When it comes to films that end up making hundreds of millions at the box office, most of us immediately think of Hollywood. Of course, there are other countries that make plenty of blockbuster films, but Japan tends to be overlooked. Despite being one of the most advanced countries while also having a strong penchant for entertainment, Japan doesn’t enter many films into the all-time list of the world’s highest-grossing films.
That doesn’t mean that Japan hasn’t had its fair share of hit films financially, though. There’s a certain art form that Japan is known for, and when it gets put onto the big screen, it can end up being a huge success. Once you look at the list of the five highest-grossing Japanese films of all time, you’ll be able to tell what that art form is.
1. Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train
Demon Slayer the Movie: Magen Train is the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time thus far, earning ¥64,773,752,500 ($506.5 million US), with a budget of $16 million US. The 2020 animated film was directed by Haruo Sotozaki and acts as a sequel to the popular anime series’ first television season.
Demon Slayer the Movie follows the Mugen Train arc of the Demon Slayer series and earned the title of the highest-earning mature animated film of all time. The film received the title of Animation of the Year after its release at the Japan Academy Film Prize and surpassed all expectations at the worldwide box office.
2. Spirited Away
Spirited Away is the second highest-grossing Japanese film of all time, earning ¥50,616,883,000 ($395.8 million US), with a budget of $19.2 million US. The 2001 fan-favorite animated film was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli.
The fantasy film follows a young girl, Chihiro Ogino, who discovers a mystical world, the world of Kano. She tries to find a way to help her parents who were turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba. Spirited Away went on the win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the only film of its kind to do so.
3. Your Name
Your Name is the third highest-grossing Japanese film of all time, earning ¥48,609,088,500 ($380.1 million US), with a budget of $5.8 million US. The 2016 animated fantasy film was written and directed by Makoto Shinkai. The heartwarming plot is enough to make anyone well up with emotion.
The film follows two teenagers, Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana, who find themselves switching bodies. They’re separated by time and space, living in separate timelines in different parts of Japan. The film takes you on a romantic, heartfelt journey. Earning it a slew of awards, like Best Animated Film at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.
4. Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is the fourth highest-grossing Japanese film of all time, earning ¥21,702,084 ($169.7 million US), with a budget of ¥2.1 billion ($23.5 million US). The film is another animated entry from Studio Gibhli and was both written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. At the time of its release in 1997, Princess Mononoke broke just about every box office record that Japan had to offer.
Following the story of the Ashitaka, Princess Mononoke was critically acclaimed and centered around the theme of environment. Princess Mononoke won the Picture of the Year title at the 21st Japanese Academy Awards, and became a hit overseas for Studio Ghibli.
5. Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is the fifth highest-grossing Japanese film of all time, earning ¥23.2 billion ($236 million US), with a budget of ¥2.4 billion ($24 million US). The top five finishes with yet another animated entry from Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki. The film has a strong anti-war sentiment and follows the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003.
There was critical acclaim surrounding Howl’s Moving Castle when it was released in late 2004, and it was nominated for awards worldwide, including the 78th Academy Awards. Though it would end up losing out on Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, Howl’s Moving Castle is still considered one of the finest animated films to come from Japan.