These Japanese movie directors are master storytellers from the Land of the Rising Sun. American movie fans may recognize some of these names, while finding that others are strangers. If you're unfamiliar with anyone on this list, hunt down some of their films. You may find yourself inspired by their work. Expect to find plenty of magic, swor fighting, intricate characters and bizarre plots.

  1. Kurosawa Akira. Kurosawa is an internationally known Japanese movie director. Perhaps his most famous films are the 1954 classic “Seven Samurai” and the 1961 film “Yojimbo.” Both films received Oscar nomination in the U.S. Academy Awards. Another one of his hits, “Rashomon,” was the first Japanese movie to score an award overseas. By the end of his life, he had directed nearly 30 films and had a hand in the development of many others.

  2. Miyazaki Hayao. Miyazaki is the Japanese movie director responsible for a collection of animated fantasy films. His works include “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” “Spirited Away,” a 2001 film by Miyazaki, went on to become one of the most successful films in Japanese box office history. Like Kurosawa’s films, many of Miyazaki’s works have received nominations and awards outside of Japan. 

  3. Kitano “Beat” Takeshi. Although Takeshi started out as a strip club MC, he went on to become a famous Japanese movie director. Some of his most popular works include the 1997 film “Fireworks” and “The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi,” a 2003 remake of a samurai classic. Before his directing career began rolling, Takeshi was famous for his roles as television host, actor and comedian. He typically appeared armed with razor sharp wit and controversial humor.  

  4. Seijun Suzuki. Many fans know this Japanese movie director for his large collection of yakuza genre films. Although initially unsuccessful, critics and movie makers now recognize his surreal film “Branded to Kill” as hugely influential – even if they haven’t quite deciphered the plot. Suzuki is also known for acting talents; he appeared in films such as “Youth of the Beast” and “Blessing Bell.”