In retrospect, it doesn’t seem like it took very long for Battle Royale to become one of the most influential and entertaining movies of the 2000s.
Based on a 1999 novel by Koushun Takami, the movie adaptation was immediately met with rave reviews and controversy. It received an R+15 age rating, one of Japan’s sternest movie ratings up to that time. It would be a full decade before the film was even given a proper release in the west, although the movie had a large, devoted fanbase across the world by 2010. A poorly received sequel was out by 2003, but even the failure of that film couldn’t diminish the overwhelming visceral response Battle Royale continues to pull from its audience.
Do you nonetheless wish you had some movies like Battle Royale to check out? We’ve got twelve compelling films for you to consider, covering both the thematically similar and also other movies from Battle Royale’s native country of Japan. Nothing is going to be exactly like this legendary film from the equally legendary director Kinji Fukasaku (working from a screenplay written by his son Kenta), but there are a few movies that can get you pretty close to one of the most unique action-thrillers ever made.
Movies Like Battle Royale
12. As the Gods Will (2014)
Director: Takashi Miike
From the title alone, you can probably guess that As the Gods Will is going to be a nasty piece of business.
It certainly delivers everything you might want from a premise of Japanese high school students being forced to compete against one another in some whimsical games of carnage and death. With a movie like As the Gods Will, you don’t want to take anything for granted, including characters you may like making it out alive, or even your understanding of what exactly is going on.
We’d have to probably pay a fine to someone somewhere if we went through an entire article about mentioning movies similar to Battle Royale, without mentioning at least one Takaski Miike movie. The legendary director of more than 100 films, Miike is occasionally credited by people who don’t know how an internet search works as the director of Battle Royale. He’s not, but he has a number of movies on his resume that will certainly work for anyone seeking spiritually similar viewing experiences.
11. Azumi (2003)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
While Azumi features a plot fairly different to Battle Royale, both Japanese films trade in children being forced into some form of vicious combat.
Featuring a standout performance from the brilliant, underrated Aya Ueto, Azumi also features a situation in which two young friends are seemingly left with no choice but to fight to the death. It can make for a harrowing dilemma in the best movies, and Azumi supports this conflict with breathtaking fight sequences and some pretty brutal depictions of violence.
Azumi manages the feat of being as grim as it is entertaining. The film also benefits from a marvelous ensemble, with more than just Azumi as someone you are likely going to grow to care about. The main thread here is watching young assassins battle monstrous warlords, bringing down entire armies in a never-ending struggle. While the film does find a deeper emotional core for its characters, we’re really just here for the melodramatic bloodbath.
There’s also a sequel, if you happen to really like this one.
10. Battle Royale II (2003)
Director(s): Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku
A sequel to a film like Battle Royale is inevitable. It’s also not a terrible idea in of itself, but it just has to find a wholly different approach to the basic premise of high school kids fighting to the death on an island at the whim of a totalitarian government.
The problem with Battle Royale II, which was directed by Kinji Fukasaku’s son Kenta after the former died early on in production, is that it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. This is as clear a case of an inferior sequel as it gets.
Does the movie have anything to offer? Sure, but it’s important to keep expectations as limited as possible for this famously unpopular sequel. A genuinely interesting movie can be found here, particularly in such creative choices as magnifying the performances to the point where it honestly feels like we’re watching a parody of the first film. There is also a visually stunning piece of exploitation madness to be found in what happens when our kids land on the beach.
9. The Belko Experiment (2016)
Director: Greg McLean
If you’re specifically looking for movies featuring an actual battle royale of mayhem and gore, The Belko Experiment is going to be a hell of a good time.
An office building and its workers in Columbia are told on a dime that they must kill two of their ranks within the next thirty minutes. As you can imagine, the stakes do not end there. Sooner rather than later, the entire building becomes an insulated battleground ripe for dark social commentary and parody of the human condition.
While the more bleakly humorous parts of this film can occasionally fall flat, The Belko Experiment has more than enough enthusiasm and style to make up for any potential shortcomings. When the movie is simply leaning into its exploitation background, opting for colorful savagery and character-driven plot twists above anything else, The Belko Experiment gets close to genre perfection.
Performances from John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, and John C. McGinley also help accentuate a movie that proves the basic brawl-for-all concept can work in different sorts of movies.
8. The Condemned (2007)
Director: Scott Wiper
The Condemned isn’t a masterpiece by any means. However, under the right circumstances, it can be a lot of fun.
Your mileage will definitely vary, especially if you’re coming to this right on the heels of another Battle Royale screening. If you like the thematic similarities between these films, and you have a place in your heart for B-movie slugfests, The Condemned is going to be the perfect kind of entertainment.
A vehicle for WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and among the first films released by WWE Studios, The Condemned is also thoroughly unpretentious. That doesn’t make the ludicrous dialog necessarily easier to take, but there’s enjoyment to be had watching Austin trade silly quips while fighting guys like Vinnie Jones in the jungle for an illegal game featuring criminals that’s broadcast to the public.
“Dumb fun” can be a backhanded compliment, but it’s appropriate and more of a term of endearment in this insistence. The movie only really struggles when it tries to convince us the plot is important.
7. Guns Akimbo (2019)
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Illegal games built around making death as visually and viscerally decadent as possible is a recurring theme in movies like Battle Royale. It’s a good premise for a film, but it can be challenging to find movies that do something distinctive with this specific genre.
Guns Akimbo has two secret weapons to that end. One was to come up with a pretty good variant in which a young man Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) is forced into this game with guns permanently attached to both of his hands. The simple act of watching Miles survive under these conditions makes it easy to sit back and enjoy.
However, beyond its clever premise, Guns Akimbo also impresses for its two leads. Radcliffe and Samara Weaving each bring the perfect tone for their respective characters, and how those characters interact with this vaguely dystopian world. Guns Akimbo has its own unique brand of bullet-spraying and gallows humor, and no one seems to better understand that than these two.
6. The Hunger Games (2012)
Director: Gary Ross
Let’s get this out of the way once and for all. Did The Hunger Games rip off Battle Royale? Author Suzanne Collins has repeatedly said her books were not inspired by the Japanese film. Take away the fact that both films deal in child-on-child violence and authoritarian governments, and you’re ultimately left with two fairly different films in tone and intent.
At any rate, The Hunger Games nonetheless cannot help but live in the shadow of an older and better-told depiction of some of its most notable characteristics. This collection of four films will definitely be of some interest to those looking for movies to watch beyond Battle Royale, and you’ll be equally fascinated to see how they differ from one another.
On their own terms, The Hunger Games movies are some standard, incredibly sanitized action movie epics set in what has become a pretty common depiction of a dystopian society. The main characters fit the archetypes you might want from something like this, and it’s hard to deny the energy and appeal of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. At least in the first couple movies.
5. The Hunt (2020)
Director: Craig Zobel
A dozen strangers wake up in a field, with little clue as to how they got there before learning that they’re going to be hunted for sport by a group of deranged elites.
The premise no doubt sounds familiar when you start watching The Hunt. Thankfully, the movie finds several points of interest in which to create a social satire that doesn’t lose sight of suspension of character development. In the ways in which it builds upon these standard elements, most notably in performances by Betty Gilpin and Hillary Swank, The Hunt becomes something special. Its build to a well-executed climax, with an absolutely perfect ending, makes the film the kind of experience that’s certain to surprise those who go in relatively cold.
Taking more of its cues from The Most Dangerous Game than Battle Royale, the film is nonetheless easy to appreciate by fans of Battle Royale in particular. Both feature a death contest, but both also deal in the notion that people in extreme situations will surprise you.
4. Lord of the Flies (1963)
Director: Peter Brook
Lord of the Flies can feel a little stilted at times, particularly with so many young non-actors dominating this story of several young boys being stranded on a desert island. Still, this 1963 version of Lord of the Flies remains a chilling depiction about the potential death of innocence, mob mentality, and whether or not we’re all just doomed to go ballistic and try to eat each other.
These themes, taken from the original novel, and later explored further in a 1990 film adaptation, dominate a story that at times is filmed to feel much like a documentary. More often than not, the power of this movie comes from a cast composed entirely of children who didn’t necessarily aspire to be actors. Their performances lend a lot of tension to a story that becomes increasingly cruel and deranged as time slowly hums along.
Lord of the Flies doesn’t have any element of a government forcing the children to live like this. There is also very little physical conflict between the kids, although what little actual violence does come across is emotionally wrenching.
3. The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel
While it’s highly unlikely that Battle Royale was inspired in any way by The Most Dangerous Game, you can’t deny that both films don’t hit certain emotional responses. Both ultimately force human beings out of their comfort and into extreme danger, all to support the interests or more frighteningly the pleasure of some powerful force.
The Most Dangerous Game is based on a short story by Richard Connell. It’s been remade, adapted, and ripped off literally dozens of times at this point, though the 1932 telling of the story is widely considered to be the best.
While nearly a century old, The Most Dangerous Game is still a fantastic and entertaining thriller. It emphasizes a particularly disconcerting mode of storytelling in which life becomes a proactive battle against death itself for no other reason than someone else made the call. The movie also highlights great, suitably over-the-top acting from Fay Wray and Joel McCrea. Leslie Banks most of all is a scenery-chewing delight who deserves renewed appreciation.
2. Series 7: The Contenders (2001)
Director: Daniel Minahan
Reality TV arguably hit its golden age in the early 2000s. Parodies and savage satires were nothing new by 2001.
Series 7: The Contenders managed to be more than just some cutting remarks on a society obsessed with voyeurism and trash TV thanks to a clever script in which its bolder and grimmer points are strengthened by memorable acting and effective editing. When the movie hits its more intensive marks, we’re impacted because it’s more than just a collection of action sequences and jokes about how insipid these shows can get over human suffering.
Series 7 is the kind of satire that doesn’t need to go too far over the top to make its point. There is certainly an element of that to consider here, but the movie generally finds a way to take its satire so seriously that it could conceivably function as a deadly serious part of everyday reality. Series 7 also features one of the best ensembles of any movie on this list.
1. Versus (2000)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
We close out this look at movies like Battle Royale with another from that delightful lunatic Ryuhei Kitamura.
Versus doesn’t look for too much inherent dramatic weight in its story of an escaped convict (Tak Sakaguchi), some yakuza, a bunch of zombies, a forest that connects to the spirit realm, and a big ol’ plot to unleash the hordes of the undead upon the human race. In that context, it may be hard to appreciate Versus as a logical jumping point from something like Battle Royale. Beyond the fact that both films were released in Japan around the same time, what do they really have in common?
Even at its blackest, Battle Royale is a carnival of murder and anarchy. All of this is filtered through a lens that at least showcases these things in a very specific, arguably grandiose fashion. Released at a similar time, both that film and Versus are cut from a similar cloth, even if they divert on the depth of ideas being explored. They pair exceptionally well together, most intently in terms of style.
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