I’ve been a fan of Japanese films since high school. I remember spending hours of my summer break dabbling on jidaigeki films like Sword of Doom, Ran, and Yojimbo. It is my love of samurai-themed anime that propelled me into appreciating Japanese cinema, a trait I strive to maintain up to this very day.
And then came Ghost of Tsushima, an open-world adventure game that brings you into the helm of a 13th-century samurai who is pitted into a lonesome battle against Mongol invaders. The game is, by all means, a love letter to the jidaigeki film genre, particularly to the works of the late great Akira Kurosawa. I immediately fell in love with GOT, and it reignited my love for Japanese cinema even further.
With that in mind, I prepared a small list of Japanese period films that everyone should see in their lifetime. Some of these movies directly influenced the creation of GOT, which makes the game feel “Japanese” more than Western.
Sheath your blades, cast your armor off, and sit back as you catch these well-loved classics.
Perhaps the quintessential samurai film of all time, Seven Samurai is the first attempt to feature an ensemble cast fighting an overwhelming adversary. The movie also spawned two Western remakes and a 25-episode anime series.
After suffering a maelstrom of raids from an army of bandits, a group of farmers recruits seven samurai to help them drive the marauders from their town.
Originally titled “Spider Web Castle,” Throne of Blood is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. The film transposes the plot of the play from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama.
An ambitious warrior attempts to usurp his aging lord at the behest of his deceitful wife. Spurned by a prophetic vision, the warrior murders his lord, only to stoke a chain of tragic events.
One of Akira Kurosawa’s greatest films, The Hidden Fortress served as the inspiration behind the first Star Wars movie, particularly in the franchise’s iconic villain Darth Vader.
Two peasants escort two mysterious individuals across enemy lines, not knowing that the man is a general and the woman is a princess.
Widely considered as Akira Kurosawa’s magnum opus, Ran is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, while deriving elements from the legends of daimyo Mori Motonari.
In this film, an old shogun decides to abdicate the throne to his three sons. However, a rift between his children brings the land into turmoil, and ultimately, death.
Akira Kurosawa’s award-winning epic Kagemusha retells the events that led to the Battle of Nagashino from a political decoy’s perspective. Stalwart directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola lobbied to secure funding for Kurosawa, who was then suffering from financial debts.
A lowly thief gets chosen as a shadow warrior (decoy) for Takeda Shingen in a bid to cover the great warlord’s death and dissuade the lords from engaging in a massive war.
Set in the twilight days of the Edo period, Yojimbo tells the story of a ronin (masterless samurai) who gets caught in a war between two enemy factions.
The movie is touted for inspiring the creation of the lone protagonist archetype and unwittingly brought a whimsical frame-by-frame remake from Italy into the fold.
Kurosawa’s psychological thriller Rashomon deals with the skewed nature of truth and explores the concept of justice, taken from the eyes of various individuals. The film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving, and contradictory versions of the same incident.
The rape of a bride and the murder of her samurai husband are recalled from the perspectives of a bandit, the bride, the samurai’s ghost, and a woodcutter.
Are you a fan of Japanese films? Let us know your recommendations in the comments!
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