15 Best Extreme Asian Movies of All Time

Asian cinema at its core has always explored themes and included concepts that have baffled Western audiences because for the most part, they have not been able to relate to them. The brand of cinema is called Asia extreme and understandably they pack a lot of gore, bloodshed, and horror, even elements which are considered improbable, mostly because those in the east have been exposed to horrors of enormous proportions like the nuclear blasts in Japan.

The Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong film style can most broadly be brushed with an Asia extreme label, and here is the list of top extreme Asian movies ever made. You can stream some of these extreme movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

 

15. Miss Zombie (2013)

Directed by Sabu, this film explores a world where zombies are not as other, a force that attacks humans. Instead, they are pets, they have become a normal part of human life. In such a situation Shara a zombie arrives in a cage with instructions not to feed it meat. However, the doctor’s wife, Shizuko feeds her rotten meat. Matters are complicated as Shara is raped by one of the family’s bodyguards. Shara is also subjected to other problems like Kenichi, the youngest member of the family, who takes pictures of her incessantly and a group of youngsters who attack her. The brilliance of the film lies at the moment when Shizuko convinces Shara to turn her own son Kenichi into a zombie after a mortal accident. The sexuality exuded by the grotesque zombie, the themes of love and altruism and the shift in Shizuko from unacceptance to forced acceptance in a moment of hysteria makes the movie an excellent watch.

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14. In the Realm of Senses (1976)

Directed by Nagisa Oshima this film is a fictionalized account of the incidents surrounding Sada Abe from Japan in the 1930s. The film has generated much controversy with critics torn between whether the film has high artistic value or is merely pornography. The story follows Abe, the woman who had erotically strangled her lover and then cut off his appendage and carried it in her kimono. Apart from the climax which was grotesque, to say the least, the entire affair between her and the lover, a hotel owner was extremely transgressive of all understood concepts of normalcy, including fellatio and an orgy. The film had to be shifted to France to be completed due to the nature of the content. Nonetheless, the film in its rawness remains one of the finest examples of extreme Asian cinema especially since it is based on something that actually happened.

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13. The Isle (2000)

Directed by Kim-Ki-Duk one of the most recognized names in this genre of films. The film follows the story of a woman who rents floating platforms to anglers in the lake. She also arranges for prostitutes and sometimes prostitutes herself. However, things come to a head when she meets a strange renter. They begin a love affair and this is where Duuk’s genius comes in – he resists any sort of synthesis, dealing in contrasts instead – the protagonists’ excessive tendencies to extreme measures and even self-violence while they seem to love each other, the grotesque scenes and the peaceful surrounding of the lake. Duk keeps his message simple and animalistic, the characters reacting simply to their drives, without thoughts of consequences or causation. The audience reactions of shock when the film was screened is a testament to the extreme that Duk took it to, and in no way would he stop here going on to push the boundaries of Asia extreme with films that will appear higher up on this list.

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12. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Based on the Japanese manga and directed by Lam Nai-Choi, this film is a martial arts thriller that enjoys the distinguished position in film history to be rated suitable for adults only on the basis of violence. The director weaves a bloodfest for the viewers as he follows the story of Riki a man imprisoned for killing a Yakuza member. In a privatized prison he encounters an oppressive structure and goes toe to toe with it making for some brilliant aesthetics of violence and gaining this film a spot on this list.

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11. Strange Circus (2005)

Directed by Sion Sono this film is bound to leave you dazed and probably gagging. Showing characters at their most perverse, the film explores themes of incest, rape and pedophilia and all within the unit of a family. A school principal modifies a cello case to place his daughter inside so she can witness him having sex with her mother. Eventually, however, he begins to have sex with his daughter drawing the jealousy and eventual violence of the mother. A perfect example of how extreme Asian films can be, the director chooses to excessively use the blood red aesthetic in his film and saturates the characters with extreme traits to show just how depraved humanity can be.

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10. Moebius (2013)

Kim Ki Duk appears once again on this list and justly so. One of his foremost films, it was deemed too extreme at first till he cut some scenes out. The film forces the audience to focus only on the violence in the imagery by intentionally keeping the dialogue short and almost absent. The story is about a woman who when she discovers her husband is having an affair cuts off the son’s appendage and eats it before running away. The father tries to look for transplant options as the son, to get over the feeling of castration takes part in a gang rape of the father’s former mistress. The intention was simple from Duk, to make the audience uncomfortable and even startle them and he succeeds immensely on both counts in this film.

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9. Grotesque (2009)

Often hailed as the utmost extreme movie due to its excessively detailed dealing with torture, Koji Shiraishi, the director who is the master of this splatter film and exploitation par excellence. The basic premise of the story is a sadistic doctor who kidnaps a young couple off the street after drugging them and once they wake up they are subjected to a series of torturous methods. The detailing is so fine that even hardcore fans of the genre have to avert their eyes sometime. This film definitely deserves a spot on this list.

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8. Pieta (2012)

Kim-Ki-Duk makes another entry on this list, this time with his best work, critically acclaimed but just as extreme. The film follows a collector who works for a loan shark who forces defaulters to harm themselves so he can collect. He realizes that he is being followed by a middle-aged woman who turns out to be his middle-aged mother who abandoned him. Kang Do the collector eventually begins a strange and violent relationship with his own mother, in fact even an Oedipal one. The graphic violence and Duk’s straightforward binary message that the world is full of monsters or victims makes this movie stand out amongst his body of work making this an excellent inclusion in this list.

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7. Caterpillar (2010)

Koji Wakamatsu one of the forerunners of the Asia extreme genre in Japan brings us a story based on a novel by Edokawa Rampo. The film follows a lieutenant who returns from war without arms or legs, and his country declares him a hero. His family too convinces his wife of the honor in caring for him. The wife quickly adjusts to his new condition but his insatiable sexual urge is a problem she has to deal with and this results in some very grotesque sexual encounters. This film is one of the finest examples by the director who critiques several issues at heart including the nature of obedience to the empire in Japan at that time and remains one of the finest examples of extreme from a master of the genre.

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6. Izo (2004)

Directed by Takashi Miike, the Tarantino of the east comes up with a film where Izo is crucified but returns to wreak havoc in present day world, seeking vengeance so his soul can rest in peace. Miike is a master of violence and his cinematic style is almost like a free-form game where there is no coherent narrative, just waves of people who are slaughtered, and Miike does that extremely well, his ode to violence a true motion in extreme poetry.

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5. Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1971)

Directed by Shuji Terayama, this film explores a Lord of the Flies-like situation where children are in control. Always an avant-garde, who pushed the boundaries of film, Shuji makes this an extreme film par excellence by making children the agents of nudity, sexual intercourse, and even violence. A fine film which was more jarring due to the year of its release, this ranks among some of the best extreme movies.

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4. Imprint (2006)

Takashi Miike features on the list again in a movie with excruciatingly detailed torture scenes. Miike centers the story around an American journalist who breaks up with a woman despite his promises but tries to track her down only to find that she has passed away and then proceeds to learn about the fantastical details of her life. An excellent movie where the director doesn’t check himself in showing any and all forms of violence this is one of the finest extreme movies made.

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3. Breathless (2008)

Directed by Ik Joon Yang this film follows the idea of domestic violence taken to a grotesque limit. A loan shark is friends with the protagonist, a money collector, a man of violent tendencies who beats his associate and the defaulters. His tragic story is one of family violence and violence of the father, and when the man reenters his life he wreaks violence on his father too. A gangster movie where the extremely graphic violence takes it to an extreme, Korean movies have always been unabashed in showing bloodshed and this ranks it highly on our list.

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2. Onibaba (1964)

Directed by Kaneto Shindo, the story is set in 14th century Japan, where a soldier joins the army leaving his wife in the swamp. The film explores the deplorable living conditions there and shows the wife’s motivations in wearing a samurai mask and killing and robbing passing soldiers. However, a supernatural element is introduced when the mask is shown to be inhabited by a demon who eventually possesses the wife. A fantastic film which was open about sex, violence and pushing the boundaries considering the time it was made, we have to rank it among the highest as one of the first and best works of extreme Asian cinema.

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1. Ichi the Killer (2001)

Takashi Miike’s masterpiece, his ode to violence and it is poetry in motion. Raping women, murdering children, paranoia, everything violent is present in the movie without the possibility of virtuous redemption in any of the characters. The titular Ichi is a psychotic killer, a sadomasochistic underboss for the Yakuza. Uusing the crime family, Miike brings out the violence in the movie that has inspired anyone with any inclination towards extreme movies worldwide. It is perhaps a perfect testament to violence and extremity that we have seen in Asian cinema.

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