I’ve been researching a lot of film festivals recently to get ready for Film Fest Month. And the thing I’ve discovered — the horrible, shameful truth — is that there is not one legitimate film festival concentrated solely on ninja movies.
To right this wrong, I’m providing you with a list of recommended movies so you can hold your own weeklong ninja film fest. And I already have dibs on the name Ninja Film Fest for my indie dance-rock band. So back off.
You’ll need to get your hands on these delightful films:
This movie made Michael Dudikoff a household name (not really) and engendered a bunch of sequels. One of which featured ninjas shooting lasers from their eyes and such. The casual racism and the overarching idea that Americans can do anything better than anyone make for quite a romp.
Absurdly, this is one of the few ninja movies actually made in Japan by a Japanese company. But that’s not the only reason to watch. It has lady ninjas, circus performers, and a super hardcore ninja training regimen.
Enter the Ninja
Enter the Ninja is credited with starting the “ninja craze” of the 80s. And therefore it has my undying thanks. To me, it’s most notable for introducing Supreme Master Ninja Actor Sho Kosugi to the (Western) world.
Revenge of the Ninja
This is the first ninja movie I can remember watching. Then rewatching. Then watching again. Because it is THAT. AWESOME. Another Sho Kosugi film. This time he plays the protagonist, a former ninja who leaves Japan after his family is assassinated. He then somehow gets involved in the drug trade, and then proceeds to straight up murder EVERYONE. Lesson: don’t mess with Sho Kosugi.
Ninja III: The Domination
There are a few reasons to like Ninja III:
1) More Sho Kosugi! This time as a “good ninja.”
2) It has the same director as American Ninja and Enter the ninja — Sam Firstenberg. His filmography is, quite simply, the best ever.
3) We learn that apparently, upon death, ninja spirits can possess other bodies, then carry out bloody revenge in their new form. Useful info.
4) One synopsis you’ll find online actually contains this line: “Only a good ninja can save her by driving the evil spirit from her curvaceous body.”
Not really one of my favorite ninja films, but I’m including it because it’s one of the only recent offerings, and Sho Kosugi has a cameo. Plus the action and gore are hilariously over the top.
I’m not even an Anime fan, but this belongs on the list regardless. The medium allows for amazing action and gore, and the story is actually well done. Plus, DEMONS!
Shinobi No Mono
While not the first movie to feature ninjas, Shinobi No Mono is the first to set the archetype. You’ll recognize many elements common to ninja movies as a whole, although with a distinct lack of the excessive gore and action that would later come to define the genre.