There are strange movies, and then there are stranger movies. Movies that simply cannot be described with words alone. There are movies you see, and then there are movies you experience. This list compiles ten of the strangest Japanese movies that simply must be seen to be believed. Have you seen Japan’s ten strangest movies? I bet you haven’t, and you’re missing out.
10. House (1977)
Obvious green screen is obvious
House is a cult classic and with good reason. It starts out like a whimsical fairy tale adventure of seven friends going to the countryside for a lovely summer holiday. Up to this point the film seems entirely ordinary, but things start to turn sour shortly after they arrive at the house in question. From there on in, things just get weirder and weirder.
Especially considering the year it was made, House is pretty impressive. It’s interesting, weird, creepy, and goofy. While I wouldn’t exactly be jumping at the chance to watch it again, I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone who appreciates horror films. This movie was definitely ahead of its time.
It’s a cult classic you wouldn’t want to miss out on. How can you go wrong with killer pianos, multi-colored blood, and glowy eyed cats?
Who to watch it with: Anyone who enjoys B-movie horror or appreciates cult classics.
9. Marebito (2004)
No, I haven’t seen your cat. Why do you ask?
When I rented this movie I really wasn’t expecting anything special. I just thought it would be another run-of-the-mill Japanese horror film. Well, I was wrong. Marebito is very well done and quite interesting.
The main character is a freelance cameraman obsessed with fear. In the movie he takes it upon himself to investigate an urban legend involving mysterious spirits that haunt the subways of Tokyo, but what he discovers is beyond anything he could have ever imagined.
Marebito is very different from most other Japanese horror films. The story is really cool and you actually care about what’s happening. It’s not one of those movies you’d watch just for the thrills and chills. The story is very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Who to watch it with: Someone who thinks all Japanese horror movies are the same.
8. Versus (2000)
An eye for an eye. And a gun. And a sword. And a dagger handle. And a flashlight-scope. Yeah. That’ll do
Versus takes place almost exclusively in the forest of resurrection where anyone who is killed is resurrected time and time again. The main character fights to protect a girl he just met and slowly unravels his destiny.
Versus is one of those movies I could watch over and over again and never get tired of it. There’s just something about this movie that makes it so enjoyable. Is it the action? The drama? The zombies? The action? The weapons? The dramatic zombie weapon action? Maybe. Whatever it is, Versus is definitely a must see from this list. Check it out.
Who to watch it with: People who like the undead, action, and wacky humor.
7. Survive Style 5+ (2004)
Hiroshi Abe: Watches you while you sleep
Survive Style 5+ is one of my top favorite movies of all time. We’ve got an all star cast including the likes of Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand’s Juggernaut). He almost always plays a no-nonsense badass in his films and Survive Style 5+ is no exception. His inclusion in this movie is both hilarious and awesome.
Starting off in unrelated plot lines, the main characters eventually weave their stories into one ridiculous adventure. We have one man who continuously fails at getting his wife to stay dead, a murderous commercial director who comes up with the most insane ad ideas, a British hitman who’s only interested in knowing your function in life, and an unfortunate salaryman who thinks he’s a bird.
The movie is directed by an award winning Japanese commercial creator and it really shows in the film. There is no scene that isn’t funny, interesting, or colorful. It grabs your attention and never lets go. If you only pick one movie from this list to watch, make it this one. Please. You’d be doing yourself a favor.
Who to watch it with: Anyone who has a sense of humor.
6. Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
Your hedges need trimmed? Yeah, sure, I can do that
When I saw this one I actually wasn’t expecting too much but I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected. I didn’t really care for the story, but all the imagery and crazy stuff they did more than made up for it. It’s one of those movies where you can easily turn off your brain and just take in all of the ridiculous things being thrown at you.
In the world of Tokyo Gore Police the force has been privatized in order to combat homicidal mutants known as “engineers.” These engineers possesses the ability to graft a weapon onto any sort of bodily injury. The main character fights many of these on her journey to avenge her father’s death.
If you like over the top violence and gore paired with some really messed up nonsense, then this is definitely one to check out.
Who to watch it with: People who like weird things and violence.
5. Paprika (2006)
That pretty much sums up the entire movie for me. But first things first. Paprika is a gorgeous movie. The colors and art style are simply fantastic. It is truly a sight to behold. If you have a projector, or a friend with one, watch this movie on it. Your eyes will thank you.
And the main song for the movie is brilliant. My favorite part of the entire movie was the opening sequence. I love that song.
In the movie there is a machine that has been designed to let people enter the dreams of others. However, after this device is stolen, everything starts to go wrong for just about everyone. Insanity ensues and it’s up to Paprika to set everything back in order.
The movie overall is a mixed bag in my opinion. Some parts are astonishing and wonderfully done. Truly a feast for the eyes. Paprika was one of the main influences behind the movie Inception and it definitely shows. Some parts really get you thinking.
However there are some sequences in the film that are just meh. Even though the movie was a strange one, I consistently found myself wanting it to be more strange. Like the strange parts were so strange and interesting that when it went back to something normal it just seemed lacking in comparison.
While Paprika has its lows, I believe that the highs more than make up for it. If you have a nice multimedia set-up, definitely check this one out. I have the feeling that it just wouldn’t be the same on a small screen with dinky speakers.
Who to watch it with: People who like pretty pictures and confusion.
4. Dead Leaves (2004)
Remember, kids: Just say no to drugs!
Do you have epilepsy? Yes? Don’t watch this movie. You will have seizures. Over and over. And over and over again.
If you don’t have epilepsy, you’re in luck (and not just because you don’t have epilepsy). Dead Leaves is a great movie and a wild crazy ride. From the beginning it’s a nonstop action adventure with more gore and comic relief than you can shake a drill at.
The two main characters awaken naked with no recollection of their past. They are soon thrown in jail where they discover more about their origins and the world they live in and subsequently devise a plan to break on outta there.
Dead Leaves is easily one of the goriest animes I have ever seen. And that’s saying a lot. But somehow, even though it’s incredibly brutal, every time someone was injured or killed I found it absolutely hilarious. (Is that bad?)
Dead Leaves is just fun. It’s such a fun movie. And with a run-time of only 52 minutes there’s absolutely no excuse not to check this one out.
Who to watch it with: People who don’t have epilepsy.
3. Robo Geisha (2009)
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it was a joke. That should give you an idea of how ridiculous this movie is. I’m sure after you watch the trailer you’ll agree with me.
In Robo Geisha, girls are recruited into an elite fighting force where women alter parts of their bodies to become perfect killing machines. Plot twists ensue, and eventually all of Japan is in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth.
Robo Geisha is very over the top with most of the action and fighting being played out in very strange ways. We’ve got armpit katanas, robo geisha tanks, and tengu milk just to name a few implements of destruction. If you’ve got an afternoon to kill, you could certainly do worse than Robo Geisha.
Who to watch it with: People you can talk to and laugh with about all the crazy nonsense you’re witnessing.
2. Rampo Noir (2005)
Yeah. Sure. This looks normal
Rampo Noir is a collection of four short stories brought to life on film. If I could give you a plot summary, I would. This movie is super weird and words just fail me here.
I’m not really sure how I feel about this movie. It’s… different. I think this is the only movie on this list that I would refuse to watch again. I think once would be enough for anybody.
But hey! Tadanobu Asano’s in it. He makes everything better.
Who to watch it with: People you want to make wary of Japanese cinema for the better part of a year.
1. Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989)
Yeah… You might wanna have that looked at
Oh. My. Kami.
This movie. Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. This movie will make your jaw hit the floor, and before you can pick it back up, your jaw hits the floor again. How is that possible? I have no idea. This movie is insane. There’s absolutely no doubt that this movie should be at the top of anyone’s list of strange movies, Japanese or otherwise.
This is one of those movies that I simply can’t put into words. You don’t just watch Tetsuo, you experience Tetsuo. Just watch the trailer, okay? You’ll see what I mean.
Who to watch it with: People whose brains you want to make explode.
And there you have it – ten of the strangest Japanese films I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I am sure there are many other viable candidates for the list (Funky Forest, for example) but I didn’t want to include anything here that I hadn’t actually viewed myself.
If there are any films not on the list you think should have made it, please let me know in the comments. And if you think any of these movies don’t deserve to be on the list, feel free to fill me in.
So tell me, what’s the weirdest Japanese film you’ve ever seen?
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