What is it about ninjas that draws western viewers in? To be honest, we don’t need to guess the answer since they’re freaking’ fantastic. The ninja, or shinobi as they are sometimes called, is a Japanese martial arts organization that dates back to the 15th century. They remain shrouded in mystery to this day and are the subject of several mythologies. Originally, the organization was created to conduct a variety of clandestine operations including assassinations. They accepted any work that the samurai did not desire, fearful of tarnishing their reputation.
Their acrobatic moves in combat are breathtaking to witness, and their weapons add an additional layer of thrill and drama. Outside of Japan, films depicting ninjas frequently exaggerate the ninjas’ skills for dramatic effect. There are several films about ninjas, and this type of cinema has a considerable fanbase. If you love this genre of an action film, here are the best 30 ninja films of all time.
30. Mirai Ninja (1988)
The body and spirit of a man being kidnapped and used to construct a demon fortress. What remains is Cyber Ninja. He pairs up with the chi students, who wear similar red cyber-earmuffs.
They reload their swords, grab some neo-retro-cyber-antique weapons, and charge the demon robot disposable ninja squad. Each combat is decided by whatever side employs the most extravagant special effects. They eliminate the Tron-like hover droids, who are annihilated in their humiliation.
There is a confrontation with a white-armored man with dreadlocks, who is subsequently reborn as a result of the eclipse and a large amount of colorful lightning. The chi school fires a huge gun at the demon castle spider cyber robot after murdering the makeup-wearing effeminate spider person.
29. Samurai Spy (1965)
It is set between 1600 and 1614, between the Battle of Sekigahara and the Siege of Osaka. Years of conflict culminate in the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate, but the peace is jeopardized. It centers on Sarutobi Sasuke (Kji Takahashi), a Sanada Clan spies.
Sasuke, weary of war, yearns for peace. When a high-ranking spy called Tatewaki Koriyama defected from the shogun to a rival clan, Sasuke finds himself stuck between two competing spy groups: those working for the Tokugawa Shogunate and those backing the Toyotomi Clan.
Tokugawa Ieyasu’s clan was tactically dominant during the Battle of Sekigahara but had created widespread animosity among samurai who had converted to rnin following the Battle.
Sakon Takatani (Tetsur Tamba) and Tatewaki Koriyama (Eiji Okada) lead the Tokugawa spies, while Shigeyuki Koremura (Eitaro Ozawa) and his subordinate Takanosuke Nojiri (Kei Sat) lead the Toyotomi.
Sasuke is approached by another Toyotomi spy, Mitsuaki Inamura (Mutsuhiro Toura), who informs him that Tatewaki is a code word for betraying Tokugawa and joining the Toyotomi.
28. Ninja in the Dragon’s Den (1982)
This Hong Kong play pits a ninja and a Chinese martial artist against a powerful sorcerer. This is Cory Yuen’s debut feature picture as a director, and he delivers on the action since he is also the action choreographer.
He directed numerous Jet Li films and has appeared in several American films, most notably The Transporter. After their instructor is assassinated by a terrible adversary, a Japanese master of ninjutsu and a Chinese specialist in kung fu put their differences aside.
Conan Lee and Hiroyuki Sanada feature in the film. Lee established himself as a legitimate action star in Hong Kong, featuring in Tiger on the Beat and Gymkata. Sanada has a lengthy and distinguished career as a samurai and ninja, having starred in Twilight Samurai and 47 Ronin.
27. Challenge of the Lady Ninja (1982)
A lady spends seventeen years learning the ninja methods to return to China and revenge her father’s murder. When she arrives, she recruits a group of females and teaches them to be ninjas. You would think that after 17 years, the individuals responsible for her father’s murder would have been apprehended, but not.
There is insane action and wire-fu, as well as several training scenes in which she prepares to become a ninja and tortures and strains her new girlfriends. There is a lengthy training scenario in which she battles numerous ninja who surrounds her with flaming shields.
26. Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (2005)
After more than 400 years of conflict, Lord Hattori Hanzou orders that the Shinobi warriors of the Manjidani Koga and Tsubagakure Iga clans must live in peace. Both clans dwell secretly in the forests and mountains, avoiding conflict and training ninjas in the Shinobi shadow technique.
In 1614, the Lord of the Lords becomes concerned that the clans pose a threat to maintaining peace in his territories, and his adviser devises a Machiavellian scheme to eliminate their greatest warriors in a contest. Meanwhile, Iga Oboro and Koga Gennesuke fall in love.
When Oboro’s grandmother, Ogen, and Gennesuke’s father, Danjo, are assassinated, Oboro and Gannesuke are forced to lead their soldiers in the ultimate battle of the Shinobi clans.
25. Ninja, a Band of Assassins (1962)
This is one of the earliest depictions of the ninja. It follows a renegade ninja named Goemon Ishikawa as he battles a warlord who despises Buddhist practice. It is based on a popular novel series and would result in a total of eight films, all of which would feature Raizo Ichiwaka. This is just watching for lovers of Japan’s old-school samurai flicks from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Ishikawa Goemon (Ichikawa Raizo), a gifted young ninja, becomes entangled in a bizarre plot to kill Oda Nobunaga, a wicked warlord hell-bent on establishing an iron grip in feudal Japan. As Goemon crosses the countryside to fulfill his job, reclaim his reputation, and save his skin, deception, betrayal, and entire gangs of enemy ninja lie around every turn!
The narrative may be a little tough to follow at points, but a lot is going on in this picture, as is usually the case with these sorts of films.
24. American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)
Dudikoff returns as Army Ranger Joe Armstrong, tasked with investigating the disappearances of a handful of marines from a military facility in a Caribbean paradise, along with sidekick Curtis Jackson (Steve James, regrettably not the rapper best known as 50 Cent).
Naturally, the captured jarheads are indoctrinated and genetically modified to form an army of super-ninjas, which means Armstrong and Jackson must ninja their way through a whole base of brainwashed bad guys to blow up the entire enterprise.
23. Ninja Strikes Back (1982)
Wang is attempting to earn a living after completing a two-year jail sentence for involvement in organized crime. However, his old gang mates are on the lookout for him.
He is pursued through Paris and Rome and befriends inspector Pacino, who need his assistance in rescuing the ambassador’s kidnapped daughter and busting a woman trafficking ring operated by Wang’s old gang members.
When his fiancée Laura is assassinated on the beach by a sniper, he goes insane and tracks down his former buddy through Hongkong, only to battle him to the death at the colosseum in Rome.
22. Pray for Death (1985)
Akira Saito is a businessman from Japan who resides in Tokyo with his Japanese-American wife Aiko and their children Takeshi and Tomoya. When the family is offered the opportunity to relocate to the United States so that Aiko may educate the children about their American history, they pack their belongings and go to Houston, Texas, where they open a restaurant.
This is the point at which the problem begins. Unbeknownst to the Saito family, a gang of corrupt cops hides stolen items in the restaurant’s backroom, and a precious necklace (the Van Atta necklace) is sought by a local syndicate. When one of the corrupt officers decides to keep the necklace for himself, the syndicate targets the former owner of the restaurant and subsequently the Saito family.
Akira secretly saves one of the guys after he is taken by top thug Limehouse. Akira, on the other hand, has had enough after Aiko and Tomoya are run down by Limehouse in an attempt to obtain the necklace. Akira has held a terrible secret for years. Finally, Akira chooses to embrace his evil side.
21. Heroes of the East (1979)
Ho Tao (Gordon Liu) is a kung fu student in Shanghai in the 1930s. His affluent father has arranged for him to marry the daughter of a Japanese business colleague.
Ho Tao first protests and feigns illness, but quickly agrees to the marriage when he discovers that the bride-to-be, Yumiko Kda, had insulted her whole Japanese martial arts family by making an erroneous challenge to her.
Ho Tao regards her karate technique as harsh, unladylike, and maybe immodest, and attempts to get her to adopt feminine yet effective methods of Chinese kung fu. She subsequently returns to Japan after being upset during a debate about whether the nation had the best martial arts methods.
He must then demonstrate the true quality of Chinese Kung Fu in a series of duels against the seven Japanese martial artists who have come to meet the challenge.
20. The Hunted (1995)
Paul is a computer-chip executive from New York on a business trip to Nagoya when he meets a gorgeous and enigmatic woman. Later in the story, he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, unintentionally interfering with assassination by a notorious Ninja-cult.
As the only man alive who has seen the face of the cult’s warrior-leader, he quickly knows he is facing a significantly reduced life expectancy. He tries to live by teaming up with a nice samurai couple in a two-century-old blood feud with the Ninja.
Finally, while recuperating on an island stronghold, he teaches himself swordsmanship and perhaps a bit about courage, honor, love, and loyalty. The obligatory climactic encounter is filled with gory swordplay and breathtaking martial-arts action scenes.
19. Duel to the Death (1983)
As with so many previous ninja-themed films in the genre, the story centers on an annual international martial-arts competition that culminates in a ceremonial fight for national pride between China’s and Japan’s best swordsmen.
However, as the two major fighters battle their inner demons on their way to the tournament, other masters are being abducted by ninjas as part of a diabolical Japanese plot to acquire the secrets of Chinese kung-fu.
While the film is most recognized today for its revolutionary sword-fighting sequences, in which warriors “double leap” for aerial strikes by sweeping their swords beneath their feet and kicking off to stay airborne, back in the day, it was the new-school ninja action that generated buzz.
18. Revenge of the Ninja (1983)
Cho and his son Kane move to America to seek a fresh life after his family is assassinated in Japan by ninjas. He establishes a doll store and inadvertently imports heroin through the dolls. Cho must prepare for the ultimate war he has ever been a part of when he discovers his friend has betrayed him.
This is, in my opinion, the greatest of the Kosugi Cannon ninja flicks. It’s his son Kane Kosugi’s debut appearance, and he impresses with numerous terrific combat sequences. And then there’s the climactic rooftop combat scene between the two ninjas, which took around two weeks to shoot.
17. Ninja Fantasy
Ninja Fantasy (also known as Twinkle Ninja Fantasy and Empire of The Ninjas) is one of his more instantly recognizable and well-known works — notably because of a notorious scenario in which a blue-clad ninja confronts a swarm of red-suited assailants who sneak up on him and his lady companion on a deserted beach by morphing into fish.
Ho may have been a master cynic, a weird outsider-artist, or both, but his odd combat sequences have an undeniable intensity, and his trademark Skittles-colored ninja costume has impacted everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Mortal Kombat.
16. Ninja III: The Domination (1984)
A lady who possesses ESP and a passion for old Japanese culture is possessed by the ghost of an evil warrior. A seductive aerobics instructor’s body gets overrun by the malevolent soul of a dying ninja.
Initially, her behavioral changes are restricted to weird interactions with an arcade game, sexual activities with V8 juice, and attraction to an abnormally hairy police officer. However, she quickly becomes a ninja-style assassin of the officers responsible for the ninja’s death, and can only be stopped by another ninja!
15. Five Elements Ninjas (1982)
The “Venoms” had vanished. After five years and more than a dozen films together, the director’s only other original five cast member was the muscleman Lo Meng.
However, with that one “poison” and his extraordinarily nimble new star Cheng Tien-chi, he created this stunning, international classic. Evil ninjas (who attack with and from fire, sun, wood, water, and the ground) murder the pupils of a prestigious Chinese kung-fu school.
The sole survivor meets an instructor and four ninjitsu masters. The five grads exact their vengeance. Chang Cheh achieved platinum status with its powerful framework and excellent kung-fu choreography (from the lead and co-star Chu Ke).
This was one of the director’s most accomplished films during his superheroic, grand Guignol phase. By any term, it might almost literally be described as “bloody excellent” entertainment.
14. The Dagger of Kamui (1985)
The infant Jiro discovers his adopted family has been murdered and is falsely convicted of the crime. He flees the town of Sai and is apprehended by a monk named Tenkai.
Jiro is taken in by Tenkai and taught as a shinobi, but Tenkai is not who he appears to be. Tenkai formerly had a wayward shinobi, Tarouza, under his command, and he is assaulted and injured by Tenkai’s shinobi.
Tenkai informs Jiro that Tarouza is the shinobi who murdered his family, and Jiro stabs Tarouza with the Dagger of Kamui. Years later, he discovers his biological mother, discovers Tarouza was his father and discovers Tenkai murdered his family.
Tenkai dispatched his father to investigate the mystery surrounding Captain Kidd’s riches, and he did the same with Jiro. Jiro now announces his independence from Tenkai, the shogunate’s protector, and seeks wealth to face the shogunate’s final vestiges fighting in the booshin war.
He travels great distances and yearns to one day assassinate Tenkai for the atrocities he has committed against his family.
13. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
The heroine, nicknamed ‘The Bride,’ was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, led by her boyfriend, dubbed ‘Bill.’
When ‘The Bride’ realized she was pregnant with Bill’s child, she decided to end her career as a serial killer. She traveled to Texas and met a young man who was killed on the day of their wedding rehearsal by an irate and jealous Bill (with the assistance of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad).
‘The Bride’ awakens from a four-year coma to discover her child has disappeared. She then swears revenge on the five persons responsible for wrecking her life and murdering her baby. The Kill Bill series begins with the first episode.
12. The Octagon (1980)
Scott James (Chuck Norris), a seasoned martial arts expert, is hired as Justine’s protection after she becomes the target of a ninja clan. Scott is ready to avenge past scores when he learns that his vicious archnemesis, McCarn, is linked with the sneaky and dangerous crooks. Scott is soon pitted against McCarn and the entire ninja horde in an attempt to eliminate them all.
Scott is troubled by two distinct types of flashbacks. To begin, he recalls his early recollections of the grueling training he and a buddy experienced under the tutelage of a martial arts teacher. The second depicts Scott on a mission that concluded with him seeing his friend’s death.
Scott is eventually pulled closer to The Octagon, a violent criminal ring. As he draws closer to the truth, Scott discovers that they may be the persons responsible for the death of his friend years ago.
11. The Killer Elite (1975)
Friends George Hansen (Robert Duvall) and Mike Locken (James Caan) are contract assassins for a corporation named Com-Teg, which is affiliated with the CIA. However, when George receives a better offer from a competitor, he turns on Mike, shattering his elbow and shoulder in the process.
Mike returns to work after a lengthy period of physical treatment — and coincidentally finds himself defending a customer whom Hansen and his gang are being paid to assassinate.
10. The Third Ninja (1964)
A ninja is dispatched to murder a warlord in 1572 Japan. Three ninjas loyal to this warlord learn about the plot and go out to foil it. Takeda Shingen desires the assassination of Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga’s Iga spies are after Chidoken, Takeda’s most infamous spy.
This gritty black-and-white narrative is reminiscent of a film noir and presents the ninja and their skills with seriousness and realism. The early Japanese ninja films were more concerned with authenticity, much like the samurai legends.
9. Izo (2004)
We begin in 1865 when the Shogunate is nearing the end of its days but still capable of punishing its adversaries. One such assassin is Izo (Kazuya Nakayama), who works for Hanpeida (Ryosuke Miki), a Tosa nobleman and Imperial loyalist.
Izo is apprehended and crucified after murdering scores of the Shogun’s soldiers. Rather than dying, his fury pushes him across the space-time continuum to modern-day Tokyo, where he becomes one with the city’s homeless.
Izo turns into a new, better killing machine in this chapter, his entire soul still angry by his abuse in his previous existence. The sword is his answer to the powers-that-be, whose forefathers executed him.
8. Ninja, a Band of Assassins (1962)
This is one of the earliest depictions of the ninja. It follows a renegade ninja named Goemon Ishikawa as he battles a warlord who despises Buddhist practice. It is based on a popular novel series and would result in a total of eight films, all of which would feature Raizo Ichiwaka.
This is just watching for lovers of Japan’s old-school samurai flicks from the 1950s through the 1970s. The narrative may be a little tough to follow at points, but a lot is going on in this picture, as is usually the case with these sorts of films. Ichiwaka was a prominent star who featured in numerous additional series before passing away in 1969 at the age of 37 from rectal cancer.
7. Shadow Hunters (1972)
Shadow Hunters are set amid the decline of the Tokugawa shogunate and chronicles the dubious noble deeds of three ronin who pose as “Shadow Hunters.”
These three ronin are not your typical ornery ruffians looking for a drink, a broad, and someone to jab a sword into; rather than following their destroyed fiefs and murdered masters into seppuku, they have dedicated their combined sword prowess to preventing the government from raping its daimyos for valuable resources.
6. Enter The Ninja (1981)
Cole (Franco Nero) is a former American military operator who has recently returned from Japan after completing his ninjutsu training. He travels to the Philippines to meet an old army comrade (Alex Courtney) and his attractive wife (Susan George), who live on a sprawling property targeted for oil extraction by a wealthy CEO (Christopher George).
When Cole defeats his stooges, Venarius recruits Cole’s former ninjutsu school opponent, the ferocious Hasegawa (Shô Kosugi), setting the stage for an explosive confrontation.
5. Ninja Assassin (2009)
Mika Coretti, a Europol researcher in Berlin, presents proof to her chief Ryan Maslow of the existence of a network of assassin ninjas involved in the assassination of politicians. She is pursued by ninjas and defended by the enigmatic ninja Raizo.
Mika discovers that Raizo is an orphan fostered by the Ozunu Clan in Japan and cruelly groomed by his master Ozunu since infancy to be a merciless murderer. Raizo has been drawn to the gentle Kiriko since he was a child.
When Kiriko attempts to flee the Ozunu Clan, she is apprehended and murdered by Takeshi, Raizo’s ninja brother. Raizo soon turns on Ozunu and slashes his face. He is now being pursued by his ninja brothers as well. Mika persuades Raizo to see Maslow, but their efforts are futile. Will they withstand the Ozunu Clan’s attack?
4. Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)
We can go as far as characterizing the entire ‘rainbow’ of Ninja films as Chris Farley’s masterwork, but that is about it. You’ll also discover ‘classics’ such as Ninja Cheerleaders at this end of farce films (starring George Takei).
Farley’s physical humor is fully exploited. The ultimate manifestation of both the White Ninja and the Orphan Ninja Raised by Ninjas to Exterminate Other Ninjas. Additionally, and purposefully, amusing.
Following a shipwreck, a baby is saved and nurtured by a tribe of Ninja warriors. However, Haru (Chris Farley), as he is dubbed, never quite fits in, and he fails to develop into a respectable Ninja. However, the good-natured and persevering Haru, in his clumsy way, and with the assistance of Gobei (Robin Shou), manages to emerge victorious in the end.
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Four sewer turtles in New York have been transformed into talking, upright-walking, crime-fighting ninjas by a strange radioactive slime. Four turtles in New York’s sewers morph into clever pizza-loving humanoids after coming into touch with a strange slime and are trained in the art of ninja fighting by the wise rat Splinter.
Michelangelo (Robbie Rist), Donatello (Corey Feldman), Raphael (Josh Pais), and Leonardo (Brian Tochi) are brave heroes who are trained in Ninjutsu by their rodents sensei, Splinter. When a wicked rogue ninja, a former disciple of Splinter, arrives and spreads anarchy across the city, it is up to the courageous turtles to put an end to his antics.
2. Azumi (2003)
Azumi begins the film as the lone female among ten fighters who had been taught by Jiji, a gray-bearded samurai, since childhood. Jiji informs them one day that they must pass the last test before embarking on the mission for which they have been preparing for years. He pairs them up, and just five, including Azumi, survive.
This tiny gang, led by Jiji, descends from the mountain that serves as their sole home. Their objective, we discover, is to foil a sinister conspiracy by followers of Hideyori, the son of slain warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to depose the current shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
In other words, they are seeking to avert a civil war along the lines of the one that ravaged their own families before Ieyasy seizing power from his rivals at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and imposing peace…
1. Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013)
Fight everyone and trust no one: this is the survival rule followed by martial arts expert Casey Bowman after his idyllic domestic life is broken by a heinous act of violence.
With the assistance of a smart and cunning sensei, the courageous American chases the assassin from Osaka to Bangkok to Rangoon, vowing vengeance. His only leads are a succession of victims with unique barbed wire strangling marks on their necks.
Casey must hone his razor-sharp reactions and push his fighting abilities to the next level, even employing profound meditation to feign his death. Goro, the evil drug king who is flooding the streets with lethal meth made in his isolated jungle facility, is his target. Casey must finally become an unseen fighter worthy of the moniker Ninja to prepare for his ultimate battle.
However, just as Casey believes he has caught his target, an unforeseen twist reveals that his struggle is far from over: he can trust no one.