Watch Some Of Japan’s Best Horror Movies


A collage shows images from Perfect Blue, Ring, and Kwaidan.

I know what I’m doing this weekend. That’s right, staying home and watching horror movies.
Screenshot: GKids, Arrow, Criterion

It’s nearly Halloween, so there’s a good chance you’re in the mood for some horror. Might I tempt you with some from Japan?

Below are some—certainly not all—of Japan’s bloodiest and creepiest horror films. You might have seen some of these, but hopefully there will be something new here to check out. You may have seen none, and if you like horror, consider these an introduction to the world of J-horror.

Keep in mind that these movies might not be for everyone—especially youngsters or the squeamish. Included in the list are places where the movies can be viewed as of publishing.


Audition (1999)

Director: Takashi Miike

Screenwriter: Daisuke Tengan (adapted from Ryu Murakami’s 1997 novel Audition)

Cast: Eihi Shiina, Ryo Ishibashi, and Jun Kunimura

Where To Watch: Alamo, Amazon, Arrow, DirectTV, iTunes, Kanopy, and Spectrum 

What It’s About In One Sentence: A widower “auditions” women to be his wife, and thinks he’s found the perfect one.


Cure (1997)

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Screenwriter: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Koji Yakusho, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, and Anna Nakagawa

Where To Watch: Criterion

What It’s About In One Sentence: A police detective investigates a series of murders in which an “X” is carved into the victims’ throats, each committed by different people who confessed, but couldn’t say what drove them to kill.


House (1977)

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Screenwriter: Chiho Katsura (story by Chigumi Obayashi)

Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, and Kumiko Oba

Where To Watch: Amazon, Criterion, HBO Max, iTunes, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: A young woman invites her friends to a relative’s house over the summer and things get weird—like, really, really, really weird.


Ju-On: The Grudge (2001)

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Screenwriter: Takashi Shimizu

Cast: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, and Takashi Matsuyama

Where To Watch: Amazon, AMC, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: Things get terrifying after a social worker arrives at a cursed house where a family was brutally murdered.


Kuroneko (1968)

A vengeful ghost licks her lips.

Shindo’s horror films are filled with arresting imagery like this.
Screenshot: Toho

Director: Kaneto Shindo

Screenwriter: Kaneto Shindo

Cast: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, and Kiwako Taichi

Where To Watch: Criterion

What It’s About In One Sentence: Two vengeful spirits of women brutalized and violated during war vow to kill samurai and drink their blood.


Kwaidan (1965)

Director: Masaki Kobayashi

Screenwriter: Yoko Mizuki

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiko Kishi, Misako Watanabe, Rentaro Mikuni, Haruko Sugimura, Michiyo Aratama, Tetsuro Tamba, and Katsuo Nakamura

Where To Watch: Amazon, Criterion, Google Play, HBO Max, iTunes, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: Kwaidan’s four spooky tales are a good primer for traditional Japanese horror.


Noroi: The Curse (2005)

Director: Koji Shiraishi

Screenwriter: Koji Shiraishi and Naoyuki Yokota

Cast: Jin Muraki, Rio Kanno, and Marika Matsumoto

Where To Watch: Amazon, iTunes, and Spectrum

What It’s About In One Sentence: A found-footage film about a paranormal journalist who investigated an ancient demon.


One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Director: Shinichiro Ueda

Screenwriter: Shinichiro Ueda (inspired by Ryoichi Wada’s play “Ghost in the Box!”)

Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama, and Kazuaki Nagaya.

Where To Watch: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Spectrum, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: Making a low-budget, one-take horror movie isn’t easy, especially when the zombies are real.


Onibaba (1964)

Director: Kaneto Shindo

Screenwriter: Kaneto Shindo

Cast: Jitsuko Yoshimura, Nobuko Otowa, Taiji Tonoyama, and Kei Sato

Where To Watch: Criterion and HBO Max

What It’s About In One Sentence: As war rages, two women survive by killing wandering samurai and selling their armor.


Perfect Blue (1998)

Director: Satoshi Kon

Screenwriter: Sadayuki Murai (adapted from Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis)

Cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shiho Niiyama, and Hideyuki Hori

Where To Watch: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: A pop star gives up singing for acting—a decision that leads to stalkers, paranoid psychosis, and murder.


Pulse (2001)

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Screenwriter: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Koyuki, Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso

Where To Watch: Amazon, iTunes, Kanopy, Microsoft, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: Ghosts use the internet to invade Tokyo.


Ringu (1998)

Director: Hideo Nakata

Screenwriter: Hiroshi Takahashi (adapted from Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel Ring)

Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuchi, and Hiroyuki Sanada

Where To Watch: Alamo, Amazon, Arrow, DirectTV, Google Play, iTunes, and Microsoft

What It’s About In One Sentence: It’s up to a journalist to figure out why people are ending up dead after they watch a cursed videotape and get a mysterious phone call.


Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Screenwriter: Shinya Tsukamoto

Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, and Shinya Tsukamoto

Where To Watch: Arrow, Google Play, iTunes, Kanopy, Microsoft

What It’s About In One Sentence: While driving, a regular salaryman hits a man with a metal iron fetish, and then develops a bizarre illness that turns his own body into junk metal.


Tag (2015)

Director: Sion Sono

Screenwriter: Sion Sono

Cast: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, and Erina Mano

Where To Watch: Alamo, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: A group of Japanese schoolgirls are so obnoxious that their numbers must be reduced in a death-game version of tag, in which being “it” means being dead.


Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Eihi Shiina is wearing a black trench coat, a skirt, a white shirt, and a necktie.

Eihi Shiina also starred in Audition.
Image: Fever Dreams

Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura

Screenwriter: Kengo Kaji, Sayako Nakoshi, and Yoshihiro Nishimura

Cast: Eihi Shiina, Itsuji Itao, and Tak Sakaguchi

Where To Watch: Microsoft and Vudu

What It’s About In One Sentence: Set in a dystopic future in which the Tokyo Metropolitan Police has been privatized, it’s up to one sword-swinging badass to stop genetically-modified criminals who are able to turn wounds into weapons in this extremely gory satire….



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