(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: 30900%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A Japanese teenager (Kazue Fukiishi) runs away to Tokyo to join a weird Internet cult whose leader (Tsugumi) hires out... [More]
Directed By: Sion Sono

#23

Versus (2000)
75%

#23
Adjusted Score: 47143%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An escaped prisoner (Tak Sakaguchi) and a mysterious young woman (Chieko Misaka) face an onslaught of indestructible undead fighters in... [More]
Directed By: Ryûhei Kitamura

#22

Gozu (2003)
72%

#22
Adjusted Score: 72239%
Critics Consensus: Miike continues his run of compellingly bizarre flicks.
Synopsis: Chaos ensues when a yakuza boss orders a young gangster (Hideki Sone) to kill an insane colleague (Shô Aikawa).... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#21

Cold Fish (2010)
74%

#21
Adjusted Score: 72231%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The passive owner of a fish store becomes entangled with a murderous couple and implicated in their gruesome crimes.... [More]
Directed By: Sion Sono

#20

Death Note (2006)
78%

#20
Adjusted Score: 33180%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is a normal, undistinguished college student -- that is, until he discovers an odd notebook lying... [More]
Directed By: Shusuke Kaneko

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 56329%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A "metal fetishist" (Shin'ya Tsukamoto), driven mad by the maggots wriggling in the wound he's made to embed metal into... [More]
Directed By: Shin'ya Tsukamoto

#18

Dark Water (2002)
81%

#18
Adjusted Score: 81254%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this moody Japanese horror film, newly-single mom Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is enduring a bitter divorce and struggling to... [More]
Directed By: Hideo Nakata

#17

Tokyo Ghoul (2017)
81%

#17
Adjusted Score: 81027%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A college student is attacked by a ghoul, a being that feeds on human flesh. He later receives an organ... [More]
Directed By: Kentarô Hagiwara

#16

Confessions (2010)
81%

#16
Adjusted Score: 54905%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A grieving mother turns into a cold-blooded avenger to pay back the people responsible for her daughter's death.... [More]
Directed By: Tetsuya Nakashima

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 38331%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A vengeful policewoman (Eihi Shiina) battles an army of cyborg creatures that showcase horrific mutations.... [More]
Directed By: Yoshihiro Nishimura

#14

Audition (1999)
82%

#14
Adjusted Score: 85005%
Critics Consensus: An audacious, unsettling Japanese horror film from director Takashi Miike, Audition entertains as both a grisly shocker and a psychological drama.
Synopsis: This disturbing Japanese thriller follows Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower who decides to start dating again. Aided by a film-producer... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#13

Onibaba (1964)
88%

#13
Adjusted Score: 88505%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While her son, Kichi, is away at war, a woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) survive by killing... [More]
Directed By: Kaneto Shindô

#12
Adjusted Score: 84722%
Critics Consensus: This anthology contains brutal, powerful horror stories by three of Asia's top directors.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Takashi Miike

#11

Kwaidan (1964)
91%

#11
Adjusted Score: 93755%
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: Taking its title from an archaic Japanese word meaning "ghost story," this anthology adapts four folk tales. A penniless samurai... [More]
Directed By: Masaki Kobayashi

#10

House (1977)
91%

#10
Adjusted Score: 90398%
Critics Consensus: House is a gleefully demented collage of grand guginol guffaws and bizarre sequences.
Synopsis: In an effort to avoid spending time with her father and his creepy new lover, young Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) resolves... [More]
Directed By: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi

#9

Tag (2015)
92%

#9
Adjusted Score: 92018%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A woman is cast adrift into an increasingly bizarre set of alternate realities in which each scenario ends in bloody... [More]
Directed By: Sion Sono

#8

Cure (1997)
93%

#8
Adjusted Score: 93466%
Critics Consensus: Mesmerizing and psychologically intriguing.
Synopsis: "Cure" is part atmospheric crime film and part philosophical meditation. Detective Takabe (Koji Yakusho) is tracking a series of identical... [More]
Directed By: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

#7

Godzilla (1954)
93%

#7
Adjusted Score: 100866%
Critics Consensus: More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.
Synopsis: A fire-breathing behemoth terrorizes Japan after an atomic bomb awakens it from its centuries-old sleep.... [More]
Directed By: Ishirô Honda

#6

Kuroneko (1968)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 89920%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this ghost story based on a folk tale of feudal Japan, a group of samurai mercenaries led by Raiko... [More]
Directed By: Kaneto Shindô

#5

The Ring (1998)
97%

#5
Adjusted Score: 98521%
Critics Consensus: Ringu combines supernatural elements with anxieties about modern technology in a truly frightening and unnerving way.
Synopsis: When her niece is found dead along with three friends after viewing a supposedly cursed videotape, reporter Reiko Asakawa (Nanako... [More]
Directed By: Hideo Nakata

#4

Wild Zero (2000)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 22120%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ace saves his heroes from alien invaders that turn people into zombies.... [More]
Directed By: Tetsuro Takeuchi

#3
Adjusted Score: 100159%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Teruo Ishii

#2

Ugetsu (1953)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 102720%
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: In 16th century Japan, peasants Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) and Tobei (Sakae Ozawa) sell their earthenware pots to a group of... [More]
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 105094%
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: Real zombies attack a hack director and a film crew who are shooting a low budget zombie film in an... [More]
Directed By: Shinichiro Ueda

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