A hero trying his best to end a life-threatening situation is the common element in any action film. With a lot of chases and fights, you are sure to grab your chair as the scenes progress with these Japanese action movies.
Hollywood action films have conquered the mainstream, but if you are looking for something new, Japanese action movies can satisfy your movie cravings.
1. 13 Assassins – 2010
13 Assassins is one of the most action-packed Japanese action movies. A suicide mission to assassinate 200 Samurai and Naritsugu Matsudaira – a wicked political figure – is ahead of 13 assassins. Doi Tushitsura realizes the bloodshed awaiting. He plots to murder Naritsugu but Hanbei Kitou, Naritsugu’s security officer, learns about the plan.
Doi seeks the service of Shimada Shinzaemon, an old Samurai, to accomplish the assassination. Shimada assembles 11 more Samurai to ambush the cruel lord on his trip from Edo to his lands in Akashi. The 12 men, lost in the mountain on their way to accomplish the task, meet Kiga Koyata who soon joins them becoming the 13th assassin.
They must prevent the possible civil war when Naritsugu becomes part of the Shogunate council.
2. Seven Samurai – 1954
Seven hungry Samurai, led by Kambei, are on a mission to protect a poor village from 40 greedy bandits. Gisaku, village farmer, overhears the bandits plotting to raid his village. The village leaders then realize they need protection and that only a Samurai can do the job.
Without money to pay the Samurai for his service, Gisaku suggests to the leaders to hire a hungry swordsman. Promised to be fed three meals a day, Kambei – an old experienced Ronin – receives the task.
He searches for six other Samurai to deliver the poor village from the bandits. It is a rough start between the seven Samurai and villagers but the circumstance has made them realize they need each other to survive.
3. Rurouni Kenshin: Origins – 2012
One of the Japanese action movies set in the Meiji period, the story is centered on Kenshin Himura, who promises to never kill again after the Bakumatsu war. Carrying a reversed-edged sword, Kenshin moves around Japan. He meets the drug lord Kanryuu Takeda who wants to take control of a school.
Kenshin fights against the drug lord and gets to know Kaoru Kamiya who owns the school. Kaoru offers Kenshin to stay in the school. The drug chemist Megumi Takani, forced to make opium, escapes Kanryuu and hides in the school.
The greedy drug lord continues to take control of the school and poisons the people through the well. Kenshin steps into the scene to protect the villagers and Kaoru together with Sanosuke Sagara, a street fighter.
4. Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno – 2014
In the second part of the Ruroni Kenshin movie series, Kenshin Himura faces a new battle as Makoto Shishio tries to put an end to the Meiji government. Makoto was betrayed by the government after helping them to defeat the Tokugawa Shogunate. Since then, Makoto has become obsessed with destroying the regime.
The government learns about the plan and reaches out to Kenshin for service. He refuses to accept the request to track down Shishio who continues to destroy communities. But Shishio learns about Kenshin tracking him down, so he uses Kaoru against Kenshin by throwing her to the sea. Kenshin dives in to save her.
As the people Kenshin Himura cares for get into trouble, he has no choice but to protect and fight for them. He then realizes that he is not just fighting for those he knows but now for the whole of Japan.
5. Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends – 2014
In the final part of the movie series, Shishio is still after tearing down the Meiji government. After jumping off the ship to save Kaoru, Kenshin wakes up to find himself washed by the waves to land. Hiko Seijuro, his master, finds him and takes care of him while he is unconscious for three days.
To defeat Shishio, Kenshin urges his master to teach him the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki – the ultimate technique of the Hiten Mitsurugi school. Master Hiko tells Kenshin that he cannot defeat Shishio as he has already given up on living. Hiko tells him to strive living and to embrace again his killer instinct.
Kenshin leaves ready for the bloodshed ahead of him. He learns about Shishio’s weakness and plans to use that to defeat him. Since then, Kenshin strives to live again.
6. Harakiri – 1962
A Jury Prize awardee, this is one of the best Japanese action movies that’ll surely grip your interest until the end. An elder Ronin, Hanshiro Tsugumo, is out of work. Being a Samurai with poverty awaiting, he then decides to honorably end his situation with ritual suicide Harakiri in a feudal lord’s courtyard.
He then meets Saito, who discourages Hanshiro by recalling a brutal Harakiri. But Hanshiro still wishes to complete the ritual in the clan’s palace. The day for the Harakiri is set. Hanshiro names the Samurai he wants to behead him. Saito is surprised that Hanshiro mentions the names of the three senior Samurai of the clan.
Hanshiro reveals that the recent Samurai who performed the Harakiri was Motome, his son-in-law. He recalls that Motome looked for work at the house but was forced to commit suicide with a bamboo blade. Since then, Hanshiro seeks revenge against the clan.
7. Zatoichi – 2003
One of the best-written Japanese action movies that involves Yakuza, the story started with a blind master swordsman, Zatoichi. He arrives at a town controlled by Yakuza. He earns money by gambling and giving massages.
Then, he meets two Geisha siblings who want revenge for the massacre of their parents. The siblings survived a robbery and killing incident ten years ago. They have learned that the Yakuza in their town are the murderers.
Learning this, the master swordsman offers his service to the two Geisha siblings. Zatoichi steps into a bloody mission to avenge the murder of the parents of the Geisha. He himself engages into battle of swords and strength to take the whole town from the hands of the local Yakuza gang.
8. Crows Zero – 2007
Genji Takiya, a high school senior, transfers to Suzuran All-Boys High School, known as the poorest achieving and most violent school in the country. Students band and join gangs fighting for power.
It started when Yakuza came to the school and mistake Genji as Serizawa on the freshman orientation. Then, brawl starts on the school open ground. The gang seeks revenge for their beaten members. Serizawa returns to the school and sees Genji defeat the Yakuza.
Later that evening, Genji goes to see his father, Takiya Hideo, a Yakuza leader, to inform him that he wants to rule over Suzuran High School. Then, the time has come for Genji and Serizawa to find out who must reign between them. Genji eventually wins and continues to seek power, realizing that someone will always show up to gain control of Suzuran All-Boys High School.
9. Blade of the Immortal – 2017
The highly skilled Samurai Manji receives a mission to assassinate a corrupted lord and his followers. He accomplishes the task only to find out that the follower he killed was his sister’s husband.
Machi, his sister, learns about the tragic killing and becomes insane out of grief. Machi runs off and falls into the hands of Ronin who then killed her. Manji rages in anger and murders all master swordsmen. Without reason to live, Manji receives his death. Yaobikuni sees Manji and gives him the bloodworms that will give him immortality.
Years passed, Manji meets the girl Rin who wants him to help her avenge the death of her father from a group of Samurai assassins. He refuses at first but then says yes after an assassin attacks Rin. Finding purpose in life once again, Manji continues to live protecting Rin. This is definitely one of the best Japanese action movies that’ll surely put you at the end of your seat!
10. The Hidden Blade – 2004
Samurai Munezo Katagiri and Samon Shimada say goodbye to their friend Yaichiro Hazama who is to take an important role in Edo.
Time has passed and the Katagiris experienced financial challenges. Munezo’s mother died and his sister married his friend, Samon. Moreover, his love interest, Kei, is married into a merchant family. Because of the difference in social status, Munezo could not marry Kei, who has served their family as a maid.
One day, he learns that Kei is treated as a slave rather than a wife. Munezo rescues Kei and demands her husband to file divorce. Kei is sent back to his father to avoid criticism from his community.
Yaichiro is back to the village as a prisoner after being involved in a political issue. Yaichiro escaped and Munezo is given the mission to kill his old comrade who is a better swordsman.
11. Battle Royale – 2000
To take control of the problematic youth, Japan passes the ‘‘Battle Royale’’ act. A class of ninth-grade students is captured and forced to kill each other in order to survive. Some students participate in murdering others while some decide to take their own life. The students are given 3 days to survive with only one winner to emerge at the end.
On the morning of the last day, Kawada starts to accomplish his plans. He pretends to kill Shuya and Noriko so they could prepare for the plotted attack. Kawada is determined to survive the island with his new found friends.
12. Bleach – 2018
One of the latest and most popular Japanese action movies, the story is about Ichigo Kurosaki, who realizes his ability to see ghosts and hollows. He then meets Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper, who is on a mission to find the hollow Fishbone
One night, Rukia gets wounded in trying to protect the Kurosaki family. She transfers her powers into Ichigo who eventually defeats the hollow. He learns that Rukia is powerless and that he must then become her substitute to protect his family and Karakura town until he can return Rukia’s power back to her.
It is about time to experience a new kind of action film! As you entertain yourself watching Japanese action movies, you also see culture and tradition. So, if you’re looking for a twist in your usual action movie list, grab your chips and drink and enjoy what Japanese action movies have on the silver screen!