Top 10 Best Samurai Movies You Should Watch


samurai movies

Hey guys!. In this post, I’ll be discussing a list of Top 10 Best Samurai Movies You Should Watch. Iconic stories of honor, vengeance, and blood-soaked blades. Most from over half a century ago and some from this millennium. Regardless of their age or appearance, they each have something to offer. This is an unranked list. Now without any further ado and without any spoilers, here is our list of ten great Samurai movies mixed in with some of your own selections. So let’s get started.

1. Seven Samurai.

We start off our list with arguably the most influential and seminal samurai film: Seven Samurai. The plot has been revisited over and over again in film and tv to the point that it's become very familiar. A village is under constant attack from a group of bandits. The villagers convince an experienced samurai to help protect them. He then searches for other warriors to take a stand against the bandits. Akira Kurosawa's western influences and innovative talent behind the camera are on full display in this classic epic. I'm always in awe of his impressive work in filming the massive battles involving swordfights, stunts, shots in the rain and mud, fighting on horseback and with so many actors and extras involved in the same scene at the same time. Other than the technical mastery, the story is compelling because it's not just your typical good versus bad. The samurai and the villagers alike are nuanced, their motivations aren't always exemplary, and no one is perfect, but they all have to rally together around a common goal. 

2. 13 Assassins.

The following movie is far more recent and has some elements reminiscent of our first pick: 13 Assassins. The half brother of the shogun is rising in power. He's a heartless man whose cruelty would rival that of King Joffrey or Ramsay Bolton from Game Of Thrones. The shogun's own advisor has tasked a samurai with the secret mission of killing the vicious lord before he reaches Edo. If I had one word to describe this film, it would be "brutal". Takashi Miike gives us an expansive battle sequence and plenty of shocking or violent moments portraying the bloodlust side of the samurai world. Sure, at moments it may seem overly stylized, exaggerated or anime-like, but it helps sell the ferocity involved in battle, especially with the sound design. 

3. Samurai Rebellion.

Up next is a film that challenges the validity of blind obedience in the face of a cruel and inhuman order. Samurai Rebellion. Isaburo has received a "request" from the clan lord that his son should marry the lord's previous mistress, Ichi, even after she had the lord's child. Isaburo's son accepts. Now that the former mistress' child is next in the line of succession, the lord wants Ichi back, even though she's been happily married to Isaburo's son and even had a child with her current husband. The film's title might lead us to believe that the climax is an all-out war between clans and samurai, but that's not the case. It's a personal and contained story of a family man that wants his son to have the happiness he didn't have and unfortunately, loyalty, honor and obedience are in the way of that happiness. 

4. Yojimbo.

Now moving on to more lighthearted subject matter, the film that inspired A Fistful Of Dollars: Yojimbo. A nameless ronin arrives at a town that has two rival gangs at war with each other. In order to facilitate their mutual destruction, he decides to hire himself out as a bodyguard to one side while secretly "helping" the other side as well. This film is a fun mix of western and samurai tropes along with comedic moments sprinkled throughout the story. Yojimbo and its follow-up Sanjuro, are very approachable for first time visitors to the genre if you feel daunted by the history and mythology of the samurai. Their relatively short runtime is a big plus as well. 

5. Kuroneko.

Kuroneko is a folktale involving samurai, onryo and black cats. During a time of civil war, two peasants, a woman and her daughter-in-law are raped and killed by a group of samurai. The women come back as ghosts and lure lone samurai that return from battle, in order to kill them. This film is a story of love, loss and revenge that doesn't glorify the samurai and instead focuses on those who might have been their victims and who normally wouldn't have mattered much unless they were of higher social standing. The haunting atmosphere sets the perfect mood for the viewer to delve into the themes of horror that aren't necessarily supernatural in nature. 

6. Throne Of Blood.

Moving on from the previous tragedy, we will look at two others that are based on works of Shakespeare. The first one is Throne Of Blood. Washizu and Miki have just won a great battle. On their way to be commended by their lord, they find themselves lost in the forest and meet a spirit that prophesises their upcoming promotions and more. Obsessed by the prophecy and compelled by his wife's ambition, Washizu pushes on to become the lord of Spider's Web castle. Kurosawa adapts Macbeth to feudal Japan and gives us an enthralling tale of ambition, betrayal, paranoia and madness, rife with impactful visuals and performances, especially from Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada. 

7. Ran.

The following Shakespearean adaptation makes one think twice about making major life altering decisions in a row so soon after waking up from a daytime nap. Ran. In this re-imagining of King Lear, Lord Hidetora Hichimonji decides to retire, dividing his fief among his three sons and giving his eldest absolute power. This makes his youngest speak up against his father's decision and ends up being banished for his words. The old lord soon realises that things won't go the way he imagined when his two eldest sons rise against each other in their attempt to secure their reign in their father's absence. This film is the very definition of an epic. In addition to the unfolding drama and intrigue in connection with the war of succession, the movie is a delight for the senses. Kurosawa's use of color in the uniforms, the banners, the blood and even in Nakadai's ghastly makeup give us a visually impactful picture that proves that even in his old age, the legendary director knew how to bring images to life in a cinematic manner. A viewer had this to add: "He spent ten years storyboarding it with oil paintings, it is the truest example in all of cinema of the phrase "every frame a painting"." "[...] It is often said that his influences from the silent film era are a big reason why his blocking is so good, and I think he used colour in a way that only someone who spent over 30 years working in black and white could." 

8. The Sword Of Doom.

Our next entry features another great performance by Tatsuya Nakadai: The Sword Of Doom. In this film we follow the protagonist through various stages of his life. Ryunosuke Tsukue is an accomplished swordsman that fights with an unusual style. He's also a man that kills without emotion and remorse. After killing an opponent in a competition, he is pursued by the victim's brother. As Ryunosuke advances in life and joins the shinsengumi, the list of people that want to kill him keeps growing and it's only a matter of time before he suffers the same fate he's inflicted on so many. Nakadai's wide and lifeless eyes shine with moments of rage, chilling us with his portrayal of the villainous protagonist. His sardonic smile makes us wonder who he's going to cut down next. 

9. The Twilight Samurai.

Iguchi Seibei is a low-ranking samurai living right at the end of the Tokugawa era. His wife has just passed away and he has to care for his two daughters and ailing mother, all the while fulfilling his responsibilities towards his clan. His bleak and repetitive life is brightened when a childhood friend returns. The Twilight Samurai starts off very slow, introducing us to the characters, the customs, the rules, building a complex world. Themes of duty and class are presented in a real and human manner without painting a perfect or idealized picture. Although there are very few moments of action, this film's strength is in the way we are shown Seibei's life, the attachment we form with him and his family. It's a slow burn film that packs an emotional punch. 

10. Harakiri.

This last movie is our favorite of the genre. You just have to watch the excellent Hara-Kiri. I'll remain vague enough so as to not spoil any of the twists and turns involved in this pressure cooker of a movie. An ageing ronin comes before the house of the Iyi clan, asking for them to permit him to commit ritual suicide in their courtyard. Seeing as this situation has been happening a lot due to the overabundance of masterless samurai in search for money, the ronin's request is not immediately allowed and so there begins a sequence of interrogations and flashbacks that reveal to us how complex this situation actually is. Reminiscent of 12 Angry Men, most of the film takes place in the same location and is driven forward by Kobayashi's adept tension building through dialogue alone. You'll be at the edge of your seat as story after story starts forming a tragic tale of vengeance leading to a blood-filled climax. This is a film that explores the hypocrisy and limits of bushido while making us question our preconceived notions of honor. 

That is it from today’s post on Top 10 Best Samurai Movies You Should Watch. If you do not agree with the points in the post and have some of your own opinions, share them with us in the comments section down below. 

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Chandan is the writer of “Top 10 Best Samurai Movies You Should Watch”. Also, Connect with me on Facebook.


Hey there! I'm Chandan and I'm from India. I'm a writer and youtuber. You can contact me at: pinterest

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