In this major season we spotlight Japanese filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world
We have long carried a torch for Japanese film here at the BFI. Since the first BFI London Film Festival opened with Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood in 1957, we’ve played a vital role in bringing the cinema of this culturally rich nation to UK audiences through our festivals, seasons, theatrical distribution, books and video publishing. In this major season we spotlight filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world. We begin our story with Akira Kurosawa, and over the coming months we’ll present films from the Golden Age, a focus on Yasujiro Ozu, new wave rebels, the visionary creations of anime, the netherworlds of J-horror, and so much more from archive rarities to contemporary works and cult classics.
This landmark season will take place on BFI Player from 11 May onwards, with new online collections released each month, and we expect to present it at BFI Southbank and cinemas nationwide later this year.
Drama1954207 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.
Martial arts1958139 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s thrilling mix of fairy story and samurai movie - a story of rival clans, hidden gold and a princess in distress - was famously a key inspiration for George Lucas’ Star Wars.
Crime1961111 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Kurosawa’s classic about a drifting samurai who plays two gangs off against each other, famously remade as A Fistful of Dollars.
Crime196296 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
In Akira Kurosawa's comedy of manners, a ronin runs rings around nine young, clean-cut samurai while cleaning up a spot of corruption in local government.
Crime195088 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.
Drama1957110 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
A master of period-drama, Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) recasts Macbeth as a Japanese warlord in one of the greatest Shakespearean adaptations.
Drama1970140 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s first colour film is an eccentric and joyous account of a group of disparate people living in a city dump.
Crime1963143 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s procedural crime masterpiece, from Ed McBain’s gritty novel, follows an industrialist who faces an agonising choice as a result of a botched kidnapping by ruthless criminals.
Drama1985154 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s visually spectacular epic transplants Shakespeare’s King Lear from Celtic Britain to feudal Japan.
Crime1949122 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa’s masterful mix of film noir and police thriller set on the sweltering mean streets of occupied Tokyo.
Drama1952143 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Takashi Shimura is superb as a bureaucrat diagnosed with cancer in Akira Kurosawa’s lyrical and moving film about how we find meaning in our lives.
Crime1960151 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa
The first film made by Akira Kurosawa's own production company is a dark tale of greed, corporate corruption and revenge.
Documentary199652 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima
Archive propels argument in this fascinating exploration of the social and cultural importance of Japan's film heritage.
Drama1953136 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
A constant fixture in critics' polls, Yasujiro Ozu's most enduring masterpiece is a beautifully nuanced exploration of filial duty, expectation and regret.
Drama1960128 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Comedy turns to pathos in Yasujiro Ozu's tale of a group of businessmen who conspire to match-make for a widow and her daughter.
Comedy195994 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu's cheerful comedy about the silliness of everyday chatter
Drama1949108 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu's influential masterpiece is a tender meditation on family politics, sacrifice and the status quo.
Drama1962113 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu's elegiac final film charts the inevitable eclipse of older generations by irreverent youth.
Comedy193287 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu's silent masterpiece follows two brothers as they try to outwit the local bully.
Period drama1964102 minsDirector: Kaneto Shindo
Stylish, symbolic and erotically charged Japanese horror in which the fortunes of a murderous mother-and-daughter team are upended by a strangely masked samurai.
Horror1964183 minsDirector: Masaki Kobayashi
This stunningly beautiful anthology of Japanese ghost stories is one of the most meticulously crafted supernatural films ever made.
Animation & Artists Moving Image1964147 minsDirector: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Hiroshi Teshigahara's mystifying, serene and provocative fable about an entomologist who becomes trapped in a young widow’s desert shack.
Horror1999115 minsDirector: Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike burst to international prominence with this deeply disturbing tale of a deadly young woman who turns the tables on her middle-aged suitor.
Fantasy198867 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto
Shinya Tsukamoto's wild cyberpunk tale of a businessman's agonising transformation into a walking scrap heap is a jaggedly dehumanised vision of the future.
Horror199181 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto
Shinya Tsukamoto's sequel has the Iron Man transforming into a cyberkinetic gun when a gang of vicious skinheads kidnap his son.
Drama195389 minsDirector: Teinosuke Kinugasa
Teinosuke Kinugasa’s sumptuous period drama astonished audiences with its dramatic force and spectacular colour cinematography.
Drama196097 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima
Nagisa Ôshima’s breakthrough portrait of alienated youth is a stinging castigation of an indolent, self-indulgent youth culture.
Crime196392 minsDirector: Seijun Suzuki
A mysterious loner plays off rival gangs against one another in Seijun Suzuki's outrageous, kaliedoscopic crime picture.
1960111 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse
Mikio Naruse’s best-known film is a masterful study of Ginza hostess struggling under constant pressures to compromise her honour.
Drama1955123 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse
Mikio Naruse’s masterpiece about a wandering woman trying to find her identity amid the devastation of post-war Japan.
Drama1954101 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse
The story of four ageing geishas as they struggle to make ends meet in post-war Japan, from acclaimed filmmaker Mikio Naruse.