Rank ’em: Samurai Films

Very little seems to capture my imagination as much as a well-made samurai drama (save maybe a western – the American equivalent to the Japanese samurai film). While I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly what it is about the samurai that fascinates me so much – their romanticized views on the world, their strict code of honor, their unwavering loyalties and dedication to the craft of swordsmanship – these Eastern knights in shining armor have been the focus of some of the finest and most influential films in cinema. From Sergio Leone to George Lucas to John Sturges, their influence, particularly that of the legendary Akira Kurosawa, has been acknowledged time and time again. Recently watching the brilliant Love and Honor, I felt inspired to whip this up and get some discussion going on all of our favorite samurai films, and maybe in the process find myself some recommendations.

Continue on and make sure to rank yours in the comments!

10. Seppuku (Kobayashi, 1962)
9. Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1950)
8. Samurai Rebellion (Kobayashi, 1967)
7. The Hidden Blade (Yamada, 2004)
6. Kagemusha (Kurosawa, 1980)
5. Sword of Doom (Okamoto, 1966)
4. Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)
3. The Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 2002)
2. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
1. Samurai trilogy aka Musashi Miyamoto (Inagaki, 1954, 1955, 1956)

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Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Too Many to name. I love the surreal ending of SWORD OF DOOM.

And where is the unique "Hanzo The Razor" trilogy (1972-74), Sword of Justice (1972) is one of my favourites. It's like Samurai, Police Procedurial and Blaxploitation all in one!!

quietearth
Guest

Wait, where's Shogun Assassin? That should be #1!

murph
Guest

lol. Shogun Assassin is so ridiculous.

murph
Guest

throw in Ran, Sword of the Beast, Sanjuro and Ronin Gai and you have yourself a hell of a list

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Isn't Shogun Assassin the 'mulched together' version of the Babycart & Cub series?

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I have a real softspot for Kitano's recent updating of Zatoichi, too. Probably not at the 'top' of anything, but very entertaining cinema!

murph
Guest

I wasn't a fan although the classic Zatoichi's are entertaining, especially the very first

quietearth
Guest

Yup, although I wouldn't use the word mulched, and it's the first two.. Do you know how much Wu-Tang has sampled from that film?

Rusty James
Guest

Kurt, is Hanzo the blade that series about the samuri detective who solves crimes by throwing women in a net and raping them?

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Rusty, yep that is the one. But really, he only starts out raping them because he is looking for information to solve his case. BUT – Then the sex is so good that the women confess the information willingly so he can bring them to orgasm. Of course in between cases he keeps on a rigid exercise regimen of ritual fucking of the bag of rice then pounding it (his penis, not the rice) with a club. Yes, Japanese B-cinema doesn't get much better than the Hanzo series:

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tzCmbNATnt8&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tzCmbNATnt8&hl=en&fs=1&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

***That above embedded trailer is probab…er…DEFINITELY not safe for work***

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Kore-Eda's recent film, Hana Yori Mo Naho (aka HANA) is also an interesting recent (2006) take on the Samurai genre in the same vein as Twilight Samurai. It has a very gentle feel to it that can make it look slight on first viewing, but it is a very warm piece of moviemaking.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Kurt, who's been cast in the American remake?

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Harvey Keitel, naturally. Actually, didn't Abel Ferrera loosely base Bad Lieutenant on Hanzo?

/ha. Kidding.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ir8Y4iFrWk8&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ir8Y4iFrWk8&hl=en&fs=1&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

Rusty James
Guest

Abel Ferrera is definitefly directing. It'll be weird to have him working on a mainstream 150 mil+ production but I remain optomistic. I'm sure Jerry Bruckheimer as producer will help mature his sensibilities and reel in his artsy side.

Michael Chiklis would've been great but of course he felt it was too similar to his role as vic mackey. I'm less enthusiastic about ex prowrestler John Cena in the lead role (and of course contributing the single from his latest album as a synergist tie in which should seriously amp up it's opening weekend returns and boffo box office!). This could be the break out film from the WWE production studio and may even dominate the coveted july 26th weekend.

Working title: Detective Rapes-A-Lot

Colleen
Guest

3 Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)

2 Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)

1 Samurai Rebellion (Kobayashi, 1967)

I have a few of those on the list on my zip list, but I want to add Six String Samurai as an honorable mention….just cause.

Mercurie
Guest

Okay, here goes.

10. Hitokiri (Tenchu)

9 Ran

8. Samurai Assassin

7. Seppuku

6. Samurai Rebellion

5. Kagemusha

4. Sword of Doom

3. Yojimbo

2. Musashi Miyamoto Trilogy

1. The Seven Samurai

And while I wouldn't rank it with these films, I must say that I find myself watching the 2003 version of Samurai Resurrection (Makai Tensho) way too often. Just something about Yagyu Mitsuyoshi fighting undead samurai…

Bob Turnbull
Guest

I have to admit that the Musashi Miyamoto trilogy didn't fully grab me – oh it's excellent at times, but it didn't compel me as much as some of the others.

One title not yet mentioned is Masahiro Shinoda's "Samurai Spy" – a beautiful looking film and equally as good as "Samurai Rebellion". Those two along with "Harakiri" and "Ran" would be my faves.

A more recent film is "Samurai Fiction" – not your typical Samurai film as it's a bit satiric and more modernized (e.g. the music) all while being a nice tribute to the older films.

Dave
Guest

While I have yet to see many of the films on this list, I do love Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Ran and Yojimbo. I also liked the Zatoichi remake, and have a soft spot for the Lone Wolf and Cub series.

murph
Guest

the first in the Musashi Miyamoto isn't the best. very restrained, very sentimental, but oh boy, after that, it really picks up. it is rivaled by few trilogies in my book.

Mercurie
Guest

I have to agree with you there, Murph. Once the Musashi Miyamoto trilogy picks up, it really picks up!

Steve
Guest

A little late, but I wanted to add my choices……

(In no particular order)

Harakiri (Kobayashi)

Samurai Rebellion (Kobayashi)

Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)

Yojimbo (Kurosawa)

Sanjuro (Kurosawa)

Kill! (Okamoto)

Sword of Doom (Okamoto)

Ambush (Inagaki)

Three Outlaw Samurai (Gosha)

Sword of the Beast (Gosha)

Samurai Wolf (Gosha)

Really too many to even come close to limiting it to 10….

Goyokin (Gosha)

Tale of Zatoichi (Misumi)

Enter Kyoshiro Nemuri the Swordman / Chinese Jade (Tanaka)

Adauchi / Revenge (Imai)

Betrayal (Tanaka)

More recent films…..

Ronin Gai (Kuroki)

Samurai Fiction (Nakano)

Sea is Watching (Kumai – based on Kurosawa story)

After the Rain (Koizumi – based on Kurosawa story)

Dora Heita (Ichikawa – w/ Kurosawa and Kobayashi)

Twilight Samurai (Yamada)

Hidden Blade (Yamada)

Love and Honor (Yamada)

Vengeance for Sale (Okamoto)

A Chorus of Cicadas / The Samurai I loved (Kurotsuchi)

victor enyutin
Guest

“Yojimbo” by Akira Kurosawa can stylistically be considered as a “study” for his “Sanjuro” made (in) a year after “Yojimbo” (with the same main character played by (the) [a] unique [actor] in the history of cinema (actor) Toshiro Mifune). But thematically it is quite [an] independent film that concentrates on [the] specificity of economic fight between rivaling groups of entrepreneurs with taste for semi-legal or just [outright] illegal strategies of self-enrichment (the types we [are] today in [the] 21st century [so familiar with and] know only too well). Kurosawa uses a tiny (Japanese) provincial city [in Japan] of 19th century as a setting for metaphorizing of up-to-date behavior of international cast of predatory money-makers [like our own day global corporate CEOs]. Like we [are] today (after invented wars and financial collapses [and whole host of other disasters]) Kurosawa in “Yojimbo” thinks what to do in a situation when (a) pathological greed of [the] financial decision-makers endangers the life of (human) population[s]. Again, [as] (like) we [are] today, Kurosawa was disappointed [with the] (in) traditional idea of “revolutionary transformation” of a corrupt society – the experiencee of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is enough to discourage us from this way. Instead, Kurosawa offers in his too films Sanjuro as, in essence, a role model for our hope. Instead of “revolution” as a strategy for social-psychological transformation of life Kurosawa offers “non-participation”. Sanjuro is [an] outsider by moral reasons. It is this status (under-status[ed]) “of not belonging” [that] colors his personality as [a] moral alternative to those who while being horrified by the cruelty of the system are doomed to participate in its everyday rituals because they share many of its conventions and prejudices. The intensity of “Yojimbo’s” critical energies joins the elaborateness of its analysis of today’s formal democracy’s vices and sins hidden under the beautiful [Universalist declaration of enlightenment and] make-up[s] of its proudly humane ideological pronouncements. “Yojimbo” is full of wit and humor, but also of human emotions, suffering and joy, and real problems.
Victor Enyutin

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