If you’re in search of the most exquisite Japanese lesbian movies, allow me to present to you a magnificent compilation of must-watch films from the 20th century, spanning the years of 1900 to 2000.
As a movie reviewer, I must say that Japanese lesbian films have a distinctive charm. One cannot help but appreciate their indie, low-budget nature, as it allows for a more intimate and personalized storytelling experience.
I have to say that “Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion” (1972) is one of the best early shows ever. This movie not only embodies everything great about Japanese female films, but it also inspired the following cult classic “Kill Bill.”
This list might not capture every lesbian-themed film from that era, however, I believe this list showcases a remarkable and even groundbreaking selection in Japanese cinema within this genre.
Next, I’ll introduce each film chronologically.
If I find a full online watching guide, the official trailer, or a way to buy the DVD, I will add it to my post. The point of this piece is to give you useful information that will help you find these hidden gems in films.
If you want to have a quick look at the content of the lesbian movie through videos, then you can just grab a preview in this YouTube compilation:
1. Swastika (1964): Manji
I highly recommend watching the 1964 version of the Japanese movie, as the remakes simply don’t live up to its brilliance. The movie revolves around Fumiko, a married woman who, in her boredom, finds herself entangled in a passionate lesbian love affair with Mitsuko, a wealthy heiress.
Fumiko, as a character with a performative personality who explores her sexuality, creates a complex tapestry of emotions. The growing awareness of the affair by her lover and husband adds layers of complexity and intrigue.
The director skillfully orchestrated the film’s pace and plot, turning a tale of domestic betrayal into a full-blown psychological thriller within just an hour.
I was completely captivated by how the movie morphed into a bizarre and bone-chilling narrative. The way it masterfully depicted the descent into paranoia was truly impressive.
2. With Beauty and Sorrow (1965)
This film, an adaptation of a novel by the esteemed Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata, truly captivated me. It falls perfectly into the category of an ethical drama, presenting thought-provoking themes and moral dilemmas that left me pondering long after the credits rolled.
The Japanese movie was filmed in the autumn. Masahiro Shinoda, the director, purposely avoided using almost all autumnal colors in the movie. Instead, he chose cold colors like blues, ammonium chloride, and blackish greys to show how sad and deep an ethical story is.
The story is about Otoko Ueno, played by Kaoru Yachigusa. She turns her feelings towards women after being hurt by her Ex-writer boyfriend and wants to find comfort in homosexual love. But her female student, driven by love, goes after her ex-boyfriend’s family to get back at them. The main thing that strikes me about this movie is that it has beautiful photography and a very Japanese pace.
3. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this movie served as one of the inspirations for the iconic film “Kill Bill.” It’s fascinating to see how certain elements from this Japanese masterpiece made their way into the renowned Quentin Tarantino production.
It’s remarkable how these connections between films can enhance our appreciation for the artistry involved. With its sophisticated camera work and cinematography for the age, the lesbian movie exudes a strong theatrical vibe.
The movie delves into themes like women’s rebellion and awakening, the violence of authoritarian oppression, and the explosion of lesbian desire.
After watching this movie, I found connections with other films like “Riki-Oh,” “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” and of course, “Kill Bill.” Additionally, the well-known Japanese song Flower Of Carnage featured in this movie also found its place in “Kill Bill.”
Watch Online： STREAMING
4. Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973)
I must admit that this film achieves a remarkable harmony between brutality and visual appeal.
I found the lesbian scenes in this film to be exceptionally well-executed. However, it is important to note that this movie goes beyond being a simplistic, all-female brawl kind of pink movie.
While I may not have found the subtlety of the milder Pinky Violence flicks by director Norifumi Suzuki, like “Sex And Fury”. I still found it to be a highly entertaining exploitation film that fans of Japanese Cult Cinema shouldn’t overlook. I must admit that this movie truly stands out for its daring content and engaging storytelling. It is a noteworthy entry in the genre, captivating the audience from start to finish.
5. Afternoon Breezes (1980)
Remember that this is a 1980s movie!
I was pleasantly surprised by this lesbian movie from the ’80s. Going into it, I expected the typical sombre tone that was often associated with films from that era. However, this film completely defied my expectations. Instead of dwelling on heavy themes, it presented itself with a refreshing lightness that reminded me of watching an ordinary romance movie.
Initially, I was under the impression that I was about to embark on a terrifying journey into the horror genre. However, as I delved deeper into the film, I discovered a captivating and poignant tale of unrequited love that was beautifully untold. I am immensely impressed by the director’s immense talent, deserving full marks just for their masterful use of audio-visual language alone. Additionally, the film’s delicate and touching execution further solidifies its brilliance. I have to admit, that this movie truly stands out as a unique representation of its genre. From start to finish, it captivates the audience with its nuanced and gentle approach to storytelling.
Watch Online: YouTube
6. Summer Vacation 1999 (1988)
Given that it’s a BL (boys’ love) film with four female leads, perhaps you prefer to watch lads in sailor costumes or drag.
Actress Eri Fukatsu won acclaim for my role in this film, being voted the top female actress that magazine readers most wanted to couple up with.
You might think this is a lesbian movie at first, but a careful read of the synopsis shows it’s actually a gay movie. By the end, you’ll realize it’s a ghost movie.
This genre-blending and gender-defying approach to filmmaking is truly intriguing. I find myself drawn to films that push boundaries and challenge traditional storytelling conventions. So, yes, this kind of movie definitely appeals to me.
However, it never made its way to DVD, which meant that most Japanese viewers, had to wait until March 2023 to experience it in high definition on TV. However, I was able to find second-hand VHS copies available for purchase on Amazon.
I find this movie’s unique distribution and style to be a fascinating piece of cinematic history.
7. Nachuraru ûman (1994)
Although the plot appears to be a simple story about three lesbian couples, closer examination reveals that there is more going on here than just two parallel lesbian storylines.
It has to do with how these three women view and handle gender issues. The film’s ending is purposefully made to be obvious but powerful, with the goal of leaving viewers with a regretful, long-lasting scar.
This method of telling a story gently moves the emphasis from the obvious romance to a more in-depth examination of societal and individual gender dynamics, which makes watching the movie a thought-provoking experience.
8. Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness (1995)
This low-budget movie based on a comic book really impressed me and deserves praise. It gave me the pleasure of experiencing a sexy and gory supernatural teen horror movie.
The plot was straightforward enough that I even didn’t need a detailed translation to follow the movie’s progression.
Since most of the cast are talented women, it makes sense that there are some lesbian themes in the movie. I found the lesbian elements in the film to be quite comfortable and intriguing. The chemistry between the characters is undeniably compelling, adding an extra layer of depth to the story. For fans of quirky Japanese horror films, this one definitely hits the mark.
As far as I know, there are two sequels to this movie. If you’re a fan of this genre, you might want to check Amazon to see if DVDs are available for purchase. For viewers who enjoy this kind of cinema, this series presents a distinctive fusion of lesbian themes, horror, and supernatural aspects.
Watch Online: YouTube
9. Wild Criminal (1999)
This Japanese women’s film, with a plot in which defenseless women in a society run by gangsters rebel against cruel treatment, is a perfect example of the “girl helps girl” story.
As the story progresses, it becomes impossible to discern the supposed line between the two women’s feelings since they are so unclear.
A scene on a beach where Tomoyo looks at another actress and then gives her a gentle kiss marks the film’s climax.
This scene stands as a touching contrast to the earlier scenes of cruelty and violence. The heartfelt, lengthy beach kiss between two stunning women who have been through a lot is incredibly moving and embodies what could be referred to as “Yuri Love.”
It’s difficult to resist being lured to this movie when it has themes like lesbian romance and gun murder.
All nine Japanese lesbian films mentioned above were made before the year 2000. They have a wide range of old-school storylines and film styles, with themes that are loving, bloody, murderous, and violent.
These are the films that marked the beginning of Japanese lesbian filmmaking. However, the information provided in the article may not be accurate due to the age of some films, so some details might not be completely correct. I’d love to hear any changes in the comments.
Also, if you know of any great films that I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll see about adding them to the list.
I will be adding Japanese lesbian films from 2000 to 2023 to my collection, so please follow my blog for the new posts and changes.
Stay tuned for more information about how this unique subject in Japanese film is changing.
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