullying.
The illustrations of the countryside are beautiful and it is quite a powerful watch.
A Silent Voice deals with coming of age and psychological struggles, as well as bullying, disability, forgiveness, mental health, suicide and platonic love.
A former bully turned social outcast decides to reconnect with a deaf girl he victimized years before.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie (2021)
This deserves a mention as it is a great fantasy action anime movie, and well-loved by the anime-watching general public.
It is a part of the popular Sailor Moon Crystal anime series, which aired three seasons between 2014 and 2016.
It is a good time to watch this installation, as the final chapter is coming soon. The Sailor Moon Crystal series is a great pick for viewers who need an escape from the real and the ordinary.
Mobile Suit Gundam
In this iconic 1970s anime, the Principality of Zeon has declared independence from the Earth Federation, and has launched a war of independence called the One Year War.
Classic sci fi meets great entertainment with this fun watch.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop
Finally, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop is a lovely slice-of-life romantic tale set in a rural Japanese town.
In this anime, love blossoms between two introverted individuals, both of whom struggle to communicate with most people, after they meet on a bright sunny day.
These movies and the series can be found on Netflix, as well as other streaming platforms and some television networks.
Learning A Language By Watching Films and TV
You might be wondering how you can learn a language by sitting back, relaxing, and watching a great movie with a friend. Well, it's a good question with an even better answer!
It turns out, watching great foreign language films is actually a well-established way to pick up a new language.
What's more, Japanese spoken in a film or TV show will at times be more colloquial and informal than the Japanese you might come across in classrooms or texts.
This is a great opportunity to learn how to speak Japanese like a native and build on your listening comprehension.
Immersing yourself in a Japanese series or film allows you to break free from the sometimes overwhelming feeling that come with studying a new language and allows you to simply enjoy and soak up the language.
This is the most natural way we learn and our brains love to take in language in this way. Think about how you learned your mother tongue - you simply listened and learned.
With a great streaming service, like Netflix or Lingopie, you can bring Japanese language lessons to your own home and absorb the mannerisms, culture, slang, history and language all while having fun. No, it isn't too good to be true!
Remember, even if you are a complete beginner at learning Japanese, you can start watching today on Netflix, using the subtitles to help you out, or on Lingopie, which is a streaming service specifically designed to help you learn a new language.
Once you go through all the movies in this list, why not try improving your vocabulary with anime? Check out our guide to learning Japanese with anime.
Summing up: Best Japanese Movies on Netflix for Japanese Learners
This has been a quick list of some of the best Japanese movies on Netflix.
Included in this list of films are great anime inspired by iconic original manga, fantasy dramas, thrillers and more. No matter what your taste is, there is a film here for you.
Remember, learning a language through exposure to native speakers in TV and movies is a legitimate and valuable way to learn a new language.
For more of the best Japanese movies, you can sign up to Lingopie.
This streaming platform is geared up to help you learn a language by binge-watching TV and movies in a foreign language.
It also provides dual subtitles, flash cards, quizzes and other fun language-learning features. Enjoy!