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.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend EndsTatsuya Fujiwara, Yōsuke Eguchi
Directed by: Keishi OhtomoRurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (aka Rurouni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen) is a 2014 Japanese jidaigeki action film directed by Keishi Ōtomo, based on the manga series, and the second of four... more
Directed by: Akira KurosawaSeven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese Jidaigeki adventure film co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. It follows the story of a village of farmers that hire seven ronin to combat bandits who... more
Directed by: Takashi Miike13 Assassins is a 2010 Japanese samurai film directed by Takashi Miike and is a remake of the1963 Eiichi Kudo film. Toward the end of the Edo period, A group of thirteen assassins—comprising twelve... more
Directed by: Kinji FukasakuBattle Royale is a 2000 Japanese action thriller film adapted from the 1999 novel of the same name by Koushun Takami. It is the final film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, the screenplay written by his... more
Directed by: Akira KurosawaYojimbo 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
Directed by: Akira KurosawaRashomon is a 1950 Japanese period drama film directed by Akira Kurosawa, working in close collaboration with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. It stars Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori and... more
Directed by: Akira KurosawaSanjuro 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
Directed by: Akira KurosawaRan is a 1985 Japanese-French jidaigeki epic film directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. The film stars Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging Sengoku-era warlord who decides to abdicate... more
KingdomKento Yamazaki, Ryô Yoshizawa
Directed by: Shinsuke Sato
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa, Ishirō HondaKagemusha is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa. In Japanese, kagemusha is a term used to denote a political decoy. It is set in the Sengoku period of Japanese history and tells the story of who is taught... more
Directed by: Takashi MiikeThis film is a 2001 Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike, written by Sakichi Sato, and based on Hideo Yamamoto's manga series of the same name. It portrays a story of feuding yakuza gangs... more
Directed by: Kenji MizoguchiUgetsu or Ugetsu Monogatari is a 1953 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and based on stories in Ueda Akinari's book of the same name. It is a ghost story and an example of the... more
Directed by: Akira KurosawaThrone 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.... more
Directed by: Yoji YamadaThe Twilight Samurai or Tasogare Seibei is a 2002 Japanese film directed by Yoji Yamada. Set in mid-19th century Japan, a few years before the Meiji Restoration, it follows the life of Seibei Iguchi,... more
Directed by: Akira KurosawaRed Beard is a 1965 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa about the relationship between a town doctor and his new trainee. The film was based on Shūgorō Yamamoto's short story collection, Akahige... more
- The Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira?) franchise is a series of multi-media featuring the monster Godzilla, owned by Toho. It is recognized by Guinness World Records to be the longest... more
Directed by: Akira KurosawaStray Dog is a 1949 Japanese police procedural film noir directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. The film is considered a precursor to the contemporary police... more
Why Don't You Play in Hell?Fumi Nikaido, Tak Sakaguchi
Directed by: Sion SonoWhy Don't You Play in Hell? is a 2013 Japanese film directed by Sion Sono. The film is an action film based on a 15-year old screen play written by Sono, and has been described by him as having... more
Directed by: Toshiya FujitaLady 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
Directed by: Ryuhei KitamuraAzumi is a manga series created by Yū Koyama in 1994. Its story concerns the title character, a young woman brought up as part of a team of assassins, charged with killing the warlords that threaten... more
Directed by: Shusuke KanekoAzumi 2: Death or Love is a Japanese jidaigeki film written Mataichiro Yamamoto and Yoshiaki Kawajiri, directed by Shusuke Kaneko, and starring Aya Ueto, Yuma Ishigaki, Chiaki Kuriyama and Shun... more
Samurai FictionTomoyasu Hotei, Taketoshi Naitô
Directed by: Hiroyuki NakanoSamurai Fiction is a 1998 comedy-samurai film directed by Hiroyuki Nakano. It is almost entirely black-and-white, and follows a fairly standard plotline for a comedy and jidaigeki samurai film, but... more
Directed by: Kinji FukasakuSamurai Reincarnation is a 1981 film starring Sonny Chiba and directed by Kinji Fukasaku. The film was based on the novel Makai Tensho. The film was nominated for three 'Awards of the Japanese... more
Directed by: Shunya ItōFemale Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 is the second in the Female Convict Scorpion series. The star and director of the first film in the series, Female Convict 701: Scorpion, returned for this... more
Directed by: Shunya ItōFemale Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable is a film made by Toei Company in 1973. It is the third in the Female Convict Scorpion series of films, following Female Convict 701: Scorpion and Female Convict... more