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The 10 Best Japanese Gay Movies You Should Already Have Seen By Now!

The 10 Best Japanese Gay Movies You Should Already Have Seen By Now!

The cinematic landscape, ever-evolving and richly diverse, has seen a profound transformation, particularly in its embrace of narratives once relegated to the margins. This evolution is strikingly evident in the realm of LGBTQ+ stories, where the best Japanese gay movies have emerged as poignant reflections of love, identity, and the resilience of the human spirit.

In the heart of Japan, from the cultural richness of Osaka to the historic streets of Yokohama, from the modern vibrancy of Nagoya to the serene beauty of Sapporo, and amidst the bustling energy of Fukuoka, the best Japanese gay movies find their resonance. These cities, each a tapestry of Japan’s multifaceted culture, serve as poignant settings for narratives that explore the nuanced journeys of the gay community in Japan.

In these best Japanese gay movies, filmmakers weave stories that transcend mere representation, offering a window into the soul of a community often veiled in silence. They artfully navigate the complexities of same-sex relationships and identity struggles, triumphantly portraying love’s victory over societal constraints. This cinematic exploration not only spotlights the pioneering filmmakers and talented actors of Japanese gay cinema but also celebrates the powerful stories they bring to life.

As we delve into the world of the best Japanese gay movies, we invite you to be captivated by tales of longing, courage, and self-discovery. These films, set against a backdrop of Japan’s cultural splendor and technological marvels, are not just stories; they are testaments to the enduring human spirit. They promise an experience that is both enlightening and enriching, moving and inspiring, showcasing the extraordinary skill and passionate storytelling that define Japanese gay cinema.

Join us in this cinematic journey, where the best Japanese gay movies stand as beacons of hope and understanding, illuminating the path toward a more inclusive and empathetic world. Prepare to be transported by the sheer brilliance of these films, as they uplift and celebrate the indomitable spirit of love and acceptance in all its forms.

The 10 Best Japanese Gay Movies You Should Already Have Seen By Now!

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apply TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Pride (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

Close-Knit (2017)

Close-Knit is a remarkable film directed by Naoko Ogigami, a Japanese filmmaker known for her sensitive portrayals of human relationships. Ogigami has crafted a compelling body of work over the years, exploring themes of identity, acceptance, and unconventional family dynamics. Her films often showcase characters who find solace and connection in unexpected places, and Close-Knit is no exception.

Set in Tokyo, the film revolves around the life of 11-year-old Tomo, whose mother leaves her to live with her uncle, Makio. Tomo soon discovers that Makio is living with his transgender girlfriend, Rinko, and as the three begin to form a unique family unit, they confront societal prejudices and learn to navigate the challenges of their unconventional circumstances.

Close-Knit sensitively explores themes of gender identity, acceptance, and the importance of love and understanding in a world that can often be harsh and judgmental.

Close-Knit is a must-watch for its heartfelt storytelling, exceptional performances, and its unflinching exploration of LGBT themes. Naoko Ogigami’s direction is masterful, capturing the complexities of human relationships with tenderness and nuance. The film’s emotional depth and its portrayal of diverse characters make it a thought-provoking and engaging cinematic experience.

If you’re looking for a film that challenges societal norms, celebrates the importance of acceptance, and reminds us of the transformative power of love, then Close-Knit is a must-see. It is a beautiful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a heartfelt exploration of the meaning of family, making it a highly recommended film for viewers seeking thought-provoking storytelling and rich character development.

Love My Life (2006)

Love My Life is a captivating film directed by Kōji Kawano, a talented Japanese filmmaker known for his thought-provoking works. Throughout his career, Kawano has explored various themes and genres, consistently delivering engaging narratives that resonate with audiences. Love My Life, released in 2006, stands as one of his notable contributions to the world of cinema.

The film revolves around the life of Ichiko (played by Rei Yoshii), a university student who is discovering her own identity and coming to terms with her sexuality. Ichiko finds herself caught between her blossoming romance with Eri (played by Asami Imajuku) and the expectations of her traditional parents. As the story unfolds, the audience is taken on a heartfelt journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance.

The film is remarkable for its exploration of LGBT themes and its honest portrayal of the challenges faced by individuals coming to terms with their sexual orientation. The film delicately addresses the struggles, societal pressure, and emotional complexities that Ichiko encounters on her path to self-acceptance. It presents a poignant depiction of the LGBTQ+ experience, fostering empathy and understanding.

Love My Life is great for anyone seeking a heartfelt and thought-provoking cinematic experience. The film not only offers a touching love story but also serves as a catalyst for conversations about identity, acceptance, and the complexities of human relationships.

Its authentic portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes and its immersive depiction of Tokyo make it a must-watch for film enthusiasts and individuals interested in exploring diverse perspectives. Love My Life will leave you with a profound appreciation for love, authenticity, and the power of self-discovery.

Our Family (2014)

Our Family is a heartfelt drama film directed by renowned filmmaker Yvan Attal, known for his insightful storytelling and exploration of complex human relationships. Attal, a French director, has a diverse career spanning both acting and directing, with notable works including My Wife Is an Actress (2001) and Do Not Disturb (2012). With Our Family, Attal delivers another emotionally resonant narrative that captivates audiences with its honest portrayal of love, identity, and acceptance.

Set in contemporary Paris, the film revolves around the relationship dynamics within a modern family. The story follows a loving couple, Gabriel (played by Attal himself) and Marianne (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg), who have been together for years. However, their world is turned upside down when their eldest daughter, Laura (played by Dany Boon), reveals that she is gay and introduces her partner, Claire (played by Julie Gayet), to the family.

One of the central themes of Our Family is the exploration of LGBT issues and the challenges faced by individuals within the context of family dynamics. Attal sensitively portrays the struggle for acceptance and understanding within a family, highlighting the importance of love and empathy in overcoming societal prejudices.

Our Family is a perfect for viewers seeking an emotionally engaging and thought-provoking film experience. Attal’s skilled direction, coupled with the exceptional performances by the ensemble cast, creates a compelling narrative that challenges societal norms and encourages viewers to reflect on their own perspectives. This film serves as a poignant reminder of the power of love and acceptance, making it a must-watch for anyone interested in heartfelt dramas with a touch of social relevance.

Bashment (2010)

Bashment is a film directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, a prominent British playwright, screenwriter, and director known for his thought-provoking and socially relevant works. Beadle-Blair has consistently tackled sensitive issues and presented them through his unique storytelling style. Throughout his career, he has explored themes of race, sexuality, and identity, often pushing boundaries and challenging societal norms.

Bashment revolves around the journey of JJ, a young, aspiring singer from South London. Struggling with his own identity and the pressures of conforming to societal expectations, JJ finds solace in the vibrant underground music scene known as bashment. As he navigates through this world, JJ discovers his own voice and learns to embrace his true self.

Set in the vibrant neighborhoods of South London, Bashment vividly captures the atmosphere and essence of the locale. Beadle-Blair showcases the multiculturalism and diversity of the area, portraying the vibrant energy and challenges faced by the characters within their community. The film’s setting becomes an integral part of the narrative, creating a rich backdrop against which the story unfolds.

Bashment is a film that deserves attention for its powerful storytelling and meaningful exploration of identity. With its engaging plot, well-drawn characters, and thought-provoking themes, it offers a compelling cinematic experience. Whether one is interested in the struggles of LGBTQ+ individuals, the intersectionality of race and sexuality, or simply appreciates a well-crafted coming-of-age story, Bashment is a film that will leave a lasting impression.

Bashment should be watched for its powerful portrayal of personal and cultural identity, its exploration of LGBT themes, and its authentic representation of South London. Rikki Beadle-Blair’s directorial prowess and the film’s engaging narrative make it a must-see for anyone seeking a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant cinematic experience.

Close Your Eyes, and Hold Me (1996)

Close Your Eyes, and Hold Me is a remarkable film directed by the renowned filmmaker and screenwriter, Hirokazu Kore-eda. Known for his emotionally charged narratives and insightful character studies, Kore-eda has garnered critical acclaim and a loyal fan base throughout his career.

Close Your Eyes, and Hold Me explores the complexities of human relationships and the profound impact they can have on our lives. The film revolves around the tender and poignant story of two women, Akiko and Akira, who find solace in each other’s company amid their own personal struggles. It beautifully captures their blossoming friendship as they navigate through societal pressures, self-discovery, and the pursuit of happiness.

Kore-eda delicately portrays the characters’ experiences and challenges within a society that often marginalizes and misunderstands non-heteronormative relationships. By placing their journey at the forefront, the director provides a compelling commentary on the importance of acceptance and love in a world that can be cruel and judgmental.

The film is set in contemporary Tokyo, and Kore-eda skillfully uses the city as a backdrop to highlight the characters’ emotional states. Through atmospheric cinematography and subtle details, he captures the bustling metropolis, juxtaposing it against the characters’ intimate moments. This contrast serves to enhance the sense of isolation and vulnerability they experience, reinforcing the emotional depth of the narrative.

Close Your Eyes, and Hold Me is a cinematic gem that deserves recognition for its thought-provoking storytelling and remarkable performances. It offers a moving exploration of human connection and the power of empathy. For those seeking a poignant and beautifully crafted film, this masterpiece by Hirokazu Kore-eda should not be missed. Its tender portrayal of LGBT themes, coupled with its compelling narrative and captivating setting, make it a must-watch for any film enthusiast.

Strawberry Fields (1997)

Strawberry Fields is a thought-provoking film directed by Rea Tajiri, known for her remarkable contributions to independent cinema. Throughout her career, Tajiri has demonstrated a unique ability to explore complex themes and emotions, often drawing from her own experiences as a Japanese-American artist. Her distinct style is evident in Strawberry Fields, a film that captivates audiences with its poignant narrative and profound exploration of identity.

Set in Los Angeles during the late 1970s, the film follows Irene, a young Japanese-American woman grappling with her cultural heritage and sexuality. As Irene embarks on a journey of self-discovery, she becomes entangled in a passionate and transformative relationship with a woman named Luisa. Their bond blossoms amidst a backdrop of societal taboos and prejudices, highlighting the film’s strong LGBT themes.

The film’s setting in Los Angeles serves as a vibrant backdrop, portraying the city as a melting pot of cultures and identities. Tajiri skillfully captures the essence of the time period, immersing viewers in the sights and sounds of a city on the cusp of change. Through her masterful cinematography, Tajiri showcases the diversity and complexity of Los Angeles, further enhancing the film’s exploration of identity and acceptance.

Strawberry Fields is a film that deserves recognition for its artistry and its ability to tackle important social issues. Tajiri’s sensitive direction and the powerful performances of the cast make for a compelling cinematic experience. The film’s exploration of LGBT themes, combined with its examination of cultural identity, offers a profound and resonant narrative that will leave a lasting impact on viewers.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a poignant film directed by Nagisa Oshima, a visionary Japanese filmmaker known for his thought-provoking and controversial works. Oshima, often associated with the Japanese New Wave movement, has a distinguished career spanning several decades. His films often explore social and political themes with a unique perspective, challenging conventional norms and provoking intellectual discourse.

Set during World War II, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence delves into the experiences of a group of prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese army. The narrative revolves around the complex dynamics that develop between the prisoners and their captors, highlighting themes of cultural clash, power dynamics, and human resilience in the face of adversity. The film delicately examines the psychological toll of war and the struggle to maintain dignity and humanity in a brutal and dehumanizing environment.

The film is set in a Japanese prisoner of war camp on a remote Pacific island. Oshima masterfully captures the stark beauty of the landscape, juxtaposing it with the harsh realities of war. The setting becomes a character in itself, reflecting the isolation and desolation experienced by the characters while showcasing Oshima’s keen eye for visual storytelling.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a must-watch film for its thought-provoking narrative, powerful performances, and artistic craftsmanship. Oshima’s direction skillfully balances the emotional depth of the story with its larger social and political implications. The film’s exploration of LGBT themes adds another layer of complexity, making it a standout work in its genre.

Lady Maiko (2014)

Lady Maiko is a delightful film directed by Masayuki Suo, known for his remarkable contribution to Japanese cinema. Suo gained international recognition for his critically acclaimed film Shall We Dance? in 1996, which was later remade in Hollywood. With Lady Maiko, Suo brings his unique storytelling skills to create a charming and heartwarming cinematic experience.

The film revolves around Haruko Saigo, a humble and cheerful young woman from the countryside, who dreams of becoming a maiko, an apprentice geisha, in Kyoto. Despite lacking refined skills and knowledge, Haruko’s unwavering determination leads her on a remarkable journey filled with laughter, friendship, and self-discovery.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Kyoto, Lady Maiko beautifully captures the essence of this historical city. The film showcases its vibrant culture, traditional rituals, and the meticulous artistry of geishas. Through stunning visuals and meticulous attention to detail, Suo transports the audience into the enchanting world of maikos, bringing Kyoto to life on the screen.

The film blends comedy, drama, and romance flawlessly, creating an enjoyable and uplifting experience for viewers. Suo’s direction, coupled with the stellar performances of the cast, breathes life into the characters, making them relatable and endearing. Moreover, Lady Maiko‘s portrayal of LGBT themes adds depth and diversity to the narrative, making it a film that resonates with a wide range of audiences.

Whether you are a fan of Japanese cinema, interested in geisha culture, or simply looking for a heartwarming film, Lady Maiko is a must-watch. Its charm, authenticity, and positive messages will leave you with a smile on your face and a newfound appreciation for the power of dreams and friendship.

Bakuman (2015)

Bakuman is a film directed by Hitoshi Ōne, a renowned Japanese filmmaker known for his thought-provoking narratives and distinct directorial style. Ōne began his career in the late 1990s as a screenwriter and eventually transitioned into directing. His filmography boasts a diverse range of works that have garnered critical acclaim, showcasing his ability to delve into various genres with finesse and sensitivity.

Based on the popular manga series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Bakuman follows the story of Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi, two high school students who aspire to become successful manga artists. Motivated by their dreams and a chance encounter with a talented classmate, Miho Azuki, Mashiro and Takagi embark on a journey to create the ultimate manga series that will capture the hearts of readers and lead them to success.

While Bakuman primarily focuses on the pursuit of artistic achievement, it subtly incorporates LGBT themes within its narrative. The film thoughtfully explores the complexities of relationships and personal identity, offering a nuanced portrayal of characters who navigate their sexuality amidst societal expectations and personal growth.

Bakuman is a fantastic film that should be watched by both manga enthusiasts and those seeking a captivating and heartfelt story. With its engaging plot, well-developed characters, and expert direction by Hitoshi Ōne, the film offers a compelling exploration of artistic pursuit, personal relationships, and societal expectations.

Its inclusion of LGBT themes adds depth and relevance, making it a thought-provoking viewing experience. Bakuman is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates well-crafted storytelling and a glimpse into the intricacies of the creative process.

Like Grains of Sand (1995)

Like Grains of Sand is a captivating Japanese film directed by the talented Ryosuke Hashiguchi. Known for his insightful storytelling and exploration of LGBT themes, Hashiguchi has established himself as a prominent figure in contemporary Japanese cinema.

The film revolves around the lives of two high school students, Shuji and Hiroyuki, as they navigate the complexities of adolescence, friendship, and sexuality. Set in the picturesque coastal town of Kanazawa, the movie beautifully captures the essence of the characters’ lives and the struggles they face in a conservative society.

Hashiguchi fearlessly delves into the exploration of LGBT themes, portraying the blossoming romantic relationship between Shuji and his male classmate, Kumiko. Their tender love story unfolds against a backdrop of societal expectations and prejudices, offering a poignant commentary on the challenges faced by individuals who defy conventional norms.

What sets Like Grains of Sand apart is its ability to authentically depict the setting of Kanazawa. Through breathtaking cinematography and meticulous attention to detail, the film immerses viewers in the town’s serene landscapes, ancient traditions, and cultural richness. Kanazawa becomes more than just a backdrop; it becomes a character in itself, mirroring the characters’ internal struggles and the conflict between tradition and personal desires.

In a world where diversity and acceptance are increasingly crucial, Like Grains of Sand serves as a poignant reminder of the power of love and the strength of the human spirit. Don’t miss this cinematic gem that has rightfully earned its place as a significant milestone in Japanese cinema.