10 Best Japanese Samurai Movies

Thursday, January 27 by Sasha Maggio

Ten best Japanese samurai movies are hard to list when there are so many! Samurai movies from Japan have been popular since movie-making technology reached the island nation, and samurai or period films and dramas remain popular even today. The following are among the most popular samurai movies from Japan.

  1. "The Hidden Fortress": Classic Akira Kurosawa, "The Hidden Fortress" is well-known in the sci-fi realm as sparking George Lucas’ "Star Wars" saga. "The Hidden Fortress" tells of two peasants left to escort a samurai general and a princess, with what remains of her family fortune, across enemy territory.
  2. "Kagemusha": Another classic Kurosawa film, "Kagemusha" is the story of three warlord fighting over territory, when one is fatally wounded. As he dies, he orders a replacement to stand in and defend his empire, while keeping his death a secret.
  3. "Shogun": "Shogun" is a wonderful miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain and a host of Japanese actors and is based on the incredibly famous novel of the same name by James Clavell. Set in Feudal Japan, "Shogun" tells of the struggles of Japan, as well as of the struggles of foreigners who found themselves in Japan for one reason or another.
  4. "Seven Samurai": Classic Kurosawa, "Seven Samurai" tells of seven samurai who form a sort of misfit-militia to fight off bandits and protect a small farming town. Incredible battles fill this wonderful tale of heroism, duty, and honor.
  5. "Samurai I": Starring the wildly popular Toshiro Mifune, "Samurai I" tells the story of Musashi Miyamoto. Mifune plays a peasant with ambitions of greatness, ambitions that are rained on when he becomes a hunted outlaw. With the help of a monk, however, he perfects his skill.
  6. "Samurai II": Sequel to "Samurai I," and also starring Toshiro Mifune, "Samurai II" tells of Miyamoto’s continued training. After defeating a number of students from a local school, the school elders mark Miyamoto for death.
  7. "Samurai III": Concluding the "Samurai Trilogy," Mifune returns as the hero Musashi Miyamoto, now a legendary samurai. Shortly after saving a village from bandits, a jealous swordsman begins to plan for a battle with Miyamoto.
  8. "Rashomon": "Rashomon" is considered one of the greatest films of Akira Kurosawa and tells the story of a rape and murder. Interestingly, four witnesses tell their versions of the event, which leaves the audience to decide what really occurred.
  9. "Yojimbo": Sanjuro, a masterless samurai or Ronin, finds himself in a village torn apart by feuding warlords, and in the middle of a battle between two crime bosses. Using cunning, Sanjuro convinces both sides to hire him for protection, all a part of a greater plan.
  10. "Sanjuro": Sequel to Yojimbo, again Sanjuro is the focus, but this time he is training an ignorant gang in the ways of the samurai warrior. Sanjuro, however, does not always follow his own code.