I was reliving my childhood the other night.
Movie SYNOPSIS Below
I was navigating through Amazon looking for ninja movies to buy. After my initial search for “Revenge of the Ninja” I spent at least an hour clicking on the suggested searches and after every movie it reminded me of another movie I used to love that I hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. After asking my wife lying next to me how much money I’m allowed to spend I had an idea for crafting this article.
I wanted to share the top ninja movies that I loved growing up that influenced the dawn of my Martial Arts journey. Feeling this would make a good discussion on Sushi Fitness and help offer reviews for those who might be looking for ninja movies to buy. Also, this might bring attention to some movies that I love that others haven’t seen or heard of.
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I’ll start my suggestion of top ninja movies with the same movie that initiated my search in the first place.
Starring the great Sho Kosugi is a great lead to let you know you’re about to watch a classic ninja movie. The film begins in Japan and leads off with a standard paragon of Martial Arts movie exposition.
Sho Kosugi’s character arrives home to find his entire family killed by an army of ninjas. As badass as he is he of course exacts immediate revenge by killing all the ninjas who attacked his family.
Of course now he is going to vow to never be a ninja again and moves to the U.S. Taking with him his son and mother who were somehow able to survive the ninja attack. If this was all the action we got it wouldn’t make much of a ninja movie. We need to wait and see what or who is going to piss him off enough to return to his life as a ninja.
Bring on Sho Kosugi’s american business partner Braden who is using an Asian art gallery that they run together as a front for his heroine smuggling empire.
Braden is unable to strike a deal with a local mob boss and ends in a turf war. Being a badass ninja himself, Braden begins assassinating mob associates. Braden actually wears a platinum mask under his balaclava which looked insanely cool. This became my standard ninja fashion when I put on my ninja costume as a kid.
After Braden takes out the mob associates ninja style, the police are stunned and confused. Apparently, there isn’t too many ninja mass killings in Salt Lake City. So the police decide to bring in a local Martial Arts expert to help solve the case. The local expert happens to be friends with Cho Asaki (Sho Kosugi’s character) and asks Cho to aid in the case. Cho informs them that killings must of been perpetrated by a ninja but refuses to help or get involved.
Now that we are being teased with Cho being pulled into the action we finally get the trigger that we’ve been waiting for.
Cho arrives at his art gallery just in time to catch some thieves who are mob associates retaliating against Braden. They are robbing the gallery and foolish enough to attack Cho who responds in ninja style but was unable to stop the thieves from escaping. While all this is going on Braden arrives at the art gallery himself and in a moment of bad luck run’s into Cho’s mother and son. Braden attacks them but the son who had discovered heroine by accident earlier in the film, was able to escape.
In a failed attempt of hypnotism by Braden on Cho’s love interest in the movie, Cho is now aware of what Braden is up to.
With his mother dead and his son in danger Cho comes to the conclusion that it’s time to return to kicking ass as a ninja. The film concludes with Braden going after what’s left of his mob rivals. Cho finds him at the mob’s headquarters to settle the score. Concluding with a spectacular ninja battle to the death on top of a skyscraper in Salt Lake City.
Revenge of the Ninja provides and epic ninja film watching experience with love, revenge, tragedy, drug smuggling, and is a must own in any Martial Arts movie library.
Michael Dudikoff plays the lead role as Joe Armstrong, a mysterious lone wolf Army private who is only in the military as an alternative to serving prison time. You are first introduced to Joe’s ability by him fighting off a group of ninjas who you learn was trying to kidnap the daughter of the Colonel who is commanding the forces Joe is serving with. Joe is able to thwart the kidnapping but the rest of his platoon is wiped out. Apparently being able to single handedly fight off a group of ninjas and save the Colonel’s daughter isn’t enough. He loses the respect from the rest of the soldiers and becomes a pariah of sort. If not being popular isn’t enough the ninja master now wants to seek revenge on Joe for taking out a group of his ninjas.
Being this is a ninja movie there is not a better way to to get your popularity back then showing how badass you are.
Joe is taunted into a fight by a character played by Steve James, named Curtis. Curtis a Martial Artist himself, gets Joe to fight him and in turn gets his ass handed to him in embarrassing fashion. At the climax, Joe even puts a bucket on his head to fight Curtis blind.
Boys being boys, Curtis and Joe now become good friends as Curtis had never seen someone who could fight so good.
At this point we delve deeper into Joe’s past.
We learn that he has amnesia and knows very little of his past or how he’s acquired his fighting skills. As the movie continues Patricia the Colonel’s daughter wants to take Joe out on a date. Maybe sneaking off the base with the commanding officer’s daughter isn’t the best idea you can make. However, it helps dive our character deeper into the plot.
By a chance meeting they are caught by a Sergeant who is at the same restaurant negotiating a black market arms deal. The Sergeant who wants to take Joe out because he is a witness has him deliver supplies to an abandoned warehouse. Joe is ambushed by ninjas from the same group he battled before.
We learn they are called the Black Star Order.
With some sweet ninja moves he is able to fight them off but has his truck stolen during the battle.
Joe manages to hide under the truck and is taken to the headquarters of the Black Star Order.
Now Joe is able to learn what is going on and that the ninjas are mercenaries. Hired by the black marketer who is selling stolen weapons from the Sergeant that Joe witnessed in the restaurant. Joe is spotted by the ninjas but is able to escape and return to the base only to be arrested by MPs on his arrival.
Wanting to make sure the job is done right this time the Black Star Master Ninja played by Tadashi Yamashita personally sets out to kill Joe himself. Joe who is locked in the stockade is able to thwart off death only after MP reinforcements arrive after the Black Star Master kills all the MPs guarding Joe. Joe is accused of murdering the MPs and at this moment the plot takes twist. We learn the Colonel himself is involved in the illegal arms smuggling along with the Sergeant. Believing that the Colonel is not a reliable partner the Black Star Master this time successfully kidnaps Patricia.
Joe is ready to unleash his full ninja arsenal and save patricia once again by infiltrating the Black Star headquarters and saving her.
At this point a mysterious Japanese man named Shinyuki reveals himself to Joe. We learn that Shinyuki raised Joe as his own son after his parents died, teaching him the ways of Ninjutsu. They were separated by a bomb blast and Shinyuki believed him to be dead. Shinyuki aids Joe in the conclusion of the movie giving you ninja battles, helicopters, explosions, backstabbing black arms dealers, and the rescue of Patricia.
The American Ninja franchise spawned several sequels which none I felt equaled the original.
Chuck Norris reportedly was offered the lead role of Joe but turned it down.
As much of a classic that American Ninja already is, you can only wonder the impact it would of had to have Chuck play the lead role.
Chuck Norris has been in countless Martial Arts movies. One of my favorites and I feel his best ninja movie we will talk about next.
Before the UFC entered our conscious with the reference of stepping into the “Octagon”, Chuck provided us a timeless Martial Arts classic. Not only on the list of my top ninja movies but this is one of my favorite martial arts movies of all time.
The film jumps right to the point with an opening scene at a terrorist training camp. You are introduced right away to the secrecy and ruthlessness of the group as the head instructor Katsumoto firmly warns the group of graduates. He informs them that they know all of their actions and will retaliate. Murdering them and their families if they interfere or do anything to expose their secret group.
The film’s introduction ends with the assassination of a politician by the group.
Now we meet our star Chuck Norris who is playing the role of a retired Karate champion named Scott. He is at a dance performance watching a young lady named Nancy. Scott is impressed with because of her ability to incorporate Martial Arts into her dance routine. He takes her out to dinner and then ends up going back to her house after dinner. Scott senses someone is there and they are soon attacked by a gang of Ninjas.
Because it is Chuck Norris he is able to fight off the group of Ninjas.
Nancy however was killed by the ninjas in the attack. The next day Scott goes to visit an old friend McCarn played by Lee Van Cleef to see if he knows about any ninja activities. McCarn, who is a mercenary tries to get Scott to join him but he declines.
After leaving Mccarns house Scott runs into a women named Justine who was having some car problems. After some manipulation and funny business with their keys they end up walking back to justine’s. Having to drive back to his car with Justine, Scott is chased by 2 cars but evades them. Justine thinks that one of the attackers was her bodyguard.
Since Chuck Norris is apparently only attracted to women that can lead to death he asks her out on a date.
Not long after this Scott learns that one of the cars belong to his friend McCarn. At dinner he confronts Justine about this who soon after tells him the truth about what is going on. Her father was murdered by terrorists and she has been on a crusade to exact revenge. She hired Mccann to help persuade Scott to work for her and kill an assassin named Seikura. Seikura is actually played by Tadashi Yamashita who was in our preceding review American Ninja.
Chuck Norris obviously doesn’t allow anyone to try and manipulate him and declines to help.
Soon we are given a flashback of Scott being much younger and learn that Seikura is actually Scott’s half brother. The scene shows Scott and Seikura running through an obstacle course. Scott wins by grabbing a sword at the end to claim his victory. Evidently a sore loser Seikura grabs the sword and declares that it is his. Scott’s adoptive father steps in and in a moment of great parenting, yells and disowns Seikura for his actions. He then informs Scott that Seikura is now his enemy for life.
The movie once again jumps back to the terrorist training camp and new graduating group of terrorist recruits.
Scott eventually comes to the realization that his buddy McCann is right. He tries to join the terrorist group as a new recruit. His hope is to be able to get close enough to Seikura to settle the score. Unfortunately his true identity is known and he has to fight his way out of the terrorist camp. Justine comes back into the story along with one of Scott’s friend A.J. who is also a Karate champion and is recruited by Justine to kill Seikura.
Both A.J. and Scott discover Seikura’s secret base and separately infiltrate in an attempt to kill Seikura. A.J. is captured and eventually killed by Seikura. In a suspenseful action filled ending Scott navigates treacherous corridors and battles ninjas throughout the compound. This leads to a final battle with Seikura. With a beautifully shot climax you see the silhouettes of Scott and Seikura ending their feud at sunrise outside of the compound.
In a role more similar to A Force Of One but not as out of character as Silent Rage, The Octagon is one of Chuck’s best flicks that is a must watch for any Martial Arts movie buff.
We circle back with Sho Kosugi and end with the third installment in the ninja trilogy. I left the original film Enter The Ninja off this list of my favorite ninja movies. Never was I the biggest fan of this one and I didn’t want to recommend it on this list. However, if you are going to watch the last 2 in the series I’m recommending you probably want to take the time to see the initial film.
Now, I personally feel that Revenge of the Ninja is the best installment in this series. This movie was the genesis of my search that led to writing this article. Ninja III however, carries a very strong cult following and is often considered to be the best movie in the trilogy.
Sho Kosugi plays more of a support role in the final installment as the movie centers around a character named Christie.
Ninja movies stretch the imagination in general and Ninja III is far from the exception as the movie’s premise is that Christie is possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja. Christie happens to be an aerobics instructor which lends to helping believe in her athletic ability when she is being controlled by the evil ninja. The evil ninja uses Christie as his instrument for revenge on the people who killed him.
Christie is often herself in the film but begins noticing that she is suffering from blackouts. She also has a sudden preoccupation with Japanese culture. It’s during these times of blackouts that Christie can’t remember that the evil ninja has taken control of her body. Using her to exact his revenge on those responsible for his death.
Christie ends up involved with a character named Billy. By happenstance Billy is one of the police officers who killed the evil ninja. With her odd quirks and blackouts that they can’t seem to understand Billy takes her to a Japanese exorcist. Successful in summoning the evil spirit but unable to help Christie. The exorcist informs her that only a ninja can destroy a ninja.
At this point we are introducing Sho Kosugi back into the series.
Sho Kosugi plays a character named Yamada who already has beef with the evil ninja we can now call Hanjuro. Of course Yamada can’t just chop Christie down and kill her. They’ll have to free her of the evil spirit inside of her first. They are successful and the evil ninja Hanjuro is forced out of Christie and back into his own lifeless body. This sets up the final battle in the ninja trilogy.
Yamada and Hanjuro clash in an epic ninja battle to end the series.
Another one I want to highlight as well if you’re shopping around is Rage of Honor.
This is another Sho Kosugi film, I enjoyed it yet not what I’d call one of my top ninja movies. I added it because it is a cult classic and many others do love it. Possibly you’ll love it more than I do.
Perhaps this article brought back some memories. Hopefully it brought attention to some movies that need to be seen in this genre. I narrowed it down to my favorite ninja movies to buy and have added to your collection.
Let me know how you feel about the films above, and tell me what your top ninja movies are?