Samurai! Got to love that word, right? Japanese samurai movies as I’m sure you are aware are a classic genre in Japanese culture. These are 10 of the best Japanese samurai movies you can watch. From the epic originals of the 50’s, to the more recent samurai movies.
I’ve been a huge fan of samurai movies (and Japanese culture in general) for the past 25+ years now, and have watched all the movies listed here (and more).
The samurai movies are in no particular order except number one, which is thee classic samurai movie, and my personal favourite.
Links to watch them online at Amazon Prime Video, or to purchase them as blu-ray, are also added to each if you want to watch them there.
The Best Japanese Samurai Movies
1. Seven Samurai
Like I said this is my all time favourite samurai movie.
The legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa directed Seven Samurai as well as many other samurai movies on this list.
It’s set in 1586 where a farming village is continuously under attack from bandits. They hire seven samurai to protect them and their harvest.
It’s a long movie and grainy but it’s worth it for the fight scenes at the end especially. Great character development as well.
Seven Samurai trailer:
Harakiri (Seppuku) is set in the early 17th century during the Edo period.
It’s about a warrior who has no master and who wishes to commit ritual suicide at the House of Li samurai clan due to events with his family.
First he recalls his story in the courtyard of what happened with his family. It’s a slow story but builds up to an absolutely epic battle scene in the end.
3. 13 Assassins
This movie is based on historical events set in 1844 where twelve samurai and a hunter plan to kill an evil warlord.
This is a modern remake of the 1963 version of the same name but I like this one better. As usual great sword fights throughout. It’s one of the best modern samurai movies.
13 Assassins trailer:
4. Throne of Blood
This is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but call it the samurai version. It’s set in feudal Japan.
A spirit predicts two samurai warriors futures and when the beginning part becomes true he plans to fulfil the final part of the prophecy by killing his master and taking his place.
Throne of Blood trailer:
Yojimbo is again a movie about a masterless samurai (they’re called ronin I should point out at this point).
The samurai shows up in a quiet village and sets about becoming the bodyguard for two rival businessmen and then plays both sides against each other.
Massive gang fights ensue.
6. The Hidden Fortress
With a war going on 2 poor men try to profit from it, and when they find 2 people hiding in a fortress (man and a woman) they have no idea they are secretly a princess and a general in disguise.
They agree to help them for gold and it’s rather funny to see the princess and general pretending to be normal people.
The general has some great battle scenes.
Interesting fact: George Lucas took some of the ideas for Star Wars from The Hidden Fortress.
The Hidden Fortress trailer:
This is a sequel to the previously mentioned Yojimbo and is very humorous for a samurai movie and a hell of a lot of action.
Again in a smilier mean to many samurai movies it follows a lone samurai who ends up teaching wannabe samurai who want to confront their corrupt lords.
Want a funny samurai movie? This is the one to watch.
8. Samurai Rebellion
This ones set in the 18th century where the local lords command a father to give his wife and son (who is the heir to the family) to them.
The wife and son don’t obey and launch a rebellion against the rulers.
Great as a connection story of a family in love that fight an unjust system. You really root for this family.
I wish I could tell you how it goes but you will have to see for yourself.
Samurai Rebellion trailer:
Epic. Epic. Epic. This is one of director Akira Kurosawa’s later in life best movies (of previous Seven Samurai fame and others on this list).
It’s partly taken from Shakespeare’s “King Lear”.
An elderly lord gives up his power to his 3 sons who then end up fighting each other for full control.
The battle scenes in this are truly massive and a must see.
Another one of Akira Kurosawa’s later films.
A thief (Kagemusha) who looks like an aged warlord is taken by the clan to play that lord so other clans believe he is still in power, to avoid being overthrown.
The actual lord eventually dies and the thief is actually put in the real position of power. He enjoys his new position until he ends up having to fight and compete against a rival clan.
The Best Japanese Samurai Movies
So that’s my choice of some of my favourite Japanese samurai movies. I could have included a bunch more but this is all you will need to get the best from the samurai movies genre.
I said “Japanese movies” in the title as these are all Japanese made. I find Hollywood samurai movies like The Last Samurai to be disrespectful to the Japanese culture. Hell, in The Last Samurai they basically were trying to portray it was a white foreign guy who was saving the samurai.
If you’re visiting Japan or interested in learning about samurai tradition, or just love a good sword fight, then choose one or more of these samurai movies to watch.
Pro movie tip – Amazon Prime has a 30 day free trial, so you could watch a lot of these for free during that time. You’re welcome!
If you want more ideas for movies about Japan. then check out 10 movies to watch before going to Japan.
And 10 of the best Japanese anime to watch (which includes an anime about samurai).
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*I own none of the images in this post. They are used in fair use terms to discuss the movies.