Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.
Ninja culture (shinobi) is as fascinating as it is mysterious. These ancient warriors could wield any weapon and martial arts, easily hid in the shadows, appeared suddenly and killed in one move. But shinobi are not only about physical skills. It is also a special philosophy, an unusual attitude towards life. Ninja culture is built on the teachings of Zen Buddhism and Hsien Taoism. Therefore, the warriors were both physically and spiritually strong.
And watching the actions of a professional ninja is a pleasure. True, in most cases it is very short-lived and unsafe – if a warrior appeared next to you, only a few seconds will remain to admire his talents. Therefore, if you want to enjoy the philosophy and skill of the ninja, it is better to watch films about them.
For fans of Japanese culture and honed fighting skills, we've compiled a list of the top 10 ninja movies. The data from Kinopoisk were used, and the list of countries was not limited to the United States.
- Rating of the best ninja movies
- 10th place: 'Revenge of the Ninja' (1983)
- 9th place: 'American Ninja' (American Ninja, 1985)
- 8th place: 'Ninja of the Five Elements' (Ren Zhe Wu Di, 1982)
- 7th place: 'Ninja Assassin' (Ninja Assassin, 2009)
- 6th place: 'Goemon' (Goemon, 2009)
- 5th place: 'Bishunmo – a flying warrior' (Bicheonmu, 2000)
- 4th place: 'Shinobi' (Shinobi, 2005)
- 3rd place: 'Hong Gil-dong' (1986)
- 2nd place: 'Ninja in the Lair of the Dragon' (Long Zhi Ren Zhe, 1982)
- 1st place: 'Shaolin summons the ninja' (Zhong Fa Zhang Fu, 1978)
- Bonus: 'Ninja from Beverly Hills' (Beverly Hills Ninja, 1997)
Rating of the best ninja movies
|Rating of the best ninja movies||10||'Revenge of the Ninja' (1983)||6.4 POINTS|
|9||'American Ninja' (1985)||6.5 POINTS|
|8||'Ninja of the Five Elements' (Ren Zhe Wu Di, 1982)||6.6 POINTS|
|7||'Ninja Assassin' (2009)||6.6 POINTS|
|6||'Goemon' (Goemon, 2009)||7.0 POINTS|
|5||'Bishunmo – Flying Warrior' (Bicheonmu, 2000)||7.0 POINTS|
|4||'Shinobi' (Shinobi, 2005)||7.1 POINTS|
|3||'Hong Gil-dong' (1986)||7.3 POINTS|
|2||'Ninja in the Dragon's Den' (Long Zhi Ren Zhe, 1982)||7.3 POINTS|
|1||'Shaolin Summons the Ninja' (Zhong Fa Zhang Fu, 1978)||7.6 POINTS|
|Bonus||'Ninja from Beverly Hills' (Beverly Hills Ninja, 1997)||6.3 POINTS|
10th place: 'Revenge of the Ninja' (1983)
If you have excelled in the art of shinobi, and even such a tough master of stealth assassinations that you have the nickname Black Ninja, then retirement will not be so easy. Dark secrets will reach overseas.
The black ninja (in the world – just Cho) lived in Japan, secretly killing enemies, and then the opponents united and cut almost the entire family. And so the hero had to move overseas, to the United States, where he decided to retire and open a toy store in order to say goodbye to his past forever. But his partner turned out to be not too clean on his hand – he stuffed dolls with heroin and thus smuggled drugs.
This was the last straw, and Cho's patience overflowed. He returned to the art of shinobi – and therefore enemies better stay away.
“Revenge of the Ninja” is one of the first films about mysterious Japanese assassins to appear in Soviet space. And yet it already turns out to be almost a parody of the genre. The characters in this film do things that cannot even be described with seriousness and pathos. What is one episode in which Cho, using a shuko (gloves with claws), climbs the wall of a skyscraper. Nonetheless, Revenge of the Ninja has become one of those VHS-era movies that are now nostalgic and enjoyable to watch.
9th place: 'American Ninja' (American Ninja, 1985)
Cult action movie starring Michael Dudikoff. If we are to look at it, it must be translated by Volodarsky. The atmosphere of 1980s video salons is guaranteed! However, this film is interesting not only for nostalgia, but also for a very good approach to displaying the art of shinobi and ninjutsu. Although somewhat superficial.
The main character of the film is an exemplary American, whose name is even Joe Armstrong. He serves in the army, in the Philippine battalion, which is tasked with escorting a military convoy. And, of course, the soldiers are attacked – and not by ordinary opponents, but by real ninjas. And Joe Armstrong begins to confront them.
It is only during the battle that the American soldier begins to use ninjutsu techniques. This confuses and surprises his command. And Joe goes to investigate his own past, full of intrigue and conspiracy, to find out – where the American ninja skills come from.
Despite the simple and straightforward scenario – even if you haven't watched the film, you already understood from the previous two paragraphs what happened to Joe Armstrong – the picture is surprisingly high quality. First of all, it is worth noting the setting of battles. They are made in a dynamic, exciting and intense way, showing that fighting is not only an attempt to knock the spirit out of each other, but also a real art.
8th place: 'Ninja of the Five Elements' (Ren Zhe Wu Di, 1982)
The Hong Kong ninja action films of the 1980s are like a separate art movement. Simultaneously naive and cruel, they may well bear the title of 'trash' as a type of cinema. You need to watch such films, completely relaxing, 'turning off your brain' and just enjoying the action on the screen.
And Ninja of the Five Elements is an example of just such a movie. When you watch the trailer, it seems like it's a comedy. A small budget and shooting open spaces in a room that does not greatly exceed the size of a pantry literally climb into the eyes. But what tricks are there!
The plot of the film is also not replete with existential metaphors and acute social commentaries. There were two warring clans in China. And so they decided to finally figure out which of them deserves to rule the country. True, for this they did not organize a battle, but a kung fu tournament.
One of the clans at the tournament was crushed to smithereens. And his leader felt hurt! He turned to the Japanese Ninja of the Five Elements for help, who, in fact, perfectly mastered not only the art of shinobi, but also the handling of the five Chinese elements. This, by the way, is water, fire, earth, wood and gold. Why are ninjas Japanese and the elements Chinese? What's the difference! Look better at the golden ninja with blinding shields.
These Japanese-Chinese fighters came to the victorious clan and slaughtered everyone there. There's only one guy left. And he goes to study the art of ninjutsu, then to return and also slaughter everyone as revenge …
7th place: 'Ninja Assassin' (Ninja Assassin, 2009)
Despite the rather silly (especially for English-speaking viewers) title, 'Ninja Assassin' boasts a very interesting staging of battles and generally good 'visuals'. For this, we should thank the Wachowski brothers, who acted as producers. They generally have a good taste for action and camera work.
But the plot is lame on all legs. The film tells about Reizo – one of the most dangerous ninja in the world. Not a single enemy left him alive. And Reizo acquired such professional and lethal skills in the Ozunu clan – a top-secret organization surrounded by myths and mysteries. The ninja got there as a child, and from the very youngest nails he was taught to mercilessly deal with any opponents.
Reizo also had a friend. But not for long. Reizo's friend was killed by other members of the Ozunu clan – and therefore the ninja became angry with his former teachers. And he went to do the usual thing for the heroes of such films – to take revenge. Bloody and merciless, using secret weapons and ninjutsu techniques.
'Ninja Assassin' is characterized by an incredible level of brutality. Rivers of blood on the screen are only occasionally diluted with the steel sheen of hidden weapons. For kids, 'Ninja Assassin' is definitely not suitable.
6th place: 'Goemon' (Goemon, 2009)
The plot of 'Goemon' does not put the ninja first. Yes, they are present here – but on a par with samurai, armed peasants, snickering feudal lords and other elements of the Japanese world of the 16th century model.
The film is set in 1597 – 15 years after the beginning of the reign of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. This cunning and brutal politician, who at the same time unified Japan, has a very positive attitude towards the military. He clearly distinguished peasants and samurai, making the latter rich, and the unfortunate landowners even more beggars than usual.
As a result, the people began to grumble and even try to stage a coup. But what can peasants with hoes do against well-trained and even better equipped samurai? And the poor people would have lived in poverty if their rebellion had not been led by the great ninja Ishikawa Goemon. True, he also has a couple of skeletons in the closet.
Goemon is not only a fascinating but also a very beautiful film that beautifully portrays the Japan of those times – at first feudally divided, and then united, but because of this, life did not become better. The detailed approach to storytelling, good camera work and superb staging make it almost a masterpiece. Even the approach to cruelty is special here – beautiful, without liters of blood and tons of 'meat', as in the previous rating film.
At the same time, 'Goemon' is suitable for the viewer with any cultural background. The film is made according to the 'comic' structure, there are fights, and love, and large-scale battles, and duty with honor. This is not a 'purely Japanese' picture, both Russian and European viewers will enjoy it.
5th place: 'Bishunmo – a flying warrior' (Bicheonmu, 2000)
One of the most famous South Korean films, which gained popularity mainly due to its amazingly beautiful visuals. Long canvases of fabric, tall trunks of trees, sharp shining swords, corpses against the background of swirling leaves … 'Bishunmo – Flying Warrior' shows the beauty and aesthetics of battles for the honor of the people.
However, it is associated with the art of ninjutsu itself 'as far as'. Yes, there are typical carnage, hidden weapons and battles for duty, honor and love. But it's not really a shinobi movie.
In the center of the plot is the legend of Bishunmo, one of the ancient South Korean warriors. He was part of a clan whose members possessed truly supernatural powers. For example, they were not subject to gravity – warriors could fly, but not for long and not high. However, even this skill helped them lead incredibly beautiful, dynamic and impressive sword fights.
It's worth noting that the plot of Bishunmo Flying Warrior is slightly different from the stories told in other ninja films. It is primarily dedicated to love. And this romantic story is told against the backdrop of the struggle for the identity of the Korean people, which turns into a battle against the Mongol invaders.
4th place: 'Shinobi' (Shinobi, 2005)
The beginning of the 17th century. There are so many ninja in Japan that they form entire villages. And they actively dislike each other. But hostility is especially noticeable in the relations of the Koga and Iga clans – they have been fighting for more than a decade. And both sides dream of reconciliation, because how long can you cut each other?
And it seems that reconciliation will come soon. Gennosuke (Koga clan) and Oboro (Iga clan) are in love with each other. Their feelings are referred to as 'blessed' and 'divine' as they can bring peace to these blood-soaked lands.
It's just that Tokugawa, the first shogun of Japan, interferes in the relationship of lovers. He calls both clans to war. And the lovers find themselves on opposite sides of the barricades: Oboro wants to fight, and Gennosuke wants peace. And when they come face to face in the final battle, can they keep their love?
'Shinobi' is filmed for aesthetics. Everything here is subordinated to beauty – camera work, wardrobe, and composer … And even the plot is intentionally simplified – the characters become hypertrophied, the heroes have to go through internal conflicts, choosing between feeling, honor and duty, the story obeys a mythological story of love, not realism. But at the same time 'Shinobi' is good at showing the arts of ninjutsu, shinobi and ninja.
At the same time, it is worth remembering that Shinobi is closer to anime than to cinema.
3rd place: 'Hong Gil-dong' (1986)
The story of Hong Gil-dong is even more interesting than the plot. First, it was filmed in North Korea. Yes, the one that has now become a closed state with the victory of communism and the cult of personality. Secondly, this is the first oriental film that was officially released in Soviet distribution and shown in cinemas in the USSR with professional dubbing. So many readers may well remember how they went to see it in childhood. And finally, ninjas here act as villains, reflecting the political agenda of the DPRK.
The fact is that North Korea (aka DPRK) has always had tense relations with Japan. So why not make one of your most popular films ideological and propagandistic? Here, not only are Japanese ninjas presented as villains, but also medieval Korea itself, in which Hong Gil-dong is set, is presented as a country hungry for communism – with rigid social divisions and corrupt feudal power.
However, there is also a plot here, and it tells about Hong Gil-dong – a North Korean people's hero who alone, using only a sword and taekwondo, fights against various opponents. For example, with a ninja from Japan. Hong Gil-dong is noble, dexterous and handsome, and he jumps in trees and trains with weights. Japanese ninjas are cruel and insidious, they run along the walls, secretly attack. Despite its ideological background, Hong Gil-dong now looks like a good Soviet film.
2nd place: 'Ninja in the Lair of the Dragon' (Long Zhi Ren Zhe, 1982)
No, there is no Bruce Lee in this movie. Yes, there is an Asian here, surprisingly similar to him and even dressed in a characteristic bright yellow kimono. But his name is Hiroyuki Sanada.
The Hong Kong-Japanese 'Ninja in the Dragon's Lair' is one of the most prominent examples of the so-called 'kung fu films' of the early 1980s. Here, the main screen time is occupied by fights conducted using both martial arts and weapons characteristic of shinobi.
The plot tells the story of a young ninja nicknamed Black Shadow. He, unlike his craft colleagues, is not a member of any secret organization or mysterious clan. Black Shadow is by itself and deals with opponents solely for the sake of revenge – the guy is looking for the killer of his father. And in pursuit of answers and a criminal, he ends up in China.
And now, it would seem, the killer has been found! However, you still need to get to it. This insidious adversary is guarded by a young boy who is fluent in Chinese martial arts. And which is stronger – ninjutsu or kung fu?
The main advantage of the film is the excellent staging of the battles. Moreover, they are very conveniently 'scattered' over the screen time, and the last thirty minutes of the picture consist of an impressive action game filled with acrobatic stunts and practically dance steps. But these movements are death, not pleasure.
1st place: 'Shaolin summons the ninja' (Zhong Fa Zhang Fu, 1978)
Another Hong Kong ninja film that begins almost like a family melodrama. Once upon a time there was Ah-To, the son of a Chinese industrialist, who, on behalf of his father, married Kudo, the daughter of a Japanese entrepreneur. This marriage was supposed to cement the business relationship between the countries. But something went wrong.
Kudo begins to practice martial arts. Right on the husband. A-To, unable to bear it, shows her his kung fu. Offended and defeated, Kudo leaves for his native Japan, and then returns accompanied by seven masters of Asian martial arts, led by the great ninja. And A-To has to show that he is also not a bastard, the head of the family and, in general, the owner of the house.
And no, this is not a comedy. It's a tense, dramatic action game that features superb action shots. And there are a lot of them here! Some even clash between classical Chinese and Japanese martial arts – for example, the duel 'triple flail against nunchaku and tonfa'.
Interestingly, the film does not portray either side as absolute good or evil. The Japanese, although cunning ninjas, simply have their own code of honor. Even Kudo, who dragged martial artists to 'tame' her husband, worries about this very husband – no matter how he accidentally died there. The Chinese also strive to protect honor, and not just are angels (as is often the case in a movie made in China). In general, the story is local, but interesting and ambiguous. Just about the clash of different cultures, generously seasoned with well-staged battles.
Yasuaki Kurata also plays here.
If you are wondering how the title relates to the plot, leave this bad job. The second title of the film is 'Heroes of the East'. Hong Kongers just love to call films as snobbish as possible.
Bonus: 'Ninja from Beverly Hills' (Beverly Hills Ninja, 1997)
Ninja movies don't have to be incredibly serious, pretentious, about duty, honor, love, and other bombastic nouns. Comedies are also found among them! For example, the American 'Ninja from Beverly Hills'.
One day a great ninja warrior found an abandoned baby in the forest. Picked him up and started training him, trying to raise his successor. But, despite all the hardships and hardships, the child turned into a fat blockhead. True, the size does not matter, so an important mission was charged on him – to rescue the kidnapped Hollywood beauty from captivity. And so the hero goes to Beverly Hills, where he already encounters real kung fu masters.
An interesting feature of the film is its respect for the culture of ninjutsu and shinobi. That is, the main character may be a lumpy who attracts failures, but first of all he is a ninja. Fighting scenes in the film are set competently, there is no blood and streams of severed limbs, but there is tension. All in all, this is a picture for family viewing, evoking nostalgia for the days when comedies were funny, not postironic, transgressive and metaphorical.
Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.