The Best Japanese Horror Movies of All Time

Any list of the best Japanese horror movies of all time is going to be controversial. Genre fans tend to have their favorites and long lists of movies they look down on. My list of the best Japanese horror movies of all time will probably look nothing like your own, especially if you’re a big fan of the Japanese horror genre.

What’s cool about studying the films of a particular culture is that you end up learning a ton about that culture while sitting back, eating popcorn, and enjoying a movie. Movies, including horror movies, are a huge part of the culture of Japan and the Japanese people. What started for me as a way to watch a whole new set of horror movies (after growing bored with my collection of American horror movies) turned into an obsession with all things Japanese, and I even vacationed in Japan this past year thanks to my love for Japanese horror.

You can learn a lot about Japan and its traditions by watching Japanese films, even Japanese horror films. I believe my love for Japanese horror has expanded my horizons immensely; not only have I learned a little bit of Japanese, but I visited the country, and I now have a whole new set of cultural icons to learn about, thanks to the massive amount of horror movies made in Japan.

Here’s a short list of the three best Japanese horror movies of all time. I’m sure every fan of Japanese horror will disagree with me, but these are my favorites.

1. House (1977)

A cult-classic in Japan and a high water mark for Japanese horror movies in the 70s, House  is your typical summer vacation / creepy house story with just enough gore and eerie plot points to make this movie an instant addition to my horror film library.

2. Audition (1999)

One of the most popular and best-known Japanese horror movie titles in America, Audition tells the story of a lonely widower looking for a new female companion. Saying anything more would ruin the surprise and most of the horror of this movie; it’s enough to say that the horror in Audition comes not from a ghost or a spirit but from the evils of a human being, which makes it that much more creepy.

3. Infection (2004)

Far from your typical zombie movie, Infection is a Japanese take on an old horror paradigm: the creepiness of hospitals. Yes, zombie movie fans will find a comfortable setting here, but the surprise ending makes this Japanese horror movie a “must watch twice” instant classic.