10 Samurai Movies That Are Highly Rewatchable
Here are some lesser-known gems that you'll want to keep rewatching.
1. Sword of Desperation (2010)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 61%
A trusted samurai named Kanemi Sanzawmon, out of the blue, kills one of the most notorious ladies in the court. But why? Soon, he's imprisoned for a year, and upon his release, he gets welcomed back as a chief warrior? Yep, it's as twisty as it sounds. The story provides insights into the cunning world of court politics, love, and strategic planning, all while Kanemi tries to protect his lord from an intricate conspiracy.
2. The Twilight Samurai (2002)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%
Meet Seibei Iguchi, a low-ranking samurai. By day, he's a bureaucrat with financial struggles, and by night, he's a devoted father to two daughters. But when he's dragged into a conflict involving his childhood love and her abusive ex, Seibei's calm life takes a wild turn. The challenges he faces, both as a father and a samurai, will keep you hooked right till the very end.
3. The Hidden Blade (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Set in the 1860s, during the last years of the samurai era, this film introduces us to Munezo, a samurai facing the modernization of Japan. While battling the complexities of the changing times, he also has to save his friend, who's involved in a political conspiracy.
Torn between duty and friendship, the story lays out Munezo's struggles, love interests, and the looming danger of the newly-introduced firearms.
4. When the Last Sword is Drawn (2003)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Yoshimura is a samurai torn between two allegiances: his impoverished family and the Shinsengumi, a militia group. Now, you might ask, "Why join the notorious Shinsengumi if he's such a good guy?" Well, Yoshimura's dedication to ensuring his family's survival paints a picture of sacrifice, duty, and morality.
Through the eyes of a fellow samurai, Saito, we get a glimpse of Yoshimura's journey, his battles, and the challenges he faces amidst the turmoil of the fading samurai era.
5. Samurai Rebellion (1967)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Isaburo Sasahara, one of the best swordsmen of his clan, leads a quiet life. However, things get heated when his clan lords force his son's wife into an unwanted marriage. What starts as a family drama soon escalates into a full-blown revolt against the corrupt lords.
Isaburo, along with his son, stands up against the clan, leading to some intense sword-fighting sequences and a glimpse into the samurai code of honor.
6. Love and Honor (2006)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Shinnojo is a lower-ranking samurai working as a food taster for a feudal lord. Life seems predictable until he consumes some poisoned shellfish. The subsequent blindness throws him into despair, thinking he's become a burden to his wife, Kayo. To secure his livelihood, Kayo makes a heart-wrenching sacrifice, leading to challenges, jealousy, and an intense showdown.
7. 13 Assassins (2010)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Set in the late Edo period, the story starts with a cruel young lord causing chaos. Sir, who do you think you are? With the risk of the entire region plunging into turmoil, a senior official hires 13 samurai to assassinate this rogue lord. Preparing for an epic battle against the lord's 200-strong army, these 13 warriors use wits, strategy, and, of course, sharp swords.
The final battle sequence? Mind-blowing.
8. After the Rain (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Based on the last script written by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, this film's got some solid pedigree behind it. Ihei Misawa, a masterless samurai, gets stranded in a small inn during a heavy rainstorm. While waiting it out, he diffuses local tensions by offering his sword skills in exchange for food and lodging.
But it's not just about his swordplay; it's about his infectious optimism and the relationships he builds with the inn's residents.
9. The Sword of Doom (1966)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Darker in tone, this film follows Ryunosuke Tsukue, a ruthless wandering samurai. His life spirals out of control due to his evil deeds and a menacing demeanor. After taking a life during a rigged duel, the consequences haunt him in the form of vengeful family members and past sins.
There's something almost hypnotic about the slow descent into madness and the intricate sword fights in this film.
10. The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Zatoichi is the iconic blind masseur and gambler who also happens to be a deadly swordsman. This film kicks off the legendary series that captures Zatoichi's adventures as he rights wrongs and faces off against gangs and samurai. Even without sight, his hearing and sword skills are unparalleled.
Though the story starts with him seeking a peaceful life, trouble has a way of finding him, leading to tense face-offs and thrilling battles.