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The Best Movies About World War II Japan

Updated August 17, 2020 1.9k votes 556 voters 60.4k views30 items

 

Movies about World War II Japan fascinate audiences, and with good reason. This period in history is marked by drama and bloodshed, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the Battle of Iwo Jima. Many great films have been made about this era, and the very best lend depth and shading to figures that are often misunderstood. This list of the greatest movies about WWII Japan goes beyond the top 10 Japanese war movies and includes everything from Empire of the Sun to Grave of the Fireflies to Midway.

What films will you find on this list of the best movies about WW2 Japan? Clint Eastwood seems especially fascinated by the subject, and even directed two features about Iwo Jima. In Flags of Our Fathers, he follows the Marines and Navy Corpsman who famously raised the American flag on the site. Letters from Iwo Jima shifts the perspective to that of the Japanese soldiers fighting the same battle. Hayao Miyazaki 's The Wind Rises may be animated, but grapples with adult concepts of responsibility as it tells the real-life story of a designer of war planes. Other good films featured on this list include Unbroken and To End All Wars.

Do you have a favorite WWII movie about Japan? Vote the best films up to number one, and please add any great films that are missing.

 

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    Letters from Iwo Jima

    Ken Watanabe, Ryan Kelley

    Released2006

    Directed byClint Eastwood

    Letters from Iwo Jima is a 2006 Japanese-American film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood, starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya. The film portrays the Battle of Iwo Jima from the...  more

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    Tora! Tora! Tora!

    Jason Robards Jr., Martin Balsam

    Released1970

    Directed byRichard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda, Kinji Fukasaku

    Tora! Tora! Tora! is a 1970 American–Japanese film directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an ensemble cast, including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, Sō Yamamura, E. G. Marshall, James Whitmore...  more

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    Midway

    Tom Selleck, Charlton Heston

    Released1976

    Directed byJack Smight

    Midway, released in the United Kingdom as Battle of Midway and in the US on video as The Battle of Midway, is a 1976 Technicolor film directed by Jack Smight and produced by Walter Mirisch from a...  more

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    Ip Man

    Donnie Yen, Simon Yam

    Released2008

    Directed byWilson Yip

    Ip Man is a 2008 Hong Kong semi biographical martial arts film very loosely based on the life of Yip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and master of Bruce Lee. The film focuses on...  more

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    Flags of Our Fathers

    Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe

    Released2006

    Directed byClint Eastwood

    Flags of Our Fathers is a 2006 American film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis. It is based on the book of the same name written...  more

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    Grave of the Fireflies

    Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi

    Released1988

    Directed byIsao Takahata

    Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli. It is based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical novel Grave of the...  more

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    Paradise Road

    Cate Blanchett, Glenn Close

    Released1997

    Directed byBruce Beresford

    Paradise Road is a 1997 war film which tells the story of a group of English, American, Dutch and Australian women who are imprisoned by the Japanese in Sumatra during World War II. It was directed...  more
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    43
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    Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

    David Bowie, Beat Kitano

    Released1983

    Directed byNagisa Oshima

    Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 Japanese-British film directed by Nagisa Oshima, produced by Jeremy Thomas and starring David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano and Jack...  more

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    Unbroken

    Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson

    Released2014

    Directed byAngelina Jolie

    Unbroken is a 2014 American biographical drama film, produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, and based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival,...  more

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    Yamato

    Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyōka Suzuki

    Released2005

    Directed byJunya Sato

    Yamato is a 2005 Japanese war film. It was directed by Junya Satō and is based on a book by Jun Henmi. With a framing story set in the present day, by flashbacks it tells the story of the crew of the...  more
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    Fires on the Plain

    Eiji Funakoshi, Mickey Curtis

    Released1959

    Directed byKon Ichikawa

    Fires on the Plain is a 1959 Japanese war film directed by Kon Ichikawa, starring Eiji Funakoshi. The screenplay, written by Natto Wada, is based on the novel Nobi by Shōhei Ōoka, translated as Fires...  more
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    A Pay by the Wayside

    Isamu Kosugi, Bontarô Miyake

    Released1938

    Directed byTomotaka Tasaka

    Five Scouts is a 1938 war film directed by Tomotaka Tasaka....  more
  • 13
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    Emperor

    Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox

    Released2012

    Directed byPeter Webber

    Emperor is a 2012 American-Japanese post-World War II film directed by Peter Webber, marking his first film in five years. Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox star in lead roles as General Douglas...  more
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    The Most Beautiful

    Takashi Shimura, Takako Irie

    Released1944

    Directed byAkira Kurosawa

    The Most Beautiful is a 1944 Japanese propaganda drama film written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film is set in an optics factory during the Second World War....  more
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    Empire of the Sun

    Christian Bale, Ben Stiller

    Released1987

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age film based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Christian Bale, John...  more

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    No Regrets for Our Youth

    Takashi Shimura, Setsuko Hara

    Released1946

    Directed byAkira Kurosawa

    No Regrets for Our Youth is a 1946 film written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is based on the Takigawa incident of 1933. The film stars Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita, Takashi Shimura and Denjirō...  more
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    The Burmese Harp

    Taketoshi Naitô, Rentarō Mikuni

    Released1956

    Directed byKon Ichikawa

    Biruma no tategoto is a 1956 film directed by Kon Ichikawa....  more
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    The Human Condition

    Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama

    Directed byMasaki Kobayashi

    The Human Condition is a Japanese epic film trilogy made between 1959 and 1961, based on the six-volume novel published from 1956 to 1958 by Junpei Gomikawa 五味川純平. It was directed by Masaki Kobayashi...  more
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    Rhapsody in August

    Richard Gere, Hisashi Igawa

    Released1991

    Directed byHiromi Kurosawa, Akira Kurosawa

    Rhapsody in August is a 1991 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa. The story centers on an elderly hibakusha, who lost her husband in the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, caring for her four grandchildren...  more
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    Midway

    Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans

    Released2019

    Directed byRoland Emmerich

    Midway is a 2019 American historical action drama film directed by Roland Emmerich. The story of the battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the soldiers who fought it. ...  more
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    South Pacific

    France Nuyen, Doug McClure

    Released1958

    Directed byJoshua Logan

    South Pacific is a 1958 American romantic musical film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, and based on James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific. The film, directed...  more

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    The Wind Rises

    Emily Blunt, Martin Short

    Released2013

    Directed byHayao Miyazaki

    The Wind Rises is a 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi. The film follows the life and romance of Jiro Horikoshi, the man...  more

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    To End All Wars

    Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Strong

    Released2001

    Directed byDavid L. Cunningham

    To End All Wars is a 2001 war film starring Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland and Sakae Kimura and directed by David L. Cunningham....  more
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    Lust, Caution

    Anupam Kher, Joan Chen

    Released2007

    Directed byAng Lee

    Lust, Caution is a 2007 espionage erotic thriller film directed by Ang Lee, based on the novella of the same name published in 1979 by Chinese author Eileen Chang. The story is mostly set in Hong...  more
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    Barefoot Gen

    Takeshi Aono, Katsuji Mori

    Released1983

    Directed byMori Masaki

    Barefoot Gen is a war drama anime loosely based on the Japanese manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Directed by Mori Masaki and released in 1983, it depicts World War II in Japan from a child's point of...  more

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