Tokyo, Japan’s capital and largest city, is undoubtedly one of the most famous cities in the world (and rightfully so). Known for its combination of modern and traditional architecture with several skyscrapers, neon-light buildings and historic houses and temples, Tokyo is a must-visit destination for all travelling enthusiasts. The Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, the fish market, Yoyogi Park and of course Shibuya are only some of the many attractions Tokyo has to offer.
Furthermore, with a history that spans over one hundred years, the Japanese cinema or domestically known as hoga, is one of the oldest and largest industries worldwide. Thus, it comes as no surprise when a plethora of international filmmakers decided to use Tokyo as their filming canvas. In this article, we are taking a look at 15 famous movies filmed in Tokyo. Find out which are the latest movies shot in Tokyo, Japan below.
1. You Only Live Twice – 1967
You Only Live Twice, the fifth instalment in the James Bond series, is one of the first movies filmed in Tokyo. This time, 007 teams up with the Japanese secret ninja force to stop S.P.E.C.T.R.E, a criminal organisation who is behind a series of highjackings in space, and prevent nuclear war. The film was directed by Lewis Gilbert and stars Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama. When it comes to filming, You Only Live Twice was filmed in several countries including Spain, the Bahamas, Norway, England and of course Japan. In addition, most of the film was shot in Japan with some of the filming locations in Tokyo being the Nakano Shimbashi station, the Akasaka district (the famous Bond and Aki car chase scene), the Tokyo Tower and Hotel New Otani.
2. Battle Royale – 2000
Battle Royale, one of the many movies filmed in Tokyo, is one of the most famous Japanese movies. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, this cult action film is considered by many as brilliant yet disturbing with extreme cases of violence. Battle Royale is set in a futuristic Japan where the government forces 42 Japanese high-school students to compete in a free-for-all killing match under the “Battle Royal” legislation. When it comes to filming, Battle Royal was entirely filmed in Tokyo, in Shibuya and on Hachijo island (which although is 300 kilometres south of Tokyo is part Tokyo’s special wards), with some exterior scenes being filmed Kawasaki. Finally, despite Battle Royale drawing many similarities to Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games trilogy stated that she has never heard of Battle Royale even though the Japanese film has received cult status. We will let you be the judge of that.
3. Jackass: The Movie – 2002
Although not technically a movie, Jackass: The Movie filmed several of its stunts in Tokyo. Johnny Knoxville’s team which includes pro-skater Bam Margera, Steve-O and the late Ryan Dunn, set out to perform new stunts and off-the-top gags that were released for the first time in the theatres. Some of the Tokyo stunts and gags include the famous Night Pandas, The Big Cone and Party Boy Japan. An interesting fact about Jackass is that for Japan, production released an edited version that was made specifically for the Japanese audience and would blur out the people’s faces (excluding cast).
4. Lost in Translation – 2003
Undoubtedly a masterpiece and one of The Irishman’s favourite films, Lost in Translation, written and directed by Sophia Coppola, is one of the several famous filmed in Tokyo. Entirely filmed in Japan, Lost in Translation stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson and follows a movie star in his twilight years and a recently married but neglected woman who form an unlikely bond in Tokyo during a week. Lost in Translation is a comedy about melancholy that leaves its audience with a bittersweet feeling. This cinematic cherry blossom was filmed almost entirely in Tokyo in several locations including Shibuya, Shinjuku and the Park Hyatt (it was also briefly shot in Kyoto). Finally, thanks to its iconic soundtrack and timeless scenes, Lost in Translation can easily be considered as one of the best pieces of filmmaking of all time.
5. Kill Bill: Volume 1 – 2003
Following the success of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and a charming yet overstuffed Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino delivered once more with Kill Bill. Starring Uma Thurman as “The Bride”, this action thriller follows a bride who wakes up after four years in a coma only to discover that everyone who attended her wedding was slaughtered including the child she was carrying in her womb. Finding out that her old squad is behind it The Bride sets out for revenge. Moreover, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, one of the many movies filmed in Tokyo, shot several scenes in Shinjuku in Tokyo. Finally, the Quentin Tarantino film managed to gross over $180 worldwide on a $30 million budget.
6. The Grudge – 2004
The Grudge, the 2004 remake of the famous Japanese horror film Ju-on (see our special mention section), is another one of the movies in our list that was entirely filmed in Tokyo. Directed by Takashi Shimizu, the man behind the original Ju-on: The Grudge, this horror film stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as an American nurse who while taking care of an elderly woman in Tokyo she is exposed to a dangerous and mysterious supernatural spirit. Although the American remake of The Grudge failed to live up to its ancestor’s expectations it still offers some great thrills and it has an overall “creepy” vibe that compensates for its lack of creativity. On the filming locations end, The Grudge was mostly shot in the Aoyama neighbourhood in Tokyo as well as in the Toho Studios in Tokyo.
7. The Day After Tomorrow – 2004
This 2004 natural disaster movie directed by Roland Emmerich was partially filmed in Tokyo. The Day After Tomorrow, starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum, is set in the present day (2004) where Earth has plunged into a new Ice Age and a climatologist (Quaid) is trying to get from DC to New York in order to find his son. Admittedly, The Day After Tomorrow offers some spectacular visual shots and special effects including a frozen New York City. Moreover, although Tokyo only amounts to a few minutes of screen-time, there is a great scene in which a sudden hail storm strikes the Japanese capital (production filmed in Chiyoda).
8. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – 2006
The third instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise…wait, isn’t it the sixth?. In any case, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift or commonly simply referred to as Tokyo Drift was mostly filmed in Tokyo. The failed follow-up attempt to 2 Fast 2 Furious found a teenager (who looked like a 35-year old) getting involved in the underground drift world of Tokyo in order to avoid a jail sentence in the US. This movie shot in Tokyo stars Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Brian Tee and Nathalie Kelley accompanied by a franchise-saving cameo from Vin Diesel. Who would have thought that what seemed to be a dying franchise would turn out to gross over $5 billion and counting? When it comes to filming, Tokyo Drift was shot in several locations across Tokyo including Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku.
9. Babel – 2006
Babel, a 2006 drama that is an allegory to the origin myth “The Tower of Babel”, was directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Renant, Biutiful) and stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal and Rinko Kikuchi. Babel is comprised by four interlocking stories that are connected by a single tragedy that occurred in Morocco. Babel was shot in four different countries which include the US, Morocco, Japan and Mexico. A big part of the film was shot in several locations in Tokyo including Shibuya, Shinjuku and Azabu-Juban. Finally, Babel won the Golden Globe for Best Picture in 2007 and was also nominated for 7 Academy Awards ( Gustavo Santaolalla won Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score).
10. Jumper – 2008
One of the many movies filmed in Tokyo, Jumper, is a 2008 sci-fi action film that was directed by Doug Liman. The film stars Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell and Rachel Bilson and tells the story of a teenager with the ability to teleport, who finds himself in the crossfires of an ancient war between people with the same abilities as his and those that are trying to destroy them. However, despite its intriguing premise and a satisfactory budget Jumper failed to amaze both critics and fans. When it comes to filming, Jumper was shot in several locations worldwide such as Egypt, Rome, New York, Tijuana, Paris and Tokyo. Although filming in Tokyo (Rainbow Bridge) only amounts to about 3 minutes of screen time it is undoubtedly one of the best scenes in the film, thus, we felt obligated to include it on our list.
11. G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra – 2009
This 2009 action film based on the line of US action figures is one of the many famous movies filmed in Tokyo. Starring Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid and Marlon Wayans G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra follows the infamous military squad who are taking on the evil organisation known as Cobra. Despite its super-high budget of $175 million, G.I. Joe was a fan and critics failure mostly because of the movie’s bland narrative. When it comes to filming, G.I. Joe was shot in four countries which include the US, France, the Czech Republic plus the Arctic, including a big action sequence that was filmed in Tokyo.
12. Resident Evil: Afterlife – 2010
Afterlife, the fourth instalment in the Resident Evil franchise was also filmed in Japan. Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich, Afterlife follows Alice who finds herself joining a group of survivors in a prison that is circled by the infected and decides to lead them to Arcadia, a supposedly safe haven. Resident Evil: Afterlife was mostly filmed in Canada, with the opening scene being filmed in Shibuya in Tokyo. Finally, Afterlife was a box-office success grossing over $295 million on a $60 million budget.
13. Inception – 2010
Christopher Nolan’s Inception, one of the several movies filmed in Tokyo, is considered by many as the best movie of all time. This epic action film written and directed by Christopher Nolan features an a-lister cast which includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard. Inception’s premise is definitely intriguing; a corporate thief (DiCaprio) that specialises in stealing secrets from people’s dreams with the use of a specially-made dream technology. Furthermore, Inception was filmed in several locations worldwide including Paris, Morocco (as Kenya), Alberta, London, California and Tokyo. In addition, the famous bullet-train scene were Saito suggests of using inception instead of extraction was in fact filmed in Tokyo. Finally, this visually stunning masterpiece received four Academy Awards including one for best visual effects.
14. The Wolverine – 2013
One of the most famous movies filmed in Tokyo, The Wolverine is the follow-up to the 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the sixth instalment in the X-Men franchise. This time, Logan travels to Japan after receiving an odd invitation by an old acquaintance. Finding himself out of his depth and in a constant fight against his own demons, Wolverine is also fighting his own immortality. In The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman finds himself surrounded by a talented Japanese cast which includes Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada, Brian Tee and Rila Fukushima. Furthermore, several locations in Tokyo were used in the film such as the Zojo-ji Temple in Minato, Tokyo Tower, the Ueno station and the Nakkagin Capsule tower in Ginza (the love motel scene).
15. Equals – 2015
This futuristic sci-fi drama directed by Drake Doremus is one of the latest movies filmed in Tokyo. Equals, starring Nicholas Hoult and Kirsten Stewart, is a love story set in a future were all emotions have been eradicated. Although Equals somewhat offers a combination of an original idea, concept and script, the final result is below expectations as it turns out to be a loose copy of Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium starring Christian Bale and Taye Diggs. When it comes to filming, Equals was shot in Japan and Singapore with most of filming in Japan taking place in Hyogo and NIgata with some scenes being filmed in Tokyo.
Special Mention – Movies Shot in Tokyo
We decided to also include some movies that didn’t make our list of the 15 famous movies filmed in Tokyo but deserve a special mention.
Gojira (Godzilla) – 1954
The Japanese phenomenon about the dinosaur-like monster saw its first movie being released in 1954. Gojira is one of the most famous Japanese movies and it was partially shot in Tokyo.
Tora! Tora! Tora! – 1970
This famous war movie was filmed in several locations in Japan including the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Ju-on – 2002
Undoubtedly creepy, Takashi Shimizu’s creation was entirely filmed in Tokyo.
From Up on Poppy Hill – 2011
Although an animated film, From Up on Poppy Hill offers an accurate representation of Tokyo before the 1964 Olympic Games.
Snowden – 2016
This biographical film about Edward Snowden features some brief exterior scenes of Tokyo.
Enjoyed this article? Why not take a look at our list of 5 movies shot in Kyoto, Japan?