Made with a minuscule budget in 1987 by amateur filmmaker, martial artist, and Dragon Sound rhythm guitarist Y. It's worth noting that Raizo was played by South Korean megastar Rain—who previously worked with the Wachowskis as Taejo Togokahn in the criminally underrated Speed Racer—and in the process became the first-ever Korean-born actor to headline a major Hollywood movie. If you only ever watch one Chuck Norris movie in your life, it should be… well, honestly? Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. Make no mistake: there's a lot of ninja revenge in this movie, with Kosugi playing the role of Akira Saito, a highly trained ninja who, after being forced to murder his own brother, leaves a life of shadowy violence behind in order to travel to America with his family and open a restaurant. Just make sure you don't follow it up with the bloated, incomprehensible, and Dudikoff-free American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. Here, she's Christie, a technician for the phone company and aerobics instructor who suddenly finds herself unwillingly moonlighting as a deadly assassin, a victim of… The Domination.
The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker taking the lead among the warring factions. Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd's time displacement machine transports many of Batman's worst enemies to feudal Japan - along with the Dark Knight and a few of his allies. Despite the lack of truck-based resurrection from the grave, it's basically the platonic ideal of a Chuck Norris movie, with the steely-eyed Lee Van Cleef thrown in for good measure. In denial about the loss of his wife and children in the holocaust, American Captain Towers meets careworn but gorgeous Moira Davidson, who begins to fall for him. Naturally, those abducted jarheads are being brainwashed and genetically altered into an army of super-ninjas, which means Armstrong and Jackson have to ninja their way through an entire base of brainwashed bad guys to blow up the entire operation. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them and vanishes. A young boy Raizo is transformed into an unstoppable killing machine by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth.
So why not make the most of your life, and learn a little something about the ancient shinobi arts while you're at it, with a marathon of amazing ninja movies? Dudikoff returns as an Army Ranger with the hilariously on-the-nose name of Joe Armstrong, sent along with sidekick Curtis Jackson Steve James, sadly not the rapper better known as 50 Cent to investigate the disappearances of a handful of marines from a military base in a Caribbean paradise. If you're only going to watch one, though and let's be real here, you should definitely only watch one , the second installment is by far the best. Also known as Shaolin vs. The plot is thin and the movie itself is probably even sleazier than you expect one scene takes place in a house where a porn film is just casually being shot in the background , but if you can get past the thin layer of grindhouse grime, it's a cut above the usual Fake Bruce stuff, and immensely entertaining in its own right. It might just be the biggest problem facing society today.
Director Ryuhei Kitamura is probably best known for his work on Godzilla: Final Wars, the all-out franchise-ending brawl that finds everyone's favorite kaiju duking it out with pretty much every other giant monster, up to and including his own American counterpart. A young ninja turns his back on the orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan. Storyline: Trained since childhood to be a lethal killer, Raizo has since turned his back on the Ozunu clan that raised him and now seeks revenge for their heartless murders. The plot is pretty simple—a kung fu school that was defeated in battle hires a color-coded, element-themed ninja clan to get revenge on the warriors that beat them—but honestly? And that's just the start. If you're not familiar, well, it's pretty simple.
Seriously, this is a movie where one of the heroes gets his guts ripped out in a fight, and then continues fighting for another five minutes until he makes the crucial error of stepping on his own intestines. That said, while it might not be as purely entertaining as those movies, it's definitely fascinating. Like pretty much all of Kosugi's ninja films, the action is spectacular, but the really compelling stuff here comes in how the movie presents Akira as an immigrant in pursuit of a peaceful new life in America, and the contrast between the dream of hard work and success and the barriers he encounters along the way. Ninja Assassin follows Raizo, one of the deadliest assassins in the world. It might all lead to Akira donning his ancestral helmet and finding vengeance at the end of a sword, but the way it gets there and its attitude towards the American Dream elevates it to something a little more interesting than the standard bloody punch-up.
Stories about how white Americans are actually the best at being ninjas aren't exactly a rarity in the world of '80s action flicks. If you really want to see Kitamura take on hyperviolent widespread destruction, though, you need to sit down and watch Azumi. Pop some popcorn, sharpen your katana, and come with us as we comb through the good, the bad, and the completely inexplicable to bring you a dozen ninja movies you must see before you die—which, if these flicks are any indication, could happen at literally any moment! And don't worry—while Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja are certainly worth seeing, they're not really necessary for enjoying this one. The Ozunu Clan is so proficient at keeping their existence a secret that most people think they are only a myth, but the moment Ozuno assassins kill Raizo's friend, their days in the shadows are numbered. It just happens to fit here better than in a rundown of essential rom-coms. His career as a director has been all over the map, from the disturbingly violent yakuza movie Ichi the Killer to the kid-friendly fantasy of The Great Yokai War, and even the live-action adaptation of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney video game. It's easy to see why, too.
It's worth mentioning that unlike a lot of action movies, this one features voiceover narration, with Norris offering the viewer some insight into his character's thoughts—which, if we had to guess, has a lot to do with the fact that this is his third starring role, and he hadn't quite developed the acting chops that you'd see later on in Walker: Texas Ranger. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker taking the lead among the warring factions. It's a simple setup that leads to some phenomenal fights, and made Heroes of the East arguably the most important take on ninja action to come out of Hong Kong. In theory, The Killer Elite sounds like the most amazing movie ever made. In this case, though, that master is the legendary Gordon Liu—who was fresh off his breakthrough performance as the hero of 36th Chamber of Shaolin the previous year, and who would go on to international fame as Pai Mei in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill—going up against eight different Japanese masters. Ninja, it's a classic in the Shaw Bros. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge.
That's just icing on the cake. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies —including Catwoman and the extended Bat-family— to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City. If you're looking for a place to jump on with ninja movies, there aren't a lot of better starting points than 1979's Heroes of the East. In practice, however, it's a movie where we're asked to believe that Burt Young—you know, Paulie from the Rocky movies? The one thing that unites them all is a style that verges on the surreal, creating movies that are often less about the narrative and more about the experience. If you've spent more than, say, five minutes talking to someone about classic martial arts movies, you've probably encountered one of the most widely accepted truisms of the genre: Five Deadly Venoms rules hard. As the school went into lockdown, Antoinette was left alone with Michael, who repeatedly threatened to kill everyone. The Killer Elite is incredibly uneven and far from the director's best work, but a sub-par Peckinpah movie is still more than worth seeing, and there's a lot to enjoy here.
If that doesn't sound like something you need to see immediately, then there's a good chance you're reading the wrong list. Based on the manga of the same name by Yu Koyama, Azumi stars pop singer Aya Ueto as an orphan trained from a young age to become a deadly assassin, including a final exam to complete her training where she has to kill her fellow trainees in order to pass. On the off chance that you were worried Sho Kosugi had stopped being a total badass after the '80s, don't fret. Rather than just being a simple biography, it follows Okada through the afterlife, punctuating violent encounters with stock footage as it asks the big questions about the nature of suffering and the inevitable course of history that leads to violence. There's so many of them that they're not even a rarity on this list, and Cannon's American Ninja pentalogy pretty much defined the entire subgenre by pitting Michael Dudikoff against increasingly ridiculous odds and having him kick his way to glory.