A Beginner’s List of Samurai Movies You Need to Watch Now

Long before Harry Potter and Marvel there was anime. I think I was nine or ten years old back then when I seriously wondered why men with weird half-shaven heads wearing dresses and got swords in their hands looked so attractive to me.  Moreover, if you’re Asian then this is not weird to you. Not at all.

Does anybody here who when Japan is mentioned automatically depicts samurai? Stereotyping all Chinese to know kung fu and all Japanese to have samurai blood is a connotation that someone I know despises. I’m sorry to have opened with this argument. But I have to admit though that it’s one of the fascination I have entangled as an eternal passion. Exploring the magnificent nobility of Feudal Japan is one of the few things I’m so deeply interested with.

For me there is nothing more rich, intricately detailed and fascinating (mentioned twice) other than the Japanese culture. I have so many things to say about it. However right now I have more questions than answers.

My childhood was completed by the classic lineup of Ghost Fighter, Flame of Recca and Fushigi Yugii (to name a few animes) I don’t know a soul who hasn’t gone straight home fast after school to watch their favorite anime TV shows. And I guess even today, anime will always be a huge denominator for all millennials/yuppies out there.

This is entitled beginner because if you are still an amateur enthusiast of fencing, sword-fighting and amazing duel/battle then I’d like to introduce my starter-pack movie guide list. Don’t miss out on any of this.

P.S. I’m ranking them from least to best in my own opinion/review. Also, I have to warn you that they (some of them) know nothing of a happy ending okaaay? So better to prepare your heart.

kamui-gaiden7. Kamui Gaiden – “The Lone Ninja”

  1. Kamui Gaiden (カムイ外伝) is a 2009 Japanese film directed by Yōichi Sai starring Kenichi Matsuyama. As the title infers, loneliness is painted all over the scenes. Although the shark scene is something I barely agree on this movie, at least it showcased the talent of Matsuyama-san. I like him for taking up strange roles and raw projections. [You might also know him from Death Note the movie?] There was also endless chases and continuous running/escaping on this one.

a beginners guide to must watch samurai movies

6. The Last Samurai

Hollywood’s take on the samurai agenda is uptight on this movie. Tom Cruise as the lead couldn’t be any more whitewashed. Nevertheless, if you focus on the storyline then I promise you won’t be as disappointed as I am. If there is one thing that all Japanese take seriously it is- “kyodai” or brotherhood bond. There’s nothing they would not risk – life, family, loyalty, honor- for the sake of kyodai. If you must know that since Samurais live by a certain code of honor, this story is a tearjerker.



5. 47 Ronin

47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves is another Hollywood take of a true samurai story. I’d say if I was reborn in another life, I would definitely be a samurai. I don’t care if I will still be a woman in that next life. This story inspired me so much! That even in the face of utter rejection, one can turn things around and that honor will be given to those honor is due. It also helps that Keanu, one of the very few american actors I totally admire hitched the role. Though I will never understand why the movie flopped and got so many bad reviews because for me, it was amazing with the visuals and all. This wasn’t exactly a happy ending and it doesn’t matter.



4. Bushi no Kondate- “A Tale of Samurai Cooking”

Japanese: 武士の献立 which literally means “A Warrior’s Menu”. This is not an action movie though but it tells the tale of a samurai chef. As you know there are many factions where a samurai can serve. One in particular is in the kitchen where they cook and prepare the food for their intended master/shogunate to ensure safety in the food intake. This is a love story with no fireworks in between which is exactly why I was moved by the subtle yet moving partnership of both leads.


3. Love and Honor – Bushi no Ichibun

Japanese: 武士の一分 Bushi no Ichibun, literally “Warrior’s Honor” is a story of a food-taster samurai who got blind fulfilling his duties. Set in the Edo Era period, he struggles how to live his life after the accident but his loyal and persistent wife proved the meaning of love and honor, hence the title. This was also the time I was introduced to the legendary Kimura Takuya who is apparently well-loved in Japan. A complete package of a matinee idol and a talented actor.


2. Zatoichi- The Blind Swordsman

座頭市 Zatōichi released in english as The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi is an outlaw, middle-aged average guy with unrelenting sword skills that he can’t deny. His adventures took him to many challenging situations. It is a bit gore and bloody for me considering that this is the first samurai movie I had watched. It won the prestigious Silver Lion for Best Director award in Venice Film Festival last 2003. I applaud the storyline that made me fall inlove with the stoic told-tale way of japanese cinematography. Thus began the saga of my love for japanese movies.


a beginners guide to must watch samurai movies

  1. Rurouni Kenshin- Samurai X

Japanese: るろうに剣心 “Wanderer Kenshin”  with english title “Samurai X”  is a live-action adaptation of the manga/anime of the same name. I have no qualms when I say that everybody, and I mean everybody loved, pined and anticipated the works of Takeru Satoh who portrayed the lead role. Let me also firstly point out that the detailed anime-version is also a must-bingewatch series. I think the creators of this movie did not want to upset the huge fandom of the anime that’s why they divided the  story into three parts which in hindsight seemed like a trilogy: Rurouni Kenshin: Origins (renamed for the re-release), Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends.  Can I just say that the fight scenes where superb and orgasmic? It’s the story of a wanderer named Himura Kenshin in the Meiji Era, formerly known as the assassin Hitokiri Battōsai. His quest for peace and redemption from the past is tale I would like to go back in time to. Otaku alert: I lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched the three movies over and over again as if I’m watching it for the first time! I will never get tired of it. Take~chan saiko desu ne^^

Note: Photo credits to the owner. All pictures are taken from Pinterest (c).


I also would like to share that you can see some real pictures of Samurai Warriors on this mashable article. Seeing those photos enchanted my heart so much that I put it in my bucket list to see them in actual when I go back to Japan. I would have my heart rendered and captivated by these deadly medieval warriors of ancient times. They say when you see the Monalisa Painting, you would stand in awe of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece. But I say nay. I had already found the masterpiece of my life and this is it. No wonder they make a lot of movies about them.



Question: What is the difference between a Samurai and a Ninja?

Answer: (got one from Quora)

One of the major differences between the samurai and the ninja is who they exactly are. Samurai were warriors that belonged to the noble classes of ancient Japanese society. On the other hand, ninjas were often mercenaries, spies, and assassins, and would often belong to the lower classes of ancient Japanese society. This is the reason for the second difference between the samurai and the ninja.
Because of the fact that they are part of nobility, samurai warriors are often depicted wearing full clad kimono or full body suits of armor (these suits were made of metal plates tied together with leather or silk straps, and covered their legs, their arms, and their torso). Ninjas are often clothed in relatively tighter clothing and tend to be fully clothed, with only their eyes showing.
Ninja outfits are often plain black in color. Another major difference between the samurai and the ninja is the manner on how they fight.
Samurai are guided by an ancient code of ethics which is called the bushido. That being the case, they make sure that they stick to certain rules even while they are in combat. In contrast, ninjas do not follow any code of ethics when they fight, so their fighting style is considered to be unorthodox.
In fact, the way ninjas fight is the complete opposite of samurai. For instance, samurai find it more honorable to fight face to face.
Ninjas specialize in ambush, espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination.
This is why ninjas use a variety of different weapons that samurai do not use such as the ninja stars (shuriken), chain and sickle (kusarigama), caltrops (makibishi), blowguns (fukiya), metsubushi (a small eggshell filled with blinding powder), it is also used to facilitate escape.



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