DVD Release DateTop 11 Best Japanese Action Films to Watch In 2023

Top 11 Best Japanese Action Films to Watch In 2023

Top 11 Best Japanese Action Films to Watch In 2023

Japanese action movies have rocked the global film industry with their incredible impact and influence. If you’re a fan of Hollywood action blockbusters, chances are you’ve seen some borrowed elements from these Japanese gems. Prepare to be captivated by the thrilling samurai genre, featuring lone warriors embarking on epic quests to fulfill their destinies. Whether you’re planning a weekend movie night or seeking inspiration for your own film, brace yourself for a wild ride through the best of Japanese action movies.

Prepare to be blown away by the legendary Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Seven Samurai. This film is hailed as one of the greatest in Japanese cinema history, and its impact was so massive that it even inspired the popular western, The Magnificent Seven.

Hold on tight as Kurosawa takes you on another incredible adventure in Yojimbo. Follow the journey of a wandering samurai as he finds himself in a town ruled by ruthless gangsters. Fun fact: George Lucas drew inspiration from the main characters of this film for the early trials of C-3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Get ready for some serious cult status with Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale. This mind-blowing film showcases a group of Japanese school kids forced into a government-run program where they must battle it out on an isolated island. Even Quentin Tarantino himself declared it his favorite film of the 21st century. And you can definitely see some similarities to the popular Hunger Games franchise.

If you’re new to the world of Japanese cinema, this list is your ultimate starting point to dive headfirst into these brilliant action films. Get ready to be mesmerized by the unique storytelling and jaw-dropping cinematic brilliance that Japanese action movies have to offer.

1. The Tale of Zatoichi

The Tale of Zatoichi
The Tale of Zatoichi is a film that beautifully combines artistry and swordplay. It introduces us to the unforgettable character of Zatoichi, played by the incredibly talented Shintaro Katsu. Despite being blind, Zatoichi is a master swordsman, which may seem unlikely but makes for an intriguing story.

Released in 1962, this film has captivated audiences with its unique blend of action and heartfelt drama. Its impact is so significant that it has spawned over thirty sequels, establishing itself as a cornerstone of Japanese cinema. This enduring popularity is further reinforced by the numerous adaptations and international acclaim it has received.

The tale of Zatoichi is addictive and enthralling, drawing viewers into its world and keeping them hooked until the very end. It’s no wonder that this film has become such a beloved and iconic part of Japanese cinema history.

Released: 1962
Directed by: Kenji Misumi
Actors: Shintaro Katsu, Shigeru Amachi, Eijirô Yanagi

2. Brave Hearts: Umizaru

Brave Hearts: Umizaru
Immerse yourself in the thrilling world of coast guard rescue missions with Brave Hearts: Umizaru, directed by Eiichiro Hasumi. This captivating film follows the daring Senzaki, brilliantly brought to life by Hideaki Ito. Prepare to be taken on a rollercoaster of emotions as the movie seamlessly combines heart-wrenching storytelling with electrifying action sequences. Brace yourself for suspense and tension as you witness high-stakes rescue missions unfold. With its powerful narrative and empowering impact, Brave Hearts: Umizaru solidifies its place as a standout in Japanese action cinema.

Released: 2012
Directed by: Eiichiro Hasumi
Actors: Ai Kato, Riisa Naka, Tsuyoshi Ihara

3. Samurai Assassin

Samurai Assassin
Samurai Assassin is a film that takes you on a thrilling journey with its complex plot and stunning visuals. It revolves around the story of a samurai named Toshiro Mifune, brilliantly portrayed by the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai. The film is set in a time of political turmoil, where Toshiro embarks on a quest for revenge against an unknown attacker who dishonored his family.

What sets Samurai Assassin apart is its captivating action sequences and the meticulous attention to detail in recreating the historical setting. It is hailed as a true Japanese classic that has left a lasting impression on action enthusiasts everywhere.

Released: 1965
Directed by: Kihachi Okamoto
Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Hideyo Amamoto, Akihiko Hirata

4. Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai
Critics have hailed and viewers have deeply admired Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The film tells the story of seven courageous warriors who unite to protect a vulnerable village from a merciless gang of bandits. With an incredible cast led by the legendary Toshiro Mifune, this monumental movie delves into the raw emotions of sacrifice, honor, and friendship. Seven Samurai, a true gem of Japanese cinema, seamlessly blends captivating action with a compelling storyline, making it one of the greatest films in its genre.

Released: 1954
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Eijirō Tōno

5. Harakiri

Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri is a truly gripping and thought-provoking film that delves deep into the conflicts faced by Tatsuya Nakadai’s samurai protagonist, as he grapples with the hypocrisy of feudal Japan’s bushido code. This movie skillfully combines sharp social criticism with a captivating exploration of its characters, earning it numerous prestigious awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. Harakiri’s actions and message have cemented its status as a standalone masterpiece, leaving a profound impact on the genre of samurai films and the wider landscape of Japanese cinema.

Released: 1962
Directed by: Masaki Kobayashi
Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tetsurō Tamba, Akiji Kobayashi

6. Battle Royale

Battle Royale
Battle Royale is an incredibly thought-provoking and ahead-of-its-time film that takes us on a thrilling journey through the dark side of teenage rebellion. It presents a chilling vision of a dystopian future that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Director Kinji Fukasaku’s storytelling skills are matched by intense action sequences that will keep you biting your nails throughout the movie.

The film immerses us in a world where students are forced to fight each other to the death in a nationwide competition. One standout element is the outstanding performance by cult actor Takeshi Kitano, who adds a layer of brilliance to the film. The movie’s ability to both exhilarate and disturb is truly unmatched, making it a timeless classic that has influenced generations of cinema and beyond.

Released: 2000
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Actors: Beat Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama, Kou Shibasaki

7. Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island
In Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, the third and final film in the series directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, we witness the thrilling culmination of the story. Toshiro Mifune delivers a powerful performance as Musashi Miyamoto, who finally confronts his long-standing rival, Sasaki Kojiro. The intense combat scenes combined with the intricate psychological depth of each character create a captivating climax that effortlessly captivates the audience. This film is widely recognized as a remarkable conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy, securing its place in the history of Japanese action cinema.

Released: 1956
Directed by: Hiroshi Inagaki
Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Kōji Tsuruta, Kaoru Yachigusa

8. Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
In the midst of a whirlwind of action and introspection, Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple emerges as a captivating film. Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and featuring the renowned Toshiro Mifune, it takes us deeper into the legend of Musashi Miyamoto, a master swordsman, on his quest for self-mastery. With its thrilling combat sequences and well-developed characters, the movie firmly secures its place as a cherished part of the Miyamoto trilogy. Both audiences and critics hold Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple in high regard, recognizing it as a shining example of the timeless allure of Japanese action cinema.

Released: 1955
Directed by: Hiroshi Inagaki
Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Kōji Tsuruta, Mariko Okada

9. Cold Fish

Cold Fish

Released: 2010
Directed by: Sion Sono
Actors: Taro Suwa, Denden, Megumi Kagurazaka

10. The Sword of Doom

The Sword of Doom

Released: 1966
Directed by: Kihachi Okamoto
Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yūzō Kayama

11. Tokyo Gore Police

Tokyo Gore Police

Released: 2008
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Actors: Eihi Shiina, Tak Sakaguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura