Films are one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new language.
If you are reading this article, you’re either learning Japanese or planning to start soon. Let’s explore 11 fabulous movies for learning Japanese.
Knowing a foreign language is always an asset.
Despite the growing demand for Japanese learners, there is a shortage of Japanese specialists.
That is because Japanese is one of the most challenging languages to learn, and it will take many years to do it, but don’t feel discouraged!
There are ways to make it simpler and overcome your fear of the hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
Please permit me to say you’re very much fascinated by Japanese culture. Otherwise, you won’t be learning how to speak Japanese.
If that’s the case, you need to make your Japanese language education process part of your love for the culture, and you can do that by watching J-cinemas.
You heard that right — Movies for Japanese learners!
How Watching Movies Helps To Learn Japanese?
If that’s what is in your mind, then you are asking the right question.
Watching, listening, and reading subtitles of the talkies has a remarkable effect on your brain.
Japan is well-known for exporting its media across the planet earth.
When you choose Japanese movies as part of your language study routine, it will open your knowledge to acquire more about the rich Japanese culture.
J-movies will also help you hear and understand how the Japanese language is spoken in its natural context, and from there on, you can pick up the very essence of body language.
Watching Japanese movies is a significant opportunity to break away from the habit of regularly reading through your textbook.
11 Best Movies for Learning Japanese
Alright, let’s go straight to the best and entertaining Japanese movies for language learners.
1. Seven Samurai (七人の侍) — 1954
The storytelling at its most exquisite! Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in 1954 is a three-and-a-half-hour classic masterpiece that has inspired several cinemas throughout the rest of the century.
It is probably the only black and white movie that I have seen several times, and I have no hesitation in admitting that is is my all-time favorite Japanese film.
Seven Samurai is a captivating story about a poverty-stricken village frequently attacked by a group of bandits.
The villagers, to fight against them and save themselves, recruits a group of 7 formidable Samurai.
In the end, it was a pyrrhic victory—everyone lost, and the only winner was peasants.
The epic adventure with an enthralling story and stunning action scenes, superb acting is a must-see first Japanese movie.
Watch once, and it will change your perspective on film.
The movie is undoubtedly not for everyone.
There is a significant variation in the language used in the dialogues compared to the modern Japanese version.
However, the slow-paced gives enough time to understand the accent and sentences and eventually motivate you to watch more movies for learning Japanese.
2. 13 Assassins (十三人の刺客) — 2010 (R)
It is an action-packed, historical movie that talks about the coming together of thirteen samurai to stop the works of an evil lord (daimyō – 大名) at the time when Japan was operating a feudal system.
The movie is a typical action type with many ear-shattering fight scenes, without deviating from the storyline.
The fight scene at the end of the 13 Assassins lasts for over 40 minutes. You can’t afford to miss out on this one.
The language used in the film involved archaic and harsher words of the typical samurai intonation/speech expression.
It is like watching a British movie set in the 1900s compared to the one set in the 21st century.
However, this movie will open up your understanding of a part of Japanese history, especially about the shogun era.
3. Shoplifters (万引き家族) — 2018 (R)
Shoplifters is an award-winning and popular flick—one of the best in the drama genre.
The film centers on a family living in abject poverty and whose only means of living outside the poverty line is to shoplift.
The movie is fascinating as it pushes beyond the stereotypes that rule the Japanese social order. The most important thing in Japan is the name of the family, blood, and personal image.
While this film centers on the family, the storyline entails that family isn’t always the best blood.
The film paints a picture of child neglect and abuse—a significant problem facing Japan today—and shows how people suffer from poverty, often overlooked and shoved aside.
If you want to see Japan through the lens of an alternate view, watch the Shoplifters.
Many vocabularies to grasp and easy to follow as the speakers’ words and speech pattern often follows their actions.
4. Sweet Bean (あん) — 2015
If you love food and want to watch a language film in that order, Sweet Bean is yours for dinner.
The motion-picture follows a simple storyline talking about a man that runs a small shop selling dorayaki, famous pastries filled with tasty sweet red bean paste in Japan.
The man, named Sentaro, hires the services of a woman who specialized in Bean paste delicacy.
When he found that the lady, Tokue, is afflicted with an illness, he removes her from the job. The talkie addresses the discrimination that isolates people from the rest of society.
Beautifully shot, Sweet Bean is an incredible masterpiece from a renowned filmmaker.
It is a hunger-inducing movie that focuses on the best approach to making the right foods.
The speech pattern and language use are emotional, less complicated, a good step for a beginner to know about Japan’s prejudices, history, and reconciliations.
5. Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) — (2001)
If you love animation and spiritism, this is one movie you should watch. It tells the story of a young girl fighting for survival in the spirits’ world after seeing her parents turned into hapless pigs.
While the film’s narrative may appear unsettling to some, it is one of the best fables ever to come out of the rising sun’s land, winning the Best Animation for the 2001 Academic Awards.
This movie for learning Japanese is exceptional because of its many simple vocabularies and illustrative pattern of speech.
The dialogues are useful to improve pronunciation, intonation, and vernacular tongue.
6. Ringu (リング) — 1998 (R)
Ringu is one of the most popular horror films ever to come from Japan’s silver screen. It is the perfect movie for learning Japanese who love watching horror films.
The R-rated movie showcases a mysterious and frightening videotape that kills and destroys anyone who views it unless it can solve the mystery surrounding it.
Ringu, which has a Hollywood remake called “Ring,” is the type of film that puts you in a complicated situation of not missing out on such enchanting movies and not wanting to watch such flicks again.
Proper Japanese syntax and vocabulary flow.
The film is excellent for beginners and intermediate Japanese language students.
Thanks to the wordings that are often calculative, giving room for language enthusiasts to reflect and grasp the underlying meaning.
7. Departures (おくりびと) — 2008
This film won an Oscar for the “Best Foreign Language Movie in the globe.”
Okuribito (the Japanese word Departures) refers to somebody who sends or sees another person off, let’s say at the port.
In the movie, a young and vibrant cellist and his wife moved from Tokyo to his hometown in a rural setting, following his symphony’s shutting down.
After the unexpected turn of events, he later took up a job in a funeral parlor where he regrettably finds himself catering for dead bodies against valuable cellos.
The movie offers a great way to learn colloquialism in the Japanese language, with many hush intonations to wit.
It is the perfect mixture of beauty and joy — You can discover once you see it and feel the life that is coursing through and all around us.
8. Nobody Knows (誰も知らない) — 2004
Child neglect and abuse are major issues in Japan, and this movie full of entrainment that seeks to draw attention to that problem.
Set at the end of the 1980s, Nobody Knows tells the story of a mother that abandons and left five of her children (all of them underage).
The film is a dramatic epitomizing of the Sugamo child neglect case. The five children between the ages of 5 and 12 were not allowed to see outsiders or step outside the home.
As a result, they learned how to depend on one another for their ultimate survival.
The movie is one of the most touching in Japanese films of the new century.
This movie teaches survival and bloodline reliance during tough times.
The language and verbatim are easy to grasp, and the storyline is progressive, which further makes it engaging to understand.
9. Your Name (君の名は。) — 2016
J-dramas offers a lot of intrigues for drama buffs, and this one is no exception.
Your name tells the story of two high school friends, Taki and Mitsuha, who switches bodies anytime they awaken from sleep. Today, Taki is Taki, and tomorrow, she is Mitsuha, and Mitsuha is Taki.
The two started texting each other, leaving notes behind and affecting each of their lives that way.
It led to a nostalgic, fantasy, and heartwarming story of love, including a comet.
Considering that the drama has a youthful nature, it makes the language simple for beginners who are just starting to learn Japanese.
10. Our Little Sister (海街) — 2015
Our Little Sister is one of the most-watched Japanese family dramas. It is a story of three close sisters who progressively learn to welcome a sibling after their father died.
The already blossoming bond between the sisters reaches out to the estranged arrival, but how long it will last and how effective it turns out is what marks the action that follows.
As usual, Japanese family dramas are set up in everyday life, making them easy to follow.
In particular, this one is much easier to follow, considering the youthful characters of the actors.
All these make the movie a nice one for someone who just wishes to learn the Japanese language.
It has a clear and definite vocabulary.
11. Dark Water (仄暗い水の底から) — 2002
For the horror movie buffs, this is a must-watch thriller. The movie tells the story of Yoshimi, a divorced mother who moves into a separate apartment after her daughter, Ikuko, was separated.
Upstairs is another apartment above hers, and a leak was coming from there even when it looks abandoned.
As she continues to reside in her apartment, many strange and horrific things started happening.
And then, and she soon came to know of the story of how a certain young girl died in that particular apartment.
Dark Water is a great movie that showcases the challenges faced by single mothers and family relationships between parents and children in Japan.
The tongue is straightforward, with every- Japanese vocabulary and verbs in use.
Watching films is one of the best ways to gain more listening practice and speed up your language learning skills.
There are many Japanese cinemas out there that help in mastering Japanese.
Do you recall any such movies for learning Japanese?
Please, share with me your best picks down in the comment section below.