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foreign films The Best Japanese Action Movies of All Time  

Ranker Film
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Japanese action movies have had an unprecedented amount of influence on movies the world over. When you sit down to watch the latest Hollywood action blockbuster, chances are decent you’ll be seeing something plundered from a Japanese action movie. The samurai film is probably the most popular type of Japanese action film, with stories of lone warriors on a quest to fulfill their destiny. This list of Japanese actions movies is a great place to find the best the island nation has to offer, whether it’s for a weekend movie night, or the inspiration for your next film.

Seven Samurai was directed by Akira Kurosawa, considered by some to be the greatest Japanese auteur of all time. The film was later remade into the popular western The Magnificent Seven.

Yojimbo, also by Kurosawa, is about a drifting samurai who winds up in a town run by gangsters. The two main characters of Yojimbo served as George Lucas’s inspiration for the plight of C-3PO and R2D2 at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope.

Battle Royale, directed by Kinji Fukasaku, is a cult classic about a group of Japanese school children that end up on an island and are forced to kill each other as part of a government run program. Quentin Tarantino declared the film his absolute favorite of the 21st century, and it's pretty much the exact plot of the popular Hunger Games franchise.

This Japanese action movies list is especially great for those unfamiliar with Japanese cinema, so use it as a starting point to discover these brilliant films. 

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends Emi Takei, Yū Aoi, Tatsuya Fujiwara

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Seven Samurai Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Eijirō Tōno

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13 Assassins Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kōji Yakusho, Goro Inagaki

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Ran Tatsuya Nakadai, Susumu Terajima, Jinpachi Nezu

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Battle Royale Beat Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama, Kou Shibasaki

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Yojimbo Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Tatsuya Nakadai

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Ichi the Killer Shinya Tsukamoto, Tadanobu Asano, Susumu Terajima

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Rashomon Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Machiko Kyō

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Kagemusha Tatsuya Nakadai, Kenichi Hagiwara, Kaori Momoi

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Zatoichi Shintaro Katsu

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The Hidden Fortress

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Samurai Reincarnation is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Japanese Action Movies of All Time
Samurai Reincarnation Sonny Chiba, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ken Ogata

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Azumi Aya Ueto, Shun Oguri, Joe Odagiri

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Woman in the Dunes

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The Streetfighter is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Japanese Action Movies of All Time

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Confessions

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Sanjuro Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Tatsuya Nakadai

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Tokyo Story Setsuko Hara, Chishū Ryū, Kyōko Kagawa

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Throne of Blood Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isuzu Yamada

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Harakiri

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Ikiru

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Departures

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Lady Snowblood is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Japanese Action Movies of All Time
Lady Snowblood Meiko Kaji, Kō Nishimura, Miyoko Akaza

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Tampopo

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Ugetsu Kinuyo Tanaka, Machiko Kyō, Eitarô Ozawa

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Sukeban Deka is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Japanese Action Movies of All Time
Sukeban Deka Yuki Saitō

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Samurai Fiction is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Japanese Action Movies of All Time
Samurai Fiction Tomoyasu Hotei, Taketoshi Naitô, Mari Natsuki

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Fireworks

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Nobody Knows

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Azumi 2: Death or Love Chiaki Kuriyama, Aya Ueto, Yoshio Harada

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The Twilight Samurai Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa, Tetsurō Tamba

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Kikujiro

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Stray Dog Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Awaji

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Dersu Uzala

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Red Beard Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Kinuyo Tanaka

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Dreams

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High and Low

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Dolls