Ring (or Ringu) is the first film of the original Japanese series, directed by Hideo Nakata, and written by Hiroshi Takahashi, based on the novel by Koji Suzuki. The film stars Nanako Mitsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada and Riyika Otaka. Ring is Japan's highest grossing film of all time and is often considered the most frightening film to come out of Japan. It gained two respective sequels, Ring 2 and Rasen, although Rasen was written off and replaced by Ring 2 due to its poor box office results.
The film opens with two teenage girls Tomoko and Masami Kurahashi discussing the rumours of a supposed cursed videotape that will kill the viewer seven days after they watch it. Whilst Masami laughs at the rumour's absurdity, Tomoko reveals she watched a tape that matched Masami's description, having watched it at a rental cabin holiday park in Izu a week ago with three friends. The telephone downstairs rings suddenly, Masami having claimed that someone will call the viewer and tell them they will die. The two answer it but are relieved when the caller is revealed to be Tomoko's mother. Masami leaves the room after the call, but Tomoko is attacked and murdered by an unseen force, with Masami witnessing it and is put in a mental hospital.
Several days later, Tomoko's funeral takes place. Attending are Tomoko's aunt Reiko Asakawa and her young son Yoichi Asakawa. Reiko learns that Tomoko's coffin is closed, and learns of the cursed video tape from students present at the funeral. Reiko works as an investigative journalist and discovers the three other people who watched the tape are all dead too, watching a recording of a couple's bodies being found, their faces frozen with a look of sheer terror. She explores Tomoko's bedroom and finds a receit to develop some photographs. Looking through the photos, she finds one of the four with blurred faces standing outside the Izu rental cabins.
She travels to Izu, and finds the video tape, finding the images disturbing and then receives an anonymous phone call. Now realising she is cursed, Reiko opts to research its origins. She contacts her ex-husband and Yoichi's father Ryuji Takayama to help her. Ryuji watches the tape but no phone call follows. Reiko makes a copy of the tape and the two observe it. They are briefly interrupted by Ryuji's student Mai Takano, and watch the rest of the tape at Reiko's workplace. They acknowledge the mention of a volcanic eruption, and an old dialect from Oshima Island, "Frolic in brine, goblins be thine.". They realise the eruption if that of Mt. Mihara which was predicted by a woman named Shizuko Yamamura who committed suicided by jumping into the volcano.
Whilst Ryuji does more research, Reiko and Yoichi visit Koichi Asakawa, Reiko's father. During the night, Reiko is awoke by Tomoko's voice and discovers Yoichi watching the tape. Now with a real reason to solve the curse, Reiko and Ryuji sail to Oshima Island, meeting Shizuko's cousin Takashi Yamamura. Ryuji reveals to Reiko that Shizuko got involved with a university professor named Heihachiro Ikuma who along with Takashi helped her give a public demonstration of her psychic powers, but she was mocked by journalists leading to her suicide. It is also revealed that she had a daughter named Sadako.
Reiko and Ryuji confront Takashi to learn what became of Sadako, and experience visions of Shizuko's demonstration in which Sadako killed a journalist using her own psychic powers, but she then approaches Reiko and bruises her arm. Concluding Sadako is dead, but her body never found, the two plan to head to Izu when Reiko realises the phone only will ring in Izu. Takashi takes them to the mainland, and the two quickly race to Izu.
The two find an old stone well under one of the buildings in Izu. Reiko goes down the well and has a vision that Dr. Ikuma pushed Sadako down the well out of fear for her psychic powers. She finds Sadako's body which is handed over to the authorities. Reiko and Ryuji return home, more closer than they were before. However, the next day, Ryuji hears strange noises in his house and spots the television set is on, showing the final image of the tape - the well. He looks on as Sadako emerges from the well and lurches her way towards the screen. Ryuji tries to answer his telephone, Reiko on the line, but looks on in horror as Sadako crawls out of the television and kills him stone dead with a deathly glare.
Reiko races to his house but finds Mai outside in tears and Ryuji's body has already been removed. Returning home in despair, Reiko sees a vision of Ryuji pointing out the tape's copy and concludes she survived because she made a copy and showed someone else it, which Ryuji did not do. Realising she must save Yoichi, Reiko buys a video player to copy the tape and heads to her father's house to save Yoichi from Sadako's wrath.
- Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa, a journalist and main protagonist.
- Hiroyuki Sanada as Ryuji Takayama, Reiko's ex-husband, a university professor.
- Riyika Otaka as Yoichi Asakawa, Reiko and Ryuji's son.
- Rie Inou as Sadako Yamamura, the film's antagonist and creator of the video tape.
- Masako as Shizuko Yamamura, Sadako's mother and an infamous psychic.
- Daisuke Ban as Heihachiro Ikuma, Shizuko's lover.
- Yoichi Numata as Takashi Yamamura, Shizuko's cousin and Sadako's uncle.
- Katsumi Muramatsu as Koichi Asakawa, Reiko's father.
- Yuko Takeuchi as Tomoko, Reiko's niece.
- Hitomi Sato as Masami Kurahashi, Tomoko's best friend.
- Miki Nakatani as Mai Takano, Ryuji's student.
- Yurei Yanagi as Okazaki, a journalist who works with Reiko.
- Ring is the highest grossing horror film in Japan.
- The effect of Sadako emerging from Ryuji's television involved Rie Inou, a Kabuki actress, walking backwards and the shot was reversed to show Sadako's creepy form of walking.
- Shizuko Yamamura is based on a real person, Chizuko Mifune, who could apparently see the future but she was seen as a fake, causing her to commit suicide via poisoning.
- The infamous close-up of Sadako's eye was actually done by a male crewmember instead of Rie Inou.