In the last centuries of Japan’s classical era, a social class called The Samurai came to the fore. Many of them were professional soldiers who made money fighting for the country. Hollywood has immortalized the Samurai, leading them to become a cultural representation of heroic values and aestheticism. It has spawned quite a few unforgettable films too. Here are some of them.
When Ran was released, its budget exceeding $12 million made it the most expensive Japanese film in history. Ran’s plot centers on Emperor Hidetora Ichimonji, who finds he cannot rely on his sons’ loyalty. Thousands of armor sets and uniforms were handmade by master tailors for the film. A real castle on Mount Fuji was built especially for it, and was intentionally burned down in the last scene!
The Last Samurai (2013)
Few people have missed this one, and the number of those who haven’t even heard of it is negligible. Most of the actors were American, and most of the filming was done in cool, distant New Zealand. The Last Samurai’s unique plot setting made it possible to showcase traditional Japanese values in a novel new context. The film revealed the struggle between traditional and modern Japanese culture instead of enforcing the samurai paradigm. The protagonist has some tough choices to make against the backdrop of themes like loyalty, friendship, nationality, and love.
The compelling Harakiri, which means the final and most difficult decision a samurai must make in his life, tells the story of a samurai who must face a series of challenges after losing his respected social status. He makes valiant efforts to reintegrate himself into society and reconcile the present reality with his heroic past. The film delivers a message that is as old as time itself, delving into the conflict between epochs and generations, illuminating the gloomy side of Japanese feudal control.
Throne of Blood, 1957
This is a masterful adaptation of Macbeth by Akira Kurosawa, a famed Japanese film director. The movie tells the story of Lady Asaji Washizu, Lady Macbeth’s Japanese counterpart, who will stop at nothing to climb to the pinnacles of society. Her tool is General Taketoki Washizu (Toshirô Mifune), her hapless husband. The movie presents the samurai’s way of life at the peak of power, portraying colossal armies, sprawling castles, and political machinations worthy of Machiavelli himself.
Thank you for reading our list and enjoy all the samurai movies you can this year!