For hundreds of years the Ninja operated in stealth, as spies, scouts and assassins, carrying out whatever unsavoury deeds their masters commanded of them. Their physical agility and strength combined with their stealthy tactics have propelled the Ninja into the realm of mystical folklore that evokes both fear and fascination.
As the whole Ninja culture was explored, became better understood and evolved into the modern age and way of life, these legendary figures continued to provide a wealth of material for martial arts films that tap into both the mystery and physical prowess that excite and entertain. Kung Fu Kingdom proudly celebrates the honour and ability of the mighty Ninja on film and take a look at 10 of the best Ninja movie fights (in descending order):
10. American Ninja (1985) – Final Fight
Love it or loathe it, this entertaining gem from the stables of 80’s schlock cinema leaders Cannon Films is a nostalgic throwback to a time when Ninjas dominated the big screen and has it all; an old school Bond style climax featuring the might of the US military vs the mystical Ninjas, terrific fights, an assortment of traditional and outlandish weapons (who can forget the Ninja hand laser!) with the presence of Tadashi Yamashita adding star quality.
9. The Hunted (1995) – Bullet Train Face Off
An overlooked thriller from the writer of “Under Siege” starring the “Highlander” himself Christopher Lambert as a US businessman caught up in an age old feud between a Samurai family and a Ninja cult. In this scene, modern day Samurai Takeda takes on Junko and her Ninja warriors aboard the Japanese bullet train. Blood, guts, some excellent swordsmanship whilst travelling at nearly 200mph what’s there not to like?!
8. The Master (1984) – Episode 1 Final Fight
The idea of western star Lee Van Cleef as a Ninja master might seem laughable but there’s no denying this great actor’s star quality in this flash in the pan television series that aimed to capitalise on the 80’s Ninja phenomenon. Each episode involved Master John McAllister searching for his daughter stopping along the way to help people in need – a sort of one man “A-Team” all the while being hunted by his student Okasa played by Sho Kosugi. The two would invariably meet and duel, and for its time, the action and choreography were of a high quality given the budget and filming constraints.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) The Turtles vs Shredder
Grab your skateboard, roll down the streets of New York with a pizza slice in one hand and yell “COWABUNGA” at the top of your lungs! Those heroes in a half shell made an impressive return to the big screen in 2014 thanks to Michael Bay and Los Angeles based 87Eleven stunt team pulling out all the stops for this exciting showdown. Thanks to motion capture filming and superimposed CGI, there’s plenty of fast paced non-stop action with all the hallmarks of the best Hong Kong-style fight-fu as the Turtles call upon all their Ninja skills and weaponry to battle Shredder atop a high-rise radio tower.
6. The Octagon (1980) – Chuck Norris vs Ninja Enforcer
It is said that “Ninjas aren’t paid to kill Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris kills ninjas for free.” In “The Octagon” Norris battles his half-brother Siekura’s (Tadashi Yamashita) Ninja enforcer Kyo (Richard Norton) and destroy the terrorist training camp. A real clash of the titans as Norris and Norton face off with a predictable outcome but it’s the journey not the destination that matters, and this one is packed with a variety of perfectly staged fight action with both stars doing what they do best.
5. Sakura Killers (1987) – Ghost Face Trio vs Black Ninja
Of all the titles featured here “Sakura Killers” has to be the least known and watched Ninja film which is a pity since there is much to admire about this low key and even lower budget picture. Two “American” agents Sonny and Dennis trained in the mystical Ninja arts team up with their master’s daughter to take on the Black Ninja, head of the Sakura Conglomerate. Features some hi velocity sword play and some high flying acrobatic wire work -like the rest of the film the final battle makes for an enjoyable showdown.
4. Duel to the Death (1983) – Climactic Battle
From the legendary archives of Golden Harvest comes this “wuxia” tale of a traditional duel between China and Japan’s best swordsman held every ten years. Only this time the Japanese Shogunate are playing dirty, sending their priest Kinji (Eddy Ko) and an army of Ninjas to undermine the contest in Japan’s favour. It’s up to combatants Hashimoto and Ching Wan to keep it fair and honourable. Classic, swift-paced, high-flying Hong Kong action in effect here with plenty of wire-fu mixed with some outlandish moments (literally a talking head) make for an exhilarating and entertaining battle!
3. Revenge of the Ninja (1982) – Rooftop Showdown
Cho Osaki (Sho Kosugi) faces the snake in the grass that is his friend and business partner Braden (Arthur Roberts) on a high-rise rooftop in Cannon Film’s action packed second instalment of their “Ninja Trilogy”. A classic honour vs evil modern revenge tale, it’s filled with some great fight action and Kosugi in his first good guy role, truly shines. Some aerial acrobatics high up over Chicago, calling on an arsenal of Ninja weaponry and some authentic Ninpo fight choreography that will surely have Ninja enthusiasts drooling.
2. Ninja Assassin (2009) – Training Scene
Stylish, violent and with plenty of high octane exhilarating fight action from the producers of “The Matrix”, former pop star “Rain” is superb in the role of a young Ninja warrior orphan taking on the members of his clan. Considering the young Korean never studied martial arts except for six months’ preparation for filming, Rain is impressive as clearly evident in this scene. For Ninjitsu enthusiasts look out for the heavy set shurikens.
1. Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear (2013) – Casey vs Nakabara
A firm favourite for the team here at Kung Fu Kingdom with two of martial arts movies’ heavy hitters, Scott Adkins and Kane Kosugi in a titanic showdown. There are some slick-paced moves, bone crunching hits, and high flying whirlwind-like aerial kicks with both actors clearly evenly matched in terms of both fight power and star power.