Historical Samurai movies take generally take place in feudal Japan and attempt to be somewhat realistic. Non-historical Samurai movies put Samurai in various situations such as in modern times, fantasy worlds or even outer space. For example, some people have drawn parallels between the Jedi in Star Wars and Samurai.
The top ten best Samurai movies list below includes only historical Samurai films:
1. The Seven Samurai - 1954
This is the Samurai film by which all others are judged. A masterpiece from brilliant film maker Akira Kurosawa. Considering its great commercial success and that it was nominated for two Oscars it is ironic that the production costs put the production company into bankruptcy. It is now widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.
2. Ran - 1985
The Samurai verion of Shakespeare's King Lear. This was director Akira Kurosawa's last great historical drama. It is considered one of his best works.
3. Throne of Blood - 1957
Another Akira Kurosawa film, I am a huge fan. The plot is from Shakespeare's Macbeth. It is considered one of the best adaptations of MacBeth despite taking many liberties with the story, using little of the original dialog and taking place in feudal Japan. The set of the film was on the slope of Mount Fuji and real arrows were used in all scenes. In some of the scenes you can sense the actors are actually scared of the arrows whizing around.
4. The Hidden Blade (Kakushi Ken: Oni no Tsume) - 2004
A tale about a low ranking Samurai dealing with Japan's transition from a feudal to modern society. A more realistic and dramatic coverage of the topic than The Last Samurai.
5. 47 Ronin (Genroku chushingura) - 1941
Released in Japan just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor it recounts the tale of 47 Ronin who avenge the death of their master Asano Naganori. Based on historical events, it is one of the most famous Japanese stories of all time that has been reenacted in countless plays, ballet, films, television dramas and books. This film is an excellent example of the nationalist themes common in films from wartime Japan.
6. Harakiri (Seppuku) - 1962
The cinematography is wonderful and the actors are great. They had to stop production for three days because the actors got in a argument about whether their voices should be soft or loud. Director Kurosawa has made films that glorify the Samurai but this film has more of an anti-samurai sentiment. Films that negatively portray Samurai are rare but Harakiri portrays Samurai virtues as a facade in this excellent film.
7. Samurai Assassin - 1965
This film builds and is a little slow at the start. However, I love the final showdown scene. It is a pretty brutal film for a Japanese movie from the 1960s. The final battle takes place in the snow and a interesting contrast is drawn between the soft falling snow and the chaos of the fight.
8. Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) - 2002
I like this movie because it portrays Samurai when they were in decline during the Meiji Empire. The main character is a low ranking Samurai who works as a bureaucrat. He has a normal life with everyday problems and is a refreshing break from the battle crazy Samurai genre of films.
9. Samurai Rebellion (JÃ´i-uchi: HairyÃ´ tsuma shimatsu)- 1967
A unique and gripping plot of intrigue that takes place during the long period of peace in the Edo-era. Masaki Kobayashi is probably the best Japanese director after Kurosawa. This film could be considered one of the greatest Japanese films of all time.
10. The Last Samurai - 2003
Great production value and the drama builds well through the film. The Japanese cast give great performances with Ken Watanabe really shining, could have done without Tom Cruise. Like many high budget American films the characters have no shades of grey and it is all good against evil. Entertaining nonetheless.
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