Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (2022)

Though considered to be a predominantly Eastern film genre, Samurai films have left an indelible impact on Western filmmaking. Influencing famous directors such as Quentin Tarantino and George Lucas, the genre helped to establish some long-held pop culture products now considered to be pillars of entertainment in Europe and North America.

Unfortunately, few aside from dedicated film buffs return to these black-and-white classics, and that's a definite shame, as, despite their age, they represent some of the best storytelling ever committed to film. From Hara-Kiri to Seven Samurai, these are the best of the best of the genre according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Updated on March 23rd, 2022 by Tanner Fox:In the modern era, samurai films are typically construed to be tropey and played out. Much like Spaghetti Western films, many consider films featuring katana-wielding warriors in feudal Japan to be a bygone product of the 1950s and 1960s.

While that may be true to some extent, there's no overemphasizing the role some of these films played in establishing modern-day Western pop culture. From the black-and-white classics that helped to inspire Star Wars and Kill Bill to more up-to-date offerings that instigated the rise of anime in the West, these films simply should not be missed.

15 Blade of the Immortal (2017) – 86%

Available on Tubi, Vudu, Pluto TV, and Hulu

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (1)

The hundredth—yes, one with two zeros behind it—film from Japanese director Takashi Miike, Blade of the Immortal is an adaptation of a manga of the same name, and many worried what it might become in Miike's hands, as he was responsible for the largely-disliked live-action version of Jojo's Bizzare Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakablefrom the same year.

Yet, stylish and dazzling, Blade of the Immortal was an excellent representation of its source material. Featuring the exploits of a samurai cursed with immortality and tasked with protecting a small child, fans of other Japanese productions such as From Software's 2019 video game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice may notice some major similarities.

14 Zatoichi (2003) – 87%

Available to purchase on Prime Video

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (2)

Zatoichi,the remake of a similarly-rated 1962 film, is every bit as deserving as a successor to the title's legacy. It features one of the most unique premises for samurai or action films ever; the protagonist of this samurai movie is a blind masseuse who also happens to be a formidable warrior.

No other film could have pulled off such a daring idea successfully. Yet, at its core, the film isa basic revenge story where the blind samurai reluctantly helps two sisters get revenge against a gang that murdered their parents. There's no shortage of violence and gore in this film, either.

13 Kagemusha (1980) – 88%

Available to purchase on Prime Video

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (3)
(Video) Top 10 Japanese samurai Movies.Top 10 Japanese Action Movies 2020. best samurai movies of all time.

In this 1980 Akira Kurosawa epic, a thief is spared from execution due to his uncanny resemblance to a feudal lord, and, when that lord is later killed, he must act as a stand-in to prevent further political turmoil.

One of Kurosawa's later works,Kagemusha stands as a testament to his longevity as a filmmaker. While it's perhaps not quite as celebrated as some of his earlier releases, Kagemusha is an excellent genre film, and the concept of body doubles later became prevalent in higher-profile Western films, most notably the first installment in George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Available on Hulu

In the early 1990s, interest in anime began to surge in North America, with films like Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke and Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell launching the medium into the pop culture stratosphere. However, before those two releases came the comparatively less-recognized Ninja Scroll.

High-octane, blood-soaked, and limit-pushing, Ninja Scroll made Western audiences sit up and take notice. Partially responsible for the perpetuation of the badass ninja trope in the public consciousness, Ninja Scroll may not be known for its groundbreaking storytelling or filmmaking techniques, but it's nonetheless worth a watch nearly thirty years after its debut in North America.

11 13 Assassins(2010) – 95%

Available on Tubi, Vudu, Pluto TV, and Prime Video

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (5)

By far the most modern entry in this title, 2011's13 Assassinssuccessfully recreates the magic of films likeHarakiriandSamurai Rebellion.Agroup of once-loyal samuraibecame disappointed with their sadistic feudal lord and staged an assassination attempt against him.

It's a period drama and action film that checks all of the boxes for the genre. Even more impressive is the fact that it's a remake of a 1963 classic from an esteemed director. Before13 Assassins, many film critics agreed that samurai films were no longer fashionable and had aged poorly. Fortunately, the13 Assassins remake proved everyone wrong.

10 Yojimbo(1961) – 95%

Available on HBO Max

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (6)

Fans of the classic Clint Eastwood WesternA Fistful of Dollars may feel right at home with Akira Kurosawa'sYojimbo, as it was the 1964 film's prime inspiration.In fact, the company that ownedYojimbo(1961)in Japan even sued the makers ofA Fistful of Dollarsfor remaking the exact same movie in a Hollywood flavor and won.

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The film is about a lone hungry and masterless samurai who happens upon two rival factions and decides to play with both of them to make some money. Without this film, Clint Eastwood's claim to fame probably would not have been as spectacular, nor would Spaghetti Western movies be as popular.

9 Ran (1985) – 96%

Available to purchase on Prime Video

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (7)

Ranis one of Akira Kurosawa's later works, but it is by no means adud in the master filmmaker's filmography. It was released in 1985 and was one of his few releases to debut in color.Ranwent on to put many war and action movies to shame; even by modern standards, its pacing, storytelling, cinematography, and production value all eclipse most big-budget productions in the twenty-first century.

Ranis basically Kurosawa's take on Shakespeare'sKing Lear. It involves a dying feudal lord who drove his kingdom to ruin. This caused his sons to wage war among one another in a battle for dominance and inheritance as their father watches them helplessly atop his burning castle.

Available on HBO Max

Another hidden gem from Kurosawa that has had substantial effects on Hollywood would beThe Hidden Fortressfrom 1958. George Lucas, creator ofStar Wars, statedhimself stated that he "copied" some of Kurosawa's movie tropes and shots when making the originalStar Wars sequeltrilogy. Case in point is R2-D2 and C-3PO's early segments inEpisode IV, a formula borrowed fromThe Hidden Fortress'two protagonists.

Both of them were two soldiers fleeing from war and an invading army until they stumble upon a hidden gold bar whereupon the atmosphere changes from brutality to humor.The Hidden Fortressis worth watching alone for how it inspired some of theStar Warsoriginal trilogy's scenes.

7 Throne of Blood(1957) – 98%

Available on HBO Max

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (9)

Leave it to famed director Akira Kurosawa to turn a samurai epic into an arthouseJapanese masterpiece.1957'sThrone of Bloodwas his second-highest-rated film according to Rotten Tomatoes. LikeRan,Throne of Bloodwas Kurosawa's take on another Shakespeare classic, this time adapting the epicMacbeth.

It also features Toshiro Mifune, perhaps Kurosawa's favorite actor—as the protagonist. He and his closest friend were confronted by a spirit who predicts that both of them will eventually replace their feudal lords. The two then set out to fulfill the spirit's prophecies only for them to become power-hungry and corrupt until they eventually self-destruct.

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6 The Twilight Samurai (2002) – 99%

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (10)

Released in 2002, Yoji Yamada's The Twilight Samurai was a touchstone for turn-of-the-millennium filmmaking and served as something of an introspective commentary of the genre as a whole. The film's protagonist, Iguchi Seibi, is essentially a retired samurai living in the final years of Japan's feudal era. Though he's at peace with his life, he's forced to take up his sword once again for a final adventure.

In 2002, the samurai film genre had fallen from favor, particularly in the minds of Western audiences, but The Twilight Samurai proved that, though aged, there was still plenty to explore within its confines.

5 Lady Snowblood (1973) – 100%

Available on HBO Max

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (11)

A female convict serving a life sentence seduces some of the prison's male guards in order to conceive a child who would one day be able to enact revenge on behalf of the woman and her murdered husband. What follows is a gore-soaked tale of tribulation and triumph which would go on to be recognized by some as one of the greatest Samurai films ever made.

Unique in its rare portrayal of a female warrior, Lady Snowblood heavily inspired Quentin Tarantino's Kill Billtwo-part epic and helped to normalize the idea of women appearing in lead movie roles traditionally held by men.

4 Samurai Rebellion (1967) – 100%

Available on The Criterion Channel

One of the recurring themes in the best Japanese samuraimovies is feudal tyranny and how it affects even the well-off warriors. Such a notion was explored inSamurai Rebellion, which was released in 1967. It depicted the oppressiveness of local feudal lords who pretty much treated even their loyal subjects like animals.

A lord demanded the return of the protagonist's wife who was previously expelled from the castle. They wanted the family's son as a successor to the throne. The protagonist's samurai family then refusedtheir feudal lord's demand and sparked a rebellion against them—the name literally says it all.

3 Sanjuro (1962) – 100%

Available to purchase on Prime Video

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (13)
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Those who enjoyed Yojimbo or anything similar to it should add Sanjuro to their watchlists.The 1962 Kurosawa film is considered to be a companion movie toYojimbo and also stars the same actor, the legendary Toshiro Mifune, who was the de facto face of samurai in Japanese cinema.

The premise ofSanjurois quite simple; an experienced samurai master Mifune teaches a young and budding samurai some skills before they embark on a war for their corrupt lords. It's more humorous and comical than most films in the genre, but it still contains enough samurai combat to break satisfy action lovers.The film also features a notable amount of gore, something that likely impacted the works of Quentin Tarantino later down the line.

2 Harakiri (1962) – 100%

Available to purchase on Prime Video

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (14)

While some films of the era delved at least partially into comedic territory, 1962's Harakiri offers up much of the stoic Samurai archetype for which the genre is known. It follows the story of many lordless samuraiin the 17th century who were forced to fight each other in search of new masters thanks to a Shogun-mandated decentralization.

It shows the Japanese feudal lords at their worst; manipulating the honor-bound warriors into fighting to the death, it's a gruff watch that helped to establish the public perception of the genre.

1 Seven Samurai (1954) – 100%

Available on HBO Max

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes) (15)

1954'sSeven Samuraiwas Akira Kurosawa at his finest; it's one of the most unique stories ever committed to film, and it also contributed quite a bit to action movies and film techniques.

Even the film's plot is relatively unique; a group of impoverished farmers overheard some bandits talking about raiding their village sometime in the near future. In response, they coax some altruistic wandering Samurai and protect them practically without any reward. What follows is one of the most unforgettable fellowship adventures to date. It's the granddaddy of all samurai films and one on which absolutely no one should miss out.

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FAQs

Japan’s 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes)? ›

Japan's 15 Best Samurai Movies Of All Time, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes)
  1. 1 Seven Samurai (1954) – 100%
  2. 2 Harakiri (1962) – 100% ...
  3. 3 Sanjuro (1962) – 100% ...
  4. 4 Samurai Rebellion (1967) – 100% ...
  5. 5 Lady Snowblood (1973) – 100% ...
  6. 6 The Twilight Samurai (2002) – 99% ...
  7. 7 Throne of Blood (1957) – 98% ...
Mar 23, 2022

Is there any good samurai movies? ›

10 of the Greatest Samurai Movies of The 21st Century (So Far)
  • 'The Twilight Samurai' (2002) ...
  • 'Sword of the Stranger' (2007) ...
  • 'The Hidden Blade' (2004) ...
  • 'Zatoichi' (2003) ...
  • 'When the Last Sword is Drawn' (2002) ...
  • 'Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai' (2011) ...
  • 'Rurouni Kenshin' (2012) ...
  • '13 Assassins' (2010)
Jun 22, 2022

What's the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating? ›

To date, Leave No Trace holds the site's record, with a rating of 100% and 251 positive reviews.

Who made the best samurai movies? ›

Any list of samurai films would be incomplete without director/actor duo, Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. While not their most definitive collaboration in the genre (that would likely be 1954's Seven Samurai), The Hidden Fortress redefined the adventure film on a massive scale.

Do they still make samurai movies? ›

Samurai films were constantly made into the early 1970s, but by then, overexposure on television, the aging of the big stars of the genre, and the continued decline of the mainstream Japanese film industry put a halt to most of the production of this genre.

Who was the most famous samurai in Japanese history? ›

1. Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長) While Miyamoto Musashi may be the best-known "samurai" internationally, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) claims the most respect within Japan.

Is last of the samurai a true story? ›

Not many people know the true story of The Last Samurai, the sweeping Tom Cruise epic of 2003. His character, the noble Captain Algren, was actually largely based on a real person: the French officer Jules Brunet. Brunet was sent to Japan to train soldiers on how to use modern weapons and tactics.

What movie has a 0 on Rotten Tomatoes? ›

List
FilmYearNo. of reviews
Bolero198423
Jaws: The Revenge198740
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol198720
Problem Child199029
40 more rows

What movie has lowest Rotten Tomatoes? ›

1. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) According to critics via Rotten Tomatoes, this embarrassingly incompetent cyper-espionage dumpster fire is the single worst movie ever made.

What are Japanese films called? ›

The cinema of Japan (日本映画, Nihon eiga, also known domestically as 邦画 hōga, "domestic cinema") has a history that spans more than 100 years.

Where can I watch Japanese samurai movies? ›

The 8 Best Samurai Movies Streaming on HBO Max
  • Lady Snowblood. Lady Snowblood was released in 1973 and is based on the manga of the same name. ...
  • The Lone Wolf And Cub Series (6 Movies) ...
  • Rashomon. ...
  • Samurai Trilogy. ...
  • Seven Samurai. ...
  • Yojimbo. ...
  • Ugetsu.
Mar 15, 2021

What does samurai mean in history? ›

samurai, member of the Japanese warrior caste. The term samurai was originally used to denote the aristocratic warriors (bushi), but it came to apply to all the members of the warrior class that rose to power in the 12th century and dominated the Japanese government until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Is Chambara a real thing? ›

While the Switch Sports version of Chambara doesn't currently exist, it's certainly inspired by real-life organised sports, martial arts systems, and pop culture. If you want a break from the gym or playing field and Chambara sounds appealing, remember to attach the wrist strap to your Joy-Con…

What does W est stand for? ›

WEST Meaning. 17. WEST. Western European Summer Time. Time Zone, Technology, Europe.

Is samurai a sword? ›

The samurai were the elite of Japanese society. They generally carried 2 swords. The longer curved edge traditional Samurai sword was usually around 36″ long and a shorter sword of like design known as a katana was usually around 24″-26″ long.

Where can I watch Twilight samurai? ›

Watch The Twilight Samurai | Netflix.

Where can I watch old Japanese samurai? ›

The 8 Best Samurai Movies Streaming on HBO Max
  • Lady Snowblood. Lady Snowblood was released in 1973 and is based on the manga of the same name. ...
  • The Lone Wolf And Cub Series (6 Movies) ...
  • Rashomon. ...
  • Samurai Trilogy. ...
  • Seven Samurai. ...
  • Yojimbo. ...
  • Ugetsu.
Mar 15, 2021

Does Netflix have 13 assassins? ›

If you like samurai films, you won't find a better one than 13 Assassins on Netflix.

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