5 Japanese Sword Fighting Movies

Saturday, January 29 by Alan Rankin

If there are 5 Japanese swor fighting movies you should watch before your duel with that angry samurai, it’s probably these five. Not only are they classics of the silver screen, but they amply demonstrate the well-known Japanese skills at swordplay. These films will help you prepare to face the samurai’s vengeance, although you could just apologize for spilling his sake.

  1. “The Seven Samurai.” Director Akira Kurosawa catapulted to worldwide fame after the release of this 1954 masterpiece. In medieval Japan, masterless warriors use their swords to defend a hapless village from a bandit army. The film has become an all-time classic, inspiring “The Magnificent Seven,” a Western classic in its own right.

  2. “Yojimbo.” In 1961, Kurosawa returned to the swordsman-as-gunslinger concept, casting Toshiro Mifune as a warrior caught between rival criminal gangs. The result established Mifune as a sword-slinging star of the cinema for decades afterward. It also inspired a 1964 Western remake, “A Fistful of Dollars,” starring a little-known TV star named Clint Eastwood.
  3. “The Tale of Zatoichi.” Kenji Misumi’s 1962 film introduced one of Japan’s most popular characters, the blind swordsman Zatoichi. The character starred in numerous sequels, a television series, and even crossed swords with Mifune’s Yojimbo character. A 2003 remake won numerous awards and a new generation of fans.

  4. “Sword of Vengeance.” Misumi returned for this 1972 film, based on the popular manga series “Lone Wolf and Cub.” A lone samurai battles brigands while transporting his infant son in a baby carriage. The film inspired five sequels and a Japanese TV series.

  5. “Ninja Scroll.” This 1993 film was one of the first anime movies to achieve international success. In old Japan, a lone warrior battles ninjas, revolutionaries and supernatural enemies. A television series and comic book followed, while rumors of a sequel or American remake continue to circulate.