With Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima launching soon, here’s a list of five samurai films you should watch before the game releases.
As the current console generation wraps up, one of the most anticipated games to release is Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima. Set in 13th century Japan, you play as Jin, a samurai who’s torn between his honor and deviating from samurai tradition. Like Sucker Punch’s other titles, Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world experience where we can roam around the island of Tsushima.
However, Ghost of Tsushima also features some striking inspiration from classic samurai films, and even has the option to play the game entirely in black-and-white for a more cinematic feel. As we get closer to its release, here are some samurai movies to watch in the meantime to get you in the mood for the experience of Ghost of Tsushima.
There can’t be a list of samurai movies without mentioning director Akira Kurosawa. He’s one of the most influential film directors in history, having directed over 30 films. Among those films is 1954’s Seven Samurai, which follows a samurai who accepts a village’s request for protection. From there, he seeks out six additional samurai to help teach the villagers how to defend themselves. Clocking in at almost four hours, Seven Samurai flies by and feels both epic in scale and intimate at times. It features iconic battle scenes and presents the cost of how violence can affect a community. The film has gone on to influence future filmmakers and action films as a whole, and is by far one of the most iconic and important samurai films ever made.
Seven Samurai is available to stream on HBO Max, The Criterion Channel, and VOD rental.
Next up is 1962’s Harakiri, directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The film follows a samurai who requests a harakiri, which is the Japanese term for a ritual suicide by disembowelment. After finding out that another samurai committed harakiri at the same feudal lord’s palace, we learn about how both samurai are intertwined with each other. Harakiri features great fight scenes while also questioning Japanese values like honor and tradition. Some may find the pacing of the film slow, but it helps create an atmosphere that’s both complex and interesting.
Harakiri is available to stream on The Criterion Channel and VOD rental.
Three Outlaw Samurai
1964’s Three Outlaw Samurai was the directorial debut for Hideo Gosha. It follows a samurai and two renegades that fight for two peasants that kidnap the daughter of a magistrate. Like the other samurai movies in this list, the black-and-white picture and cinematography are amazing to look at. Additionally, it deals with traditional samurai themes such as loyalty and honor, all while having amazing fight scenes. While the plot is simplistic, Gosha pulls it off well and offers a memorable samurai film everyone should check out.
Three Outlaw Samurai is available to stream on The Criterion Channel and VOD rental.
Of the five movies listed, 2010’s 13 Assassins is the most recent one. This version is a remake of 1963’s film of the same name which was directed by Eiichi Kudo. It follows a group of 13 unemployed samurai as they’re brought together to bring down an evil lord. The film presents a sinister villain that does unspeakable things, from killing children to torturing people. The fight scenes in 13 Assassins are amazing and the tension ramps up as the group searches for the evil lord.
13 Assassins is available to stream on Hulu and VOD rental.
The Sword of Doom
For the last samurai movie on the list, let’s talk about 1966’s The Sword of Doom, directed by Kihachi Okamoto. The film follows a samurai that has no moral code, kills without regretting it, and starts descending into madness. It offers a unique perspective in that we see a samurai who’s seen as the bad guy and loves to cause chaos. Additionally, we see the viewpoints of groups that want to take the rogue samurai down. Like every samurai movie on the list, the action scenes are a sight to behold and they’re gory to watch at times. As a whole, The Sword of Doom is one of many great samurai films that deserve to be watched, examined, and are a great introduction to what Japanese cinema can offer.
The Sword of Doom is available to stream on The Criterion Channel and on VOD rental.
What other samurai films would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.
Ghost of Tsushima launches on July 17, exclusively on the PlayStation 4. If you want to check out more gameplay, you can watch PlayStation’s State of Play dedicated to the game.