10 Hollywood Movies That Ripped Off Japanese Films

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Summary Hollywood often adapts or remakes Japanese films, such as The Ring (Ring).
Black Swan is heavily influenced by Perfect Blue, showcasing similar themes and even being seen as an unofficial remake.
Many Hollywood movies, like Star Wars and The Lion King, borrow ideas and imagery from Japanese films, showcasing the impact of Japanese cinema on Western storytelling.
Although many Hollywood movies are among some of the most influential in the world, there are quite a few notable instances of even the most acclaimed American movies borrowing ideas from Japanese films and filmmakers. Japanese films are often slower-paced than most big-budget American productions, as the sensibilities of the East are much different than in many North American regions. As such, cinema history has seen movies from the East receive Western updates, remakes, etc. to expand their worldwide appeal, which in turn has led audiences to check out the original Japanese movies as well.
There are many anime that Hollywood ripped off, but the crucial difference is that most anime appeal to a niche audience. Because of the differences in audience, Hollywood live-action anime adaptations are meant to broaden their appeal not just to Western audiences, but to viewers from Japan as well, since most anime fly under the radar even in their country of origin. Nevertheless, Hollywood has developed a reputation through the years for remaking or adapting concepts from Japanese films. Whether the original movie is better or the remake is better than the original, there are a few prominent examples of it.
1:48 Related An Underrated Anime Movie Beat Christopher Nolan’s $839 Million Box Office Hit To Its Premise 4 Years Earlier Inception blew audiences away in 2010 and was a massive success. However, an animated film with similar themes beat Nolan’s movie four years earlier.
10 The Hunger Games (2012) – Battle Royale (2000)
The Hunger Games’ central plot is very similar to Battle Royale’s plot.
Based on the series of young adult books by novelist Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games sees a group of teenagers in a dystopian future engage in televised fights to the death for the amusement of wealthy people. Although the premise is unique by American standards, the Japanese graphic novel, Battle Royale, beat the book and the movie to the punch over a decade earlier. Written by novelist and journalist Koushun Takami, Battle Royale originated the same idea as seen in The Hunger Games, with the key difference being its far more brutal nature and effectiveness as a scathing criticism of Japanese politics circa 1999.
9 The Ring (2002) – Ring (1998)
The Ring also features a demonic force that claims its victims through a TV screen.
Ringu Release Date January 31, 1998 Director Hideo Nakata Cast Nanako Matsushima , Hiroyuki Sanada , Rikiya Otaka , Miki Nakatani , Yûko Takeuchi , Hitomi Sato , Yutaka Matsushige Runtime 95 Minutes
The Ring centers around a cursed videotape that sees anyone who watches its contents mysteriously die precisely a week after viewing it. Praised for its creativity and subversion of reliable horror tropes, The Ring is one of many remakes of the Japanese original horror film, Ring (also known as Ringu). Based on the 1991 Koji Suzuki novel of the same name, Ring is a quite popular film among horror buffs as its creative narrative structure works as an effective cautionary tale about the dangers of rapidly expanding technology during Japan’s early 90s technological boom.
Ring is the best adaptation of Suzuki’s work because of its creative approach to filmmaking. While there are many entries in the horror movie genre that rely on jump scares, scare chords, and other devices to oversell the movie in question’s horror, Ring is notable for featuring virtually no music, emphasizing long, static takes with minimal movement in the frame, and claustrophobic cinematography that was not only groundbreaking for its time but also effective in making audiences feel like they were in the protagonists’ shoes. As such, Ring is also one of the best Japanese horror movies ever made.
8 Black Swan (2010) – Perfect Blue (1997)
Perfect Blue explored the deteriorating mental health of a musically inclined protagonist first.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan centers around a talented but mentally unstable ballerina whose mental health gradually deteriorates as her desire to become the absolute best ballerina spirals out of control. Despite changing the protagonist’s profession, Black Swan mirrors the late Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue in many noticeable ways. From the characters’ similar sounding names of Mimura to Nina to the similarities in their titles, to Aronofsky expressing his admiration of Kon’s work, Black Swan can almost be seen as an unofficial sequel or remake to Kon’s Perfect Blue.
While Nina is a ballerina, Mimura is one of the biggest pop stars in Perfect Blue’s story, and despite wanting to transition into the world of acting, a deranged stalker’s antics force her to question what is and isn’t real. Although the two films share many similarities, the key difference between them is their emphasis on violence. Although Black Swan’s violence is fairly tame, Perfect Blue features characters being murdered brutally throughout the film. Despite being well-animated, it also brings into question Mimura’s mental state, which effectively makes the storytelling more engaging.
7 Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – Lady Snowblood (1973)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 features many visual references to Lady Snowblood.
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In addition to the similarities between Reservoir Dogs and City on Fire as well as The Hateful Eight and The Thing, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 is another film in the writer-director filmography that features many similarities to another film. Toshiya Fujita’s Lady Snowblood features a protagonist on a bloody quest to avenge the deaths of her entire family, whereas Kill Bill Vol. 1 centers more around avenging one’s self, the similarities between the two films are still strikingly noticeable.
The Bride uses various martial arts to dispatch large groups of assassins as well as her former partners in crime after being left for dead. Based on the early 70s manga of the same name by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura, Lady Snowblood’s protagonist was raised from birth to be the most effective killer to avenge the deaths of her family before her. Although Lady Snowblood and The Bride share many similarities, Kill Bill Vol. 1’s O-Ren Ishii’s appearance and backstory share even greater similarities to Lady Snowblood.
6 Inception (2010) – Paprika (2006)
Paprika and Inception both center around the possibility of invading one’s dreams.
Paprika Release Date November 25, 2006 Director Satoshi Kon Cast Megumi Hayashibara , Tōru Emori , Akio Otsuka , Koichi Yamadera , Hideyuki Tanaka Runtime 90 Minutes
Inception is the first instance of a North American filmmaker producing an acclaimed film that shares many similarities between itself and Satoshi Kon’s work. Similar to Kon’s 2006 fantasy adventure film Paprika, Inception sees its protagonists utilizing futuristic technology to invade the dreams of others in a film that questions the ethics of such technology. Despite their similarities, Inception distinguishes itself from Paprika by being more grounded and rooted in science and reality. Although both films feature technology as the basis for their premise, Paprika highlights the fantastical elements more than the scientific.
5 Chronicle (2012) – Akira (1988)
Chronicle also features adolescent protagonists abusing their telekinetic abilities.
Directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, Akira is an anime movie that centers around the rampage that a notorious biker gang leader goes on in a futuristic Tokyo after being prey to an unethical government experiment. Renowned for its groundbreaking animation and stellar voice-over cast, Akira has inspired many artistsacross various genres. However, the 2012 Josh Trank superhero movie Chronicle features the most blatant references to Akira in both style and presentation. However, unlike Akira, Chronicle centers more on the impact becoming a superhero would have on real-life relationships than the ethics of government experiments.
4 The Lion King (1994) – Kimba, the White Lion (1965)
The Lion King’s structure is nearly identical to Kimba, the White Lion’s.
Although The Lion King is one of the best animated Disney movies of all time, it is also decidedly similar to the 1965 anime, Kimba, the White Lion. In addition to the titular lion cub’s name and The Lion King’s Simba sounding virtually the same, and imagery that the Disney movie ripped off from Kimba, the White Lion, the two animated movies share many similar themes. The Lion King is more rooted in African mythology and Kimba, the White Lion in Japanese, but they’re both ultimately coming-of-age stories centered around the animal kingdom that feature groundbreaking animation for their day.
3 The Magnificent Seven (1960) – Seven Samurai (1954)
The Magnificent Seven is famous for being the American version of Seven Samurai.
Seven Samurai Release Date April 26, 1954 Director Akira Kurosawa Cast Toshiro Mifune Runtime 207minutes
Akira Kurosawa is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, and his legacy’s impact on cinema is perfectly demonstrated by the number of filmmakers who have referenced or outright remade his films. Although The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western, its plot centering around a rag-tag group of skilled individuals taking on a ruthless gang is the same plot as Seven Samurai. Similar to Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven features many of the Western genre’s best actors, and the principal theme of doing what’s right even in the face of defeat is also similar.
2 A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – Yojimbo (1961)
A Fistful of Dollars also sees its mysterious protagonist outsmart two warring gang factions
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A Fistful of Dollars Release Date January 18, 1964 Director Sergio Leone , Monte Hellman Cast Clint Eastwood , Marianne Koch , Gian Maria Volonte , Wolfgang Lukschy , Sieghardt Rupp , Joseph Egger Runtime 99minutes
Another Western directly influenced by Kurosawa is the 1964 Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, Fistful of Dollars. The first in the Dollars trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars sees Clint Eastwood’s iconic Man With No Name character display his signature self-preservation that has kept him alive throughout the trilogy when he decides to play both sides of a deadly yet profitable gang war. Yojimbo sees the legendary Toshiro Mifune display a similar level of intelligence first as his beloved Sanjuro character in the 1961 film, Yojimbo. While the films are stylistically different, they share a similar plot and equally iconic protagonists.
1 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) – The Hidden Fortress (1958)
George Lucas has gone on record explaining the influence The Hidden Fortress had on Star Wars.
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Perhaps the most prominent example of Kurosawa’s work influencing one of Hollywood’s most well-known and respected movies is Kurosawa’s 1958 classic, The Hidden Fortress, and its impact on the iconic Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Whereas Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope centers around a young boy’s development into a man while also aiding a mysterious princess amid a growing intergalactic war, The Hidden Fortress sees its greedy protagonist develop into a more humble and respectable individual after unknowingly escorting a princess through an ongoing war.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’s parallels with The Hidden Fortress also lie in both films’ unique approach to storytelling. In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Luke Skywalker is largely ignorant of the greater implications of the world he lives in. As such, Princess Leia and the other characters know more about the Force and the world around Luke. In The Hidden Fortress, General Rokurota learns about the ongoing war through Princess Yuki, which further develops his character, while standing as the best example of a Hollywood movie ripping off Japan.

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