Samurai is a picture of power, chivalry, and loyalty among the Japanese. Years have passed and even up to now, Japan holds high regard for the Samurai. Hence, Samurai movies have been made to remember how Samurai shaped Japan.
Know more about Samurai through these 10 best Japanese Samurai movies below.
10. The Twilight Samurai
Released in 2002, The Twilight Samurai is Japanese historical drama film that received big awards and recognition within and beyond Japan. With an 8.1/10 IMDb rating, this is one of the Samurai movies reminding us of perseverance, love and loyalty.
Seibei receives his nickname “Twilight” as he goes home before the sun sets to take care of his two beautiful daughters and a sick mother. He lives a simple life as a widower, prioritizing the comfort of his daughters and the health of his sick mother.
A new chapter of his life begins when his first love, Tomoe, returns after divorcing her violent husband Koda. Koda follows her and encounters Seibei who now protects Tomoe. A duel followed, with Seibei emerging as the winner. But the challenges keep coming as he is about to face a stronger opponent that would make his name great in the eyes of the people and Tomoe.
Sanjuro is a jidaigeki (period drama) film directed by Akira Kurosawa, a prominent and influential figure in the history of cinema.
The story starts to build when the clever Samurai Tsubaki Sanjūro hears a group of young Samurai discussing politics. He realizes the conspiracy in the discussion and finds himself involved in the political issue. Sanjuro also discovers an official who wants to take over a clan. He decides to protect the clan after knowing the death that awaits its staff as planned by the official.
Sanjuro is said to be an adaptation of the short story “Peaceful Days”, but the character of Sanjuro develops, making the movie different from the original plan.
8. Throne of Blood
One of the Samurai movies directed by Akira Kurosawa that received an 8.1/10 IMDb rating, Throne of Blood is a movie inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.
After claiming victory in the war, Taketoti Washizu meets an oracle in the middle of the Spider’s Web forest. He receives a prophecy that he will be the Great Lord of the Spider Castle. He steps into the position not because he wants to, but through the efforts of his wife Asaji who greedily desires the position.
Throne of Blood was released in 1957 and is still regarded to be relevant today.
7. The Hidden Fortress
Said to inspire the 1977 movie Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress is another masterpiece made in 1958. The black-and-white film directed by Akira Kurosawa is rated 8.1/10 by IMDb.
Hiding in the mountains, General Rokurota Makabe and Princess Yuki need to cross the enemy battle lines into an allied district. Disguised as a mysterious man and a mute girl, they are escorted by two greedy peasants Tahei and Matashichi.
The Hidden Fortress was recognized as the highest-grossing among Samurai movies in 1958 and is considered as one of Kurosawa’s most successful films.
Awards from Venice Film Festival 1951 and 24th Academy Awards 1952 make Rashomon a movie to include in your Samurai movies list. Rashomon presents a well-thought complicated plot delivered by a priest, woodcutter, and a commoner.
Underneath the Rashomon gate, the priest and the woodcutter discuss to a commoner the murdered Samurai discovered in the forest. They are called to testify at the murder trial. Three more characters are summoned – the bandit, wife, and the spirit of the Samurai through a medium – to give their side of the story. As the film rolls, the truth becomes more unclear.
Considered as one of the greatest films ever made, Rashomon is a psychological thriller/crime movie directed in 1950 by none other than Akira Kurosawa.
The film Yojimbo shows how greed for power consumes a man. It can be considered as a film of great story with the recognitions and awards it received.
The movie plays when Kuwabatake Sanjuro learns about two clans fighting over the ruling of the town. Sanjuro strongly believes that nobody between them deserves the political spot. He then decides to end both clans by killing them.
Behind the success of Yojimbo is the mastermind Akira Kurosawa. He then decided to pattern his next Samurai movie to it which eventually earned its own spot in the Japanese film industry.
Another multi-awarded film, Ugetsu combines elements of war, ambition and the forbidden connection with ghosts. Under the direction of Kenji Mizoguchi, Ugetsu is also regarded as a masterwork of the Japanese cinema.
Genjuro receives a warning from a sage not to leave, but to stay in his town. However, he neglects the warning and leaves with Tobei to travel to a nearby town, leaving their wives. They both gain better sales.
As they decide to go back home, Tobei gets his share and leaves, hoping to fulfill his ambition of becoming a Samurai. As they realize to return, everything has already changed.
Earning the Silver Lion Award at the 1953 Venice Film Festival, Ugetsu is said to bring the Japanese cinema to the West.
3. Samurai Rebellion
Rated 8.4/10 by IMDb, Samurai Rebellion shares a story of a loving father fighting for his son. Receiving an award from the Venice Film Festival, Samurai Rebellion is sure to be of world-class category.
The Samurai Isaguro disagrees to marry his son Yogoro to the lord’s wife, Ichi. However, Yogoro accepts the lord’s order and soon finds love with Ichi. Their forced relationship gives birth to a daughter. When the lord’s son dies, he orders to have Ichi back to his household. Isaburo and Yogoro disagree and decide to fight for love and justice.
2. Seven Samurai
Japan’s third highest-grossing film of 1954, Seven Samurai makes a legacy other Samurai movies try to obtain. In the black-and-white screen period, Akira Kurosawa once again proved his artistry.
Seven Samurai promised to protect a village from a gang. They only demanded to be fed and to be provided a place to stay. As the gang accomplishes its plan, the villagers are hopeful that the Samurai are with them.
An originally 207 minute movie, Seven Samurai is sure to satisfy one’s entertainment appetite.
Harakiri takes the top spot with an 8.7/10 IMDb rating. This is one of Samurai movies that tells Kobayashi’s favorite theme: challenging authority.
As the Samurai lose their job, most of them suffer poverty. Some Samurai have made life-threatening decisions to provide for their family. Tsugumo Hanshiro seeks revenge after learning that his son-in-law was forced to die. He takes justice in his hands and overthrows the clan that dishonored his son-in-law.
Harakiri is filled with symbolism and political issues that are still considered to be relevant today. The original black-and-white movie was great enough to have a remake in 2011.
Samurai have played a significant role in shaping Japan as a country and its people. They have become a source of great inspiration in real life and fiction works. So sit and enjoy these treats, as any of these Samurai movies will not just entertain you, but will also take you of the beautiful culture of Japan in an instant.