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The Best Movies About World War II Japan 

Ranker Film
Updated June 14, 2019 1.2k votes 500 voters 49.4k views 29 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 is a list of the greatest movies about WWII Japan including 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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1
Letters from Iwo Jima is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Ken Watanabe, Ryan Kelley, Kazunari Ninomiya

Released: 2006

Directed by: Clint 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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#27 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #19 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

2
Tora! Tora! Tora! is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Jason Robards Jr., Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten

Released: 1970

Directed by: Richard 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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#19 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #599 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
Empire of the Sun is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Christian Bale, Ben Stiller, John Malkovich

Released: 1987

Directed by: Steven 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, ...more

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The Best Empire of the Sun Albums, Ranked #73 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #249 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

4
Midway is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Tom Selleck, Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda

Released: 1976

Directed by: Jack 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 ...more

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#31 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #216 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #10 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

5
Flags of Our Fathers is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe, Jamie Bell

Released: 2006

Directed by: Clint 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 ...more

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#60 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #44 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #32 of 81 The Most Patriotic Movies of All Time

6
Grave of the Fireflies ... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi, Ayano Shiraishi

Released: 1988

Directed by: Isao 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 ...more

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#151 of 601 The Best Animated Films Ever #237 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #280 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

7
Unbroken is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Jack O'Connell

Released: 2014

Directed by: Angelina 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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#190 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #121 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #10 of 22 The Greatest Lost at Sea Movies Ever Made

8
Emperor is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox, Masatō Ibu

Released: 2012

Directed by: Peter 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
9
Yamato is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyōka Suzuki, Yū Aoi

Released: 2005

Directed by: Junya 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 ...more
10
The Wind Rises is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Emily Blunt, Martin Short, John Krasinski

Released: 2013

Directed by: Hayao 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 ...more

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#225 of 601 The Best Animated Films Ever #84 of 88 Animated Movies That Make You Cry the Most #67 of 206 The Saddest Anime Series of All Time

11
A Pay by the Wayside is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
A Pay by the Wayside Isamu Kosugi, Bontarô Miyake, Ichirô Izawa

Released: 1938

Directed by: Tomotaka Tasaka

Five Scouts is a 1938 war film directed by Tomotaka Tasaka.
12
The Human Condition is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama

Directed by: Masaki 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 ...more
13
Ip Man is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Louis Fan

Released: 2008

Directed by: Wilson 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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14
To End All Wars is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Strong, Robert Carlyle

Released: 2001

Directed by: David 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.
15
Merry Christmas, Mr. Law... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
David Bowie, Beat Kitano, Ryuichi Sakamoto

Released: 1983

Directed by: Nagisa 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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#196 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #499 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time #180 of 333 The Greatest Movies in World Cinema History

16
Paradise Road is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Cate Blanchett, Glenn Close, Julianna Margulies

Released: 1997

Directed by: Bruce 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 ...more
17
Fires on the Plain is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Eiji Funakoshi, Mickey Curtis, Osamu Takizawa

Released: 1959

Directed by: Kon 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 ...more
18
The Most Beautiful is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Takashi Shimura, Takako Irie, Yōko Yaguchi

Released: 1944

Directed by: Akira 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.
19
South Pacific is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
France Nuyen, Doug McClure, Mitzi Gaynor

Released: 1958

Directed by: Joshua 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, ...more

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#158 of 378 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #150 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

20
No Regrets for Our Youth... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Takashi Shimura, Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita

Released: 1946

Directed by: Akira 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 ...more
21
Eagle of the Pacific is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Eagle of the Pacific
22
The Burmese Harp is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Taketoshi Naitô, Rentarō Mikuni, Jun Hamamura

Released: 1956

Directed by: Kon Ichikawa

Biruma no tategoto is a 1956 film directed by Kon Ichikawa.
23
Chocolate and Soldiers ... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Chocolate and Soldiers
24
Rhapsody in August is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Richard Gere, Hisashi Igawa, Hidetaka Yoshioka

Released: 1991

Directed by: Hiromi 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 ...more
25
Lust, Caution is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies About World War II Japan
Anupam Kher, Joan Chen, Tony Leung Chiu Wai

Released: 2007

Directed by: Ang 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 ...more