10 Greatest Movies Directed by Takashi Miike, Ranked by Letterboxd

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10 Greatest Movies Directed by Takashi Miike, Ranked by Letterboxd


Takashi Miike is a director who’s as daring as he is astoundingly prolific. He’s one of the best-known Japanese directors working today and has achieved a sizable level of popularity outside his home country, with a cult following on an international scale. He began directing feature films in the early 1990s and hasn’t slowed down since when it comes to directing, given that just over 30 years later, he’s had more than 100 directing credits.

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This means an average of more than three movies a year, and indeed, some individual years in Takashi Miike’s career saw him releasing half a dozen different films. It can be an overwhelming filmography to dive into, but thankfully, the ratings from users of a site like Letterboxd can help give some good titles to start with.


10 ‘Ichi the Killer’ (2001)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.6/5

Takashi Miike is sometimes considered a controversial filmmaker because of how twisted and violent his films can get, and fewer have proven more provocative than Ichi the Killer. It blends action, crime, and horror and depicts the violent clash between a sadistic Yakuza enforcer and a deadly serial killer.

It may crack the top 10 regarding the highest-rated Takashi Miike movies on Letterboxd, but Ichi the Killer might not be the ideal entry point into his filmography because of how graphic it is. The violence is over-the-top, and the film has moments of very dark comedy, but newcomers might be better off watching a slightly less twisted Miike film first.

9 ‘Gozu’ (2003)

Gozu - 2003

Letterboxd Rating: 3.6/5

Gozu builds upon the sort of shock value found in Ichi the Killer and, in some ways, might be even more disturbing. However, if some would argue it’s not necessarily as horrific, all would agree it’s certainly more bizarre, as it crosses into even more genres than that 2001 movie.

It’s more abstract and has a less comprehensible narrative while at the same time taking a turn towards surrealism when it comes to its horror and comedy elements. It’s a wild ride and a great showcase for Miike’s unique style for those with stomachs strong enough to handle its more confronting scenes, most of which occur in the film’s back half.

8 ‘Dead or Alive 2: Birds’ (2000)

Dead or Alive 2_ Birds - 2000
Image via Toei Video Company

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

While it might sound like Dead or Alive 2: Birds is a sequel to Miike’s 1999 film that was simply titled Dead or Alive, that’s not actually the case. The movies share titles, and both have stories that feature Yakuza characters, but tonally they’re quite different and feature different sets of characters (also, the explosive way Dead or Alive ends doesn’t leave much room for a traditional sequel).

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Dead or Alive 2: Birdsends up being more heartfelt than most of Miike’s movies and balances those bittersweet emotions with a healthy dose of humor. It’s an engaging story about two childhood friends who reunite because they’re both hitmen assigned to the same job. Though it gets expectedly weird here and there, it’s overall more restrained than most of Miike’s other (much wilder) movies that he became known for in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

7 ‘Young Thugs: Nostalgia’ (1998)

Young Thugs_ Nostalgia - 1998
Image via Shochiku Company

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

Takashi Miike uses Young Thugs: Nostalgia to tell a semi-autobiographical story about growing up as a young child at the end of the 1960s. It’s a comedy/drama that doesn’t contain any real crime/gangster movie elements, despite the title suggesting that it might.

It’s certainly a strange movie, but it has its charms while naturally having a few tangents here and there to keep viewers on their toes (Miike loves to be unpredictable, even when his movies have fairly grounded premises). Miike has said it’s his favorite of all the films he’s directed, and the users at Letterboxd are fond of it too.

6 ‘Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai’ (2011)

A samurai sits while others raise their swords at him in Hara-Kiri Death of a Samurai

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

There are three remakes directed by Takashi Miike that crack his top 10 highest-rated movies on Letterboxd, with Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai being one of them. It’s a faithful updating/retelling of the classic 1962 film Harakiri, about a man seeking revenge against a clan of samurai who’ve wronged him and his family.

Most of the time, Miike mixes things up when he takes on a remake, but here, he plays things safer, honoring the original movie by making something very similar to it. There are some minor structural tweaks, and things get shaken up (perhaps not for the best) during the climax, but otherwise, most of what’s found in Harakiri (1962) is also replicated directly in the 2011 remake, for better or worse.

5 ‘Graveyard of Honor’ (2002)

Graveyard of Honor - 2002

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

With 2002’s Graveyard of Honor, Takashi Miike remade another well-respected Japanese film: the 1975 Yakuza movie of the same name. Unlike Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Miike shakes things up a little more here, adding almost 40 minutes to the original’s runtime and pushing boundaries more regarding the mindset and actions of its twisted, terrifying protagonist.

RELATED: The Best Yakuza Movies of All Time

Miike’s film is essentially a character study of a ruthless gangster who constantly pursues power and seems to lack both fear and empathy. He’s a monstrous person who does many terrible things, making it a confronting but surprisingly absorbing viewing experience. It’s a particularly dark crime film, but worth watching for those who can handle it.

4 ‘The Bird People in China’ (1998)

The Bird People in China - 1998
Image via Excellent Film

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

Even though one of its main characters is a member of the Yakuza, The Bird People in China certainly isn’t a crime film. It’s a unique entry in Miike’s filmography, being a dramedy/adventure film about three unlikely people venturing to China in search of a possible jade mine but ultimately finding things they weren’t expecting.

The tone is quite unlike Miike’s usual style for the most part, except for the film’s humorous moments and very brief and sporadic bursts of violence. It’s a beautifully shot movie with an interesting, unique atmosphere and essential viewing for anyone who thinks Miike’s a one-trick pony who only makes violent crime and horror movies.

3 ‘The Happiness of the Katakuris’ (2001)

Image via Shochiku

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

There is absolutely nothing else in existence like The Happiness of the Katakuris. It’s almost the textbook definition of a cult film, given it gleefully mashes up surreal comedy, family drama, zombie horror, and musical numbers in its story about the unlucky but determined Katakuri family trying to run a guest house in the countryside.

Sure, there have been musicals that incorporate horror elements before, but few do so in quite the same way that The Happiness of the Katakuris does. It’s a bizarre but endearing film that mere words can’t do justice to, with it deservedly being right up there when it comes to Miike’s highest-rated movies on Letterboxd.

2 ’13 Assassins’ (2010)


Letterboxd Rating: 3.8/5

There were already two versions of 13 Assassins that existed before Takashi Miike’s 2010 remake, but he has since become the most well-known and beloved. It has a simple but immensely satisfying premise: a tyrannical lord looks set to ascend to the throne, so 13 assassins are hired to ambush him in a small village and kill him before he can.

It’s everything a remake should be, given it updates the story in the best ways possible and makes an already engaging story into one that’s adrenaline-pumping and truly exciting as an action movie. It’s up there with the best samurai movies of all time and more than deserves its average Letterboxd rating of 3.8/5.

1 ‘Audition’ (1999)

Image via Omega Project

Letterboxd Rating: 3.8/5

Audition was the movie that made Takashi Miike an internationally known name and helped develop the idea of J-horror in the minds of western audiences. It shocked audiences in 1999 and remains disturbing to this day, with its slow-burn story about a middle-aged man becoming transfixed by a young actress, complete with unforeseen (and alarming) consequences.

It’s a movie that’s notorious for some of its scenes of violence, perhaps because of how psychologically tense and disturbing they are, rather than what they show on-screen (the visuals are still confronting, though). As a horror film, it’s extreme, but it’s undeniably well-made and hard to forget once watched, which makes it more than understandable why it’s Miike’s highest-rated movie, according to Letterboxd users.

KEEP READING:’Harakiri’ 60 Years On: 10 Reasons Why It’s The Best Samurai Movie Ever


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