One of the known and favorite entertainment genres of moviegoers is Crime. The puzzling scenes and mind-blowing plot make a crime film interesting. And the Japanese have their own style of putting that into the big screen. Using its unique and rich culture and tradition, the Japanese crime movies can really stand out.
The list below gives you the 19 Best Japanese Crime Movies that will surely entertain you.
19. Sonatine – 1993
Award-winning film of Takeshi Kitano and rated 7.5/10 by IMDb, Sonatine wows the world with how Yakuza settle things.
Aniki Murakawa joins a group of Yakuza going to Okinawa. They are sent there to end a gang war. Confused by his role, Aniki finds some of his men dead. He stays in a house by the beach and realizes that everything is a setup.
The numerous awards received by Sonatine proves that it is one of the Japanese crime movies you should watch.
18. A Colt is My Passport – 1967
Based on the novel Tobosha by Shinji Fujihara, A Colt Is My Passport stars a skillful hitman and his reliable sniper.
Shuji Kamimura is a contract killer. He gets paid for assassinating his targets usually with the help of Shun Shiozaki, his sidekick. A Yakuza boss hires them to kill a rival boss. They hit their target but fail to escape their target’s gang members.
With a 7.5/10 IMDb rating, A Colt is My Passport is sure to satisfy your action crime movie cravings.
17. Pale Flower – 1964
Considered to be Masahiro Shinoda’s masterpiece, Pale Flower reveals a story bigger than just being a Yakuza.
The Yakuza hitman, Muraki gets released from prison. The world he knew has changed and he needs to adjust. He meets Saeko who enjoys gambling and likes chasing thrills. As their paths cross, troubles await Muraki.
A 7.8/10 IMDb rating is given to Pale Flower for its superb quality.
16. Cops vs. Thugs – 1975
Receiving Best Director and Best Actor, Cops vs. Thugs will surely make you hold on your seat.
Hirotani uses his friendship with Kuno and abuses his false power to take control of Kurashima City. Another gang related to Kuno wants to take control of the city. A gang war erupts. Kuno gets into trouble as he is confused about which side to choose.
With conflicting interests of the characters, Cops vs. Thugs is one of the Japanese crime movies that is more than just being a crime film. A 7.2/10 IMDb rating is given to the movie.
15. The Wolves – 1971
With popularity it gained outside Japan, The Wolves tells a story of brotherhood betrayal.
Killing the boss of the Kanno gang, Seji Iwahashi gets imprisoned for ten years. Fortunately, he is released earlier than the set time. He returns to his gang to find out the merging with the Kanno gang. As he discovers the corruption, another bloodshed awaits to happen.
14. Sympathy for the Underdog – 1971
Considered to be one of the best Yakuza movies, Sympathy for the Underdog shows what being a man really means and defines Yakuza from Samurai.
A Yboss, Gunji and his men were kicked out of Yokohama by a powerful gang from Tokyo. He gets released from prison after ten years. He searches for his few remaining loyal members to start once again in Okinawa. As Gunji completes his force, the same Tokyo gang arrives to kick them out again. A bloody confrontation awaits.
You may watch this movie to see the difference between yakuza and Samurai.
13. Vengeance is Mine – 1979
Based on the true story of the serial killer Akira Nishiguchi, Vengeance is Mine deserves a spot in the best Japanese crime movies.
With an unexplainable desire to commit murder, Iwao Enokizu becomes a serial killer. He manages to escape the authority every time he gets caught. Later on, hee falls in love with Haru who runs a brothel. Will he change now that he has found love or still give in to his insane urge?
The awards Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor make Vengeance is Mine one of the best Japanese crime movies. The 7.8/10 rating by IMDb makes this movie a good watch.
12. Ichi the Killer – 2001
A psychotic killer, Ichi inflicts unimaginable pain to his victims. Ichi the Killer sets a new standard for violence and bloodshed in Japanese film.
With 300 million yen, the Yakuza boss Anjo disappears. His loyal member Kakihara then searches for him. He captures and tortures a wrong guy, Jijii. He gets an idea from Jijii that Ichi killed Anjo. A bloody confrontation follows satisfying the psycho Ichi.
11. The Blood of Wolves – 2018
Winning major awards and nominations, The Blood of Wolves revives the fading reputation of the Yakuza movie in Japan.
A new detective, Hioka finds himself doubting Ogami of breaking the law. He suspects that Ogami has connections with the gangs. Later, Hioka is assigned to investigate the case of a missing accountant. His search leads him into an action-packed gang war.
The Blood of Wolves sheds light again to Yakuza theme movies, making it a great addition to the list of best Japanese crime movies.
10. Kamikaze Taxi – 1995
Kamikaze is a known Japanese military approach where a faithful soldier commits to suicide bombing. Kamikaze Taxi makes use of the strategy in his revenge plan.
Tatsuo plans a Kamikaze mission to take revenge for his girlfriend. His girlfriend returns beaten after giving a politician her service. Animaru, gang boss, kills her when she starts complaining. Tatsuo plans to vandalize the politician’s house and then later on steals his money. Tatsuo flees riding a taxi driven by Kantake.
With a 7.4/10 IMDb rating, Kamikaze Taxi makes an exciting action crime film.
9. Battles Without Honor and Humanity Volume 1
Another film that redefines Yakuza film, Battles Without Honor and Humanity tells a story of a firm criminal surviving Yakuza life.
Shozo Hirono gets involved in powerful Yakuza clans. He needs to adjust to the changes of powers around him.
Battles Without Honor and Humanity is inspired by real-life yakuza Kozo Mino. The movie series is composed of five films directed by Kinji Kukasaku. All movies are high-grossing box-office hit crime drama films.
8. Massacre Gun – 1967
Another awesome Yakuza crime film, Massacre Gun is a brutal and silly gangster movie.
Ryûichi Kuroda kills his innocent girlfriend Aiko at the command of his boss Akazawa. Then, he decides to leave the gang and starts his own gang with his brother Eiji. However, Ryuichi still wants revenge, so he attacks one of the bars of Akazawa to send him a message. Ryuichi starts attacking and taking over some of the small businesses of Akazawa. As the conflict becomes more violent, it involves more deaths. Both are desiring to hold the highest position but only one must become the boss.
If you are looking for an extreme gang war crime movie, this one’s for you!
7. Violent Cop – 1989
Violent Cop shares the story of a cop who has a different style of confronting lawbreakers. Is his way justified with the results he gets?
Detective Azuma has his own way of approaching law violators. Violence seems to be useful for him in getting results. He is assigned to investigate a series of homicides. He then learns that his friend and colleague Iwaki is involved in a crime. Iwaki supplies drugs from within the police.
With the circumstances becoming complicated and dangerous, Iwaki commits suicide. Moreover, detective Azuma’s sister is kidnapped. Azuma reacts violently, putting authority in his hands. He becomes more violent to get the justice he wants.
6. Cure – 1997
Praised to be one of the greatest films of all time, Cure finds its spot in the list of best Japanese crime movies.
The only clue to many records of murder across Tokyo is the mark “X”. Detective Takabe notices that the murderers leave the mark into the neck of the victims. Together with the psychologist Sakuma, they see the murderer remembering nothing. Detective Takabe arrests a weird young man near the scene. As he assumes that the young man is connected to the killings.
7.4/10 IMDb rating sets the movie Cure a considerable crime film.
5. Memoirs of a Murderer – 2017
Memoirs of a Murderer is packed with plot twists, making this film exciting to watch.
In 2017, Masato Sonezaki confesses that he is a murderer. He says that he is responsible for the five mysterious murders in 1995. 22 years after the five mysterious murder cases, the police tell Masato that the law has a loophole, so they cannot arrest him.
Masato then publishes a book and becomes known. After some time, another man turns himself as the murderer. But the truth is both of them are not the real murderer.
Masato shares that he wants to find out the real killer by making a scene, as he wants to know who murdered his girlfriend. Soon after, the real murderer is identified
4. Killers – 2014
Killers shares a bigger story than just being a thriller crime film. Including an Indonesian actor, this movie offers a great experience.
The wealthy Japanese Nomura Shuhei records his murder acts and posts them online. While in Jakarta, the journalist Bayu Aditya gets triggered by Nomura’s videos. Bayu soon decides to kill and records his violent crimes as well. He shares his video as well online. Nomura does his crime out of his mental state while Bayu justifies his crimes as he only kills the bad guys. The two meet and engage in killing each other.
Killers makes a great movie experience with the surprises in its plot.
3. Late Bloomer – 2014
Late Bloomers tells what loneliness and frustration can do to a man.
Sumida Masakiyo is a wheelchair dependent man. He lives his life with a voice machine and help from a carer. Like a normal person, Sumida wishes to experience hanging out, beer, rock and roll, and women. Sumida meets Nobuko, a college student. He secretly falls in love with her. Everything changes when his best friend steals Nobuko from him. His loneliness and frustration build up until he can no longer calm himself. The shy Sumida falls into committing a series of murders.
2. Boiling Point – 1990
Boiling Point will make its viewers remember the warning “do not talk or trust strangers”.
Ono Masahiko is a member of his local baseball team. One day, his baseball coach got attacked by a local Yakuza. He then decides to take revenge for his coach. He sets off to Okinawa with his friend and meets the psychotic Yakuza Uehara. Without telling Ono, Uehara has planned his own revenge.
1. Drunken Angel – 1948
Drunken Angel keeps its crime genre with a touch of drama. Rated 7.7/10 by IMDb and directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, this film will leave its viewers with a different impression of Yakuza.
The hot-tempered Doctor Sanada and prone to violence gangster Matsunaga became friends. After a shootout, Sanada helped Matsunaga with his wounds. Sanada is surprised that despite being a Yakuza clan member, Matsunaga keeps a tender side. Matsunaga falls into depression when he learns from Sanada that he has tuberculosis. Okada, Matsunaga’s boss, is preparing him to be the top leader of the gang.
Knowing his illness, Matsunaga needs to choose between running the Yakuza gang or treat his tuberculosis and make his life meaningful.
In the making of this movie, director Kurosawa, fell into depression when his father died. He decided to pour his emotion in Drunken Angel, making this movie too personal for him.
The movie genre crime sure brings something different to the big screen. Unlike some predictable romance films or usual drama movies with a recycled plot and turnout of events, crime movies keep their viewers thrilled and excited. So, if you are considering getting a new movie experience, crime films are the best for you! Go through the list of best Japanese crime movies above once more, and see what catches your curiosity.