Japan's Five Most Frightening Horror Movies Of All Time!

Japanese horror cinema, or "J-Horror" has been making a name for itself in recent years. Hollywood chillers The Ring and The Grudge are adaptations of recent J-Horror flicks and their success will surely spawn others. To get the full impact of what J-Horror really means, you've got to go to the source.

We'll start our list with a true classic, then move to the modern age and a more insidious form of horror. First though - and fifth on the list - is the one that started it all...


Oh no, there goes Tokyo...Oh no, there goes Tokyo...
No discussion of Japanese horror flicks would be complete without referring to that campy classic, the original Godzilla from 1954, or "Gojira" to use its Japanese title. Sure, it looks cheesy today, but back in the early fifties the special effects were state of the art, even in Black & White.

Though later sequels did much to dilute the power and the presence of Japan's greatest movie monster, the big guy has still got what it takes to flatten a city - and nobody chews the scenery with more gusto! (iimage via Pacific Asia Museum) (Buy it here.)


It's for you...It's for you...
"One Missed Call" sets the bar for modern Japanese horror flicks with its distinctive, unsettling plot outline that's quite different from today's too typical slasher flicks Hollywood insists on churning out. If anything, One Missed Call shows some similarities to scary ghost stories past and older Hollywood films like 1967's "Wait Until Dark".

Very little blood, only brief nudity and an overall eerie atmosphere are the backdrop for one of the most chilling films you'll ever see. Titled "Chakushin ari" in its home country, One Missed Call was released in 2003 and its popularity has led to sequels in 2005 and 2006. (image via moviesonline.ca) (Buy it here.)


Dating is such a pain...Dating is such a pain...
1999's Audition, or "Odishon" in romanized Japanese, is a chilling femme fatale flick with the emphasis on the fatale. One look at the actress holding a hypodermic needle on the movie poster had me horrified before the darned thing even started!

Somewhat Hitchcockian in scope and format, Audition features few special effects because they simply aren't needed. It's one of those films where you know you're going to be shocked, but you're shocked anyway, over and over again. (image via cartelia.net) (Buy it here.)

2) JU-ON

What goes around, comes around...What goes around, comes around...
You may have seen ghost stories before, but they never had ghosts like the ones in "Ju-on". Crafted with exquisite care by director Takashi Shimizu, Ju-on is an unrelenting 90 minutes of terror that will leave you gasping - for more!

"Ju-on" can be translated to mean The Curse or The Grudge, and it was indeed this film that was remade & Americanized in 2004, then released as "The Grudge" starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr and Bill Pullman. The original Ju-on is much more effective at synthesizing classic horror and delivering it, drop by excrutiating drop. (image via Toei Video Company) (Buy it here.)


You wish you had Betamax now...You wish you had Betamax now...
Remade in 2002 as "The Ring" starring Naomi Watts, the original 1998 Japanese "Ringu" is said to be creepier, scarier, and more shocking in every way. Though both films employ the same "One curse, one cure, one week to find it" plotline, director Hideo Nakata manages to create a palpable sense of horror tinged with depression, a fatalistic cocktail that will seep into your senses, leaving you cold - and in a cold sweat.

Having achieved lasting fame as Japan's top-grossing horror flick ever, Ringu was followed in 1999 by a sequel, also directed by Nakata, and a prequel in 2000 helmed by a different director. Though videotapes are rapidly fading from the A/V media scene, the VHS cassette has achieved lasting notoriety thanks to its use in Ringu (and The Ring) as a central plot device. Absolutely terrifying! (image via Max Bossa) (Buy it here.)

And there you have it. Japan may be all cute-like and Hello Kitty sickly sweet to some, but a far different aspect of the nation's culture lurks beneath. Think you have the guts to go there? Buy or rent any one of these J-Horror flicks and find out!

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer
Oct 26, 2007
by RogerThePunk (not verified)

One Missed Call? Scary? Sorry, not!

It came off as a cross between "Ju-on" and "Ringu" to me. I'd have included "Jigoku" (the first one) simply for being so far ahead of it's time. Kind of like the American "Carnival Of Souls" was.

Oct 30, 2007
by seth (not verified)

im like wtf??? heres nice

im like wtf??? heres nice girl was expecting a nice romance then, no! she starts cutting people, then branding herself etc with a deformed body in her room etc. wtf ???

Dec 19, 2007
by Faith (not verified)

Godzilla? Really?

Not that I don't love Godzilla, but I can't imagine calling it truely frightening ( I'm a big fan of a lot of the Godzilla films, actually ), but there are a few films that really deserve that spot like Dark Water, Kairo, Marebito, Premonition or Reincarnation, but overall I really agree with the choices - Whoo hoo to Ringu!

Jan 4, 2008
by Someone who has a clue. (not verified)


One Missed Call wasn't really that much of a cross between Ringu and Ju-On. But some people apparently can't accept the differences. These are the same people who think Ringu is the scariest J-horror out there. Sorry, you missed that bus looong ago, buddy!

This list should be titled Japan's Five Most Popular Horror Movies of All Time! Because that's basically what it is. Even Godzilla, albeit not frightening one bit is a horror movie classic that's popular partly because it was one of the first introduced to foreign countries. Ringu and Ju-On became completely over-rated after the remakes.

As for movies like Kairo, Marebito, Dark Water, ect. being on the list... I THINK NOT!!!!! Kairo is one of the worst Japanese horror movies of all time. It's right up there with Kakashi. It's a miracle anyone can even find it scary. What happens? Oh, it's just a bunch of people turning into depressed little black stains on the wall. Funny, yes, scary, no. Please try and watch better horror films, kthxbyebye!

Feb 1, 2008
by Siddhit (not verified)


TOO BAD! according to me Ring doesnt deserve top spot! there r several J_horrors which r way better than THE RING in many aspects.luved ju-on though..
my choices wud be ONIBABA,Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Dark water),Tetsuo!

May 9, 2008
by Anonymous

stop hating make suggestions

it makes no sense to just say that certain movies are terrible without giving an alternative. When you do this you are just being bitter and hating with no basis for improvement.

May 29, 2008
by Anonymous


The list was crap but then again maybe you didn't really watch a variety of movies, but I have to say Audtition was ok.

May 29, 2008
by Anonymous


Okay first of all, the only movie that belongs up there is Audition- hell it was on the 50 scariest movies of all time, even crazy gore guy Eli Roth thought so! And christ! Tomie wa scarier than RingU. Premonition (the japanese version not the dumbed down version featuring that hack bullock) should be on there. One missed call like juon, ringu, and dark water are now also be made into horrifyingly bad american remakes. America, i love ya, but leave j-horror movies alone. Most of the time the new directors (even if they get with the japanese ones) cannot understand the directors vision and dont realize how much most j-horror is tied up on japanese culture.But i digress.. try watching infection, sakebi or something dont just go to the overpopular ones!

Jul 17, 2008
by Anonymous

More !!!

Can't really agree i mean they are scary lol but they are so popular everyone seen em :P i should say like baka! try infection, reincarnation, sakebi, dumplings (wasn't all that scary but i kinda liked it) and look on the internet if you really wonna have something special maybe you can make a top 10 later on when you saw more j-horror :D and you'll prob put ju-on and ringu behind somewhere then ^^ (or halfway)

Jul 17, 2008
by Anonymous


I think that Grude is a scary movie. It's amazing how much black the japanese people put on. But the Grudge 2 is okay. But I don't really get it that much. Will I'm japanese so I get what they're saying in the movie. I really want to see Juon. It looks like a really scary movie. Just to say u have to see the grude. It's a alsome movie. I'm going to go borrow juon 2 at the movies place and Juon too. and people u also have to see the grude 2 too.

Jul 25, 2008
by Anonymous

respect the japanese cinema

i'd say,the american directors vision is not the same with the japanese directors,korean's and the thai's. the version of the american's horror movies still base on their own concept even though they have copied the asian movies. western movies merely make shocks but not like chilling down your spine. it is like when you say "ugh,its not that scary but deep inside you know it hit you". the movie you were watching has been already remade. watch the original version lets see if you are not afraid.

Sep 19, 2008
by Anonymous

jhorror is being butchered

yup, hollywood and america have ruined some truly great j-horror. the grudge, the ring, and to a waaaay lesser extent dark water were the only close to decent. and this list- with the exception of audition because that truly deserves to be a top five- is more about most popular than most scary. the original version of the eye, oldboy, three extremes, 100 ghosts, tomie, premonition, marebito- there are way better ones. pretty much anything takashi shimizu and chan park wook- you might not think its scary, but you'll dream about them for days. i'm hooked on jhorror, though, so thank for at least doing a list- this genre deserves waaay more exposure and credit!

Oct 1, 2008
by Anonymous

I think at the moment korean

I think at the moment korean horror outstrips japanese horrer at least for me anyway.
Guard Post,R-Point you could even say Oldboy was a horror expecialy what hapens to him.

J-horror is good and sometimes scary but in a more psychological way. I like some of the lesser known ones they mix humour and gore just so.

Hear are some examples: Attack of the schoolgirl zombies
The matchine girl
Meatball matchine
Battlefield baseball
Wild zero
All are good fun. Don't expect megabuck's movies though!

Oct 4, 2008
by Anonymous

I love asian "scary movies" but they are really funny to.

I love asian movies! my favs are: Dark water, Ghost of Mynak, Ceilo, The Maid ( I think its called), the Last Supper, Ringu, Pulse, One missed call, the Eye, and alot more. however i think some of them are very funny like juon. I thought that the mother was very funny looking and it made me laugh during the second movie when the "wig" was crawling on the floor. it was very funny. I also hate it when the asian movie is remade here and the "rules" are different or that there is a new character. like in pulse. the rules with the red tape are different in the american version, and the ghost attacks dont match the rules either.(made me sad) I also hate it when they cut out very important things such as in the american version of Dark water. they cut out the reason the child went missing and the totaly cut out the "past" where the girl was still alive. I bought it for $3.00 and that was a waist of money....ok I'm done ranting.

Nov 15, 2008
by Anonymous


Have you ever seen a movie called The H-Man 1959 scarrie old movie I thought

Nov 30, 2008
by Anonymous

Not a good list.

You should add "Suicide Club"

Dec 17, 2008
by Anonymous


OK I'm just 10 years old and I haven't even watched the movie yet! But doing some search, seeing some pictures and reading the description makes me think "I SHOULDN'T OF EVER DONE THOSE THINGS"!

Dec 26, 2008
by Anonymous


What?! How is Ichi the Killer NOT on this list?!

Jan 6, 2009
by Anonymous

Marebito And Cinderella

I have to agree Marebito is one awsome flick. Though I am one hard person to scare, I think. But so far the only movie to have truly creeped me out is Cinderella, I thought it would just be some creep-oh take on the disny story, Boy was I wrong. I think I might have wet my pants watchign that xD

Feb 1, 2009
by Anonymous

cinderella is a korean flick

cinderella is a korean flick

Feb 2, 2009
by Anonymous

"What?! How is Ichi the

"What?! How is Ichi the Killer NOT on this list?!"

Because it sucks.

Feb 5, 2009
by Anonymous


i seen ju-on recently...it,s very nice scared movie since before i never seen this horror..
when we see first time the movie is hoorrable and some shots of the scene is scared very much...good horror movie..

Feb 14, 2009
by Anonymous


*rolls eyes*

either you have absolutely no taste in movies or you're not smart enough for Kairo.
Probably both