10 Best Ninjas Movies

Friday, March 11 by William Gish

Decapitation, shadows, splintered bones, exploding heads, severed limbs, arterial spray, historical settings, revenge, destruction — they all have one thing in common: they are the 10 best ninja movies. Many western viewers experience difficulty separating ninjas from samurai and Chinese martial arts experts, so we’ve done our best to help you out.

  1. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” – Heroes in a half shell! “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reverently satirizes the cheesy ninja films of yore, gently poking fun at their chop suey philosophy and absurd esotericism by making the heroes into a gang of turtles who live in a sewer and are guided by a Zen patriarch rat. This is certainly one of the ten best ninja movies.
  2. “Izo” – As with most of Takashi Miike’s films, “Izo” has a very strong WTF element. The film tells the tale of the titular ninja warrior who is crucified for killing various samurai foot soldiers of an evil shogun in the late 19th century. However, instead of dying, his psychotic rage wrecks the space-time continuum and places him in modern day Tokyo, where he lives as a homeless man. If that’s not one of the ten best ninja movies, we don’t know what is.
  3. “Batman Begins” – “Batman Begins” is a film with a number of continuous narrative strains that essentially posits that Batman is a ninja trained by an esoteric sect of Himalayan warriors. It’s also an impressively good film with both Christian Bale and Liam Neeson in prominent ninja roles. Yes and yes!
  4. “Azumi” – “Azumi” turns ninja gender convention on its head by making the main slayer of foes a woman. Of course, she’s a relatively young, incredibly fit woman who happens to look quite good in her skimpy school girl uniform but, well, ninja films aren’t really made for feminists, are they?
  5. “Shogun Assassin” – One of the ten best ninja movies, “Shogun Assassin” is actually a greatest hits compilation from the “Lone Wolf and Cub” series. So really it’s a movie as much as it is a feature length series of clips that show all of the grisly ninja killings and leave out annoying elements such as plot, character development, romance and sentimentality.
  6. “Ninja Scroll” – “Ninja Scroll” is a much-revered anime in which a ninja battles his nemesis. Of course, that describes pretty much every ninja movie. What sets “Scroll” apart is a plot to overthrow the Japanese government, a band of demons with an array of superhuman powers and the liberating element of animation.
  7. “Blade II” – Things we need to stress with regards to one of the ten best ninja movies ever: ninja vampires; Wesley Freaking Snipes; black ninja vampires; racial allegory; Guillermo Del Goddamn Toro. If you need anything else to convince you to see this movie, it’s balls, which you clearly don’t have.
  8. “Revenge of the Ninja” – All we need to say about this entry into the cannon of the ten best ninja movie are: 80’s, drug war, ninjas, machine guns, blood, Japanese characters with Chinese names, ultimate battle, and from the film’s official description, “unwittingly importing heroin dolls.”
  9. “American Ninja” – Well, there’s this American ninja. OK, we like where this is going. Well, just hold on, because it gets better. We're listening. OK, so, he’s a soldier with crazy martial arts skills, and he goes to the Philippines to fight a bunch of mercenaries. Why the Philippines? Why not? OK, fair enough. Is that it? Yeah, pretty much.
  10. “Goemon” – The most recent of the ten best ninja movies, “Goemon” tells the sort of story of a true a ninja bandit from the 16th Century who jacked riches from the aristocracy and redistributed them to the poor. The frantically kinetic style of the film makes it essentially a live action anime, which is truly a thing to behold.  
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