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8 Japanese Films on Atomic Tragedy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

How Japanese Cinema Conveys the Legacy of Nuclear Warfare

Oppenheimer, the blockbuster movie that left a lasting impact on audiences worldwide, has sparked discussions about the importance of inclusivity and the dangers of white male genius narratives. However, one aspect that often goes unnoticed in these discussions is the rich history of Japanese filmmaking and storytelling surrounding the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With over seven decades of cinematic history on this subject, Japan has produced a wide range of films, spanning various genres, that deserve recognition. In this article, we’ll introduce you to eight Japanese films that recount or grapple with the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

8. Hiroshima (1953)

Directed by Hideo Sekigawa

Still of a young girl in rubble in the movie Hiroshima, a movie to watch after Oppenheimer.
Set in the aftermath of the August 6, 1945 bombing, “Hiroshima” follows a group of survivors, known as hibakusha, as they flee destruction and attempt to rebuild their lives. This unflinching portrayal of the real cost of nuclear war provides haunting imagery and a stark intimacy that few films can match. Despite its initial release in 1953, it continues to be a harrowing yet essential watch.

Where to watch:

Stream on Arrow | Rent or Buy on Amazon

7. Black Rain (1989)

Directed by Shohei Imamura

People sit on a train before the bomb explodes in the Japanese movie Black Rain
“Black Rain” delves into the negligence and discrimination faced by hibakusha and their families after surviving nuclear warfare. This powerful film explores the emotional toll of radiation sickness and is a necessary entry in Japanese cinema’s exploration of war’s mental cost.

Where to watch:

Stream on Arrow | Rent or Buy on Amazon

6. Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965)

Directed by Ishirō Honda

A mutated, enormous Frankenstein's Monster fights the kaiju Baragon in Frankenstein Conquers the World.
While unconventional, “Frankenstein vs. Baragon,” also known as “Frankenstein Conquers the World,” offers a unique interpretation of WWII nuclear anxiety. It connects the Frankenstein monster’s heart to the bombings, resulting in a giant, radiation-absorbing creature. This film serves as a reminder that genre cinema can also address cultural fears in a captivating way.

Where to watch:

Stream on the Criterion Channel

5. Godzilla (1954)

Directed by Ishirō Honda

The giant lizard stalks the Japanese countryside in the original Godzilla.
“Godzilla,” a classic monster movie, doesn’t explicitly depict the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but they are deeply embedded in its narrative. The film uses Godzilla as a metaphor for atomic bombs, leaving a lasting impact on Japanese culture and offering catharsis for a generation still grappling with the trauma of WWII.

Where to watch:

Stream on Max

4. In This Corner of the World (2016)

Directed by Sunao Katabuchi

The anime In This Corner of the World tells the story of a young girl and her family in the days before, during, and after the Hiroshima bomb drop.
Set during WWII, “In This Corner of the World” follows Suzu, a young woman from Hiroshima, as she navigates the contrast between Japan’s beauty and the harsh realities of war. Through her artistry and storytelling, this animated film provides a softer lens into WWII-era Japan.

Where to watch:

Stream on Peacock

3. Children of Hiroshima (1952)

Directed by Kaneto Shindo

A young boy speaks to a woman in front of the rubble of the city in Children of Hiroshima.
“Children of Hiroshima” explores the lasting effects of trauma and the emotional toll of nuclear war through the story of schoolteacher Yasuko. Despite initial criticism, the film’s sentimentality aged well, delivering a tearjerker that stems from genuine emotion and devastation.

Where to watch:

Stream on Tubi

2. Barefoot Gen (1976)

Based on Keiji Nakazawa’s manga series

An anime little girl looks on in terror as the bomb drops in Barefoot Gen.
This animated film portrays the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombings through the eyes of a six-year-old boy named Gen Nakaoka. It’s a heart-wrenching story that showcases the struggles of a child left to fend for his pregnant mother in the wake of nuclear devastation.

Where to watch:

Stream on RetroCrush

1. Labyrinth of Cinema (2019)

Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

Two lovers embrace in front of a massive, orange sun in Labyrinth of Cinema.
“Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “Labyrinth of Cinema” offers a unique retrospective look at Japan, including the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Through fantasy and dramatic recreations, the film explores the horrors of war and Japanese society’s response. Obayashi’s personal connection to Hiroshima adds depth to this unforgettable cinematic experience.

Where to watch:

Buy or Rent on Amazon

8 Japanese Films on Atomic Tragedy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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