Ninjas – those mysterious assassins also called shinobis, first seen in feudal Japan continue to be an object of many legends and rumors.
Often, mainly in the folklore, the people spoke of them as covert agents with supernatural abilities such as invisibility, walking on water or control over different natural elements.
Whereas it is sometimes hard to distinguish the truth from the myth, one thing is sure – ninjas did exist.
They were notorious warriors, famous for their lethal powers and extraordinary capabilities.
Not only that but as we shall see, the so called shinobis inspired the creation of many action movies, some of them great, while others suck big time.
In this article I’ll try to point out the best ninja movies appeared since 2000, that certainly have contributed to the development of the ninja genre.
The so-called ‘boom’ of the movies involving ninjas happened during the 80’s and the 90’s.
A lot of classic flicks emerged at that time and the ninjas ruled the world.
The ones, which are worth mentioning are the super funny action movie ‘American Ninja’ with Michael Dudikoff; ‘Enter the Ninja’ with Franko Nero and Sho Kosugi; ‘Duel to the Death’ starring Norman Chu and Damian Lau; ‘The Octagon’ with the immortal Chuck Norris etc.
During the 90’s the evolvement of the ninja genre continued its solidification with the apparition of flicks such as the fourth and the fifth sequel of the cult classic ‘American Ninja’, this time starring David Bradley; ‘3 Ninjas’, directed by Jon Tortulaub; the award-winning ‘Samurai Fiction’, etc.
Now it’s time to see what the new millennium has to offer to the celebrated sub-genre.
- 1 The Best Ninja Movies Appeared Since 2000
The Best Ninja Movies Appeared Since 2000
With the advancement of the technology, the cinema industry started to create more sophisticated-looking films with enhanced visuals and CGI effects.
Moreover, some very talented young martial artists rose to stardom and impressed the action scene with their fighting skills.
The ninja genre evolved and some really cool flicks were produced.
The Japanese worship manga.
It is their folklore, so to speak.
Many of their most celebrated films are manga adaptations.
A great example is this year’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’ starring Scarlet Johansson.
‘Azumi’ might not be so big-budgeted but it certainly delivers great entertainment.
The plot follows the story of the teenage assassin girl Azumi who dares to oppose to some violent warlords in war-torn Japan.
Aya Ueto in the leading role does a great job and manages to carry the film on her young shoulders.
Being a spectacular ninja action film, including various sword fight scenes and kung fu sequences, ‘Azumi’ is also a thrilling teenage epic.
I still remember the scene in which Azumi single-handedly slaughters 200 warriors in an incredible mass fight scene.
A sequel followed in 2006 entitled ‘Azumi 2: Death or Love’, but I think that the first film was a little bit better.
‘Ninja’ is about ninjas.
More specifically, the plot revolves around the American Casey who studies the ancient art of being a Ninja in a dojo in Japan.
One day his Sensei asks him to go to New York where he must protect a chest containing the weapons of the last Koga Ninja.
That is how Casey is faced with the battle of his life and must deal with Masazuka – a fellow student, turned criminal who desperately wants to possess the precious chest with the ancient ninja weapons.
Now, if there is a single actor that could masterfully play the role of a Ninja nowadays, that would be the British-born Scott Adkins, who has the leading role in the movie, directed by Isaac Florentine (‘Undisputed’).
Being a highly-skilled martial artist, renowned for his perfectionism when it comes to choreographing the fight sequences, Scott Adkins has it all – the muscular build body, the good looks, the good acting and the mandatory for the role spectacular martial arts skills.
The movie is a great example of a traditional Ninja action movie, set in a modern day America.
By the way, the black ninja costumes also reflect the contemporary style as they are with a far more modernistic look.
The experienced action director Isaac Florentine has managed to create a decent modern take on a barely forgotten genre.
The movie contains some truly outstanding fight scenes that would certainly please the die-hard ninja fans.
Moreover, I dare to claim that the followed sequel ‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Fear’ (2013) again directed by Isaac Florentine and with an even better Scot Adkins as Casey Bowman, even surpasses its predecessor.
‘Ninja Assassin’ (2009)
Produced by the legendary Wachowski brothers (‘The Matrix’) and directed by James McTeigue (‘V for Vendetta’, 2005), ‘Ninja Assassin’ is another modern day ninja actioner that managed to achieve mainstream success.
With the presence of such an impressive crew, the movie for sure pretends to be a big deal.
Let’s see is it so.
‘Ninja Assassin’ is also a neo-noir, bloody tale of betrayal and revenge.
The story revolves around the lethal assassin Raizo who has been trained in various martial art forms and techniques since his childhood by the notorious Ozonu clan.
Later on, when he realizes that the clan is responsible for a huge number of murders, Raizo turns against it and seeks revenge, thus becoming a target for the skilled killers working for the clan.
In that way, Raizo is coming closer to an ultimate battle of life and death with his former mentor and martial arts master Ozonu.
‘Ninja Assassin’ benefits from the presence of some very skilled actors such as the living legend and a star of many ninja movies of the 80’s Sho Kosugi (‘Enter the Ninja’, ‘Revenge of the Ninja’).
The famous Korean pop singer Rain got the leading role as the ninja assassin Raizo.
Watching Rain kicking ass in the movie is unbelievable, given the fact that he didn’t have any formal martial arts training prior to shooting the film.
Here it is good to mention that the breathtaking martial arts sequences were brilliantly staged by Chad Stahelski, known for his work on ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’.
So, if you haven’t understood until now, the movie has some really big sharks involved in its creation and the final result is impressive.
‘Ninja Assassin’ is a brutal, dark and action-packed ninja tale that is among the best titles in the genre since the dawn of the new millennium.
These were the best ninja movies made since the beginning of the new millennium.
Before coming to a conclusion, let’s give 15 minutes of glory to some of the poor ninja flicks, made by that time.
Some really, really bad, yet surprisingly fun to watch ninja movies
There are some pretty funny action movies involving ninjas which appeared since 2000.
I am speaking about flicks that are so bad that they end up being hilarious.
‘Cheerleader Ninjas’ (2002)
First, I consider the cheerleaders, in general, to be very sexy.
Second, the funny title made me wonder about the possible plot of that movie and without a further ado I end up watching it before I know.
I had a pretty good laugh, though.
The story centers around four crazy cheerleaders who have to save the internet by an evil religious domination.
To make it more absurd, the cheerleaders know ninjutsu and give some pretty painful kicks and punches in their sexy outfits.
It is interesting to know that ‘Cheerleader Ninjas’ is a non-budget film, meaning that quite possibly, the financial investment in the production is equal to the daily pocket money of a 3rd-grade student.
Boy, that is visible from its execution which is so poor that at some point, it hurts watching.
Funnily, it is somehow entertaining.
You want to know what’s coming next and if the movie can get even worse.
The acting is terrible and if the movie wasn’t so amusing to watch, I’d proclaim it as an art crime.
However, be sure that this is the best cheerleader ninja movie that you might get bumped into.
‘Robo Geisha’ (2009)
The idea of a geisha who is a ninja-robot is pretty wild and to see it happen on-screen is insane.
The plot revolves around two sisters who got abducted by a ruthless steel manufacturer who wants to transform them into cyborg assassins.
What made me laugh the most was the so-called ‘special effects’.
The only thing special about them is the fact that they are inconceivably bad.
At some point, the geishas shoot with some lasers coming out from their boobs.
Also, the buildings bleed and in one of the scenes, the geishas use a fried shrimp as a weapon to kill some bad guys by sticking it to their faces.
The soundtrack is painfully inappropriate and overall my jaw was so low while I was watching this so called movie that I could scratch my legs with it.
‘Alien vs. Ninja’ (2010)
However, believe me, ‘Alien vs. Ninja’ is worse than ‘Alien vs. Predator’ and ‘Alien vs. Cowboys’.
Sure enough, it is so pathetically bad that it keeps your interest until almost the end. I said almost.
The flick is about the combat between some ninjas that get trapped in the forest by some aliens who menace to slaughter their whole village.
What is remarkable is that the aliens are able to manipulate and compel the ninjas with the help of microorganisms that live in their nostrils.
The flick is epic in terms of absurdity and overall execution.
The goofs are so many that the whole movie itself is a gigantic goof.
The special effects are so shamelessly unrealistic that during the whole fiasco you keep asking yourself ‘Seriously?! I am watching this and I am laughing so what’s wrong with me?’
As we saw, the 2000s was a period during which the ninja genre went into oblivion, compared to the 80’s and the 90’s.
Luckily, some really cool and successful ninja movies were created to remind us that the ninja sub-genre is still alive and kicking.
For sure there is a lot more to be explored and hopefully, in the future, we will see the apparition of other great ninja actioners.
Which is your favorite ninja movie and why? Leave us a comment below! Don’t forget to share this post!