50 Classic Samurai (Chambara, Jidaigeki) Films

50 Classic Chambara and Jidaigeki style samurai films. Of course there are countless more but this is a good place to start for anyone interested in this genre. I intend to do more films in groups of 50 in the future until someday I can compile most if not all of these amazing films.

- Stephen Clark
list ordered by
  • Yojimbo is a 1961 jidaigeki film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It tells the story of a rōnin, portrayed by Toshiro Mifune, who arrives in a small town where competing lords vie for supremacy. The ...more
  • Samurai Rebellion is a 1967 Japanese film directed by Masaki Kobayashi. Its original Japanese title is Jōi-uchi: Hairyō tsuma shimatsu, which translates approximately as "Rebellion: Result of the ...more
  • Sanjuro is a 1962 black-and-white Japanese samurai film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. It is a sequel to Kurosawa's 1961 Yojimbo. Originally an adaptation of the Shūgorō ...more
  • Fourth chapter in the great franchise and (in my opinion) the best film in the series. Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) is hired to kill a "tattooed woman" who is using her martial arts skills to seek revenge. In the meantime, the evil Yagyu clan is still trying to kill Ogami and his son. Director Misumi shows no signs of exhaustion, still delivering a complex movie in a very economical manner. I'm always amazed at how many plot twists the director is able to handle in a relatively short amount of time. The fight sequences get better and better, and the subplots are always very interesting. Kazuo Miyagawa's breathtaking color cinematography is again a big plus, and the work of editor Toshio Taniguchi is exemplary. I don't think I've had this much fun with another franchise. So far, Misumi's work has been consistently great. Bloody, stylish and very entertaining.

    Author: Hal 9000 from U.S
  • Kill!
    In this pitch-black action comedy by Kihachi Okamoto, a pair of down-on-their-luck swordsmen arrive in a dusty, windblown town, where they become involved in a local clan dispute. One, previously a farmer, longs to become a noble samurai. The other, a former samurai haunted by his past, prefers living anonymously with gangsters. But when both men discover the wrongdoings of the nefarious clan leader, they side with a band of rebels who are under siege at a remote mountain cabin. Based on the same source novel as Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, Kill! playfully tweaks samurai film convention, borrowing elements from established chanbara classics and seasoning them with a little Italian western.
  • Imagine your favorite action movie, then take out all the cheesy one-liners ("Asta la vista, baby!"), the irritating sidekick, the love interest, the techno-porn, and the off-handed moralistic ending. Then add a Commando-league body count, incredible swordplay, and great photography, and you've got Sword of Doom. This is a wrenching, visceral drama about an antagonist armed not with a stolen nuclear device, but with the best sword-fighting skills in Japan and a psychopath's indifference to human life. Unlike other more recent movies that try to portray the same raw, killing-machine kind of character, Sword of Doom does not resort to grimy photography or an adolescent delight in visual assault. Instead you get pure, distilled, ultra-kinetic fighting suffused with a thrilling coldness.

    Author: Alcibiade Del Mezzogiorno
  • The Betrayal is one of Tokuzo Tanaka's masterpieces during his time as one of Daiei films top directors. The film stars Raizo Ichikawa as a loyal member of his clan asked by his future wife's father to take the blame for a murder that the son of the chamberlain actually committed. He is told to go into hiding for one year, and at that time his fiancee's father will clear him of all charges. However during his exile the man dies, and the only other man who knows the truth lies because he wants his fiancee for himself. This leads to a manhunt for Raizo who decides he will fight to clear his name.
  • Gosha knocks it out of the park in this tale of an honorable samurai at odds with his former clan and their evil deeds. After a shipment of shogunate gold crashes on a beach near a village, the Sabai clan led by a brutal chamberlain (Tetsuro Tanba) hatch a plan to steal the gold and slaughter all the villagers, to eliminate witnesses. The chamberlains best friend and brother in law Magobei (Tasuya Nakadai) is outraged by such brutality and severs ties to his clan. Leaving behind his home and wife he becomes a Ronin doing sword demonstrations for money. One night assassins try to kill him, he learns that his former clan intends to repeat their murderous plans, and fearing his interference they order him killed. Finding help from a government spy (Kinnosuke Nakamora), and the sole survivor of the first massacre (Ruriko Asaoka) Magobei commits himself to stopping his former clan no matter what the cost.

    Stephen Clark
  • Three Outlaw Samurai is a 1964 Japanese chambara film by director Hideo Gosha. The film is an origin-story offshoot of the original Japanese television series of the same name. The film involves a ...more
  • Throne of Blood is a 1957 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama.
  • The third Baby Cart film is probably my favorite one. Ogami Itto dispatches of a group of ninja hidden in the treetops and is challenged to a duel by a more than capable ronin all in the first 10 minutes of the film. He refuses to fight the ronin saying "You are a great warrior and I wish to see you live on". At an inn Itto and Daigaro come to the aid of a women being pursued by the infamous Bohachimono. Itto offers to undergo the dreaded Buri Buri water torture in her place. Itto discovers their leader is the former chamberlain of a lord he executed as the shoguns executioner. The chamberlain asked Itto to kill the man responsible for the lords death and the destruction of his former clan. He travels to the town where his target is and all hell breaks loose. Great action throughout as Itto battles his targets bodyguards, as well as the still pursuing Yagyu Clan, and when all that's over the ronin from the beginning shows back up to finish their battle. The body count is massive.

    Stephen Clark
  • Lady Snowblood is a 1973 Japanese film directed by Toshiya Fujita and starring Meiko Kaji. It is based on a manga called Shurayukihime. It is the story of Yuki, a woman who seeks vengeance upon three ...more
  • Five swordsmen hire Ogami, each revealing a portion of his mission as they are defeated in this fifth entry in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. After defeating the swordsmen, Ogami discovers his mission is to save a clan's honor by killing its royal family. The senile lord of the clan has substituted his daughter (raised as a boy) to be the heir he never had. In addition to murdering the lord, his concubine, and the girl, Ogami must stop a document revealing the deception from reaching the hands of Lord Retsudo Yagyu. Daigoro is again separated from Ogami in a delicate sequence revealing much about the relationship between father and son, and finding young Daigoro learning to maintain honor in the face of injustice. After seeking out the lord and carrying out his mission in a final battle within the castle, father and son become closer than ever as they follow the road to their final battle. Graced with the finest photography of the series, along with excellent action set pieces, Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is noted as possibly the best (as well as the grimmest) of the series.
  • Machibuse is a 1970 Japanese drama film directed by Hiroshi Inagaki.
  • Kozure Okami:Sanzu no Kawa no Ubaguruma/Lone Wolf & Cub:Baby Cart at the River Styx(1972) is made up of a few episodes from graphic novel series. One part of story is loosely based on an episode called EIGHT GATES OF DECEIT. The sub plot involving the masters of death is inspired by THE FLUTE OF THE FALLEN TIGER. The part where Daigoro is used as bait to lure out Ogami Itto is based on another episode known as EXECUTIONER'S HILL. The bits and pieces from the different stories are sown together to form an exciting samurai flick.

    First few minutes produce a stunning sequence of action mis-en-scene. Baby Cart at the River Styx(1972) is the best of the six film series because of complex character development, interesting story, and outstanding action sequences. The Chimes heard by Ogami Itto and his son, Daigoro during early moments of film are a reminder for them of their painful past. Humorous moment occurs when an owner of a hotel inn takes in Itto and son(Lone Wolf gave him gold pieces to watch over) after thinking of not taking them in moments earlier. There is a brilliant 360 to 180 degree pan of the camera that features an effective tight close up to display expressions of intuition from faces of Ogami Itto and Daigoro.

    Places a little more focus into the code and demeanor of Ogami Itto than Part One. Ogami Itto as the Lone Wolf lives by Meifumado as a way towards restoring his family name while at the same time take revenge on the Yagyu clan. Ogami Itto kills without emotion yet a shed of humanity is somewhere within his soul. He is an action character of three dimensional depth that is rare for an action picture. Ogami Itto intriques me as a character of graphic novels and for this instance film because of his strong paternal presence.

    Author: Marquis De Cinema from Boston Mass
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is a 1972 film directed by Kenji Misumi, the first in a series of six. The film tells the story of Ogami Ittō, a wandering assassin for hire who is accompanied ...more
  • February 17 to March 3, 1860, inside Edo castle. A group of assassins wait by Sakurada Gate to kill the lord of the House of Ii, a powerful man in the Tokugawa government, which has ruled Japan for 300 years. They suspect a traitor in their midst, and their suspicions fall on Niiro, an impoverished ronin who dreams of samurai status, and Kurihara, an aristocratic samurai who befriends Niiro. Niiro longs to identify his father, knowing he is a high-ranking official who will disclose himself only if Niiro achieves samurai status. With American ships in Japan's harbors, cynicism among the assassins, and change in the air, Niiro resolves to reach ends that may prove ephemeral.
  • This early Hideo Gosha jidai-geki that was released by Criterion opens quite abruptly with a ronin named Gennosuke being hunted down for having killed his clan's counsellor. We're at 1857, on the brink of the Meiji reformation that saw Japan opening to the west after years of seclusion and the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The central plot revolves around the struggle between the old and new in a country on the verge of change. Although short in duration (clocking in at 85 minutes), the story never lets up with numerous twists and a fast pace. A series of events will find Gennosuke and a prospector he meets along the way searching for gold in a mountain, until they get caught up in another clan's schemes. Nothing is what it seems though, and therein lies the beauty of Sword of the Beast. As the story progresses both forwards and backwards (with glimpses in Gennosuke's past in the form of flashbacks), the characters' motives are fully fleshed out and this provides the extra dramatic oomph that pushes Sword of the Beast above "merely OK" territory. Behind all the swordfighting (and there's enough of it to be enjoyed here, certainly not Lone Wolf and Cub though), Gosha has a story to communicate.

    With beautiful natural exteriors photographed in stark black and white, confident directing from Gosha, very good swordfighting scenes from actors who know their trade and decent performances all around, Sword of the Beast should appeal to all jidai-geki fans. It's neither as monolithic and tragic as Masaki Kobayashi's work from the same time nor as lyrical as Kurosawa's, but it stands somewhere in the middle, stripped to the essentials with a focus on story and theme.

    Author: Chaos Rampant from Greece