Are you looking for the best Samurai movies to binge-watch this 2019? We made one for you!
Applying the Bushido Code in the 20th century is impossible without learning it from those who lived them out. Since Samurai warriors are not existent anymore, the filmmakers are the best that we can get. They are one of the best sources whom we’ll directly know the circumstances that revolve around the lives of these legendary warriors.
Here are the top 10 Samurai films that you shouldn’t miss.
10. SEVEN SAMURAI (1954)
Number 10 in the best Samurai movies of all time, The Seven Samurai showed how a short masterpiece can fit a lot of characters without ruining the dialogue.
The story starts with a group of bandits plotting to raid a village nearby. Fortunately, one of the farmers heard them and told the plot to the villagers. Afraid of what might happen to them once the bandits attack, the villagers decided to hire Samurai who will defend them from the bandits.
Seven Samurai decided to team up and answer the call. The simple task of guarding the village revealed a lot about them. They found themselves dealing with their own personal issues and fears.
Seven Samurai is the only Samurai movie that got a lot of nominations internationally. Jussi Awards awarded the director of this movie as the best foreign movie director last 1959. Academy Awards also nominated the director for best art direction in 1957. The movie also won the silver lion at Venice Film Festival 1954, a second prize awarded for best directing achievements in a feature film.
9. THE SWORD OF DOOM (1966)
“The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. An evil mind has an evil sword.”
A skilled swordsman uttered these words to Ryunosuke and woke him up from his own arrogance. Ryunosuke was a cocky swordsman who doesn’t have a moral high ground. Fooled by his own hubris, he found himself committing a series of immoral actions starting with his murder of a Buddhist. He then killed a dueling opponent using a sparring sword called Bokken. He will continue his selfish deeds that will surely keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Unaware of the repercussion of his deeds, he later reaped the consequence of his actions and the ghosts that come with it.
The Sword of Doom first appeared in the newspaper of Japan and became one of the longest novel ever written. It remained popular for three decades until the death of its author in 1944.
8. THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI (2002)
Enriched with character lessons emphasizing humility and embracing obscurity, this film will really make the audience ponder about the balance between caring for people and yourself.
The Twilight Samurai is a brilliant movie about a man who never cared about himself. Driven by the death of his wife from tuberculosis, he constantly finds himself giving everything for his family. He’s afraid of losing them too because he doesn’t have enough money to provide.
Standing on the other opposite side of the spectrum, this movie has differences and similarities from the movie The Sword of Doom. While the character of this movie is an upright Samurai, Sword of Doom’s dark character isn’t. Though, both movies show the lifestyle and the struggles of a warrior living during feudal Japan.
With a lot of nominations and awards in its name, this movie falls on the 8th best Samurai film ever made.
7. 13 ASSASSINS (1963)
This critically acclaimed movie is impossible not to be in the top 10 Samurai films. Its beautiful fight scenes didn’t compromise the story though it consumed almost half of the film time.
The story basically revolves around the perpetrators who will try to kill a dictator who doesn’t care about his citizens. Thought of as someone who is a shame to the Bushido code, some leaders chose to step up and fight the politician privately. Financed by high-influence individuals, thirteen men went on a mission to stop the madman from his atrocious actions. The thirteen Samurai will do everything to retain the honor of the Bushido code, even if this will cost them their lives.
The Japanese Academy and Asian Film Awards gave a lot of awards and nominations to the remake of this movie last December 2011.
6. YOJIMBO (1961)
Yojimbo didn’t get an award, but it is one of the best movies that successfully readied the audience for what’s coming. The story created the right momentum and environment to the viewers.
Yojimbo means “bodyguard” in the Japanese language. The story revolves around a Ronin who wandered in a town where two gangs are fighting for supremacy. When the protagonist learned about the battle for primacy, he said he wanted to stay in the town for a while. If he saw the rivalry as an opportunity to make money, he didn’t say.
However, he applied as a bodyguard for one of the two rival groups that night. Both groups proved to be unreliable and full of hypocrisy as the story goes. So, he decided to destroy them both and free the town from its power-hungry organizations.
5. WHEN THE LAST SWORD IS DRAWN (2002)
This movie tells how a warrior does everything for his family. Though it looks like one of the typical movies about someone’s household. On the contrary, it’s a tale of a Ronin who at the end of his life changes his point of view and becomes a real Samurai with honor.
When the Last Sword is Drawn is full of flashbacks jumping from the present and the past. Movies that are filmed this way becomes confusing. But this movie is one of the exceptions. It beautifully connects three flashbacks from three different timelines that will lead to the climax of the film. The movie won the Best Film Award in the 2004 Japanese Academy Awards.
Yoshimura was forced to leave his own family to join the Shinsengumi. He did this so he could provide for them. He was immediately promoted to become an instructor and taught Samurai handling. Not knowing that his actions in the past will determine his legacy in the lives of the people he touched, the money-hungry Samurai found himself applying the way of the warrior, as things start to become complicated.
4. SAMURAI ASSASSIN (1965)
Samurai Assassin is a fictional story inserted in a real-life event during the Bakomatsu period known as the Sakudaramon Incident. Filmed to not focus directly on the historical event but in the life of one character, this novel turned movie immediately made it to the top Samurai movies of all time.
The story starts with the fictional character named Shinno, the illegitimate son of a powerful man who wants to gain glory for himself. He corroborated with other clans to kill the Prime Minister who signed the Harris Treaty, opening Japan to foreigners. The other Daimyo criticized Naosuke for signing the treaty. This triggered Naosuke to do the historic Ansei Purge, stripping 100 shogun officials off their position to gain political strength.
The movie ends with a shocking and bitter conclusion that will teach the audience a lesson about life, especially in pursuing the life of fame.
3. SAMURAI REBELLION (1967)
Masaki Kobayashi also directed this movie. The film pictures the dominance of Daimyo during the feudal period and the reality that people back then are facing. Isaburo rebelled against his own master.
The Daimyo asked Isaburo to marry one of his concubines. Isaburo disagrees at first but his son Yogoro liked Ichi (The concubine) so he decided to proceed and take her. They fell in love with each other and bore a daughter named Tomi.
Sadly, the Daimyo asked Ichi to go back to his palace and take care of their son since his firstborn son died. Since Ichi already fell in love with Isaburo’s son, they refused to give her back. Bothered by the Daimyo’s unfair treatment and indecisiveness, Isaburo and his son rebelled against their own lord.
Mainichi (A Japanese newspaper publisher in Japan) awarded Samurai Rebellion as the best movie of the year back.
Empire Magazine ranked this movie as the 95th 500 Greatest Films of All Time.
2. HARAKIRI (1962)
Hara-kiri is one of the best Samurai movies ever created. The story revolved around a Ronin named Hanshiro (A warrior without a lord) who wanted to commit Seppuku (also called Hara-kiri) in the courtyard of the Ii Naokatsu’s (Ii Naomasa’s son) palace.
Historically speaking, it is very common for Ronins to commit Seppuku in the hopes of getting charity from a Daimyo. The feudal lords will then give alms to Ronins, discouraging them to commit suicide. Other warriors thought that suicide bluff is a modus operandi to take advantage of the feudal lords.
The Daimyo’s counselor hindered Hanshiro. The counselor said that a young man named Motome already tried to do a suicide bluff. Unfortunately, the three senior Samurai thought of Motome’s action as a trick, so they didn’t give him alms and forced him to kill himself. Hanshiro then made it clear that he’s not planning to leave the palace alive and that he’s not really after the alms. Hanshiro slowly unveiled that Motome’s death is connected to his actions now. This led to a series of shocking discoveries.
Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert deemed Hara-kiri as top rated. It also received the Special Jury Award from Cannes Film Festival last 1963.
1. LONE WOLF AND CUB (1972)
Lone Wolf and Cub was first published first as a manga. It also became a television series after three years. This movie inspired Sin City and Road to Perdition.
The whole action starts with Ogami Itto, a high ranking official under the Tokugawa Shogunate getting framed up by one of his political enemies. They murdered his wife and hid a Japanese gravestone of the Shogun in his home. The investigators then came to check what happened.
They concluded that Itto was wishing for the Shogun’s death when they found the hidden gravestone of the Shogun in his home. Hanshiro was left wandering around Japan after being removed from his position. Struggling to survive with his young kid Daigoro, Itto accepts an assassination job from different people for a price. Itto will travel around Japan pushing a baby cart fighting other assassins while also trying to avenge her wife’s unnecessary death.