So your friends are finally coming over to visit you and you’ve promised them a fun night of laughter, a bit too many drinks and a pinch of on-screen inspiration to bond over. You’ve got the Pocky ready, the drinks are chilled, and now all you need is a stack of binge-worthy films guaranteed to satisfy all palates. A little romance, a little drama, and a lot of badass female protagonists — I’ve got the list for you…
1. Nana (ナナ), 2005
A pop fairy tale of a destined friendship between two seemingly different 20-year-old girls with the same name. Based on the highly popular anime and manga of the same name, Kentaro Otani’s Nana tells the story of Nana “Hachi” Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki) and Nana Osaki (Mika Nakashima) who meet on a train to Tokyo. On the surface, because of their very different personalities, looks, and pasts, it seems the two women have nothing in common. However, their chance encounter triggers a series of events and relationships which prove the pair were destined to support each other’s quest for happiness.
What we love about it: It’s the ideal girls night in flic!
2. Girl in the Sunny Place (陽だまりの彼女), 2013
Shy salesman Kosuke Okuda (Jun Matsumoto) is living his regular day-to-day when he serendipitously runs into ex-classmate, Mao Watarai (Juri Ueno) after 10 years. Flashbacks show Mao as an unpopular bullied student and Kosuke as her heroic savior. Be that as it may, their too-good-to-be-true rekindled connection is challenged by Mao’s revealing dark secret.
What we love about it: Laughs, lovey-dovey romance and last but not least, Mao’s big dark secret!
3. Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), 1997
Speaking of his characters, Hayao Miyazaki once said the following: “Many of my movies have strong female leads — brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.” We can’t love him enough for this — there’s just something about his characters that really inspires women.
Princess Mononoke, which tells of the battle story between a young brave princess and a mining village, is of no exception. What makes Miyazaki’s stories so darn fantastic are his morally complex characters. Unlike typical good vs. evil Western adaptations of traditional fairy-tales and myths, Miyazaki’s characters are incredibly complex – no clear heroes nor clear-cut baddies to be found here.
What we love about it: Visual brilliance, history, myth and fearless fighting spirit.
4. Kamikaze Girls (下妻物語), 2004
Based off a novel by Novala Takemoto, Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kamikaze Girls literally has it all! An incredibly exciting, fun and fast-paced film, Kamikaze Girls exhibits comedy, drama, and action all at the same time. It’s the story of Momoko (Kyoko Fukada), a rococo Lolita and a somewhat lonely wolf lost in her own pink-inspired world, who by chance pairs with head-butting biker gal Ichiko (Anna Tsuchiya) on a plot-twist-heavy, fast-paced, eccentric adventure. Two drastically different characters at a glance, their friendship, as it turns out, acts as a magnet for unleashing characteristics neither of them knew about themselves — and each other. The last scene calls for another highball, so make sure you have enough in the fridge!
What we love about it: Colorful visuals, quirky dialogue, girl-power and all things Japanese youth culture.
5. Josee, the Tiger and the Fish
Playing semblance in a cinematic style similar to the indie sensation Amelie, Ishin Inudo’s Josee, the Tiger and the Fish tells the unconventional story of ordinary college student Tsuneo (Satoshi Tsumabuchi) who falls for extraordinary Josee (Chizuru Ikewaki) who has cerebral palsy. Not a love-at-first-sight romance, the film’s relaxed pace and touching soundtrack follows the pair’s gradually blossoming connection. Further, the pair’s incredible triumphs over social prejudice and disability are sure to uplift and inspire all viewers.
What we love about it: This very reason. ↑
6. Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), 2001
Part Alice in Wonderland, part Hansel and Gretel, Spirited Away is another of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces. It follows the story of 10-year-old heroine Chihiro who, along with her mum and dad, goes through a seemingly ordinary tunnel only to discover an eerie abandoned amusement park. Trapped in the bizarre world of the weird and creepy supernatural, little Chihiro is suddenly given the heavy responsibility of saving her parents’ lives. Incredibly artful, exciting, and awe-inspiring, Spirited Away is a coming-of-age story with a lot to teach young girls.
What we love about it: A guaranteed feeling of upliftment.
What was your favorite movie on this list? Want to add a title? Leave us a comment!