(Photo by Tidepoint Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Best Japanese Horror Movies

From folk tales to body horror to monster movies, Japan’s cinema finds new ways to thrill and disturb audiences. Japanese horror movies got a big leg-up in the 1950s and 1960s with Ugetsu and Kwaidan, before spinning heads over time with transgressive cult works (Tetsuo: The Ironman), comedic takes (Hausu, One Cut of the Dead), and crossover hits (Ringu, Audition). And we’d be remiss to not include at least the original kaiju movie, Godzilla. It was created in response to nuclear oblivion, and creating art to process real trauma is one of the core values of horror.

And now we’ve gathered every Japanese horror movie with a Fresh rating and ranked them by Tomatometer, creating your guide to the best Japanese horror movies of all time.


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#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 27.098%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Noriko's Dinner Table (2005) constitutes a follow-up with thematic similarities and loose narrative connections (though not a direct sequel) to... [More]
Directed By: Sion Sono

#23

Versus (2000)
71%

#23
Adjusted Score: 41.442%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Evil Dead 2 meets Street Fighter by way of The Matrix in this wild and woolly zombie/yakuza/samurai/kung fu/splatter flick directed... [More]
Directed By: Ryuhei Kitamura

#22

Gozu (2003)
72%

#22
Adjusted Score: 72.911%
Critics Consensus: Miike continues his run of compellingly bizarre flicks.
Synopsis: Minami, a young yakuza, is asked by his gang boss to kill Ozaki, a soldier within the organization who has... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#21

Cold Fish (2011)
74%

#21
Adjusted Score: 60.965%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: From Sion Sono, the director of Love Exposure and Suicide Club. Cold Fish has won acclaim at both the Venice... [More]
Directed By: Sion Sono

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 26.831%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Released into Japanese theaters in 2006, director Shusuke Kaneko's stylish adaptation of the best selling manga quickly trampled The Da... [More]
Directed By: Shusuke Kaneko

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 79.27%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An hour-long feature from Japanese director Shinyu Tsukamoto, Tetsuo (also known as Tetsuo: The Iron Man) tells a horrific, cyberpunk-influenced... [More]
Directed By: Shin'ya Tsukamoto

#18

Dark Water (2002)
80%

#18
Adjusted Score: 39.917%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Following up on his horror smash hits Ringu and Ringu 2, Hideo Nakata directs this supernatural psychological drama about a... [More]
Directed By: Hideo Nakata

#17
Adjusted Score: 59.519%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Buried in books and a quiet life, Ken Kaneki is all but dead to the world in an age where... [More]
Directed By: Kentarô Hagiwara

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 44.765%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Yuko Moriguchi is a middle-school teacher whose four-year-old daughter is found dead. Shattered, she finally returns to her classroom only... [More]
Directed By: Tetsuya Nakashima

#15
Adjusted Score: 38.39%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A mad scientist known as Key Man has created a rampaging virus that mutates unsuspecting humans into nightmarish abominations of... [More]
Directed By: Yoshihiro Nishimura

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 84.94%
Critics Consensus: An audacious, unsettling Japanese horror film from director Takashi Miike, Audition entertains as both a grisly shocker and a psychological drama.
Synopsis: Controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike creates this unnerving horror film about a widowed TV producer auditioning prospective wives. In his... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#13

Onibaba (1965)
83%

#13
Adjusted Score: 83.746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Set in medieval Japan, Kaneto Shindo's feral suspense tale stars Jitsuko Yoshimura as an unnamed young woman left widowed by... [More]
Directed By: Kaneto Shindô

#12
Adjusted Score: 85.348%
Critics Consensus: This anthology contains brutal, powerful horror stories by three of Asia's top directors.
Synopsis: Three Asian directors, from Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan, join forces to create an omnibus horror film, Three...Extremes. In Fruit... [More]

#11
Adjusted Score: 92.248%
Critics Consensus: Exquisitely designed and fastidiously ornate, Masaki Kobayashi's ambitious anthology operates less as a frightening example of horror and more as a meditative tribute to Japanese folklore.
Synopsis: Kwaidan is an impressively mounted anthology horror film based on four stories by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-born writer who began... [More]
Directed By: Masaki Kobayashi

#10

House (Hausu) (1977)
90%

#10
Adjusted Score: 92.462%
Critics Consensus: House is a gleefully demented collage of grand guginol guffaws and bizarre sequences.
Synopsis: A schoolgirl travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt's creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a... [More]
Directed By: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 50.707%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Directed By: Sion Sono

#8

Cure (1998)
92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 94.414%
Critics Consensus: Mesmerizing and psychologically intriguing.
Synopsis: This psychological drama presents Tokyo detective Takabe who is investigating murders in which victims have a large "X" on their... [More]
Directed By: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 101.61%
Critics Consensus: More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.
Synopsis: One of the longest-running series in film history began with Ishiro Honda's grim, black-and-white allegory for the devastation wrought on... [More]
Directed By: Ishirô Honda

#6

Kuroneko (1968)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 96.614%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This cinematic retelling of the venerable Japanese folktale A Cat's Revenge is set in the 12th century. Two women are... [More]
Directed By: Kaneto Shindô

#5

Ringu (Ring) (1998)
97%

#5
Adjusted Score: 98.512%
Critics Consensus: Ringu combines supernatural elements with anxieties about modern technology in a truly frightening and unnerving way.
Synopsis: In this psychological horror story from Japan, a legend circulates among teenagers that if one watches a certain video at... [More]
Directed By: Hideo Nakata

#4

Wild Zero (2000)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 20.846%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Punk rock, zombies, and space aliens combine for this post-apocalypse youth-culture blowout from Japan. After the crash of a meteorite,... [More]
Directed By: Tetsuro Takeuchi

#3
Adjusted Score: 100.147%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Director Teruo Ishii takes the helm for this controversial shocker that follows a young medical student as he escapes from... [More]
Directed By: Teruo Ishii

#2
Adjusted Score: 102.896%
Critics Consensus: With its thought-provoking themes, rich atmosphere, and brilliant direction, Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu monogatari is a towering classic of world cinema.
Synopsis: Presented in a manner as eerie as it is heartbreaking, this film is a gorgeous supernatural fable about the folly... [More]
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi

#1
Adjusted Score: 103.028%
Critics Consensus: Brainy and bloody in equal measure, One Cut of the Dead reanimates the moribund zombie genre with a refreshing blend of formal daring and clever satire.
Synopsis: A cast of relative unknowns, a brilliantly disguised low budget and an epic, 37-minute opening single take makes Shin'ichirô Ueda's... [More]
Directed By: Shin'ichirô Ueda

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