35 Best Movies on Netflix Japan You Have to Watch

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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.

Appears on: Country-specific lists, Japan Netflix
Directed by: J.A. Bayona, 2012

A heart-wrenching tribute to victims of natural disasters that is one of despair, suffering, and hope. And it wouldn’t be so damning if it weren’t based off a true story surrounding the tragedy that killed more than 230,000 people.
Boxing Day 2004 was one of the most memorable dates for wedded couple, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts, for an Oscar nominated performance). Just two days prior, they arrived at Orchid Beach Resort in Thailand to celebrate the Christmas holidays together with their three children. After a squabble with the crew regarding their room reservations, they are granted the privilege of staying in a peaceful villa and all seems to be well. Nature had other plans in mind, though, and facing it head-on is the bittersweet reality.

Directed by: Edward Zwick, 2014

Pawn Sacrifice is a period drama about famed chess player Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), following Fischer’s rise from his childhood in Brooklyn through to his famed matchup with Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the 1972 World Chess Championship. The film captures Fischer’s adolescence as a time of burgeoning mastery of the game, while struggling in a fatherless home and beset by early signs of mental illness. Set during the height of the Cold War, tensions between the United States and Russia play a critical role in the story, as they fuel many of Fischer’s fears and anxieties over perceived Russian spying and surveillance. His paranoia reaches a fever pitch in Reykjavik, Iceland, the site of his famous duel with Spassky for the world championship, leading to a remarkably compelling finale. Writer director Steven Knight and director Edward Zwick have crafted a striking depiction of a real-life genius grappling with fraying sanity, and Maguire is stunningly evocative as the abrasive and acerbic Fischer. For the viewer, no advanced knowledge of chess is necessary to enjoy this vivid depiction of one man’s historical achievement in the face of profound mental disturbance.

Directed by: Jennifer Kent, 2014

In an age where recent horror films mostly use the jump-scare as a crutch to make their CGI-spawned (not to mention generic) creatures seem scary, The Babadook portrays real scares, relatable characters and a moving story. Jennifer Kent (director and writer) sets this on the backdrop of heavily Lars von Trier-inspired cinematography, elevating The Babadook from a shot at an amazing horror to a resemblance of an art house film. The unease felt during this film only increases as it creeps towards its conclusion. Whenever the Babadook (the monster of the film) is seen lurking in the peripherals of the camera, appearing in television sets and the shadows to create a sense of omnipresence that disturbs the viewer on a deeper, more primal level than that of so many recent horror films could even hope to reach. It leaves the audience with the sensation that they are being lowered onto a lit candle, spine-first. In short; the seamless acting, the beautiful shots, the slow-burning terror together creates a masterpiece that strides past any horror film of the past decade (maybe even further) and stands toe-to-toe with the greats without even breaking a sweat.

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch, 2013

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film is the story of a pair of vampires, Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton), married for thousand of years and living thousands of miles apart, subsequently reunited in modern-day Detroit to find Hiddleston in state of disrepair and depression. Their lives are shaken up by the sudden appearance of Swinton’s wayward young vampire sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) that sets their lives into tumult. It’s the type of evenly-paced and wryly amusing dramedy that only Jarmusch could craft. I loved the atmosphere and sensibility of this film, not to mention the various literary allusions along with the dark, somber soundtrack. Less of a narrative and more of a modern-day-vampire-slice-of-life, this is one of those films that gets under skin and stays awhile (and not in a bad way).

Directed by: Ethan Coen, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis tells the interesting and captivating story of a young, struggling singer navigating through the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. The movie conveys all sorts of emotions, thanks to Coen brothers’ stroke of genius: it is strange, funny, dramatic and satisfying at the same time. Not to mention, the ensemble case is superb, and the music is absolutely great. It is the kind of movie that will put an unfamiliar yet wondrous feeling into you as you live through Llewyn Davis’ eyes and feel his pain.

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga, 2011

A sleek revision of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel, the 2011 version of Jane Eyre features Mia Wasikowska as the titular governess and Michael Fassbender as her employer-and-lover-with-a-secret, Rochester — both lending stunningly aggrieved performances to the tale of their burgeoning love affair. The film is somber yet wonderfully polished as it plays out their individual complexities and growing passions. This film is also notable as the sophomore directorial effort of Cary Fukunaga, who would go on to great acclaim for his work on the first season of True Detective as well as Beasts of No Nation. Fans of Fukunaga’s work are just a likely to enjoy this one as are devotees of well-crated adaptations of classic literature.

Directed by: John Dahl, 1998

In Rounders, Matt Damon plays a law student and reformed poker player who is forced back into the game in order to help his newly-paroled best friend (Edward Norton) pay off overwhelming gambling debts. It’s an enjoyable insider’s look into the world of high stakes gambling and of Poker specifically, giving the viewer compelling insights into Poker in terms of strategy as well as human psychology. Damon and Norton are well-cast in their roles — Norton particularly great as the sleazy and manipulative “Worm”. Not-overly-surprising in its storytelling, yet highly enjoyable from beginning to end, this one will appeal to fans of gambling and sports films, as well as those who enjoy modern film noir and pseudo-noir films with a nice dramatic edge.

Directed by: Jacques Audiard, 2015

Dheepan is a French film from the director of A Prophet. It contrasts elements of Sri Lankan and French culture to provide interesting insights into both, while crafting a heart-wrenching and heartwarming tale of makeshift families in unimaginable circumstances. Like A Prophet, Dheepan makes occasional and shocking use of violence to underscore elements of culture and illuminate the inner workings of the characters. A fascinating and exhilarating movie, winner of the 2015 Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Directed by: Martin McDonagh, 2012

If you like any of the following: Irish accents, Woody Harrelson, Pulp Fiction, or dark comedy;  then this is the movie for you. This mix of violence, mafia, existential talk, and painfully comical situations might not be for everyone, but it has every component to make its target audience very pleased. And given how chaotic and crazy it can get, it should be enjoyed one take at a time, focusing on each delightful scene rather than the overall plot. Directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths makes a perfect comeback after In Bruges, without veering very much from it (consequently if you like this movie make sure you check out In Bruges too).

Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore, 2013

A riveting take on one of the most prestigious forms of modern art, The Best Offer is a film laced with symbolism and thick, posh accents. Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) ends up pursuing a socially inept woman through Robert (Jim Sturgess), who guides him in winning her heart, albeit, rather unconventionally. What starts out as something Oldman brushes off to be some poor laid-out scam ends up a mystery he begins obsessing over, turning his life to shambles of sorts.

This uncanny film by Academy Award-winning director Giuseppe Tornatore delivers sharp twists and appropriately-timed surprises in a suspense-thriller served on a silver platter.

Directed by: S. Craig Zahler, 2015

A peculiar Western that might not please everyone if it wasn’t for its main star, Kurt Russel. It’s a mix between classic western material, a horror flick, and a fantasy movie. Yes, it’s a lot. And not only that, it can be slow at times. However, in those perks it also finds a lot of originality in a saturated genre, and one more time: Kurt Russel. He’s amazing as can be expected, playing the sheriff of a quiet town that gets struck by sudden disappearances. The suspect is a faraway tribe known for its cannibalism practices, the movie follows the sheriff as he leads an expedition to save a disappearing woman.

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga, 2015

An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending state of war in Africa. It takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached. As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, and the whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are enthralling.

Directed by: Noah Baumbach, 2013

Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York – but not the glamorous NYC of Woody Allen movies. Taking place primarily in the gritty and rapidly gentrifying North Brooklyn, the black and white film paints a picture of an extended adolescence. Focusing on the goofy and carefree Frances, who loses her boyfriend, her best friend and her dream of being a dancer. She moves in with two guys, both of whom are more successful than her, and becomes even more determined to fulfil her goals, impractical as they may be. Fans of HBO’s Girls and other odes to not being a “real person” yet will love this film.

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, 2014

This movie originally caught my eye for all the attention it got at the Cannes festival, but I assure you, all of the hype is more than warranted. Two Days, One Night takes you on an emotional journey with Sandra, recovering from depression and ready to get back to work, when she discovers that her co-workers, having to choose between receiving a bonus and Sandra keeping her job, hold her fate in their hands. And thus, barely convinced herself and with her husband as her only support, she sets out on an unlikely mission to convince the people to vote against the bonus so that she still has a salary.

This movie will strike a chord for anyone who has encountered depression or even simply tried to understand the abstract concept that it is. Marion Cotillard flawlessly portrays through Sandra the desperate struggle of having to put up a fight despite the utter hopelessness that she finds herself drowning in. At strife with herself, watching her try even though every cell in her body has given up, is gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring at the same time. Before long Sandra’s fight on the lay-off and on her own hopelessness seem to blur together. Whether she wins, is what keeps you hooked to the very end.

Directed by: Kevin Smith, 1994

What is a good low-budget film? A film stripped to the intelligence of its makers and the talents of its actors. Clerks is that and more. Filmed in black-and-white and at the convenience store where its director Kevin Smith worked in real life, it’s a hilarious slice-of-life story about two slackers working in minimum wage jobs and their customers added to the news of an ex-girlfriend passing away. It would be a must-watch because of how unique it is, and how it pulls of everything it reaches for, but it’s also hilarious, and a very touching effort.

Directed by: John Hillcoat, 2009

A Cormac McCarthy novel adaptation (like No Country for Old Men), The Road is an apocalypse movie set in a ‘scorched Earth’ rendition of the world. It follows a father (played by Viggo Mortensen) and his son as they battle to survive everyday life. Throughout the movie, the son’s trust in his father grows and shrinks depending on choices the father makes, as he attempts to protect his son from cannibals, bandits, and the threat of starvation. The gritty realism this movie presents sets it apart from many other more theatrical releases, with the setting of a charred world illustrating a rather depressing new reality. A very down to earth and heartfelt story. Definitely worth the watch if you’re willing to feel like you’ve been punched in the gut.

Directed by: Ava DuVernay, 2014

The award-winning Martin Luther King Jr. story spanning the three months in 1965 where he led a campaign to secure the right to vote for black Americans. Many decades later, the story and the underlying struggles it portrays prove to be forever relevant. What is interesting about Selma however is the portrayal of Dr. King, and what it means to be a person in his position. Doubts clash with ideals, insecurities with sensibilities – all portrayed flawlessly by David Oyelowo. A must see.

Directed by: Olivier Assayas, 2014

The film for which Kristen Stewart became the first American actress to win the César Award. The Twilight star turned indie prodigy plays next to another award favorite, Juliette Binoche, as her assistant. When rehearsing for the play that launched her career many years earlier, Binoche’s character, Maria, blurs the line between fiction and reality, her old age and her assistant’s young demeanor, and the romance story portrayed in the play and her own life. The movie itself is stylized as a play, adding another interesting layer of artistic creativity to the complex plot line. A film for film lovers.

Directed by: Tom Ford, 2009

Shot as a single day, it tells the story of college professor George (Colin Firth) who, unable to cope with the death of his partner months prior, resolves to commit suicide. The movie is not all dark, however, there are moving, deeply human encounters as George moves through his last day. Fashion designer Tom Ford’s directorial debut and set in 1960s Los Angeles, it speaks powerfully of the colour-stripping effects of grief and loneliness. Fantastic performance also by Julianne Moore as Charley, an equally lonely and desperate character, but with a markedly different story. A Single Man is a gorgeous film in every sense of the word.

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow, 2012

A quirky little movie about a reporter trying to get a story about a man who posted an ad looking for someone to travel in time with. The movie’s main strength is the fantastic casting of talents that usually live in the series world (Jake M. Johnson from New Girl, Aubery Plaza from Parcs and Recreation, Mark Duplass), and although it might seem a little bit slow at the beginning, it is worth every second spent watching it.

Directed by: Wolfgang Becker, 2003

An intriguing, funny and rather bizarre movie which serves as a fantastic introduction to ‘new-wave’ German cinema. Featuring a cast of young talented actors and excellent direction, this movie takes place around the time the Berlin wall fell and East and West Berlin were still united. Christiane, a devout socialist activist in East Berlin suffers an accident which leaves her in a coma, during which time the Berlin wall comes down and Western capitalism encroaches on her beloved East Berlin. Fearing that she may relapse into a coma after waking up, her doctors warn that she must remain calm and not endure any shocks. Despite the somewhat contrived premise, the film really takes off from this point as her son Alex and his friend aim to hide this fact from her, by faking news reports on the television, coming up with excuses for a giant Coca Cola banner and a whole host of other amusing exploits to prevent her from knowing. While categorised as a comedy, it is also a moving portrayal of a loving family enduring great, historic change.

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson, 2014

A really weird and also heartwarming movie about Frank, the leader and singer/songwriter of a crazy band. He really grows on you with his big head. If you like movies with that funky edge (like Scott Pilgrim) this is especially something for you! Either way and regardless of your preferences, you’ll find Frank to be a sweet, sincere, likable and clever comedy.

Directed by: Mike Flanagan, 2017

Based on the Stephen King book, this is a slow-burning horror thriller with a seemingly limited premise. Jesse and Gerald are in a house in the countryside and their attempt to spice up their relationship turns out catastrophic. Gerald suffers from a heart attack while Jesse finds herself handcuffed to a bed without the keys. The movie follows her, and at every turn blows your mind about what can be done in a movie where the main character is glued to a bed for most of the run-time. An original movie for true horror fans only, as it might seem a little too absurd and slow for anyone else.

Directed by: Lee Daniels, 2013

Equally heartwarming and gut-wrenching, this is the real-life story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight presidents in the White House. Portrayed sincerely and flawlessly by Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker, the film takes place during tremulous times for both Cecil and the country — and gives you the world from his perspective, his struggles, and his opinions. It’s a beautiful and affecting film that will leave you with a simple yet deep emotional impact.

Directed by: James Gray, 2008

This is the most practical romantic movie I have seen though many would disagree with its ending. It’s a triangular love story that trades cashable means of storytelling with a much more sensible approach. After a failed relationship, Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) returns to live with his parents only to find himself torn again between an exciting neighbor and a woman his parents set him up with. Phoenix delivers an impeccable performance as it goes without saying but Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw really steal the show as the two love interests. They both deliver honest and very interesting portrayals. All in all, Two Lovers is a complex and very well-acted film that goes as far as examining the notion of love, and what we look for in people, through seemingly a simple story.

Directed by: Werner Herzog, 2016

From countries like Finland to North Korea, this amazing documentary explores the most fascinating active volcanoes on our planet. But as it unfolds you realize that Into the Inferno is a movie as much about volcanoes as it is about the people obsessed with them. And who can be called obsessive more than the film’s own director, Werner Herzog, who, with such an explosive career had to eventually make a film about volcanos (bad pun intended). Beautiful scenery, interesting interviews, and Werner’s majestic delivery all make Into the Inferno both an interesting and satisfying documentary.

Directed by: Babak Anvari, 2016

Horror movies have always been creepier to me when they play on our fear of the “unknown” rather than gore. Under The Shadow does exactly that. The story is based around the relationship of a woman, Shideh, and her daughter, Dorsa, under the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war. As widespread bombings shake the ground beneath their feet, the two grapple with a more insidious evil that is faceless and traceless, coming and going only with the wind. The movie’s dread-effect plays strongly on feelings of isolation and helplessness. The scares are slow and it’s obvious the director takes great care in making every single second count and in raising the unpredictableness of the action. Like the bombs, the audience never knows when or how the next apparition will materialize. The former is always on the edge of fear, wondering what is no doubt there, but is yet to be shown on the frame. In terms of significance, Under The Shadow features too many symbolisms to count and will most likely resonate with each person differently. But one thing remains relatively unarguable: this is a wonderful movie.

Directed by: Macon Blair, 2017

This is the first film directed by actor Macon Blair (so good in both Blue Ruin and Green Room), and while it is shaggy and tonally all over the place, there is a lot to recommend here. First off, I’m a huge fan of the (underrated) Melanie Lynskey, so I was primed to like this movie from the get-go. After Ruth’s (Lynskey) home is broken into, she seeks revenge against the perpetrators with help from her martial arts obsessed neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood, sporting an impressive rat-tail). What starts out as an empowering journey for Ruth & Tony quickly teeters into dangerous and increasingly violent territory. This movie is probably not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of 90s indie films and don’t mind some violence mixed in with your dark humor, then you will enjoy this small, well-acted film.

Directed by: Todd Haynes, 2015

Watching Carol is like reading a really interesting book while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It is one of those movies that you probably heard about during its Oscar run, and have since delayed actually viewing it. Well now that it is on Netflix and other streaming services you have no excuse! It’s refreshingly unique, incredibly charming, and features a kind of story that hasn’t been told very often – a love story between two women. Both characters played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attempt to live true to their own principles while facing unjust yet severe backlash from society. If you are open to it, the love story in this will stay with you forever.

Directed by: Charlie Siskel, 2013

Vivian Maier was a French-American photographer whose art, like many of the greats, only gained widespread success after her death. Most of her life was spent working as a maid for families in Chicago. Her masterpieces were only introduced to the world when the director of this documentary purchased a box of her negatives. This movie is about him trying to put together the pieces and retrace her life by interviewing the people that knew her.
Right from the beginning of this documentary her photos will have you in awe. They gave me chills and made me feel exactly what I needed to feel to understand each photo. Cue Vivian’s unexpected dark side along with really messed up backstory, I was completely absorbed. Interviews, along with Vivian’s own photos and home videos show the complexity and mystery of the artist.

Directed by: Joel Edgerton, 2015

The Gift is Joel Edgerton’s directoral debut, a twisted and smart thriller that sneaks up on you where you least expect it. He also stars in it as Gordo, a friend from the past that enters a new couple’s life (played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) and brings a secret that has been hidden for decades. A very “movie” movie, it has enough in it that’s original and enough that’s not to make for a very enjoyable 100 minutes.

Directed by: Walter Salles, 2004

Let’s fight! I’m not a fan of “Into the wild” okay okay, calm down… Maybe we can fix this. Maybe we could watch “The Motorcycle Diaries” together. Watching this heartwarming movie, you will get the travel bug. I got it and I never got rid of it. I even want to go on a motorcycle tour through South America although I would have never dreamed of getting on a motorbike. Have fun with it. Oh and… this film is about the young Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado by the way.

Directed by: Doug Liman, 1996
Swingers is the bro-fest regular dudes need. Not enough movies tell the stories of the down-on-luck, kind of uncool wolf-pack that still goes out into town with their wallets on chains hanging from their pockets and try their luck with the ladies. Mike, heart-broken actor-comedian pines over his ex long after she’s been gone, while his guys – Trent, Rob and Sue – try to help him get back in the game in a series of nights club-hopping and wingman-ing. You find yourself empathizing with Mike almost immediately if you’ve ever had a broken heart and root for him throughout his highs and fairly embarrassing lows. Sprinkled with clever references and subtle, refreshing humor, Mike’s journey to find closure is more than likely to warm your heart.
As a bonus, the flawed yet endearing gang of twenty-something struggling actors will take you to that charming 90’s nightlife in Los Angeles (with music to die for, by the way) and remind you that boys will be boys and that they’re just doing their best helping each other and themselves to keep it together with lots of “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it!”.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón, 2006

Starring Clive Owen in a post apocalyptic nightmare, Children of Men is definitely not for everyone. An insightful, moving and action-packed film where women can no longer have children, and all hope lies on one man to guide the world’s last fertile woman to safety. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this film is a moving portrait of the end of the world that asks the audience to really think.

Directed by: Christian Petzold, 2015

Nelly is a concentration camp survivor who undergoes reconstructive facial surgery, and comes back to question whether her husband (unable to recognize her) was the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Heavy, heavy stuff. But in Phoenix you will also see something else, as the story takes you beyond the subject matter to become almost a celebration of film: elements of Hitchcockian cinema intertwine with the realism of the likes of David Ayer are added to perfect performances to create a stunning, compelling, and exceptional film.