Looking for the scariest Japanese horror movies on Netflix and online? We’ve put together this list! We can’t rank these amazing flicks, so we’ve put them in chronological order. There’s something for everyone from spooky folk tales to found footage flicks. It’s getting to be that time of year, so we hope you enjoy these movies!
Getting ready for the spookiest season ever? You’ll definitely need the right snacks. Be sure to check out our list of the best online Asian grocery stores to get what you need.
Best Japanese horror movies on this list:
- Ugetsu (1953)
- The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959)
- Jigoku (1960)
- Onibaba (1964)
- Kuroneko (1968)
- Horror of Malformed Men (1969)
- House (1977)
- Ringu (1998)
- Audition (1999)
- Battle Royale (2000)
- Pulse (2001)
- Dark Water (2002)
- Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
- One Missed Call (2003)
- Noroi: The Curse (2005)
- Confessions (2010)
- Cold Fish (2010)
- Tag (2015)
- Sadako vs Kayako (2016)
- Tokyo Ghoul (2017)
- One Cut of the Dead (2017)
- Liverleaf (2018)
- Howling Village (2020)
- Re/Member (2022)
- Kisaragi Station (2022)
Also known as Tales of Ugetsu or Ugetsu Monogatari, Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1953 Japanese historical drama, Ugetsu, combines aspects of the jidaigeki (period drama) genre with a ghost story. The film is based on two tales from the same-named 1776 book by Ueda Akinari.
You really can’t go wrong with this beautiful, visually stunning classic. Many critics list this among Japan’s best films ever. Set in 16th century Japan, the story follows peasants, Genjuro and Tobei, who defy a local sage’s warning by selling earthenware pots to soldiers in a nearby village. Will profiting from war destroy them and their wives?
Starring: Machiko Kyō, Mitsuko Mito, Kinuyo Tanaka, Masayuki Mori, and Sakae Ozawa.
The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959)
One of the best Japanese horror films is the 1959 classic, The Ghost of Yotsuya. Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa, the story is based on the kabuki play “Yotsuya Kaidan.” Not familiar with Japanese folk tales or ghost stories? This one’s a doozy (and it’s especially famous).
Originally written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV, the story is beloved that it’s been adapted over 30 times for film. This tale of betrayal follows Oiwa and Tamiya Iemon. After being murdered by her husband, the ghost of Yotsuya rises from the grave to seek revenge.
Starring: Shigeru Amachi and Katsuko Wakasugi.
Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa, this film is known for its intense depictions of hell and damnation. It is so creepy! The story follows a theology student named Shiro, whose life spirals into darkness as he becomes embroiled in a series of tragic events and moral transgressions.
As Shiro’s journey unfolds, the film seamlessly interweaves psychological horror with supernatural elements, guiding the main protagonist through a nightmarish exploration of the afterlife. Honestly, be in a good place emotionally before watching this one!
Starring: Shigeru Amachi, Utako Mitsuya, Yoichi Numata, Hiroshi Hayashi, Katsuko Wakasugi, and Akiko Yamashita.
Another amazing classic, Onibaba, also titled The Hole, takes place in medieval Japan during a civil war. Written and directed by Kaneto Shindo, this 1964 Japanese historical drama and horror follows two women who must kill soldiers to survive.
The women, a mother and her widowed daughter-in-law, quickly find themselves at odds. When the daughter-in-law becomes the object of a returned soldier’s affection, the older woman’s jealousy leads to terrifying consequences.
Starring: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sato, and Taiji Tonoyama.
Directed by Kaneto Shindo, Kuroneko explores revenge and supernatural elements. If you speak some Japanese, you may realize that the name literally translates to “black cat,” so that should give you a clue about the tone of this film.
Set in feudal Japan, the plot follows Yone and her daughter-in-law Shige, who are brutally assaulted and murdered by a group of samurai. Resurrected as vengeful spirits, they haunt the groves near their former home, seducing and killing passing samurai in a cycle of revenge. When Yone’s son Gintoki, now a samurai, is assigned to investigate the deaths, he discovers the truth. It’s a lot!
Starring: Kichiemon Nakamuram, Nobuko Otowa, and Kiwako Taichi.
Horror of Malformed Men (1969)
Also known as Kyofu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshu, Horror of Malformed Men was directed by Teruo Ishii and based on the works of Edogawa Rampo. The story follows medical student, Hirosuke Hitomi, who escapes a mental institution and embarks on a journey to uncover his past and unravel the secrets of a remote island.
As he delves deeper into the island’s bizarre and grotesque inhabitants, he discovers a series of horrifying experiments, deformities, and surreal occurrences. This movie remains a cult classic decades after its release, probably because the content is so provocative and controversial. It’s definitely unsettling!
Starring: Teruo Yoshida and Teruko Yumi.
If you’re looking for a playful, original film in the horror genre, look no further! Nobuhiko Obayashi directed House (also known as “Hausu” in Japanese) and this Japanese horror-comedy remains a favorite almost five decades later.
Known for its surreal and unconventional storytelling (it’s trippy!), the story centers around a group of seven teenage girls who visit one of the girls’ aunt’s house in the countryside. As they arrive, they discover that the house has a malevolent and supernatural presence that starts to devour them in increasingly bizarre and imaginative ways. This one is super over-the-top but it’s fun!
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Ai Matubara, Kumiko Oba, Mieko Sato, Eriko Tanaka, Masayo Miyako, and Yoko Minamida.
Ringu was directed by Hideo Nakata and based on the novel of the same name by Koji Suzuki. The film is often credited with popularizing the modern J-horror genre and really had a huge influence on the horror film industry worldwide. Horror fans can attest to the impact this had on scary movies!
The story follows a journalist named Reiko Asakawa who investigates a cursed videotape. According to urban legend, anyone who watches the tape receives a phone call foretelling their death within seven days. As Reiko delves deeper into the mystery, she uncovers the disturbing truth behind the curse and becomes determined to break it. Alongside her ex-husband, Ryuji, she races against time to decipher the tape’s secrets and save her life.
What really set this movie apart was its slow-building tension, eerie atmosphere, and innovative use of technology as a source of horror. Who knew black hair could be so terrifying? As soon as people saw Sadako crawling out of a television, it was clear this was going to be a massive film. The Western remakes were good, but nothing beats the original!
Starring: Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Otaka, Miki Nakatani, Yuko Takeuchi,
Hitomi Sato, and Yutaka Matsushige.
What’s worst? Vengeful ghosts or a disturbed human? This deeply disturbing movie will help you decide! Based on the 1997 novel by Ryu Murakami, Audition is a bit of a cautionary tale. Brought to the big screen by director Takashi Miike, the film follows lonely widower, Shigeharu Aoyama, as he stages a fake audition in hopes of finding a new wife.
After interviewing several young women, Aoyama can’t stop thinking about Asami. She’s got some dark secrets which definitely take center stage in one of the most horrifying J-horror movies I’ve ever seen.
Starring: Ryo Ishibashi and Eihi Shiina.
Battle Royale (2000)
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, this dystopian thriller blends horror with social commentary. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Koushun Takami and gained significant attention for its controversial and intense storyline.
Set in a near-future Japan, the film depicts a fictional totalitarian government that enforces a brutal program known as the Battle Royale Act. Under this act, a randomly selected class of high school students is taken to a remote island, equipped with explosive collars, and forced to participate in a deadly game where they must kill each other until only one survivor remains. The students are given a time limit, and if they don’t comply, their collars explode. Kind of reminds me of The Hunger Games in some ways!
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takashi Tsukamoto, and Takeshi Kitano.
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this film explores the effects of technology on society and features supernatural elements. The film is known for its atmospheric and existential approach to horror, as well as its exploration of isolation and the impact of technology on society.
The story follows a group who becomes entangled in a mysterious and malevolent force spreading through the realm of the internet. They start having all kinds of strange experiences and realize that the line between the living and the dead has become blurred. It was ahead of its time but feels very timely now…
Starring: Kumiko Aso, Haruhiko Kato, Koyuki, and Kurume Arisaka.
Dark Water (2002)
Are there words to describe how scared I felt watching Dark Water? Western audiences will know there’s an American remake. It’s good, but the original is much, much better. This is definitely one of the best Japanese horror movies of all time.
The story follows a single mother in the middle of a nasty divorce. In an effort to prove she’s fit to retain custody of her daughter, she moves into a new apartment in a sketchy building. The mom and the young girl sense a mysterious force, but they can’t leave. Let’s just say things go very badly from there.
Starring: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Mizukawa, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yu Tokui, Isao Yatsu, and Shigemitsu Ogi.
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
When this came out, my husband and oldest daughter watched it. She had to stay home from school the next day… It took nearly two decades for me to get the courage to watch it myself. It was just as terrifying as I’d feared.
Directed by Takashi Shimizu, this film takes place cursed house that becomes the epicenter of supernatural malevolence. Anyone who enters the house or comes into contact with the curse becomes haunted by vengeful spirits, leading to a cycle of terror and death. I wish I could say this was a “one and done” kind of thing, but I watched the sequel and the American remakes. Plus, Sadako vs Kayako (later on this list!).
Starring: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Takashi Matsuyama, and Yui Ichikawa.
Directed by Takashi Miike, Gozu is a bizarre and surreal horror-comedy. It’s definitely more dark comedy, disturbing than terrifying. In Japan, we have the “yakuza” which is kind of like the mob or organized crime.
In this movie, Minami is assigned to find and dispose of a fellow yakuza, Ozaki. During his search, Minami encounters s series of increasingly strange and disturbing events in a surreal and nightmarish landscape.
Starring: Hideki Sone and Show Aikawa.
One Missed Call (2003)
Here’s another one directed by Takashi Miike! One Missed Call is based on a novel by Yasushi Akimoto and is about phone calls that predict someone’s imminent death…Nope! This is one of my least favorite types of horror movies because I think it’s the scariest. Why do I do this to myself?! I think this is the first film in the “phone call” horror genre of the 2000s. It really had an impact!
The story follows a young woman named Yoko who receives a voicemail on her cell phone that captures her own voice and her final moments of life. Soon, she realizes her friends are getting the same calls. As a group, they end up facing a seriously malevolent force that seems to be orchestrating their fates.
Starring: Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Yutaka Matsuchige, Goro Kishitani, and Renji Ishibashi.
Noroi: The Curse (2005)
The film takes a found-footage-style approach to its storytelling, which makes it feel more real and captivating. You will get pulled into this one! Directed by Koji Shiraishi, this film follows a documentary filmmaker investigating the supernatural.
Our main protagonist, Masafumi Kobayashi, takes on the role of a paranormal investigator as he tries to find the source of a series of strange and supernatural occurrences. As he delves deeper into the mystery, he uncovers a web of interconnected paranormal events, including mysterious deaths, possession, and a malevolent supernatural entity known as “Kagutaba.” I really almost peed my pants because I didn’t want to go to the bathroom alone!
Starring: Jin Muraki, Rio Kanno, and Tomono Kuga.
Did you hate any of your teachers in school? We guarantee none of them can compare to the one in this movie! Confessions is based on author Kanae Minato’s award-winning 2008 debut mystery novel and was directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. It was a huge success and is considered one of the best Japanese psychological thriller movies of all time.
After two students killed her daughter, a high school teacher is determined to get revenge on an entire school of unsuspecting kids. It’s sadistic, it’s horrifying, and glorious all at the same time.
Starring: Takako Matsu
Cold Fish (2010)
You’ll never look at aquariums the same way after watching this! Inspired by the real-life crime story of Gen Sekine and Hiroko Kazama, a couple who owned a pet shop and killed four people in 1993. The simple realism of this film directed by Sion Sono will make you want to leave the lights on.
The plot unfolds in Shizuoka where Nobuyuki Shamoto runs a shop specializing tropical fish. A chance encounter leads him to Yukio Murata’s much bigger, more successful tropical fish shop. When Nobuyuki meets Yukio’s wife, things get complicated…
Starring: Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Denden, and Asuka Kurosawa.
Tag, known as Real Onigokko in Japan, is a Japanese action horror film directed by Sion Sono (yes, the same director as Cold Fish!). The release of this film was extra hype because the theme song was written and performed by the rock band, Glim Spanky.
As the sole survivor of a freak school bus accident, Mitsuko suddenly finds herself in a surreal and remarkably violent alternative universe. This unconventional, feminist flick is one of the most fun Japanese horror movies to watch online. Fans of the Terrace House reality TV show will recognize (and love!) star Reina Triendl.
Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, and Erina Mano.
Sadako vs Kayako (2016)
What would happen if you put the ghosts from Hideo Nakata’s Ring and Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On against each other? You get this epic crossover between two of the most iconnic J-horror franchises. Honestly, it probably was the most scared I’ve ever been watching a movie.
After a woman watches Sadako’s cursed videotape, she knows she’ll die unless she finds a way to save herself. This genius comes up with the brilliant idea of pitting Sadako against Kayako. There’s some dark humor here, but mostly it’s terrifying to watch this creepy showdown which was written and directed by Koji Shiraishi. Who will win this insane battle?
Starring: Mizuki Yamamoto and Tina Tamashiro.
Tokyo Ghoul (2017)
Based on manga and anime, Tokyo Ghoul takes us to a world where flesh-eating ghouls exist — but they walk around every day behaving as regular humans in society. Makes me wonder about some of my former coworkers…
Anyway, you’ll follow a college student who undergoes surgery after surviving a ghoul attack. The problem is that he received an organ from his attacker, and now he’s turning into a half-ghoul. It’s dark, gory, and campy. What’s not to love?
Starring: Masataka Kubota, Fumika Shimizu, Yu Aoi, Nobuyuki Suzuki and Yo Oizumi.
One Cut of the Dead (2017)
If you love zombie movies, particularly ones like Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably like this! The actors of a low-budget film about the undead end up surrounded by the actual flesh-eating monsters themselves!
The director decides to keep the camera rolling to capture the carnage, and the end result is a weird (and fun) mix of gruesome gore and riotous comedy. Worth the watch!
Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Harumi Syuhama, Manabu Hosoi, Hiroshi Ichihara, Shuntaro Yamazaki, and Shinichiro Osawa.
Howling Village (2019)
From the creator of Ju-On: The Grudge franchise, this film takes us to a real place in Fukuoka Prefecture — Inunaki Tunnel and Inunaki Village. Some say this is the most haunted area in Japan.
You can easily visit the tunnel in real life, but it’s unclear whether the village actually exists. In the film, a psychologist’s young brother goes missing. She knows it’s up to her to find the truth. Honestly, this is a really scary one, so be ready!
Starring: Ayaka Miyoshi, Ryota Bando, and Tsuyoshi Furukawa.
Reviews Coming Soon
We haven’t seen these three movies, but we plan to very soon. I didn’t want to leave them off the list in case it takes me a while to update this post.
Here’s the synopsis from IMDb: “As if bullied by her classmates every day is not enough, Nozaki finds her house burnt to the ground and her parents dead. Knowing that the fire is not an accident, she sneaks off to punish those responsible one by one.”
Another plot overview from IMDb: “The story of Pil-Joo, an Alzheimer’s patient in his 80s, who lost all his family during the Japanese colonial era, and devotes his lifelong revenge before his memories disappear, and a young man in his 20s who helps him.”
Kisaragi Station (2022)
Here are the storyline details from IMDb: “Haruna Tsunematsu is studying folklore at university and she decides the subject of her graduation thesis will be the “Kisaragi Station” urban legend which has been a hot topic on the Internet since 2004.”
Best Japanese Horror Movies on Netflix
While there are many great platforms out there, are you looking for the specific movies on this list that you can watch on Netflix? We don’t blame you since almost everyone has a Netflix account! There’s nothing quite like a Japanese horror film. They do such a great job of being more than just jump scares. The scariest movies include so many elements like Japanese folklore, ghostly apparitions, high school students, and practical effects.
Here’s our list of movies you can find on Netflix (with a few extras that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet!). Also, please keep in mind that Netflix adds and removes things all the time, and availability can vary by region:
- Battle Royale (2000)
- One Missed Call (2003)
- Confessions (2010)
- Cold Fish (2010)
- Lesson of the Evil (2012)
- Roommate (2013)
- As God Wills (2014)
- One Cut of the Dead (2017)
- Liverleaf (2018)
- It Comes (2018)
- Howling Village (2020)
- Stigmatized Properties (2020)
- RE/ MEMBER (2022)
- Kisaragi Station (2022)
We hope you enjoyed this list of the best Japanese horror movies. These films represent a variety of J-horror subgenres and styles, showcasing the range and significant impact of Japanese horror cinema. While they are great to watch year-round, it’s especially fun during the spooky season. Happy haunting!