Best Movies on Netflix Japan You Have to Watch

May 17, 2019

If you live in Japan, you must be curious about not only if your country’s selection on Netflix is good, but also how to find the movies that are worth your time. This list serves both purposes. Specific to Netflix Japan, this is a countdown of handpicked critically acclaimed films that will cover you for a long time. As we will update it regularily, make sure to bookmark it for whenever you feel like watching something good.

agoodmovietowatch suggests films that are highly-rated but relatively little-known. We’re to serve as a gateway to services like Netflix, and in a way show you what to “demand” from these On-Demand providers.

Below, find the best movies on Netflix Japan, you can also browse all our suggestions here.

Netflix algorithms are hiding good movies from you. Our newsletter uncovers them.

35 /

Spy Game

2001

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt make quite the ensemble in this edgy game of espionage. With performances as strong as their jawlines, this action packed rescue mission will keep you in suspense! Be sure to keep up with all the witty banter and interesting plot twists shifting between flashbacks and present day scenarios. Keep in mind that this isn’t your average spy movie, with a more realistic approach and a character driven storyline, most of the flash happens cinematically.

34 /

Whiplash

2014

A decidedly mediocre young drummer is discovered by a tyrannical music teacher and transferred to his class. It is in this class, with this teacher, that he discovers his own breaking point and strives to surpass it. It takes traditional thriller elements (outrageous villain, inexperienced victim, plenty of blood) and turns them into something wholly new and utterly provocative. It’s almost impossible to single out the best part of this film, considering the flawless performances, masterful script, and meticulously crafted soundtrack. Watch this movie to step out of your own life for a while and come back asking “How far would I go?”

Renton (McGregor), a Scottish twenty-something junkie, must choose to clean up and get out, or continue following the allure of the drugs and the influence of friends. Find out if he chooses life in this brutal yet entertaining Danny Boyle masterpiece. While definitely not for the faint of heart, Trainspotting still manages to be funny at times, and provides an overall very entertaining experience.

32 /

OldBoy

2003

On his daughter’s birthday, Oh Dae-su gets drunk and is arrested by the police. His friend bails him out of jail and while he is making a phone call Oh Dae-su disappears, and is held by unknown captors, in a room for 15 years only to see the outside world through a television. But one day he’s released. That’s all that can be revealed, without telling too much of this intense and twisted film. All I can add, and this is precisely how I recommend Oldboy to new viewers: “You’re welcome & I’m sorry.” It is truly a twisted film, one that is mesmerizing in it’s directing, acting, and plot, all of which will stay with you whether you like it or not.

Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, influences Adele’s life dramatically, teaching her how to be honest with herself and discover her true desires about love. The film beautifully and realistically portrays the Adele’s evolution, from a highschool girl to a grown-up woman. The spirit Emma lights up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is an honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.

When asked about this film, Quentin Tarantino goes so far as to say, “If there’s any movie that’s been made since I’ve been making movies that I wish I had made, it’s that one.” Kinji Fukasaku’s cult classic follows an alternative reality set in Japan, where a random high school class is forced onto a remote island to fight to the death. While it does follow the quintessential ‘only one shall leave’ scenario (complete with over-the-top, almost comedic murder scenes), the raw emotion and character depth cuts far deeper than traditional action thrillers. The film will leave you out of breath but still satisfied with how the narrative plays out.

29 /

Mr. Nobody

2009

Based on a beautiful premise, sprinkled with artistic vision, it is an intelligent sit back and relax movie. The film explores the life and times of Nemo Nobody, the last mortal man on earth, as he reflects on the important choices he’s made. Each of these choices are presented as branching pathways of what could have been, utilizing innovative non-linear cinematography. In addition to the film’s winning structure, its soundtrack is considered a masterpiece, perfectly fitting the plot via looping and trilling melodies. The film garnered 6 Magritte awards, and has slowly been developing into an indie cult classic.

28 /

Virunga

2014

A documentary that is immediate and plays out like a thriller. Beautifully shot in Virunga National Park in the Eastern Congo, the story focuses on the struggles between Park Rangers and a list of adversaries including poachers, oil company goons, and an Islamic revolutionary army. The stories of the endangered gorillas and the people who struggle to protect them will break your heart and at the same time give you hope in humanity. On top of this, the editing is superb and gives the film an intensity that rivals any recent thriller.

27 /

Ex Machina

2015

A brilliant science fiction film from the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later).

It tells the story of a developer who is invited by a billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment and interact with a robot called Ava. Questions of trust and ethics soon collide with the protagonist’s personal views. It’s a cultural take on the debate between artificial and human intelligence.

The visual effects are stunning and efficient, making Ex Machina feel just as casually futuristic as Her. In its emphasis on ideas, it is as daringly simple as a David Fincher production.

One of the most original time-travel thrillers since 12 Monkeys. A brilliant subversion of the Time Paradox trope, with enough plot twists to keep you entertained until well after the movie is finished. Predestination is an amazing movie with great performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. It’s a movie that will feel like Inception, when it comes to messing with your mind and barely anyone has heard of it. It is highly underrated and unknown, sadly.

25 /

About Time

2013

This movie is about Tim Lake who discovers that men in their family can time travel but can’t change history, only their own lives. He uses this special ability to achieve the future that he envisioned. As one would imagine, there are a lot of what-ifs and cerebral moments in this movie. Great performance by the cast especially the lead roles (Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson). It’ll make you laugh, cry, and fall in love. It will make you realize how important time is in our life and the consequences of every action we take. It’s an amazing romcom movie. It gave me a movie hangover! The genius of About Time is that it is enjoyable yet at the same time offers an engaging story, and takes on interesting ideas. The phrase “pleasure to watch” may not apply to a movie more than it does for About Time, and I’m happy to say that it is way more than just that. 

This Oscar winner is an offbeat romantic comedy that still feels like a standard romantic comedy! It’s best that you go into it without many expectations, because many people enjoy it for different reasons and it’s best if you find your own. It’s also a movie that needs to be seen as a whole, despite having so many components to it. Fresh out of a mental institution, Pat (Bradely Cooper) moves with his parents and tries to get his ex-wife back. Hel he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a girl with complex problems of her own. Silver Linings Playbook is funny, so well-acted, and takes on interesting issues and perspectives.

23 /

Divines

2016

Deep in the suburbs of Paris, Divines follows the story of Dounia (played by Oulaya Amamra) and her best friend Maimouna (played by Déborah Lukumuena). Director Houda Benyamina serves a nest of social issues – welcoming the viewer into a world where poverty is pervasive and adults are haunted by their own ghosts, where there is a life vest only in the reliance on friendship. The nature of this bond between the two female characters is deep, playful, and backed by mesmerizing acting on behalf of Amamra and Lukumuena.

Just as prevailing throughout the film is the commentary on immigrant diasporas and the power of idealization. The girls fantasize about financial excess with guttural determination, guided only by the realization that their escape from their current lives has to come to fruition no matter what the cost. This film is entrancing and thought-provoking. You won’t be able to look away.

22 /

Chasing Ice

2012

Incredible footage combined with a great soundtrack will keep you frozen in your seat until global warming melts you off (so to speak). Chasing Ice is about a National Geographic photographer who tries to capture a complete overview of what climate change is doing to our planet. Consequently this movie took years to make and countless technical issues had to be dealt with in order to record the time-lapse videos. The result is mesmerizing, and captures something that has never been caught on camera before. This movie is evidence of what our planet is going through that everyone can relate to. Be prepared to be charmed and saddened at the same time.

This is an initially touching film about a man who feels his life is over. His wife has died and he wishes to join her. Whenever he tries to meet his end, he gets interrupted either by his desire to make sure things in his neighborhood are being done properly and rules are followed, or by someone needing him to help them. Despite himself, he turns out to be a man that people are glad is around and they insist on making a friend of him. He helps families with small children, ostracized teenagers, and even elderly Volvo drivers. Ove’s journey is always compelling. This Swedish hit has a remarkably good story to tell about finding tolerance in surprising places and it also portrays a good balance of sentimentality against a harsh reality.

20 /

ROMA

2018

Alfonso Cuaron is a master storyteller, Academy Award-winning director, and the man behind masterpieces such as Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity, Children of Men, and perhaps more importantly, the (uncontested) best Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban, of course). In Roma, he tells a different story. His own.

Building on events from his childhood, he tells the story of a young domestic worker in the Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. You get tales of class struggle, family dynamics and sexism in 1970s Mexico City.

The first hour is slow but so beautiful. All it does is prepare you for the events to come, and those who stick it out will be handsomely awarded. 

This is a stunning, wise and deeply personal movie. It’s everything we should ever ask from filmmakers at their prime.

19 /

Serenity

2005

Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.

18 /

Sing Street

2016

In 1980s Dublin, a young Irish catholic-school boy, whose family is facing financial problems starts his own band with the sole objective of impressing a mysterious femme fatale. The film takes you on a beautiful and witty journey through the band’s path to success and our protagonist’s quest in conquering his love all to the rhythm of some of the biggest 80’s pop-rock hits and the band’s own original soundtrack. Without a doubt this film is the long awaited passion project of filmmaker John Carney (Once, Begin Again).

17 /

Blue Jay

2016

Shot in black and white to be the best dialogue-driven, character-study film it can be; Blue Jay stars Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass in a cozy, slow-burning film. Their characters, respectively Amanda and Jim, are former high-school sweethearts who run into each other in their hometown 20 years later. They talk, they get coffee, and then beer and jelly beans, until they find themselves to Jim’s mother’s house. As they familiarize themselves again, and the movie moves forward, it abandons its romantic chops to become a truly heartfelt and real film. A revelation of a movie.

16 /

Moonlight

2016

One of the most relevant movies to come out in the past years, Moonlight is a celebration of onscreen aesthetics and delicate screenwriting, acting and directing. In the poorer area of Miami, snippets of the life of a gay African-American man are shown in three different ages, states, and attitudes. Throughout the movie, and as you witness him progress and regress, you become almost enchanted by what is happening in front of you. You find yourself in a state of understanding and not understanding, of thinking you know what’s going to happen in the next scene, but also of having no idea of what is to follow. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar, Best Supporting Actor (for Mahershala Ali who plays one of the main charachter’s early role models), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Do you know that euphoric feeling you get when you watch a smart, eloquent person talk about important ideas? Multiply that by two in Best of Enemies.

This 2015 documentary traces the debates between two of the brightest intellectuals around the Nixon and Reagan eras. Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley couldn’t be more opposed to each other in ideas and values. One is an ardent liberal, who wrote books and movies around gay sex (back in the 1960s), female empowerment, and the fall of the so-called American Empire. The second is an elitist and a Republican guided by Christian values and status quo ideals.

ABC put them together as commentators the 1968 presidential debates, and as such, they would change the future of talk-show TV forever. They both considered debating a sport, and they both were the best in their craft. It’s so, so entertaining to watch them spar with each other. They despised each other, I know that’s not something I should be proud of enjoying, but I did. These debates were not so much a clash of tepid arguments but more of a clash of geniuses. 

14 /

Room

2015

An exploration of the complex and loving relationship between a mother and her son that will take you through a variety of extremely perceived emotions: it’s uplifting, disturbing, provocative, sad, and hopeful among many other things. We don’t get many of these middle-class-budget films anymore, and this one might be its category’s best. A kidnapped girl (Brie Larson) has a son (Jacob Tremblay in an electrifying performance) with her abductor and tries to provide a “normal” environment for the kid in the room where they’re being held captive, until they attempt to escape. Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress in Room, so make sure to also check out Short Term 12, an equally impressive performance by her in an equally amazing movie.

What turns good men bad? Some of the stuff in this film, definitely.

From one small Texas town to the other, two brothers rob banks and travel with extreme precaution yet apparent recklessness.

Played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, their journey captures their essence as Texans. The makers of this movie gave a lot of attention to aesthetics, and because of this the portrayal of the main characters fits very well with the portrayal of their environment. Character and scenery become are one in Hell or High Water, a magical modern-day crime western that you can get soaked in so easily.

When asked to play Andy Kaufman, Jim Carrey decided that he would get into character and never get out, even when the camera was not rolling. This was extremely frustrating to everyone at first, especially the director, who had no way of communicating with Jim Carrey, only Andy Kaufman or Tony Clifton (an alter ego created by Andy Kaufman). At the same time, Carrey had allowed a camera crew to follow him in order to create a behind-the-scenes documentary. The footage was never released because Universal Studios expressed concerns that “people would think Jim Carrey is an asshole”. Jim & Andy is that footage being displayed for the first time since it was recorded 20 years ago, finding Carrey at a very unique point in his life. Sick of fame and almost sick of acting, he displays his true self – an unbelievably smart, fragile, and complex person. His commentary, when it’s not funny impressions, is extremely emotional and grounded – sometimes philosophical. This is one of the best documentaries that Netflix has ever bought the distribution rights for, and certainly a mind-blowing portrayal of a complex mind.

Darren Aronofsky delivers yet another unforgettable allegory, starring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler long past his prime. He is struggling to retain a sense of identity, purpose and dignity. The audience can see in Rourke the story of all men, that we will one day grow old, regret mistakes that it’s too late to fix, and mourn the end of our successes.

10 /

Lion

2016

Lion is the award-sweeping movie based on the true story of a kid in India who gets lost in a train and suddenly finds himself thousands of kilometers away from home. 25 years later, after being adopted by an Australian couple, he embarks on a journey through his memory and across continents to reconnect with his lost family. Dev Patel plays Saroo, and Nicole Kidman plays his Australian adoptive mother. Two truly amazing performances that will transport you to the time and place of the events, as well as its emotions spanning tear-jerking moments and pure joy. An uplifting, meaningful, and beautiful movie.

9 /

Icarus

2017

Icarus starts with director Bryan Fogel deciding to inject himself with doping substances and participate in a biking race undetected. By accident, he ends up in contact with a Russian scientist. This man transforms the movie from a personal experiment to a highly relevant political thriller. Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the scientist is at the center of accusations in Russia of a virtually impossible state-sponsored doping scheme. With links to the Russian president Putin himself, the movie keeps getting more and more interesting as the relationship between Fogel and Rodchenkov develops. Aside from all the madness that unfolds, Rodchenkov’s likeable personality makes the story more relatable and humane, and gives an insight into the pressures of working in the regulatory body in a country like Russia. You will be astonished by how much material this movie has. A must-watch.

A heart-breaking examination of a decaying shell of a once-bright marriage, this sad and erotic story uses juxtaposition between happy flashbacks and the grim reality of an ordinary and dull life. This film features electrifying performance from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who seamlessly combine tenderness, rage, lust and sadness. This is a guaranteed tear-jerker, so make sure you’ve brought your Kleenexes!

7 /

Her

2013

Her is a movie with plenty of heart, in all its variations: love, sadness, hope and confusion. Through perfectly crafted production, the futuristic surroundings where the movie takes place will feel familiar only few minutes after it begins. This added to the amazing performance by Joaquin Phoenix delivers an unprecedented study of moving on from relationships that once seemed to last forever on one hand, and of the pursuit of intellectual love on the other. Her is thought-provoking in the most beautiful way possible, it narrates a relatable human being’s story. It is one of those movies you will keep remembering every once and a while in different contexts of your life.

Revealing the gaps in the social safety net, I, Daniel Blake, is a tale centered around a blue collar worker navigating the welfare system in England. At a time where class and social mobility could not be more politically salient, this film calls into question the notion of the “citizen” and exposes the inaccessibility to the social protections in which one presumes entitlement.

At the forefront of this, is a heart-warming parable of paternal companionship between Daniel (played by Dave Johns) and a single mother – Katie – (played by Hayley Squires) who is wading through similar terrain. The acting in the film is unfathomably raw which cultivates the deepest source of gut wrenching compassion. Ken Loach has created a film that exposes the true power of empathy, leaving you feeling helplessly human.

A couple decides to raise their six children in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, far from modern culture. They teach them how to raise and kill their own food, how to live in nature, but also give them classes on literature, politics, and music. The family drills boot camp-like workouts and climbs rock faces to create physical endurance. Then the wilderness adventure comes to an abrupt halt with a telephone call, and the family enters the world — with hilarious and sorrowful results. Emotionally raw and honest, with terrific performances by Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay and the entire cast of “children.”

First off you have to remember it is the same writer as Training Day. Then you have to believe that he must have gone to a joint training camp between the Taliban and Mexican Cartels or something since Training Day to come up with such a tense, unpredictable script. But End of Watch is more than that. It is warm and sweet (yes), and a great showcase of Gyllenhaal and Pena’s talents — which thanks to a documentary-style cinematography, and the actors’ 5-month immersion program with actual LA cops, make for a very authentic, rich, and overall exciting film.

In many ways, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern masterpiece. It is not just a movie, but a psychological experience – one that is sincere to its premise and the troubled nature of the human beings in it. You will be surprised by the depth of its many layers, and the extents to which a similar movie can go. However as you get busy being surprised, it will make you a very happy person.

The perfect word to describe it is “satisfying”. Its character-driven chemistry will catch you even more as its reaches its perfect mix between comedy, warmth, tragedy and depression.

A wealthy paraplegic needs a new caretaker. His choice is surprising — an ex-con down on his luck. Both of their lives are changed forever. Based on a true story, it is funny, touching, and very surprising.  It will have you rolling on the floor laughing one minute and reaching for your hankie the next. Intouchables is one of those perfect movies, that will easily and instantly make anyone’s all-time top 10 list.

Taika Waititi’s follow-up to the (also great) What We Do in the Shadows, is a pure delight and the perfect antidote after a bad day or a steady diet of too many sad movies. “Bad egg” Ricky Baker has been bounced out of more foster care situations than he cares to remember until he’s given his last chance with a couple living on a rural New Zealand farm. After tragedy strikes early in the film Ricky and his foster uncle (Hec) find themselves on the run in the bush while a nationwide manhunt is initiated on their behalf. Hip-hop enthusiast Ricky and crusty, cantankerous Hec make quite the inspired pairing; this is a very funny film full of the deadpan humor that has become emblematic of Waititi’s work (Flight of the Conchords, Boy) but it is also oddly touching and full of heart.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) has been picked as the best movie on Netflix Japan. It stars Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Sam Neill. And it's best watched if you're in the mood for something Affectionate, Funny, Heart-warming, Satisfying, Sweet, Warm, Well-acted. For more titles on Netflix Japan, go back to our homepage agoodmovietowatch.com and select your country from the top bar.

David Gelb, 2011
bonus

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) is not only on Netflix japan, it was also made in japan! (this movie may or may not already be in the list).

This surprising documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old Japanese chef, his Michelin-starred restaurant in the Tokyo underground, and his eager sons. While ostensibly about sushi – and believe me, you’ll learn about sushi and see absolutely gorgeous images of the raw-fish creations – the film’s dramatic impetus is carried by the weight of tradition, […]

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