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6 Best Early 2000s Japanese Movies That Are Loved By Foreigners (Early 2000s)

Movies, Dramas, and TV shows from Japan are a lot of fun. They are surprising, dramatic, and creative in a way that only Japanese productions can be. They stand out from western productions in many ways due to various influences like culture, history, and manga. There are many types of Japanese movies including live-action adaptations of anime and manga like Death Note and Bakuman. If you’ve seen Japanese movies before, then you already have an idea of how amazing they can be. If you haven’t, here are six of the best Japanese movies that were released in the early 2000s.


1.Spirited Away (2001)

In the early 2000s, adventure, drama, and animated movies ruled the market among foreigners and Spirited Away (2001) is a great example of such movie. Originally named 千と千尋の神隠し (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), Spirited Away (2001) captured the hearts of many foreigners and Japanese people alike. This GHIBLI Studios film was directed by the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki. It’s about a timid 10-year-old girl who accidentally travels to a world with gods spirits and witches and must save her parents. The movie has strong themes of love and friendship that makes any viewer want to hug their neighbor.


2.Tokyo Sonata (2008)

Tokyo Sonata (2008)


Kiyoshi Kurosawa–who, despite his name, is not related to the late Akira Kurosawa–directed this tear-jerker of a film, but Tokyo Sonata (2008) is a great film nonetheless. This film depicts the life of an ordinary family in Tokyo that takes a downward spiral after the father in the family loses his job at a prestigious company. It depicts the real-life situation without the fantastical elements of Hollywood style movies. It’s raw, honest, realistic, and it brings awareness to the issue of corporate societies putting money first without considering the lives affected. It’s definitely a great movie to check out.


3.Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle

Three years after the release of Spirited Away (2001) came another GHIBLI Studios film directed by Hayao Miyazaki–Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Like Spirited away, there is magic and a witch’s curse involved; however, it takes place in an old-timey Europeanesque setting when Howl’s castle is not moving, just before and during a war. Howl himself is a wizard who the main character becomes friends with as both of them struggle with insecurities. Howl’s companions also have insecurities that render them to be outcasts in society, but everyone learns from each other and eventually grows. This tale is also a tale of love and friendship and overcoming life’s darkness.


4.Battle Royale (2000)

Battle Royale (2000)

In a sci-fi dystopian society of the future, the government of Japan passed the BR Act after an economic recession as a means of population control. The act placed allows the government to choose one class to place on an island where the students were left to participate in a battle royale and fight until only one is left standing. The story follows Shuya Nanahara and his class’s fight to the death. It’s a different approach compared to the purge and The Hunger Games is slightly similar. It’s no wonder this shocking action-packed thriller is popular among foreigners.


5.The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003)

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003)

Here is another great film with Takeshi Kitano that is loved by foreigners. There are many Zatoichi films but this one breathed life into the series again. The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003) is about a Zatoichi (a blind swordsman) who moves to a city overrun and controlled by yakuza and comes to the aid of the people forced to pay the yakuza protection money, liberating them from the yakuza’s control. Zatoichi formed an interesting crew made up of a farmer, her nephew, and two geisha seeking revenge on whoever killed their family. If you enjoy movies about great warriors with a bit of comic relief, this is the movie for you.


6.Ju-on (2002) and The Grudge (2004)

Ju-on (2002) and The Grudge (2004)


Ju-on (2002) eventually acquired an American adaptation called The Grudge (2004). Both movies involve a woman, son, and cat who were killed by their husband and dad after he learned she was in love with another man. They became what is known as Onryo, or vengeful spirits, basically a curse that spread to anyone who enters the house and to any place where that person dies. Ju-on is a bit more symbolic and focuses on the message of how letting ones self be consumed by revenge can have a curse-like effect as it spreads. The Grudge, however, is more about scaring the audience.


To foreigners, sometimes films from Japan are strangely unique, but in a good way of course as its uniqueness draws them in. Although there may be many differences in style and influences from unique sociocultural elements, Japanese movies tell a story with a message that is similar to the ones that foreigners are familiar with, but they are told in a way that is unique to Japan. That’s what makes them widely loved and appreciated by many foreigners around the world.