The best Japanese Yakuza movies blend in action, adventure and a little comedy. The Yakuza are the mafia of Japan and have a cult following. Movies about the Yakuza are brutal depictions of life for those in the Yakuza and for those brave enough to oppose them. These five movies are excellent with superb acting and cover the brutal lifestyle with action and blood.

  1. “Dead or Alive” 1999: This action movie pits the Chinese triad against the Japanese Yakuza as the triad’s attempt to take over the streets of Japan. This gives police detective Jojima the perfect opportunity to pit the two against each other and rid both Japan and China of their dreaded gangs. His attempt fails but the ensuing bloodbath is quite impressive.

  2. “Tokyo Drifter” 1966: In this Yakuza movie a former member is hounded by rival gangs trying to recruit him. The Yakuza has disbanded in rural Tokyo and dozens of new, punk infested gangs have cropped up. Hondo is able to avoid them and keep himself out of these rival gangs but when they kidnap his sister he reunites his old gang to save her.

  3. “Battles Without Honor and Humanity” 1973: This classic Japanese Yakuza film is shot in documentary style and follows street thug Shozo Hirono. It is an intimate look at the Yakuza and their influence spanning ten years after the end of World War II. This movie dramatizes the influence of various Yakuza families on the shaping of the Yakuza legacy.

  4. “Ichi the Killer” 2001: Directed by critically acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike, Ichi the Killer is a drama filled movie that is beautifully directed. The movie follows the turmoil after the murder of the crime lord, Anjo. The murder was all part of a internal plan to pit the Yakuza against one another and put one man in charge of all the various street gangs. As his plan unravels more chaos and killing ensues.

  5. “Outrage” 2010: This is an intense drama following the rule of boss to subordinate and the inner workings of the Yakuza. Kato is instructed to bring one of the lesser gangs in line and bring the report back to the crime chief. Instead he has one of his henchmen go off and handle the seemingly small task. The bloodshed and turmoil that is brought forward puts Kato in a precarious position.