© 2020 Gabe Powers

  • Gabe Powers

Grinding the Stream: Japanese Cult Cinema

Updated: 3 days ago

Are you self isolating? Are you thinking about broadening your cinematic horizons? Perhaps you’d like to learn about a specific genre? I’m here to help. Staying in the East, this time we’re talking about Japanese cult movie titles available to stream RIGHT NOW.


Netflix and Hulu’s selection is weak, but Amazon Prime is pretty good, as are various free streaming services available via Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, et cetera. I compared a bunch and, for the sake of simplicity, I found the best in terms of content and video quality to be Tubi, Midnight Pulp (a "+" will be included wherever subscription fees apply), VUDU’s free selections, The Roku Channel, Shout Factory TV (though most of their titles can also be watched via Amazon Prime), Popcorn Flix, Dark Matter TV (again, a "+" will be included wherever subscription fees apply). And, of course, this is Criterion Channel’s time to shine. Shudder doesn’t do too badly, either, thanks to its chunky Takashi Miike and Kinji Fukasaku selection. In fact, I’m not covering samurai movies, because Criterion Channel has a heck of a monopoly in that regard and I’m pretty sure every single one available is great (including the complete, cult-friendly Lone Wolf and Cub and Zatoichi series). Additionally, I’m not including Akira Kurosawa movies. If you have access to Kurosawa movies you haven’t seen yet, just watch them.


Be warned – all of the free apps have ad breaks (I know, it sucks) and the video quality is inconsistent from app to app. Sometimes it's genuine HD, other times, it's sub-VHS. Apologies if I’ve suggested something with particularly grim A/V quality and be aware that the availability is based on the research I did on March 23rd, 2020. Given the nature of streaming media, I imagine very few of these titles will be available in perpetuity. I've included links to my own reviews of some of these films and be aware that, despite my classifications below, complete director filmographies are not currently available free/subscription streaming.



Kinji Fukasaku Movies

  • Black Lizard (1968) – Criterion Channel

  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity/Yakuza Papers Series: Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973), Hiroshima Death Match (aka: Deadly Fight in Hiroshima, 1973), Proxy War (1973), Police Tactics (1974), Final Episode (1974) – Amazon Prime and Shudder

  • New Battles Without Honor and Humanity Series: New Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1974), Head of the Boss (1975), Last Days of the Boss (1976) – Amazon Prime

  • Cops vs. Thugs (1975) – Amazon Prime and Midnight Pulp +

  • Doberman Cop (1977) – Amazon Prime

  • Battle Royale (2000) – VUDU Free and Tubi


Seijun Suzuki Movies

  • Voice Without a Shadow (1958) – Amazon Prime

  • Smashing the 0-Line (1960) – Amazon Prime

  • Tokyo Knights (1961) – Amazon Prime

  • The Man with a Shotgun (1961) – Amazon Prime

  • Teenage Yakuza (1962) – Amazon Prime

  • Youth of the Beast (1963) – Criterion Channel

  • Gate of Flesh (1964) – Criterion Channel

  • Story of a Prostitute (1965) – Criterion Channel

  • Fighting Elegy (1966) – Criterion Channel

  • Tokyo Drifter (1966) – Criterion Channel

  • Branded to Kill (1967) – Criterion Channel


Takashi Miike Movies

  • Rainy Dog (1997) – Amazon Prime, Shudder, and Midnight Pulp

  • Audition (1999) – Shudder

  • Dead or Alive Series: Dead or Alive (1999), Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000), Dead or Alive: Final (2002) – Amazon Prime, Shudder, and Midnight Pulp +

  • Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) – Amazon Prime

  • Ichi the Killer (2001) – Shudder

  • Graveyard of Honor (2002) – Midnight Pulp

  • Gozu (2003) – Amazon Prime and Popcorn Flix

  • Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) – Amazon Prime, VUDU Free, Tubi

  • Thirteen Assassins (2010) – Shudder

  • Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011) – Amazon Prime and VUDU Free

  • Yakuza Apocalypse (2015) – VUDU Free

  • Blade of the Immortal (2017) – HULU



Meiko Kaji Movies

  • Retaliation (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1968) – Amazon Prime

  • Stray Cat Rock Series: Alleycat Rock: Female Boss (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1970), Wild Jumbo (Toshiya Fujita, 1970), Sex Hunter (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1970), Machine Animal (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1970), and Beat ’71/Crazy Rider ‘71 (Toshiya Fujita, 1971) – Amazon Prime

  • Blind Woman’s Curse (Teruo Ishii, 1970) – Amazon Prime and Midnight Pulp

  • Female Prisoner Scorpion Series: #701: Scorpion (Shunya Ito, 1972), Jailhouse 41 (Shunya Ito, 1972), Beast Stable (Shunya Ito, 1973), Grudge Song (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1973) – Amazon Prime and Shudder

  • Lady Snowblood Series: Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974, both directed by Toshiya Fujita) – Criterion Channel

  • (She also appears in Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Deadly Fight in Hiroshima)


Bloodthirsty Trilogy

  • The Vampire Doll (Michio Yamamoto, 1970) – Amazon Prime

  • Lake of Dracula (Michio Yamamoto, 1971) – Amazon Prime

  • Evil of Dracula (Michio Yamamoto, 1974) – Amazon Prime


Tetsuo Series

  • Tetsuo the Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989) – Shudder

  • Tetsuo the Bullet Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2009) – HULU



Japanese Horror/Ghost Stories

This is a quite large and quite broad category, so take this as recommended movies that I assume haven’t been as widely seen as, say Ringu (1998) or Ju-on (2002).

  • Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953) – Criterion Channel

  • Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan (Nobuo Nakagawa, 1959) – Criterion Channel

  • Jigoku (Nobuo Nakagawa, 1960) – Criterion Channel

  • Matango (Ishirō Honda, 1963) – Amazon Prime

  • Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964) – Criterion Channel

  • Onibaba (Kaneto Shindō, 1964) – Criterion Channel

  • The Face of Another (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1966) – Criterion Channel

  • Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindō, 1968) – Criterion Channel

  • The Living Skeleton (Hiroshi Matsuno, 1968) – Criterion Channel

  • Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (Hajime Sato, 1968) – Criterion Channel

  • Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969) – Amazon Prime

  • Wolf Guy (Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, 1975) – Shudder and Midnight Pulp

  • Hausu (aka: House; Nobuhiko Ōbayashi, 1977) – Criterion Channel

  • Organ (Kei Fujiwara, 1996) – Midnight Pulp +

  • One Cut of the Dead (Shinichiro Ueda, 2017) – Shudder


Other Crime/Yakuza Classics

  • Cruel Gun Story (Takumi Furukawa, 1964) – Criterion Channel

  • Iron Finger (Jun Fukuda, 1965) – Criterion Channel

  • A Colt Is My Passport (Takashi Nomura, 1967) – Criterion Channel

  • Golden Eyes (Jun Fukuda, 1968) – Criterion Channel

  • Rusty Knife (Toshio Masuda) – Criterion Channel

  • The Sun’s Burial (Nagisa Oshima, 1960) – Criterion Channel

  • Vengeance is Mine (Shohei Imamura, 1979) – Criterion Channel

  • Violence at Noon (Nagisa Oshima, 1966) – Criterion Channel

  • Massacre Gun (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1967) – Amazon Prime and Midnight Pulp


Godzilla, Showa Era

  • Godzilla (Japanese: Gojira; Ishirō Honda, 1954) – Criterion Channel

  • Godzilla Raids Again (Motoyoshi Oda, 1955) – Criterion Channel

  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (Ishirō Honda, 1962) – Criterion Channel

  • Mothra vs. Godzilla (Ishirō Honda, 1964) – Criterion Channel

  • Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Ishirō Honda, 1964) – Criterion Channel

  • Invasion of the Astro-Monster (Ishirō Honda, 1965) – Criterion Channel

  • Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Jun Fukuda, 1966) – Criterion Channel

  • Son of Godzilla (Jun Fukuda, 1967) Criterion Channel

  • Destroy All Monsters (Ishirō Honda, 1968) Criterion Channel

  • All Monsters Attack (Ishirō Honda, 1969) Criterion Channel

  • Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Yoshimitsu Banno, 1971) Criterion Channel

  • Godzilla vs. Gigan (Jun Fukuda, 1972) Criterion Channel

  • Godzilla vs. Megalon (Jun Fukuda, 1973) Criterion Channel

  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (Jun Fukuda, 1974) Criterion Channel

  • Terror of Mechagodzilla (Ishirō Honda, 1975) Criterion Channel



Other Kaiju Movies

  • Rodan (Ishirō Honda, 1956) Criterion Channel

  • War of the Gargantuas (Ishirō Honda, 1966) Criterion Channel

  • The X from Outer Space (Kazui Nihonmatsu, 1967) Criterion Channel

  • Space Amoeba (Ishirō Honda, 1970) – Amazon Prime

  • (You didn’t hear it from me, but Mothra and the Gamera and Daimajin series might be on YouTube for free...)


22 views